Whitall Tatum & Company (1857-1901)
Whitall Tatum Company (1901-1938)
Armstrong Cork Corporation (1938-1969)
Kerr Glass Manufacturing Corporation (1969-1983) (last production of insulators was in 1978)
Millville, New Jersey
The first glass factory in Millville was built in 1806 on the banks of the Maurice River by James Lee along with several other men. Thereafter the factory went through a puzzling succession of ownerships, including Gideon Scull (by 1814); Nathaniel Solomon; and Burgin, Wood & Bodine. In 1838, at which time the glassworks was then known as the “Phoenix Glass Works”, Captain John M. Whitall entered the business in partnership with G.M.Haverstick and William Scattergood. Shortly afterward, the firm name became Scattergood & Whitall after the retirement of Haverstick. Franklin Whitall, John’s brother, then joined the firm in 1845. In 1848 the name of the firm became “Whitall, Brother & Company” after Edward Tatum became involved. In 1857 the name was again changed to “Whitall Tatum & Company”, and finally in 1901, to “Whitall Tatum Company” which was the name used until 1938 when the works were bought by Armstrong.
There were two locations used by Whitall Tatum, first the original site (upper works) located in Millville proper, and later the “lower works” in South Millville (formerly known as Schetterville). Eventually the South Millville site would become the center of activity for the glassworks.
Whitall Tatum produced very large quantities of bottles and fruit jars throughout much of the mid- and late 19th century. Pharmacy, druggist, barber, perfume, chemical and other types of bottles in various colors and styles were produced, and some of them are now avidly sought by antique bottle collectors. W-T is especially well-known for the production of tremendous quantities of prescription bottles, blown for hundreds of local pharmacies across the country, embossed with their names and addresses using interchangeable slug plates inserted into the mold. Most of those types of pharmacy bottles marked “W.T. & Co.” on the base generally date from approximately 1875 to around 1901, and are most frequently found in a good-quality clear (colorless) glass. Less commonly-seen are examples found in a beautiful rich teal green glass, as well as cobalt blue. After the firm name was changed to “Whitall Tatum Company” in 1901, the marking on bottle molds was changed slightly to “W.T.CO.”
In the c.1920s and 1930s many types of bottles, and some of their insulators, are found with a “W and T inside a triangle” trademark (as shown in photo here, embossed on the side of a CD 154 “Whitall Tatum Co. No 1″ insulator). The “W and T” triangle, if present, is usually embossed on the base of bottles.
Whitall Tatum didn’t enter the insulator manufacturing market until 1922, very soon after Brookfield Glass Company had closed it’s doors the previous year. However, W-T made up for lost time by producing millions of insulators during the ensuing years. No doubt they supplied insulators to many firms (especially in the Eastern states, but over the entire country as well) that had previously purchased from Brookfield.
Armstrong Cork Corporation purchased Whitall-Tatum in 1938 (with insulator production continuing at a remarkable rate, and the existing molds eventually being re-engraved with the ARMSTRONG name), and finally Kerr Glass Manufacturing Corporation took over in April of 1969. Many of the insulators continued to carry the “Armstrong” embossing, until about 1973, by which time all carried the “KERR” embossing.
With the rapidly decreasing demand for glass insulators, production at the Kerr plant continued to diminish as the 1970s wore on. From information supplied to me by collector/researcher Richard Wentzel, the last glass insulators made at the Millville plant were produced either in late 1975 or early 1976. Soon afterward, the insulator molds and equipment were moved to the Kerr Glass plant located in Dunkirk, Indiana. (The very last “KERR” embossed insulators made at Dunkirk are evidently the ones marked with 1978 date codes, and no Kerr insulators are known with a more recent year date code on them).
Kerr Glass Manufacturing Corporation sold the Millville manufacturing facility in 1983, along with 3 other plants, to the American National Can Company. Ball-Foster took control of the factory in 1995, and in 1999, after 193 years of nearly continuous glass production, the factory was shut down permanently.
A recent update: I’ve received word that the former Lower Works site is reportedly (2006) a self-storage facility, and the buildings that once housed WTs glass furnaces have been demolished. A sad ending indeed for one of America’s greatest glass manufacturing enterprises.
Note: for a webpage on this site with an extensive list of glass insulator manufacturers, please click here.
(Pictured: W.T.& Co. pharmacy bottle in teal green (1880s), and a CD 154 style Whitall Tatum No. 1 telephone/telegraph line insulator in medium purple (1920s).
[ Richard Wentzel (info from his article in McDougald, 1990, and personal communications); Adeline Pepper- The Glass Gaffers of New Jersey(1971); other sources]