Popular Science Monthly/Volume 42/March 1893/The Development of American Industries Since Columbus: The Glass Industry II
|←Obituary Notes||Popular Science Monthly Volume 42 March 1893 (1893)
The Development of American Industries Since Columbus: The Glass Industry II
By C. Hanford Henderson
|Artesian Waters in the Arid Region→|
Last in series
By Prof. C. HANFORD HENDERSON.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF AMERICAN INDUSTRIES SINCE COLUMBUS. XVII.
AT the beginning of the eighteenth century the glass industry was practically dead. The latter part of the century witnessed its slow revival. Some of these enterprises were short-lived; others outlasted the century. No very striking improvements were made, the most noted change being the substitution of coal for wood. But an immense amount of experience had been gained, and meanwhile a home market had grown up. The nineteenth century, therefore, opened with very flattering prospects. A united people had taken the place of a group of scattered colonies, while the improved standards of domestic comfort made greater demands upon the glass-maker's skill. The majority of people were no longer willing to make oiled paper do duty for glass in their windows, though even now, at the close of the century, there are thousands of cabins throughout the South which are destitute of a single window of any sort whatever. There was also an increased demand for glass table furniture and articles of luxury. The invalidism of an aging civilization created an unhappy market for patent medicines and other nostrums which must needs be put up in glass bottles. Greater delicacy in diet gave rise to the preservation of fruit and vegetables for the winter season, and made the production of jars for the purpose almost a separate industry. Both technical conditions and social requirements have thus conspired during the present century to forward the development of glass-making. Its history divides into two periods, that preceding and that following the introduction of natural gas as fuel. The century opened with the almost universal use of wood, the new and experimental plant at Pittsburg alone making use of coal. It ends with an almost universal use of natural gas, where it can be obtained, and an unmistakable tendency to substitute manufactured gas for coal where Nature has not supplied the gaseous fuel.
The States which now lead the glass industry, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, were already at the front in the beginning of the century. In Pennsylvania there were a number of enterprises on foot. Philadelphia took quite an active part in this development. The Kensington works, established by Robert Towars and Joseph Leacock in the fall of 1771, had passed through a number of hands, but was fairly continuous in its operations. It ultimately came into the possession of the Rowland family, and was sold by them in 1833 to Dr. Thomas W. Dyott, a notable figure in the annals of our early glass-making. They were at this time the most extensive glass works in the country, melting about 8,000 pounds of batch every day and turning out something like 1,200 tons of glass a year. This was chiefly in the form of bottles and druggists' supplies. There were five furnaces adapted for burning both coal and wood, as well as North Carolina rosin. From two hundred and fifty to three hundred hands were employed in carrying out the various operations. Dr. Dyott failed in 1838, and the works were idle for several years, thus losing their former prestige. There were also window-glass works at the Falls of the Schuylkill, and another lower down on the river at South Street wharf. When the first census of manufactures was taken, in 1810, there were two glass works in the county and one within the city limits, the joint product of which amounted to only $26,000. Glass-making does not seem at that time to have been very successful in Philadelphia, for in 1820 there was but one plant reported in the whole county. In that year a co-operative flint-glass works was started in Kensington, but it did not succeed. In 1840 there was but one works reported.
Here as elsewhere throughout eastern Pennsylvania there has been, since then, a steady increase in productive power, but relatively there has been a marked decrease in the industry. The character of the product, too, has changed. Philadelphia probably produces at the present time about two million dollars' worth of glass a year. None of this, we believe, is sheet or window glass, except a little for decorative windows. The most of it consists of the fancier sorts of hollow ware, lamps, globes, chimneys, cut glass, and other forms of domestic glassware and of articles of luxury. The reason of this change is quite obvious. In the production of glass in the mass, such as window glass and plate glass, Philadelphia and the eastern part of the State could not possibly compete with the Pittsburg district. The conditions are much less favorable in the matter of fuel and crude materials. Skilled labor, however, is more available, and artistic influences are more in the air. In the production of this finer ware the intellectual element is so much the larger ingredient that the cost of the bare material itself is of less moment. In consequence we find Philadelphia at the present time an important center in what may be called the æsthetic department of glass-making. We find here the manufacture of large quantities of decorated gas globes, together with such other wares as require the etching action of hydrofluoric acid, and of cut and engraved articles of various designs and for multiform uses. It was here that the process of making cameo glass was imported from England. This department of glass-making, it is true, has not proved commercially successful, but the manufacture of the cameo ware well illustrates the tendency toward variety of product which is shown by industrial centers depending for success upon nicety of workmanship rather than quantity of output.
These conditions have also given rise to the invention of machines and processes noted for their ingenuity and importance. The sand blast, by which glass is quickly and cheaply ground by exposure to a blast of air charged with sharp sand, is the invention of a Philadelphia gentleman, General B. F. Tilghman. So powerful is the abrading action that a plate of corundum may be drilled in this manner, and even the diamond is worn away. The blast has also been applied to the manufacture of files, and to the drilling of metal plates.
