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Heisey glassware collecting

Heisey Glassware Collecting


August Heisey was born in Germany in 1842 and grew up in Merrittown, Pennsylvania. He married Susan Duncan, daughter of George Duncan, who owned Ripley and Co. glass manufacturing company in Pittsburgh. Along with his brother-in-law, James Duncan, he managed the company, renamed Duncan and Sons, after his father-in-law retired.

However, in 1893, when the Duncan company opened a new plant in Washington, Pennsylvania, Heisey decided to move to Denver and develop his investments. However, he eventually made the decision to get back into glassmaking and decided to start his own company in Newark, Ohio, which opened in 1896. (See the article on Duncan-Miller glass on this site.)

The Early Years

In 1900, the Heisey trademark that makes pieces so easy for collectors to identify, the H encased in a diamond figure, began to be applied to the pressed glass. You can put your finger into the piece and feel the mark with your finger. Beware, however, some pieces are not so marked. For example, the pieces that were blown, some of the most valuable ones, are not marked in this way. Heisey developed a special formula for crystal in the early years. There was some color during those years, but not a lot. Blownware, etched glass, and cut-glass began to appear by 1914.

Upon the death of his father in 1922, E. Wilson Heisey, the second son, became president. This marked a departure in the company’s products. Because Wilson had been educated in chemistry, particularly as chemicals affected glass, he began to experiment; for the next ten years, Heisey glass could be found in a range of colors.

Heisey Leads the Pack

In 1933, the Krall family of engravers and cutters, who had been educated in Austria, came to work for the Heisey company, and it’s at that time that Heisey glassware moved to the forefront in quality and popularity in this country. These beautiful designs are the ones that are so valuable to collectors nowadays.

Heisey’s Demise

The company went out of business in 1957. The factory buildings still stand; however, the entire company was bought by Imperial Glass Corporation of Bellaire, Ohio, in 1958. When Imperial underwent bankruptcy in 1984, the molds were sold to Heisey Collectors of America, Inc., and they are now back in Newark. Imperial retained a few of the molds including the Old Williamsburg line. Lancaster Colony owns these and is, in fact making some of them though their glass is factory-made and falls far short of Heisey quality.

Collecting Heisey

Heisey collectors tend to become obsessive. I inherited several beautiful pieces and find myself going to estate sales and even yard sales looking for special pieces. I feel around in the bottom of a piece I suspect is Heisey, and if it has the diamond-H mark, I don’t hesitate because the mark can’t be mistaken. However, some of the nicest designs don’t have that mark, so I rely on an expert in Heisey glass to guide me before I put much money into a piece. However, if I really like it, I go ahead and buy it and enjoy it.

If you’re interested in collecting Heisey glass, I advise you to buy a good reference book that has photos of designs. The one I use is by Neila and Tom Bredehoft. Sometimes, I just spend time looking at the book because the designs are so beautiful. The patterns are all named and there is an abundance of different pieces in each one. For example, I have a nappy, water pitcher, and sugar and creamer in the Colonial Scalloped Top design.

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