The Rakow Research Library recently acquired the Fenton Art Glass Company archive. The collection, which fills 290 boxes, arrived on March 8, and is one of the most complete American glass company archives in our collection. The archive documents the entire history of the company with materials on all aspects of the its operations, including every product trade catalog Fenton ever published. This collection will not only support research about the company, but it will also meet the research needs of people exploring glass formulas and molds, marketing and design trends, and labor and industry records.
The Fenton Art Glass Company, founded in 1905, began operation as a glass decorating firm in Martins Ferry, Ohio. In the fall of 1906, the company began construction of its own glass factory in Williamstown, West Virginia, and began making blanks in 1907. Fenton was heavily influenced by Tiffany Studios and Steuben, and used many different colors in its glass output. In Fenton’s early days Jacob Rosenthal, a noted glass chemist, developed the company’s formulas. Fenton was the first to introduce carnival glass, but was also known for its milk glass, overlays (cased glass), art glass, kitchenware, industrial glass, giftware, and many glass collectibles. In its waning years, Fenton made effective use of television marketing, often appearing on QVC. The company ceased production of its traditional handmade glass products in July 2011.
James Measell, a noted glass historian, compiled a complete and detailed inventory for the collection which allows us to have a granular understanding of what is included and how it is organized. Most collections do not come to us with a detailed inventory so we were very fortunate in this case. The collection will be rehoused in the coming weeks and moved to our climate-controlled special collection area. We are planning to selectively digitize some content within the collection, starting with the glass company trade catalogs. Stay tuned for more news about this collection as we process and uncover the many treasures within the boxes.
See Fenton glass in the Museum’s collection.
The Rakow Research Library is open to the public 9 am to 5 pm every day. We encourage everyone to explore our collections in person or online. If you have questions or need help with your research, please use our Ask a Glass Question service.