George H. (George Henry) Thurston.

Allegheny county's hundred years online

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"his control of the home market and power to compete without ruin, is more to
the advantage of the consumer than to the manufacturer, to say nothing of the
advantage of labor thus having employment in making that which would other-
wise be made in a foreign country by foreign workmen. And fourthly, that the
•glass manufacturers of Pittsburgh, through the tariff protection, which has enabled
them to build up the great glass business of the city, can now compete with Euro"
pean manufacturers and pay labor the high standard of wages that have been
-obtained by American glass workers. The inference is plain.

The figures that have been given of the growth of the glass trade, as in com
parison with its own ratios of progress, are instructively illustrated by the compari-
iive statistics with the growth of its own population and -that of the south and
west, and the increase of its production of glass. The increase of the business of
-uny producing center with the ratios of the growth of its natural markets would
be held commercially satisfactory if it kept pace in corresponding ratios with
that market. At the date at which the manufacture of glass was first started
in Pittsburgh, 1797-1800, the population of the city was 1,565, or about four-tenths
'of one per-cent. of that of the western country to which the producers of glass
-would look for consumption, which was 885,647. At that date the population of
Pittsburgh was four-tenths of one per cent, of that of the east and west, and its
production of glass equal to two cents per capita, and about four dollars per capita of
the population of the town. In 1870 the population of Pittsburgh was equal to one
and four-tenths of the west and south, and in 1875, it is recorded that the product
of the window and green glass was $3,750,000, or equal to twenty-five cents per
■capita of its market, and about %l 9 per capita of its own population, while for her
trade to have increased in proportion with its markets and its own, it would have
needed that it should have held the same ratio as in 1800. The statistics show
that it had increased 500 per cent, more than was required. In table glass ware
using the same calculations as to ratio as in window glass, they show that in 1810
the productions were, as with population of the west and south, three cents per
capita, and with the population of Pittsburgh, about six dollars.

In 1875 the ratios were with the census of 1870, as about fourteen cents per
•capita, for the population of the south and west, and as about eleven dollars as to
the population of the city, of the amount of 1875. The production of window
glass in 1855 was of a value of $1,484,430; in 1875 it was |3,750,000, an increase
in value of production of $2,295,550, an increase of over 150 per cent, in twenty
years. In 1855 the production of table glass ware was of a value of $1,147,540
and in 1875 the value of the production was $2,250,000, an increase of 100 per
«cent. in twenty years. In 1885 the value of the production in round numbers is


of record as $3,000,000, a further increase in ten years of about 33 per cent, on" the
production values of 1875, an increase on those of 1855, in thirty years, of over
180 per cent.

The best goods at the lowest cost create the most magnetic market. The fore-
going statistics indicate that such has been the status of the glass market of Pitts-
burgh. If it has been such in the past what may not it become in the future
under the use of gas fuel, when thus glass of a quality not before possible is the
daily product of the glass works. The table ware has a brilliancy of luster and a
clearness, and the colored ware a delicacy of tint not to be attained with coal fueh
Where that is used the sulphur flames destroy the brilliancy of the material, while
with gas fuel the wares come from the " lehrs " with a brilliancy in crystal ware
'before unattainable, and the colors in tinted glass glow with all the richness of the
natural hues. The same result is apparent in window glass. In an experiment^
by visual test, it was found that it was impossible to distinguish any thing
clearly through six plates of window glass made with coal fuel, but that the ordi-
nary printed matter of a newspaper could be read with ease through three times
the number of plates made with gas fuel. That the glass made with coal fuel had
a dull, unbrilliant surface, while that made Avith gas fuel had the polish of French '
plate. Touching this, the following from " Pittsburgh's Progress, Resources and -
Industries," is pertinent :

"A location to become a great and controlling manufacturing point cannot
attain force from the possession of any one or two requisites ; neither can it leap
into broad success, but must attain its growth through years of accumulation of
skill practically obtained. While it may possibly be that a sufficiency of gas fuel
may be found other places than in the locality of Pittsburgh and its vicinity, the
accumulation of three generations of practical skill now indigenous to Pittsburgh
will be of slow concentration elsewhere, and while the pen that may a score of
years hence record the manufacturing growth of the country will no doubt have
mention to make of other glass producing centers, the statistics will show no fall-
ihg off in Pittsburgh's progress in her glass trade. Competition may develop
economies that may reduce prices, and rivalries invite attempts at superiorities in
qualities, but at Pittsburgh all that will keep the glass trade of the city in advance
is more possible than at any other location."

