West Virginia was once among the world's chief exporters of glass, supporting more than 400 factories through the 20th century. Now, only a handful of manufacturers remain, though its glass museums and exhibits are growing as destinations for collectors.
What circumstances caused West Virginia to excel, and why did the industry wane? Historians say three factors may have combined to result in the boom and bust. Convenient river and rail transportation, the availability of gas and coal, and the proximity to Pittsburgh—itself a glass giant—made for ideal conditions.