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Vitro Agate


Vienna, West Virginia

1932 – 1945

Parkersburg, West Virginia

1945 – 1989

Anacortes, Washington

1989 – 1992

Williamstown, West Virginia

1995 – 2004



Founded during the Great Depression, the Vitro Agate Company had one of the longest runs of any modern marble company and still lives on in a sense at the time of this writing. 


Vitro’s first factory was in Vienna, WV, a suburb of Parkersburg.  They started making marbles in 1932.  They moved to Parkersburg in 1945, where they stayed until 1989.  After that was a short spell in Anacortes, WA, before they were bought by Jabo in 1992.


Henry Arthur Fisher was a plant manager at the Vitrolite Company in Vienna when he went to the law offices of former congressman George W. Johnson of Parkersburg with the idea to start a marble company. Fisher had the knowledge to run it but not the funds.  Johnson, his stenographer Myrtle G. Smith and a local woman of means named Anna M. Stephenson were the official founders of the company.  Fisher would be listed as its president, with Johson as vice-president, and another Vitrolite manager J. Prestley Lindsay as secretary.  Eventually Art Fisher would own the company. 


The name of the company was derived from that of Vitrolite.  Vitro comes from the Latin and means “in glass”.  The Vitrolite Company made heavyweight architectural glass.  Fisher’s initial plan involved using Vitrolite cullet to make the marbles and Vitro’s early marble style names were plays on the Vitrolite name: Clear-Lites, Du-Lites and Tri-Lites.


Under Fisher’s strict management, Vitro weathered WWII and the later invasion of the U.S. marble market by Japanese cat’s eyes, remaining competitive through most of the 60’s.  In 1969 Fisher sold the company Gladding of New York and retired to Florida at the wish of his second wife. 


It was around that time when Vitro lost its edge.  There would be various changes of name and complications involved with ownership over the coming years.  There would be  times when the company seemed viable and times when it did not.  In 1989, Vitro’s marble machines were moved to a Viking Rope Company plant in Anacortes, WA.  For a while the prospects looked good but it appears that the costs of modernizing and competition from imports took their toll.


In late 1992 and 1993, Jabo went through the process of acquiring Vitro’s machines, the remaining inventory and the rights to the Vitro Agate name.  The works were moved to Reno, Ohio, very near Parkersburg, WV.  In many Jabo marbles you can still see the Vitro influence.  Jabo used the Vitro name on some packaging.  They also used it at the Williamstown, WV plant where they made industrial marbles from 1995 until that facility closed in 2004.


Much more colorful information can be found in the books listed at the end of this article, including stories from former employees and information about various Vitro styles.  Two historically important styles were Vitro’s first cat’s eye and the All-Red.  These were introduced in 1954 and 1959, resp., and helped the company survive what turned out to be a very hard decade for American marble makers.  An historically important technique pioneered by Art Fisher in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s was veneering, which allowed Vitro to produce colorful marbles with a minimal amount of colored glass.


Vitro marbles are a great place to start collecting.  They include some of the most recognizable styles, yet enough variety to challenge even veteran collectors.  The later styles can still be found fairly easily and at low cost.  Their earliest marbles have a richness which appeals to many. 





More information:


American Machine-Made Marbles, 2006, Dean Six, Susie Metzler and Michael Johnson


The Vitro-Agate Company: The Marble Museum’s Guide to the “Glass-Agate” Company, 2005, Chris Cooper and Michael Johnson



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