National American Glass Club Spring - Research Report 2009

A very good photo was received of a blown glass lamp. It is unusual, with a vertical interior floral stem that seemed vaguely familiar. I wondered if these motifs might also be found in certain mid-20th century paperweights These colorful floral blooms, with their oval, blown interior bubbles, often exaggerated, must have been created by one special "House" or glass blower. This led me, finally, to three generations of a remarkable family, who brought to this country the art of glass making from Alsace-Lorraine.

After consulting a number of books, publications and articles, I finally found that the familiar "floral" look appeared on objects made at the Saint Clair Glass Works, Inc. in Elwood, Indiana. And that they are a specialty of Joe Rice, a St. Clair great grandson. He is the current craftsman and owner of The House of Glass.

John Baptiste Singler whose family named became changed to St. Clair, came to America 1888, from Alsace-Lorraine with his wife Rosalie and two children, John B. and Rose B. They finally settled in Elwood, Indiana from Missouri. Here their glass skills could be use and where son, Paul L. was born.

John Baptiste, now St. Clair, went to work in a glass factory, newly built in the 1890s in Elwood by George A Macbeth, one of the plants he an his partner, Thomas Evans established, singly or together. They had a plant in Pittsburgh, Penn. Then each had one in Indiana; George Macbeth in Elwood and Thomas Evans in Marion. It was only in 1899, that the Macbeth Evans Company was formed. They worked briefly in blown glass, but by the early 20th century they had switched to pressed glass patterns completely. These included, "Wild Rose", "Dogwood" and "Apple Blossom", each appearing to be most successful.

These two plants were located in this area of Indiana because of the vast quantity of natural gas, their fuel. Natural gas would create a boom for the glass industry in several states. However, by 1938, hard times fell on these sections of Indiana and Ohio the reason the natural supply of gas finally gave out. Workers had to go elsewhere One of the areas was West Virginia, to which the St Clair family, and others, moved. .

However, son, Joseph L. St. Clair, "Joe", did not move. He and his wife, Ellen, stayed in Elwood. He wanted to increase his hand blown glass production which he was successfully developing at his "Glass House" furnace in his backyard.

In 1941, the St. Clair family returned from West Virginia. His father and his four brothers: John J., Paul C., Edward B., and Robert ("Bob") M. now joined Joe at his work; now St. Clair glass truly began in earnest. This was to create their dream of a handmade Art Glass production Father, John B., was considered still "Boss", due to his greater experience. Their customers came to include a range from private buyers to several large accounts, such as Marshal-Fields in Chicago.


                         

By the 1950's Joe, with the help of his father and two brothers, developed new colors and molds. The latter were for their new line of pressed pattern glass, a "carnival" ware, a successful addition.

In 1958, father, John B. St. Clair died, ending a most successful career and would have been greatly missed. Joe became the head of the firm assisted by brothers, Ed and Bob.

After 1964, a new larger glass works was built and their pressed version of "Carnival" glass "took off." Their blown art glass however remained their best seller.

By 1971, Bob M. St. Clair, built a small "Glass House" Studio in his backyard With the St. Clair brothers, Edward and Paul and nephew, Joe Rice they began again.

Joe St. Clair purchased back the original family glass works which had been sold to Courtney and Gregg Now there were two (2) "Glass House" works by two brothers in Elwood, both growing and doing well into the 1980's.

Joe St. Clair wanted to continue to make his signed Rose paperweights, "which he did most successfully." But then Joe died in 1987 while Bob had died in 1986.

However, this is not the end of St. Clair glass. In 1987, Joe Rice, their nephew reopened "the House of Glass" under the name of, "Joe Rice's House of Glass" which is doing well in Elwood, today.

Joe Rice is a third generation, a great grandson of John B. Singler (St. Clair). He began at the age of 12 working after school with his uncles Joe, Ed, Bob and Paul in their glass works. His love of glass "blossomed" and his many hours of practice have made him very accomplished. When the estates of his two uncles, Joe and Bob, were available in 1987, Joe bought much of the equipment and glass from both. He then could establish his own new "studio."

This is where you will find him today. His assortment of blown glass includes an array of paperweights, blown fruits -- apples, pears, etc.; decorative art glass; bowls, colognes,

penholders and electrical lamps like that in the photo sent to me with this query. Who made the lamp?

This ends the trail, worth undertaking.

 

 

Dorothy-Lee Jones

Research Chair