Hold on to your marbles: West Virginia's central role in glass industry celebrated at 200th anniversary
If a marble is “Made in the USA,” it’s likely made in West Virginia.
About the turn of the 20th century, marbles, bottles and bowls went from factories and shops in West Virginia to homes across the country. Small artisan shops and factories grew in numbers, and the workers formed unions based on the type of glass they made. At one time, up to 21 percent of flat glass and 15 percent of pressed tableware in the country were made in the state, leading the nation in these kinds of production.
Glass was once fourth among the state’s industries. Now, on the 200th anniversary of the glass industry in West Virginia, we can see how the craft meandered and ebbed and flowed through our state’s history.
To celebrate that history, a West Virginia University alumnus and expert on the glass industry in the state will speak on the topic. Dean Six will present at the Museum Education Center, formerly The Erickson Alumni Center, located adjacent to the Creative Arts Center, on Wednesday, July 24.
The lecture, titled “The Bicentennial of West Virginia Glass: Utility Becomes Art,” will begin at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
Six has taken his passion for the state’s glass industry and made it a life-long journey. He was born in Ritchie County, W.Va., where coal is non-existent, and the glass industry was dominant in his childhood community.
He has written numerous books on glass, as well as dozens of monographs and countless articles. He serves as the executive director of the Museum of American Glass, located in Weston, W.Va., and is employed by Replacements, Ltd. of Greensboro, N.C.
“The year 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the first hot glass production within what is today West Virginia,” Six said. “That first plant, owned by James Duvall, was located in Wellsburg and produced high-end, hand-cut tableware.
“In celebration of the bicentennial, an extensive series of events is occurring from Wellsburg to Huntington, and from Charleston to Morgantown, that celebrate and share the rich heritage of the state’s glass.”
Six said more than 450 glass companies in the state have produced hot glass for more than two centuries, giving West Virginia one of the most diverse and expansive glass stories in the nation.
Today, five glass companies and eleven hot glass studios continue to produce glass for utility and art.
CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts
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