Sunday, July 7, 2013

"Give me insight into today and

you may have the antique and future worlds." 
                                  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

When the antique and future worlds combine, it is a wonderful moment in this business.  Rather than have things languish on shelves, they find new days, new lives, new friends, and I recently had a bride-to-be looking for some vintage glass for a wedding next year.  She is on the hunt for hobnail, a glass that kept Fenton in business for many years, and, as I unpacked some, I wondered where the name originated.

Fenton Art Glass Company has been in existence since 1905.  Brothers Frank and John Fenton painted decorations on glass blanks made by other companies.  They worked in an old glass factory in Martins Ferry, Ohio, but, when they were unable to get the glass they needed, they decided to start their own factory (note how things were done pre-China days).  The new factory was located in Williamstown, West Virginia, and opened in 1907.
The past couple years have been financially difficult for Fenton, which was still being run by a Fenton...George Fenton, Frank's son.  An article from a local paper chronicled the saga..."We're still very optimistic and hopeful that USGlass, Inc. will be establishing operations here soon," said George Fenton, president of Fenton Art Glass. He said USGlass would have manufacturing and sales operations at the Willliamstown facility and would license sales of Fenton glassware and molds. 

But, back to "hobnail".  Fenton started selling milk glass hobnail in 1939.  It was a big seller, and it allowed the company to expand.  Carnival glass established them as competitors in the hand-made glass industry, and hobnail came along when many factories were failing with the Depression.

Initially, only 2 items were made...lamp founts for a lighting company and barber bottles for L.G. Wright Glass.  Wright found some old molds from Northwood/Hobbs Glass and worked a deal with Fenton.  Here is a photo I found of barber bottles.
 
 L to R:

Fenton Cranberry opalescent
    hobnail barber bottle for L.G. Wright,
Canary hobnail bottle by Hobbs and
   Brockunier, white opalescent hobnail
bottle by Hobbs.

Then, a perfume manufacturer rep saw the barber bottle on a Fenton rep's desk in Chicago, and the Wrisley Perfume bottle was created.  It had a smaller neck and a wooden stopper to keep prices reasonable. 
These lines enabled Fenton to survive, and by the 1940s, the entire Hobnail line was created.  It not only came in milk glass, but it also was offered in blue, topaz, and cranberry.  But, why "hobnail" and not bumpy bubble glass (would be my take)?  It gets its name from the studs or round projections that supposedly resembled the impressions made by hobnails, a large-headed nail used in bootmaking.

By the way, to distinguish Fenton, check the bottom...Fenton has what I call a rolled edge...
 
here are examples of 2 hobnail cat "boots"...one in blue and one in milk glass...

The earlier white milk glass has an opalescence to it while the later lines are pure white.  These pieces are from the 1940s-50s era. 






So, we celebrate the collectors who buy to use...especially the younger ones like Amanda, the bride-to-be, who appreciate the value of things of the past and want them to be useful because..."It's not good because it's old, it's old because it's good." ~Anonymous
 

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