The Bushwick Glass Works (Brookfield)

Detailed Article on Manufacturing Facilities and Products

[Trade Journal]

Publication: Crockery & Glass Journal

New York, NY, United States
vol. 2, no. 36, p. 29, col. 1-4

Bushwick Glass Works


These works are located on Grand street, Williamsburgh, N.Y., upon a portion of the property purchased from the Hon. Martin Kalbfleisch - and in fact, the first house was built by Mr. Kalbfleisch. Having found much trouble in procuring carboys for his acids, Mr. Kalbfleisch determined to start a glass works for the purpose of making these articles himself. With this view he erected a glass house in 1864. Falling in with Mr. Brookfield (An old glass manufacturer) soon after the works passed into his hands.




In this room may be witnessed the beginning of all glass making. The batch is the materials forming glass, and must be thoroughly mixed together. The green glass batch consists of sand, 100 pounds; soda, 40; lime, 28; and salt, 5 pounds. The sand is very fine and clear, of a slight green tint, and is procured at Millville, Cumberland County, New Jersey, in the vicinity of the lower Delaware. The soda is the ordinary soda of commerce, and the salt is that manufactured at Syracuse, in this State.




These are just three feet wide, and three feet deep, twelve feet long and open at the top. In them the different ingredients are placed, in the proportions named above, and the whole thoroughly mixed together by the use of hoes and shovels.




The beautiful purple or amber color we frequently see in wine bottles and heavy glass, is made precisely as we have already named, with certain additional portions of coloring matter. The lime used is in barrels and has all the appearance of air slacked lime, being almost an impalpable powder. When the batch is all prepared it is put into the pots as required. Persons have sometimes been greatly astonished in noticing that two kinds of glass come from one furnace, but this will be understood when they are told, that there are several pots in one furnace, and that these pots do not communicate with each other, so that each might contain glass of different colors.




This is adjoining the first batch room, and is 28x35 feet. About one-third of the space is a deep vault, into which the sand is dumped directly from the street, through a large doorway, avoiding the necessity of driving the sand carts into the yard. The remaining space is filled with barrels containing lime and other ingredients for the batch.




This is a narrow room adjoining the sand cellar, and is only about 10 or 12 feet wide, though 28 feet long. It is used as a slow drying room for the finished pots, and had now in it only ten, though we found scores of others as we made our journey among the various quarters of this immense glass works. The room might, perhaps, be more properly called a pot drying room, for before we finish we shall enter a room nearly ten times as large devoted to manufacturing the pots. In the formation of these articles a peculiar clay is used. It is imported from Germany, and comes to this country in blocks that are cubes of about ten inches. It is a very light drab color, almost white. It is quite dry and hard, but has the usual greasy feel of all clays. Sometimes it contains pieces of stone almost as hard as flint, but, as a general thing, these are removed in the foreign preparation. These umps are broken up with hammers and thrown into the mill. The mill is a great stone wheel, sixteen inches thick and nearly seven feet in diameter.

On this circle the clay is almost ground to a powder when it is gathered up and taken to the




These are in an opposite building. One floor is 50x80 feet. The clay being properly moistened is placed in the stamping box which is about twelve feet square, and here a heavy barefooted man steps in and commences the trampling process. Piling the clay on one end of his box, he commences stamping every inch until it is well flattened out. He then makes another pile and goes through the same treadmilling, until he has been twelve times over the whole, when the clay is considered sufficiently worked to be passed on to the molders.

The pots had tops and projecting necks that fitted the "working holes," so that but little of the fire was seen except in these necks.

The pots we now examined were entirely open at the top. The former were built in rolls the size of a finger, and without any guide but the eyes, so they varied very much according to the taste or skill of the builder or molder.

The present pots are built in wooden molds that are made with the sides in three sections fixed upon a flat wooden base. They have cloth tacked around them on the inside. The mold having been made ready, the molder has a perfect guide for his work, and all the pots are of the same size. They are all thirty-four inches in diameter and thirty-four inches high.




The process of molding (with the exceptions noted above) is similar to that formerly described, and need not be repeated here. In the course of building up the walls of the pots there is much extra clay but this is not thrown away. It is carefully collected to be used over. This, with the dried chippings or parings is called pot shells.

Old pots are broken up, and reground and form burnt clay which is used over. Having made these statements. The present composition of the clay for pots will be better understood. The formula consists of three parts of raw clay, three parts pot shells, and two parts burnt clay; all of which must be thoroughly mixed and stamped before the composition is formed into rolls for building the pots.




In the large room in which we now were, there were nearly fifty finished pots in process of drying, while the molders were at work making still more. It seemed to us that there was already a large supply, but when it is stated that there are two furnaces all the time in blast, and that each furnace has eight of these large pots, the supply will not be considered a very large one. Then the process is tedious. They must be gradually made and before completed a month is gone.




