A goblet with a cobalt blue bowl and clear stem and a unique, tall-stemmed cordial with an equally dazzling cobalt blue bowl, both from our museum collection, evoke the history of a storied American manufacturer, the Seneca Glass Company.
A striking characteristic of the Seneca Glass pieces is the intense color. Equally striking is the light weight of the pieces – the glass is as thin as the finest crystal of any manufacturer. The bowl of the goblet features a subtle and exquisite optic design. These lovely pieces demonstrate craftsmanship of the highest order.
“For almost a century Seneca Glass in Morgantown, West Virginia was a premier producer of fine lead glass in colors, crystal, and with elegant cuttings and numerous decorative treatments,” authors Bob Page and Dale Frederiksen note in their book, “Seneca Glass Company 1891-1983: A Stemware Identification Guide.”
The Seneca Glass Company opened in Seneca County, OH, in 1891, using immigrant glassworkers from Germany’s Black Forest region. The company relocated to Fostoria, OH, in a former plant of the Fostoria Glass Company. In 1896 the Seneca Glass Company again changed locations – moving to Morgantown, WV, where newly discovered natural gas deposits provided ample and relatively cheap fuel for firing, and river and railroad transportation were available to move the company’s wares.
“Early production included hand-blown fine lead crystal in a variety of forms: tumblers, bar bottles, covered candy jars, decanters, finger bowls, sugars and creamers, nappies, water sets, vases, and endless stemware,” Page and Frederiksen write. “One of Seneca's significant lines at the turn-of-the century was thin, blown, etched tumblers for bars.... The thin glass tumblers were the disposable paper cup of their day and thousands and thousands were required.”
Diversity of products, the use of “nearly every known technique to the glass artist” for decoration, and the introduction of a variety of magnificent colors enabled Seneca Glass Company to find success in a highly competitive market. Depression era production included clear glass, cobalt blue, and the "up-to-date transparent colors" as a 1932 advertisement termed their light green, topaz, and additional colors, according to authors Page and Frederiksen.
Color would be an important component of Seneca Glass Company production into the 1970s. Hues included “Accent Red” (ruby), “Amber,” “Buttercup” (yellow), “Cinnamon”(brown), “Delphine Blue” (light blue), “Ritz Blue” (cobalt), “Sahara” (light amber), “Gray” (smoky), “Moss Green” (dark green), “Lime Green,” “Peacock Blue,” “Black,” and “Plum” (amethyst). There’s no shortage of varieties for collectors of Seneca Glass!
In its heyday the Seneca Glass Company sold wares to some of the best-known locations in America. They included Wanamaker’s, Philadelphia; the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Boston; Pinnacle Club, New York; Tudor Room of the Sheraton Palace Hotel, San Francisco; Marshall Field and Company, Chicago; B. Altman Company, New York; Tiffany's, New York; Richs, Atlanta; and Neiman-Marcus, Dallas. At its best, Seneca Glass was equal to and even surpassed the likes of Steuben, Hawkes, and today’s Waterford with its brilliantly cut patterns on heavy lead crystal blanks. In the early to mid-20th Century, Seneca Glass could be found in embassies around the world, decorating the tables of the world’s elite.
The Seneca Glass Company ended production in 1983. The company building remains in Morgantown, portions of it housing a complex of retail stores, with decor in the commons areas emphasizing the structure’s glass manufacturing past.
While the Seneca Glass Company items in our museum are not for sale, Replacements, Ltd. carries a great selection of Seneca Glass patterns that are available for purchase. 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 warehouse facilities (the size of 7 football fields) hold more than 13,000,000 individual pieces in more than 425,000 patterns! Our Showroom and Museum are open from 9:00am to 7:00pm ET, 7 days a week (except holidays); free tours are available from 10:00am to 6:00pm ET, 7 days a week. 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!