The Westmoreland Glass Company grew out of the Specialty Glass Company of East Liverpool, Ohio, which, in 1889, relocated to Grapeville, Pennsylvania, to take advantage of the area’s abundant supply of natural gas. By 1890, production of pitchers, goblets, tumblers, and glass novelty items was underway, overseen by two brothers named George and Charles West. With the financial backing of Ira Brainard, the brothers soon bought out the Ohio founders and changed the firm’s name to the Westmoreland Specialty Company. Operation of the factory ran smoothly for nearly 30 years. During this period, Westmoreland produced virtually every type of glassware, from inexpensive pressed glass to pricier cut glass. Disagreements between the two brothers eventually resulted in George leaving the company, which Charles continued to run on his own. Around the same time, the name was changed to Westmoreland Glass Company to eliminate the confusion among consumers about what a “specialty” company might actually produce— “glass” made the company’s mission crystal clear.
Throughout World War I, the Westmoreland Glass Company manufactured and distributed intricately molded, candy-filled glass jars in the shapes of automobiles, trains, and revolvers to newsstands and dime stores across the U.S. The jars were made of high-quality milk glass, or opal, a signature material that distinguished Westmoreland glass from its competitors.
In the 1920s, Charles added a large decorating department to the factory’s output, which allowed for the distribution of impressive crystal and decorated ware. However, it was milk glass that proved to be most lucrative. An estimated 90 percent of all Westmoreland glass produced between the 1920s and ’50s was made of milk glass. Due to their high level of craftsmanship, Westmoreland milk glass pieces were considered some of the finest examples of the material in the country. This reputation for quality is one reason the factory was not forced to close during the Great Depression.
One of Westmoreland’s most enduring products was a covered dish called Hen on a Nest, which was manufactured in numerous sizes. The earliest Hens were pressed from a more fragile (and more collectible) type of milk glass than the versions that followed. Early Hens can be distinguished from later ones because they were a pure milk-white; it was only later that the hen’s comb was colored bright red. They also created other popular animal dishes including swans, cats, and even bunnies.
By the 1950s, milk glass seemed the best financial bet for the company. Many of the patterns produced during that decade were designed to capitalize on the material’s earlier popularity. Among the most successful patterns were Paneled Grape, Old Quilt, Quilted, English Hobnail, Beaded Fruit, and American Hobnail. As the 1950s drew to a close, though, the popularity of milk glass waned. Westmoreland struggled through the 1970s, and in 1981 David Grossman purchased the company. Despite an effort to revive the business, there was no longer a substantial interest in milk glass. On January 8, 1984, nearly 100 years after its founding, the factory shut down production.
Westmoreland glass of all types continues to be desired by collectors who appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship of these beautiful creations. We currently have a selection of Westmoreland glass on sale: but two get one free! (free item must be of equal or lesser value)