The industry also started up in a number of other districts in the eastern part of the State. The attempt made by Mr. George Lewis, an English gentleman, to establish glass works at Eaglesmere some time between 1803 and 1809 was scarcely less picturesque than the earlier efforts of Baron Steigel. In 1886 the ruins of the glass-house were still to be seen on an eminence overlooking the lake. An old frequenter of the place—for it has since become a well-known summer resort—was fortunate enough to have in his possession some excellent specimens of the early glass. But in the first decade of the century it must have been a lonely place, and we can not help wondering that any one should have had the temerity to put a glass-house there. It is true that the natural conditions were good. The sand at one end of the lake is beautifully white and pure, while the surrounding forests furnished an abundance of fuel and alkali. The glass-making seems to have been a technical success, and it is said that Mr. Lewis made considerable money during the War of 1812, but the difficulties of transportation were ultimately too much for the enterprise. The works were separated from the markets by long distances, and by roads which, after the lapse of nearly a century, are still very rough. Mr. Lewis appears never to have lost faith in the undertaking, but after his death the works were finally abandoned.
There are doubtless many other quiet localities scattered throughout the State which could tell a similar story of endeavor and perseverance and failure. West of the mountains the development of the glass industry has been phenomenal. The works established by Mr. Gallatin at New Geneva in 1797 continued to make window glass for many years. They were, however, finally abandoned toward the middle of the century. But the establishments at Pittsburg became the nucleus of a glass-making center which is to-day quite unrivaled in importance by any other glass center in the world. In the early days it was not all smooth sailing by any means. But the men who nourished the industry seem to have possessed unusual enterprise and perseverance. Their pioneer efforts in the use of coal in place of wood was in itself an act of no little industrial courage, for even in 1810 this remained the only plant in America which used coal. The product of the Craig and O'Hara factory was chiefly window glass, though an occasional lot of bottles was also turned out. About 1800 a second glass-house was established in Pittsburg by Denny and Beelen. It used wood exclusively as a fuel—being so situated, indeed, on the north side of the Ohio River that coal was not readily obtainable. The works did not prove successful and were soon abandoned.
The records of the industry show the establishment of various other works during the early part of the century, but the majority of them were unsuccessful and were sooner or later forced to suspend. The first flint-glass works were probably those established by Messrs. Bakewell and Page in 1808. They started with one six-pot furnace, but met with such flattering success that they constantly enlarged the capacity of their works. In the census of 1810 it is stated that "decanters, tumblers, and every other description of flint glass of a superior quality" were manufactured at Pittsburg. From this time onward the growth of the industry has been continuous and rapid, except during a brief period preceding 1819, when a temporary decline was experienced.
It would be both uninteresting and foreign to the present purpose to enumerate the separate histories of these various enterprises, but the figures illustrating the growth of the industry from this time on to the tenth census are too significant to be passed over in silence. Thus in 1837 there were thirteen factories in Pittsburg, yielding an annual product of about $700,000. In 1857 there were twenty-five factories, with a yearly output valued at $2,600,000. It will be noticed that while the number of establishments only doubled during this interval of twenty years, the value of the product was nearly quadrupled. At the time of the tenth census—that is, in 1880—there were fifty-one factories, yielding an annual output of about $6,000,000. The importance of Pittsburg as a glass center can best be appreciated by considering these figures relatively to the whole American output. The one district of Allegheny County produced a little over a quarter of the entire glass manufactured in this country, while the State, as a whole, made a trifle over two fifths of the total. The product was window glass, hollow ware, and green glass, no plate glass appearing in the State returns up to that time.
While the other conditions were also favorable, the chief cause of this marked development in Pennsylvania has undoubtedly been her fuel. During the first ten years of the century her forests alone were used to any extent, but the substitution of coal for wood went on continuously for the succeeding seventy years, until in 1880 it was everywhere the chief fuel, wood being employed only in heating the annealing ovens and for other minor purposes. Up to 1880, however, the development of the industry consisted for the most part in the improvement of already existing devices. The furnaces were made larger, the chemicals were purer, the melting pots more capacious. The coal was burned to better advantage, and consequently the batch was more thoroughly fused. Greater differentiation of the processes was being slowly brought about. In window-glass factories separate furnaces were provided for melting and blowing. In the handling of the glass there were similar improvements. The continuous rod leer was coming into use, while bottles and other hollow ware were annealed in iron trucks and no longer needed separate handling. All these were substantial gains; yet up to 1880 the fact remained that no very radical changes had been introduced into general glass-making practices—we do not here refer to the subsequent working of the material—and it was undeniable that the American product was in many respects inferior to the imported. We could not at that time successfully compete with Belgium even in the matter of window glass.
