The important American glass industry began in southern New Jersey because of the availability of natural resources such as wood, sand, soda ash and silica. The nation’s earliest successful glass factory was founded in 1789 by Caspar Wistar in nearby Salem County in Millville. 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.Early in the 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 housed the museum collection. There was also a gatehouse, a General Store, a museum store called the “Brownstone Emporium,” and support facilities for carpentry and painting.
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. (The Pharmacy is now the “Down Jersey Folklife Center” and West Jersey Crafts has become “The Gallery of Fine Craft.”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 Center of America.” Through contemporary glass artists are provided with the facilities, equipment, time and housing to further develop their art.