Fenton Art Glass celebrating 100th
By Jolene Craig
Sunday, January 2, 2005
WILLIAMSTOWN - Fenton Art Glass Co., the largest manufacturer of
handmade colored glass in the United States, will celebrate its
100th anniversary this year.
"This centennial anniversary is a measure of success for Fenton Art
Glass over the years and for the coming century," said George
Fenton, president of Fenton Art Glass. "It means we have been able
to survive by doing things with a better-quality design for a
The company will not
officially turn 100 until May 5, but the celebrations will continue
throughout the year, said Jena Blair, Centennial Group coordinator
Events include workshops with master glassmakers Dave Fetty and Jim
Ralston on the second Saturday of every month, with the exception of
May 21 instead of May 14. During these workshops, a limited group of
25 people will observe Fetty and Ralston create exclusive Fenton
For $25 a person, each participant will receive a 20 percent off
coupon for one "offhand" Petty piece, Blair said.
Ornament decorating workshops will be held at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1
p.m. and 2:30 p.m. every Saturday in 2005, beginning with Jan. 8.
Reservations are required.
The cost is $25 a person and covers the admission fee, class,
materials and completed ornament. Weekday decorating workshops are
available by request for groups of 20 or more, Blair said.
The city of Williamstown is helping Fenton Art Glass prepare for the
big celebrations with the closing of streets and more security
provided by the Williamstown Police Department, said Mayor Jean
"We are very excited to help Fenton's make this the most awesome
event in the area," Ford said.
The main celebration events will run from July 29 to Aug. 2 with the
crafts fair under the Big Top, glassmaking and glass decorating
schools, hayrides and signing events with the Fenton family.
"The key element of the celebrations is to get people from the
community, collectors and travelers involved with the anniversary,"
Exclusive glassware to celebrate the centennial will be exclusive to
this year and will be introduced through the factory gift shop and
home shopping channel QVC. They will be presented in different
months to celebrate the year, Fenton said.
In fact, QVC has been discussing specials throughout the year on
Fenton Art Glass, including a possible live broadcast from the
factory, Fenton said.
"This is going to be an amazing year," Blair said.
Founded in 1905 by Frank L. Fenton and his brother John W. Fenton in
an old glass factory building in Martins Ferry, Ohio. They began by
painting decorations on glass blanks made by other glass
manufacturers. Soon, being unable to get the glass they needed, they
decided to produce their own glass. The first glass from the new
Fenton factory in Williamstown was made on Jan. 2, 1907.
The glass for Fenton collectibles begins with silica sand, soda ash
and lime. Artisans at Fenton Glass create delicately intricate
pieces from a hot, seemingly chaotic process that directly involves
10 Fenton family members who work together with more than 400
employees to create handmade glass artistry that is loved by
collectors around the world.
In the beginning, those pieces, such as salt and pepper shakers,
vases and sugar bowls, were designed to be purely functional and
possibly decorative. Today, Fenton Art Glass is not only decorative,
but a highly sought-after collectible.
"The uniqueness of the products and the skill and difficulty that
goes into making them is what has helped us survive," Fenton said.
Collecting Fenton glassware has become so huge the local area has
spawned two different Fenton collectors societies.
The National Fenton Glass Society is headquartered in Marietta. The
10-year-old society is and offshoot of the older and more
established Fenton Glass Collectors of America.
Rumors of Fenton Art Glass closing following the centennial
celebrations are just that, Fenton said.
"We are not closing," he said. "I've been hearing those rumors for
the past 20 years, and we have no plans to make them true."
Thanks to the history, high-quality products and a national audience
on QVC, Fenton Art Glass collecting has become a booming business.
To build business and show off their history, Fenton Art Glass has
released a book of the most artistic pieces the company has ever
done, Fenton said.
"We (the Fenton family) sat down and determined what the best pieces
we had ever made were and developed a book out of it," Fenton said.
The book is now available through retailers, the Fenton Art Glass
Web site and the gift shop.
All of the centennial events in 2005 are developed to bring in new
people and established collectors, Fenton said.
"We're trying to make this year the year for visitors to come and
see what we are all about," Fenton said. "We want people that have
been here before to really be able to appreciate what is done in the
Ford said Fenton Art Glass Co. is Williamstown.
"We, at the city, have always said that if it weren't for Fenton and
the high school, there would be no Williamstown," Ford said.
"This is why the city wants to do everything possible to make this
year as successful and spectacular as the Fentons want it to be,"
For more information or to register for events, contact Blair at the
Fenton Gift Shop, (800) 319-7793; or place your order online at