But during the past decade there has come a change so radical and so far-reaching in its results that more glass history has been condensed into these busy ten years than is to be found in the previous eighty years. The natural-gas well has been a veritable Aladdin's lamp to the glass industry. The fuel itself has been known for many years. As early as 1775 Washington had a "burning spring" on the tract of land deeded to him in the Kanawha Valley for military service, which he desired to make public property; but through some technicality the grant was never completed. The first utilization of natural gas of which we have record was at Fredonia, in New York, in 1821. This first well was an inch and a half in diameter and only twenty-seven feet deep. The gas was used solely for illumination, and when Lafayette visited the town, in 1824, the inn where he stopped was thus lighted. The Fredonia well excited an immense interest on both sides of the Atlantic, and so great a man as Humboldt is said to have declared it the eighth wonder of the world. Yet there seems to have been little effort to duplicate the wonder. Even at Fredonia a second well was not sunk until 1850. The first use of the gas for manufacturing purposes was probably in 1841, when William Tompkins burned it to evaporate brine in the Kanawha Valley. From this time onward the natural gas came slowly to be used under boilers to drill salt and petroleum wells, and occasionally to heat and light the houses in neighboring villages, but on the whole the gas was regarded as a danger and a nuisance. It was not until April, 1873, that gas was used in iron-making. In the fall of 1875 it was introduced into a large rolling mill near Pittsburg.
About this time the new fuel was also introduced into glass-houses. It is believed that the Rochester Tumbler Company, at Rochester, Pa., was the first to utilize the gas in the processes of glass-making. At the present day it seems odd that so eminently convenient and economical a fuel should have been so slow in coming into use. The Government reports on the Mineral Resources of the United States make no mention of natural gas until 1883 and 1884. In the volume for those years it appears for the first time as an economic product of sufficient importance to be noticed. Eight years have passed, and now the capital invested in natural gas is probably not far from one hundred million dollars. In the latter part of 1883 the gas began to be introduced into Pittsburg glass-houses. Mr. John B. Ford took an active interest in this development. During this and the following year he exploited the now celebrated Tarentum district in order to obtain a supply of gas for the plate-glass works which he had just built at Creighton.
The transition from solid to gaseous fuel took place with astonishing rapidity. By 1885 all the glass-houses in Pittsburg and the neighborhood which could obtain gas cheaply were using it for all purposes of melting, blowing, manufacturing, and annealing. It was possible to make the substitution so suddenly both because of the rapid exploitation and development of the gas territory, and because of the comparatively small changes needed to adapt coal-burning furnaces to the gas. Where the gas was burned for power, under boilers, the old grates were in many places retained and the gas-burners so arranged that, in case of any interruption to the flow, a coal fire could be started in six or eight minutes. In the glass furnaces themselves greater changes were necessarily made. As the supply of gas became more abundant and assured, the tendency was toward the evolution of distinct apparatus for its utilization. At the present time the glass furnaces burning natural gas are models of simplicity and efficiency. In the melting furnaces the gas is admitted at each end of the furnace and mixes with air which has previously been heated by passing through flues in the brickwork. The combustion thus takes place in the melting chamber directly above the crucible pots, and produces an intense and easily regulated heat. The blowing furnaces are even simpler. They merely provide a chamber of brickwork with suitable openings in the sides, and immediately under each opening a large Bunsen burner supplied with natural gas and drawing the requisite air directly from the atmosphere.
Under the stimulus of the new fuel the development of the glass industry since 1885 has been without precedent. The greatest growth took place first in the flint-glass works, because in these the advantages of the gas were most manifest. The absence of coal smoke and dust, and the tendency to reduce the lead oxide to the metallic state, were in themselves sufficient to bring about the substitution of the gas for the coal, had there been no other reasons. But the economic advantage was also in favor of gas. Thus, a factory which was run by coal in 1883 at a weekly cost of $175.17 was operated by natural gas in 1885 for $94.96, effecting a saving of forty-six per cent. In addition to this the repairs were less costly and the product was more salable.
The introduction of natural gas into window-glass factories was held for some reason to be less advantageous than in flint-glass works, but the tradition rapidly melted away in the face of a larger experience. By 1885 and 1886 natural gas had made its way into all departments of glass-making, and everywhere turned out to be an immense improvement. Now it is the universal fuel, and up to the present year it has been the cause of that concentration of the industry of which we have already spoken. It has not only given a better product and more economic working, but it has made possible the carrying out of operations on a scale hitherto undreamed of. In plate glass and window glass the product is now measured by the acre, and even by the square mile, where formerly it was reckoned in feet. Hollow ware is shipped by the ton in place of pound lots. One hundred and twenty thousand dozen lantern globes are turned out as a summer's work. With the more complete organization of the industry it is no longer necessary for large plants to grow out of small ones. The conditions needful for success are now pretty well known, and where these are found the most extensive works may spring up without any previous history. So we find in the enumeration of an establishment, now in course of construction, one item of one hundred and twenty-five two-story houses, while the plant itself is to be one of the most perfect and extensive in this country. These sudden growths will become more and more possible with the progress of industrial analysis.
