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New Gift Shop Another Reason to Visit Glass Museum

Did you hear the news reported last Monday by Joselyn King in this newspaper that Oglebay is now an additional location for the Wheeling Artisan Center?

This new shop is perfect for the park and its visitors — and offers local residents another convenient spot to shop for products with a Wheeling connection.

Located in Carriage House Glass, the new shop is offering glassware by Blenko, Aaron Anslow, Ron Hinkle, Lambros Pottery and other artisan treasures. Art prints, souvenirs and apparel at all price points make it a great place to buy a gift too.

Visit it soon and see for yourself how it fits into your shopping.

The best thing about it is the new shop gives antique enthusiasts another reason to visit the Oglebay Institute Glass Museum, located on the lower floor of the Carriage House Glass building.

There are hundreds of beautiful antique examples of glass in the museum but no piece of Victorian art glass is more famous than Wheeling’s Sweeney Punch Bowl, which is housed in the glass museum. Everyone should see this treasure since it’s an amazing tribute to Victorian glassmaking and Wheeling itself.

Glass collectors all over the world know the story of this famous five-foot tall, lidded glass bowl that was blown and cut from lead glass.

The Irish took particular pride in this treasure since the Sweeney brothers and their success was the realization of the American dream for the glassmaking Irish.

It all began when four Sweeney brothers formed the famous Sweeney glass company in 1830, in Wheeling, Virginia. Two brothers, Robert and Campbell died before Thomas Sweeney designed his huge masterpiece in 1844.

Though there are various stories about the bowl, the most recent and accurate information indicates that Thomas and Michael Sweeney produced two punch bowls that are considered the largest pieces of cut lead crystal ever produced.

Standing five foot in height, holding 16 gallons of punch, they weighed in at 225 pounds and were made with the assistance of five separate moulds. Each section of the large bowl was blown into one of these wooden moulds then cut. Afterwards the unique moulds were destroyed.

The Sweeney Punch Bowls were exhibited in New York and Philadelphia and won awards. The Sweeneys hoped to send them on to the world exposition in London, for display at the Crystal Palace in 1851 — but a factory fire destroyed that idea.

The punch bowl story then picks up again in 1875, when the huge example of Victorian art glass reappeared on Michael Sweeney’s Wheeling grave as a monument. According to legend, the two brothers had a falling out and dissolved their business partnership just four years after the punch bowls were made, making this appearance shocking.

It seems that after his brother died, Thomas visited his grave and was stunned to see one of the punch bowls mounted on the tomb.

His brother’s memorial read: “Michael Sweeney, died Dec. 11, 1875, aged 65 years — 3 mo. — 4 da. “The World is My Country To Do Good My Religion.”

The base of the punch bowl was resting on a slab of granite, carved with these words, “Manufactured by Michael Sweeney — 1844.”

Since Thomas designed the bowl, this final statement seemed an intentional slight, perhaps in retaliation for the fact that Thomas had refused to lend Michael money, precipitating their estrangement.

This punch bowl memorial remained on the grave of Michael Sweeney until 1949, when it was moved to Oglebay Institute’s Mansion Museum for safekeeping and for the public to enjoy.

The granite monument which housed the bowl, minus its glass walls, can still be seen on Sweeney’s grave in Greenwood Cemetery, Wheeling.

Over the years, the gigantic piece of lead glass received some roughing up after the handmade window panes protecting the treasure were broken by vandals and the beautiful cut glass prisms that originally hung from the collar of the bowl disappeared.

Only one of these prisms can be seen today displayed with the bowl. It’s a blessing that this valuable glass monument wasn’t destroyed completely since it was housed outdoors for nearly 75 years.

Though stories persist about the mysterious second punch bowl, its location remains a mystery.

It is known that a Sweeney Punch Bowl was described as being displayed at the National Institute in Washington, D.C. in 1852, then operated by the U.S. Patent Office and later absorbed by the Smithsonian.

But whether this is the same bowl now housed at Oglebay Institute or the second mysterious bowl cannot be determined. The Smithsonian has no record of such a bowl in its collections.

Today you can enjoy the legendary Sweeney Punch Bowl by visiting Oglebay Institute’s Glass Museum, located in the lower level of Carriage House Glass, a perfect place to stop while visiting the new Artisan Center Shop location. Contact the Artisan Center Shop at Oglebay at 304-243-4129 or the OI Glass Museum at 304-242-7272.

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