XI. Imperial and Its People

While this website is almost exclusively devoted to the art glass made by Imperial from 1923 through 1925, the company's history stretches eight decades, from 1904 to 1984. With production to match the Imperial plant's enormous size, an almost limitless array of glassware was made over Imperial's eighty years of operation.

Imperial's "other glassware" comes in every conceivable shape and in a multitude of colors, from extraordinary creations to common utilitarian pieces, from pressed glass to stretch glass to carnival glass and on and on; a truly remarkable range of function and decoration. A vast quantity of Imperial glassware can be found today, e.g. on any given time there are approximately 10,000 pieces for sale just on eBay.

This section will briefly touch on this "other glass" made by Imperial and also attempt to recognize and remember the people of Imperial - the people who made it all possible.

The National Imperial Glass Collectors' Society is developing a fine new website that will include much more information on "The Faces of Imperial".  The test version can be viewed here. It is highly recommended. What follows here is meant only to "wet the appetite" for more detailed information about the broader range of Imperial Glass - information that can be found at the NIGCS website, including membership and study group opportunities.

am looking for pictures and stories for this section of the website; photos taken inside or outside the factory, newspaper articles, obituaries that mention working at Imperial, stories about happenings at Imperial, names and/or pictures in uniform of workers that served in World War I, WWII, Korea,Vietnam, pictures of workers with a few lines about when they worked at Imperial and what their jobs were, pictures and stories about celebrities visiting, e.g. Jackie Kennedy, world and local events that impacted Imperial, e.g. Ohio River flood of 1927, pictures of the factory at various times including when it was torn down, special events at the factory, Imperial documents, ID cards,catalogues, advertisements, etc. CONTACT ME at elamaa@netzero.net.


Every piece of glass that Imperial made, from the most elaborate punch bowl set to the the simplest nut cup, was the product of the efforts of individual people working together as part of the Imperial team. 
Many different roles were played in producing these wonderful and beautiful creations in glass, from the "gaffer" to the "turning out boy" to the President of the Company. No one individual did it all. No one individual worked at Imperial for its entire eighty year history.

Most of the people who did work at Imperial are gone now and those still with us are fewer and fewer in number with each passing season. While glassware lines the people of Imperial created are written about and live on, the people themselves, their names and their roles, are largely forgotten. While the colors on the glass they created remain bright and vivid, the memory of its creators has faded.
This section will in some small way attempt to recognize and remember the people of Imperial. Those people who made the glass. Those people who put something glittering, fragile
and beautiful , yet useful/functional,  into our hands - and into the hands
of our children and into their children's hands . . . and so on.

They were The People of  Imperial.




Edward Muhleman, a former Wheeling riverboat captain and financier, was the founder of Imperial Glass. Originally involved with the Crystal Glass Company, in 1900 Muhleman thought it best to move on.

Muhleman had an ambitious vision - to establish the largest glass plant ever seen in the Ohio River Valley. The New Crystal Glass Company, as the venture was initially named, would be a four-furnace glassworks and would be located in Bellaire, Ohio.

After acquiring land, Muhleman raised capital, hired employees and began the process of building the huge plant. In December 1901, Crystal's Board of Directors changed the company's name to the Imperial Glass Company. 

In early 1904, two years after the start of construction, the furnaces were finally ignited.

- from an article by Mike Wilson - 


Wicke was President of Imperial Glass from 1910 until his death in 1929.

In 1905 Victor G. Wicke of New York City became Imperial's Secretary and Sales Manager. Wicke's impact was immediate for he brought with him what would be Imperial's first wholesale customer, F. W. Woolworth Co. and its then 500 stores. 

Faced with the task of developing new markets and customers for the plant's rapidly increasing production capabilities and new lines, Wicke, an innovative and creative salesman, was more than up to the challenge. Soon, 
like Woolworth, retailers McCrory, Kresge and Butler Brothers became Imperial glassware wholesale customers. 

Wicke is perhaps best remembered for introducing Free Hand in 1923. For him it was the
 fulfillment of an almost two decade old dream - to produce 
a profitable "art glass" line that enhanced the prodigious output of utilitarian wares made by Imperial. 

- from an article by Mike Wilson  -




Free Hand was introduced in 1923. It was initially produced by a handful of men, some of 
whom had originally immigrated from Sweden. 
Emil Larson, born in Sweden, in 1878 and William Wedenbine, born in Pennsylvania in 1885, were prominent among them, as was Oscar Ekstedt. Wedenbine or Ekstedt appears to have headed the group, Larson only staying at Imperial for two months, October to December 1923. Larson had worked at Quezal and went on to great fame at Durand Glass in Vineland, N.J. 

