black and white photograph of Robert Howell, Jr. in light colored suit lamp working at a table

Robert Howell, Jr., in 1960.

Also known as: Bob Howell, R. M. Howell, Reil Howell

Born: February 26, 1904, Camden, South Carolina, United States

Died: September 6, 1984, Winter Haven, Florida, United States

Nationality: American

Family: Howell

Glassworking relatives:

Active: [1912-early 1980s]

Associated acts:

Brief biography

Robert M. Howell, Jr., was born to Robert M. Howell, Sr., and Ethel Maude Howell (née Pauley) in Camden, South Carolina, on February 26, 1904. He stated that he began playing around with glass when he was six. On his eighth birthday, his parents gifted him with a torch and began to teach him lampworking; he joined the family demonstrations once they deemed him ready. Howell studied chemistry in college.

In 1939, the family made perhaps their most notable appearance at the New York World’s Fair, demonstrating at the Glass Blowers of the World pavilion. Howell later toured the country with many of the glassworkers who worked at the pavilion, and met his future wife Marie Swann while performing with the group in Miami, Florida. The two were married on March 3, 1940, in Broward County, Florida.

During World War II, most of the Howells made scientific glassware for the war effort. Howell and his wife were no exception, working for the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

By 1945, Howell and his wife 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 Marie’s hometown. They parked their trailer next to the Blanket Store gift shop1 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 Marie 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 Winter Haven, Florida, on September 6, 1984. He is buried in Springfield Memorial Gardens in Springfield, Tennessee.

Related posts