In the neighboring State of Ohio the industry gained small footing until within recent years. There were two glass-houses in operation in 1817, and others were subsequently started, but they do not appear to have succeeded, for none were reported in the census returns of 1840. Ten years later there were six in operation, but in 1860 the number had decreased to four. In 1870 the total establishments numbered nine, and at the time of the tenth census had increased to a score. With the discovery of natural gas, however, the industry experienced a sudden expansion, and the State is now one of our most active glass-producing centers. Gas was known as early as 1836, but it was not until 1884 that it was regularly sought for and utilized. In the fall of that year a successful well was drilled in the now famous Findlay district. This was followed by other wells in 1885, and in 1886 by the Karg well, one of the most prolific in the entire country. A few months later the Van Buren well yielded even larger returns, and firmly established the reputation of western Ohio as assured gas-producing territory. Bowling Green, twenty-four miles to the north of Findlay, became a second important gas center. Both towns are underlaid by Trenton limestone, and draw their supplies of gas from the same geological horizon. Other gas rock has been discovered, but this remains by far the most productive.
The history of these and other districts in the gas country reads quite like an industrial fairy story. Quiet country towns have expanded in a surprisingly short space of time into manufacturing centers of national importance. In this development glass-making has been the foremost industry. By 1888 there were a dozen different establishments at Findlay alone, making bottles, window glass, and flint ware of fine quality, while the population had increased from six thousand to thirty in about eighteen months. At the same time Bowling Green had five glass-houses, and Fostoria five more. Numerous other establishments are found scattered over the entire State.The development of glass-making in Ohio, in addition to the mushroom rapidity with which the industry has sprung up, presents a number of unique and interesting economic features. It has been practically a race between the different localities as to which should secure the greatest number of establishments
View of Ford City, Pa., showing the Estent of a Single Plate-Glass Establishment.
The industry had a very similar history in Indiana, though on a less extended scale and at a somewhat later period. The State was early identified with the plate-glass manufacture, but it was not until the development of natural gas that it took a prominent place. The whole southeastern part of Indiana is underlaid by the Trenton limestone, and is a highly productive gas territory. Its history begins with the drilling of the Kokomo well in the fall of 1886. This gave a daily output of two million cubic feet, and was soon followed by others yielding six and seven million feet. Throughout the entire State the work of exploration proceeded with astonishing rapidity. Few districts, indeed, have been so thoroughly exploited. It is now one of the three chief gas-producing areas in the United States, and has attracted a proportionate number of glass factories.
Certain branches of the industry, such as the manufacture of plate glass, can hardly be said to belong to any State, for it has shown itself decidedly peripatetic. The first attempts were probably those made at Cheshire, Mass., in 1852-'5. After an unprofitable run of six months, the works were removed to Brooklyn, N. Y. Here there was more experimenting and more loss. The enterprise was abandoned in 1856. This same year a second attempt was made at Lenox, Mass. After some initial difficulties and failures the works got successfully under way and continued to manufacture rough plate until the close of the war. A new company was then formed and undertook the production of polished plate. A machine which had been invented to grind and polish marble was found to do equally good work on glass, and was put into operation with excellent results. In a modified form it is still employed, both in this country and in Europe. The company prospered for some time, but through unwise management finally failed. But the American plate-glass industry, though apparently doomed to suffer severe reverses, was not doomed to die. In 1869, two years before the Lenox failure, a carefully designed plant was put into operation at New Albany, Ind., by Mr. John B. Ford. He imported the first grinding and polishing machinery from England. Although these works have been operated continuously ever since then, and are now reasonably successful, they had to run the gantlet of early reverses. Their owner, Mr. W. C. De Pauw, stated before the tariff commission that up to 1879 no money was made at his own works, and that he believed other
Interior View of the Casting Hall at Ford City, Pa.
manufacturers of plate glass in America had had a similar experience. The industry up to that year seems indeed to have been one succession of financial disasters. Yet these failures do not appear to have discouraged their promoters. Between 1870 and 1875 Mr. Ford established other works at Jeffersonville, Ind., and at Louisville, Ky. About the same time a large plant was also built at St. Louis, and, like the others, was equipped with English machinery. It was at that time the largest factory in the United States. The industry was slow in establishing itself at Pittsburg, but it has since reached its greatest development in that district. The Pittsburg Plate Glass Company began operations in 1883, their first factory being at Creighton. The monthly output was about 40,000 square feet, or nearly an acre of plate glass. The demand for the glass increased so rapidly that two years later, in 1885, a second plant was built at Tarentum. Meanwhile the methods of manufacture at Creighton had been so far improved that the joint output of the two factories was 280,000 feet per month, or between six and seven acres of polished plate. In another two years the same company built a third factory at Ford City, with a capacity of 200,000 feet per month. At the present time these works are being still further enlarged, and will soon have more than twice their original capacity. The growth of the enterprise has been remarkable. It is doubtful whether any other industry could show a parallel development. At the present time the annual output is in the neighborhood of a third of a square mile of polished plate. That means a great deal of sunshine for somebody.
