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A hero for Heisey

When the Nazis tried to break the spirit of an American, to no avail. His prisoner not only returned to American soil, but he returned as a war hero. At 6’4 and under 90 pounds, he came to his Ohio home to heal.

Soon, word got out that the Army Air Corpsman had survived. An uncle owned a glass company and gave the weak young man a chance to work in exchange for room and board. From time to time, young Ralph would ask for a piece of glass that caught his eye.

During the few years that he worked at the Newark plant with the large H diamond, he amassed wooden barrels filled with fancy glassware. Although the branch of his last name had changed at Ellis Island, Ralph Hisey became an avid collector of the eponymous product.

Later, those old wooden barrels were delivered to my doorstep by my elderly grandfather. That perfectly good glass came into my life on my 21st birthday and through my rough years, it was a brilliant addition.

In May 2007, my home in San Diego burned down, easily destroying 90% of the collection. What remains are fragments of the past where her energy is transmitted and continues with mine flowing through her. I treasure that held each item.

Luckily, they taught me to start. When the Heisey barrels came into my hands, I put 10% in the hands of others. The ‘past’ pieces are some of the rare and experimental glassware you admired all those years ago.

The AH Heisey company was formed in 1895. It offered tableware and figurines in blown and pressed glass. It closed in 1957. Heisey glassware is identified by an H diamond. Its high clarity and finish generated a large following. It is now popular with collectors and is bought and sold on places like eBay or antique glass groups.

Heisey Collectors of America enthusiasts formed a group in 1971. Three years later, the Heisey National Museum of Glass was created in downtown Newark, Ohio. On display are hundreds of patterns and colors that show the evolution of the plant business.

Dozens of animals, candlesticks, and desk pieces graced many homes in the early 20th century. Heisey glass was produced in colors throughout the life of the factory, but the most prolific period of color manufacturing was from 1925 to 1938.

The company went to great lengths to produce distinct colors, and Heisey glass can often be identified by the specific colors alone. In 1925, Flamingo (a pastel pink) and Moonleam (a vivid green) were introduced and produced in large numbers.

Marigold is a coppery golden yellow color. Sahara, which replaced Marigold, is a satisfying soft lemon yellow. Hawthorne is a lavender color. Tangerine, a bright orange-red produced around 1933, was part of a trend toward darker, more vivid colors. The Tangerine Ivy Vase is quite a rare and collectible piece today.

A cobalt color called Stiegel Blue was also produced. Alexandrite is the rarest of the Heisey colors; it can be a pale greenish-blue under normal light, but in sunlight or ultraviolet light, it glows a lavender-pink hue. Zircon is a very modern blue-gray and was the last new color introduced.

Heisey is believed to have made some pieces in milky glass in its early years of production and probably also produced Vaseline glass in the early 1920s, though not in large quantities.

When the factory closed, the Imperial Glass Company purchased the molds for the production of Heisey glass and continued to produce some pieces under the Imperial Glass brand until they closed in 1984. Many of these pieces were animal figurines, mostly in new or original colors. using the old molds.

As the economy strengthens, more collectors will emerge and start driving prices back up. They peaked in the early 2000s and slowed down in recent years. Sometimes great collections appear when a former Heisey admirer passes away. That’s the time to get hold of some of the rarer colors or patterns.

Artifacts from early American history are becoming scarcer as the years go by. Heisey’s individual ashtrays and elaborate dinner arrangements hint at a time when the home was a center of gathering and celebration. Bridge games, molasses dispensers, and fancy candy dishes are now joyful throwbacks to yesteryear.

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