An application for charter of Associated Glass and Pottery Manufacturers was presented at the Court of Common Please of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania on October 16, 1923. The hearing was on November 14, 1923. Below is the text from the Application for Charter in the Alleghency County Pennsylvania Charter Book Volume 58, Page 49.
An application by Association Glass and Pottery Manufacturers to amend and restate its articles was filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (Charter Book, Volume 81, Page 135) in 1924 and in 1966.
WHEREFORE, the Association prays that the foregoing amendment and restatement of its Articles be approved, that upon compliance with the provision of the Nonprofit Corporation Law they be deemed and taken to be the Restated Articles of the Association and that henceforth the Articles of the Association, as defined in Article I of the Nonprofit Corporation Law, shall not include any prior documents.
For three-quarters of a century, the annual china and glass exhibit held in Pittsburgh was the most important of all trade shows for the U.S. tableware market.1 Since the early ninettenth century Pittsburgh had been a center for glass-making, and by 1880 it was home to numerous important glassworks. Consequently, wholesale and retail buyers regularly traveled to the city to view glassware displayed in local factory showrooms. Two salesmen are credited with founding the Pittsburgh trade show–William B. Ranney of the Co-Operative Flint Glass Company of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, and S.C. Dunlevy of the LaBelle Glass Company of Ohio.
Dissatisfied with the sales of his firm, which was located 35 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, Ranney surmised that buyers coming to inspect the showrooms of large glasshouses in the city would view a display of wares from outlying firms if it was staged in Pittsburgh. For six weeks in January 1880 a voluntary exhibition of glass was organized by salesmen and manufacturers at the elegant Monongahela House Hotel. Although a few potteries joined in the very next year, the annual affair remained primarily a glassware trade show until the early twentieth century. By 1889 the event included displays by seventeen out-of-town factories. Nine years later the show was better organized, included twenty-four manufacturers, and was attended by a respectable number of buyers primarily from the northeast, Midwest, and mid-Atlantic regions.
The size of the show had nearly doubled by 1909, with fifty-one exhibitors, and had doubled again by 1918. In that year the show was well established, with 101 producers represented. Of those participating, fifty-seven were domestic glassmakers, while the remainder consisted of potteries (20), importers (17), and a few makers of other types of goods (7). A decade later 131 purveyors of tableware attended, including a sizable contingent selling English, Continental, and Japanese wares. In 1942 more than one thousand buyers traveled to Pittsburgh for the show, and after the war that number rose as the event expanded. Twelve hundred buyers from all over the United States and Canada attended the 1950 show; the displays at the William Penn hotel that year occupied six floors and filled additional spaces in the lobby.2
Through the decades the trade show evolved in several ways. The exposition changed locations as it required additional space and more up-to-date facilities. In 1909 manufacturers transformed rooms in four hotels into temporary showrooms (fig. 4.7). Although the Monongahela House was still the lead facility that year, the Fort Pitt Hotel, across town (strategically located near the Pennsylvania Railroad station and local glass showrooms) soon emerged as the favored site (fig. 4.8). Along with spaces in other hotels–including the Neville, Schlosser, Anderson, Seventh Avenue, and Henry–the Fort Pitt Hotel held sway from 1910 until 1936, when the entire show moved to the William Penn Hotel.3
Besides location, the duration of the Pittsburgh exhibit also changed over time. In its earliest years the show lasted from. month to six weeks. As traveling became easier in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the show evolved into a two-week event usually held during the second and third weeks of January. In 1936 the sample fair was shortened to one week at the request of buyers, but the month never changed.4 Before the advent of the Pittsburgh show, January was an extremely slow period for glassmakers and potteries. Most purchases had traditionally been made in the fall before the holidays and in the spring in anticipation of the wedding season. By bringing large numbers of wholesale buyers into contact with American and foreign manufacturers or their representatives, the Pittsburgh pottery and glass show was central in transforming the languid winter months into one of the busies times of the year. In January 1920, for example, an observer at the show noted, “The volume of business booked this year…set new high records. Some orders…call for 1921 delivery. Manufacturers will be taxed to the utmost for the first six months of this year. On account of the inability to take care of more business a number of firms moved their samples last week.”5
The organization of the event shifted over time as well. Originally, the exhibit was loosely structured with relatively minor glass and ceramics firms voluntarily participating. But after World War I, as nationally known firms began to exhibit, a more professional structure was needed if the event was to reach its full potential. At the 1921 show a group of American producers formed the Associated Glass and Pottery Manufacturers. Beginning the next year the association assumed responsibility for the show’s organization. One innovation was to further separate the exhibitors into groups: by 1916 domestic manufacturers were showing their wares at the Fort Pitt Hotel, while importers took showrooms in the William Penn. Starting in 1923 the Fort Pitt was officially reserved for American products only. When in 1936 the entire show was held in the William Penn hotel for the first time, the two types of exhibitors were reunited.
