Hemingray Glass Company Sold; third tank will be added to produce more bottles; sold for about $1,000,000


Publication: The Muncie Evening Press

Muncie, IN, United States
vol. 41, no. 189, p. 1-2, col. 1-7,1


Owens-Illinois Company, of Toledo, Buys All

Assets and Business of Local Glass Firm

and Plans Immediate Enlargement.


Third Tank, Giving Employment to 75 Men,

Will Be Constructed, New Owners Announce;

Purchase Price About Million.


Announcement is made today of the purchase of all the assets and business of the Hemingray Glass Company, one of Muncie's most substantial industries, and said to be the oldest glass factory in the United States continuously owned by the same family, by Owens-Illinois Glass Company, of Toledo, Ohio. The Owens-Illinois Company owns many glass factories in various parts of the country, including plants in Evansville, Terre Haute and Gas City, Indiana.

William E. Levis, president of the Owens-Illinois, said in a conversation by telephone with The Muncie Press yesterday, that the Muncie plant will be continued in operation under the present management and that it will be enlarged by the equipment of an additional tank to be used in the manufacture of beverage bottles. The company now has two tanks operating on bottles and one on glass insulators. It is the leading manufacturer of insulators for telephone and telephone companies in the country.

Third Glass Tank Planned.

The third tank is expected to enlarge the working force in the factory by approximately 75 to 85 men. The factory is now employing about 250.

The purchase price was not made public but it is said to have been about $1,000,000.

Nearly all of the stock in the Hemingray company is owned by members of the Hemingray family, including Mrs. Eva Hemingray, widow of Ralph G. Hemingray; Mr. and Mrs. Philip McAbee, and Miss Luella Hemingray, Mrs. McAbee and Miss Hemingray being daughters of Ralph G. Hemingray; the Clifford Shinkle and Bradford Shinkle families of Cincinnati and other relatives.

Philip McAbee became president of the company and general manager in 1920 on the death of Ralph G. Hemingray, W. Paul Zimmerman has been secretary and treasurer of the company for about the same length of time. The announcement of President Levis that the present management is to be retained is particularly pleasing to Muncie citizens. Both Mr. McAbee and Mr. Zimmerman long have been identified actively in Muncie civic affairs.

The Hemingray factory now has on hand orders for beverage bottles which assure its continuous operation at capacity for several months even though it were to obtain no other orders in the meantime. Its wares are bought by many brewing and soft drink companies throughout the country, especially in the Mid-west.

End of Long Negotiations.

The sale of the Hemingray company's property has come about as the result of negotiations continuing over several months. The Owens-Illinois company is one of the largest manufacturing companies in the United States. It controls what is known as the Hartford-Empire patent on glass blowing machines and most of the other glass companies operate under license for the use of this patent granted by the Owens-Illinois. The Hemingray company is said to have been the only independent glass company in the United States operating under an unlimited license granted by the Owens-Illinois. That is, its license permitted it to manufacture beverage containers of many kinds and sizes, of any color of glass anywhere in the United States. Most if not all other licenses granted by the Owens-Illinois company limit the uses of the blowing machines in various ways.

President Levis said yesterday that one of the inducements for the purchase of the Hemingray company by Owens-Illinois was the former's insulator business. While, due to the depression, this has not been as great as it was before, the Hemingray company has an established business of this kind that not only extends throughout the United States but to many foreign countries.

Official Statement Issued.

The official statement of the Owens-Illinois Company, issued today from its Toledo offices, is as follows:

"Contracts have been entered into for the purchase of the entire assets and business of Hemingray Glass Company of Muncie, Indiana, manufacturers of glass insulators, and of substantially all the assets of The O'Neill Machine Company of Toledo, Ohio, manufacturers of glass bottle blowing machines of the vacuum type, it was announced today by William E. Levis, president of Owens-Illinois Glass Company.

