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By Frank Swies
Curiosity is a powerful motivator. I had this point driven home after reading Bob Harding’s great article (2) about the Ohio Valley Glass Company for the umpteenth time. Since I live in Ohio, I just had to find out more about this company! Along the way I discovered a few things.
Ohio has been involved with glass since 1815, when the Zanesville Glass Manufacturing Company (often referred to as the White Glass Works) started.(1) Virtually every type of glass product has come from Ohio. In the 1800s, the southeastern edge of Ohio, along the Ohio River, included vast outcroppings of unglaciated quartzite, rich in silicon dioxide or silica sand.(3) In addition, at that time, there was an abundant supply of natural gas and coal. These conditions proved attractive to a great variety of glass makers. Names such as Cambridge, Fostoria, Imperial, Steuben, Calcine, Crocker, Ohio Fruit Jar and others, became familiar to glass collectors; the Ohio Valley Glass Company was one of the “others.” Attempts to review the history, personnel and products of the Ohio Valley Glass Company were complicated by the fact that there were four companies, that we know of, that shared the name of Ohio Valley Glass Company:
The first two companies listed are of little concern to the insulator collecting community because no records can be found to show that they ever produced glass insulators. The last two companies are sometimes vaguely linked by the belief that they, somehow, are related. Let’s look at each of them and see what we can find out.
Over a century ago, on October 13,1904, the Ohio Valley Glass Company was founded by Paul Wissmach in a small town in West Virginia. It was situated in an area along the Ohio River referred to as The Ohio Valley hence the name, Ohio Valley Glass Company. Originally, raised glass letters, wired glass, colored, rolled sheets and tubing were the main products. In 1910 the name of the company was changed to the Paul Wissmach Glass Works. During the evening of February 18, 1927, a 4” gas line ruptured causing an explosion that destroyed a large portion of the glass works. (15) Undaunted, Wissmach rebuilt an enlarged 13,000 square foot plant. The facility still exists at it’s original site; 420 Stephens Street, Paden City, Wetzel County, West Virginia. It produces the largest variety of colored rolled glass in the world finding chief use in stained glass cathedral and art panels, and one more thing - they never did make glass insulators.
Back in 1980 (Aug. 19th), Edward Zimmerman, the agent for that Ohio Valley Glass Heat Company issued a release to form and operate the Ohio Valley Glass Company. Stephen J. Fagel was appointed as agent by a “majority of incorporators” (Anthony L. Tedeschi, Pres., Judy J. Fagel and Stephen J. Fagel). By August 26th, the Certificate of Incorporation was issued by the State of Ohio. Thus, the Ohio Valley Glass Company began (charter # 559960).with its main office being listed as Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio. The legal purpose of this for-profit corporation was vaguely stated in the charter: “To engage in any lawful act or activity for which corporations may be formed under 1701.01 – 1701.18, inclusive of the revised code.” (22) Once established, the course of the company remained obscure. To date, no information has been uncovered to indicate any type of production or service from the time of certification to the final Cancellation of Charter (December 30, 1994) for failure to pay franchise taxes. Postal inquiries to Mr. Fagel have been returned, unopened, marked “Attempted – Not Known – Unable to Forward.”
One of the earliest glass producers, the Nail City Glass Company was Incorporated under the laws of West Virginia on April 12, 1880 by a group of investors consisting of Hugh Sterling, Alfred Paull, Harry W. McLurie, J.T. Harris, Thomas Prince, G.W. Franjer, T.J. Hugues, George Dits and George Mathews. The aim was to produce beer and wine bottles, fruit jars, flint and green prescription vials and flasks. On November 28, 1880, the land for the proposed glass works was purchased north of the town of Bridgeport, Ohio. Transportation and fuel were to be obtained locally. (10) The plant was erected and began production of fruit jars and beer bottles. (11) A reorganization resulted in Hugh Sterling being elected president and Alfred Paull being elected secretary. H. W. McClurie was elected as Traveler (Salesman)(12) Directors also elected were Jacob Berger, W.L. Wells and C.W. Franzhelm. The furnace was fired in
September of 1880.(24 ) Ill fortune befell the plant when, in 1882, the plant was destroyed by fire.(13) The buildings were rebuilt and operated until the works was forced to close down (14) . The idle Nail City plant was sold to the Ohio Valley Glass Company on November 21,1883.(4) (See attachment 2) Fruit jars continued in production. The embossing found on these items consisted of the intertwined letters OVGCo. (See attachment 1) It is believed that the 1881 embossing found on the jars refers to the date of the plant start up. By 1888, this company was succeeded by the Bridgeport Glass Company (4) (See attachment 2) which continued operation for some time. Sanborn Fire maps of show the plant site as vacant. A brief account of this history is reflected in Tom and Alice Moulton’s 2001 N.I.A. presentation “Kissin Cousins.” (5) No records have been found to suggest that glass insulators were ever made.
