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Duncan and Miller Glass Museum

Monongahela

Duncan and Miller Glass Museum

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Location Details

PHONE: 724-225-9950
ADDRESS: 525 Jefferson Ave.
Washington, PA 15301
HOURS: April-Oct; Th-Sun 11-4
COST: $2.50

Event Details

Glass Convention, Show, and Sale

Description

When Duncan and Miller Glass closed its doors for good in 1955, few suspected this end-of-an-era event would mark the beginning of a new appreciation of the company’s products.

Today, authentic Duncan and Miller glassware is a hot commodity. Collectors abound. Conventions are commonplace. Clubs are all the rage. And, thanks to the efforts of the National Duncan Glass Society, Inc., there’s even a museum chock-full of sugar bowls and creamers, salt and pepper shakers, ash trays and shot glasses, plates, and vases, in patterns ranging from Caribbean to Tear Drop, Festive to Early American.

The Duncan and Miller Glass Museum opened in 1975 with just two rooms in the Washington County Historical Society building (a.k.a. the LeMoyne House). Over the years, the collection outgrew its space. As a result, the Duncan Glass Society found a new home on Jefferson Avenue, just one block from where the fabled glass plant once stood.

The house was the property of a former Duncan and Miller factory worker. According to Shirley O’Brien, president of the society, the owner was thrilled to learn that his address was destined to become the center of an ever-expanding Duncan Glass universe.

Dedicated in 1993, the new Duncan and Miller Glass Museum affirmed its commitment to paying tribute to the company’s employees, their skills and craftsmanship, and to the management and its record of productivity — and to the enduring beauty of the glass itself.

That’s something Shirley personally appreciates. “When I got married in 1949, one of our gifts was First Love [a tried and true Duncan and Miller pattern],” she says. “Back then, you knew you were getting Duncan Glass.” Although Shirley didn’t join the Duncan Glass Society until 1977, she’s a long-time collector. “I don’t even know how much I have,” she says. What she does know is that the society’s collection is present and accounted for throughout the two-story house.

In addition to countless goblets, animal figurines, oil lamps (some dating back to the 1800s), the museum displays photos, blueprints for the construction of the plant’s Washington location, tools, molds, and the original factory clock.

The company’s history is traced to 1865, when George Duncan, along with his sons, Harry and James, and his son-in-law, Augustus Heisey, purchased an existing glassmaking business on Pittsburgh's South Side. Situated near the Monongahela River, Duncan & Sons had easy access to water transport, as well as to the eastern European glass workers and artisans who tended to settle in this part of town.

Nearly 10 years later, the respected glass designer John Ernest Miller signed on with the company. After a fire destroyed the South Side facility in 1892, the decision was made to move 30 miles south to Washington, Pa., where transportation via the railroads was still readily available.

With 70 of its Pittsburgh-based workers making the move, the new factory was up and running by the winter of 1893. By 1900, Miller was offered a full partnership in the business and the company became known as Duncan and Miller.

During its heyday (1893–1955), it was said that Duncan and Miller Glass employed at least one member of every family in Washington. After the plant shut down, hope remained that another glass company would take over. Those hopes, however, were extinguished when a fire reduced the factory to ashes in 1956. But thanks to the museum and its supporters, the Duncan and Miller legacy lives on not far from where the furnaces once fired.

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