There are a number of pot ovens in each of the glass houses or furnace rooms. When the pots are needed in the furnaces, those that are already the driest are picked out and placed in he pot oven, where they are allowed to remain nine or ten hours, while the heat, commenced moderately, is gradually increased until the pot has a temperature of approximately that of the furnace when it is transferred thereto. Were it not for this caution, the sudden and severe heat of the furnace would shiver the pots into fragments almost instantly.




In another large room, 50x80 feet, stones were being manufactured for the use of the urnace [sic] furnace. The composition of these stones is sand and clay, and these are mingled in the same manner as the batch, but are only stamped three times instead of twelve.

When this is done, and the mass has time to become thoroughly incorporated, it is molded in forms of the required size. They are nearly all about eight inches thick, and two feet wide, though varying in length from three to five feet. They are used in forming the inside lining of the furnaces. Upon being subjected to the excessive heat of the furnaces, the sand fuses and the clay hardens, so that the compound becomes vary solid and permanent, and will last many months, though enduring the intense flame necessary in melting glass.

Upon the floor we found some forty or fifty of these stones drying, the molds having been removed in order that the air might increase the process. They are thus allowed to remain until they are required for service.




The mold room is a part of this floor partitioned off. It is perhaps 15x15 feet, and surrounded by shelves and bins, all of which were filled with molds for bottles.   The floor too, was well covered with them, and there must have been hundreds so placed as to be readily reached when needed.




The molds are the property of the persons for whom the bottles are made, they paying for them to the glass company, or providing them themselves directly from the mold makers. Mold making is a separate business by itself, though glass makers generally have some one to whom they can apply more readily than a stranger. The molds are generally retained in the glass house after being used, so as to be ready whenever a new lot of bottles from them is needed. They are expensive, costing from $25 to $300, so that no man will go the expense of having a mold made unless he expects to use a large quantity of bottles.




Demijohns are made of glass and placed in baskets. These baskets are woven by hand over the glass bottle. Many have wondered how the glass got inside the basket. It never did, but the basket gets over the glass. The baskets are made of split rattan. The rattan is imported from East India, mostly from the English port of Calentia, whence the largest supplies reach Boston, where our Yankee neighbors have a process and machinery by which they deprive it of its hard outer shell or bark, that is almost like glass, and then split or divide the body of the reed which is soft and pliable, into delicate strips ready for use.

Commencing at the center of the base of the bottle a series of these strips are arranged pointing outward. These form the warp and are long enough to reach the mouth of the bottle. Then two or three strands together form the filling and are woven by hand around the bottle over one and under the next strand of the warp until the mouth of the bottle is reached; when the ends are knotted over into a roll, and the demijohn completed.

A small apartment, probably 20x20 feet, and under the charge of Mr. Henry Bahr, is devoted to the weaving of the demijohn baskets. Here with one boy and two or three girls, under a contract with these glass works, he is able to turn off these articles at a rapid rate. Demijohns are made of the capacity of from one quart to five gallons. Mr. Bahr employs his own assistants; is an industrious young and married man, who has struck out in a line that promises well for his future fortune. He is very steady and attentive to his business.




We were now conducted by our attentive cicerone to another and larger batch room, 20x50 feet, where we found three more large batch boxes in which the material is mixed with fifteen hundred pounds of sand, and the other ingredients in that proportion. Barrels of lime and heaps of sand filled the room, and the mixers were busy with their shovels and hoes, in preparing the batches as required. A dust not very agreeable to the lungs was quite perceptible, but we stood it long enough to observe the process.




We now entered an immense room which is 50x80 feet square, in the midst of which was the furnaces. Peeping first underneath at the roaring fire, we thought of the terrific heat of the old furnace in which the three just Jews were placed and from which they escaped without the smell of fire upon their garments. Then we took a view at the working holes and openings at the ends over the flames, where we could see the eight pots ranged four on each side, and almost touching each other, There was a terrific heat within, and it roared and raged as if it would tear away the solid brick walls that contained it's fury.




"Telegraph insulators" are the small bodies of glass that are attached to the poles for the purpose of insulating the wires, that is, protecting them from touching anything that is a conductor of electricity. Glass is used because it is a non-conductor. Should the wires touch the wooden poles which are strong conductors, the current of electricity would be broken, and no communication could be made through them.




There are on the premises fifteen annealing furnaces. We glanced into one that was receiving the glassware. The hot mass when finished is seized by a small boy on the end of a long forked rod, and conveyed to the oven in which they are as nicely heaped in piles as if they were blocks of wood arranged by hand. They are allowed to remain in the oven about three days, by which time they are sufficiently annealed to be sent to the packing room.




We now took a run out to the smith shop, which is an out-of-the-way place in the yard. It is a mere shed of small dimensions, but is large enough for the purpose. It contains one good sized forge with a monstrous bellows, and the usual appliances of a smithy; such as anvils, vices, tongs, etc. Here were two or three boys and as many men. The boys are from the furnaces and are sent to the smith shops on errands, such as repairing of the blow pipes, etc.