These American plate-glass works compare very favorably in equipment and management with the more historic establishments of Saint Gobain and Ravenshead. The native product, we believe, is now quite equal to the foreign, and promises sooner or later to so far discourage importation as to be itself exported. It is pleasant, too, to record that, after so many disasters, this branch of glass-making is at the present moment the most flourishing of all departments of the industry. It is the one in which the American genius for mechanics has had the greatest scope. Few of the operations are performed by hand. These are precisely the conditions under which America can compete most successfully with the Old World, and feel the least disadvantage from her more expensive labor market. This thoroughness of organization has had its effect upon the price. Plate glass is today so cheap that, as some one has said, it may be used in farm-houses, though it should perhaps be added that in this case the farm itself must in times past have been rather profitable. It is, at any rate, no longer exclusively the window glass of the rich. This widening of the market has made possible the present success of the industry. When the price becomes so low that we can afford to use twice as many acres of plate glass as we now allow ourselves we may expect a still greater success. At the present time the tendency is decidedly toward largely increased production. There are now eight plants in full operation, and four more in course of construction, which will probably be under way during the early part of the year. The market is large enough for all, though there is naturally a considerable rivalry between the different factories. This shows itself, among other ways, in the effort to outdo one another in the size of the plate produced. The largest yet turned out is one, we believe, made by the Diamond Glass Company at Kokomo, Ind., which measures 153 by 212 inches. It is almost needless to say that the sole fuel used in all these works is natural gas. It has, indeed, made possible their large extension and success. At Ford City alone contracts were recently given for the drilling of seven wells at the same time.
In the second producer of glass in the United States, New Jersey, there has also been a continuity of operation not met with elsewhere. The early factories of Salem County and at Glassboro were the nucleus of a large and thriving glass settlement. The very favorable natural conditions early made the State the center of the bottle trade. Many of the works established during the first half of the century went out of existence after a few years'
Interior View of the Grinding Hall at Ford City, Pa.
more or less successful run. But others, such as the works established at Millville in 1822, continue among the most important in the State. The introduction of anthracite as a fuel does not seem to have been made until 1856, though even at the present time wood is largely used in the annealing ovens. The weakest element in the New Jersey glass industry lies right here, in her deficient fuel. With various town corporations in Ohio and elsewhere offering natural gas free to glass-producers, the competition is very unequal, for the manufacture of bottles requires no great purity in the sand and no very special skill in the blower. Yet this rivalry appears to have been successfully met, for there has been during recent years a marked increase in the output of the Jersey glass-houses. New plants have been established in various places, and the capacity of old ones enlarged. At Glassboro, for instance, one of the oldest glass-houses in the country, the output was recently doubled within a period of three years, and has since gone on steadily increasing. The history of these works is indeed typical. The original glass-house was built in 1775 by the Stanger brothers, seven in number, who were all practical glass-blowers. They continued operations with reasonable success until the close of the Revolution, when the works were sold to Colonel Heston, the great-grandfather of the president of the company now operating the works. It is of interest
Tank Furnace used in the Manufacture of Lamp Chimneys at Jeannette, Pa.
that four generations have been connected with the one enterprise, a somewhat unusual persistency in the history of American industry. In 1887 the enterprise was incorporated as the Whitney Glass Works, and in the following year purchased the works at Camden. These, with the works at Glassboro and Salem, give the company an immense productive power and make their undertaking the most important glass industry in the State and one of the most important in the whole country. This increase of capacity is largely, if not entirely, due to the introduction of improved tank furnaces, the invention of the chemist of the Glassboro Works, Mr. Andrew Ferrari. These are modifications of the Siemens regenerative furnace, but differ from it in having the gas generator directly alongside of the melting chamber instead of at a distance. The coal is burned on the ordinary step-grate to carbon-monoxide gas which passes while still hot directly to the combustion area. At the bridge separating the generator from the melting chamber the gas mixes with the requisite amount of heated air, and, being itself hot, produces by its combustion a sufficiently intense heat to accomplish the perfect fusion of the batch. This proximity of the generator to the melting chamber obviates the great difficulty which had hitherto interfered with the use of gas as a fuel in glass-making—that is, the difficulty in obtaining a sufficiently high temperature. There are five of these tank furnaces at Glassboro, two at Salem, and one at Camden. This improvement is directly in line with local needs, since it has effected a saving of over fifty per cent in the cost of fuel. The expression is somewhat hackneyed, and unavoidably brings to mind the individual who was so delighted with a stove which saved fifty per cent that he proposed to buy two and so save a hundred per cent; but the reported saving in the case of the furnaces is the result of several years' experience and is quite authentic. Nor is this the only saving effected by the tank furnaces. They do away with the large expense of crucible pots and reduce the cost of repairs to a purely nominal sum.
