Descendant to speak of Mt. Pleasant's Bryce glass
Driving east on State Route 31 after leaving the Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum last fall, Harley N. Trice made a pit stop at the Patriot Company Store, located near the crossroads with State Route 982 in Mt. Pleasant Township.
“I'd driven by (the store) many times, but I had no idea what they had in there,” said Trice, a Pittsburgh attorney and a great-great-grandson of James Bryce, the founder of Bryce Brothers Glass Company Inc., which produced hand-blown glass in Mt. Pleasant from 1896 to 1965.
“I thought there would be something from the Bryce company and, sure enough, they did,” he said.
But not just any Bryce relic, according to Trice, who also sits on the board of directors for the local museum, a nonprofit organization which celebrates the histories of Bryce Brothers Glass Co., along with L.E. Smith Glass Co. and Lenox Crystal.
What Trice discovered that day at the store was 20 to 30 pieces of Bryce stemware which consisted of two cut decorations and one stem design pattern, all of which previously were unpublished in any glass catalogue.
Inscribed in white ink at the foot of half of the glasses Trice bought was the name “Georgetown” for the specific cutting pattern used, while the other half of the glasses similarly displayed the name “Jefferson” for its own pattern, he said.
The inscription of the pattern name and identification number in white ink was always a telling characteristic of pieces Bryce glassware meant specifically for commercial display, he said.
“The thing was, Bryce never signed its glassware. They used paper stickers, and if you washed it, it would come off,” Trice said. “So it was a really great discovery I made at that store, and I never would have known that stemware was made by Bryce had it not been for the white ink.”
In addition, a book on stemware recently published by Replacements Ltd., located in Greensboro, N.C., devoted 38 pages of space to meticulous drawings of Bryce stemware, Trice said.
“But not ones with the ‘Georgetown' and ‘Jefferson' designs,” he said.
Collector to speak on Sunday
Trice is scheduled to conduct a presentation on titled “Recent Discoveries in Bryce Glass” at the 39th annual Duncan & Miller Glass Show & Sale, which is scheduled to take place on Saturday and Sunday at the Washington County Fair & Expo Center.
Trice's talk will take place Sunday.
He will discuss and display obscure information and items he has gathered while conducting research for a book he is writing on the company's history.
Admission to the event is $4 per person, which permits attendance both days.
Trice is friends with couple Tom and Sherry Cooper, who are members of the National Duncan Glass Society. Sherry Cooper, the chairman of the board of directors of the Duncan Miller Glass Museum, asked Trice to take part as part of an education outreach effort.
“In general, we have two lectures a year at the convention, one on Duncan and Miller Glass, and the second involving a “related-in-time” glass manufacturer, so this time we invited Harley, because Bryce Brothers was operating at that time,” said Tom Cooper, who will be discussing John Earnest Miller in a presentation, “The Other Half of Duncan & Miller.”
“Everybody knows about (George) Duncan, but when you start digging into Miller, you realize he is a fascinating guy,” he said. “He also worked at Bryce McKee, so he was there with the first of the Bryces.”
Lecture will feature tales, items for show
In addition to Trice's planned interlude regarding the Bryce stemware he found at the Patriot Company Store, his scheduled address will also include portions dedicated to the other company-related finds he has made in the recent past, including:
• A Goddess of Liberty plate made by the Bryce Brothers in 1886, which was made when the company still was operating at its previous headquarters in Pittsburgh's Southside operation.
“It is a pressed glass plate in the shape of a shield,” Trice said. “It doesn't appear in any catalogue that I am aware of.”
When the company came to Mt. Pleasant, it went from manufacturing pressed glass to blown glass, he added.
“So this is sort of a last-gasp relic of the pressed glass era for Bryce Brothers,” Trice said.
• Two undated Bryce Brothers catalogues believed to have been published at the turn of the 20th century.
“They are two volumes from a three-volume set. One is about tumblers, the other is about stemware, and I'm still on the hunt for the third about decorative glassware.”
• A cocktail glass made for use on the NS Savannah, which was launched in 1959 as the first nuclear passenger and cargo ship ever built at a cost of $47 million.
In addition, Trice will share his knowledge of the use of Bryce Brothers glassware products in the White House from 1929, or during the Herbert Hoover administration, to 1965, when Lyndon B. Johnson lived there after assuming the role as president following John F. Kennedy's 1963 assassination.
“That connection to the White House is why Lenox Crystal decided to by Bryce Brothers in 1965, rather than some other company,” Trice said.
Factory show woman spurs more finds
Mt. Pleasant Township resident Mary Shaw, 82, was the first person hired to run the Bryce factory showroom that opened in 1960, she said.
“I actually worked all three showrooms — Bryce, Lenox and L.E. Smith,” Shaw said.
It was at Shaw's home during a sale she held in June 2012 that Trice visited with his cousins to examine Shaw's collection.
“Harley and his cousins spent five hours here that day. They looked over every piece of crystal I had available, from amethyst, greenbrier, and cerulean, to amber, gold, pink and dusk, all of which Bryce made. Their colors were all magnificent,” Shaw said.
Another item Trice will display during his talk will be cased glass, which is characterized by two separate layers of colored glass fused together, which was found in both stemware and tumblers.
“I've never seen cased glass mentioned in a Bryce Brothers catalogue, so I never knew they made it until I saw several examples at Mary Shaw's house,” Trice said. “She is fascinating.”
Trice expressed pride in being able to relay to the surrounding region his discoveries regarding the company his ancestors built and shared with people living locally.
“This is the little town of Mt. Pleasant reaching out to the world,” Trice said.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.