New Albany Glass Works, New Albany, Indiana (1867- c.1872)
Captain John Baptiste Ford and his son Edward Ford (and/or his other son Emory Ford – both sons are mentioned in various sources) along with investors Samuel Montgomery and Henry Hennegan, doing business as “Montgomery, Ford & Company”, proprietors of the New Albany Glass Works, began glass production on Thursday, February 4, 1867. That day was evidently the very first day glass of any type was produced in the history of the city of New Albany. (New Albany Daily Ledger, 2/7/1867, page 2).
New Albany Glass Works produced only common handblown and flattened window glass during the first few months of operation. Production of hollowware (bottles, vials, demijohns and fruit jars) was added later, when an additional glasshouse for hollowware was built in the fall of 1867. The glass works was situated near the Ohio River, south of Main Street and in the general area between 9th and 10th streets, not far from the William S. Culbertson Mansion.
NOTE: One early source (History of the Ohio Falls Cities and their Counties, Volume 2, L. A. Williams & Co., 1882, page 222) gives 1865 as the year of Ford’s first venture into glass making in the city of New Albany. That information is incorrect (although vague plans for starting up a glass works in New Albany were being discussed as early as October of 1865, according to an article in the New Albany Daily Ledger, 10/24/1865, page two. No specifics are given, and the article appears to be no more than reporting of a vague rumor.)
Because of the incorrect year given in the above-named reference published in 1882, quite a number of later books and articles, including recent internet publications, repeat the error and there has been some confusion since then concerning the year the first glass works in New Albany was started. Historian Gerald O. Haffner, on page 30 of his “The Glass Industry of New Albany” (1982) recounts this confusion, but doesn’t make it clear that the confusion (and timeline of some events) was started by the 1882 reference. Apparently that earlier history was written without careful consultation of some of those early newspaper articles that show when the glassworks was established, and some hazy recollections and hearsay were relied upon instead.
According to the New Albany Daily Commercial (7/30/1866), the company had recently been formed and the land for the works had been purchased. The actual building of the glass works began in the late summer of 1866, and an article that appeared in that same paper (9/6/1866, page 4) described the construction of the buildings that were being erected at the time. The New Albany Daily Ledger (10/20/1866, page two) states “Messrs. Ford, Montgomery & Hennegan are now building and will soon have in successful operation a large Glass Manufactory.”
Less than three weeks after the glass blowing operation had begun, a fire at the factory occurred on February 20. 1867. (New Albany Daily Ledger, 2/21/1867). The fire started in the sand drying house, and spread to the furnace, blowing house and the lime and soda storage building. Being made of wood, those buildings suffered very heavy damage. Loss was estimated to be not less than $15,000. Most of the other buildings, including the packing building and warehouse, escaped serious damage, and the destroyed buildings were quickly rebuilt.
In May of 1867, Samuel Montgomery traded his interest in the company to John B. Ford in exchange for a steamboat, the Dexter, then under construction at Jeffersonville, Indiana. As of May 23, the entire ownership of the firm was then in the hands of John Ford and his son Emory Ford. The firm name (business name) was changed at that time to “John B. Ford & Son”. (In some newspaper articles, both “Son” and “Sons” were used, even within the same article!) By June 27, 1867, the destroyed buildings had been replaced and the glass making was again in full force. An article in the New Albany Daily Ledger (6/28/1867, page 4) indicates the factory had started up production the day before, and gives a detailed description of the process of producing window glass.
The factory seems to have prospered fairly well over the next two to three years. On January 9, 1869 an announcement in the New Albany Daily Ledger indicated that J.B. Ford & Son had sold 1/2 of the interest in the factory to J.J. Brown, Morris McDonald and W. N. Mahon. Mahon would be in charge of the business affairs. In a subsequent NADL article, January 16, 1869, the firm name had been officially changed to “Ford, Mahon & Company”. The article states John B. Ford would continue as General Manager, his son Emory Ford the superintendent of the Window house, and his other son Edward Ford would supervise the bottle and glassware department. Plans were then being made to expand the works.
Just five months later, a brief notice appeared in the New Albany Daily Ledger on June 19, 1869, announcing that John B. Ford was transferring 1/4th of New Albany Glass Works to John S. McDonald, and another 1/4th of the glass works to Mary A. Lapsley. Thus, with Ford and sons officially exiting the company, it would appear that was when the business name of the works was changed again, from “Ford, Mahon & Co” to “W. N. Mahon & Co”.
Although there seems to have been little publicity or clear explanation at the time, since Ford was thereafter no longer officially associated with the New Albany Glass Works as of June 19, this was apparently about the time when he began his building of another glass works, his second glass company (Star Glass Works) which was being erected in the immediate area, right next to the New Albany Glass Works property. (See Star Glass Works). An article in the New Albany Daily Ledger just a few days later (July 8, 1869) reveals that Captain Ford was then involved in building what would be known as Star Glass Works.
In the New Albany Daily Ledger, (October 14, 1869 – page 2), there was coverage of a large commercial parade then being held in Louisville, (showing off the various manufacturers and their products in the Louisville and surrounding area) – almost a gala holiday, it seems, and one of the articles reads:
“New Albany Glass Works”
“The New Albany Glass Works of W. N. Mahon & Co. had their large spring wagon drawn by mules, finely trimmed off with glassware. On the rear end stood three large glass cylinders, one of which is eighty-four inches long; another forty-four inches in circumference and seventy-four inches long. In the center of the bed [parade float] stood a mammoth glass shade, the largest one ever made in America, two large demijohns, each having capacity to contain sixteen gallons; all kinds of bottle ware, window glass, willow ware [willow or wicker covered bottles] and colored glass were displayed. On each side of the bed, falling over the wheels, was a large muslin streamer containing the following: “W.N. Mahon & Co.’s New Albany Glass Works”. The display was a very fine one and attracted general attention”.
The New Albany Glass Works was officially incorporated on February 8, 1870, over 3 years after they began blowing glass. The incorporators included John S. McDonald, Jesse J. Brown, Morris McDonald, Mary A. Lapsley, Reuben P. Main, W. N. Mahon, and Edmund A. McGuinness (New Albany Daily Ledger, 2/11/1870). In March of 1870 William S. Culbertson purchased 1/8th interest in the factory for $12,500.
The New Albany Glass Works, as “W. N. Mahon & Co” continued to operate until about 1872, but eventually closed down, evidently because of increasingly poor economic conditions during the 1872-1873 time period. The NAGW factory property was purchased in 1874 by Washington C. DePauw and was subsequently absorbed into the Star Glass Works (established 1869). Star Glass continued to expand production, with more buildings being erected and better equipment introduced during the late 1870s and into the 1880s. Star Glass Works became known as DePauw’s American Plate Glass Works after about 1879.
A dark red-amber quart ale-type bottle (shown) is confirmed to exist and bears the lettering “NEW ALBANY GLASS WORKS” embossed in a circle on the bottom. In addition, another variant of the same type of bottle is lettered “NEW ALBANY GLAS WORKS”, apparently as a result of a moldmaker’s engraving error. An example of that bottle sold on ebay in February of 2018. I don’t know which variation is more common, but both seem to be very scarce.
I don’t know of any other bottles that can be positively attributed to this glass works, so much of their bottle and jar production was probably unmarked (not bearing the glass company name or initials), or bore only the names of the end user companies they were made for.
For more information, please see the STAR GLASS WORKS page.
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