No two researchers ever agree exactly on glass houses of a bygone era. And this seems to hold true in the Millersburg Glass house, in business from 1910 to 1914 in Millersburg, Ohio, more than most any other glass house.
The Millersburg Glass Co. was begun for the sole purpose of cashing in on the iridescent period in glass making. One John Fenton, from the Fenton Art Glass Co., Williamstown, WV, went to Millersburg to peruse the place in the hopes of opening a glass house. He had the full backing of the small town be cause it meant employment for most of the townspeople and many from around the country.
A plant was erected and the first pieces of glass were made in the early part of 1910. It was intended that nothing but iridescent glass, later known as Carnival Glass, would be made here. The Fenton Art Glass Co., or the Mother plant, was the pioneer in iridescent glass of the less expensive grade. And there was no reason that they shouldn't have the formulas of the home factory.
Three main stockholders with bonds sold to the rest of the people in Millersburg started the ball rolling.
John Fenton, A. I. Root, of honey making fame of Medina, Ohio and Mr. Geisler of Millersburg were the three who had put the most money into the factory. Mr. Geisler kept a day-to-day journal of all the activities of the plant from its opening to its closing. That journal is still in existence, but because of the furor about the history of the plant, the survivors won't permit it to become public.
The first pieces shaped by the Millersburg plant were the Courthouse bowls. This was a bowl, usually of amethyst glass with a clear iridescence. The iridescent, differed from that of Fenton, in that it was a clear watery type, whereas Fenton's, for the most part, had a sort of satinized effect.
The courthouse bowls were of two types: One had the lettering MILLERS BURG COURTHOUSE around the bottom of the bowl and the other had no lettering at all. But the picture on the front of the howl was the exact duplicate of the courthouse still standing in Millersburg.
The Millersburg plant tried to major in commemorative pieces. This doesn't mean they got all the business. But whenever possible they used their beautiful glass for advertising pieces.
In 1911, the Birmingham Age Herald newspaper of Birmingham, AL, used a bowl and dish made by the Millersburg house as its carrier's greeting to its customers.
This bowl and plate pictured a duplicate of the Age Herald Building, replete with the owls or symbols of knowledge on the corners of the building. It has become one of the very rare pieces. This was because the pieces were given to the carriers or paper boys to deliver. More of them were broken than ever reached the customer.
And because they were that old cheap glass with the rainbow effect, the recipient was not so gung ho on receiving one of them. They were used for everything except for adding beauty to their homes. The result is that they are now selling for thousands of dollars when they can be found.
The Gay 90s pitcher, of which Mr. 0. Joe Olson, writer of the Carnival, Custard and Greentown news, from Kansas City, Missouri, owns the only known complete set of this beautiful pattern.
The pieces from Millersburg can be recognized by the clear iridization on the pieces. But hundreds of patterns, most of them in the very rare category. came from Millersburg.
The People's Vase, or as one writer calls it the "Constitution," came from Millersburg. There is an interesting story behind this one piece. At one time the Millersburg plant intended to make some pieces depicting every major religion. There is the many star plate and bowl - one with five-pointed star and the other with six point for the Hebrew people.
The so-called People's Vase was a take-off of the Shaker religion. It's known in the history of the Shakers that a part of their religious ceremony consisted of dancing in a shaking manner around the bonfire in the evening hours. This belief or ritual was taken from the writings of Moses in the Old Testament where God guided the Children of Israel out of the wilderness with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of smoke by day.
The Shaker's believed they were a part of the lost tribes of Israel and this dancing was a part of the religious ceremony of their sect.
The large vase shows a group of people holding hands and dancing a round the grooved pillar forming the vase part of the piece. And this was supposedly made for that sect, or commemoration thereof. This information is also contained in the Journal of Fred Geisler. It makes an interesting story. But it has been called the People's Vase so long that it will forever so remain.
The Millersburg plant stayed in business until the latter part of 1913, when the factory part of the shop stopped operations. But they continued with their doors open until all the glass was sold from the storeroom, thereby repaying the shareholders as much as possible on their investment.
Reports from Millersburg tell us that a book is being written on Millersburg Glass. But most of the info is taken from newspapers which don't always report all the facts.
Mrs. Rose Presznick, Lodi, Ohio, who until 1973 had one of the finest museums in America, has written several books on Carnival Glass. Her drawings are an addition to the library of any collector. She has identified each piece, prices it according to what it would have been in the point in time in which, the book was published. And her anecdotes of where, how and when she found the glass are worth the prices of the books. They are written in a homey and interesting way so that it captivates the interest of the reader.
Marion Hartung has written several books as well. It is unfortunate that her drawings are not in the same class as those of Mrs. Presznick. But in the ten books published by Mrs. Hartung, she has given 1000 patterns. Mrs. Presznick gave 1200 patterns in four books. Of course the Presznick books were more expensive, but they were more desirable as well. They are still available, even though Rose has retired from the selling and general collecting of Carnival Glass.
Mrs. Presznick has a new book Encyclopedia of Carnival Glass, now available. It is the result of three years of research end the help of hundreds of people. And it will be as complete and up to date as possible. Because of serious illness the Carnival Glass Collecting world is losing the epitome of knowledge, generosity and charm when Rose Presznick retires from the field of research and writing on Carnival Glass.