The Duncan and Miller Glass Co. closed its plant in 1955, but its products live on at glass shows and auctions and in the hearts of collectors.
"Duncan was always recognized for the quality of the glass," said collector Jon Day of Amwell. "The glass was handmade; sometimes 10 workers might be needed to make a single goblet."
Mr. Day was manager of the 38th Annual Duncan & Miller Glass Show & Sale held Saturday and Sunday at the Washington County Fairgrounds.
The show, which drew about 400 visitors, coincided with the 20th anniversary of the Duncan & Miller Glass Museum, 525 Jefferson Ave., Washington.
Among the items dealers sold last weekend were an 1878 comport (a large bowl with a stem and base) with three female faces on the stem. It sold for $350. A nautical frosted comport made in the 1930s with an anchor as a stem sold for $336.
The latter was designed by the late Robert A. May, whose work was displayed at the sale.
The storied company history began in 1865 when George Duncan bought the Ripley & Co. glass factory at 10th and Carson streets on Pittsburgh's South Side, two blocks from the Monongahela River.
The new George Duncan & Sons had ready access by barge to the basic raw materials and had cheap coal for its furnaces.
After Mr. Duncan died in 1877, his son built a new factory on Jefferson Avenue in Washington. In 1900, the company became incorporated as the Duncan and Miller Glass Co. Employee John Ernest Miller, a designer famed for his work, became a stockholder, along with the Duncan family. The company ceased operations in 1955 after cheaper imports and machine-produced U.S. glass became available, Mr. Day said.
Cultural tastes also were changing, including how people dined and entertained, said Mr. Day, who is also a member of the board of directors of the National Duncan Glass Society.
The glass show has been held every year since 1976 by the Glass Society to benefit the museum. Proceeds come from admissions and dealers' fees.
Among dealers were Alice and John Ahlfeld of Lancaster.
"I love its history and the sparkle of the glass in the sun," Mrs. Ahlfeld said of the Duncan and Miller glassware.
Mr. Ahlfeld, an architect, said he particularly enjoys the designs as well as "the hunt" to identify the products.
The retired couple transport their 500 to 1,000 pieces of Duncan and Miller glass to about eight shows a year.
"Some people do cruises; we do antique shows," Mr. Ahlfeld said.
During the weekend, the task of museum volunteer Bill Turner was a little different. He was compiling information for a database he is putting together for the museum about Duncan and Miller employees and family. About a dozen visitors stopped at his table with information and personal stories.
"I'm just fascinated with the whole process and industry," he said. "One piece could have involved mold makers, decorators, finishers, pressers, gatherers, etchers, cutters and more."
He and his wife, Kathy, who are lifelong collectors, split their time between homes in McGregor, Texas, and Moundsville, W.Va.
The retiree said spending May through November in the North indulges their passion for glass as they explore local museums, and it offers an added benefit.
"It's just too hot in Texas," he said.
For more information on the glass company or museum, to purchase glassware or add to the employee database, visit www.duncanmiller.net.
Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org. First Published July 25, 2013 9:00 AM