|Birth: ||Apr. 16, 1882|
|Death: ||Mar. 31, 1952|
West Virginia, USA
My father, Lawrence Alley, Jr., told me much of what is written here about his father, and several details were added from research done by myself and by my cousin, Frank Sellers, II, son of Kramer and Naomi Alley Sellers.
At Jamestown colony English settlers constructed a furnace in 1607 and in 1608 produced glass, the first industry in America.
In Oct 2013, my book about my grandfather was published.
"L. E. Alley -- 'Father of West Virginia Swirls' & Maker of Fine Tableware"
Featuring The Alley Agate Co. and Previous Business Ventures - 50 years in the glass industry.
Click to see more about THE BOOK "L. E. Alley" and how to order a copy.
Lawrence E. Alley, Sr. went to work for Fostoria Glass in Moundsville, WV sometime before he and Bertha Weekley married in 1904. This was his first job in the glass business. He started as a carry-in boy. The story told by our family was that the boy who started with him the same day went on to become the company president. William A. B. Dalzell was president and Calvin B. Roe was V.P. both from 1902 to 1928. Roe followed as president until 1945, when William F. Dalzell followed him William F. was 13 in 1904 and was too young to have started with Lawrence. Thus it is not clear with whom Lawrence started. However, we do know that Lawrence amazed the salesmen at the factory when he was able to buy glassware at less than wholesale cost because he knew the president. In the April 1910 census he was painting railroad coaches in Huntington, WV. He soon went to Tri State Glass Manufacturing Company in Huntington which became Pilgrim Glass in 1949. (Lawrence, Jr., my father thought it was Huntington Glass that became Pilgrim Glass. But, Huntington Glass had moved to Marietta, Ohio and burned in 1903.) This may be where he learned to cut glass. Next he did cutting on quality glassware at Fenton Art Glass Co., in Williamstown, West Virginia. He had saved a barrel full of his glassware. It was stored under the porch of his house, and someone stole it. Thus the family has very little of this early glassware that he made and cut.
In 1917 Lawrence formed Kingwood Glass Co., Kingwood, WV. He was Vice President, General Manager and Purchasing Agent. It was a complete glass factory and cutting shop. It did not prosper fast enough to satisfy the investors and it was closed. He went back to Williamstown for a year and then to the Western Glass Company as a cutter at St. Marys. They were incorporated in 1916 for $50,000, made glassware and specialties, and had 93 employees in 1918. His WWI draft registration card dated 12 September 1918 lists him as a glass blower at Western Glass. In the 1920 census he is listed as a glass blower living in Moundsville. It is not known if he was at Fostoria or someplace else. He designed a sandblasting machine for glass, and started a sand-blasting and cutting shop of his own in Shinnston in 1921. They had 8 employees in 1922 and made cut glassware. They are listed as Alley Glass Co. in the 1923 Shinnston directory. Lawrence Jr., who was only about 8 at the time, reported he was general manager of Paquet Glass in Shinnston. The State Bureau of Labor inspected Paquet in 1921 with 75 employees. It also listed Alley Glass as founded in 1921 and inspected in 1922 with 8 employees. Considering the size of Paquet Glass I think he briefly managed Paquet before he founded Alley Glass. In the latter part of 1925, he moved and merged with the Salem Glass Company. The company had financial problems before the merger and closed soon afterwards. Lawrence next worked a short time at Akro Agate, and in Cumberland, Maryland, at one of the 7 companies operating there.
Lawrence began the Ravenswood Glass and Novelty on Wood St. in Ravenswood, WV in 1928. Mr. Alley was the only experienced glass worker in the group. His partners were Charles and Frank Turnbull, Darrell Rector, W. C. Clark, and Charles Mason. All were Ravenswood residents except for Alley. Alley made marbles at Ravenswood for a short time just before he left it. The next year, He started the Lawrence Glass and Novelty Co. with a partner, Dewey Hibbs. It was located in the old button factory in Paden City next door to the Paul Wissmach Glass Co. which is still in operation. Moon ball street light globes were one of the products they made. On 16 October 1930 property was leased in Sistersville and they moved there. In 1931 Berry Pink joined the company. The company's marble-making machines were designed by Lawrence and were built in the Skagg Machine shop in Sistersville. , These machines produced 165 marbles per minute, a quantity not achieved by other machines of that time. There were legal problems and he sold out to the broker in 1932.
