Fenton Art Glass Company was the largest manufacturer of handmade colored glass in the United States.
Frank L. Fenton and his brother John W. Fenton in an old glass factory building in Martins Ferry, Ohio, founded the Fenton Art Glass Company in 1905. They began by painting decorations on glass blanks made by other glass manufacturers. Soon, being unable to get the glass they needed, they decided to produce their own glass. The first glass from the new Fenton factory in Williamstown, West Virginia, was made on January 2, 1907.
Frank L. Fenton’s desire to develop new and unusual colors helped to keep Fenton in the forefront of the handmade art glass industry. During the years from 1905 to the 1920’s, the artists at Tiffany and Steuben heavily influenced Fenton design. In late 1907, Fenton introduced “Iridescent” glass. This glass, now known as “Carnival” glass, is a popular collectible today.
During the 1930’s and 1940’s, Fenton produced practical items, such as mixing bowls and tableware to get through the depression and WWII shortages. They continued working on developing a wide array of new colors. In the late 1940’s, the top three members of the Fenton management team died, leaving Frank M. Fenton, age 33, and Wilmer C. (Bill) Fenton, age 25, to step in and take over as President and Vice President. In spite of other glass factories closing at a rapid rate, Frank and Bill led the Fenton factory through significant American growth for the next 30 years.
In 1986, the leadership of the company passed on to the third generation, with George W. Fenton, Frank M’s son, taking over as President. Today nine Fenton family members work together along with over 150 employees to create handmade glass artistry that is loved by collectors around the world. Fenton is known for its beautiful colors and patterns. Each piece of glass is an artistic creation by skilled glassworkers and decorators.
With $284.86, Frank L. Fenton and his brother John start the Fenton Art Glass Company, renting space in the Haskins Glass Co. building in Martins Ferry, Ohio. They buy glass blanks on which they paint decoration. Soon, they have trouble acquiring glass, so they decide to produce their own.
The Fenton’s build a factory in Williamstown, West Virginia. The first piece made is a crystal cream pitcher with a Water Lily and Cattails pattern.
After several successful years, Frank L. Fenton is named President, Treasurer and General Manager.
Frank’s brother Robert C. Fenton is appointed Vice President, Secretary and Sales Manager.
Baskets, Cranberry glass, crested ware, and the Hobnail pattern all debut in the late 1930s.
With the passing of Frank and Robert C. Fenton, Frank M. Fenton becomes President. Wilmer C. “Bill” Fenton becomes Vice-President. Together, they lead the factory through significant growth for nearly four decades.
Milk glass Hobnail becomes Fenton’s flagship pattern. Years later, Bill Fenton fondly calls Hobnail our “bread and butter” line.
Fenton and Cracker Barrel begin a business relationship. Fenton created a special item for Cracker Barrel’s 30th Anniversary in 1999.
Frank M. Fenton accepts the position of Chairman of the Board, and Bill Fenton becomes President.
The first Connoisseur Collection is offered in 1983. Throughout the 1980s, Fenton’s Milk Glass, Burmese and Rosalene colors continue to rise in popularity.
George W. Fenton becomes President, and he remains at the helm today. Bill Fenton is named Chairman of the Board, and Frank M. Fenton retires to the position of Historian.
Fenton appears on QVC with Bill Fenton as the first on-air guest. Today on-air guests include George Fenton, Scott Fenton, Nancy Fenton and Shelley Fenton-Ash. Fenton published a book titled Fenton Glass: Especially for QVC in 2002.
Fenton’s Showcase Dealer Program begins with 235 dealers. Today there are more than 1,000 Showcase Dealers nationwide.
The premier issue of the Glass Messenger, a quarterly newsletter for Fenton collectors, is published. A Roselle on Cranberry Basket is offered as the first Subscriber Exclusive.
Fenton celebrates the company’s 95th Anniversary! Fenton launches web site:
Fenton publishes a coffee table book titled FENTON: Handcrafted American Glass Artistry
May 4, 2005 – Fenton turns 100! Fenton Centennial Celebration in Williamstown July 31-August 2.
The August 20, 2007 issue of Antique Week announce that Fenton Art Glass Co. has announced plans to go out of business after 102 years.There was no date given for closure and there is still speculation this decision may change in the future. A press release was announced on August 9, 2007