Our History

Kokomo Opalescent Glass (KOG) has been in continuous operation at our current location of 1310 S. Market Street in Kokomo, Indiana since 1888.
 
The Gas Boom
Men standing at a natural gas well, circa 1880'sTo understand the inception of Kokomo Opalescent Glass you first must have knowledge of the events two years prior to the founding of the company.  On October 6, 1886 in a corn field about one mile northwest of the glass plant a group of speculators drilling a well discovered natural gas at around a depth of 900 feet.  The 20 foot flame lit up the dark sky that night.
 
Within a week several new gas companies were formed.  Then next eight exploratory wells in the area were also successful.  By the end of 1887 Indiana Natural Gas Company, one of the larger companies, had over 23,000 acres leased and 475 gas producing wells.  News of the significant gas discoveries traveled quickly all over the country.  It was thought, incorrectly, that the gas would last for 200 to 300 years and so many entrepreneurs and developers came to the Kokomo area.
 
Early History
Men working on the glass furnace, circa 1890Charles Edward Henry was born in Paris France in 1846; he migrated to the United States in the early 1880’s.  He was a good glass chemist, forming Henry Art Glass in New Rochelle, New York in 1883.  Henry Art Glass made glass buttons, novelties, and opalescent glass rods.  While producing glass products Mr. Henry met many glass artists in the New York area including Louis Tiffany.
 
Mr. Henry had heard about the gas boom in Central Indiana and stopped in Kokomo while returning to New York from a business trip to Chicago, IL.  On April 27, 1888, the same day he arrived in Kokomo, he met with local officials about establishing a glass plant in Kokomo.  Within 24 hours an agreement with local government officials was made and signed.  This agreement provided Mr. Henry with a plant site and a free natural gas supply.
 
After completing the agreement Mr. Henry returned to New York to begin his preparations to move to Indiana.  Within 30 days he returned to Kokomo, where he purchased a home and began building a glass production plant with a seven pot furnace.  Actual production started at Opalescent Glass Works' new plant on November 13, 1888.  The primary product was sheet glass; electric insulators were made for Edison General Electric with the excess glass.
 
On November 16, 1888 one of the first shipments of sheet glass went to Louis Tiffany.  The shipment included 600 pounds of blue and white opalescent glass. The relationship with Louis Tiffany continued to grow over the years.
 
By early 1889 Opalescent Glass Works employed over 50 people and was the only opalescent glass manufacturer west of the Appalachian Mountains.  In early 1889 Henry sent 30 sheets of opalescent glass to Paris France for display at the Paris Exposition (now called the World’s Fair).  On the Ocean journey to France 16 sheets were broken.  The remaining 14 sheets that arrived were sufficient for him to win a Gold Medal for the glass and also obtain over $50,000 in sheet glass orders.

Hot glass ladles hanging in the furnace roomMr. Henry’s problems started upon his return from France.  The original bill of $3,800 for the construction of the plant along with his trip to France and several other bills went unpaid.  On January 10, 1890 the builder of the factory filed a lien on the plant for the amount of the unpaid balance.  In a futile attempt to retain control of the plant on January 29, 1890 Mr. Henry sold the factory to the plant manager for $1.00.  Three days later he married the 26 year old daughter of the plant manager.  The wedding celebration was held at the plant and described as a gala affair.

On March 11, 1890 Opalescent Glass Works went into receivership due to unpaid bills.  In the April 24, 1890 edition of the Kokomo Dispatch it was reported that Mr. Henry was jailed due to violent behavior.  The article also pointed out that Henry had developed a drinking problem; it was around this time that he also started writing bad checks.

On April 28, 1890 Charles Edward Henry was admitted to the Indianapolis Insane Asylum.  He died there two years later at the age of 46.
 
New Beginnings
Opalescent Glass Works continued to be operated under the court receivership.  In June cash books and ledgers from the early years of KOG1891 the court started the process of selling the business.  On August 28, 1891 three local businessmen Peter Hoss, William Blacklidge, and John Learner purchased Opalescent Glass Works for $5,310.  These three partners were instrumental to KOG’s early development, and their direct descendants have been closely involved in managing the company ever since, making KOG a unique example of a successful, closely held, “tri-family” business enterprise.

Louis Tiffany continued to be one of the largest customers until the mid 1890’s.  In 1893 Louis Tiffany purchased over 10,000 pound of glass from Opalescent Glass Works.

On January 13, 1912 the name of Opalescent Glass Works was changed to Kokomo Opalescent Glass Company which remains operating at the same location in Kokomo, Indiana.
 
The Tiffany Years
A vintage Tiffany lampOver the years KOG developed a reputation for product uniqueness, quality and customer satisfaction that was unsurpassed in the stained glass trade. Industry giants such as L.C. Tiffany, J&R Lamb, and LaFarge are among the prominent names that appear often on the company’s early sales ledger. See The Tiffany Connection.
 
The OP Shop
In 1973 KOG opened The OP Shop to provide customers with the opportunity to purchase Customers shppoing in the OP Shopsuncatchers, sheet glass, and other custom art glass items produced by KOG. 

Today, The OP Shop operates our public and private tours, creates stained glass pieces, provides custom glass design services, restoration and repair services, and offers a wide selection of our sheet glass, cast glass, rondels and blown glass items for sale to the public.  All items sold in The OP Shop are produced from KOG glass by local artisans.
 
Recently
Molten glass being gathered in the hot glass studioThe Hot Glass Studio was established in 1998 to produce a wide range of quality hand-blown and hand-cast glass using the world famous Kokomo Opalescent Glass. Our glass blowers create one of a kind and limited edition functional and sculptural glass objects and rondels.
 
 
Today
 CEO John O'Donnell and President Richard Elliott recieving the Governers Century Award from Governer Mitch Daniels and Lt. Governer Becky Skillman
 
The above photo depicts CEO John O'Donnell and President Richard Elliott receiving the Governor's Century Award from Governor Mitch Daniels and Lt. Governor Becky Skillman on November 4, 2009.
 
We continue to be a source for restoration glass and will create custom mix batches for our commercial customers. We still have and mix many of the same “recipes” that originally made us a premier glass manufacturer and continue to add exciting new colors and textures to meet the demand of an ever growing consumer audience.

We are happy to provide customers outside of our locality with an opportunity to purchase Kokomo Opalescent Glass art pieces via our Web Store. We continue to change with the times but always remember our rich heritage in the glass industry. We are America’s Oldest Art Glass Company!