By Jef Rietsma
Collector? Jacqueline Wnuk.
Collection? Vaseline glass.
What is vaseline glass? “I have a printout that provides a brief history of vaseline glass and it says vaseline glass, also known as uranium glass, was made from 1840 up until the war, and then production resumed in 1959 to the present. It says current manufacturers include Fenton Glass, Summit Glass and Mosser Glass.”
Wnuk said vaseline glass is distinctive because of its yellow-green hue. Authentic vaseline glass glows when exposed to a black light.
When did your collection begin? “In the 1960s, I started going to antique stores, flea markets and auctions, and you could readily find pieces. Its color intrigued me and it wasn’t anything my mother or grandmother collected, but it just caught my eye and I decided I was going to try picking up various pieces as I discover them. I started by collecting shoes and then I started getting other things made of vaseline glass.”
How many pieces do you own? “I’d guess about 30. I just don’t have the display space anymore so I don’t look for pieces like I once did. But I do enjoy what I do have … the unique color is so pretty.”
What is an anecdote you can share about collecting vaseline glass? “I went to a Red Hat convention down in Nashville. On our way home, I bought a little piece, like for toothpicks, in a town called Smiths Grove, Kentucky. It has a heron molded into one side and a peacock on the other. We actually stopped at a number of antique shops on that trip.”
Wnuk, who once bought a set of four lunch plates from a diner, paying $4 a plate, said she used to find pieces at a market in Shipshewana, Indiana, but felt the pieces were overpriced and chose to not purchase from there.
What are some examples of vaseline pieces? “Shoes, of course, which I have a few. There’s a candy dish, a pitcher, a vase, a basket, I’ve seen something that looks like a goblet, there are literally dozens of pieces that I’ve seen. My favorite that I own could be used as a dish that you’d maybe line with a cloth and serve rolls in. My daughter found it online and bought it for me and, because of that, it means a lot to me.”
What is the most you ever paid for a piece? “I think about $80. It’s a larger piece – triangular in shape – and it fits into a stand. I found it at an antique store in Lewiston, N.Y.”
Are you familiar with a piece that you wish you owned but don’t? “Not really. I haven’t seen anything that I really, really want. Besides that, it’s getting harder and harder to find vaseline glass anymore.”
Where will your collection eventually end up? “Through the years I’ve given my daughter about 20 pieces and she’ll eventually get the rest of the collection I currently have.”
By the way, how do you pronounce your last name? “Wuh-NUKE. It’s a Polish name.”
Footnotes: Wnuk, 88, lives in South Portage. She grew up in Niagara Falls, N.Y., but has lived in Michigan since 1962.
[Editor’s Note: The name and the color come from addition of a small amount of uranium oxide in the glass-making process.]
By Jef Rietsma