One man, Louie Wohinc, dominated central WV’s glass industry in the 1920s and 1930s. At their height, his factories produced 144,000 pieces of glass every 24 hours – all by hand!
The advantages of locally available raw material, inexpensive heating fuels, and readily available labor first attracted the glass industry to central West Virginia in the late 1800’s. The industry had become a cornerstone of business & employment in Weston WV by the late 1920s.
Louie Wohinc was born in 1880 in Lunlana, Austria. When he was 9 years old he began working in a glass factory in Sagor, Austria. Louie came to Rochester, Pennsylvania to join an uncle in the glasshouse there in 1905. He stayed briefly at various glass houses including one in Tiffin, Ohio then Huntington, WV then Shadyside, then Bastow Manufacturing Company, in Weston, WV and finally around 1910 Louie worked at Belgrade Glass Company in Buckhannon, WV where he stayed for the next ten years. Louie spoke no English and had very little money when he came to America, but by the time he got to Ohio he knew that one day he wanted to have his own factory.
After World War I, Louie returned to Weston but was almost penniless. Soon however, he had a job again at Bastow Manufacturing. In Weston he became a champion glassblower of America. His reputation was that he blew more stemware in a single shift than any other man has ever blown. This record supposedly still stands today! Before Louie had been back with Bastow very long, the firm was operating at a loss. In spite of the excellent quality of glassware produced, sales decreased. The directors offered the management of the company to Louie because he had demonstrated his ability to blow glass and had abundant experience with other glass blowers. But up to now he had no sales experience, the one line of training with extreme importance to the success of the factory. Louie was fearless and had limitless energy.
Although Louie became very good at sales, he could not control the policies of the Bastow company and after 6 years he decided to establish his own factory, the Louie Glass Company, in 1926. With his sales experience orders came from every section of the country. With Louie gone, the Bastow Company was seeing their business decline so they asked Louie to take charge again and he did. This gave him products of two large factories to sell. Louie Glass was in great demand. In fact, he was forced to build a third factory and in 1930 he organized the new West Virginia Glass Company, which was located in Weston as well. Mr. Wohinc by this time employed thousands of employees.
Louie Wohinc operated these plants until his death in 1950 as a result of an unfortunate bar fight accident.