Blenko Glass, Milton, West Virginia

Blenko Glass 2009

October saw our third visit to Blenko Glass in Milton, West Virginia.  The company has been around since 1893 — we are old but haven’t been here that long.

Our first visit was while pulling a trailer around the country in 2002.  Alie, in particular, likes what she calls the “ballet” as the glassworkers’ hands swing or rotate the pipe.  She says she watches their hands more than the glowing glass.

Although William J. Blenko, trained in England, founded the company in Indiana in 1893, Americans felt European glass was better so he shuttled his business back and forth to Europe so he could sell Americans “imported” glass.

In 1921, he opened a factory in Milton for its abundant natural gas, good rail system and hard-working laborers.  He moved it to its present location in 1923.

An unusual architectural use for Blenko Glass

Blenko has produced stained glass since it was founded.  During the Great Depression, they expanded into household items such as dishes, bottles and vases.  They produce ornaments.  They have even produced the small glass discs one sometimes sees in pavements.

Their method is to blow the glass into molds before finishing it.  In some ways the operation is like a small production line.

Fine glass is a difficult business in a modern multi-national era.  Many small glass companies have gone out of business.  Even the giant public company Corning Glass no longer makes its Steuben line.

In 2002, we were told the business was on the rocks until a television documentary revived interest in the art.

I use the word “art” deliberately.  It is a craft that takes many years to perfect.  But in the hands of a master, it is an art.

Comments on last week’s post demonstrated many have seen glassblowers.  Nonetheless, if you have the opportunity to see one of these old masters, I urge you to take it before they are all gone.

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About ralietravels

Ray and Alie (Ralie) are a retired couple who love to travel. Even during our working years, we squeezed a trip in whenever we could, often when we had to stretch the budget to do so. We have been fortunate to vacation in all 50 states, all the provinces of Canada and one territory and a little more than 50 countries. We like to drive, but we particularly love to travel back roads to find unusual sights, people, and experiences.
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7 Responses to Blenko Glass, Milton, West Virginia

  1. JohnRH says:

    Fascinating. Informative slideshow!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Sue Slaght says:

    Loved your slideshow and it really took me back to watching the artists at the studio here in Canada. What I found astonishing was then when we took the class how the simplest of movements was so difficult and the artists made it look exceptionally easy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Keith & Loraine Beckman says:

    Very interesting about the glass blowing factory. It is an “art” and loved watching somebody work the glass. Thanks again for history. Hugs Loraine

    Liked by 1 person

  4. leggypeggy says:

    Excellent post. We have a wonderful glass factory in Canberra.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I went here when I was a kid and was absolutely enthralled by the workers blowing glass. There don’t seem to be many places like this left in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have a sense, Ray, the artisan part of glass blowing is coming back. I rarely saw glass blowers up until the past decade. Now they seem to be everywhere. And I agree, it is an art form. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

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