Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

June 13, 2013

'This factory should live forever'

Kokomo Opalescent Glass celebrates 125 years in business

A Kokomo man walked into Jerome Durr’s New York studio in 1982 looking to make a sale.

“He said, ‘What’s it going to take for me to sell you Kokomo Opalescent Glass?’” Durr said Wednesday.

The stained glass artist told the salesman he was looking for a company that would sell him one sheet of glass at a time.

The salesman returned to Kokomo and designed a cardboard box that would accommodate one sheet of glass during shipping. And, of course, the company won Durr over.

Sue Shea left her home in Massachusetts in the 1980s for a road trip to Kokomo Opalescent Glass. She had heard about the company’s work and wanted to see it for herself.

When she arrived, employees took her back to a room full of glass in “odd ball” colors. The company’s unique color selection won her over.

“We bought our first glass inventory on that trip,” she said. “We bought 50 cases of glass.”

Durr, Shea and about 100 other members of the Stained Glass Association of America traveled to Kokomo Opalescent Glass Wednesday to help the company celebrate its 125th anniversary.

The company started production in Kokomo in 1888. It was begun by glass chemist Charles Edward Henry.

Henry was born in Paris, France, in 1846. He immigrated to the United States in the early 1880s and formed Henry Art Glass in New Rochelle, N.Y., in 1883. Henry Art Glass made glass buttons, novelties and opalescent glass rods.

Henry heard about the gas boom in Central Indiana, and when he was returning to New York from a business trip to Chicago, he stopped in Kokomo.

On April 27, 1888, the same day he arrived in Kokomo, he met with local officials about establishing a glass plant in the city. Within 24 hours, an agreement with local government officials was signed, providing Henry with a plant site and a natural gas supply.

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