A historically important glass manufacturing center, around the turn of the 20th century, Wheeling and the surrounding Ohio Valley was was teeming with active firms like Central Glass Works in East Wheeling, Northwood Glass in South Wheeling, Crystal Glass Company in Bridgeport, Imperial Glass in Bellaire, Fostoria in Moundsville, and Riverside Glass Works in Wellsburg, just to name a few.
But perhaps the most unusual glass manufacturer of the period was the lesser-known North Wheeling Glass Company.
Founded in 1878, the company’s factory operated on the Ohio River between Second and Third streets in North Wheeling near Wheeling Hospital. In addition to fairly standard prescription and case good bottles for bitters, root beer, syrup, and other products, the company specialized in unique glass bar bottles, decanters, and screw top pocket flasks, using a contractual design process known as “private mould ware.”
According to the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, the brick and stone factory featured a “ten-pot furnace” and employed more than “110 men and boys.” The company saw its share of strife, surviving a bitter strike, numerous shutdowns and, most notably, an 1882 arson fire caused by “youthful incendiaries”—a group of five “fire bug” boys aged 12-16, one of whom was appropriately named Julius Hotfire.
With salesrooms in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis, North Wheeling Glass stayed in business until approximately 1922. In that relatively brief 40-year window of production, the company churned out an eclectic array of whimsical glass creations, featuring cartoonish human faces, bulldogs, elephants, police clubs, revolvers, ears of corn, scantily clad (by Victorian/Edwardian standards) women, and other unusual designs.
Mega collector Thad Podratsky (see also, Buckle of the Stogie Belt) has assembled a fine collection of hard to find North Wheeling flint glass bottles, which are on display now in the main display case at the Ohio County Public Library. A small sampling of the items on display through the month of September are featured in the gallery below, accompanied by an image from the 1901 North Wheeling Glass Co. catalog where possible. Make sure to stop by the Ohio County Public Library to view the entire amazing Podratsky collection.
The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, Sept 5, 1882; Jan. 3, 1883; and Sept. 14, 1886.
Callin’s Wheeling City Directory, 1878-1922.
North Wheeling Glass Company Catalog, 1901.
Sanborn Maps, 1901 and 1922.