Preserving Art, Culture, and History: Glass in Central City
The oldest glass companies in Central City Museum
In the heart of Central City, located on 14STW, the Central City Museum sits inside the Antique Mall, preserving the deep-rooted history of Old Central City. Within the museum, you can find artifacts from the WV Brewery/Feseinmier, Heiner’s Bakery, D.E. Abbott Picture Frames, and more items from the businesses that helped establish Central City. More specifically, the museum contains many items from WV glass companies such as Rainbow Art Glass Company, Huntington Tumbler, and West Virginia Tumbler Glass. Earl Ray Bush, local historian and previous owner of most of the artifacts within the museum, sat down with me and discussed the previous glass companies that was once in Central City.
Huntington Tumbler, one of the oldest glass companies, was located near Central City, manufacturing bottles and decorative glass pieces. According to Bush, like many other glass manufactures of the time, Huntington Tumbler started as a glass bottle making company for alcohol, but was forced to quit making alcohol bottles during temperance movement. Anton Zilhman, a Switzerland glass blower, ran the company until 1932, when it was forced to shut down due to The Depression. Bush explained that because of The Great Depression, and high taxes on businesses at the time, many of the glass companies didn’t survive.
Soda Bottles in West Huntington
“Most of these bottles were used in the businesses here and they made the soda pop here,” Bush said. “We had Coca-Cola and other soda companies make the soda and then sell it here.”
Soda Bottles cont.
Most of Bush’s collection came directly from the glass blower themselves or directly from their families. Bush said he was lucky enough to get to know many glass blowers that used to work in the factories around and learn more about glass blowing and the importance.
“They had 16 different glass blowers at Huntington Tumbler, two shifts, daytime and evening,” Bush said. “Their products were really good, and their craftsmanship was really great. Far as I’m concerned, the Huntington Tumbler glass blowers were as good as anyone in the world, which is why their product is fantastic.”