Thursday, May 1, 2014

Vintage Glass Obsessions: Kemple Glass

Currently I am fascinated with vintage glass.  Obsessed, you might say.

1960s Kemple version of McKee's "Cane, Band & Rose"
When we found this pretty glass compote in one of the boxes we’d bought at an estate sale in rural central NC, I fell in love with it right away.  I spent some time researching it online and was feeling pretty sure that it was EAPG, or early American pattern glass, but the maker’s name continued to elude me until I asked for ID help in a facebook group for the Early American Pattern Glass Society, a non-profit group of collectors and dealers whose mission is "to foster and encourage the collection, appreciation, study, preservation, and documentation of early American pattern glassware, and its place in American life, past and present."

I found out that our lovely piece of glass is a vintage reproduction of an antique EAPG compote.  The maker was Kemple Glass, and the pattern is “Cane, Band & Rose” in the color amber, manufactured some time between 1950 and 1970, most likely in the 60s.  It was made from an antique glass mold from the McKee Glass Company, originally used during the earliest years of the 20th century to make McKee’s “Innovation” cut glass line, which featured a variety of designs and patterns deeply cut into heavy glassware, meant to resemble elegant cut glass - and I think our compote really does.

Kemple Glass Company began in 1945 when a glassmaker and an entrepreneur married and joined forces as business partners as well as life partners.  John Kemple came from a long family line of glassmakers and had worked for Fostoria Glass.  His new wife, Geraldine, had a shrewd head for business.  She had already worked in advertising and was a retail shop owner - no small feat for a single woman in the 1940s - when she married John, and they sold her gift shop in order to finance the opening of their new glass company.  Originally located in East Palestine, Ohio, the Kemples relocated the company to Kenova, West Virginia, in 1956.

The newly-formed Kemple Glass immediately bought up antique glass molds from the 19th century from several companies, including Mannington Art Glass, Phoenix Glass, George Duncan & Sons, Gillinder & Sons, Dithridge Glass, Co-operative Flint Glass, and Wilson Glass, and began making reproductions from these molds in milk glass.  All Kemple Glass pieces came with paper labels, and almost all of the molds had the letter "K" added to them whether they had been marked by the original maker or not so that there would be no misrepresentation of the pieces.  Kemple's motto was "Authentic Antique Reproductions."

1960s Kemple version of McKee's Aztec pattern, in blue

In the mid to late 1950s, Kemple Glass purchased more antique EAPG molds, this time from McKee Glass, which was having financial difficulties and was in the process of being acquired by Thatcher Glass.  Among the molds purchased in addition to the Innovation line were the Prescut line, which includes many of the patterns for which McKee is still best known, like Yutec and Aztec.  Kemple used these molds to branch out beyond just milk glass into colored glass as well in the 1960s, and our pretty compote is the happy result of that - as well as this blue bowl, also listed in our shop, which is Kemple's version of McKee's Aztec.  This piece is a rose bowl, meant to float flowers - and wouldn't waxy white gardenias or pink hydrangeas be lovely in this?
In 1970 John died, and Geraldine decided to close Kemple Glass; John had been sick since 1967, and she had been caring for him as well as running the business, so I can only imagine how tired she must have been. She sold nearly a thousand of Kemple’s molds to the Wheaton Historical Association, which produced many beautiful colored glass pieces from the molds in the 70s, first under the name “Wheatonware,” which was sold at home parties, and later under the name “Wheatoncraft,” sold in brick and mortar stores.  At Geraldine's request, Wheaton added a "W" to the Kemple molds.

Ready? 1970s Wheaton version of a 1960s Kemple version of a McKee 1910 original...

This pretty candleholder, available from Unusual Finds n Designs on etsy, is a Wheaton version of a Kemple version of an original McKee :::whew::: pattern, Toltec, from the Prescut line.

More on Wheaton coming soon... stay tuned as my vintage glass obsession

Visit us on etsy at Gypsum Moon Vintage for vintage and antique items for your home, kitchen, office; at Gypsum Moon Rocks for crystals and stones, lapidary, jewelry and craft supplies, gorgeous sterling silver gemstone jewelry, and crystal air gardens; and at Gypsum Moon Style for vintage and upcycled clothing, jewelry, and accessories for women and men.


  1. Fascinating, both for the story of the glass and the story of the business!