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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Recent News: Blenko Art Glass

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Developer plans North Huntingdon hotel near turnpike
Tribune-Review, September 17th

Developers last week submitted plans to the township for a Hampton Inn hotel along Country Club Road, near the turnpike. If approved by commissioners, the building would be the tallest in municipality, according to Andrew Blenko, the township's...Read more

Festivals, leaf peeping top free W.Va. events
Kankakee Daily Journal, September 17th

The Shay No. 11 train makes its way up the tracks taking passengers on a scenic ride at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park in Cass, W.Va. Brilliant foliage can be seen all over West Virginia in autumn, with leaf-peeping and scenic drives one of a number...Read more

5 free things to do in West Virginia in the fall
Houston Chronicle, September 16th

Free tours are offered at the Blenko glass factory in Milton and the Homer Laughlin China Co. factory in Newell. Blenko has been making hand-blown products since 1893, including glass for the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Homer Laughlin, ...Read more

Blenko photos, oral histories sought
Huntington Herald Dispatch, September 14th

The Blenko Project, www.blenkoproject.org, is a nonprofit group that focuses on archiving Blenko Glass and preserving the history of Blenko Glass, the craftsmen and the designers. It was founded by Dr. Hillary Homburg, a Charleston dentist, in 2006...Read more

Festivals, leaf peeping top free West Virginia events
The Daily News Online, September 13th

Free tours are offered at the Blenko glass factory in Milton and the Homer Laughlin China Co. factory in Newell. Blenko has been making hand-blown products since 1893, including glass for the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Homer Laughlin, ...Read more

Autumn means activities in West Virginia
Charleston Gazette, September 11th

Free tours are offered at the Blenko glass factory in Milton and the Homer Laughlin China Co. factory in Newell. Blenko has been making hand-blown products since 1893, including glass for the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Homer Laughlin, ...Read more

Chilifest champs punch tickets for national competition
Huntington Herald Dispatch, September 10th

Cooking up ICS Red (no beans), as well Chili Verde (green chili) and salsa, the cooks battle on their portable stoves for more than $3,000 in prizes including $1,500 and the WV Grand Champion Blenko Glass trophy for ICS Red, $700 and the Blenko trophy ...Read more

Request from North Huntingdon automotive dealership prompts debate on ...
Tribune-Review, September 10th

“I was particularly concerned about the curbing along the eastern edge of the site adjacent to Buttermilk Hollow Road because if storm water is not captured and routed into the detention tank at that point it's left the site,” Blenko told commissioners...Read more