The Clevenger Glassworks - 1930 to1999
Clevenger Brothers Glass Works
Clayton, NJ08312 - Established 1929
NEW JERSEY HISTORICAL SITE #87 - Located in Gloucester County, New Jersey
The Clevenger Time Line:
Circa 1880 – The Moore Brothers Clayton Glass Works is using formulas that the Clevenger’s will later use successfully to produce the different colors of glass.
1912 - The Moore Brothers Clayton Glass Works closed. The father of three brothers Henry Thomas ‘Tom’, Lorenzo ‘ Reno’, and William Elbert ‘Allie’ Clevenger worked here. Tom, Reno and Allie all apprenticed here at Moore Bothers Clayton Glass Works.
1912-1929 – The Clevenger Brothers try their hand at many different jobs including rug making.
1930 - Clevenger Brothers Glass works was founded by Tom, Reno and Allie Clevenger. They constructed a small furnace in the stable of their backyard in Clayton, New Jersey. Their intent was to produce affordable reproductions of early American glass in the South Jersey tradition. Much of their early work was free blown except for some bottles and flasks. Each piece was hand blown and finished making no two exactly alike and each batch of glass often varied in color. The original the Clevenger Brothers was the last green system glass blowing shop of its kind in America. The green system style of glass making is almost extinct in North America. Many of the workers were retired blowers, "old timers" who still wanted to be active in the industry.
1934 – The earliest surviving catalog of their products was titled “The Renaissance of South Jersey Blown Glass” published by Grant and Lyon the catalog illustrated many examples of South Jersey reproductions of freeblown glass and also included a copy of the famous EG Booz whiskey bottle. This catalog stated that the Clevengers made most of their glass in amber, blue and green.
1934 – Tom, the eldest brother and father of nine passed away. Three of his children, Tom, Willis and Bertram worked at the Clevenger factory
1939 – Ritter-Carlton Company Inc., Fifth Avenue, New York, NY published a catalog showing Clevenger glassware they were selling but never mentioned Clevenger by name. This catalog was titled “Authentic Reproductions of Early American Glass” and it listed 6 ‘original colors’ of glass in amber, amethyst, dark green, colonial blue, light blue and light green (also known as South Jersey green). Eventually almost every color imaginable was introduced including red, orange, amberina, clear, milk glass and vaseline.
1950 – Reno passed away, leaving Allie the sole surviving brother.
1950 – Allie, at the age of sixty, married Myrtle, Rodney Whilden’s widow. It has been said that Myrtle convinced Allie to employ salesmen to distribute their products.
1957 – on November 8th a fire broke out and destroyed part of the original ‘stable’ factory. Almost immediately construction began on a new slightly larger building.
1958 - The factory was rebuilt on the original location and glass production resumed on January 11.
1960 – Allie, the last of the three original Clevenger brothers, passed away. His widow, Myrtle Clevenger, continued to operate the glass works for the next 6 years.
1964 – October 3rd the Philadelphia Enquirer printed an article “Old-time Plant Wants Old timers, Clayton Firm Seeks Glassblowers, 65-75”. William Stout Bowers was the plant manager at the time.
1966 A Pivotal Year - Myrtle Clevenger and her new husband Stout Bowers sold the factory to Jim Travis of Millville, NJ on May 8th or 9th. Travis, who was already involved in a small glass furnace, had stopped at Clevenger that day to purchase a mold and ended up buying the company. The youngest employee was 55 years old.
· The glass works continued to produce hand blow glass but the majority of the glass now blown became mold blown.
· Products begin to be marked with the initials CB or Clevenger Brothers, Clayton, NJ embossed in the glass. Prior to 1966 rarely were pieces made with any identification marks on them. Starting in the mid 1950’s if a change was made in a mold, a small CB was sometimes added to the mold. Examples of this can be found on some pitchers where the original mold was used to make lamp fonts, such as the Star & Shield and the Moon & Star pitchers.
· Many of the original molds for bottles were modified to accept a slug plate. These plates could be made to commemorate anything such as town anniversaries or special events. The plate was inserted into the mold allowing a bottle to be blown with the plate impression on the front, back or both sides allowing for the production of limited edition and personalized bottles for clubs and organizations.
1999 – James Travis retires in his 80's and shuts the oil fired furnace down on August 24th.
2007 - James Travis passed away on July 3rd.
