Former Lenox Crystal employee speaks at Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum
Connellsville's Leslie Kurtz on Saturday conducted a presentation titled “Lenox Glassware: How We Made It” at the Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum.
Kurtz discussed the processes by which glassware was created during his more than 30 years of employment at Lenox Crystal.
“Producing all the glassware was truly a team effort,” Kurtz said. “It took every individual performing their own part in order for it to be a successful process.”
In the company's early years, a pot furnace was used to heat the glass, Kurtz said. Workers used a blow pipe to gather the glass and each piece was individually crafted. Works took pride in this process, Kurtz said, though they often had blistered fingers as a result.
When the electric melter was introduced to Lenox, the glassmaking process began to change. A continuous feed meant many more pieces were produced. Kurtz said three shifts of workers now had to be employed to keep up with production.
In the late 1980s, an automatic press and blow machine were utilized, which eliminated many of the workers' positions as much of the work was subsequently performed robotically.
The machine allowed for more flexibility of product and different items such as bells and barware were now able to be produced.
“Glassware went from being 100 percent hand blown to about 75 percent machine blown,” Kurtz said.
Kurtz brought glassware from his personal collection to use in his demonstration. A variety of patterns and unique stemware was represented.
Kurtz worked at Lenox from January 1972 to January 2002 and performed a variety of positions, including skilled glassworker, supervisor of the hot metal department, manager and technical supervisor.
Under his leadership, hundreds of pieces of crystal were created.
Kurtz fondly recalled the camaraderie between the workers.
“We were working together 12-hour days, at times seven days a week,” Kurtz said. “They were good, dedicated employees.”
Kurtz said the workers adopted “Simply The Best” by Tina Turner as their unofficial theme song, and it would periodically get played throughout the building.
Several other former Lenox employees attended Kurtz's presentation and the men reminisced about “the good old days” and recalled producing particular pieces.
Many of them fondly recalled hand blowing glass as the best way to achieve a quality piece.
“Every piece, every cut was a little bit different,” Kurtz said.
Attendee Don Sechrist of Scottdale agreed.
“Hand blowing glass is an art form,” he said, “It goes back to ancient times.”
Kurtz's demonstration will be converted into a slide show presentation to archive it for the museum.
Cassandra Vivian, president of the glass museum's board of directors, was very pleased with Kurtz's demonstration and discussion and with the success of the museum so far, she said.
“Les was our third speaker and all three of the events we've had have been very successful,” Vivian said.
Cami DiBattista is a freelance writer.