The improvement in the quality and beauty of the glass from their factories,,
has at all times been a consideration with the glass manufacturers of Allegheny-
county, and while that has gone hand in hand with the effort to cheapen the cost,,
quality has not been sacrificed to cheapness, and the best material an end to be
reached. Sand is a large factor in glass making, and as glass is to a great extent
but melted silica, the best and purest of that ingredient is desirable. About 183Pr
L. M. Speer originated a method of preparing sand by a methodical manner, that
cleaned it of much of its impurities or earthy matter through washing. Shortly
after N. Q. Speer originated the method of conveying sand through a series of
screens, by which the cost of washing was cheapened. Formerly it took two men
a day to wash five tons of sand, by Mr. Speer's method the same number of mem
can grind and wash 100 tons.


By this the finest deposits of sandstone, yielding the better quality of silica,
became utilized, and a mountain composed almost entirely of fine silica, from 100
to 300 feet high and a mile in length, near Huntington, became available. It is
the most extensive deposit of flint sand yet discovered, and contains enough to
supply the glass factories of the world for unlimited time. It is controlled by the
Speer White Sand Co., of Pittsburgh, and the glass manufacturers of that city
have at their doors almost enormous supplies of this basis of their glass and of the
best quality. Pittsburgh seems to be unexceptionably located in respect to all
things to enable it to hold not only the leadership in the making of glass, but also
in all her other staples. In the earlier paragraphs of the history of glass making
in Allegheny county mention is made of the difficulties experienced by O'Hara in
the making of pots for his furnace. This was an accompaniment of all the earlier
glass works, but was gradually overcome as the factories increased. When, how-
ever, the industry grew to greater proportions, the demand for pots originated a
new branch of business connected with glass manufacturing, and the making of
pots for glass furnaces becoming a distinct business. Pots are the foundations of
glass making, as in them the materials are fused, and were made for many years
in the respective factories.

The process of pot making is a slow one, and the average life of a pot is about
four months; this required the factories to carry a large stock on hand to be at all
times prepared with new pots, which good glass required. They are made in
batches of from eight to ten, from clay, that of Missouri having taken the place
of late years of imported clays. In the making of them they are built up only
about eight inches at a time, by hand, and then stand two or three days to stiffen^
when a new layer is added, the clay having to stand about two months to mellow-
before using. It takes about three weeks to build a pot, which then has to stand
from three to four months to temper before it can be used, and the whole time be*
fore the pot is ready to use, from the time of its commencement, is about five
months. This was the difficulty that O'Hara encountered. His clays were all
brought over the mountains, and, as mentioned, had often to be used before dried
and tempered sufficiently, and thus frequently melted at the first heating. To
keep a large factory properly supplied with pots necessitated not only keeping a
stock of clays on hand, but a quantity of pots, so that the supply should be ample.
As the number of factories increased the competition began to cheapen the price
of glass. Economies began to be studied by the manufacturers, and among them
the lessening of the cost of new pots. This led, as before observed, to the estab-
lishment of Glsss Pot Factories, by which the manufacturers of glass were enabled,
without the expense of carrying heavy stocks of clays and pots, to keep themselves
at all times supplied quickly. It will be seen that "pot factories" were not only
necessary to the progress of glass making at Pittsburgh, but became more of a re-
quisite as the industry increased.

