New Martinsville/Viking Glass Animals

by Bert Kennedy & William Walker
Volume 30 No. 6 - November/December 2004

Mark Douglass and George Matheny formed the beginnings of a new West Virginia glass company in April 1900. By November 1900, a site was located for the facility in the town of New Martinsville, and in December 1900 the New Martinsville Glass Manufacturing Company applied for a corporate charter, which was granted by the West Virginia Secretary of State and later entered into the Wetzel County records on 8 January 1901.

In 1926, New Martinsville began making a variety of crystal items (bowls, candlesticks, plates, and vases) with attached swan necks, which they called their S and SJ Lines.

During the thirties the company struggled with finances and after the sudden death of the President, Ira M. Clarke (27 April 1937), the Circuit Court appointed Sheriff Frank Berger as "Special Receiver." Upon the death of the company treasurer, John F. Martin (23 June 1937) the plant was put up for sale.

The bid by R. M. Rice and Carl Schultz, both from Meriden, Connecticut, and associated with the Silver City Glass Company, was accepted (21 July 1938). Rice and Schultz brought hack Harry Barth, the former General Manager, and formed the New Martinsville Glass Company. The Wetzel County Circuit Court closed the Receivership on 10 May 1939 after all the creditors had been paid by agreement, which amounted to 25 cents on the dollar.

From July of 1938, Barth managed to get the company back on its feet with several new lines and a sequence of etchings which he designed. This was when "Crystal Ware" came into vogue and when the New Martinsville Glass Animals and Figurines were born.

(See Fig. 1 for a close-up of representative Glass Animals from this period.)

In 1941 the company began a modernization by revamping and remodeling the plant to produce hand-made quality glassware of the Swedish type, complete with the intent of a future change of the company name to Viking Glass. In conjunction with this, they began running ads for their new lines under the name Viking Glass by New Martinsville. This went so well that on 1 June 1944, the stockholders voted to change the name of the company to Viking Glass Company. However, this was not officially recorded in the Wetzel County Deed Records until 11 April 1949.

Through the forties and into tho fifties, in addition to the heavy realistic animal figures introduced in the late thirties, Viking continued making the various Swan bowls that had been introduced in the late twenties, but with the addition of colored necks in the forties and with colored bodies in the fifties. In the early sixties, smaller animals in the Epic Line of stylized Glass Animals were added to the menagerie with long-tailed birds, and elongated bodied cats, dogs, egrets, ducks. fish, etc.

(See Fig. 2 for a representative sample of the Epic Line from this period.)

During the seventies and into the early eighties, small paperweight animals were introduced - again cats, dogs, elephants, rabbit, tigers, as well as an owl glimmer (a votive candleholder) were subjects for the menagerie.

(See Fig. 3 for a representation of the paperweight animals of this period.)

Due to the change in popularity of colored glass in this country and an influx of glass from Eastern Europe, many of the glass companies in the United States were hit hard economically and had to close. The New Martinsville/Viking Glass Company was no exception and closed in 1984. Collectors now refer to the company's 1900-1984 Period as the New Martinsville/Viking Years.

The facility lay fallow for the next two years and then Kenneth Dalzell (president of Fostoria Glass when it closed in 1986) purchased the New Martinsville properties in 1986. He operated the New Martinsville property under the name of Dalzell-Viking Glass. Dalzell went back to the old New Martinsville and Paden City molds that were on hand and reissued many of the early large Glass Animals. Those included the Paden City Tall Pony and the Squirrel on a Rolled Edge Log in crystal, ruby and black. In addition, he made several of the New Martinsville Animals including the Three Bears in crystal and ruby and the Angelfish in both crystal and Milk Glass.

Dalzell also obtained the Imperial Candlewick molds and made items from this line in some rather different col our combinations, which were not very popular. Dalzell also got the company involved into making very expensive Art Glass. In combination, this led to the downfall and eventual bankruptcy of the company. The bank took over the property on 10 April 1998 bringing an end to the glass making history at the New Martinsville facility. Collectors now refer to 1986-1998 Period as the Dalzell-Viking Years.

REFERENCES:

  • Coe, Debbie and Randy, 2003. Glass Animals & Figurines,
    Schiffer Publishing, Atglen, Pennsylvania, 102 p.
  • Garmon, Lee, and Spencer. Dick, 1994, Glass Animals of the Depression Era including Figural Flower Frogs and Reissues,
    Collector Books, Paducah, Kentucky, 238 p.
  • Measell, James S., 1994, New Martinsville Glass, 1900-1944.
    Antique Publications. Marietta. Ohio. 234 p.
  • Miller, Everett R., and Miller. Addie R., 1975 The New Martinsville Glass Story,
    Richardson Publishing, Marietta, Ohio, 60 p.
  • Miller, Everett R., and Miller, Addie R., 1975, The New Martinsville Glass Story, Book II, 1920-1950
    Rymack Printing Co., Manchester, Michigan, 64 p
  • Six, Dean; Ochs, Pam, and Wilson, Rock, 2003, Viking Glass: 1944-1970
    Schiffer Books, Atglen, Pennsylvania, 160 p.
  • Spencer, Dick & Pat, 2004, Glass Animals including Animal & Figural Related Items,
    Collector Books, Paducah, Kentucky, 820 p.
  • Walker, William P.; et al, 2003, Paden City Glass: 1916-1951,
    Antique Publications, Marietta, Ohio, 256 p.