Although there were occasional conflicts between the domestic and import camps–as in 1936 when Japanese ware was banned from exhibit in support of the “Buy American” movement–importers played an increasingly important role in the show, especially after World War II.6 The show held in 1948 (following a five-year hiatus at government request) was bigger than ever. The exposition was renamed the Keystone Show in 1949. The number of importers grew until by 1951 the majority of exhibitors displayed foreign wares.7
Although on the surface the Pittsburgh show seemed extremely vibrant in the early postwar era, it was actually in a slow state of decline. The domestic industries it supported, especially ceramics, were entering a period of great disruption. Most American potteries were no longer producing tableware for the home by the early 1960s. Furthermore, several important trade shows began to rival Pittsburgh for the attention of buyers and manufacturers. The earliest and perhaps most critical of these was the Winter Gift Show, which started in 1921 and was held in Chicago during the first week of February.8 The Chicago fair was an important competitor–it was in a bigger city that by 1930 also contained a major home furnishings market with scores of permanent showrooms. In response to this competition the Associated Glass and Pottery Manufacturers increased its advertising efforts, developing slogans such as, “See it first in Pittsburgh.”9
During the interwar years the association’s tactics worked, but new rival shows in Atlantic City and New York, as well as gift and housewares exhibitions and permanent trade marts throughout the country, eventually crippled the Pittsburgh show. The city of Pittsburgh itself ceased to be an asset over time. A leading center of coal, steel, glass production, the city was bleak in January. Barbara Boyd Wedgwood remembers as a young china buyer for Neiman Marcus how dirty she found Pittsburgh: “Exhibitors had to change the white sheets with which they covered their display tables one or more times a day because of the soot that came through the windows into the hotel rooms.”10
Despite the soot, traveling to Pittsburgh to sell or buy was a major event in the lives of hundreds who worked to market chin and glass in America for more than eighty years. In 1950 one longtime attendee wrote:
The Pittsburgh show is more than a trade show. It is an annual reunion of the affiliated trades…Many a buyer made the first real purchase of his career in Pittsburgh. Many of the present day producers first displayed their products there. There is an aura about the show that cannot be described; but it is there. There are thousands in this country who feel, somehow…that they belong to the glassware and pottery industry on they have been to Pittsburgh.11
While perhaps nostalgic, this description has much validity. One came to Pittsburgh in cold January not just to exhibit or view merchandise, but to make new contacts, network with old ones, and scoop one’s rivals. The salesmen’s and manufacturer’s organizations typically held gala meetings, while buyers were feted at great parties given by important producers. Even Barbara Boyd Wedgwood, who vividly recalls the grayness of Pittsburgh in winter, also remembers the lavish parties at which she watched the powerful, and the meek vie for attention. The grandest of these events was sponsored in the mid-1950s by United States Glass Company and was held at a local men’s club. The then-Miss Boyd, along with other female buyers, had to enter the building from a side door, but once inside were treated to extravagant food and entertainment. As Wedgwood laughingly recalled, “I had my first oysters at that party and then ‘went wild.’”12
Ironically the gala events Wedgwood recalls were some of the last ever staged in Pittsburgh by the tableware industry. Within a few years, competition from other shows and turmoil among American manufacturers killed the Pittsburgh show. The last china and glass exposition was held there in 1958.13