The business was established in 1860 in an old stable on the South Side bv
Thomas Coffin, a native of New Hampshire, who came to Pittsburgh in 1856 to


work in the O'Hara Glass Co.'s factory. Mr. Coffin afterwards removed his factory
to South Tenth street, requiring greater facilities, and afterwards established a
branch at St. Louis, in order to work a clay mine at Missouri. Pot making has
increased with the growth of glass making, until there is now over 4,000 pots a
year made in Allegheny county, of a value of about $200,000, and this branch of
the glass making employs about 235 men, to whom wages to the amount of $90,000
are paid, and the product of their labor is shipped to all points of the United
States and Canada.

The manufacture of the silicate of soda also is among the advances in glass and
glass material, in Allegheny county. This is a vitreous substance being really
glass but held in solution, only not taken from pots, and made into vases and win-
dow panes. It has been made for several years in Europe and the east, but its
manufacture was only begun at Pittsburgh by C. C. Beggs & Co. in 1887. The
purposes to which it may be applied are wide. Among the purposes to which it
may be applied is the welding of steel, by surgeons for the setting of limbs, for the
coating of barrels and walls, and for insulation purposes, and promises to become
an important factor in the use of electricity. Although but a young offshoot ot
glass making in Allegheny county, it is proper that it should be mentioned as like-
ly to add to the future reputation of all that relates to the county's prominence in
glass or its components..

In connection with the pioneer character of Allegheny county, noted in other
branches of the business, there is one which has grown out of the glass making,
that should be mentioned. In 1884, H. L. Dixon & Co. established works for the
construction of glass works in all their details and also other glass construction
work. A similar departure in the iron business has previously been noted, and it
is a notable feature in the progress of the county, that in two of its leading indus-
tries, that not only for manufactures pertaining to them, the county should be fa-
mous but is laying a foundation for future fame in a reputation for furnishing com-
plete plants for the production of the staples for which it is renowned. In 1888
the firm of IT, L. Dixon & Co. became Dixon, Wood & Co., they furnish with the
exception of the wall a glass house complete to order, furnaces, lehrs, lehr pans,
pot arches, glorie holes and the iron work and put them in position for work.
This is done no where else in the United States.

There is a historical value attached to the origination of any industry and a
proper local pride in its birth place, and this new pioneer feature of Allegheny
county is mentioned, because it will in future histories of the glass manufactories
in the United States have a historic interest.

The making of stained glass is among the manufactures of Pittsburgh, and was
established in 1852 by Wm. Nelson, at the corner of Water and Ferry streets.
There are three establishments producing this decorative glass, employ about 60
hands and produce from $150,000 to $200,000 of work annually. This branch of
the glass industry of Allegheny county has made great advances in its artistic de-
velopment since it was first established nearly forty years ago, and Pittsburgh has


to-day the largest atlier west of Philadelphia. The stained glass windows of Ihe
cathedrals of Europe, the work of the old masters three or four centuries ago, are
renowned as art treasures. It is among the possibilities that Allegheny county
and Pittsburgh will be famous for their art windows.

The manufacture of plate glass was also established in Allegheny county in 1883,
by the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., at Creighton station on the West Penn E. K.,
near Tarentum. These works employ from 700 to 800 hands, and manufacture
plate glass of as large sizes as 15 by 12 feet, and of an average thickness of three
eighths of an inch. The product of these works is about 40,000 feet a week, with
a capacity for much more. The result of glass making at Pittsburgh has been
again to confer a general benefit on the public. Before plate glass was made in
the United States the price of imported plate glass was as high as |2.50 a square
foot. It has now declined to $.70. The first attempt to make plate glass was at
Lenox, Mass., but was not a success. It was afterwards made at New Albany, MQ.O^y^-w
by J. B. Ford and W. C. Depaw. In 1883, J. B. Ford, induced by the advantages
for glass making at Pittsburgh and the desirability of gas fuel, established in Alle-
gheny county, as before mentioned, the works indicated.

