A lifetime of amassing a treasure trove began with an appreciation for the simple beauty of utilitarian glass objects. James Asselstine and Bette Davis started collecting American pressed glass in their early twenties, taking a strong interest in the techniques and history of glassmaking. Their collection now includes examples of the modern studio glass movement, a great love of Bette’s.
But one particular interest over the past 15 years has shaped the course of Jim and Bette’s contribution to the world of glass. After purchasing a vacation home near the site of the Dorflinger factory in White Mills, Pa., the couple took an interest in the fine cut glass produced by the company there, as well as in New York City, from 1852-1921.
“Our fascination…is tied to the beauty of these objects, the role that they played in the culture of that time, the extraordinary craftsmanship of the people that produced these objects, and the history of these companies during a time of industrial development and prosperity in the United States,” said Jim, who is a long-time trustee of the Dorflinger-Suydam Wildlife Sanctuary which owns and operates the Dorflinger Glass Museum in White Mills.
About eight years ago when the Dorflinger factory property became available for purchase, Jim knew what he had to do. “The Dorflinger buildings represented a unique opportunity to preserve and restore one of the major glassmaking factories of this period,” Jim said. “The new Dorflinger Factory Museum together with the existing Dorflinger Glass Museum will give us the ability to interpret the complete story of the Dorflinger companies, from their start in Brooklyn, New York, to the migration to Northeastern Pennsylvania, and their success as one of the largest producers of fine cut and engraved glass tableware during a period of great advancement and productivity in our country’s history.”
In addition to their work with the Dorflinger, Jim and Bette are great friends to The Corning Museum of Glass, and were founding members of the Ennion Society, an honorary group of donors who make annual gifts of $1,200 or more. The Asselstines are among the Museum’s greatest supporters when it comes to the annual Ennion Society Dinner. Jim says it is a “wonderful way to add fine examples of contemporary glass to our collection and to contribute to the Museum’s excellent programs to support contemporary glassmaking.” Last spring, Jim was elected a Museum Fellow, recognizing his accomplishments.
“In our view, The Corning Museum of Glass is a national treasure,” said Jim. “The Museum’s comprehensive collection of ancient, European, American, and modern glass objects in unmatched anywhere in the world. The Museum’s active support of glassmaking by contemporary artists helps to encourage and enrich this art form. Perhaps most importantly, the Museum helps to introduce a broad international audience to the art, history, and science of glassmaking, and serves as a doorway to a beautiful region of New York State.”
Want to get more involved in The Corning Museum of Glass this year? Learn more about supporting the museum through volunteering, donating or becoming a member. It’s a worthwhile New Year resolution.