Next he started Vitro Agate near Parkersburg, WV. "Henri Arthur (Art) Fisher, Lawrence E. Alley and Press Lindsey founded The Vitro Agate Company on April 19, 1932 at Vienna, West Virginia. In the late 1930s, (sooner) Fisher and Lindsey bought out Alley, and later Art Fisher bought out Lindsey. The original marble-making machines used by Vitro were designed and built by Mr. Fisher. (This statement is in doubt since Lawrence had recently designed excellent machines.) In, May 1945, the company moved to a larger building in Parkersburg." (From History of the Vitro Agate )
Finally in 1932, he started the Alley Agate Company at Pennsboro, WV in an inadequate building and moved in 1936 to St. Marys. Bob Duncan tells us that at one point in Pennsboro the power company was unable to supply them with enough electrical power, so Lawrence put in a gas generator to meet his power needs. Because of his varied experiences Lawrence was knowledgeable of many aspects of the glass business and shared his knowledge with others in the business who needed help in their endeavors. These years of the Great Depression were not easy times to start a business. B. J. Hazelbaker, who worked for the company in Pennsboro, tells us there were times Mr. Alley had cardboard in his shoes to cover the holes in the soles. In September 1936 he purchased the building formerly used by Gilligan Glass Company in St. Marys, which was currently being used by a local grower to pack apples. Interestingly, Frank Sellers, II, who is the grandson of both Lawrence Alley, Sr. and the older Frank Sellers, in the process of researching his grandfather's glass businesses, found that his other grandfather was one of the signers on the St. Marys mortgage., This was a little over a year before his father and mother married.
By January of 1937 he was established in St. Marys. The local businessmen saw the company as an enhancement to the economic future of the community. L. E. Alley of The Alley Agate Company received a Certificate of Appreciation for being the guest speaker at The Kiwanis Club of St. Marys on 20 January 1937. Articles in the St. Marys Oracle report that 750,000 marbles a day were made in June 1937 with four machines running full time, and in July they expected to ship five railroad carloads. The next year they were making 2 million a day. In January 1939 Alley Agate was described as the largest manufacturer of marbles in the world. During the peak of the marble demand in the 1940s they were running at full capacity of 2.6 million marbles a day. During one 6 month period they shipped 14 million Chinese checker marbles. Their primary customer for marbles and "Chiquita" toy dishes was the Jack Pressman toy company. The Chinese checkers game was very big at that time, and a large percentage of the marbles went into the games. His Chinese checker marbles appeared in the National Geographic article on West Virginia industry in August 1940. Although L. E. Alley was the person interviewed in the St. Marys plant, he declined to be identified in the article because he was a modest person who did not like notoriety.
My cousin, Frank Sellers, talked with a woman who had been Mr. Alley's secretary in the early years in Pennsboro. She was an old lady by then. She told Frank that the postmaster had been instructed by Mr. Alley to open the mail and only give Mr. Alley the important pieces. In the mail one day was a letter from Jack Pressman, whom they did not know. He almost threw it out, but decided it might be important and passed it on to Mr. Alley. Pressman became their primary customer with many millions of marbles going into his Chinese checkers. Besides marbles, their products were toy dishes, small glass animals and electrical insulators. The Sylvania Electric Company asked him to produce the glass for radio tubes. He succeeded, in developing the machines for blowing the glass, but the marbles were in so much demand that he declined the business.