The making of glass moulds is also an adjunct, and a very important one, to
the manufacture of glass. This branch of manufacture is not, as its title might
suggest to the uninformed, the production of moulds of glass, but the making of
iron and steel moulds in which the forms of the glass table ware of Pittsburgh is
formed. The simplicity and ease with which by these moulds the beautiful forms
of the goblets, pitchers, vases, fruit dishes and all the numerous articles of glass-
ware are made requires to be seen to be understood. In these moulds the glass in
its fluid state is pressed into the required form with the greatest facility, but it is
to the skill of the mould maker that the perfect result in the pressed ware is due.
There are four glass mould making establishments in Pittsburgh. The largest of
these was established in 1857, and it is another exemplification of the progress of
Pittsburgh factories. When first started twenty-nine years ago the space occupied
was 12x8 feet, and the works have now an area of 72x80 feet, two stories in
height. As the moulds in their finished state are of comparatively small bulk the
space just mentioned is indicative of a large increase of business from that which
was turned out in the 12x8 shop of 1857. The presses and moulds from this es-
tablishment are in use in the glass works of Scotland, England, France, Belgium,
Bohemia, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Denmark and even Japan, as well
as throughout the United States and Canada, It is not a little singular to note in
connection with this how little by little the products of Pittsburgh are finding
their markets in foreign countries, a foreshadowing of a cosmopolitan trade in the
future. The four glass mould factories employ about 70 hands, and the value of the
moulds made about $150,000 to $175,000 a year.

From the making of the first window glass blown in Allegheny to the period
when its business men began to ship complete glass houses and factories, the narra-
tive of the glass industry of the county has been sketched. Though much remains


untold of iis co-relative branches and connected industries, enough has been said
to outline its history and inform the reader of its growth.


Natural Gas.

A knowledge of the introduction and use of natural gas in Allegheny county's
workshops and houses is widespread, and there are few sections of the United
States and even Europe that the fact is not a familiar one. Its existence, its prac-
tical use and the advantage of it which it has given the manufacturers of Alle-
gheny county are well understood, and require no argumentative description. As
to what it is, how or when it was formed, and the possible continuance of the
supply, theories on theories have been promulgated without any elucidating result.
The simple fact remains that in this strange vapor of the earth Allegheny county '
seems to have the nearest to inexhaustable quantity provided it should not ex-
haust. That time alone will tell. It is sufficient that it has furnished the manu-
facturers of Allegheny county with a fuel which gives them numerous advantages,
and its household comforts and pleasures that are to its people a daily theme,
although its use is so general tliat it should be an old story.

While its practical use has thus been conferred upon the people of Alle-
gheny county, the result will be to the world. So long as the manufactureis
of the county have natural gas fuel they hold all others at disadvantage. It is
a natural characteristic of the human nature to equalize conditions by artificial
means if the natural appliances are wanting. As gas fuel has been so fully tested
in Allegheny county as to demonstrate its advantages and superiority to all others
manufacturers elsewhere must equalize its advantages. This can only be done by
the use of artificial gases where the natural vapor cannot be had. In bringing
about such a necessity the people of Allegheny county have conferred a benefit
on all others. As long as natural gas, although so long known to exist, remained
without practical application to the world's industries, so long would no effort
have been made to obtain the advantages that gas fuel gives. Having been put
to use and all its benefits demonstrated the manufacturing world must needs be-
come homogenous in its use. In "Pittsburgh's Progress, Eesources and Industries,"
it is said :

There is but one Pittsburgh. As yet the development of the world has dis-
closed no one locality where the same natural forces and advantages are grouped.
Some of each other localities may possess ; but, whatever the future may unfold,
to-day there is not in the woild a community with the same grouping of wealth-
creating powers, natural and artificial ; a city whose steady progress is so assured,
if the same factors of wealth and manufacturing growth shall continue to be of
force in the future as in the past.

]sAlUliAL GAS. 203

It is claimed in " Pittsburgh As It Is," published in 1857, "That hereafter
Pittsburgh will be the most progressive and accumulative city in the Union."
This assertion was made under the statistics of her past progress as a manufactur-
ing center through the force of her coal fuel, and the cheapness and facility with
which, by her railway and water transportations, the material could reach the fuel
and be re-distributed in its manufactured forms. Since that assertion was made-
the fuel force of Pittsburgh has received a reinforcement that is exciting the man-
ufacturing world. Known by the popular term of "Natural Gas," this vapor has^^
— in all things where fuel is a factor in the product of manufactured articles —
supplanted coal and given Pittsburgh as great a "foreset" in manufacturing as in
past years her coal.

