Saturday, June 21, 2014

Glass Making

I came across notes on glass making in the Buffalo region while researching the Niagara Power Stations. Not only were the notes interesting, it occurred to me that glass making is an important part of our industrial heritage. Below is a summary of the notes.

Glass containers were first produced in Egypt about 2,000 B.C. The blowpipe was invented around 300 B.C.

In the Lockport and Lancaster factories, the ingredients for glass were melted in a furnace in large pots at 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit for thirty to forty hours and then cooled to about 1,800 degrees to a more workable consistency. The furnaces were originally wood fired. Until 1820, glass was made with a blowpipe. However molds might be used to give the glass its shape. In 1820 the "pressed glass" method was invented. "A glob of glass was gathered on an iron rod by a workman, dropped into a pieced mold on a machine, and a plunger forced the glass into all parts of the mold." In 1903 the glass blowing machine was invented. "Although furnaces are now heated by natural gas rather than wood or coal, the same technique of blowing is used in the modern automatic machines which turn out thousands of bottles or jars an hour.

The first glass factory in Lockport, NY, was opened in 1840. It went through a series of owners, but it grew before it went out of business in 1908. Another glass factory was started in 1900. In 1919 this plant was bought by the Thatcher Manufacturing Company and concentrated on milk bottles. "The introduction of paper milk containers forced them to switch to jelly, pickle and coffee jars, and they closed the factory in 1942."

The glass works in Lancaster was started in 1849 by eight blowers from Pittsburgh. It also went through a series of owners, but it operated until 1904. In 1907 a new factory was started to produce food and beverage containers. The notes state that in 1965 it consolidated with another plant in Pennsylvania. I gather that the Lancaster plant was shutdown as part of this consolidation.

There are quite a few pages describing the products produced by these factories in detail for the benefit of collectors such as
A very rare Lockport half-pint flask in pale yellow-green and aquamarine has a duck swimming with the words above, "Will you take a drink?" and the answer, "Will a [duck] swim"? with a plain reverse side.
The notes end with a discussion of why the factories closed. "Continental Can Co. with a branch in Lancaster was forced to dissolve its glass container operations in 1963 by federal anti-trust laws. To achieve economy in operations smaller plants often consolidated or moved nearer to the customer who purchased the containers."

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