"West Virginia Glass Towns." By Dean Six. West Virginia Book Co. (Quarrier Press). Hardcover. 240 pages. $29.95.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dean Six spent the past 20 years collecting fascinating historical information and documents about West Virginia's glass industry -- photographs, factory site maps, advertisements, pages from company catalogs and trade publications.
They are featured in Six's new book, "West Virginia Glass Towns."
Photographs portray scores of sprawling glass factories and the people who worked in them, including some child laborers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many historic photos show groups of workers gathered outside their plants.
Boys in their early teens are shown working at hot glass furnaces at midnight in plants located in towns such as Grafton.
Men typically worked directly with the hot glass, forming it into various products. Women typically decorated and etched glass products after they were already formed.
Many historic photographs are close-ups of workers taking molten glass out of furnaces, then shaping it into a wide variety of products: vases, lamps, paperweights, bottles, drinking glasses, saucepans, teakettles and coffeemakers.
Moncer Glass Co. in Huntington advertised the first "Ornamental Sword Fish" made by any glass company, advertising it as "very attractive for tropical fish or flowers."
Many West Virginia glass factory products were very artistic, often etched with intriguing designs.
At least 460 hot-glass manufacturing plants operated in 57 different cities and towns, since the Mountain State's first glass plant opened in Wellsburg in the early 1800s. Towns such as Ceredo also had pre-Civil War glass factories.
Today, just 16 hot-glass producing plants still operate in West Virginia, Six writes.
"West Virginia Glass Towns" lists all those 460 plants by town, identifying products they manufactured and the years during which they operated. Many plants operated for only five or six years, or even less.
Clarksburg had 39 glass plants; Fairmont, 29; Weston, 24; Salem, 18; and Parkersburg, 14. Mannington and Buckhannon each had 10 plants operating over the years.
Morgantown had 28 plants, while nearby Star City had 11. Many were built on the banks of the Monongahela River.
Charleston had only nine plants, seven of which closed between 1919 and 1929. The Libbey-Owens-Ford plant, located where the Kanawha City shopping mall is today, operated until the early 1980s.
Milton had five plants, including Blenko Glass, which is still operating.