An Early History (Essay)

Kokomo Opalescent Glass An Early History - by Paul Crist

In 1998 Paul Crist wrote An Early History of Kokomo Opalescent Glass.  The information contained in this document spans from the arrival of founder Charles Edward Henry arriving in Kokomo, Indiana in 1888 to 1923 with the sale of Opalescent Glass Works in Clarksville, WV.  The footnotes can be researched as you desire.  It is an interesting and informative read. 

 

C. EDWARD HENRY
OPALESCENT GLASS WORKS
KOKOMO IND.
KOKOMO OPALESCENT GLASS CO.
AN EARLY HISTORY
by Paul Crist
updated:1-5-98


The Opalescent Glass Works at Kokomo, Indiana is the oldest manufactory of its kind in America, having been in continuous operation now for more than 100 years. The factory was originally built in 1888 by a man named Charles Edward Henry, who was relocating his existing stained glass manufacturing business from New Rochelle, New York. Despite extensive research, Mr. Henry remains an elusive figure and almost no information can be found on him before he moved to Kokomo.1 All that is definitely known is that he was born in Paris, France about 1846, and immigrated to the United States sometime before 1883.2 Westchester County Directories confirm that he did own a glass business in New Rochelle,3 but no other information can be found on his activities there has come to light. While in New Rochelle, he was apparently already associated in business with John B. Perraud of New York City,4 a manufacturer’s agent who would later represent the Opalescent Glass Works on the East Coast. Since Perraud was listed in the NYC Directories during this period (’87 to’89) as being in the button business, it is plausible that the New Rochelle factory was originally set-up sometime in the mid-‘80’s to make opalescent glass rods for the pressing of buttons and other small novelties. Regardless of what he did early on, we know that, but the time Henry left New Rochelle, opalescent sheet glass had already become his primary product.5

Before the discovery of natural gas there in 1886, Kokomo, Indiana was just an unpretentious farming community, like myriad others spread all across the mid-West. In a singular stroke of good fortune, however, this quiet town was instantly transformed into a beehive ambition and greed. Local businessmen, having heard of the phenomenal industrial growth that followed similar discoveries in Ohio and western Pennsylvania, were ecstatic with “the certainty of Kokomo becoming the manufacturing center of the great west.”6 The city fathers immediately established a Board of Trade to finance land acquisitions and drill gas wells, commodities that could then be offered free or at minimal cost to entice businesses into relocating. Of course, all of Kokomo’s neighbors that happened to also be located over the new field harbored these same aspirations, and competition was fierce to see who could garner the lion’s share of manufacturing concerns. These trophies were comprised mostly of established businesses that were being forced to leave the East Coast by impinging population, high land values and rising energy costs. They came through town on almost a daily basis, making the rounds to see who would make them the most attractive offer. The Kokomo press crowed every time a new business was captured, and regularly published a score card showing how they were faring against their closest rivals, Marion and Muncie.

It was at the height of this feeding frenzy that C. Edward Henry came into town on his way back from a business trip to Chicago. He told the Board of Trade that he manufactured “opalescent glass, jewels, tiles, electric light globes, cathedral glass, rondels, and colored and stained glass of all descriptions.” On Friday, April 27, 1888, the same day that Henry arrived, a proposal of a free factory site and cheap gas rates was made and accepted. The next day, an agreement was drawn up7 and a factory site selected. Everything happened so quickly that the city fathers certainly had no time to check Henry’s credentials or business soundness, an act of naivete that would come back to haunt them. Henry departed Kokomo, leaving assurances that the relocation would begin at once. True to his word, he returned a month later, purchased a home,8 and by mid-June had begun construction of an 80’x100’ brick furnace hall and a number of smaller buildings.9 Numerous delays followed but, by October, a temporary gas line was warming-up the new seven-pot furnace,10 even though the buildings and on-site gas well were not yet completed.11 Actual glass production began on November 13, 1888.12

The superintendent and chemist of the new factory was another Frenchman named Vital Bélard, who had also moved out from New Rochelle that summer with his family.13 Bélard was later credited by a prominent industry source as being “the first manufacturer of opalescent glass in this country, and in our estimation the best.”14 Earlier, in 1882, he had run a “glass design” business in Brooklyn at 60 Rutledge,15 the same address that John Dannenhoffer bought in September of that year to house his new opalescent sheet glass works. This coincidence suggests that Bélard might have worked with Dannenhoffer in the beginning, thereby gaining the experience that justified his subsequent reputation.16 In this context, it is certainly safe to assume that he went on to superintend Henry’s New Rochelle factory and was responsible for the glass produced there. Even though the business in Kokomo was legally owned by Henry, there seemed to be a tacit understanding that Bélard was his “silent and experienced partner.”17

Drawing og the Kokomo Opalescent Glass factory circa 1895Although sheet glass would be their primary product, the factory actually devoted their first few days in operation to the pressing of electric insulators.18 These were made under an open-ended contract with Edison General Electric which allowed any available glass to be used, and guaranteed that Edison would take all that they could produce. In good times, this arrangement afforded the Kokomo factory an opportunity to make use of the leftover glass in the bottoms of the pots19 and, in bad, the means to get some return from full pots of otherwise unusable glass. Certainly, in starting up, there would have been a lot of bad glass to account for their initial insulator production. Even after production was running smoothly, this contract surely must have come in handy from time to time in a business as risky as colored opalescent glass. Both color and opalescence in glass had been introduced only fairly recently by American glassmakers, and their chemistry and control were not yet well understood. There was almost no technical literature published on either subject. Formulas and processes tended to be closely-held secrets, and each manufacturer was left to work out the problems of producing a consistent and saleable product on his own. If the opalescence didn’t “strike” properly that day, or the color wasn’t close enough to what their samples exhibited, a whole day’s production might be lost. Electric insulators gave the Kokomo factory a profitable way to use up defective glass and keep the workmen busy. Understandably, they kept up a steady business with Edison until 1896,20 by which time the mechanization of glass melting and pressing had made prices so cheap that, even as a ‘waste’ business, the hand pressing of insulators was unprofitable.

