Quick History and Facts About Fenton Art Glass
 
The Fenton Art Glass Company was organized in April 1905, in Martins Ferry, Ohio, by Brothers Robert, John, and Frank M. Fenton. It started as a decorating firm, buying other companies glasses, decorating them, and then selling the painted glassware.  As the Fentons' became more competitive with their own suppliers, it became necessary for the Fenton Glass Company to Manufacture their own glass.
 
In January 1907, the Fenton Glass Company opened their factory in Williamstown, West Virginia, on the site of their present factory.  Their first factory manager was Jacob Rosenthal, the creator of Chocolate Glass and Golden Agate.  Rosenthal was formerly with the Northwood Glass Company and was a cousin of the Fenton Family.
 
At their start of manufacturing glass, the Fenton brothers began with the lucrative Canival and Opalescent Glass markets and acquired large contracts with Butler's Bros. and Woolworths.  Over the next 20 years, the Fenton Glass Company continued to  prosper.
 
In the late 1920's a decline began which resulted in most critical period of the company's history.  Sales dropped to an all time low in 1933, causing the Fentons' to consider closing their doors.   Instead, the factory lowered expenses, employees' wages, and put off improvements in the factory.  Money was borrowed from everywhere and insurance policies were mortgaged as orders slowed.
 
In the 1930s, Fenton turned away from  Carnival glass.  The company started a line of stretch glass, (a type of metallic sprayed glass closely resembling Carnival Glass) and entered into the colored Depression Glass field in the early 1930s.  Also added to the Fenton line was a grouping of Opaque colors that became quite popular, including Jade Green, Mongolian Green, Mandarin Red, Periwinkle Blue, Chinese Yellow, Ebony Black, and the now elusive colors of Flame and Lilac.  A line of Satin Etch items was introduced in the mid-1930s as the Opaque colors dropped off in popularity.
 
It was in 1933 that Fenton began its line of mixing bowls and reamers for the Doromeyer Company to sell with its electric egg beaters.  That account is what kept Fenton from folding during the depression.
 
A cologne bottle, a copy of the old Hobnail pattern they tried in the late 1930s, pulled the Fenton Art Glass Company from the depths of the depression and into economic renewal.  It was in 1936 that  L. G. Wright, a jobber based in New Martinsville, West Virginia, (who used Fenton to make glass from molds he bought from folding companies), brought in a mold of an old Hobb's Company Barber Bottle, hoping that Fenton could make a reproduction of it for his wholesale business.  Through a chance of fate, a buyer for Wrisley Cologne saw the finished bottle and asked if it could be mass produced.  The original bottle was too expensive produce, but it could be changed a little to cut cost and the No. 289 bottle was born.   The bottles were shipped to Wrisley, who test marketed them in 1938.  The results surprised both Fenton and Wristley.  The No.289 bottle sold better than they ever imagined, and Fenton could not keep up with demand.  With the Wristley and Doromeyer accounts, Fenton was quickly prospering again.
 
After seeing the success of the hobnail cologne bottle, Fenton began a complete line in 1939.  The hobnail line has become a company top seller ever since, by far outlasting the Wrisley defection to a machine made Milk Glass bottle in the early 1940s.
 
Surprisingly, World War II brought a huge rise to Fenton's business in spite of labor and materials shortages. Some lines, such as Topaz Hobnail and Ivory Crest, were completely dropped due to mineral shortages.  Other lines were put on hold  until materials were once again available.
 
It was in the 1940s that Ables,Wassenberg, & Co. of New York started to buy Fenton products to decorate, just as Fenton had done in its beginning.
 
In 1948, the Fenton Company suffered a double loss when Frank M. Fenton died in May, followed by his brother Robert in November.  This threw Wilmer C. and Frank L. Fenton, Frank Fenton's sons, instantly into running the company.  Rumors spread quickly during this time that the company was in trouble and planned to fold, causing several major shareholders to sell their stock, which the younger Fenton brothers wisely bought in the wake of the turmoil.
 
In the early 1950s it was decided to drop the independent jobbers,(individuals who bought Fenton glassware and sold it to stores that were not authorized Fenton dealers).  These independent jobbers were, in a sense direct competition with the factory authorized stores.   Though this caused  some hard feelings with some long time customers, the decision is one of the main reasons for Fentons survival today.
 
