My goal is to educate the public about Hemingray, and to try to put them higher up on the list of great glass manufacturer's. As part of this effort my website www.hemingray.com was launched in March 2000.
I started seriously collecting insulators when I subscribed to Crown Jewels back in August of 1988. Between 1988 and 1991, I would buy an insulator once in a while, while trying to decide what I wanted to specialize in.
I ultimately decided to collect all Hemingray made insulators. I have since expanded this to include all Hemingray made glassware. This includes fruit jars, bottles, refrigerator bottles, oil cans, lanterns, kerosene lamps, glass building blocks (made during Owens-Illinois' ownership of the plant), and other various items. Right now many glass collectors do not realize the vast amount of products Hemingray manufactured. Whenever I mention Hemingray to them, I always get some remark like "they made insulators right?". Insulators were a huge part of their business, but Hemingray was a company that made anything in glass that they could make money at.
Hemingray Glass Company has it's roots in Cincinnati, OH and their first factory was located there. The company name was changed several times early on but a Hemingray was always involved, leading me to believe that the Hemingray's were very proficient in producing glass. These names include: Gray & Hemingray (ca. 1847-1856) Gray, Hemingray & Bros. (1857-1861), Gray, Hemingray & Bro. (1861-1864), Hemingray Bros. & Co. (1865-1867), R. Hemingray & Co. (1867-1870), and finally Hemingray Glass Co. (1870-1933). In 1933 Hemingray was bought by the large Owens-Illinois conglomerate, and the Muncie, IN factory was operated as the Hemingray division until 1972.
In 1997, I had the fortune of looking through some Hemingray glass shards currently owned by a museum. The museum was assigned to be the depository of the items that were dug at the site of Hemingray's second factory in Covington, KY. I have spoken with a member of the archaeological crew and have gained permission to systematically view boxes and boxes of glass shards that were dug at the factory. I borrowed select items from the museum for display at the 1997 National Insulator Show in Chicago that I co-hosted with Rick Soller. The museum curators are open to this idea and are willing to let me borrow the items I request. Out of the small portion of glass shards that I have already viewed I was able to identify several patterns of kerosene lamps and a few tableware patterns. I currently own approximately 40 lamps that I attribute to Hemingray manufacture! I hope that there are several more surprises to be found there. I do not live close enough to the museum to visit it frequently, so this will probably take years to go through.
Bill and Jill Meier also specialize in Hemingray and we have been of great help to each other, both in acquiring insulators and in researching the history of Hemingray. I hope that someday both Bill and I will be able to write a book on Hemingray so we can share our knowledge with the rest of the hobby.
In the fall of 1991, I went away to study Architecture at Iowa State University. While attending Iowa State, I had the opportunity to help Elton Gish with some insulator research. He sent me a want list of insulator articles that he was looking for from old electrical trade journals, and I tried to locate them for him. It turned out that Iowa State had a very good collection of these books and I was able to find nearly everything on his want list, plus some more he didn't have. I stayed at Iowa State for two years, then switched schools and my major in 1993. I earned my Associates degree in Architectural Technology in 1996 from Purdue University Calumet and I received my bachelors degree in Construction Technology from Purdue University Calumet in 1998. I am currently working as a Senior Estimator for a large Chicago firm.
After the experience at Iowa State, I gained a much better appreciation for insulator research. I have been an integral part of the creation of an on-line database, called "The Insulator Gazette" where thousands of trade journal and newspaper articles have been painstakingly typed and images scanned of various insulator related articles. I have been an occasional contributor to the insulator magazine Crown Jewels as well as the Greater Chicago Insulator Club newsletter.
In 1992, I became founder and President of the Greater Chicago Insulator Club. Along with Rick Soller as Editor, and Arlen Rienstra as Treasurer, our club has grown to over 50 members in a relatively short time, and I am very proud of this fact. We publish a newsletter bi-monthly and a directory issue that includes our members collecting specialties.
After the 1996 NIA elections, I was appointed to complete the remaining one-year term of Central Region Vice President. I then ran for Central Region Vice President for the 1997-2000 term and won. I subsequently have served as NIA Secretary and most recently as it�s President.
I am married to my wonderful wife, Stacey and we have one son by the name of Grant. Maybe he will be another future collector.
If you have any questions about anything you read here (especially Hemingray related) please feel free to contact me. I always enjoy hearing from or seeing other insulator collectors.
Written by Bob Stahr,
Last updated Wednesday, May 17, 2010
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