Within days after start-up, the technical problems had been worked out to the point where the factory was able to switch over to the rolling of opalescent sheet glass. An early production journal in the archives of KOGC documents that the first order was made on Nov. 16, 1888 for Tiffany Glass Co.; six cases (600 lbs.) of mixed blue/white opalescent glass. Scrutiny of journal entries for the first months of production reveals that Henry began making glass in Kokomo with at least 93 separate stock color combinations already in his repertoire, including gold ruby, ripple and drapery glass—all offered in a variety of densities. His biggest customers during this start-up period were Tiffany, Decorative Stained Glass (LaFarge), George Androvette, McCully & Miles and Flanagan & Biedenweg- in short, many of the most respected studios in the country.5 This leaves little doubt that Henry was already well established in the opalescent sheet glass business before he moved to Kokomo.

At the time of Henry’s move, the domestic stained sheet glass business was still in its infancy. There were only five other significant manufacturers in the United States:21 Louis Heidt (1879) and John Dannelhoffer (1882), both in Brooklyn; the Boston Antique Glass Co. (1883) in South Boston; Mississippi (1884) in St. Louis and Streator Art Glass Co. (1887) in Streator, IL. Of these, Mississippi and Streator made only cathedral glass. Among the three opalescent manufacturers,22 the Boston concern was a very small and sporadic one that made only specialized crown glass, mostly for local studios. In Brooklyn, Heidt had been under long-term contract with Tiffany since 1881, an arrangement that at least partially restrained his freedom to sell to other studios. This left Dannenhoffer as the principal supplier to the bulk of the stained glass trade. During the first years of the movement, the market had been a limited one,23 centering mostly on the founders, Tiffany and La Farge and their protégés, in New York. But by the late ‘80s, the popularity of opalescent glass windows had not only grown tremendously on the Eastern seaboard, but also spread west to the new metropolises on the other side of the Appalachians. It was in mid-western cities like Chicago, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Cleveland that the vast majority of new construction was occurring and so it was there that increasingly larger quantities for opalescent glass were being consumed. Certainly, this growing demand, as well as lower production costs, influenced Henry’s decision to move to Kokomo. In 1888, he was the only opalescent manufacturer west of the Appalachians24 and, as such, was able to quickly garner the lion’s share of the western market.

The Kokomo factory was kept busy with orders into the summer of ’89, by which time they had increased their list of stock color combinations to over one hundred.25 Even “working 6 to full capacity”26 with a force of fifty men,27 they had to extend their working season several weeks beyond the normal Fourth of July shutdown for the summer.28 Analysis of their sales for these first eight months, as recorded in the Early Journal, shows that roughly 60% of their business came from the Midwest, and the biggest part of this was with the Chicago studios. Regional customers frequently traveled to the factory to personally select their glass. The balance of the business on the eastern seaboard was handled by Perraud, who was their exclusive agent there.29 Perraud stocked a sizeable inventory of glass in Manhattan, which was consigned to him by the Kokomo factory. For handling this business, he received a hefty 20% commission! Almost all of the East Coast studios bought glass from Perraud’s inventory, and big customers, such as Tiffany and J&R Lamb, also had large orders shipped directly from the factory. Glass was sold by the pound, with common mixes priced at 8¢ a pound, all the way up to solid gold ruby drapery, which sold for about $1.00 a pound. Better customers were always given a discount, and Tiffany, the shrewd businessman, received the biggest discount of anyone, paying from 5 to 6¢ a pound for common mixes.30 It does not appear that the glass was discounted as much to mid-western customers, which is understandable, considering that all of Henry’s competition was east of the Appalachians.

Sometime early in ’89, Henry sent thirty full sheets of his opalescent glass to Paris for display at the Exposition Universelle of that year. Unfortunately, there was significant breakage in transit and only fourteen were left for display.31 Prominent among these was a mixed sheet in red, white and blue (the national colors!) of which he was particularly proud.32 In July, he received word that his glass was a big success in Paris,33 and the following month learned that he had won a Gold Medal.34 Henry boasted to the local press that his ‘European agent” had already secured orders totaling $50,000 ($1,400,000 in 1997$, which is hard to believe!).35 Flushed with the prospect of imminent success, he immediately set about doubling production capacity to sixteen pots, and even planned to add another building in the coming spring.36 After scheduling deliveries to his new European customers,37 he set off for Paris in late August to gather his laurels.

With Henry gone, Bélard was left behind to run the factory and to deal with the deluge of orders that were starting to pour in. The foreign demand proved to be so strong that it soon overwhelmed their production capacities. At one point, there were three railroad cars parked on their siding, simultaneously being loaded for customers in San Francisco, New York and Paris. In the factory office, Bélard set up a homemade display of duplicates of the thirty sheets that won the Gold Medal. This attracted a lot of attention from customers and locals alike and gave everyone at the factory a chance to show off. When official notification of the Gold Medal arrived on October 4, Bélard arranged a banquet for the workers and Saturday afternoon was spent “in rejoicing over the victory won by the products of their hands.”38

Unfortunately, when Henry returned from Europe later that month, he found the business in some financial difficulty. According to later court records, he still owed almost all of a $3800.00 bill from William Morgan, the contractor who had erected his factory buildings, in addition to a number of smaller bills.39 Morgan had heard about his business trip, his expansion plans and other stories of “princely money spending” that were circulating, and, understandably, was demanding his money. Before leaving for Paris, Henry had already borrowed $1000.00 from the bank, which he probably needed to finance his furnace expansion and his European trip. In the months following his return, he was forced to continue borrowing until, by December, the loan had grown to $6000.00.40 To secure this large an amount, Henry was required by the bank to mortgage the business and all of his stock in it.41 What is surprising is that it appears none of this borrowed money was used to satisfy Morgan’s bill. What Henry did with it remains a mystery. Needless to say, Morgan was furious and, on January 10, 1890, filed a Mechanic’s Lien against Henry.42 Believing that foreclosure was imminent, Henry took the questionable step of selling the entire assets of his business (land, structures, equipment and inventory) to Bélard on Jan. 29, 1890, for the sum of $1.00.43 Three days later, he married Bélard’s daughter, Hedgwige,44 who was more than twenty years his junior.45 Whether this was an act of true love or another desperate legal maneuver is anybody’s guess.

