Biography: Kenneth M. Wilson
The 1997 Rakow Grant for Glass Research was awarded to Kenneth M. Wilson for the completion of a definitive study of the Mount Washington Glass Works.
Mr. Wilson, an author, lecturer, consultant, and glass jewelry maker from Punta Gorda, Florida, has written several books and many articles about American glass. He has been studying the Mount Washington factory for more than 30 years. The Rakow Grant enabled him to complete the research and the acquisition of photographs and photocopies necessary for the publication of a book entitled The Mount Washington Glass Works & Its Successors—Pairpoint.
In the final phase of his research, Mr. Wilson planned to visit several libraries and to interview former Pairpoint employees and descendants of employees.
The book, Mr. Wilson said, “will establish the Mount Washington Glass Works as one of America’s most outstanding glass manufacturers. It will provide a wealth of information not now available and dispel many misconceptions about this factory and its products.” The book was expected to contain about 600 pages and as many as 600 illustrations, half of which were to be in color. It presented a detailed history of the glassworks from its founding about 1837 in South Boston to its present-day operations in Sagamore, Massachusetts.
“The Mount Washington/Pairpoint factory is unusual in that it has a much longer history than most American glass companies,” said Jane Shadel Spillman, curator of American glass at The Corning Museum of Glass. “Its products ranged from standard American pressed glass in the factory’s early years to innovative art glasses, chandeliers, and cut glass in the 1890s, and to museum reproductions today. Unlike most of the New England glass manufacturers, Mount Washington/Pairpoint did not close at the end of the 19th century, but managed to adapt its products to suit the changing tastes of its customers. Its history is a microcosm of the American glass industry, and Mr. Wilson’s book will therefore be of interest both to collectors of Mount Washington glass and to students of American glass in general.”
Mr. Wilson, a native of Philadelphia, received fine arts degrees from Lehigh University and the University of Pennsylvania. He began his curatorial career at the Delaware State Museum in 1951, and he worked at Old Sturbridge Village from 1955 to 1963. For the next 10 years, he served as curator, assistant director, and chief curator at The Corning Museum of Glass. In 1973, he became director of collections and preservation at the Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, and he retired there as senior curator of American decorative arts in 1987.
A Fellow of the American Institute of Conservation and an honorary Fellow of The Corning Museum of Glass, Mr. Wilson is the author of Glass in New England (1959) and New England Glass and Glassmaking (1972). He co-authored American Bottles and Flasks and Their Ancestry with Helen McKearin in 1978, and his book American Glass, 1760–1930 was published by The Toledo Museum of Art and Hudson Hills Press in 1994.
Mr. Wilson is past president of both The National American Glass Club and the New York State Craftsmen, and he serves as consultant to numerous museums and glass-related groups. As an active craftsman, he produces glass paperweights, glass sculpture, and jewelry.