Western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia were a powerhouse of American glass production in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries. This "geographic cluster" had all the "ingredients" needed to produce glass: the raw material (silica, ash and limestone), fuel for manufacturing (coal or natural gas), plenty of labor (much of it from Eastern Europe with its long history of glassmaking excellence), and the means to ship the finished goods (by river or rail).
One of the finest manufacturers in the region was Fostoria Glass. In fact, it was one of the best glassmakers in America—and a frequent supplier to the White House.
The company was founded in 1887 by a group of West Virginia glassmakers in Fostoria, Ohio. The town had a newly-discovered source of natural gas and local officials were willing to give free land to the company to build its factory. Alas, within four years, the gas had run dry and Fostoria packed-up and moved to Moundsville, West Virginia.
Fostoria was fastidious about creating high-quality glass—processes which took time, labor and cost more money. But this extra effort made Fostoria stand-out amongst its competitors. They would hand-finish each glass, removing unsightly seams, and then they would "fire polish" each piece, returning it to the kiln for a "finishing step" which would provide a glossy, smooth and uniform finish. Such an extra step took time and cost money, but it also produced a better quality glass.
Fostoria also innovated with its designs; while some popular designs were produced for decades, other designs would be introduced for short periods to keep the product line a la mode, in-touch with fashion trends and changing consumer preferences. And, to keep the brand name in the customer's mind, Fostoria advertised unlike any other glassmaker had ever advertised before. They targeted future brides (and bridal registries) and they carefully hand-picked the finest stores which would be allowed to carry their product. Additionally, Fostoria published a direct-to-consumer magazine which educated the customer and promoted the line.
Fostoria hit its peak in the years following World War II. In 1950, with 1,000 employees, Fostoria produced over eight million pieces of glass for a hungry American public. In addition to the finely-finished pressed crystal, Fostoria continued to produce hand-etched and hand-cut items. And colored glass was playing an increasingly important role in the company's post-war sales.
The set of ten glasses, shown above, are from Fostoria's "Georgian" line, produced from 1961 to 1982. The design was inspired by a simple, 18th Century English style which could be elegant and formal though it complimented the understated simplicity of Mid-Century Modern design. Click on the photo above to learn more about them.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248