The Henry/Bélard marriage celebration, which took place in the furnace hall of the factory, was by all accounts a gala affair, replete with “big tables loaded with choice viands”, elaborate wedding gifts and warm testimonials. Perraud came in from New York46 and all of the employees were given the day off with pay.47 In the midst of this celebration, there was no mention of Henry’s precarious situation, but it still must have weighed heavily on the father of the bride. Bélard had been aware of a disturbing change in Henry’s personality since July of the previous year. He later recalled that, at about the same time Henry received notice of his success in Paris, he began to get the idea that he was wealthy and subsequently became “very profligate in his expenditures”. Henry had always been driven by a desire to become rich, but the Paris news seemed to push his obsession over the line into delusion. During the ensuing months before the wedding, he also began to drink heavily and to lie. His disposition became increasingly restless and obstreperous, with occasional episodes of violence and destructiveness.48 In the face of this behavior, it is surprising that Bélard would have allowed his daughter to marry Henry. A likely explanation is that he saw Henry’s demise coming and was only using the marriage to substantiate his claim to the business. 

Despite Henry’s (and/or Bélard’s) efforts, Morgan succeeded in having the Opalescent Glass Works placed into receivership on March 11, 1890. The court appointed Richard Ruddell, a local banker,49 as receiver, which meant that he took over the running of the business from Henry, until a decision could be reached on how to best satisfy the debts.50 How Henry had managed to practically bankrupt his company in less than 16 months, despite significant financial support from Kokomo interests and a ready market for his product, is difficult to comprehend. A report to the Court by Ruddell describing the state of the business when he took control sheds some light on this mystery. Ruddell reported that it “was in bad condition and being operated at a loss. …The credit of the business was almost destroyed, and the patronage was limited and not of a good class of businessmen, and the bills owing the business were worth but a small percent on the dollar.”51 Although the extent of Henry’s receivables is unknown, it must have been appreciable. His primary customer, the stained glass studio, was often a low-investment, trendy business that would tend to attract more than its share of owners who were “not of a good class”. That Henry apparently allowed too many of these customers to take advantage of him suggests a personality that was overly trusting and indulgent. His business arrangement with his old friend, Perraud,52 was certainly generous. So was his relationship with his employees, whom, the press reported, he often overpaid.53 In the wake of losing his business, Henry’s reputation about town was that he “was very extravagant, indulging his insane notions of princely money spending to the fullest,”54 To a man with grandiose delusions, the sudden loss of prestige must have been a devastating blow from which, as subsequent events showed, he was unable to recover.

Siding with train cars at the KOG plantThe day after his company went into receivership, the local press reported that Henry had conveniently “received a cablegram announcing the alarming illness of his mother in Paris”, and that he was departing for Europe that same day.55 When he returned six weeks later, his mother “fully restored to health”,56 it was amid rumors questioning whether he had actually even gone to Paris. The next week, on April 24, the Kokomo Dispatch reported on page 1 that Henry had been thrown in jail by his wife due to violent behavior. The article went on to disclose his drinking problem and noted that he had been “dissipating heavily” for some time. Now that he was back from his mysterious trip, “the indications of mental derangement [were] more pronounced than ever”.57 Nevertheless, a physician’s examination found “no clear symptoms of insanity”, so Henry was released from custody with the recommendation that he take a “forced abstention” from alcohol. The very next day “he was at the Clinton Hotel writing checks for fabulous sums of money to be given to various persons. He imagined that he had purchased Plate Glass works, and had a check drawn in favor of Mr. Seiberling for $50,000,000. He had also purchased the entire city.” There was no question now about his sanity, so Henry was again arrested, despite his “stout resistance”.58 A few days later, on April 28, he was hauled off by the sheriff to the Indianapolis Insane Asylum, “laboring under the delusive notion that he was going to Indianapolis to hire attorneys to bring action against the officials here for false imprisonment.”59 Henry was admitted into the custody of that institution and never released. He died there two years later at the age of 46.60

Meanwhile, the new Receiver was faced with a daunting task. Liens had been filed by additional creditors (including the bank) which raised the total indebtedness of Opalescent Glass Works to over $12,000.61 The employees, who had not been paid in a while, were frightened and mutinous. Ruddell was forced immediately obtain a loan of $1200.00 to pay their back wages and rebuild the aging furnaces.62 He retained Bélard as superintendent and chemist, not only because he was the only one who knew how to run the plant, but also because he seemed to have an excellent rapport with the workmen. The factory was soon back in production making electric insulators, for which they had secured a “large special contract” from Edison General Electric.63 They also continued the manufacture of stained glass, but dropped some of the more difficult products, such as gold ruby and drapery glass.

Early on, it became apparent to Ruddell that he and Bélard could not run the business successfully by themselves. Bélard was exclusively an inside production man, good at the technology and art of making fine glass, but poor at managing the plant and dealing with the customers. Ruddell was altogether unfamiliar with this line of business, so, within a few months after taking over, he decided to bring in an experienced glass man.64 Jerome M. Francois was born in Northern France in 1850 and immigrated to the US in 1868. Settling in Brooklyn, he quickly found employment with a large glass manufacturing firm called Hibbler & Dorflinger. For the next 18 years, he worked his way up through the ranks there, starting as a glass packer65 and ending-up as manager.66 Since Hibbler’s commercial production included no opalescent ware and only rudimentary colored glass, his experience there would have contributed little in terms of product knowledge.67 However, as the new production manager at Kokomo, he is said to have brought “wide experience” and “first class business qualifications” to the Opalescent Glass Works. Working under Ruddell, he “was of vast assistance… not only in the management of the works, but in direction of outside affairs, in which his advice was often sought.” He also spent much of his time traveling for the company, becoming thoroughly acquainted with the market.68 Apparently, this and other management decisions by Ruddell were good ones because, during the year and a half that he was in charge, the Opalescent Glass Works prospered. For the first ten months in receivership, the business was reported to have netted over $10,000 in profits!69

Even though business under the Receiver was successful, it certainly was not without problems. For example, in June of 1891, Perraud wrote to the Kokomo factory that he had received a boxcar load of glass from them and was dismayed to notice that it “rattle[d] terribly”. Opening the first case, he discovered “terrible breakage”, a finding that was further substantiated with every one of the eighty-one cases he personally inspected. “The only cause I can see is that the sheets are terribly bent and crooked, and in fact in all I took out, I did not find one straight or flat sheet.” He apologized for complaining, but fretted that the customers, who had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the glass, might be upset. Sure enough, the first customer, Mr. Lamb of J. & R. Lamb, noticed the problem right away, and astutely observed that “it would be difficult to lay [the sheets] on the table to cut without breaking and that it would be impossible to re-plate [i.e., double-layer] the glass.”70 Perraud worked hard to dispose of the broken bits and pieces to his smaller, economy-minded customers, and, in his letters, patted himself on the back every time he managed to sell some for 4 or 5¢a pound.