No invention could have been more timely. In the face of the serious competition at Pittsburg, the New Jersey bottle industry, with its expensive fuel, would have fared but ill had it continued to melt its sand and lime and alkali in the old-time pot furnace. The tank furnace has served the industry in good stead. Within the past few months another important improvement has been introduced at Glassboro, in the substitution of crude petroleum for coal as fuel. Formerly its use was limited to the "glory-holes," where the mouths of the bottles were finished in an aureole of yellow flame. Now it serves also for melting the glass and annealing the ware. A large storage tank has been constructed, and it is believed that in a short time oil will entirely supersede the use of coal. A fourth chapter in the history of glass-making may soon have to be written in which petroleum figures as the dominant element. The Glassboro people, at least, are disposed to look upon its introduction as somewhat epoch-making.
At the present time the eyes of the bottle-making world are also turned toward New Jersey for another reason. Their glance centers upon Woodbury, for in that quiet village the destiny of the bottle-blower may be said to be on trial. The Ashley bottle-making machine has been set in operation to see if it can not do the work of human hands and lungs, and do it better and more economically. The machine was described before the British Association in 1889, when it was stated that bottles had been made by the machine, quite complete, which had successfully been subjected to an internal pressure of three hundred pounds to the square inch.
|Siemens Tank Furnace. Longitudinal section.|
The career of the machine in England, we believe, has been most unfortunate, but this does not at all diminish the interest which its introduction into America has excited. The advantages to be gained by the use of such a machine are much too solid to permit small obstacles to hinder its success. The trial run at Woodbury has been fairly successful. The automatic principle has not been developed to the full extent in these machines, but it has been carried so far that one man and three boys—none of them necessarily skilled glass-blowers—can operate two machines, each of which is capable of turning out two bottles a minute. The machine does not gather the glass. One of the boys, the "gatherer," is specially detailed for that service. He feeds the molten "metal" to the machine, in which it is mechanically molded, the neck and mouth formed, the interior blown by means of compressed air, and the finished bottle automatically delivered to a carrier which takes it to the annealing oven. There is undoubted room for improvement both in the performance and capacity of the machines.
|Siemens Tank Furnace. Transverse section.|
But the important step has been taken, and bottles have really been made in this country by machinery. One need not be very sanguine to believe that the initial step will lead to others, and that in the future not only bottles, but all other forms of blown ware, will be made mechanically. This is indeed only in the line of industrial development which is everywhere substituting continuous automatic processes for those which are discontinuous and organic. An experienced glass manufacturer, who has been for many years identified with the development of the industry in New Jersey, thus sums up present realities and tendencies: "The use of petroleum, the introduction of the tank furnace, and the bottle-making machine are the three great and only improvements that have been made in glass-making for a long period of time. The tank furnace is rapidly superseding the old-fashioned pot furnaces, and in a very few years I do not think a pot furnace will be in operation in the entire country. The manufacture of bottles by machinery is comparatively new here, and, although it has been attempted a number of times, it has never been a pronounced success until recently. It is still in its infancy, but next year I think will see a large portion of the commoner kinds of bottles made in this way. I have no doubt that ultimately all articles of blown glassware will be made by machinery."
Although the attempt to establish glass-making in New England never met with great or permanent success, it is to Yankee inventive skill that we owe much of the means of success elsewhere. In these attempts Massachusetts took the lead in the nineteenth century, as she had in earlier days. In addition to the Boston works, established in 1792, a successful window-glass factory was started at Middlesex village in 1802. This gave employment to one hundred persons in all and turned out annually about eight acres of glass. It continued in operation a full quarter of a century, when it was shut down on account of the failure of the proprietors. The works were burned, but were soon after rebuilt, and in 1829 a company undertook to manage an industry which had failed in individual hands. They continued to make glass there for about ten years, when they removed to New Hampshire, attracted probably by greater abundance of fuel. Works were also established at Cheshire in 1812, and others in 1853 at Lenox. The latter was devoted to the production of window glass, and proved the most successful and enduring of the number. Several flint-glass houses were started in and around Boston, and were very successful during the early part of the century. The works at East Cambridge, built about 1812, have been particularly productive. Six years after they were started they are reported to have been "one of the most extensive flint-glass manufactories in the country." They had at that time two furnaces and twenty-four cutting wheels. The plant also included a furnace capable of turning out two tons of red lead a week, and was in other ways well equipped for the production of the finer wares. In 1823 22,400 pounds of glassware represented the weekly product. In 1865 the number of furnaces had been increased to five, the number of people employed being five hundred, and the value of the yearly product not far from $500,000. This, however, represented high-water mark, and was soon followed by a considerable decrease in activity. More significant was the flint-glass house established at Sandwich in 1825, for it has the reputation of having made the most important of American contributions to the technique of glass-working, and that is the glass-press used in the production of pressed glassware. The works started in a modest way with one eight-pot furnace, and increased their capacity as circumstances warranted. About two years after the works were built a local carpenter applied to the proprietor for a bit of glassware needed in some building operation, and was told that it could not be supplied. He suggested that the material might be pressed
A Modern Glass-Press.
