Kentucky Glass Works Company
The Kentucky Glass Works Company (also spelled “Kentucky Glassworks Company” within some contexts, such as contemporary newspaper articles) was incorporated in July of 1879 by Edward Bull, William Cromey and John Stanger, Sr., with Stanger serving as superintendent. Within 5 months, Stanger had left the business and Henry Lentz of St. Louis, Missouri, replaced him, apparently holding that office for the rest of the time the company was in operation. The factory employed a total of over 200 men and boys during it’s existence, although, at any one time, the number of workers might have been closer to 70 or 80.
The identification marks “KY. G. W.”, “K Y G W” and “KY.G.W.CO.” used on glassware made by this company are often mistakenly attributed to the original “Kentucky Glass Works”, which had operated in Louisville at the southeast corner of Clay & Franklin Streets from 1850 to about 1855 (known as the “Louisville Glass Works” from 1855-1873). In reality, the earlier Kentucky Glass Works of the 1850s did not mark ANY items with their initials, so far as I’ve been able to determine.
Because of the date range for these marks stated by Julian H. Toulouse (“1849-1855” in Bottle Makers and their Marks, 1971), which has been widely copied by a number of other writers in ensuing years (and even repeated to this day on some internet webpages), it is commonly believed by some collectors and historical archaeologists that the KY.G.W. marks date from that early period. However, a close study of various bottles embossed with these initials prove that they date from the 1880s, NOT the 1850s.
From ongoing research, I’ve found that this later factory operated in Louisville from 1879 to (from recently-discovered information pertaining to a lawsuit KYGWCo was involved in) perhaps, sometime in April of 1887 (being declared insolvent at that time). However, it is possible that glass production continued into 1888, although, so far, I haven’t found exact data to show when the fires were extinguished for the last time.
Several end-user companies that had bottles manufactured for them by KYGWCo were found to have been in operation only during the 1880s. The Kentucky Glass Works Company factory produced a large variety of utilitarian bottles and jars, including medicine, tonic, bitters, beer, ale, soda, mineral water, condiment, whiskey and pickle bottles; coffin or “shoofly” flasks (an example pictured on this page, marked KY.G.W.CO.) ; wax sealer type fruit jars; laundry blueing, worcestershire sauce & chemical bottles, and many other generic utility and “general household” bottle types.
Alot of the ware made by this company is found in some shade of aquamarine (light to medium blueish-green) but there can be considerable variation in the exact shade and intensity of color from one bottle to another, depending on the amount of iron that was present in the sand used. Much amber glassware was also produced (such as beer and whiskey bottles), and the wax sealer fruit (canning) jars are found in a variety of colors including aqua, light green, citron green, dark red amber, yellow olive green and shades of light blue. There is no doubt that embossed private-mold bottles were made for local firms (such as hutchinson soda bottles, patent medicines, etc), but, in general, these cannot be positively identified as KYGW production without a glass mark on the base. A rare glass target ball is known that was made by this company.
The factory operated in (what was then) the south side of Louisville, located at the southwest corner of 4th Street and Avery (formerly known as “C” Street). This location is now a parking lot used by the University of Louisville.
Occasional factory worker strikes, as well as fires are recorded. Searching through newspapers of the era, I found that the Kentucky Glass Works Company factory suffered a damaging fire on Wednesday, January 26, 1881.
From the Louisville Commercial newspaper, Thursday, January 27, 1881, page 4: FIRE IN A FACTORY
“Injuries to the Kentucky Glassworks, which are fully covered by insurance.
“At 5:00 yesterday morning an alarm of fire was sounded from box 236, and soon afterward a second signal came, a lurid illumination appeared in the southern part of the city in the vicinity of Fourth Avenue, it being found by the firemen to be caused by a blaze from the outbuildings of the Kentucky Glassworks as far out as C Street. The buildings on fire were of such an inflammable nature that they were soon destroyed, though the engines were promptly on hand and did good work considering the difficulty of obtaining water.
“The origin of the fire is a matter of doubt. It first started between the sand-drying and mixing rooms, and spread until the blacksmith shop, pot-house and several frame sheds were consumed. While the firemen could not save these buildings, they brought a heavy stream of water to bear upon the flames with such effect as to stay their progress. The factory and principal storehouse wre unharmed.
“The loss by the fire is estimated at $10,000, including buildings and stock consumed. The pot-house was well filled with pots, only recently purchased, all of which were ruined. A lot of the beer bottles were destroyed, and considerable quantities of fire-clay and soda ash will be a total loss. The insurance on the property destroyed will amply cover the losses, as the following table will show:
Louisville………. $2483.00 , Lamar……………. $2483.00 , Mercantile & Marine……………. $2483.00 , Orient…………… $983.00 , Hoffman…………. $983.00 , Franklin…………. $983.00 . [Total, $10,398.00]
“Edward Bull, the President of the Kentucky Glass-Works Company, is virtually the owner of the property. The Superintendent says that the suspension of operations caused by the fire will be very brief, as the buildings consumed can be renewed readily. There will be no delay in filling orders.
The firemen have asked the Commercial to express their thanks to some lady in the vicinity of the fire, who kindly furnished them a good breakfast after the fire was over”.
Two other slightly different marks used by this company are “K.G.W.CO.” and “K. Y. G. Co.” They are less often encountered, and apparently were used on only a few types of bottles. At present, I can confirm that the “K.G.W.CO.” mark appears on the base of a blob-top quart amber beer bottle, and “K. Y. G. Co.” is seen on at least two sizes of aqua-colored coffin whiskey flasks.
On another note, the earlier, unrelated Louisville Glass Works mentioned above (well known for several types of eagle, ribbed and scroll (“violin”) flasks they manufactured which are embossed “LOUISVILLE KY. // GLASS WORKS”), closed down in 1873, evidently as a result of the severe recession of that year, and never re-opened.
Also, another company with a similar name (Louisville Plate Glass Works) was opened by John B. Ford in the Portland section of Louisville in 1874, but that concern evidently produced plate glass and mirrors, but not hollowware (containers). It operated there until around 1888, with frequent periods thoughout those years during which the works were idle. Entries in Louisville city directories for the plate glass factory sometimes shortened the listings to “Louisville Glass Works”, and this has confused researchers who assumed that this and the Louisville Glass Works of 1855-1873 were one and the same, which is incorrect.
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