It should be pointed out that problems of warpage and breakage were certainly not unique to Kokomo at this time. On its face, opalescent sheet glass would seem to be a simple product to manufacture; a flat sheet that didn’t need to be consistent or ‘perfect’, because it was going to be cut up into small pieces anyway. In fact, it was often a sheet’s very imperfections and irregularities that stained glass artists valued most highly. However, behind the manufacture of this unassuming form lay some tricky technical problems. A flat, thin sheet is one of the most unstable forms that glass can assume. With its high expansion coefficient and temperamental annealing qualities, glass is much more comfortable in spherical forms that tolerate the residual stress left over from less-than-perfect cooling procedures. A sheet of glass, especially a thin one, is far more vulnerable to stress. From the moment it is formed under the roller up to the point where it finally cools to room temperature, the glass must pass through a series of strictly controlled temperature environments. Any mistake in this annealing process might result in sheets that are bent, broken or so stressed that subsequent breakage is inevitable. These already daunting problems were compounded by the need to mix different glasses. Diverse compositions of highly colored and opalescent glasses had to be juxtaposed with one another in the sheet, and if the expansion coefficients of the different components weren’t within a few points of each other, destructive stresses would result. To the early American stained glass manufacturers who were still struggling with the chemistry of color and opalescence, these added technical pitfalls must have been extremely frustrating. Failures were the rule rather than the exception. Sheet sizes were kept small to minimize breakage,71 but even then the artists still had to put up with an extremely delicate and temperamental product. By the time Kokomo entered the arena much progress had been made, but opalescent sheet glass was still a fragile and stubborn material to handle. The pioneering Brooklyn manufacturers had built their businesses on a mostly local trade that came to the factory to select glass. Kokomo, however, was located far from its customer base, and the bulk of their glass had to be packed and shipped by rail. As a consequence, the problem of breakage was far more serious for them, and must have been a constant headache.

In June of 1891, the court decided it was time to sell the business in order to satisfy the creditors. However, since Henry was in the insane asylum and incompetent to relinquish ownership himself, the court found it necessary to first appoint Ruddell as his legal guardian.72 This cleared the way for the sale, which was duly ordered the next month73 and took place in private on Aug. 28, 1891. The business was purchased by three “Kokomo capitalists,” Peter E. Hoss (a large landowner), William E. Blacklidge (a prominent lawyer) and John W. Learner. 

They paid $5310.00 in total, with one third down ($1770.00) and the balance of two equal payments due six and twelve months later.74 The new owners believed that “there is big money in the manufacture of opalescent and cathedral glass, and….are going in for all there is in it”.75 Viewing things from this perspective, they must have been more impressed with Francois’ business skills than Bélard’s artistic ones, and figured they could do without the latter’s services. Despite his maneuvers, Bélard had already been denied any ownership interest or financial compensation by the court, and was now on the verge of being booted out of the business entirely. He fought with passionate indignation to convince the new owners that they would “find themselves with an elephant on their hands” if they did not retain his services. He also threatened to start up his own business in opposition. His arguments and Francois’ prosaic response were reported with delight by the local press.76 Bélard claimed that “the mixing of the colors [was] a secret, known to but a limited number of men in the entire world and to but one or two men at the most in America.” He, of course, included himself among the select few. Francois countered by pointing out that there were actually “five factories [in America],77 each making the same kind of glass, and each, of course, with a man capable of mixing the colors. The process is in a manner a secret, yes; but it is not the property of nearly so limited a number of men as is popularly supposed. I know of nine competent mixers of colors in this country….” He concluded that, “…I think I can mix all the colors in ordinary demand.” Bélard conceded that it was, in one sense, no secret, since there were indeed books of formulas for colored glass. However, making glass from a formula was like trying to make pate de foie gras from a cookbook. “You get the glass, yes, and the colors, yes. But what are they? Dead, like the pate tastes- no life, no warmth in them. The glass painter will not have them. They do not sell.” The making of good glass, he added, “takes a long life sometimes to know how.” The Kokomo capitalists, who had probably never tasted pate de foie gras, were not impressed or intimidated. They declined to retain him. Bélard stubbornly continued to pursue his case in court, but was finally rejected there too.78

Meanwhile, the new owners of the OGW, immediately went to work putting the factory back in order. They bought the inventory of raw materials that were not included in the Aug. 28 sale. They also retained Francois as the new superintendent and gave him Bélard’s old job of mixing the colors, a decision, which effectively empowered him to “direct the destinies of the new company so far as the mechanical part of the business is concerned.” Francois hired back most of the old workforce and implemented needed repairs.79 On Sept. 3, he and Hoss left on a business trip to visit Kokomo customers in eastern cities, undoubtedly to give the new owners a feel for the market.80 Within short order, the factory was back in production and running smoothly. The reborn “Opalescent Glass Works” was officially incorporated on Jan. 2, 1892, with the three purchasers plus Francois and Isaac Wright comprising the Board of Directors.81

The new owners also opted to retain Perraud as their exclusive East Coast agent, despite his high commission and close relationship with the old management. Practically, they had no choice because, of all their markets, the New York Studios were the pickiest and most difficult to deal with. Perraud’s experience there would have been impossible for the fledgling company to replace on short notice, and it would have been reckless to tamper with such an important market so soon. Despite their own startup difficulties back home, the management did what it could to support him in New York. Immediately after taking over, they financed his move to a more centrally located warehouse,82 and then made an effort to supply him with as much inventory as they could spare. 