These are upon the same large scale that marked everything about the works. The first we entered was 20x100 feet, and filled with boxes, barrels, and hay. Here were several men and boys carefully yet rapidly examining every article made in the establishment, and packing them in the boxes, etc., ready to be sent away as ordered. Another shed of the same size was filled with boxes containing glassware which had already been packed, and was filled almost end to end.

But we were not done with sheds. We approached a third one that was filled with green carboys for the acids of the chemical works on the other side of the street, and were no longer in ignorance of where all these vessels came from.




There are two kinds of carboys made, one of green glass and one of the delicate amber shade which we have already written. These carboys are blown and yet they must be all of the same capacity. A large open mold of clay, just the size of the outside of a large carboy, is sunken in the earth near the furnace. A good sized boy gathers from the working hole a quantity of glass large enough to form the carboy. He hands his tube, with the glass upon it, to a man who rolls it for some time upon the marble slabs and gets it well compacted together. It is next handed to the blower, who continues the rolling for a moment to ascertain if it is ready for his part. He then drops the mass into the open mold and blows through the tube at intervals, withdrawing it often, and again dropping it into the mold after being turned half round. Thus he continues until the mold is filled by the enlarged size of the glass, when he draws out the neck and it is passed again to the working hole, heated and transferred again to a third operator, who forms the mouth, as we have already described elsewhere.

In our former articles in describing the process of blowing small ware, we mentioned that the blower sat and did his own rolling. In making these large vessels the glass-blower is compelled to stand and to exert much more actual labor. Fifteen or sixteen pounds of molten glass at the end of a tube six feet long, is no child's lift for the operator.




When the carboys are finished and annealed they are boxed. Over the mill already described, is a room of the same size, which is used as a carpenter's shop. It is provided with a circular saw for cutting up the boards to proper lengths. In this room are made the boxes for the carboys. These boxes are made square, and after the carboy is placed in the box a stout tom is nailed over them, leaving only the necks protruding a few inches above. After they are filled with acids and closed, a small frame-work is extended over the mouth of the carboy to protect the necks, but this part of the work is not done at the glass-works. Cleats are nailed on two sides of the box about one-third of the distance from the top, and by these they are carried from place to place, two stout pieces of wood being always ready to shift under these cleats, so as to form a sort of temporary hand barrow.

When the glass carboys are placed in the wooden boxes, they are closed and carefully packed all around with hay to prevent the glass being broken from any sudden jar.

Acid is dangerous stuff to handle, and for that reason every precaution is used to ensure its safe transportation.




In the second large furnace room or building, are made a great variety of jars, cans and bottles. Thousands of gross of these long, square, pickle and chow-chow jars; perhaps more still of small bottles for Radway's Ready Relief, and scores of other patent medicine bottles are being constantly made here. Then Mason's Patent Fruit Jars still further increase the list. These jars have ground mouths, and the glass works makes so many of them that they have been obliged to put up an apparatus for grinding them. This is an ordinary grindstone about six feet in diameter, which is revolved horizontally by means of a shaft through the center and proper cog gearing above. Being set in motion the bottles are held, mouth downward, upon the upper surface of the stone, a few turns of which serve to grind them off sufficiently to produce a level surface that can easily render the bottle air tight when a level cap is placed on top. They are largely employed by these persons who preserve and can fruit and vegetable during the summer and autumn seasons. The wheel here mentioned is capable of grinding off (with only one workman) one hundred dozen of bottles in a day. Four men can work at the wheel if needed, and would, of course, do, four times the work. Very large numbers of bottles for the celebrated Vinegar Bitters are also made here.




Under the great stamping floors or pot rooms already described, is an immense cellar way in which may be found twelve hundred tons of sand at a time. A portion of the cellar room is used for packing carboys.




There are 160 hands employed in the works, and they are about half men and half boys. The weekly wages amount to between $1,500 and $1,600, and payment is made punctually every Saturday night. The glassblowers are mostly Americans; the yard men are generally Germans, while the boys are a goodly mixture of German and Irish.




The product of the works is very large. Thousands of dollars are received from the manufacturers of patent medicine, and the pickle and fruit men and mineral water dealers.




Mr. Brookfield has erected upon the premises a long row of two story brick houses, very conveniently located for small families, and provided with water and gas. These houses are let at very moderate rents to the employees upon the ground, and are an evidence of the proprietor's careful thought for his workman.




The Bushwick Glass Works consume daily 5 tons of sand, 2 tons of soda ash, 16 barrels of lime and 3 bushels of salt.


Keywords:Brookfield : Shop : Bushwick Glass Works
Researcher notes: 
Supplemental information: 
Researcher:Bob Stahr
Date completed:December 18, 2004 by: Bob Berry;