into the shape he wanted. With the co-operation of the proprietor a rough press was made, and after some experimenting was found to answer the purpose admirably. A glass tumbler, stated to have been the first one made, was exhibited at the Centennial Exposition in 1876, but was unfortunately broken. From this incidental suggestion, given, too, by an outsider, the present extensive industry takes its rise. The American press is now used in nearly all the glass-producing countries of Europe, and has made possible our own plentiful output of beautiful and inexpensive tableware, as well as of artistic panels used in transoms and elsewhere. The pressed glass is not, of course, so brilliant as the cut, but it has the merit of costing less than one twentieth as much, and therefore of being within the reach of all. Later, the glass works were operated by the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company, and enjoyed quite a boom during the civil war. The stock commanded a ready market and became one of the conservative investments in which careful Bostonians took pleasure in putting their money. Since then operations have not been continuous, but the enterprise is still represented. After the war the glass industry in Massachusetts dwindled sadly until, in 1880, there were only five flint-glass houses and one window-glass factory in operation in the entire State. The cause of this decline was largely due to lack of fuel, and also in part to the pressure of other industries for which the locality is better adapted.
Massachusetts must, however, always hold a prominent place in the annals of American glass-making, both because of her service in developing the plate-glass manufacture and the possibilities of pressed glass, and still more because she has now within her borders the most noted of American workshops for glass. The lens-grinding establishment of Alvan Clark and Sons, at Cambridgeport, is known wherever the science of astronomy is cultivated. Its achievements in producing the glass for the Russian Imperial Observatory at Pulkowa and the giant lens for the Lick Observatory in California are still in mind. The contributions of the State must, therefore, be measured by intellectual standards rather than by avoirdupois or dollars and cents.
In other parts of New England the development of the industry has been exceedingly moderate. New Hampshire seems to have been an asylum for the disgruntled glass-makers of Massachusetts. Since the times when Robert Hewes betook himself to Temple and the Middlesex workers removed to Pembroke, the forests of the State have been fatal allurements to those across the line. Few, if any, of these northern migrations proved successful. The works established at Keene, in 1814, for the manufacture of window glass continued in operation until the middle of the century, but appear to have been a losing venture in the hands of the several parties who attempted to run them. The bottle factory established in the same town, in 1817, was somewhat more prosperous, but in 1848 succumbed to the same enemy which attends all such industries, a lack of sufficient fuel. At the time of the tenth census the bottle-house at South Lyndeborough was the only glass factory in the State.
The development of the industry in the other New England States has been correspondingly meager. In recent times there has been a slight revival of activity, but it is of little moment compared with the greater work being accomplished farther west.
The records of glass-making in New York and Maryland are somewhat fragmentary. In both States there have been a number of more or less promising enterprises whose histories are not dissimilar to those of corresponding glass works in Pennsylvania and New England. In Maryland, at the present time, the activity in these lines is chiefly centered about Baltimore and Cumberland, the product being for the most part window glass and hollow ware.
|A Modern Picture Window. Copyrighted by the Tiffany Company.|
The development of the industry in New York has been more varied. In objects of strict utility the output of the western part of the State is now quite large, but the most distinctive products are in the line of artistic workmanship. The cut glass produced in the ateliers of New York State is equal and probably superior to that of any other section. It compares indeed very favorably with the imported product. But the most praiseworthy product of the State, and indeed of the entire country, if we except the lenses of Cambridgeport, is found in the magnificent picture windows made in New York city from glass especially cast for the purpose in Brooklyn. In these translucent mosaics we have the very crown of American workmanship in glass. The most admirable of these mosaics, such as the memorial windows done by Mr. Tiffany, are works of art of the highest order. In addition to their wealth of luminous color and form they present something which, unfortunately, all reputed works of art do not, and that is, a clearly discernible idea. Compared with the intellectual pleasure which these windows afford, the beauties of other forms of glass work, however brilliant they may be, must appear somewhat unsatisfying.
If we ventured in this sectional summary of the industry to pass judgment upon the work being done, we should be obliged to accord the first rank to New England in the matter of intelligence; to New York, for artistic merit; and to the belt of country stretching westward from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, for the eminently utilitarian quality of its products.