Lawrence, Jr. started working for him in 1935 in Pennsboro. The St. Marys plant was a partnership between them. In 1947 the company name was changed to Alley Glass and Manufacturing Company. This reflected the wider product line of more than marbles. Maybe it was just a joke, but the reason my dad (L. E. Alley, Jr.) told me was that they got tired of people thinking their name was Mr. Alley Agate.
Lawrence, Sr. and his son owned this business until he retired in 1949. In July 1949 the company was sold to Berry Pink (previously mentioned) and Sellers Pettier. They changed the name again to Marble King. Pink was a successful businessman and loved to interact with children. The marbles sold under the Marble King header in the 30's and early 40's were actually manufactured by Peltier Glass. By the late 1940's, Pink was selling more marbles than Peltier could produce. They joined forces and formed another manufacturing facility in which Pink held the majority of shares. Berry Pink traveled throughout the country hosting marble tournaments and giving away several marbles at each stop. He became known as "The Marble King". That's how the company got its name when it was founded in December 1949. Marble King was originally located in St. Marys, West Virginia. In January of 1958 a fire destroyed the factory. Roger Howdyshell, who managed the Marble King facility, moved the company to Paden City where it still remains today. Howdyshell … led Marble King to the forefront when he manufactured the first American made Cat's Eye marbles." (from Marble King web site) Lawrence Alley, Sr. was actually responsible for bringing the method of making the cat's eye to this country. He sent some of his people to Japan to buy a Cat's Eye machine. They could not come to an agreement over the price of the machine. But, in the process of negotiations they learned how to make the cat's eye. However, the marble plant was sold before the cat's eye went into production. In 1950 or 1951 the U.S. government asked Mr. Alley to go to Japan to help set up marble factories to aid in their economic recovery. He declined due to failing health.
In the fall of 1948, for other health reasons, Lawrence, Jr. and his family moved to a warmer climate in Clearwater, Florida where he purchased a hardware store, the Harbison Supply Company. Later the name was changed to Clearwater Hardware Company.
Just as it was under the previous name of Alley Agate Co. in 1940; "Today (in 2009) the Marble King is the country's largest maker of marbles, making West Virginia the Marble Capital of the United States."
Information on Lawrence's WWII Draft Card: 5 ft 9 in, 270 lbs. light complexion, blue eyes, bald (Brown hair - WWI Card) Last finger, right hand off at second joint. This was a surprise to find out. I (Lawrence, III) was 13 when he died and never noticed the end of his finger was missing.
• He resided at Huntington, WV, 1326 Washington Ave. in 1910.
• He was employed as a Glass Blower at The Western Glass Co. in 1918 in St. Marys, Pleasants Co., WV.1
• He resided at Moundsville, WV, 901 Third Street in 1920 census.
• He worked as a Glass Blower (Listed in census) in 1920.
• He resided on Clement St. near Pike St. in Shinnston, WV from 1921 to 1925; listed on his father's death certificate.
• He resided at 62 Terrace Ave.(a 2 family house) in 1930 in Salem, Harrison Co., WV. He was a glass worker.
• He resided at 708 4th St., while living in St. Marys, WV.
Another child, Eleanor Geneva Alley Belt (23 February 1907 - 10 June 1992) Born in Moundsville, Marshall Co., WV. Died in Martin Co., FL
Everett Bell Alley (1861 - 1922)
Millicent Ann Napier Alley (1862 - 1891)
Bertha Lydia Weekley Alley (1884 - 1975)
Evelyn May Alley (1905 - 1905)*
Naomi Elaine Alley Sellers (1910 - 1993)*
Lawrence Everett Alley (1913 - 1991)*
Lawrence Everett Alley (1882 - 1952)
Ethel Beulah Alley Epler (1892 - 1925)**
See wife Bertha for photo of gravestone.
West Virginia, USA
Created by: Larry Alley
Record added: May 17, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 37203644
Those we love don't go away...They walk beside us every day...Unseen, unheard, but always near...Still loved, still missed and very dear.|
Betty Lou (Pinkerton) Fulmer
Added: Apr. 28, 2012