Emil Larson, age 88, in 1966 

Free Hand Vase

Quezal Vase


The Lustre Iridescent Ware Line (example on the right below) is bright, iridescent and transparent glassware, often hand-cut or wheel engraved in a variety of floral and stylized designs. 
These vases were made in the mid-1920's and the 
were the work of Telesphore Naome, who came to 
Imperial in 1925 
from the 
glasshouse of Val St. Lambert in Belgium.       
The Lead Lustre vase directly above is almost
certainly the work of Telesphore Naome
                                                                                                                                        "Balloons" Design by Naome


What Was Made & When:

(click on the picture directly below to see a 70+photos slideshow)




Lucile (1921 - 2011) worked at Imperial for some forty years . . . as a typist, office manager, sales manager and Special Markets Director and Assistant to the President. 

Of this she said "They're just titles; I pretty much did the same things for 35 of those years."

The Imperial Collectors Glasszette, 
January, 2012

 Lucile with Tab Hunter
Many celebrities visited Imperial, 
 including Jackie Kennedy



John T. Gordon "had the formula for the lustre"(Richard & Wilma Ross, Imperial Glass, 1971). This was the formula used to make iridescent glassware. Gordon worked for Imperial from about 1915 until his death in 1930. In a tribute after his death, it was said of Mr. Gordon "By this man introducing the dope ware system at Imperial Glass Works, many men were given work . . . If it had not been for Mr. Gordon's effort, our work would not have been so good. But he has gone on to his reward . . ."  Glassworker Cliff Vogt (Imperial Glass Encyclopedia, Vol.II, page 366)

Iridesence was applied by Imperial to many pieces/lines of glass. Below are examples of four types/lines of  iridescent glass made by Imperial:



Photo and 
Small Poster
1937 High School 
Smithfield, Ohio

Graduating Class 
36 Seniors

Imperial employed hundreds of skilled workers early in its history. Many were drawn from the small towns in the surrounding area.

Band Members



Below Left: 1920's IG catalogue & a hand-colored Free Hand salesman's wholesale order page
Below Right: 1966 IG catalogue (1991 reprint)








Some Popular Imperial Lines
(click on individual photos)





Lace Edge



Other Imperial


Ripple Vases


Glass Animals




Excerpt from an article by Mike Wilson. 

Cape Cod was first made in 1931 and this line could 
rightly be called "The Glassware that Saved Imperial". Following the stock market crash of 1929, Imperial's 
financial position was dire and the company filed for bankruptcy in 1931. All assets were ordered sold and the Imperial story would have ended then, but . . . through some shrewd financial maneuvering, employee sacrifices 
and obtaining a huge contract to produce giveaway 
glassware for Quaker Oats, Imperial would go on for over another fifty years. That glassware was Cape Cod; 
it would be made for five decades and, along with 
Candlewick, become Imperial's best all time sellers.


Cape Cod

(click here to see more Cape Cod)







 Imperial Wooden Mold Prototype
                                                                                   "New Ice Tea"
                                                                        (one part of a two part mold)

With the notable exception of  Free Hand, Imperial glass was made in a mold. Initially a wooden mold was created and then a metal production mold was produced from that.


Mold maker working on an 
Imperial Candlewick
six inch ash tray mold



Imperial production spanned 80 years, ending in 1984 when the company filed for bankruptcy. After Imperial closed, a committee was formed.  It was called the "Save Imperial" committee.  That committee was trying to raise enough money to buy the Imperial property.  Their intent was to save the building.   This is where the brick comes into the story.  The committee had bricks made by Viking Glass.  There were two bricks, one brick with plain letters and one with gold letters.  When you donated to the cause you got a red brick.  The gold lettered brick was given out for a larger  donation.  These efforts failed and the factory was raised in 1995. 


         The National Imperial 
               Glass Museum
                    Bellaire, Ohio 
                  Dedicated to the memory of Imperial, its    
        employees and the beautiful glassware they  
               created, the Museum offers an excellent 
          opportunity to learn about Imperial and 
       view extensive displays of Imperial glassware. 

                                3200 Belmont Street
                                             Bellaire, OH 43906
                                                 740 671-3971

                                        April 1st - October 31st
                                                   Thur. - Sat.
              11:00am - 3:00pm
            Admission: $3.00 per person
             Present your NIGCS Membership
            Card to gain free admission

                                                                                         Displays within the Museum change periodically


Copyright © 2013 Ernie Albanese

 All Rights Reserved