by Barbara Rauck Bartlett

As seen in Antiques & Art Around Florida,
Winter/Spring 1999

Some of the finest glassware ever made “by hand” was produced in our hometown, Newark, Ohio. This high quality glassware, known as Heisey, was produced from 1896 through 1957. The founder of the company, Augustus H. Heisey, born in 1842, emigrated from Germany one hundred fifty-five years ago. He was interested in the making of glass as a career. Starting with the King Glass Company in Pittsburgh, Pa., he later went to work for the George Duncan Company. He married Duncan’s daughter, Susan, in 1870. Upon George Duncan’s death, he bequeathed his company to Susan and Augustus, and his son, James Duncan.
Heisey Glass
After his marriage, Heisey’s next goal was to build his own glass company. He found the elements he needed to produce glass were abundant in Ohio. The limestone deposits in northern and western Ohio were said to be the purest of many such deposits in America. His research indicated the area around central Ohio was rich in natural gas and silica. With this important information, he approached the Newark, Ohio, Board of Trade and told them of his desire to build a glass factory there. The city purchased land for him and totally subsidized the building of the factory. Heisey was especially pleased to locate in Newark because labor costs were low and the city of Newark was pleased with the potential of many jobs being created for it’s citizens.
When the Heisey Company opened its doors in April, 1896, they had orders to be filled! Mr. Heisey had taken examples of his glass to a trade show held the previous year. The buyers at the show were excited to see this pressed glassware, which had the sharpness of design and the appearance of cut glass.
Heisey’s son, George Duncan, designed the Company’s trademark in 1900 and it was put into use at the end of that year, although it was not officially registered until 1901. Heisey’s ads proclaimed every piece of their glassware was marked with an “H” in the center of a diamond. Since not all of its pieces had the trademark in the molds, a paper label was applied. If collectors are looking only for pieces with the diamond “H”, they might overlook a very valuable piece of Heisey glassware!
A. H. Heisey died in 1922 and his son, E. Wilson Heisey, became the next president of the company. The brilliant colors that are so popular with today’s collectors were produced when “Wils” was president. When Wilson Heisey died in 1942, those brilliant colors had all but disappeared from production and the market place.
After Wilson’s death, his brother, T. Clarence Heisey, became the company’s president. It was during his presidency in the forties and fifties the famous figurines, mostly animals, were produced.
It was also during “T.C.”’s era that foreign competition was taking it’s toll on many glass companies. Increasing costs were another of the many problems that led to the company’s eventual demise in 1957. They closed their doors for Christmas vacation in 1957 and reopened only to sell out the remaining stock.
About this same time, a group of Heisey collectors in Newark decided to start a collector’s club. One of their goals was to establish a museum for Heisey glass, in the town where it was produced. This dream was soon a reality. A lovely old home that was in the path of an expressway under construction was offered to the group at no charge. The one stipulation of ownership was that they would have to move it immediately! Wheels went into motion and the King House was moved to it’s present location in Veteran’s Park where it was transformed into the beautiful structure we have as our Heisey Museum today. Fund-raising efforts include an annual convention which is now in its twenty-seventh year.
A special find is a “favor vase”. During the forties, when ladies auxiliaries or other groups would plan a get-together they would contact the Heisey Company to produce a party favor or gift for the attendees. These three-inch vases were made in six shapes and six different colors. The company sold them to the groups for about 25 cents or whatever their budget might permit. Today, these vases could sell for over a thousand dollars if you happen to be looking for the scarce ones!
Some Heisey collectors enjoy the challenge of collecting a specific item or items. They will hunt for that item in every pattern and/or color in which it is known to exist including candlestick holders, oil and vinegar cruets, pitchers, jugs, and cologne bottles. Decanters, shot glasses, stemware, toothpick holders, candy jars and figurines are especially appealing to men.
Other Heisey collectors enjoy focusing upon a particular pattern. These collectors will sometimes try acquiring every item they can possibly find within that pattern. One wonders if the Heisey Company had future collectors in mind as they designed an article of glass for just about every food and beverage served.
Some of the names of the larger and popular patterns of the dinnerware collected today are; Greek Key, Banded Flute, Colonial, Twist, Empress, Ridgeleigh, with 150 items and Crystolite, with 300 items. At the time the company closed, they were heavy into producing the popular Orchids and Roses plate etchings on the Queen Ann and Waverly blanks.
During their sixty years in the business, the Heisey Company produced several formulas for colors to use in the making of colored glassware. The first color they introduced during their start up year was Emerald, a beautiful deep green. Colors such as Milk Opaque, Custard Opaque, Vaseline and Amber were produced until as late as 1910. Most of the colors that collectors are seeking today were produced from 1925 until 1941. One can almost imagine the shade of the color by its name; Moongleam, Flamingo, Hawthorne (lavender-like), Marigold, Sahara, Alexandrite, Tangerine, Cobalt and Zircon. There were other colors made, but they were only experimental shades of blue, red, gold and black. Items in one of these colors would be considered scare! Moongleam, described as “the green of moonlight on the sea”, Flamingo and Sahara, were the colors which proved to be the best sellers for the Company.
A brief chronology will indicate some of the major changes Heisey’s experienced. Starting with their pressed ware of the early years, they changed to the Colonial lines. These items were probably produced for commercial use. This line of heavy pressed glass exhibits panels, ribs, scallops and pleats. At least one of these Colonial style patterns was produced every year the company was in business. It has been written that over fifty per cent of all the glass produced at the Heisey Company was derived from one of the Colonial patterns. After World War I, bright colors and color schemes became very fashionable and desirable in homes. Heisey accommodated their customers in the mid-twenties by providing them with dinnerware in the brilliant colors previously discussed. It was the “roaring twenties”! During that same period glassware with etchings, carvings and intricate cuttings done by skilled artisans was marketed. The Heisey Company brought the Krall brothers to the United States from Austria to work for them. Emil Krall was famous for his beautiful birds, butterflies and floral designs he cut in the glass. He would travel the country and demonstrate his glass cutting skills in department stores to amaze and delight the customers.
During the Second World War, the popularity of the animal figurines and the successes of the Ridgeleigh and Crystolite patterns kept the company afloat.
After the Heisey Company closed, its molds were sold to the Imperial Glass Company in Bellaire, Ohio. Imperial used the molds to fill the remaining orders taken by the Heisey sales force.
One of the goals of the Heisey Collectors of America Club was to purchase the molds from Imperial. The funds to make the purchase were raised and this dream came true. The many thousands of pounds of Heisey molds were brought back to Newark, Ohio and are now controlled by HCA.
Over the years, a new two-story building was erected beside the existing museum. Presently, there are over 4800 pieces of Heisey being displayed in the two buildings. There is an extensive library at the museum for the over 4000 club members to use and enjoy. The Heisey Company efficiently kept daily production records, called “turn books”. These records are available at the museum for research purposes. All the glassware was assigned a number; however, many items share the same number. Not all patterns have a name. As you can see, identifying some of the glass can be confusing. This makes the library very important to the serious collectors.
The National Heisey Glass Museum, 169 West Church Street, Newark, is worth a visit. One walk through this Heisey heaven makes it easy to understand this collector’s " Love Affair with Heisey".

About the authors:
Irene and Edward Rauck were the founders of Moundbuilders Antiques in Newark, Ohio. The present owners are Barbara and Richard Bartlett of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. For more information call 904-280-0450 or contact the Heisey Collectors of America, P.O. Box 27GF, Newark, OH 43055, 740-345-2932. Email:clasyglas2@aol.com


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