For his part, Perraud worked diligently on behalf of the Opalescent Glass Works. His many letters to the factory during this period afford us a unique window on the stained glass market of the early 90’s. They reveal that he regularly made the rounds of the New York and Brooklyn studios, and also frequently went on road trips to the other metropolitan markets, particularly Boston and Philadelphia. In this way he kept the home company well apprised of what was going on in the industry on the East Coast, and how their competitors, Heidt and Dannenhoffer, were doing. Perraud’s major asset was handling of the customers, with whom he seems to have had an especially good rapport. He was on friendly terms with all of the studios in town, and they visited him regularly to purchase glass or just see what new stock had come in. Whenever there was a problem with payment or a complaint about breakage, Perraud was there to take care of it. His value to the company was especially apparent in his dealings with Tiffany, his largest and most difficult customer. The bureaucracy there, who must have tried his skill and patience, is evidenced in many of his letters. For example, in one instance he reported:

“I’ve seen Mr. Mitchell of Tiffany, and asked him if he wanted me to sent their goods direct from the R.R. depot. Mr. Mitchell told me I’ve [got] to see Mr. Platt about it first; he did not know anything about the order, Mr. Platt was absent from New York at the time. He only came back last Thursday. Mr. Platt told me the order was given in this way: After arrival of goods and inspection of same, and should they give satisfaction, the order would be confirmed, and if they don’t take 105 cases, they will pay 6¢/lb….After waiting 3 days, Tiffany sent his man to inspect the glass. He refused to accept the #99R, 61L, 12R, 23RDD, 49, 49R, 135R; all too light, no color in it, but he selected some of my cases instead. I shall not receive a definite answer before tomorrow, as today is Election Day.”83

In addition to demanding the biggest discount, Tiffany was also, evidently, very slow in paying. Perraud’s attitude toward this difficult customer was typically businesslike. In another letter, written upon receiving a new shipment of glass, he noted; “I expect 2 customers tomorrow morning and, after the principal good paying customers have inspected [the] glass, I’ll go and see Tiffany.”84

The early 1890’s were probably the high point for artistic ‘American’ stained glass on the East Coast and the demand for good-quality glass at the time was clearly greater than the supply. Perraud frequently reported that Dannenhoffer and Heidt had no inventory or were swamped with orders.85 He too suffered from a chronic shortage of inventory and had customers waiting in line for every new carload that arrived. In almost all of his letters to Kokomo, he complained that his inadequate stock was hurting business, and pleaded with them to send him more glass. To circumvent this shortage, Perraud tried to convince the customers to order from sample, but they almost always declined.86 The New York studios were used to buying glass on sight, and did not trust the Kokomo factory to send them acceptable material. That they had good cause to be distrustful is reflected in Perraud’s letters. He persistently reminded Kokomo that he wanted them to send him more “dark, dark, deep colors, not dark only on the surface, but in transparency;”87 and the factory kept giving him glass that was too light and weak to suit his customers. Interestingly, he suspected that they might be making their glass to suit another market. “I know very well in the Western part, they want only light colors, but they are altogether different in the East.”88

While this comparison was certainly an oversimplification, it did have some basis in fact. Stained glass west of the Appalachians was primarily a derivative art, based loosely on the style developed by Tiffany and LaFarge in New York, but lacking the artistic rigor that characterized the best work on the East Coast. It was a more commercial industry, geared to a burgeoning population that was closer to its pioneer roots and not as aesthetically sophisticated as its eastern counterparts. As such, the customers were less demanding and typically satisfied with pleasing decorative results rather than an artistic statement. Faced with this type of clientele, the mid-western studios looked for consistency and reliability in their glass more than intensity and complexity.

These requirements must have suited the Opalescent Glass Works just fine. Dark, rich colors were difficult to produce. The high colorant concentrations required for intense colors were often tricky to keep in solution and sometimes altered the expansion coefficients and thus the stability of the glass.89 In addition, intense colors posed contamination problems when colors had to be changed in the pots, and often necessitated several ‘washes’ of clear glass before the new color could be introduced. On the other hand, lower colorant levels and more thorough mixing of the component glasses resulted in a product that was more stable and consistent, and thus easier to produce. Certainly, the economics of the situation would explain Kokomo’s reluctance to produce the type of glass that Perraud wanted. Furthermore, if we consider the large discounts and commissions they endured with their East Coast business, it is easy to understand why they might have preferred to reserve the bulk of their glass for distribution in the Midwest.

To add to Perraud’s troubles, the spring of 1892 brought a familiar face back onto the scene. Vital Bélard had made good on his threat and started a new opalescent glass works at Marion, only twenty-five miles distant from his former employer. Immediately after his ignominious departure from Kokomo, he succeeded in obtaining financial backing from two Marion entrepreneurs, S.B. Purvis and E.A. Moore. Bélard was to be the superintendent of the new enterprise, which was called the Marion Opalescent Glass Co.90 Construction of the factory buildings was underway by October of 1891 and finished in time for production to begin in February of the following year.91 Since the business was founded to take a bit out of Kokomo’s lucrative market, the unabashedly copied the latter’s production numbers and prices. They also aggressively pursued their customers. To compete with Peraud, they secured the services of Leo Popper & Sons, an established glass distributor in New York, as their exclusive agent. On May 7, Popper issued a press release announcing the new company and extolling the expertise of Vital Bélard.92 Bélard’s reappearance must have been pure irony for Perraud, who was having troubles with Kokomo. In any event, Marion subsequently ran into some sort of organizational problems and, by February of the following year, Perraud was relieved to report that they were pulling out of the East Coast market.93 Shortly thereafter, the Marion factory shut down the furnaces, and Purvis and Moore sold their interest in the business to other parties.94 Unfortunately for Perraud, before they did, a deal was made with Popper to buy all of their remaining inventory. In August of 1893, Popper put over 1000 cases of what Perraud ruefully described as “beautiful glass” on the market in New York.95 Assuming that this glass was purchased at liquidation prices, it must have given Perraud good cause to worry. At one point, Tiffany waved an order for two hundred cases of Popper glass in front of his face, which prompted Perraud to once again chide the factory;

“… It is certain without a doubt, had I a large stock at present, I would have had the preference for that lot; so don’t delay to send me a carload of the best you have on hand…very, very deep colors….All my customers demand rich, deep glass, and I’m positive I have a 100 times more chance to sell to the trade than Leo Popper, If I have the colors.”96

At this point, fate intervened for Perraud and three weeks later he was able to report; 

