William F. Kelz was one of many talented glass artisans that worked their trade in Wayne County, Pa., in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For a few years, Kelz was Shop Foreman at the J. S. O’Connor Rich Cut Glass Company in Hawley, at the base of the Paupack Falls.
HAWLEY - William F. Kelz was one of many talented glass artisans that worked their trade in Wayne County, Pa., in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For a few years, Kelz was Shop Foreman at the J. S. O’Connor Rich Cut Glass Company in Hawley, at the base of the Paupack Falls.
Kelz and his family are known to have lived in Hawley and Honesdale, and in later years, in Colingswood, New Jersey. He worked as a glass cutter or in management in several cut glass firms.
No pictures have been located of William F. Kelz, but one has been found of his son while still in school.
William F. Kelz -“F.” may have been for “Frederick” - was born near Narrowsburg, NY, January 30, 1869. His parents, George and Pauline (Conrad) Kelz had immigrated from Germany. They met and were wed in New York State; Mrs. Kelz died at the age of 43, in 1873.
The elder Mr. Kelz worked as a farmer. He was a member of the German Lutheran Church. A biography published in 1900 stated that since his first wife died, he was three times married.
In 1884 they relocated to Honesdale, Wayne County. William was 13 at the time.
William was the youngest of nine children. They were Louis, a farmer; Gus, a sailor; Charles, a machines; Bertha; Otto, a blacksmith; Leonard, a butcher; Julius, a bottler of mineral water; and Edward, who worked with Julius at his bottling works in Honesdale.
Started career at 14
At the age of 14, William began learning the glass trade with John S. O’Connor, who at that time was associated with Dorflinger Glass Company in White Mills.
At the end of six years, Kelz went to Brooklyn, NY, working two years with Al Strauss & Son Glass Manufacturing Co. He then came to Hawley and went to work for O’Connor at his new factory, built in 1890.
This celebrated firm had a capacity of 250 frames, stations where glass artisans did their work. O’Connor bought his glass blanks from Dorflinger, where the glass was blown.
Serving as a journeyman for one year, Kelz was promoted to foreman of the shop.
“He is acknowledged to be one of the finest glass cutters in the country,” his 1900 biographer stated.
J.S. O’Connor Rich Cut Glass was sold in January 1902, and became Maple City Cut Glass Company. Kelz stayed on as manager of the Maple City firm.
Today the blue stone structure houses Ledges Hotel.
Life in Hawley
On November 16, 1890, at Long Ridge (near Hawley), Kelz married Jennie Compton. Born to them were two children, Lucy Ethel (known as Lu Ethel), born in 1893, and William Frederick Kelz Jr., born November 24, 1896 at Hawley.
His wife was the daughter of David F. and Anna (Tilden) Compton of Palmyra Township, Wayne County.
“Mr. and Mrs. Kelz have a pleasant home in Hawley, tastefully furnished, and there they delight to entertain their many friends,” the biographer penned.
Exactly where they lived has not been learned, but the 1906 Hawley directory places them on Erie Street. This later became Welwood Avenue, and is within the Eddy section of town, in easy walking distance from O’Connor’s glass factory. After moving, in February 1911 Kelz sold his Hawley property to Frederick G. Rose, a blower at Hawley Glass Company. Rose, in 1912, was listed as living on Paupack Street, near Falls Avenue, in the Eddy.
Kelz was a Republican, his biographer added.
Kelz was named president of the newly formed Roosevelt Lodge No. 259 M.P.A. in Hawley. The lodge was chartered, November 27, 1905 with a membership of 30.
Kelz-Myers Cut Glass
Kelz joined with Frank J. Myers to form the Kelz-Myers Cut Glass company, incorporated June 20, 1906. Despite Kelz having first “billing,” Myers was president; Kelz was secretary and Leonard B. Guckenberger was treasurer.
Kelz-Myers Cut Glass occupied an imposing, four-story brick and stone building at the end of Willow Avenue, at the foot of Cliff Street and facing the bridge to 4th Street. Myers had constructed the building in 1902. It was first used as a knitting mill, and became one again, after the glass factory closed only four years after opening.
It had 20 frames, where exquisite glassware was produced. They were employing 60 people in 1907, utilizing original patterns.
In December 1907, Myers had bought out the stock of his other partners. Kelz became foreman of the MacKanna Cut Glass Company on Main Street. In 1910, Kelz resigned and formed, and became president of the Honesdale Union Cut Glass Company.
Myers’ son joined him in business, and the firm on Willow Avenue became Frank J. Myers & Son, Inc., but was in business only from 1908 to 1910. His closing may have been due, partly at least, to the devastating glass workers’ strike in Honesdale, in 1910.
Honesdale Union Cut Glass
Honesdale Union Cut Glass Company was located at Industrial Point, a section in Honesdale bordered by 12th and 11th streets, and Court Street, and rounded on two sides by the turn in the Lackawaxen River. Several firms were located in the corner, with and excellent view of Irving Cliff.
Serving with Kelz was Ray Bayly, Vice-president; J. T. Kuhn, secretary and Walter E. Bayly, treasurer. They were located in a two story brick building, with a 100-frame capacity. They first rented the first floor, and as business grew, rented the second. The company remained a union shop, with workers required to be part of the union. This continued after the strike, while other plants became “open” shops.
Honesdale Union Cut Glass Company closed in 1916. The building still stands (2017) and for many years was the home of the Honesdale Ambulance Company.
Life in Honesdale
He and his family had relocated to Honesdale when he was partnering with Frank J. Myers. In 1909, the Kelz family took residence at 511 Church Street. This was just a short walk across the bridge at 4th Street, to his new place of business.
In May 1909, a news item reported that Kelz stopped a runaway horse and wagon in Honesdale. The horse had been frightened by an automobile. The wagon driver, from Mast Hope Road, was thrown off and dragged almost 50 feet, but escaped injury.
A news article from March 1912 about the Jenkins’ Boy Band listed William Kelz (Jr.) as playing Alto. The teenager was also on his high school basketball team in Honesdale. A story in June 1913 told of William Kelz being part of class of 23 candidates going the Grace Episcopal Church.
Glass co. manager in Camden
By 1920, Kelz and his family were living in Collingwood, Camden, NJ, where he was manager of another cut glass factory. More information has not been found, except a reference in a genealogical search, to “Wm. F. Kelz & Son Light Cut Glass, New Jersey.”
A 1920 business directory listed a Camden City Gut Glass Co., Camden, NJ, which employed 30 people in the manufacture of tableware.
According to the 1920 census, Kelz was 50, and his wife 47. Their son William was a clerk for Energy Food Corp., and was living at home with his wife, Marion. Also living there was daughter, Lu Ethel Kelz, a department store saleslady. They lived at 34 Washington Avenue.
Became a policeman
The cut glass industry waned in the 1920s, with many firms closing. Factors cited include changing consumer tastes; difficulty getting raw materials during World War I and Prohibition, which cut the demand for wine glasses and related vessels.
Kelz changed careers. By 1930 he was working as a sergeant in the police department. His son was also employed by the police department in the Township of Hadden.
His son and his wife were listed in the 1930 census as living in Camden, with their two children, William B. and Bettie Lou.
William F. Kelz Sr. died November 10, 1941. His wife Jennie died, November 25, 1945.
The Glass Industry in Wayne County, Pa. (2003) by Walter B. Barbe and Kurt A. Reed
Wayne County Herald and Citizen newspapers, at fultonhistory.com
Census data from Ancestry.com