At a time when hand made glass companies were closing rapidly, Fenton chose to grow to compete with the remaining old glass companies and to preserve the sales they had built up over the years during the war.  According to an expert in the glass business, the new owners were young and inexperienced and the stockholders had lost faith.  But by breaking completely with the past, the Fenton Company was able to push ahead.  Business procedures were updated, new lines were developed, public relations were promoted, new equipment was bought, and new buildings were built.  The product was also improved and strengthened until Fenton was proclaimed as the finest handmade glass in the United States.
 
The late 1950s and early 1960s saw rapid rises in sales which even surprised the Fentons.  During the mid 1960s, Fenton took advantage of its sales growth to expand its factory and offices.   Many new employees were added to expand the sales force and management of the company.  The 1960s were banner years for Fenton.
 
In the late 1960s Fenton again turned to hand decorating after a lapse of over sixty years, with the able hands of Louis Piper and Tony Rosano, who quickly expanded that department into a profitable and long lasting venture.  In 1970 Fenton announced the reintroduction of Carnival Glass, which had not been produced by Fenton since the 1920s.  To ensure the value of the old pieces, Fenton embossed its name in the new pieces, a practice the company ultimately extended to all their glassware.  Adding to the strong sales of Carnival Glass in the 1970s were the reintroduction of the Burmese treatment, the development of the Roselene color and the popular line of Satin Custard colors, along with Milk Glass in Hobnail, Silver crest, and the still popular Cranberry Opalescent Hobnail.
 
In the late 1970s, the collector's appeal proved so popular that a collectors club was organized and is now going strong, holding annual conventions in Williamstown every summer.  The Fenton Museum, dedicated to Fenton Glassware and all glass companies in the upper Ohio valley, was opened on the 2nd floor of the Fenton factory, in 1977.
 
 
·         Fenton Art Glass Company is the largest manufacturer of handmade colored glass in the United States. The Fenton Art Glass Company was founded in 1905 by Frank L. Fenton and his brother John W. Fenton in an old glass factory building in Martins Ferry, Ohio.

·         Frank L. Fenton was first employed as a glass decorator at age 17, when he went to work for the Northwood Glass Co. in his hometown, Indiana, PA, in 1897.

·         In 1907, Frank L. Fenton proposed to Lillian Muhleman, the niece of Captain Ed Muhleman who started the Imperial Glass Company in 1901.

·         Frank L. Fenton was responsible for the design of most of Fenton's products until his death in 1948.

·         In late 1907, Fenton introduced "Iridescent" glass. This glass, now known as "Carnival" glass, is a popular collectible today.

·         During the years from 1905 to the 1920's, Fenton design was heavily influenced by the artists at Tiffany and Steuben.

·         Fenton's opaque Venetian Red Glass first appeared in 1924.

·         During the 1930's and 1940's, Fenton produced practical items, such as mixing bowls and tableware to get through the depression and WWII shortages.

·         The main furnace stack at Fenton collapsed on June 29, 1940.

·         Fenton's first Connoisseur Collection items were offered in 1983.

·         The raw materials of glass (silica sand, soda ash and lime) are called a batch.

·         Approximately 71% of a batch of glass is silica sand.

·         There are 14 ingredients used in making Fenton Glass.

·         The melting temperature for a batch of glass averages 2500 degrees F.

·         The Fenton cranberry glass color comes from pure gold.

·         Glass colors (yellow or green) containing uranium will fluoresce under black light.

·         No two Fenton pieces are exactly the same.

·         Moulds for glassmaking are made of cast iron.

·         The largest tank at Fenton Art Glass can hold 9,000 pounds of glass.

·         Fenton glassworkers work in teams called shops.

·         The term to define the craftsman who pulls the molten glass from the furnace is called a 'gatherer'.

·         The Gatherer, a craftsman who pulls the glass from the furnace, uses an ancient tool called a 'punty' to complete his job. A punty is almost 6' long and is used to gather pressed glass.

·         To gather glass for a blown piece of glass, a gatherer uses a 'blow pipe'. A blow pipe is almost 5' long and has a hole in the middle like a straw.

·         Fenton decorators use a mixture of oil base paint and turpentine to create their paint.

·         To slowly cool Fenton Art Glass, they use an 'annealing lehr'. This machine is like a big pizza oven that slowly cools the glass.