In the Beginning
Westmoreland Specialty Company grew out of Specialty Glass Company when the business moved from East Liverpool, Ohio to Grapeville, Pennsylvania in the late 1880s. In 1890, the company began producing high quality glass in pot furnaces at its new Grapeville factory.
In the early 1900s glass containers holding condiments such as vinegar, mustard, and lemon flavoring were made and distributed by Westmoreland. During the World War I era, the company manufactured glass candy containers distributed by newsstands and dime stores. These types of endeavors were eventually abandoned as unprofitable, according to a letter published on the National Westmoreland Glass Collectors Club website.
In 1924, Westmoreland Specialty Company became Westmoreland Glass Company to thwart confusion about wares being distributed by the business. Glass was the only product being distributed from the Grapeville factory at that time.
Westmoreland suffered through the Depression in the 1930s like many other glass companies, but never ceased production. The company reorganized in 1937 with further funds risked by the Brainard family who had partnered with the West family to operate the factory since the late 1800s. James J. Brainard became president in 1937, and served in that capacity until 1953 when his son, James H. Brainard, became the head of the organization after his father's death.
Westmoreland's Milk Glass
First made by Westmoreland in the 1920s, milk glass was the most remarkable and prolific product this company manufactured. In fact, they were one of the top producers of fine quality milk glass in the United States, according to the Collector's Encyclopedia of Milk Glass by Betty and Bill Newbound (now out of print but available through Amazon.com and Half.com). This includes the ever-popular hen on nest covered dishes, which were made of more delicate milk glass in comparison to that produced from the 1940s on.
One of the most well-known patterns of later milk glass made by Westmoreland, while there were a number, is Paneled Grape. Text from a marketing brochure published in the Newbound's book notes this pattern marketed as "reproduction" glass marked with the WG stacked mark (see link below). Apparently Paneled Grape was first made at the turn of the last century by another glass maker, but what most collectors find on the secondary market today is the later glass which is thicker and whiter in comparison to early milk glass wares.
While not quite as widely found on today's secondary market as the phenomenal seller Paneled Grape, other popular patterns made by Westmoreland Glass include the Beaded Grape, Old Quilt, and Roses and Bows patterns.
Identifying Westmoreland Marks
The Newbounds report the following Westmoreland marks used on milk glass and other wares:
- W within a keystone - 1910-1929
- WG stacked mark - first used in the late 1940s
- WESTMORELAND within a circle - around 1982
Several different paper labels were also used by Westmoreland throughout the years. Most of these wore away with cleaning and use over time, but collectors will occasionally find one still in place.
Other Westmoreland Wares
Westmoreland is clearly best known for its milk glass, with 90 percent of the glass produced from the 1920s through the 1950s having the milky white hue. However, in the 1920's the company did make limited selections of high quality decorated glass and crystal, including hen on nest dishes made in a variety of colors in addition to milk glass. Even into the 1950s, limited amounts of amber, blue, green, pink and brown glass left the Westmoreland factory.
Westmoreland's Later Years
In 1981 ownership of Westmoreland was purchased by Dave Grossman, according to the National Westmoreland Glass Collectors Club. On May 21, 1984, the Westmoreland Glass Company closed its doors just a few years shy of its 100 year anniversary.
The Westmoreland molds were sold to a number of different glass manufacturers including Summit Art Glass, Viking Glass, Blenko and along with several others. Some of the molds are still being utilized today in glass manufacture. For a more comprehensive list of companies that purchased Westmoreland molds, refer to the Newbound's milk glass identification and value guide referenced above.