“Mr. Mitchell sent for me a few days ago and told me that the firm of Tiffany Co. will hereafter stop dealing with Leo Popper, the reason being that L. Popper was time and time again bribing the buyer and selector of jewels, by giving him 5% on all purchases of jewels, and finally Mr. Mitchell discovered this affair, and had the buyer and selector make a full confession in black and white; so now Mr. Mitchell is going to return the 200 cases of glass recently bought from Popper.”97

In the fall of 1893, the Marion factory was purchased by three business men from Kokomo, C.B. Brown (the Kokomo banker), M.W. Coate and William Ruddell! As Receiver at Kokomo, Ruddell had apparently been impressed with the moneymaking potential of this line of business as well as with the skills of Vital Bélard. The new owners retained Bélard as superintendent and allowed him to keep his formulas to himself. Bélard made a big deal of the fact that he alone did the purchasing and mixing of the chemicals, as if to underscore the value of the ‘secrets’ that Kokomo had so foolishly discounted. After implementing some needed repairs, he had their seven-pot furnace back in operation by the middle of November.98 The Marion factory ran continuously and successfully for the next three years. Bélard died in early 1896, at which time his widowed daughter, Hedgwige Henry, inherited control of the precious formulas. Hedgwige took over her father’s job of superintending the making of the glass at Marion, which prompted one trade publication to point out that she was the only woman in America working in such a capacity.99

On July 24, 1896, a fire consumed the warerooms of the Marion factory, totally destroying their inventory of glass, which was valued at $15,000.100 This was too much for the Brown and Ruddell, so in November they sold their shares in the business to Fred G. Seitz, an entrepreneur involved in other glass interests.101 Seitz and Coate rebuilt the warehouse, added improved sheet glass equipment and introduced machinery for the manufacture of other types of glassware.102 Production was finally resumed in September of 1897 with Hedgwige still in charge of the sheet glass division.103 Soon, however, the owners became discouraged with the opalescent glass business, and for unknown reasons had to petition the Court to go into receivership to rid themselves of some sort of commitment to make opalescent glass.104 The Court so ordered in January of 1898, after which Coate and Seitz quickly disposed of the rolling tables, specialized raw materials and remaining stock of opalescent glass to the OGW at Kokomo for $2900.105

Meanwhile back in New York, Perraud died in early 1894, leaving the OGW without representation there. They continued to make some sales directly to the East Coast studios, but soon formed relationships with two established stained glass distributors, Theo W. Morris and Paul Wissmach.106 Wissmach had been recommended by Perraud to the Kokomo owners more than a year before, perhaps because he knew that, with his health failing, they would soon need to replace him.107 Their business with both distributors grew throughout the latter half of the 1890’s, with Wissmach gradually becoming the dominant of the two. They did no business with Popper, probably because of his relationship with Marion. Curiously, the Sales Journal indicates that, by February of 1895, the OGW was no longer making direct shipment to the East Coast studios. Presumably, this business was now being handled entirely by Morris and Wissmach, although their combined volume did not approach the OGW’s sales there in the early ‘90’s. Certainly, a big part of this decline can be attributed to the fact that Tiffany had established his own factory to manufacture opalescent sheet glass at Corona, Long Island in 1893.

As early as 1890, the gas fields in central Indiana began to show signs of petering out, and new wells constantly had to be sunk in an attempt to keep up with consumer demand.108 Despite these efforts, the supply continued to dwindle through the ‘90’s, and many companies, including the OGW, were forced to switch over to dirtier and more expensive fuels such as coal or fuel oil. New gas fields were discovered in West Virginia in 1903, and in February, 1904 Francois visited Clarksburg with an eye toward establishing a factory there.109 At a meeting of the Board of Directors on April 4, 1904, he informed the owners of the OGW of his plans and offered to include them in the new venture, provided that he was allowed to retain controlling interest. Being local men with roots in Kokomo, they refused Francois’ offer, and two days later he gave notice of intent to sever his relationship with OGW “as soon as the condition of the work would be such that he could get away”.110 Minutes for the Board meetings on the following days reflect the concern that this announcement caused the owners of the OGW, and serve to underscore the important role of Francois must have played in the success of the company. An earlier article in the Dispatch had stated flatly that “the credit for the superior quality of American opal glass…. is due to Jerome M. Francois”.111 In addition to owning stock in the company, Francois had apparently been allowed to retain exclusive possession of the glass formulas! On May 9, the Board made an offer to buy him out, which was accepted. It is unclear whether or not relinquishment of the precious formulas was a part of that offer. In any case, Francois’ departure was at least gracious, for he left his brother, Emil, behind to act as the OGW ‘mixer’ until they could make other arrangements.112

Even before the Board accepted his resignation, Francois returned to Clarksburg to secure property (in donation!)113 and to arrange for the building of his factory.114 Construction was begun in mid-May115 and “completed and in shape for work by Oct. 1”. The business, called the Clarksburg Opalescent Glass Co., was solely owned and managed by Francois, but the office was run by Earl Spraker, who had come with him from the OGW.116 This company prospered under Francois’ capable guidance and offered serious competition to Kokomo until his death in 23 1916. During his career in Clarksburg, he emerged as one of that city’s most prominent businessmen, serving also as president of the local Coal Company and stockholder in several other businesses.117

After Francois left, the Board at Kokomo hired Adolf Bournique as the new superintendent of the OGW. Bournique was born in Baccarat, France in 1863, and emigrated to America with his parents in 1874. His father, Joseph, became one of the pioneer manufacturers of opalescent sheet glass when he established a factory on Johnson Av. in Brooklyn in 1881.118 As a young man, Adolf worked in that factory with his father, learning the art of making colored opalescent glass. Despite Bournique’s boast that he supplied glass to prominent stained glass artists like John LaFarge, the factory closed after a year or two because “the demand for [opalescent] glass was very limited in those days”.119 After leaving Brooklyn, Adolf “erected and managed factories for many purposes, including the manufacture of optical glass, bottles, colored lantern glass, electric bulbs, and shades and globes of all kinds”.120 Since his obituary states that he came to work for the OGW in 1903, it is likely that he worked under Francois for a time before becoming superintendent.121

