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Watts Museum exhibit explores West Virginia glass industry

A portrait of Watts Museum glass exhibit

 Glass on exhibition.

From early 19th century factories in the northern panhandle to artisans making decorative glass today, West Virginia’s glass industry has played a key role in the state’s industrial and economic development. A new exhibition at WVU’s Watts Museum showcases that history.

“Molded in the Mountains: The Glass Industry in West Virginia” explores how glass manufacturing had lasting impacts on the people and economy of the state. Large deposits of sand, minerals and fossil fuels helped make West Virginia an important glassmaking center in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and the industry attracted both glass companies and glassworkers to the state. In the latter half of the 20th century, however, depleted natural resources and increased competition and costs led to a decline in West Virginia glassmaking. Paper, plastics and aluminum began absorbing much of the market share, and many glass factories closed or moved elsewhere.

Though a few manufacturers—such as Blenko and Marble King—still remain, the production of flat glass, tableware, and glass containers has largely vanished from West Virginia. The popularity of glass artistry, however, has heated up in recent years, with artisans preserving and expanding upon the Mountain State’s tradition of hand-crafted glass.

“Molded in the Mountains” features table settings from three distinct eras of the 20th century glass industry in West Virginia, featuring popular patterns and lines from each period. Another highlight of the exhibit is a large-scale animated map that shows the appearance, as well as disappearance, of the state’s nearly 500 glass manufacturers over a 200-year period. 

“Molded in the Mountains” is on view through June 2017 and is available to travel to other venues throughout West Virginia after its installation at the Museum. The Watts Museum is located in Room 125 of the Mineral Resources Building on the Evansdale campus of WVU. The Museum is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, from 1–4 p.m., and by appointment.

Admission is free, and parking is available. For more information, contact the museum at (304) 293-4609 or

An opening reception for “Molded in the Mountains” will be held on Friday, September 30, from 5-7 p.m. It will include lectures on different aspects of the industry, which will begin at 5:15 p.m. Refreshments will be served and attendees will be eligible to win several glass giveaways that will happen over the course of the evening. Admission is free and open to the public with free parking available in Lot 41, which is adjacent to the Mineral Resources Building.

Housed in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, the Royce J. and Caroline B. Watts Museum is dedicated to preserving and promoting the social, cultural and technological history of West Virginia’s mineral resources and their related industries through the collection, preservation, research and exhibition of artifacts and archival materials.



For more information on news and events in the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, contact our Marketing and Communications office:

Phone: 304-293-4135