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The Fenton Art Glass Company was founded by brothers Frank L. Fenton and John W. Fenton in Martins Ferry, Ohio in 1905. They began by painting decorations on glass blanks made by other glass manufacturers. After they were unable to obtain glass blanks, they decided to produce their own glass. They produced their first piece of glass, a crystal cream pitcher with a water lily and cattails pattern, from the Fenton factory in Williamstown, West Virginia on January 2, 1907.
The unusual colors developed by Frank Fenton helped keep Fenton glass ahead of the art glass industry. The Fenton design from 1905-1920 was influenced by Louis C. Tiffany and Steuben. It is best known for its early iridescent glass now known as carnival glass. It was produced between 1907-1920. It is also known for opalescent glass, pressed and molded glassware.
In 1925, Frank L. Fenton's brother, Robert C. Fenton is named Vice President, Secretary, and Sales Manager.
During the depression and WWII, Fenton glass produced mixing bowls and tableware. During that time they continued to work on a wide selection of colors.
In 1948, Frank and Robert C. died. Frank M. becomes President and Wilmer C. "Bill" Fenton becomes Vice-President and leads the company for 40 years.
In 1986 George W. Fenton, Frank M. Fenton's son, takes over as President. Fenton is still operating in Williamstown, West Virginia with nine family members working together. It is producing hand-decorated glassware and novelty items.
Frank O. Myers was the first basket handler for Fenton. He began his career as a glass worker at a glass factory in Indiana, Pennsylvania about 1900; the same plant where Frank L. Fenton worked as a glass decorator in 1897.
By 1910 he had been an apprentice learning to gather glass, mastering pressing and blowing operations and finally, was a skilled finisher. He was able to reshape pieces; flaring and crimping the tops of vases. Eventually, he became skilled at attaching handles to cruets and pitchers. The manufacturer he was employed by was a producer of glass baskets. He became the person that attached the handles on the baskets.
He came to work for Fenton on February 1, 1932 due to the fact that the glass plant he had previously worked for was destroyed by fire.
In 1939, Fenton began creating baskets. Myers was Fenton's first basket handler and also trained other glassworkers to become handlers.
In 1959, Fenton decided that every basket handler should have their own mark so collectors could identify the artist who created their basket. Each Fenton basket is marked with the mark of the "handlers". The handler attaches the handle and stamps his personal mark. These marks can be found impressed at the base of each side of the handle. Each mark is circular with a design in the center.
To view the handler's mark and the date of his/her employment:
The artists who are decorators are very carefully selected. Enamal paints and crushed glass are used in decorating. It is then subjected to high heat to ensure fusion of the paint to the glass. Each piece is signed by the decorator. The decorators signatures are often, but not always, preceded by "handpainted by". It may not appear due to space limitations. It is usually found on the bottom of the piece. Sometimes it is also found on the side.
To view a list of the decorators:
Fenton offers tours most weekdays at their factory in Williamstown, West Virginia. There is also a giftshop and museum which features 2000 pieces of rare and unusual glassware from 1907 to the present.
To view Fenton logos and labels:
Fenton logos from 1921-2005
Fenton's labels from 1921-2005
Fenton's logos from 1970-Present
More Fenton Logos
To view a variety of vintage Fenton:
Vintage Fenton Glassware
Fenton Art Glass Company
Official Price Guide to Glassware - First Edition
Kovel's Antiques & Collectibles Price List 2003
Schroeder's Antiques Price Guide - 18th Edition, 2000
The Next Monthly Newsletter will feature the history of Lenox.
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