In addition to Marion and Clarksburg, the OGW engendered one other competitor, this time1916 advertisement for Kokomo Opalesecent Glass right in their own backyard. The Russell Glass Co. was started in Kokomo in 1903 by two local men, W.A. Russell and Elsberry E Springer, who must have been lured by the success of the OGW. They erected a factory with an eight-pot furnace, and employed about 20 men manufacturing cathedral and opalescent glass in direct competition with the OGW.122 By 1907 this factory had closed (for reasons unknown), and the property was taken over in May of that year by Adolf Bournique (the OGW superintendent!) and two other “Kokomo capitalists”, William J. Berry and James A. Wells. The Bournique Glass Co. initially announced plans to “engage in the general glass manufacturing trade”, perhaps to mollify the owners of the OGW over his departure.123 Regardless, the factory was soon manufacturing the same product line, and proved to be a serious competitor for many years. Bournique died in 1913, after which his widow took over the running of the business for another thirteen years. She finally sold her interest in September of 1926, and the new owners discontinued the manufacture of stained glass shortly thereafter.

The departure of Bournique after only three years must have left the owners of the Opalescent Glass Works feeling somewhat jinxed. All three superintendent/managers, with whom they had entrusted their formulas and the ‘destiny of their company’, had left them to become competitors. It is not surprising that their next choice should be someone they were sure they could trust. J.W. Learner had apparently learned something of the chemistry and mixing of the colors during his sixteen years as an owner of the company, and he took over the responsibility in 1907. He was soon joined by Kent Blacklidge, Williams’ son, who had just graduated from Purdue. Together they alone performed this critical job for the next 30 years, and, in fact with one exception, only other family members have succeeded them down to the present day.

Meanwhile back in Clarksburg, Jerome Francois died in April, 1916,124 leaving the glass business to his two sons, Emil J. and John C., along with Earl Spraker, who had married his daughter.125 Apparently, the heirs soon tired of running a glass business, because, on Nov. 12, 1917,126 they sold out to the Kokomo Opalescent Glass Co.127 Kokomo sent Donald F. Elliott128 to manage and Harry Wright129 to superintend the new acquisition, which was renamed the Kokomo Opalescent Glass Co.130 This factory continued producing stained glass for about another four years until it was closed down by the general decrease in demand that occurred after the War. On April 10, 1923, KOGC sold the property and buildings in Clarksburg to the Hart Bros. Machine Co. for $25,000.00.

 


 

1. The first reference that could be found to Henry appears in the 1886 NYC Directory where he is listed under: “HENRY, C. EDWARD, glass, 35 W 3rd, h. New Rochelle, N.Y.”.

2 . From information on the “Statement Alleging insanity” for Henry, filled out and signed by Vital Bélard, and dated Apr. 25, 1890. Records of the Central State Hospital, Indiana State Archives. Therein Bélard states he has known Henry for seven years.

3 . The 1887-8 Directory listed him as: “C.E. Henry Art Glass Works, Harrison nr. Hugenot, New Rochelle”.

4 .Company archives at KOGC include more than fifty letters written by Perraud during the period between July, 1891 and January, 1894. The envelopes that accompanied many of these letters bear a printed return address “J.B. Perraud, Glass Manufacturer, specialty for silk factories, Office, 35 W. Third St., N.Y., Factory, New Rochelle, N.Y.”, with the address crossed-out by hand. This is the same business address listed for Henry in 1886!

5 . A note in the trade newspaper “Commoner & Glassworker”, dated May 19, 1888 states: “The C.E. Henry Art Glass Works of New Rochelle, NY, manufacturing stained glass of all descriptions, will be moved to Kokomo, Indiana.”.

6 . Kokomo Gazette Tribune (KGT), April 30, 1888, page 2, ‘Glass Works Number Five’.

7 . Henry was granted Lot D of Hamlin’s Highland Edition for $1.00, as recorded Dec. 6, 1889 in the Records of Howard County, Bk. 67, Pg. 222. The original agreement, although lost, evidently stipulated that the business must run successfully for 5 years before the deed was granted. Henry, however, ran into financial difficulty in ’89 and succeeded in having the deed signed over prematurely in order to obtain a business loan.

8 . Per a deed recorded May 7, 1890 in the Records of Howard County, Bk. 67, Pg. 555.

9 . KGT, June 14, 1888, page , “The Art Glass Works”.

10 . Kokomo Dispatch (KD), Aug. 29, 1889, page 4. These were 500 lb. pots.

11 . KGT, Oct. 15, 1888, page 3, “Opalescent Glass and the Knife and Shear Works”.

12 . KGT, Nov. 13, 1888, page 2

13 . KGT, Aug. 15, 1888, page 4

14. Leo Popper & Sons, in an Announcement promoting Bélard’s glass, dated May 7, 1892.

15. According to his listing in the 1882-3 Brooklyn City Directory. Bélard first appears in the 1879-80 Directory, working with Dobelman Mfg. Co., glass factory. He also later appears in the 1884 and 5 NYC Directories as working at an unspecified occupation in “glass”.

16. The Crockery & Glass Journal, Oct.5, 1882, page 28, reported that Dannenhoffer, immediately after opening his business, began producing glass rods for buttons in a ‘great variety of colors’, even while his line of sheet glass was still being developed. This raises the strong possibility that he inherited this product line from Bélard, who helped out in the beginning and later became involved in this same business with Henry and Perraud.

17. KGT, Oct. 8, 1889, page 2, “Kokomo Scoops the World”.

18. Opcit, KGT, Nov. 13, 1888.

19. Opcit, KGT, Oct. 8, 1889.

20. According to a General Ledger in the archives of KOGC, this contract remained a significant part of the company’s business throughout the early ‘90’s.

21. Page, Harding’s cathedral factory in Bedrkshire, MA, the first stained glass manufacturer in the United States, had closed in 1886.

22. Because opalescent glass was usually mixed with a cathedral glass color, all of the opalescent manufacturers also made pure cathedral glass sheets to some extent. Especially after the turn of the century when the Gothic style of stained glass reasserted itself, the more commercial enterprises always offered extensive lines of both cathedral and opalescent glasses.

23. The obituary of Adolphe Bournique in the Ornamental Glass Bulletin, Aug. 1913, p. 8, states that he also started a factory in Brooklyn in 1881, but soon closed it because “the demand for the glass was very limited in those days.”

