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Big Pine Key Glass Works

With thanks to Dwight A. Pettit Jr., the son of Dwight A. Pettit Sr., who was the original factory manager and glass artist, for the personal information and the photographs he provided for this article.

 

Big Pine Key Glass Works factory

Big Pine Key in Florida had an industry that was not found at any other Florida Key - a glass foundry - the Big Pine Key Glass Works (BPKGW), shown on the left. It was the first glass factory in the Keys, built on the west end of Big Pine Key, and had two periods of operation from 1965-69 and 1970-73. 

 

BPKGW was set up by Les Cunningham (the owner, and previously of the Imperial Glass factory) with Dwight A. Pettit Sr. who was a commercial artist by trade, as is shown by his splendid oil painting of the interior of the glass works on the right. 

Dwight Sr's oil painting of the factory

 

The factory was built by Les and Dwight with members of Dwight’s family - his wife Marianne and their three sons, Anthony, Dwight Jr. and Dana and Dwight’s brother Russel. Dwight Sr., his three sons, and Les all made the glass, and to complete the Pettit family’s involvement in the business, Marianne and daughter Valerie Ann ran the glass showroom and gift store, together with an antique bottle section and a painting gallery connected to the front of the glass works. The antique bottles were liquor and medicine bottles dug up in the Keys. 

 

Product lines and maker's marks

 

The factory made glass bottles and flasks, ash trays, paper weights, and limited edition souvenir flasks and plates.

 

Glass bottle made at Big Pine Key GW

Glass bottle and stopper, Big Pine Key GW

Making a paperweight

Examples of BPKGW's output of flasks and bottles. See more below.

A picture from the archives showing a paperweight being made (on a punty rod) at BPKGW, and the finished article.

Souvenir plate, BPKGW

Souvenir plate for Collector's Weekly, BPKGW

Dwight Jr.and Dwight Sr. at Sebring Glass Works

A special edition plate - "Liberty" (aka "Statue of Liberty" and "Americana"), made by BPKGW. The inscription on the back reads:

LIMITED EDITION COLLECTOR'S WEEKLY 1971

  The picture is from when Dwight Jr. (left) and Dwight Sr. were at the Sebring Glass Works (see layer). Dwight Jr. as a teenager, at the furnace - temperature 2,200 degrees F - gathers a gob of glass for a paperweight, and Dwight Sr. making a paperweight.

 

At first, items were unmarked: the paperweights had ground bases (to remove the pontil mark) and had paper labels saying either “Dwight’s Glass Works” or “The Big Pine Key Glass Works”. After the factory had been up and running for a few months, they introduced a BPKGW mark stamped in the glass.

 

The BPKGW marks:

 

 

 

A triangle stamp in the base or side with the letters inside of an upside down triangle "B P K" across the top, "G" in the middle and then the letter "W" in the tip of the upside down triangle. (see picture, although it is hard to photograph!)

 BPKGW Triangle mark

 

The other stamp was the letters "B P K G W" with a triangle next to it on the right.

  

 

Some of the Carnival plates have Les Cunningham's mark on them - a capital letter “ C ” enclosing an “ i ” (see the Apache Scout illustration below). Among his considerable memorabilia from the factory, Dwight Jr. has the original BPKGW Triangle stamp that was used to mark their glass.

 

BPKGW was in operation initially from 1965 until 1969 and then again from 1970 to 1973. It finally closed in 1973 when Les Cunningham was tragically killed in a car crash when assisting a game protector to chase deer poachers at night.

 

When BPKGW closed temporarily in 1969, Dwight Sr. and Dwight Jr. moved to Plano, Illinois, returning to Florida in 1972 to set up and run the Sebring Glass Works company, where they continued to design and make their glass until 1975.

 

BPKGW’s Carnival Glass production 

 

Dwight Jr. does not recall making Carnival Glass at BPKGW whilst he and his father were there in 1965 to 1969, but that’s not to say they definitely did not make any at that time. However, it’s likely that most of the factory’s Carnival was made during the second period of operation in 1970 to 1973, and that Carnival production volumes were quite limited. 

 

The known (to date) Carnival Glass production at BPKGW is: 

Flasks and bottles

Harry S Truman flask “The buck stops here” (see right). Made in cobalt blue. Read more here.

 

Insulator bottles. 

Harry S Truman flask

 

5.25” plates

 

Lyndon B Johnson “Come let us reason together” - 115 in cobalt blue.

 

Harry S Truman “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” - 106 in cobalt blue.

  

McGovern – Eagleton. 500 in amethyst.

 

McGovern – Shriver. 250 in amethyst.

 

Nixon – Agnew. 250 in amethyst. 

Apache Scout plate, cobalt Carnival

 

Back of Apache Scout plate

Apache Scout - pictured above right - in cobalt blue. Note the "C" enclosing an " i " mark.

 

Statue of Liberty (aka "Liberty" and "Americana") -  pictured right. A special edition of 99 in cobalt blue made for Collector's Weekly. 

 

Flying Eagle. 174 made in cobalt blue. 

Statue of Liberty plate, cobalt Carnival

Back of Statue of Liberty plate

 

More examples of BPKGW's workmanship - pictures courtesy of Dwight Jr.

 

More flasks for Collectors Weekly

BPKGW flask

 

Paperweight

 

Vase

 

Sources: 

The personal recollections, information and photos from Dwight A. Pettit Jr., son of factory manager Dwight Sr. 

“Modern Carnival Glass, Collectors Book II” by Lloyd Reichel, 1974.  

“Encore” by Dorothy Taylor, December 1986. 

Ray Reichard’s writing on Carnival Glass plates in the August and December 1989 issues of “Encore” by Dorothy Taylor.

 

Copyright © G&S Thistlewood & Dwight A Pettit Jr, 2010.