Twenty mikes south of Cambridge, Ohio lies the town of Pleasant City (Once known as Point Pleasant). In 1902, a group of five investors purchased four acres of land in Pleasant City from Jonathan and Rosa Kackley for the grand sum of $412.00. (2) (See attachment 3) Stripped of the “legalize” the parcel was described as being part of the “southeast quarter of Section 8, Township 8, Range 9, in Guernsey County, Valley Township, Pleasant City, Ohio.” A glass making facility was chartered for the purpose of making glass wares including glass insulators and battery jars. The chartering body consisted of F.A. Rothier, R. J. Lewis, B. L. Kilgour, P. S. Kiechler and J. H. Cabell. (16) An industry publication carried the following notice: (6)
“A new company factory is being erected at Pleasant City, Ohio, by Burt & Bodine. It will be a 12-ton tank capacity. This will be the Ohio Valley Glass Company.”(7)
The 1903 Cincinnati Business Directory listed B.L. Kilgore, pres., R.J. Lewis, sec/tres . and P.S. Kiechler as trustee. The 1904 Complete Directory of Glass Companies in the United States and Canada listed a “Pleasant City Glass Works”; B.L. Kilgore, pres.; P.S. Keichler, sec/tres; W.M. Cleis, manager.(2) Business prospects were encouraging but a reorganization in 1905 produced a new name. The Ohio Valley Glass Company. A stockholders meeting of Sept. 22,1904 elected the following: H. E. Cobb, pres., W.E. Stephenson, vice-pres. (whose address was given as 1501 Monadnock Bldg., Chicago), W.B. Stier, sec.; J.B. Sullivan, treas./ mgr.(16) An historic business card (See attachment 7) provides reason to believe that the glass company had a Chicago office. The address of the card is identical to that given for vice.pres., W. E. Stephenson in the court sale document.(16)
Profitability was not as expected. Gas company charges could not be paid, payrolls could not be met and workers refused to work. These conditions caused the plant to remain idle for an extended time. Stockholder legal actions seemed immanent and it was decided that a receiver should be appointed. It was believed that the appointment of a receiver would allow the property of the company to be sold for a better price than if sold at a sheriff’s sale.(19) So it was that a receiver, S.R. Heade of Cambridge was so appointed. The Cambridge Jeffersonian reported on January 19,1905:
“The Ohio Valley Glass Company, of Pleasant City, Ohio, is in receivership.”
A Guernsey County Common Pleas court order (16) caused the sale of the “personal effects and chattles” of the company . Stock supplies, equipment, machinery and molds were sold at private sales to a variety of firms and individuals. The Inventory of Appraised Items of existing insulator stock contained in the court proceedings used the jargon of that time to describe the insulators. Steve Stolarik provided the following appropriate Jargon to CD conversions:
|Quantity Appraised||Descriptive Term||CD Number|
|62,220||# 9 Pony||CD 106|
|64,220||#11 Pony||CD 112|
|8,918||Long Distance||CD 121|
|8,600||Regular #3||CD 133|
|21,918||W. U.||CD 145|
|24,000||D.G.D.P. (pony)||CD 160|
|9,819||D.G.D.P. (20 oz.)||CD 162|
The actual sold insulator dispersion is shown in Attachment 6. The real estate, property and buildings were purchased by the Hemingray Glass Company of Covington, Kentucky with the deed transferring on Aug.8, 1906.(20) The Newark Daily Advocate (Aug. 8, 1906) carried the following notice:
“Trustees of the Ohio Valley Glass Company sold property and real estate in Pleasant City, Guernsey County, Ohio, to the Hemingray Glass Company.” (7)
The purchase concluded the plant closing. Several years later, on April 11, 1912, the Hemingray Glass Company, resold the property to John F. Secrest for the consideration of $500.(18) Records show (21) that a few days later, (April 16,1912) Secrest deeded the property over to William and Edgar Archer who were partners in United States Food Company, a processor of cattle foods. (See attachment 4) The ownership persisted until 1946 as far as is known. For a time, the site was leased by a Pittsburgh steel company followed by the Pleasant City Flouring Mills with R.J. Johnson as proprietor.(23) Steve Stolarik, a collector who has visited the site, describes it as being overgrown with brush and being used by the town of Pleasant City to store loose gravel, rock salt, etc.(8) (See attachment 5)
During its brief existence, eight styles of glass insulators were produced: CD 106, 112, 121, 133, 145, 160, 162 and 196 in blue to green colors.(9) Embossing consisted of a simple O.V.G.Co. with few variations. (See attachment 8)
From the information uncovered, it seems safe to concluded that there was no discernable connection between the Bridgeport, Ohio Valley Glass Company and the Pleasant City, Ohio Valley Glass Company. There is no traceable commonality. The founders were not the same and the owners were different people. The Bridgeport company was originally chartered in West Virginia while the Pleasant City company was created in Ohio; they were separated by about 45 miles, as the crow flies, and 14 years, as time flies. Sorry folks, the jar manufacturers and the insulator makers don’t seem to be connected, but The Ohio Valley Glass Company story is still interesting.
* A special note of appreciation to Jon Bules of Marietta, Ohio, for his provision of Guernsey County, Ohio, Court of Common Pleas Sales Transcripts and County Deed Records, and to Stephen Stolarik of Byesville, Ohio, for his court supervised sales information. Without their assistance much of the Ohio Valley Glass Company history would remain in obscurity. Tom Bredehoft graciously provided much detailed information concerning the Nail City Glass/Bridgeport plant history.
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Last updated Friday, October 27, 2006