24. Peltier also started in 1888 in Ottawa, IL, but, at first, made only pressed glass novelties. He did not begin making opalescent sheet glass until about 1890. 26

25. The Early Journal identifies 20 of these combinations, which, for those numbers that are still made, are identical to KOGC’s colors today.

26. KGT, Jan. 26, 1889, page 4.

27. KGT, June 15, 1889, page 3, listed the “Art Glass Works” as employing 50 workers with a capital of $3000.

28. KGT, June 18, 1889, page 4. Also KD, July 18, 1889, page 4 under “Industrial Notes”.

29. KGT, Jan. 28, 1890, page 3, wherein Perraud’s relationship is mentioned.

30. Pricing and commission information has been glened from Perraud’s letters, which actually don’t begin until a couple of years later. However, given the circumstances that occurred in the iterim, it is unlikely that much had changed.

31. Marion Daily Chronicle, Oct. 10, 1889, page 3, “Kokomo at the Paris Expostion.”

32. KD, Aug. 8, 1889, page 1, “Kokomo at Paris”.

33. KD, July 18, 1889, page 4, under “Industrial Notes”.

34. Louis Heidt of Brooklyn also won a Gold Medal for his opalescent sheet glass.

35. Opcit, KD, Aug. 8, 1889.

36. KD, Aug. 29, 1889, page 4.

37. The only actual documented sales to Europe during this period were several cases to Oudinot, beginning in September, 1889, which were sold by Perraud in New York.

38. Opcit, KGT, Oct. 8, 1889.

39. Per a decision relating to Case #9433 (Wm. B. Morgan vs. C. Edward Henry), recorded July 15, 1891in Howard County Court Records, Bk.39/pgs.519-526.

40. Per an Affidavit filed by C.B. Brown on behalf of the Citizens National Bank of Kokomo, contained in the Packet for Case#9435 in the Archive of the Howard County Court.

41. Ibid. Also see footnote 6. As a prerequisite to having the property prematurely deeded to him, Henry was required to sign an agreement quitclaiming the land back to the original owner, if the business failed before 1893.

42. Original mechanic’s Lien contained in Packet for Case #9435.

43. Per a Deed recorded May 14, 1890 in Bk.67/pg.576, Records of Howard County.

44. KD, Feb. 6, 1890, page 1, “Cupid’s Capers”; also KGT, Feb.3, 1890, page 2, “Married”.

45. National Glass Budget (NGB), Apr. 6, 1897, page 3, gives Hedgwige’s age as “about 30”, which would have made her only 23 in 1890. Henry was 44. That they were somewhat embarrassed by this age discrepancy is suggested by the fact that they both declined to give their birthdates on the Marriage License application, despite its requirement.

46. KGT, Jan. 28, 1890, page 3.

47. Opcit, KD, Feb. 3, 1890.

48. Opcit, “Statement Alleging Insanity”, Apr. 25, 1890.

49. KGT, Jan.8, 1889, page 3.

50. Per an order recorded Mar. 11, 1890 in Howard County Court Records, Bk.37/pg.44-5.

51. A Report to the Court by Ruddell on the status of the business after almost 10 months in receivership, dated Jan. 5, 1891. This document is included in the aforenoted Packet for Case #9435.

52. Opcit, “Statement Alleging Insanity”, Apr. 35, 1890, wherein Bélard names Perraud s the person who knew Henry most intimately.

53. KD, July 11, 1889, page 2. See also articles under Footnote #43.

54. KD, July 16, 1891, page 2, “The Glass Works to be Sold”.

55. KGT, March 12, 1890, page 3.

56. KGT, April 21, 1890, Page 3.

57. KD, Apr. 24, 1890, page 1, “Like Harsh Bells Jangled”.

58. KGT, Apr. 25, 1890, page 2, “Undoubtedly Insane”.

59. KGT, Apr. 28, 1890, page 2, “Off to the Asylum”.

60. According to the aforenoted Records of the Central State Hospital, henry died of “general paralysis” on March 14, 1892.

61. Opcit, Judgement recorded July 16, 1891.

62. Opcit, Ruddell Report of Jan. 15, 1891.

63. KD, July 17, 1890, page 1 under “Industrial Notes”.

64. It is not known exactly when Ruddell hired Francois. However, an article in ‘China, Glass & Lamps’, dated Dec. 24, 1890, erroneously names Francois as the receiver of the OGW, so he must have been working there by that date.

65. The 1878-9 Brooklyn City Directory lists Francois’ occupation as “glass packer”. 27

66. According to Francois’ obituary, printed in “The Clarksburg Daily Telegram” {West Virginia}, Apr. 5, 1916.

67. KOGS histories recall that Francois came from the Chicago area and, acknowledging the four year gap between the time he left Hibbler and began at Kokomo, it is possible that he gained some pertinent experience in that interim. However, no information on his activities during this period has come to light to confirm the Kokomo story.

68 KD, Sept. 3, 1891, page 3, “To Start the Factory”.

69. Opcit. Ruddell Report of Jan. 15, 1891.

70. Perraud Letters, letter dated June 21, 1891.

71. For instance, Dannenhoffer started out in 1882 with a sheet size of only 12” x 24”.

72. Per an order recorded June 2, 1891 in Howard County Court Records, Bk.39/pg.302.

73. Opcit, KD, July 16, 1891; also Court Order of July 15, 1891.

74. Per an order recorded Nov. 11, 1891 in Howard County Court Records, Bk.40/pg.274.

75. Opcit, KD, Sept. 3, 1891.

76. KD, Sept. 3, 1891, page 2, “Opalescent Glass Making”.

77. By this date, Peltier had entered the field to constitute the five.

78. Per the last judgement pertaining to Case #9435, recorded Nov. 24, 1891 in Howard County Court Records, Bk.40/pg.289.

79. Opcit, KD, Sept.3, 1891.

80. KGT, Sept. 3, 1891, page 2, “Getting Ready for Business”.

81. Per official records on file with the Secretary of State, Indiana.

82. Perraud Letters, letter dated Nov. 3, 1891. The new warehouse was located at 52 E. 9th St. and the rent of $25./mo. was paid by the OGW.

83. Ibid