Duncan & Miller's Short-lived "Chartiers Division"

Gail Krause
Glass Review - July 1978

Mrs. Betty Duncan Freeze, the sister of James Duncan, has asked me to clarify several facts concerning the Chartiers Division of Duncan and Miller Glass Company and the pattern "Symphony" that was produced at that plant.

According to Mrs. Freeze, the Chartiers Division started in approximately 1947 and continued for a very short period of time. It was a subdivision of Duncan and Miller Glass and was designed for the purpose of producing a machine-made glass that would compete with the lesser expensive glassware at that time. The factory was owned and operated by Mr. James Duncan who was then President of Duncan and Miller Glass Company.

The plant was in operation less than a year, closing approximately in 1948. They simply could not compete. There were many problems from the beginning. The machinery was very difficult to install and maintain and was not installed properly.

It was a beginning of a new venture entirely different from the one they were so used to at the Duncan plant for so many years. They had to learn the operation which was entirely different than the operation of handmade glass.

The quality of the glass was extremely poor and could not compare with the beautiful handmade glass of Duncan and Miller, leaving Mr. Duncan dissatisfied with the results. As a result, when some of the first glass was run, Mr. Duncan, along with many of the men, was not willing to continue.

It was an extremely expensive operation, a financial disaster.

Several of the items that were made at the plant consisted of creams and sugars and trays, bowls, etc., but they were run in a very limited quantity and Mr. Duncan decided the Chartiers Division should be closed. This site, at 41 Detroit Avenue, in Washington, Pa., is now occupied by the Metro Containers Co.

Some feel the Chartiers Division was the beginning of the end for the Duncan and Miller Glass plant in that people were buying a less expensive glass in preference to the handmade which took 10 to 12 men to complete one piece. It was a beginning of a new era and perfectionists, such as the Duncan and Miller Glass Company, had a difficult time adjusting to the modern method of inexpensive machine glass. Their pride and dedication could not, or would not, adjust so easily.

We have had samples of the glass and, in identifying it, it seems to have a yellow cast and is quite thick and would not be easily recognized as Duncan quality.

I hope this clarifies some of the questions concerning the Chartiers Division. As more information arises we will be glad to pass this on to our readers.