When William J. Blenko came to the United States from England in 1893, his vision was to produce and sell American-made "antique" (mouth-blown) flat glass instead of having it imported from Europe. After a few failed ventures, he started The Eureka Glass Company in 1921 and produced stained glass from its Milton, West Virginia glassmaking facility until the Depression. Struggling to stay afloat, Blenko switched his product line to glass tableware, and in 1930, Eureka became Blenko.
Before Blenko employed designers, it had expert finishers on its staff. The first artisans hired for these important positions were Axel Muller and Louis Miller, a pair of Swedish glassblowers who had the background in stemware that Blenko and his son, who joined his father in 1923, lacked. Blenko’s output from the pre-war years is characteristically clean and spare. Its footed goblets and tumblers were uniform in color and simply proportioned. Even the stems were straightforward, though elegant in a casual, distinctly American sort of way.
As the 1930s progressed, Blenko's pieces got a bit fancier. A clear iced-tea glass, for example, would have a colored glass leaf on its outside surface, while dusty-green highball glasses were sometimes wrapped with threads of vivid red. These objects, as well as Blenko’s candleholders, rolled-rim plates, and crackle-body decanters, caught the eye of the folks running Colonial Williamsburg. In 1933, Blenko became the exclusive manufacturer of table and stemware for the historic site.
By the end of the decade, Blenko was also producing amphoras and vases. A new shop foreman named Carl Ebert Erickson had now joined the company. Blenko's line of "Heavy Swedish Type Vases," which have been attributed to Erickson, gave the company its identity just before the war.
After World War II, Winslow Anderson took the company’s design reins. He introduced indented vases of various sizes and colors, bent-neck cruets, and slender, flat-bottom decanters with teardrop stoppers. Anderson laid the groundwork for one of Blenko’s most influential designers, Wayne Husted, who was with the company from 1953 until 1963. During that decade, Husted pushed both forms and color to bring Blenko into step with the prevailing Mid-century Modern aesthetic.
Of particular interest are Husted’s wedge-cut decanters, portrait vases, the Echoes series from the late 1950s, and the Spool decanters, which recall Brancusi’s "Endless Column." In fact, decanters and vertical pieces became something of a Blenko trademark during this period—some pieces stood three feet tall.
In the mid-to-late 1960s, Joel Philip Myers, who is now a well-known artist in his own right, designed for Blenko, injecting the company’s sensibility with humor and whimsy. Especially charming are some of the clear decanters with green or turquoise spouts and stoppers, the lovely coiled and mushroom pieces, and the decanters with cowboy hats and longhorn skulls for stoppers...
One of the tricks about collecting Blenko is to know how to identify the company’s marks since most of its pieces are not signed. The exceptions to this rule are the engraved signatures on the bottoms of pieces in 1958, the sandblasted Wayne Husted-designed logo used between 1958 and 1961, and the pieces signed "Blenko Joel Philip Myers," which grace the bottoms of products made for Gump’s in 1964.
Instead, the company practice has been to affix a foil, hand-shaped label to its pieces with the words "BLENKO HANDCRAFT" on it—paper was substituted during World War II. This label was used from the 1930s through 1982. A different paper label of a stylized Blenko glassblower was glued to the Raindrop, Regal, and Rialto Specialty Lines in 1960 and 1961.
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Weekly Roundup of eBay Vintage Home FindsHuffington Post, July 20th
Check out these fab eBay vintage and antique home auctions ending soon including items by Frederick Weinberg, Guido Gambone, Blenko and Harris Strong. Don't miss the 1928 Georg Jensen sterling goblets, the Royal Doulton bulldog, the 19th century ...Read more
Story of a boy in the forties: The marble shooterHuntington Herald Dispatch, July 11th
Those boys went on after winning the Huntington Championships to win national marble tournaments. I was talking to Roy Rood recently and recounted to him that I still have many of my marbles in a large clear Blenko jug. Roy remarked, "well at least you...Read more
New art, glass store opens on Capitol StreetCharleston Gazette, July 11th
When walking into Evan's Capitol Street store, patrons will see a variety of familiar West Virginia Blenko Glass art works and paintings depicting Civil War scenes. “My company is about creativity,” Evans said. “It's a unique gallery — you don't know...Read more
Museum of American GlassState Journal, July 11th
This year, the museum's calendar is already full of classes and activities for participants including: a Blenko Glass mini-convention; American Glass Auction; the fourth Annual American Mid-Century Modern Symposium; the 23rd Annual Glass Gathering; ...Read more
Second annual road rally to rev up this weekendCharleston Gazette, July 10th
First, second and third-place winners will receive Blenko Glass trophies, and each car is encouraged to rack up “sponsorship by mile” for the race. The team that raises the most money will win two exotic car driving experiences at Charlotte Motor...Read more
Diane Mufson: Don't be blinded to the area's many positivesHuntington Herald Dispatch, July 8th
Blenko Glass, established in the 19th century, again created a fantastic collector's vase for West Virginia's birthday and continues to produce glass products valued by those near and far. Downtown Huntington is again vibrant, and parking sometimes can...Read more
'Dog days' dreams big for all pawsBeckley Register-Herald, June 27th
The mall will host a drawing of some nicer antique and collectible items, including an early, cast-iron 1900s Hubley Scottish Terrier door stop and a Blenko glass art fish, said Eanes. She added that a drawing for two baskets filled with over-the...Read more
Pep Boys coming to Norwin Town SquareTribune-Review, June 24th
Blenko said the landscaping waiver doesn't pose a problem. “The area where they are looking to build is asphalt now, so anything they add in the way of landscaping will be better than what's there,” he said. Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer...Read more