Millville Elementary student blows a glass bubble, 1999. Photo: Janet Peterson
Wheaton Village was founded in 1968 in Millville,
New Jersey, to preserve and celebrate the legacy of glass making in
the state and in America. Set on fifty acres, the complex houses
fifteen buildings, which include a working glass factory, a
folklife center, a glass museum, and a craft building where
artisans demonstrate glass flame working, ceramics, wood carving,
and tin smithing.
Visitors can watch daily glass making demonstrations
at the village's T.C. Wheaton Glass Factory, modeled after the
original 1888 factory, and learn about the history of glass making
at the Museum of American Glass. The museum exhibits more than
6,500 pieces of American glass from early colonial to contemporary
studio glass in nearly 20,000 square feet of exhibit space.
Exhibits range from paperweights to fiber optics, Mason jars to
As early as 1608, an attempt was made to establish a
glass factory at Jamestown, Virginia, the first English settlement
in the New World. Glass was America's first manufacturing industry,
although England discouraged any manufacturing in its colonies. Not
until 1739 was the first commercially successful glass company in
America organized in Alloway, New Jersey. Southern New Jersey's
natural resources, which included an abundance of silica sand to
make glass, forests for fuel, navigable waterways to take the
product to market, led to the founding of more than 225 glass
factories in the state. The building of towns in southern New
Jersey was directly linked to glass making, and New Jersey had more
glass making towns than any other state. Many towns had several
factories, sometimes up to twenty.
A German immigrant, Caspar Wistar was a prominent
Philadelphian who brought German glassblowers to New Jersey to be
partners in his new enterprise. Wistar realized that the colonies
and growing frontier needed window glass for buildings, and bottles
to store foodstuffs. Benjamin Franklin purchased glass from his
factory for his electrical experiments. Wistar's factory operated
until 1782. Most glass workers made their own glass in their free
time. Afer glass making became automated, glass blowers often
opened backyard shops to preserve the tradition.
Millville is the oldest town in the United States,
still making glass. The first glasshouse was established in 1806,
and three major factories continue to operate. Workers continue to
make glass on their own time, and have created an American style of
paperweights, most notably the Millville rose.
Documentation comprises a four-page report; fact
sheets; a sixth-and-seventh grade Holly Heights student project,
documenting a Wheaton Village glass artist, Tony DePalma, about his
life and training in the art of paperweights; two museum booklets
about glass, seven photos (some historic) and six slides; and a
video about glassmakers.
Originally submitted by: Frank Lautenberg, Senator.
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.