Preserving local history

When we think about the history of the Ohio Valley, our industrial past immediately comes to mind. Nearly every family that has lived here for at least a generation or two has one or more members who was employed as a coal miner or steelworker. Today, natural gas and oil exploration and production dominate that landscape, but many other industries have played important roles in the development of our region.

One of the most prominent of those industries during the late 19th and much of the 20th centuries was glass production. After an abundant supply of natural gas was discovered in our region, glass producers realized that having the new fuel to fire their furnaces made locating near the Ohio River and National Road a solid business plan. Soon, manufacturers of any names had set up shop on both sides of the river in communities such as Wheeling, Moundsville, Martins Ferry and Bellaire.

Those day are long gone now. No more are place settings, vases and decorative glass pieces manufactured here in the Ohio Valley. There are organizations, though, that work hard to preserve that important chapter of our past.

Today the Imperial Glass Museum in downtown Bellaire helps keep alive the history of the old Imperial Glass Corp., or “Big I” as it was known in its heyday, which shut down in 1984. The museum welcomes visitors year-round, but maintenance of the collection takes dedication and money. To help raise money for that cause, the museum holds an annual auction that gives the public a chance to see — and perhaps own — some rare or interesting pieces of Imperial glasswork.

This year’s auction is set for Saturday. Inspection of pieces will start at 3 p.m., and the actual auction will begin at 4 p.m. in the Bellaire Library Activity Room. Prospective buyers can view many of the glass pieces online at, and a list of all auction items will be available for purchase at the door for a small fee.

We urge local residents to visit the site and consider attending the auction to make a purchase. There’s nothing quite like owning a piece of local history, and supporting the museum is a very good cause.