L.G. Wright Glass Company
By: Dr. James S. Measell
For about six decades, the L.G. Wright Glass Company has conducted its business from New Martinsville, WV. Yet, this firm has remained virtually unknown to American glass collectors.
The founder, Lawrence Gale "Si" Wright, was a private man, and he did not advertise or distribute a retail catalog. In the mid-1930's, he was a sales representative for the New Martinsville Glass Manufacturing Company, but he soon decided to go into business for himself.
Wright began in 1937 by purchasing glassware from various factories (such as Cambridge, Fenton, Fostoria, Imperial, Phoenix and Westmoreland) and reselling it to gift stores and antique shops. Driving his station wagon through towns and hamlets, he discovered that many antique dealers were interested in reproductions of early American pressed and blown glassware. Publications by Ruth Webb Lee and S.T. Millard stimulated interest in pressed glass--particularly pattern such as Baltimore Pear, Lion, Paneled Thistle, Three Face, and Westward Ho--and dealers were intrigued by "copies" of the real thing. Wright sold milk glass Blackberry and Ivy in Snow pieces made by Phoenix to many of them, along with assortments of glass shoes and hats with the Daisy and Button motif.
He subscribed to the Lightner Publishing Company's Hobbies magazine and frequented antique shops, often buying examples of collectible glassware. Wright's knowledge and contacts within the glass industry enabled him to have moulds made for plates in Baltimore Pear, Daisy and Button, Lion, and Rose and Snow. In addition to using mould shops in Clarksburg, WV, and Donara, PA, during the 1930s and 1940s, Wright had moulds made by Joe Weishar's Island Mould and Machine Co. in Wheeling, Wv.
In May, 1939, Wright purchased many old moulds and glassmaking tools from J.R. Richards in Indiana, PA. These moulds included patterns and novelties from various concerns which had occupied the Indiana site-Northwood, Dugan and the Diamond Glass-Ware Co. Some moulds, such as the Northwood Pump and Trough and items in Dugan's Cherry pattern, were put into production immediately. Others were stored,and, like Maple Leaf, employed years later to make glass.
By the late 1940s, Wright had salesmen calling on department stores and gift shops. The first road representative, Gene Carr, was particularly successful in the Southwest and in California, and he also opened Wright's relationship with the Forslund Furniture Manufacture in Michigan. The lavishly-illustrated Forslund color catalogs used Wright glass as accent pieces in early American furniture groupings, and Carl Forslund and Si Wright became good friends. Forslund sold Wright's wares through mail order catalogs, call them "Owl Hollow" glass.
The Wright enterprise flourished in the 1950s and 1960s, as pattern lines such as Daisy and Button, Moon and Star, Panel Grape and Thistle were popular. Many covered animal dishes were made, too, as Wright had moulds made by Albert Botson at B. Machine and Mould in Cambridge, Ohio.
Wright even created his own pattern, Mirror and Rose, in glass, and Rick Hoskins, then just out of high school, worked on this motif. In 1968, when Wright hired Gloria Baniak (from Davis-Lynch in Star City) to start a full-fledged decorating department, young Hoskins was among those employed to hand-paint floral motifs on milk glass apothecary jars, lamps and vases.
The year 1968 also marked Wright's first printed Master Catalog, which was carefully distributed to wholesale buyers only. Prior to this, the sales reps carried large portfolios of dye transfer color prints prepared by James and Paul Pappas, the Parkersburg-based photographers who did such work for Wright over many years.
An aerial view of the L.G. Wright Glass Company in New Martinsville, West Virgina
It's well known that the Fenton Art Glass Company made glass for Wright (especially cranberry and various opalescent colors), but glass collectors should also realize that many other firms produced glass over the years. Among them are Davis-Lynch; Fostoria; Gibson; Mosser; Paden City; Plum; Summit; Westmoreland; Wilkerson; and Viking. Wright's pressed ware moulds often went to different plants in a short period, so it is not possible to establish the manufacture for each and every item. All, of course, are "Wright Glass."
After Wright's death in 1969, the L.G. Wright Glass Company was run by his wife, Verna Mae, whom he married in May, 1938. Since 1990, when Mrs. Wright died, the company has been operated by family members Dorothy Stephan and Phyllis Stephan Buettner, and its gift shop is open to the public. The company is located on the West Virginia Route 2 just south of New Martinsville.
Several Years before his death, Si Wright was attempting to make iridescent Carnival glass by heating glassware in an improvised glory hole and spraying it with various metallic salt mixtures. The Imperial Glass Company had marked its "new" Carnival for a few years, and other glass manufactures were entering the field. The experiments were not successful, but Westmoreland agreed to make Carnival glass for the L.G. Wright Glass Co. using Wright's moulds.
Among the first of Wright's efforts in Carnival Glass was a pattern called Maple Leaf, which is designated "42" in the company's numbering sequence. This is an old Dugan pattern, and the moulds were bought in 1939. They needed repairs, and invoices in the Wright archives indicate that this was done by Botson in early 1969, the same year that the new Maple Leaf toothpick holder mould was made.
Si Wright's sudden death put the plans for the Maple Leaf on hold, but Mrs. Wright later went forward and the company's 1972 Catalog Supplement introduced the pattern in crystal, cobalt blue and amberina. These Maple Leaf pieces were made: 42-1 cream; 42-2 sugar and cover; 42-3 butter and cover; 42-4 compote; 42-5 tumbler; 42-6 water pitcher; 42-7 spooner; and 42-8 toothpick (the compote mould was used to make the 42-9 salver later).
Wright's 1974 Catalog Supplement shows Maple Leaf in purple Carnival Glass (four-piece table set and tumbler) and notes that it was "made from the original moulds." The Wright firm did not often use this language, but those who bought Wright glass at wholesale often emphasized this to their retail customers (even when it was not completely true!).
The Maple Leaf pitcher and tumbler are shown in Ice Green Carnival and Ruby Carnival in the 1980 Catalog Supplement. A limited edition (1000) of the water set was offered in Cobalt Carnival Glass about 1982, all of the Maple Leaf items were made in green opalescent in 1984. Several articles were made in cobalt blue in 1990-91, and these continue in the current Wright line today.
God & Home 7 piece water, purple carnival.
Published and copyrighted 1997 by the Glass Press, Inc. P.O. Box 553, Marietta, Ohio 45750-0553. This article or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form with out permission from the Glass Collectors Digest.
The L.G. Wright Glass Company closed its doors and had their final auction starting on May 26th and ending on the 28th 1999. Everything form glass to all the moulds and the property was all sold. An era has come to an end.
James Measell is co-author, with W.C. "Red" Roetteis, of the book entitled The L.G. Wright Glass Company. Jim has recently been appointed associate historian for The Fenton Art Glass Company.
To learn more you should explore the Newly Published Book on L.G. Wright Glass Company. Go to BOOKS FOR SALE.
Identification & VALUES of Carnival Glass made for L.G. Wright
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