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Glass and Pottery Sellers’ Association - March 2005, Volume 24

The Fenton Art Glass Company:
100 Years of Handmade Glass in West Virginia 1905 – 2005

 

FanofFenton Sarah

The Fenton Art Glass Company celebrates their 100th anniversary this year. What an accomplishment! The story actually starts in the 1890s in a little town called Indiana, Pennsylvania. Frank L. Fenton graduated from high school at 17. He thought about becoming a teacher, but instead went to work as a decorator for the Northwood Company.

A few short years later, after becoming foreman of the Northwood Decorating Department, Frank L. Fenton and his brother, John, pooled their funds, $280 and $4.86, respectively, and deposited them in the Dollar Bank of Wheeling, West Virginia. Thus the Fenton Art Glass Company was born. For just over the first year Fenton Art Glass was a decorating company. But by early 1906, unable to secure glassware as needed from their suppliers, the brothers made a decision to build their own factory. In the fall of 1906, ground was broken, construction moved quickly and the furnaces were fired in December 1906.

On January 2, 1907, the first piece of Fenton glass was made. It was a crystal creamer in the pattern now called Waterlily and Cattail. Jacob Rosenthal, the plant manager, recruited skilled glass workers from other factories in the Ohio Valley and by 1907 they were making opalescent glass and a unique opaque glass called chocolate. By late 1907 Fenton began to produce their new “Iridescent Ware” and the carnival glass craze was born. Fenton was the originator of iridescent ware, as it was called in the early part of the century. It wasn’t until the 1950s that it was named carnival glass by authors who began to write about the glass of the past.

Green Opalescent Open Basketweave Plate Carnival Open Edge Basketweave Blueberries interior Blue Opalescent Hobnail Basket Blue Label
 

Original Fenton Art Glass was not marked. By the early 1920s paper labels were placed on the Fenton products. As you will see in this article, a variety of Fenton labels have been used over the years.

As time evolved so did the Fenton Art Glass Company. No longer willing or able to survive on carnival (iridescent) glass, they began to produce other types of glass as well. The 1920s and 30s brought a huge variety to Fenton’s production. Production included etched glass and colored glass in a variety of designs and colors. Opalescent glass had resurgence and stretch glass found its way into the Fenton line as well.

Santoy etched vase Wisteria Plate French Opalescent Hobnail Mini Cornucopia Candle Holder
 

The use for the next group of labels began in the late 1930s and continued through the early 50s. Fenton’s milk glass became a hot and heavy favorite in the late 40s. Special labels were printed to be used exclusively on milk glass. In 1957 the often recognized “worker” label came into existence and for many years was the primary symbol of Fenton’s handmade West Virginia Glass.

Hobnail glass became more popular during this time frame. The primary colors were again blue, green, french (crystal) and topaz (which is what Fenton called their vaseline color) opalescent. The introduction of cranberry opalescent came along with a variety of solid colors and this form proved to be the mainstay of Fenton glass for many years.

The next group of labels date from the late 50s to the mid 80s. Clarence (the Worker, Glass Maker Label) became more dominant and available in a variety of colors. Some colors were specific to the type of glass produced. As the Fenton Decorating Department was reactivated, special Hand Painted labels were found in combination with the worker label and often both labels were evident on the same piece.

Custard Deer Plate Green Carnival Open Edge Basketweave Tulip Bowl Mulberry Honor Vase
 

As the 1980s drew to an end, a new label was conceived and for the most part this is the label that today’s Fenton lovers and collectors are familiar with. While it appears to be the same label there have been some changes over the past 20 years. From 1985–1996 the label was oval in shape with a tab form on the bottom. It was a single piece but the bottom portion was detachable. Printing in three styles was added to this label depending on the type of glass.

For a short period in the mid 1990s a label was used for special orders (QVC). This was still the now familiar silver and black, but round in shape. In 1997 the current label was placed into use. It strongly resembles the original oval black and silver label, but it is a two-part label and the price is separate. Most often today you will see the single silver label with the price and ware # information being found on the UPC code on the bottom of the piece. Currently, you will also find special labels for special events. Until this year the most recent of these special labels is the one that celebrated Fenton’s 95th Anniversary. You may want to keep an eye out for pieces produced this year, as well, for they will have special 100th Anniversary Labels.

PLEASE NOTE: These photos can be printed for your own collection files, but are not to be used for any Internet auction listings, websites, or any other commercial purposes. The photos provided for this article are from the personal collection of the author or with permission from the owner.

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Featured Sellers

GPSA’s Featured Sellers this month are 278stuff, cranberrymanor, fanoffenton, lan5 and rose6735. We encourage you to click on their seller IDs and visit their eBay auctions.

278stuff
CranberryManor
FanofFenton
 
lan5
Rose6735

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Member’s Pick: Website of the Month

by FanofFenton Sarah

BugDoc's Stretch Glass Site is an absolutely great site for Stretch Glass enthusiasts and anyone else who wants to learn more about beautiful colored glass made in the United States. “Iridescent stretch glass is an iridized glass, much like carnival and some art glass.” The Stretch Glass Society defines Stretch Glass as: “Glass that is pressed or blown-molded glass, that has little or no pattern and is sprayed with a metallic salt mix while hot. When finished, this handmade glass will have either a cobweb iridescence (equal to stretch marks) or a plain iridescence effect, and is velvet or shiny in luster. In some rare instances, some stretch glass with an over-all pattern will have been put in the manufacturer's line of stretch. Old Stretch Glass was made in the United States from circa 1916 thru 1935." Not only is the process for making Stretch Glass discussed, but examples of what is and is not Stretch are provided and lots and lots of pictures including identifications. Enjoy!

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Don’t You Wish You Had One of These?

by wgpaul

Photo Courtesy of cosmostoys.com

When eBay seller cosmostoys.com saw this beautiful octopus amphora vase at an estate sale in Arkansas, his instinct told him it was something special. As he tells it, "Not knowing for sure what it was or its value, I had a gut feeling it was worth more than the price tag and brought it home." Once he did some research, he learned that his gut instinct had paid off. The vase was made circa 1910 in Austria. It sold recently on eBay for $6,389.00.

 

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GPSA Tips

It happens every day! You anticipate receiving an item you won at auction. It arrives, and you open the box to see...pottery shards or slivers of glass!

Have you noticed how some auction photos just seem to scream “BUY ME!” while others are so fuzzy and far away you’re not sure what is being offered?

We share a few practical tips on photo taking and packing to help you get that item safely to your buyer! Our GPSA website offers a more in-depth look at valuable packing and photo tips. Please visit and have a look around!

Packing Tips

Photo Tips

 
 

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SHAZAAM!!

Shazaam

No reserve clearance sales, less than ONE DOLLAR!

GPSA sellers are still listing clearance items. All items start at an opening bid of 99¢. Don’t miss this opportunity to pick up a bargain from one of our reliable GPSA sellers! All sellers abide by the GPSA guidelines found on our home page.

Find a bargain! Deals and Steals!

To see Shazaam listings at any time, click here. Check back often — sellers add items all the time!

 

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Welcome New Members

We’re so happy to have you join us!!

The following eBay sellers became GPSA members in February 2005. As members of the GPSA, they have committed to upholding the standards of the Glass & Pottery Sellers’ Association.

  • abnerjones
  • crazyron
  • kelly1492001
 
Welcome New Members
  • (morrissey)
  • amysattique-co-uk
 

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