Coal has been a wonderful power in the great manufacturing developments of
the world. Results being greater where the coal fuel was cheapest and the most
abundant. Great as has been the power of coal to give manufacturing advantages,.
and favored as was the locality where this mineral abundantly existed, in con-
junction with other advantages, yet greater will be the power of natural gas.
Pittsburgh has been the first to utilize and bind this new power to her car of

It is a subject for comment that for the long period of years for which this ga,s
has been known not only to exist in various localities of the earth, and in some of
them issuing from natural pipeage in great volumes, that it was never utilized. It is-
likewise still more singular that in Western Pennsylvania, where, from nearly the
years that Allegheny county has been organized and even in the suburbs of Pitts-
burgh, its existence has not only been a matter of common information, but its in-
flamable nature and heat producing qualities known, that no effort should have-
been made, considering the inventive and adaptive characteristics of the average-
American, to utilize it, when it was in such close proximity to such a growing
manufacturing center. There was hardly a salt well bored in which gas did not
show itself, and to the great annoyance of the borers for salt water, the gas often
taking fire and doing serious damage.

On January 17th, 1823, John Klingsworth, Nicholas Long and Philip Klings-
worth were boring a well at what is now the town of Grapeviile, when at the depth
of about 300 feet the gas rushed up with great force, arfd, igniting from a fire in^
the cabin that had been built over the salt well to protect the workmen, burned
them seriously and burned the cabin.

For many years previously bubbles had been arising in the swampy ground in
the neighborhood, which the school boys were in the habit of igniting for amuse-
ment. This is now the famous Grapeviile Gas District. At about the same time-
a similar experience was had by some persons boring for salt water in Washington
county, through tapping a vein of gas. This was in the neighborhood of the fam-
ous McGuigan Well, which, after it was sunk, continued to pour forth its immense
volumes of gas, and having been ignited, to burn with great fury and heat for a>
number of years before it was utilized, which was not till after the adoption of ga&
as a fuel at Pittsburgh.


An individual, impressed with the value of this gas as a fuel, some years pre-
vious obtained control of this well, and spent much time and money in endeavor-
ing to obtain capital among the manufacturers of Pittsburgh to pipe it to their
works, and was only politely laughed at as a visionary. A similar experience was
had by Wm, Johnston, a practical oil producer and business man of this city, who
secured a lease of the great Murraysville gas well, that for eight or ten years al-
most stunned the people of the locality with the roar of the escaping volumes of
•gas. Mr. Johnston sought to raise a capital of $50,000 to pipe the gas to the mills
of Pittsburgh, and after trying vainly for one year to accomplish that end, aban-
doned the enterprise, being, like the previous person mentioned, looked upon as a
visionary. To repeat, it seems very singular, looking back on the past in the light
of the present, that two persistent efforts to give Pittsburgh the great manufactur-
ing advantages it now enjoys from the use of gas fuel, and with the knowledge
fully possessed by intelligent people of its adaptability for fuel, and that gas could
he conveyed in distances in pipes, that Pittsburgh should thus have closed its eyes
4o its benefits and the gates of its factories against its introduction. There wer^e,
iiowever, finally two associations of Pittsburghers who, comprehending all its ad-
vantages for gas fuel, set to work and ventured money on introducing this fuel to
the factories of Allegheny county. In 1874 H. Sellers McKee, Pobert B. Brown,
Oeo. Trautraan and Wm. H. Aldred and associates, applied for and obtained a
•^charter for a company called the " Fuel Gas Company of Pittsburgh."

The object of these persons was not, however, to pipe the natural gas from

Online LibraryGeorge H. (George Henry) ThurstonAllegheny county's hundred years → online text (page 27 of 43)