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Museum Feature

Museum Feature – Westmoreland Glass Della Robbia Basket

Featuring a raised fruit-motif design of yellow pears, purple grapes, and red apples that incorporates brilliant bursts of color, Della Robbia-Flashed by Westmoreland is a pattern of distinctive style. The pattern includes bowls, tumblers, plates, and many other tableware items in a variety of sizes, along with decorative pieces like the basket featured here. The pattern is named for the Florentine della Robbia family, whose generations of artists were known for producing beautiful raised, enameled terra cotta sculptures and decorations during the 15th and 16th centuries. Della Robbia-Flashed is one of the many patterns the Westmoreland Glass Company produced over nearly a century of glass making.

The Westmoreland Glass Company began as the East Liverpool Specialty Glass Company in East Liverpool, Ohio. In 1889, owners of the company decided to move their operation to Grapeville, Pennsylvania, to take advantage of the abundant supply of natural gas in the area. The land they selected was also close to the railroad line, allowing easier inbound transport of raw materials and more efficient outbound shipping for finished products. In 1890, the company was bought by brothers Charles and George West, and the name was changed from Specialty Glass to Westmoreland Specialty Company. Some of the company’s first glassware lines included containers for condiments, baking powder, flavorings, and other similar products. The company became known for its milk glass items starting in the 1920s, including the popular “hen on nest” covered dishes and a wide variety of pieces in the iconic Paneled Grape pattern. It’s estimated that ninety percent of the glass the company produced from the 1920s through the 1950s was milk glass.

Milk Glass is one of the oldest types of art glass. Originally called “opal ware,” milk glass is made by adding tin oxide, fluorides, or other additives during the glass-making process. The production of milk glass is believed to date back to the 16th century, but it didn’t achieve widespread popularity until the late 1700s, when decorated milk glass became used as a cheap alternative to fine porcelain. Milk glass surged in popularity again during the Victorian period, when mechanized production allowed companies to mass produce a vast array of milk glass products. Interest in milk glass waned around World War I, but returned in the 1930s.

In 1920, George West sold his stake in the Westmoreland Specialty Company to his brother, Charles, and investor Ira Brainard. Charles became the company’s president, and formed a decorating department within the company to produce hand-decorated and cut-glass colored glassware. The company’s name was changed to the Westmoreland Glass Company in 1924. Decorative colored glassware pieces were produced by the company from the early 1920s to the mid 1930s, and then once again in the 1950s. In 1937, James Brainard became the company’s president following Charles West’s departure. Like many other glass manufacturers, Westmoreland struggled during the Great Depression, but managed to stay afloat. In order to cut costs, Brainard stopped all cutting and engraving in the 1940s, and also began to phase out the hand-decorated glassware lines around this time, returning the company’s focus to milk glass production. The company once again faced financial difficulties during the 1970s, and was eventually sold to Missouri businessman David Grossman in 1981. Despite Grossman’s attempts to revive the company, its factory doors closed for good in 1984.

While the Westmoreland Della Robbia-Flashed bowl in our museum is not for sale, we do have a variety of Della Robbia-Flashed pieces available for purchase in our inventory; be sure to browse our web site. And remember that we always invite you to visit our facilities – here you'll see a stunning variety of silver, china, crystal, and collectibles! Our 500,000-square-foot facilities hold more than 12 million individual pieces in more than 400,000 patterns! Our showroom and museum are open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm ET, 7 days (except holidays); free tours are available from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm ET, 7 days. The showroom and museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. We look forward to seeing you!

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