Not your grandma’s china: her glassware, perhaps

Staff photos by Gage Cureton Bob Heise holds up a glass manufactured by Heisey Glass Company as Bev Heise speaks about the company’s history Thursday during the Brown County Historical Society’s Lunch and a Bite of History Program. The Heises are longtime collectors of Heisey glassware and own nearly 2,500 pieces.

NEW ULM — This isn’t your grandmother’s china — maybe her glassware, though.

The Brown County Historical Society (BCHS) featured Heisey glassware collectors Bev and Bob Heise for its Lunch and a Bite of History program Thursday at the BCHS annex.

The Heises gave a presentation on the history of The Heisey Glass Company and shared possible ties that the Ohio-based company may have had with New Ulm and Minnesota.

During the presentation, Bob said his and Bev’s muse of collecting Heisey glassware began decades ago after Bev was browsing an antique store in the Twin Cities and she came across a Heisey stem glass. Bev was intrigued by the similarity between their last name [Heise] and the glassware company’s and the two set off on beginning their 2,500 piece collection.

“Well, that started what we sometimes call ‘the addiction,'” Bob said during the presentation. “We’ve been at it now for 35 years.”

Heisey Glass Company, founded in Newark, Ohio, in 1895, was a fine-quality glassware manufacturer known at the time for its product’s high clarity and brilliance.

Bob said he and Bev attended Heisey glassware conventions with fellow collectors for years, and then he began to wonder if the Ohio-native company had any connections with Minnesota.

“I started doing some research,” he said. “I found after starting to look through the monthly newsletters that there was a connection.”

He said the old Heisey newsletters were published for almost 40 years when Heisey was in production, and luckily for him, they were preserved digitally. He found that A.H. Heisey, the glass company’s founder, had a sister who moved to New Ulm in 1859.

Through research, Bob also found that she lived in New Ulm during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 when the town was attacked by indigenous people.

He said A.H. Heisey’s sister also had input in the company’s trademark during its early years.

Soon after Bob presented some historical facts about Heisey, Bev lead a showing of some of the pieces from their large collection.

She said Minnesota has another connection to the glass company through a man named Emmett Olson who joined the company in 1919. She said Olson had a nephew who lived in Mankato.

Initially, Olson’s job was fitting stoppers, but after he completed a six-month apprenticeship, he was moved into the batch room to mix ingredients. He later became Heisey’s chemist and was involved in the creation of most of the company’s colors.

The Heisey Glass Company remained in production until 1957. Throughout its history of operations, its products were featured and sold in prominent department stores across the country.

Gage Cureton can be emailed at gagecureton@nujournal.com.