2009 – The contents of the Clevenger Works that were the property of James Travis were sold at public auction by Bob Brooks Auctions in Malaga, NJ on June 29. (Click here to see the photo album from the sale)
Glass blowers that worked at the Clevenger’s furnace:
· Tom Clevenger
· Reno Clevenger
· Allie Clevenger
· August Hofbauer
· Lester Raun
· Otis Coleman
· Frank Schlagle
· Albert Schneeman
· James Travis Jr.
· Billy Trout
· Sam Keyburtz
· Joe Wright
· Charlie Westcott
· Harry Robb
· Vermont Frie
Molded Reproduction Historical Flask Bottles:
· Fislerville’s Jenny Lind Calabash flask - cobalt blue and dark green
· Dyottville’s Washington Taylor flask in a wide variety of colors.
· Coffin and Hay’s Eagle and Grape flask – amber, puce, turquoise blue, aqua
· Success to the Railroad - amber, amethyst, blue and green, aqua
· Eagle and Shield, My country flask - amber, amethyst, blue and green
· Albany Sloop Flask - amber, amethyst, blue, green, milk glass
Other Molded Bottles:
· scroll flask - amber, amethyst, blue and green
· large and small violin bottles - amber, amethyst, blue and green, the metal bracket was extra
· banjo bottle - amber, amethyst, blue, green), the metal bracket was extra
· diamond bottle - amber, amethyst, blue, green, milk glass
· grandfather clock bottle
· elephant bottle - amber amethyst blue and green
· Statue of Liberty Bottle
· General MacArthur Flask – deep claret
· Seagrams Flask crown shaped bottle - amber, amethyst, azure blue, green
· William Allen's Congress Bitters - amethyst
· George Washington bottle which was a Simon's Centennial Bitters reproduction, a large and a small size - teal blue and amber.
· E.G. Booz whiskey bottle. The famous Booz bottle reproduction was blown in an iron mold patterned after an original Booz bottle. The original Booz mold has been in the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 1906. The reproduction bottle was later offered in two styles, the peaked roof and beveled roof.
Note on the mold used by the Clevenger’s: Very few of the molds used by Clevenger’s were the original molds. Most of the copies of the famous pieces were variations of the originals. The first catalog to appear showing nothing but mold blown items came out around the end of World War II.
Freeblown Glass Forms:
· lily pad pitchers and bowls
· creamers, sugars
· sugar bowls
· free form vases
· double handed vases
· jumbo jugs
· rose jars
· footed tumblers
· camphor jugs
· gazing balls for gardeners Were blown during the 1990s due largely to the low demand for custom bottles and the glut of imported glass from overseas.
Notes on freeblown glass: Some of the great glassworkers could make virtually identical copies of earlier freeblown glass. These pieces are becoming very collectable. They are unmarked and at times fool the experts as to the time period in which they were produced. The only overall consistent feature of the Clevenger reproductions is that they are heavier than the original specimens. Freeblown glass was still being made on occasion up to 1960. The above list is not a complete listing of the freeblown glass produced by the Clevengers.
Freeblown Glass Patterns:
· diamond or quilted
· blown three part mold
· During the early years three local antique dealers assisted the brothers in providing financial backing and marketed their glassware. Ernest Stanmire sold lamps made of Clevenger fonts which were assembled in his shop. Phillip Glick and Rodney Whilden helped introduce the use of molds copying blown three mold designs and patterns.
· During the early years local newspapers reported that the brothers, who were bachelors, often picked apples during the summer months to make money to buy ingredients for the glass batches. By the late 1940s Clevenger Brothers was showing a profit mostly due to World War II and the lack of competition from imported glassware.
· The factory operated from 6:00 a.m to 3:00 p.m. fall to spring and was usually closed during the summer time just like the earlier green glass works of South Jersey.
· Seconds or imperfect pieces were thrown away until the late 1930s when Allie met Walter Earling, a Millville glass cutter. Truck loads of glassware were regularly sent to Mr. Earling’s backyard shop, where he and his employees ground out imperfections on handle attachments, rims of bottles and tumblers, and the ends of fitted stoppers.
· As previously mentioned some, but certainly not all, products are marked with the initials CB embossed in the glass. This became popular at the glass works in 1966 and there after. Also at this time, long narrow paper labels in the shape of the State of New Jersey were used to identify the glass. The labels read “This glass is made by skilled old time blowers and reproduced like the Genuine Antique South Jersey Glass which is prized by collectors of Early American Glass. Made in USA by Clevenger Bros. Clayton, NJ. Some c1960s banks are embossed on the base “Clevenger Brothers, Clayton, NJ.” None of the early blown Clevenger production was marked by embossing or labeling.