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Mt. Pleasant museum speaker looks at economic role of glass in region

| Saturday, April 12, 2014, 7:54 p.m.
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Tom Felt, founder of the Museum of American Glass in Weston, W.Va., and editor of “All About Glass,” a quarterly magazine published by the museum, stands recently near a newly mounted display of cocktail shakers and barware there. Felt will serve as the latest speaker in the Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum’s speaker series at 7 p.m. April 17.

When Tom Felt bought three sets of Heisey candlesticks in 1977, it was the beginning of a lasting love of glass.

This passion for glass bore a collection of glass that is now the nucleus of Museum of American Glass, located in Weston, W.Va., for which Felt is an archivist. Felt will share this love story with glass at 7 p.m. Thursday during the Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum's Speaker Series.

Felt said that glass played a major role in the economy all throughout the Ohio River valley.

“We had the natural resources necessary for making glass — coal and other natural fuels,” he said. “We also were well positioned geographically. We could ship our goods almost anywhere, especially along the three rivers. The result is that this region had a large cluster of glass manufacturers.”

Felt said that this area was an innovator in the glass industry.

“Glass-making originated in ancient times. It remained unchanged for centuries,” he said. “The U.S. led the way in technical innovations, introducing machine made, pressed glass. Many European glass makers came here and introduced many artistic innovations as well.”

Felt is sad at the decline of the glass industry, but says that thrown glass and studio glass offers a glimmer of hope of preserving the skill for the future.

He said that nostalgia prompts many people's interest in the glass of their childhood.

“Many people are interested in the glass of the 1950s,” Felt said. “Many glass-makers were at their peak then.”

Felt parallels the Museum of American Glass, founded in 1998, and the Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum.

“We're both small museums,” he said. “The Museum of American Glass originally was 900 square feet. Now, it is nearly 10,000 square feet and has glassware from all over the country. The Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum has that same potential for growth. Both museums began as grassroots initiatives to preserve this region's heritage. Both museums can benefit from name recognition. Once people come in the door, they'll see something that will delight them.”

The Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum is located at 402 Main St., the site of the former Lenox plant. Admission is a suggested donation of $3.

Barbara Starn is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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