black and white photograph of Marie Howell in black dress lamp working at a table

Marie Howell in 1960.

Also known as: Marie Swann

Born: 1911, Springfield, Tennessee, United States

Died: 2000, United States

Nationality: American

Family: Howell

Glassworking relatives:

Active: 1940-[at least 1980s]

Associated acts:

  • The Amazing Howell Glass Blowers

Brief biography

Little is known about Marie S. Howell’s early life. She was born Marie Swann to Joel Bowers Swann and Laura Bell Swann (née Rose) in Springfield, Tennessee, in 1911. Her father was a farm laborer and later the manager of the Stewart Williams furniture store in town. She met Robert M. Howell, Jr., in Miami, Florida, where he was performing with the group of touring World’s Fair glassworkers. The two were married on March 3, 1940, in Broward County, Florida.

Howell learned lampworking after she was married. She specialized in crocheting glass.1

During World War II, most of the Howells made scientific glassware for the war effort. Howell and her husband were no exception, working for the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. According to her husband, Howell was one of 16 women to get a presidential citation for her work there.

By 1945, Howell and her husband had set up a shop at the Pine Beach Resort near Brainerd, Minnesota. During the tourist season they demonstrated their craft, and in the off-season they toured high schools and colleges, lampworking for students. In 1953, the couple closed the shop and moved to Pleasant View, Tennessee, close to Howell’s hometown. They parked their trailer next to the Blanket Store gift shop2 on U.S. Route 41A, and demonstrated to tourists from 1953 to 1955.

In October 1955, the Howells moved to Winter Haven, Florida, and opened their show at The Great Masterpiece near Lake Wales. They demonstrated at the attraction for close to ten years, leaving in 1963. In 1964, they demonstrated at the New York World’s Fair, and the following year they participated in the Florida Showcase at the Rockefeller Center in New York City. They made a spun glass dress for the Showcase, which Howell wore during their demonstrations.

The couple opened a new shop on State Route 540 near Cypress Gardens, operating it until they retired in 1968. Soon they decided they weren’t ready for retirement, and opened a shop in their backyard. Here, they made glass until the early 1980s.

The Howells appeared on a number of television shows, including the Today Show and the shows of Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson.

Howell died in 2000. She is buried in Springfield Memorial Gardens in Springfield, Tennessee.

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