In London on December 8th, 1854 William John Blenko was born to a working class English family. William became interested in glass adornment at an early age, and being encouraged by his mother apprenticed himself to a glass craftsman. He attended school and became a pupil of philosopher John Tyndall. Early in the 1880s he went into business for himself making what is known as rondels (Round Window Panes), while experimenting with other processes of making glass superior to his competitors.
At the age of 38, he came to New York to experiment with the wonder fuel natural gas. Hearing that this fuel was abundant around Kokomo, IN he went there and started up one of Americas first gas-fueled operations.
The year was 1893, he was producing glass but it would not sell. The American window makers would not accept his products, although it was made by Old World methods. There was a natural prejudice against a domestically made glass. The stained glass studios were European and wanted European glass. He encountered a recession and being discouraged by this he decided to return to England and export the same product he was making in Indiana. He came back to Indiana in 1899, and started a trans-Atlantic shuttle that would end in Milton, WV 23 years later.
He chose the little farm town of Milton because the Industrial Development Dept of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad sold him on the idea of Milton as a good place to work. It was a dependable source of sober, industrious labor and natural gas, used in all the glass furnaces, was cheaply priced. In the spring of 1921 William arrived in Milton where he soon began unloading the tools of his trade into a small hillside barn. He then went to work building a furnace, with the help of a newly recruited crew of locals. Within a few weeks, handmade glass was being manufactured. 2 years later in 1923 he set up shop at our present location, where we strive to continue this time-honored tradition.
In 1925, William H. Blenko and his wife Marion (daughter of Henry Hunt of Hunt Stained Glass Studios in Pittsburgh, PA) came to Milton to help his father in the day to day operations of the factory. Needing still larger production areas and better shipping facilities, the Blenko works moved to their present location near the main line of the C&O Railroad across the river from Milton.
During the depression era William became aware that there would be a need to expand the product line to more than just stained glass. So in 1929, he secured the services of two Swedish Glass Craftsmen. They trained the Blenko crews to craft beautiful pieces of glass by hand. Production increased and in 1930, the company changed from Eureka to Blenko Glass Company, and so came the tableware line of glass products that have made “Blenko” a household name all over the world.