The Museum of American Glass in West Virginia

What Is New At The Museum

New Co-operative-Flint Book Available
For details visit the Museum Store

Our first Oral History for view! Watch the 5 part video of an interview with Paul Weinberger, a former glass mould maker. Click Here.

The Museum of American Glass in West Virginia Preserves the Archives of the American Flint Glass Workers Union

In February 2009, the Museum took an enormous step in the fulfillment of this mission by accepting stewardship of the archives of the American Flint Glass Workers Union. The importance of this event can only be fully understood in the perspective of the historical context of the development and growth of the labor movement in the United States. In 1878, glassworkers organized as the American Flint Glass Workers Union, or The Flints, as they are known. The AFGWU was one of the oldest union movements in the United States, predating the Steelworkers, the Auto Workers and the Rubber Workers. George M. Parker, President of the Flints from 1961 until 1989, was instrumental in establishing a museum and archives to commemorate the history of this significant organization. In a booklet published in 1978, Mr.. Parker told the story of how this came about.

I was elected Second Vice President in 1952. From the first day that I assumed the office I was impressed by the excellent records maintained by the International Officers over the years. On hand in the International Headquarters as long ago as 1952 were bound copies of all of the Proceedings of the conventions of the union since the first convention held in Conway Hall in Pittsburgh. Also maintained in various bookcases throughout the office were bound copies of Wage Agreements, the American Flint, Proceedings of Wage Conferences, and International Constitutions as they evolved through the years. In a back storage room in many dusty cabinets we found other voluminous records and old photographs stacked about in more or less disarray. This material as unorganized as most of it was, impressed me with the tremendous amount of work that had gone on through the years to establish the American Flint Glass Workers Union, and we proceeded to save and preserve as much of it as we could. In addition to records of the union, there were volumes of old trade magazines, such as the Commonweal and the Glass Budget going back into the 1880's. These early trade publications contained articles, advertisements and trade information of events of the Glass Industry from its infancy through the development of the machine age. These periodicals were gathered up and packed into cartons for storage and safekeeping. At the time we had no idea that in the future we would own our own International Headquarters or have use for them.
When Vice President Robert Newell came into the office he was similarly interested in the union's history and assisted me greatly in the collection of union badges, tools and other memorabilia. I assigned him the task of obtaining photographs of every international officer who served the union since 1878. This required a good deal of research. As we began to prepare for the 100th Anniversary, we thought it would be of interest to those in attendance to observe at first-hand some of the long proud history of the glass workers and we proceeded to have many of the old photographs framed and placed on display. Some glass exhibit cases for the display of special articles of interest were purchased. Day by day and week by week prior to the 100th anniversary, the modern basement of our International Headquarters was turned into a museum or archives exhibit of the history of the American Flint Glass Workers Union. What we planned as a temporary display has now become a permanent exhibit that has impressed everyone who has had an opportunity to view it.
George M. Parker, International President AFGWU, June 30, 1978

Over the years the membership of the Flints declined in tandem with the decline of the glass industry in America. In 2003, a merger agreement with the United Steelworkers of America was negotiated and approved by the membership, and the Flints ceased to exist as an independent organization. With the sale of the Flints' headquarters building in Toledo, Ohio, the current Flint President Tim Tuttle struggled with the question of what to do with the archives collection that had grown to museum size proportions.
Several organizations expressed interest in becoming custodians of this unparalleled collection but could not meet the conditions of the proposed contract. In the "eleventh hour" the entire archives were destined for the deep dark storage vaults of some warehouse to possibly never again see the light of day. The Museum of American Glass in West Virginia had been one of the organizations originally approached and stepped forward again with a new proposal that resulted in an agreement to pack and move the entire collection to Weston, West Virginia, for an initial two year period. This valuable collection will now be on display to museum visitors and the stored books and records will be available for glass research.
The Museum of American Glass is powered by volunteers and donation dollars and although the agreement was approved by the Board, everyone still held their breath wondering "what do we do now that we have the collection?" Appeals went out for donations, as it was estimated that the move and insurance would cost about $6,000, and within days this entire amount had been raised. The collection had to be packed and out of the Flints' building by February 25th so the appeal also went out for volunteers to prepare the collection for the move. Five individuals devoted over 150 hours to accomplish this. And so it was that a 53 foot semi transport truck pulled up at the Museum of American Glass in Weston on February 25, and the archives of the Flints have now been given a new lease on life, allowing for the story of this significant part of our history to be told - the tale of the labor movement and the workers who created America's glass industry.