Fenton Art Glass
Struggling Fenton Art Glass Company has been on life support since the announced closing of its glass making furnace. The 100 year old glass maker, innovator, and legend in the glass world is a shell of a once great company. In 2005, during the 100 year anniversary (started in 1905), Congress passed a resolution honoring the glass giant. Senator Jay Rockefeller spoke about Fenton Art Glass producing world quality products for the next hundred years. Senate resolutions are no match for changing consumer desires.
Oh wait are we talking about the announced closing in 2007 or the recent closing press release in July 2011. Yes there is a second closing announcement.
Clearly the company has been in poor financial shape since before 2007. George Fenton, company President since 1986, made the announcement. George Fenton was one of eight family members working for Fenton Art Glass.
2007 Fenton Art Glass Saved
After the closing announcement in 2007 citing financial conditions, collectors and enthusiasts alike flocked to dealers and QVC to snap up Fenton glassware, figurines, hobnail, and art glass. There was so much collectible interest in Fenton products the company was able to continue production on a smaller scale. Approximately 75% of the workforce or 300 of the 400 employees lost their jobs between 2007 and 2011.
Fenton Art Glass products began showing up on QVC in 1987. The first exclusive QVC art glass was Birthstone Bears, a series of Fenton figurines. They had numerous regular television shows aimed at collectors on QVC. QVC was able to energize its television audience and save the collectible side of Fenton Art Glass including bringing back the line of Birthstone Bears.
2011 Fenton July Closing Announcement
After cutting another 25 employee in February 2011, Fenton Art Glass announce in July the main furnace would be shut down ending their primary glass making businesses in October. They intended to keep some small industrial production and bead making facilities open. Most of the remaining production employees would lose their jobs.
Fenton History Carnival Glass & Hobnail Glass
The company started in 1905 by brothers John and Frank Fenton. They moved production facilities to Williamstown two years later. They are credited with two significant innovations in the glass world.
It is ironic that carnival glass was produced by perhaps 100 companies prior to 1920. Between 1920 and 1950 no American producers remained as production moved to Europe and South America. After 1950, collectors had such an interest in art glass the companies began replicating earlier production. Carnival glass today is still produced by emerging asian and chinese companies.
What remains of Fenton Art Glass?
Ironic end during Art Glass expansion.
While we hope Fenton can survive on bead production the company will remain only a shell of its former self. Hopefully for collectors the value twenty years from now will grown from the depressed price levels of today.
Still the questions remains, “What’s next for Williamstown.”