Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Westmoreland Glass Company

The following is a letter by J. H. Brainard, President of Westmoreland Glass:

Historical Sketch of Westmoreland Glass Company

A copy of the earliest record is herewith enclosed, and it indicates that in the Spring of 1889 a group of men operating the Specialty Glass Company in East Liverpool, Ohio, migrated to Grapeville because of Gas being on the property where our plant is now located. In October of 1889 construction of the plant started and actual production occurred in early 1890.

My Grandfather, Ira A. Brainard, lived in Pittsburgh--about 25 miles west of Grapeville, and had many interests and was instrumental in financially helping two sons, with a widowed mother, participate in the development of the factory here at Grapeville. The men from East Liverpool sold out their interest in the very early 90's and the two West brothers, backed by my grandfather's finances operated the plant successfully until 1920. At that time, friction developed between the West brothers, and one sold his interest to the other and my grandfather.

In 1924, it was voted to change our name from Westmoreland Specialty Company to WESTMORELAND GLASS COMPANY, as the former had become somewhat of a misnomer because they began to get inquiries on many different types of products, going so far as Flat Silverware for use in the Railroad's Pullman Dining Cars. I believe that even a request was made for Guns during World War I. By that time, people began to feel that we manufactured most any item. Actually, glassware was the only real item manufactured, although early in the l900's many condiments, such as vinegar, mustard, baking powder, lemon flavor, etc. were processed here, but it is difficult to say whether such things were supplied in the containers for the purpose of selling the glassware or the condiment involved.

During World War I many glass items contained candy and were distributed by the News Stands and Dime stores throughout the country. Such diversification was not profitable because, as mentioned above, glass was the primary product of the Company. It was of high quality, manufactured by hand from the Pot Furnaces. Milk Glass, such as our Hens and other pieces illustrated in the current catalog, was probably the outstanding material produced, although in the 1920's we did make some high quality decorated ware and crystal. We still manufacture some decorated ware in addition to Colored Crystal such as Amber, Blue, Green, Pink and Brown. During the last thirty years, our manufacturing has been 90% Milk Glass, and the quality today is undoubtedly superior to that of years ago.

In the years following the Civil War, there were a number of Milk Glass producers in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, and one of the outstanding plants was the Atterbury Company. They made high quality Milk Glass and our company came into it a year or so after they went out of existence. So, in a sense, we carried on where they left off.

During the depression in the 30's, our Company like many plants, was badly hurt, but we never stopped operations and re-organization took place in 1937 after the West financial interest became worthless and considerable investment was being risked by the Brainard interest. My father, James J. Brainard, who joined the Company in 1920 as treasurer, became President in 1937. I took over as treasurer after joining the Company in 1933 following graduation from Yale University.

My father's death occurred in 1953, and I became President of the Company shortly afterwards. My grandfather died in 1927.

J. H. Brainard, President

Westmoreland was the first to make milk glass in the 1920s. According to the Collector's Encyclopedia of Milk Glass by Betty and Bill Newbound (now out of print but available through Amazon.com and Half.com) It was one of the top producers of milk glass in the United States. 

One popular early design was the hen on nest covered dish.

Beaded Grape
Hen on Nest
One of their  well-known patterns of milk glass made by Westmoreland, is Paneled Grape. It is widely found today and it was a great seller for the company.

Text from a marketing brochure published in the Newbound's book notes this pattern marketed as "reproduction" glass marked with the WG stacked mark. 

Paneled Grape
Paneled Grape was first made at the turn of the last century by a different glass maker. The milk glass produced by Westmoreland is thicker and whiter than the earlier milk glass.

Old Quilt

Some of the other popular patterns made by Westmoreland Glass are the Beaded Grape, Old Quilt, and Roses and Bows patterns.
Roses and Bows

Westmoreland is known for its milk glass. About ninty percent of the glass made from the 1920's to the 1950's was milk glass. 

The milk glass is a term used to  refer to white glass.  Manufacturers first added arsenic to the glass to create a slightly grayish colour and an opalescent effect. In the later years they added tin oxide, feldspar or bone ash.

In the 1920's Westmoreland made a limited selection of decorated glass and crystal They made hen on nest dishes in a a variety of colors. Up to  the 1950's, the company made some items in amber, blue, green, pink and brown glass.

In 1921, George West left the company and Charles West became president, changing the company's name from the Westmoreland Specialty Company to Westmoreland Glass Company.

In the 1920's, Charles West created a large decorating department at Westmoreland and it began to produce high quality hand-decorated and cut glass.

In 1937, the company changed hands from the West family to the hands of the Brainards. In the 1940s, the Brainards phased out the high quality hand-decorated glass and began to mass produce milk glass.
Westmoreland's Later Years
In 1980, the Brainards sold the company to St. Louis, Missouri businessman David Grossman who had no prior experience with Westmoreland. As a result, the company went out of business in 1984 and was sold for $75,000 to George Synder who converted the property into a storage facility. 

The Westmoreland molds were sold to several glass manufacturers which included Summit Art Glass, Viking Glass, Blenko. Some of the molds are still being used today by glass manufactures. 

Identifying Westmoreland Marks

Other Westmoreland Wares

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