But the most important thing in regard to the development of glass-making in America remains yet to be said. It is the tendency which the industry discloses in this year of grace 1893, four centuries after the discovery of the country. The events briefly outlined in the foregoing pages have given the industry a certain heredity, if one may so express it, a certain projectile force which tends to carry it along easily distinguishable lines of development. Acting with this in point of time, and occasionally against it in the matter of direction, there is an equally definite industrial environment in the midst of which this force is to operate. One is made aware of these dual factors by a comparative study of the census reports. But industrial history is made so rapidly at the present time that, if one is to speak of the tendency of to-day, it must be in the light of strictly contemporary events. The importance of the glass industry has warranted the establishment and maintenance of a number of very admirable trade journals, and it is in the columns of these journals that one is able to discern the signs of the times.
There is an unmistakable tendency toward the substitution of machine for hand processes. It suits the American temper better to exercise itself over the invention of a machine, or over the improvement of one already invented, than it does to plod along in the exercise of a routine dexterity. So we find the most rapid growth and the greatest relative perfection in those departments the most dependent upon mechanical processes, such as the manufacture of the pressed ware, of bottles, and of plate glass. Not less marked is the tendency to supplant the reservoir system of melting in pots by the continuous system represented by tank furnaces. In one department, that of bottle-making, this substitution, as we have already seen, has been in large measure carried out, and in other departments it seems indeed only a question of time as to when it will be realized. Similarly in the matter of fuel, the continuous supply of gas is rapidly taking the place of the less convenient and less continuous solid fuel. But the centralizing force of natural gas is beginning to lose its power. It is being practically demonstrated that manufactured gas and petroleum are able to economically compete with the natural product. Even within the natural-gas territory, shortage of supply and other irregularities have led several glass-makers to turn for their gaseous fuel to manufactories more contemporary than the Devonian gas rock. At Beaver Falls, Pa., for instance, the Co-operative Glass Company was threatened with disaster by the failure of its gas supply. But it turned at once to gas-producers and improved melting furnaces, with results which were highly satisfactory. What can be done at one place, however, can be done at another. Such cases as these serve to loosen the bond which has heretofore made a geographical and geological unit of the gas-blower's calling. Already this disintegrating force is at work, and there is plainly visible a scattering of glass works. In New England old enterprises are slowly reviving. New plants are being built and projected in New Jersey. In the new South there is much activity. Large works are established in Virginia, at Roanoke and Buena Vista, while others are talked of for Buchanan. A substantial project has taken form at Denver. The Board of Trade Reports of the enterprising cities of the new State of Washington mention glass sand among their natural resources, and look to the speedy establishment of glass-houses in their midst. On all sides is to be seen this delocalization of the industry. For such a large country this seems indeed more like the static condition of affairs, since much of the glass product is too fragile and too bulky for ready transportation. Another most important tendency has been at work for some years past in the matter of labor organization among the glass-blowers, and is perhaps more potent now than ever. In such concentrated centers of the glass manufacture as Pittsburg the solidarity of labor is doing much to place the economic advantage in the hands of less compact and less affiliated bodies of workers in the outlying districts. Where labor is well organized and so perpetually on the defensive as at Pittsburg the most stringent regulations are forced upon manufacturers in regard to the number of apprentices who shall work at each furnace and attend each master blower. In consequence of this jealous watchfulness, much work which could as well be done by unskilled and less expensive labor must be reserved for those who are duly accredited by the unions and who receive schedule pay. In other districts where Nature has been less kind and trade-unionism less powerful, it is possible to make some of the commoner forms of glassware, such as bottles particularly, at a lower cost than in the more highly favored districts, for the simple reason that the manufacturers are at liberty to employ whom they will, and let unskilled labor do the work proper to it. This is a factor not to be lightly considered, for it is to-day sending business into the hands of out-of-the-way glass-houses, and it promises in the future to be very powerful in determining the course of the industry. It is a vexed question, but, if one is to judge from past industrial history, the victory will not be in favor of solidarity. The desire to hamper and restrict the growth of an industry by saying who shall and who shall not participate in it, is a remnant of the old mediæval guild spirit which is not in harmony with the modern way of thinking. It is much as if farmers attempted to dictate who should and who should not grow watermelons. The oft-repeated declaration on the part of manufacturers who are bound by trades-union regulations that they can not successfully compete with less favorably located factories free from such dominion is exceedingly significant to the future of glass-making. If it continue, the over-organization of labor promises to defeat its own purpose. The supremacy will pass from the center to the periphery. The scattering of the industry will be forwarded by the selfishness and short-sightedness of labor itself, as well as by those technical and physical conditions which have just been pointed out.
A final glance at the industry shows a manufacture well organized and well developed. It is one full of substantial promise, and full, too, of a power to transform itself greater than it has ever shown before. When the glance extends, as this does, so far back as Jamestown, and includes the long series of disasters which appears to have been the necessary prelude to our present success, the impression grows that, gratifying as this success must be, we have paid a very high price for it. But in this respect glass-making does not differ from the other American industries developed since Columbus.