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Fenton Glass fans continue celebration


July 31, 2005



Parkersburg News, Parkersburg, WV

WILLIAMSTOWN - It's a story of poverty and fortune, hard work and struggle. The Fenton family of Fenton Art Glass truly exemplifies the American dream.

One hundred years ago, in 1905, Frank Leslie Fenton and his brother John combined their meager funds, a little over $200, to rent space in the Haskins Glass Company in Martins Ferry, Ohio, where they would begin to paint decorations on glass blanks.

They soon discovered it would be more profitable to make their own glass. In 1906, they began the construction of a factory in Williamstown, W.Va. Today, Fenton Art Glass is the largest manufacturer of handmade colored art glass in the United States and has 450 employees. Its products are available for sale in more than 4,500 retail shops across the nation.

On Saturday, the celebration of Fenton's 100-year anniversary continued with entertainment, food, arts and crafts and, of course, glass.

Glass enthusiasts and collectors gathered under the large tents in the factory parking lot to admire and purchase the famed art glass.

Janet Stephens of Burton, Ohio, bought six Fenton bags filled with art glass Saturday.

"I've been collecting on and off for about 10 years, but I received my first Fenton piece about 32 years ago as a gift," she said.

Stephens, along with many other collectors, purchased the special edition anniversary pieces for sale this year.

"With the 100-year marking, I'm hoping these pieces will prove to be more valuable," said Stephens.

The Centennial Celebration Exclusive is a Mandarin Red Sherbet glass. The mould was designed by company founder Frank L. Fenton during the 1930s. The piece is only available on the grounds at Fenton during the Centennial Celebration.

Fenton enthusiast Lynn Curley purchased two Fenton pieces at the factory store on Saturday. Curley and her husband traveled to the celebration from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

"This is the very first piece of Fenton that I've bought for myself. I've received several as Christmas gifts though. My mother-in-law is a Fenton fanatic. She has a room full of Fenton," said Curley.

Throughout the generations, Fenton glass has remained popular. Often, Fenton pieces serve at heirlooms in families, with glass handed down to the next generation.

"My mother collected Fenton," said Angie Gould of Columbus, Ohio. "When she died, she handed down her pieces to me and I'm continuing the tradition."

Saturday's festivities included a family signing event with Mike Fenton and Fenton Family guided tours. Another feature was the "eBay university" information session which gave collectors a chance to learn about the popular web site which often has Fenton sellers and buyers.

Today's main attraction will be the Fenton 100th Anniversary Auction at Fenton Court on the Marietta College campus from 6-9 p.m.

"When my grandfather and his brother started Fenton Art Glass at the turn of the last century, it was their desire to enhance the glass making industry," said company president George Fenton in a July 1 press release. "That mission and dedication to quality workmanship has carried through to the present day where we have multiple generations working together to produce high quality decorative glass in the tradition my grandfather started."


Dave Fetty prepares to make his mark on the bottom of a piece of Fenton glass created by him during a demonstration at the Fenton's Centennial Celebration Saturday afternoon in Williamstown. (Photo by Tony Kemp)


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Visitors to Fenton Art Glass will find a spacious Gift Shop and a pleasant museum. Free factory tours (M-F 8:15am to 4:00pm) take small groups of guests right out to the factory floor to see glassmaking "up close and personal." Friendly, knowledgeable tour guides explain all aspects of the operation. The Fenton tour has been ranked among the "top 10" factory tours nationwide by USA Today. In addition we have been named Rand McNally Best of the Road for 2006. For a factory tour schedule, click here. For a map, click here.


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