Mould maker to speak at Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum
It was a glassware partnership that spanned decades.
In 1961, representatives of Mt. Pleasant's former L.E. Smith Glass Co. ventured south to Wheeling, W.Va., to tour the Island Mould and Machine Co., according to John Weishar, who along with his elder brother, Tom, co-owns the company today under auspices of Weishar Enterprises.
Island Mould — then owned by the brothers' late grandfather, J.D. Weishar, and their late father, Joseph Weishar — was renowned for the company's production of “Moon and Star” pattern moulds, Weishar said.
During the tour, L.E. Smith officials told the Weishars their company had future plans to pay Island Mould to craft a goblet mould with the Moon and Star design for production of the items locally, he said.
Soon after, J.D. and Joe Weishar arrived at L.E. Smith with a completed prototype of the goblet mould the local company had in mind.
While Wible and his staff members were impressed, they expressed that they still could not afford to manufacture the item, Weishar said.
So the Weishars established J&J Enterprises and formed a partnership with L.E. Smith by which J&J produced and owned the moulds, and L.E. Smith produced and sold the glassware, he said.
Over the next few decades, the Weishar family's operation supplied virtually all the moulds used by L.E. Smith to produce its wide variety of glassware, which included candy dishes, canisters and punch bowls, he said.
“When I started here in 1978, I was right out of high school, and I served my apprenticeship working on Moon and Star moulds for L.E. Smith,” said John Weishar, 54, of Wheeling.
“They ended up with more than 120 different items that were fashioned from the Moon and Star moulds,” he said.
Mould merchant to offer lecture
At 7 p.m. Aug. 21, John Weishar will serve as the latest speaker in the Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum's 2014 Speaker Series.
The museum, located at the Mt. Pleasant Glass Center in Mt. Pleasant Township, celebrates the histories of L.E. Smith, along with its two additional former glass houses, Bryce Brothers Glass Co. and Lenox Crystal.
“I think it's great that the heritage of those places will be remembered for future generations,” Weishar said.
Weishar's talk comes in the midst of a special time for Island Mould, which is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its establishment on June 1, 1939, by his forefathers.
“It's going to be a very good talk, because John can talk about the moulds from Westmoreland and Jeannette glass, too, because everyone bought moulds from Island Mould,” said Cassandra Vivian, executive director of the museum, a certified, nonprofit organization.
In addition to those factories, Island Mould produced moulds for Bryce Brothers and Lenox, and it has produced the items for others, including: Imperial Glass Co. in Bellaire, Ohio; Fenton Art Glass Co. in Williamstown, W.Va.; The Anchor Hocking Company in Lancaster, Ohio; Libbey Glass in Toledo; and the former Steuben Glass Works in Corning, N.Y., Vivian said.
In 2012, Island Mould was featured on PBS. The following year, the company was featured on the DIY Network television show “How It's Made.”
Forrest Kastner, who held various administrative positions at L.E. Smith for nearly 40 years, attested to the breadth of products the company produced which got their start with the products of Island Moulds.
“The Moon and Star was a particular design, and that design was incorporated in many, many different moulds,” Kastner said. “From little toothpick holders, to salt and pepper shakers, to big punch bowls, and everything in between ... they ran the gamut. I hope I can be there for his talk.”
Role of “bowl maker” to see spotlight
Weishar said he will take particular pleasure in expressing the importance of the role of the mould maker, or what he called the “bowl maker,” in the process of producing glassware.
“You always like getting the word out there. The bowl maker is pretty much the unsung hero in the glass industry,” he said.
Weishar explained that while the chemist melts the glass, and the glass factory worker presses or blows the piece into various shapes, the designs that appear on the finished product are courtesy of the bowl maker.
“It's a nice combination of all three of them; but we certainly like putting the spotlight on the bowl maker,” he said.
Weishar hopes for museum's growth
Over time, Weishar Enterprises has developed a museum containing all of its pieces ever made, or between approximately 5,000 to 10,000 products, Weishar said.
Kastner remembers the priority the family always placed on adding to its collection, he said.
“When they would bring new moulds for us, when we sampled them, we always had to get a good piece for their archives,” Kastner said.
Weishar said he understands the anguish for a small town watching a glass factory close, then seeing a museum established to pay homage to its memory fold, as well.
After his father passed away in 1989, John Weishar said he was asked to fill his spot on the executive board of the Degenhart Paperweight And Glass Museum in Cambridge, Ohio.
“I stayed on until we closed it,” said Weishar regarding the museum, which shuttered its doors in October 2011. “It was really heartbreaking.”
Weishar added that he does not want a similar fate to befall the Mt. Pleasant's museum.
“Hopefully this one will stay, since they've got three different factories in town, and the town will keep holding on to that heritage,” Weishar said.
With the growth the Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum has experienced since its inception in late 2012, Vivian is confident it has a bright future, she said.
“Every glass club that comes through thinks it's a miracle what we've done,” Vivian said. “In two years, we've evolved from an exhibit to a full-blown museum, and we have a speaker series that brings the best in the industry to this town.”
Future series speakers will include:
• Sept. 18 — Group discussion by representatives of American Federation of Glass Workers, Union Locals 24 and 597
• Oct. 16 — Anne Madarasz — Mt. Pleasant in the Sen. John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center's Collections
• Nov. 20 — Vivian — Bryce Barware: From Mt. Pleasant to the World.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.