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Early Amercian Glass Makers

Modern Glass Making

Ohio River Valley--Hometown of American Glass

Early American Glass Makers. The first factory in what is now the United States was a glass plant built at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1608. The venture failed within a year because of a famine that took the lives of many colonists. The Jamestown colonists tried glassmaking again in 1621, but an Indian attack in 1622 and the scarcity of workers ended this attempt in 1624. The industry was reestablished in America in 1739, when Caspar Wistar built a glassmaking plant in what is now Salem County, New Jersey. This plant operated until 1780.

Bottles and flasks were first used chiefly for whiskey, but the patent-medicine industry soon used large numbers of bottles. The screw-top Mason jar for home canning appeared in 1858. By 1880, commercial food packers began to use glass containers. Glass tableware was used in steadily increasing quantities. The discovery of petroleum and the appearance of the kerosene lamp in the early 1860's led to a demand for millions of glass lamp chimneys. All these developments helped to expand the market for glass.


Wistar is one of the great names of early American glass. The second great American glassmaker was Henry William Stiegel, also known by his nickname, "Baron" Stiegel. Stiegel made clear and colored glass, engraved and enameled glass, and the first lead glass produced in North America. A third important American glassmaker was John F. Amelung, who became best known for his elegant engraved glass.

Another important early American glass, Sandwich glass, was made by the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company, founded by Deming Jarves in 1825. It was long believed to be the first company in America to produce pressed glass. But the first was actually the Bakewell, Page, and Bakewell Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which began to make pressed glass earlier in 1825. These two companies and many others soon made large quantities of inexpensive glass, both pressed and blown. Every effort was made to produce a “poor man's cut glass.” In lacy Sandwich, for example, glassmakers decorated molds with elaborate designs to give the objects a complex, lacelike effect.

In the early 1800's, the type of glass in greatest demand was window glass. At that time, window glass was called crown glass. Glassmakers made it by blowing a bubble of glass, then spinning it until it was flat. This process left a sheet of glass with a bump called a crown in the center. By 1825, the cylinder process had replaced the crown method. In this process, molten glass was blown into the shape of a cylinder. After the cylinder cooled, it was sliced down one side. When reheated, it opened up to form a large sheet of thin, clear window glass. In the 1850's, plate glass was developed for mirrors and other products requiring a high quality of flat glass. This glass was made by casting a large quantity of molten glass onto a round or square plate. After the glass was cooled, it was polished on both sides.

In the 1890s, two corporate conglomerates headquartered in Pittsburgh--the National Glass Company and the United States Glass Company--owned and operated most of the glass plants which produce decorative and utilitarian glassware in distinctive colors. During the first decaded of Twentieth Century, however, several individual entrepreneurs sought to found and operate independent glassmaking organizations, such as Fenton, Blenko.

Modern Glass Making Changes in the fuel used by the glass industry affected the location of glass factories. In the early days when wood was used as fuel, glassworks were built near forests. By 1880s, coal had become the most widely used fuel for glassmaking, and glassmaking operations were near large coal deposits. After 1880, natural gas became accepted as the perfect fuel for melting glass. Today, most glass manufacturing plants are near the major sales markets. Piplelines carry petroleum and natural gas to the glass plants.

After 1890, the development, manufacture, and use of glass increased rapidly. The science and engineering of glass as a material are now so much better understood that glass can be tailored to meet an exact need. Any one of thousands of compositions may be used. Machinery has been developed for precise, continuous manufacture of sheet glass, tubing, containers, bulbs, and a host of other products.

New methods of cutting, welding, sealing, and tempering, as well as better glass at lower cost, have led to new uses of glass. Glass is now used to make pipelines, cookware, building blocks, and heat insulation.

Ordinary glass turns brown when exposed to nuclear radiation, so glass companies developed a special nonbrowning glass for use in observation windows in nuclear power plants. More than 10 tons (9 metric tons) of this glass are used in windows in one nuclear power plant. In 1953, automobile manufacturers introduced fiberglass-plastic bodies. Today, such materials are used in architectural panels to sheathe the walls of buildings. They are also used to make boat hulls and such products as missile radomes (housings for radar antennas). Other types of glass have been developed that turn dark when exposed to light and clear up when the light source is removed. These photochromic glasses are used in eyeglasses that change from clear glasses to sunglasses when worn in sunlight.

During the late 1960's, glass manufacturers established collection centers where people could return empty bottles, jars, and other types of glass containers. The used containers are recycled—that is, broken up and then melted with silica sand, limestone, and soda ash to make glass for new containers. Glass can be recycled easily because it does not deteriorate with use or age. In addition to the collection centers, some communities have set up systems to sort glass and other reusable materials from regular waste pickups.

In the 1970's, optical fibers were developed for use as "light pipes" in laser communication systems. These pipes maintain the brightness and intensity of light being transmitted over long distances. Types of glass that can store radioactive wastes safely for thousands of years were also developed during the 1970's.

The late 1900's brought important new specialty glasses. Among the new specialty glasses were transparent glass ceramics, which are used to make cookware, and chalcogenide glass, an infrared-transmitting glass that can be used to make lenses for night vision goggles.

Ohio River Valley--the Hometown of American Glass

For nealy two centuries, the Ohio valley has been the epicenter of American's top glass manufacturers, Cities large and small on both sides of the Ohio River have been home of factories which made te crystal and colored glassware for our nation's tables.

In the 1890s, two corporate conglomerates headquartered in Pittsburgh--the national Glass Company and United States Glass Company--owned and operated most of the glass plants which produced decorative and utilitarian glassware in distinctive colors.

Ohio River Valley was the center of the center of the gas deposits hundreds years ago. This Valley supports the presperity of the galss arts developing by convenient transportation routes along the Ohio River, rich resources in gas desposits and sover labors.



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