History of WheatonArts

Read About the History of WheatonArts

The American glass industry began in southern New Jersey because of its availability of natural resources such as wood, sand, soda ash, and silica. The nation’s earliest successful glass factory was founded in 1739 by Caspar Wistar in nearby Salem County. Many of the nation’s foremost glass factories operate in South Jersey.

In 1888, Dr. Theodore Corson Wheaton, a pharmacist, began making his own pharmaceutical bottles in a glass factory in Millville. From these beginnings, today’s giant glass manufacturer, Wheaton USA (formerly Wheaton Industries, Inc.), evolved.

In the early 1960s, Dr. Wheaton’s grandson, Frank H. Wheaton, Jr., visited the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York. He discovered that much of the glass created and produced in southern New Jersey was displayed in this museum. He felt that these treasured museum pieces should be displayed in the areas in which they were produced…Southern New Jersey.

WheatonArts (formerly Wheaton Village) became his goal. He searched for and finally located a collection of American glass from the Bucks County Glass Museum in Pennsylvania. This became the foundation for what is now the finest collection of American glass at WheatonArts.

The early collection was housed in the Wheaton family home on High Street in Millville. During this period, Mr. Wheaton assembled a group to build and design what he envisioned as a “typical cross-roads glass community at the turn of the 20th century that included a glass museum.”

In 1970, the first buildings at WheatonArts opened to the public. The present administration building contained the A.G. Paperweight Shop and offices. There was also a gatehouse, a General Store, a museum store called the “Brownstone Emporium,” and support facilities for carpentry and painting. The museum collection continued to be housed on High Street in Millville.

Soon construction began on the Museum of American Glass and the T. C. Wheaton Glass Factory. Until completion of the factory, glassblowing demonstrations were conducted in a glass furnace placed in a small structure adjacent to the entrance. The museum opened in 1973, followed shortly thereafter by the opening of the T. C. Wheaton Glass Factory, Dr. T. C. Wheaton Pharmacy, West Jersey Crafts, Arthur Gorham Paperweight Shop, Crafts and Trades Row and a barn.

To better utilize the facilities offered by the glass factory, a program to support emerging contemporary glass artists was created in 1983. Recognizing the needs of these artists to have access to hot glass, a group of artists including Paul Joseph Stankard and Tom Patti worked with WheatonArts to establish the Creative Glass Fellowship Program (formally known as the Creative Glass Center of America). Through the Fellowship Program, contemporary glass artists are provided with the facilities, equipment, time and housing to further develop their art.

Today, WheatonArts consists of over 45 acres with 18 buildings. The Museum of American Glass houses over 22,000 objects, both historic and contemporary, and the Down Jersey Folklife Center. The fully operational Glass Studio presents daily, interpretive demonstrations for the public with artists showing traditional and contemporary glassblowing techniques. In the Artist Studios, artists demonstrate the traditional southern New Jersey crafts of pottery and flameworking. The 1876 Centre Grove SchoolhouseMuseum Stores (General Store, Arthur Gorham Paperweight Shop, Brownstone Holiday Shop, and The Gallery of Fine Craft) and an Event Center complete the complex.

WheatonArts has achieved recognition not only on a local and regional level, but, through its collections, programs, seminars, and exhibitions, on both a national and international level.