Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/452

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434
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

glassware was equally limited. Yet it was only a hundred and sixteen years after the discovery of America that the first glass works were established in the colonies. It was a modest venture in an industrial way, but one to which much importance is attached, since it was the starting point in that interesting history which it is the purpose of the present paper to outline; and still more, because it was the first industry started by Europeans on American soil. It thus heads a list which is to-day certainly as long as human needs and almost as long as human desires. It is a list which has been nearly three hundred years in the making.

This was in the year 1608. The pioneer glass-house was a part of the activities at Jamestown. The spirit of the London Company was distinctly commercial. It had gold and silver in mind as the ultimate goal, but, with a prudence characteristic of British enterprise, it had also an eye to nearer and smaller profits. The plan of colonial manufacture was meant to serve this end. On the second voyage of Captain Newport, eight Poles and Germans were sent over for the express purpose of making glass, pitch, tar, and soap ashes. The glass-house was out in the woods, about a mile from Jamestown. It was a crude affair, but it seems to have been the center of considerable activity, for when the ship returned to England in the following year, "a trial of glass" was among her cargo. The glass was presumably exported in the form of common black bottles, for the state of the art in those days, and the limited time, would scarcely have allowed the evolution of anything more difficult of manufacture.

The progress of the glass industry in America has been far from constant. It has suffered severe and violent fluctuations, amounting almost to annihilation. Several times it has needed to be born again. But the sum total of these successes and vicissitudes has been the establishment of an industry which, while it is the oldest, is also at the present time one of the most promising and most highly developed of all our industries. To understand its rise and progress, one must be familiar with the elements which go to make it up.

Four things are needed to make glass: crude materials; refractory substances for crucibles and furnaces; suitable fuel, and intelligent labor. To make glass commercially, a fifth factor is all important, and that is an accessible market.

The history of the industry has consisted in the various possible interchanges between these elements. They are far from permanent. The causes which led to the early establishment of the Jamestown glass-house were good and valid for the year 1608, although a somewhat pessimistic writer declared the energy misdirected, but they would not hold in the year 1893. The compelling force which gathers our present glass-houses to such