"Hemingray Glass Company has specialized in the production of glass insulators for many years, and numbers among its customers the principal users of insulators for electric wiring in the United States. This business will become a part of the Industrial Materials Division of Owens-Illinois Glass Company, which has recently developed a number of new glass products, among them glass wool for building insulation and for air filtering installations. A glass building now under construction at the Century of Progress Exposition at Chicago, will introduce glass block as a structural and decorative material to the public.

"The O'Neill Machine Company has been engaged in the experimental development of an automatic bottle-blowing machine using the vacuum or suction process of drawing glass into the molds. The acquisition settles patent litigation between Owens-Illinois and O'Neill, and is expected to strengthen the present patent position of Owens-Illinois Glass Company, and be the forerunner of further development in automatic bottle blowing machines.

The story of the Hemingray Glass Company is a saga representative of the industrial progress of the Middle West. It is the oldest glass factory in the United States to have been operated continuously under control of one family.

It has been engaged in some branch of glass products manufacture since 1848.

From the time it located in Muncie, the Hemingray company developed until it achieved recognition as the foremost manufacturer of glass insulators in the world. Established here at the very beginning of the extraordinary development period following the opening of the natural gas field hereabouts in the late '80's, the Hemingray plant has ever since been a large employer and that has been one of the prime promoters of the growth and general development of the city.

Overcame Difficulties.

The world-wide distribution of its products has done much to extend the name and fame of Muncie as an industrial center.

The Hemingray company encountered unexpected difficulties in the early years of its operation here, difficulties that to some might have been wholly disheartening, but it carried on in the face of these problems and presently had overcome them and was in position to expand.

The organization had its inception in Cincinnati in 1848, when Gray and Hemingray started a small glass factory there. This firm continued operation at Cincinnati until about 1861, when the plant was moved across the river to Covington, Ky., where the industry was maintained until it was brought to Muncie in 1888.

Incorporated in 1870.

At this time the plant was being operated by the firm of Hemingray Brothers, Inc. Robert Hemingray, founder of the industry and his brother, Samuel Hemingray, has succeeded the firm of Gray and Hemingray in 1865, and operated under the name R. Hemingray and Brother for five years, when articles of incorporation were taken out.

Upon incorporation, Samuel Hemingray retired and J. L. Foley and Richard Evans took an interest in the business. Robert Hemingray was elected president of the new corporation, a position which he held until his death in 1897. Evans was named secretary-treasurer and he, too, retained his position until he died.

In the meantime, and before the company moved to Muncie, Ralph G., Robert C., and Daniel Hemingray, sons of Robert Hemingray, had become active factors in the affairs of the corporation and were actively in charge of operations when the company established its base of operations at Muncie.

For two years after the Muncie plant was started, the Covington plant was continued in operation and then was abandoned, the Muncie plant by that time being capable of handling the entire output. With the abandonment of the Covington plant, J. L. Foley retired from the business, while Evans remained until his death in 1897.

Fire Destroyed Plant.

In the summer of 1892 came the first of the misfortunes that beset the company the plant was destroyed by fire. It was about this time that Robert Hemingray, founder of the industry, pressed by the weight of years, retired from active participation and turned executive charge over to his eldest son, Ralph G. Hemingray.

The plant was rebuilt better than before and was going strong when the low tariff law of 1894 struck the glass industry like a blight. A bit of bad luck just ahead of this was the smallpox epidemic of 1893, which caused a shut-down of almost all Muncie industries for several weeks.

The Hemingray company weathered these storms, as well as the "hard times" which came upon the entire nation at that time, and when business conditions improved, found itself in a strong position to meet the market which opened out so expansively under the McKinley tariff law following this temporary period of depression.

From that time until the current economic depression, the progress of the Hemingray Glass Company has been practically uninterrupted.

Turned to Insulators.

Though the company had begun the manufacture of glass insulators as early as 1863, and had been doing a small business in the line, its chief products when it came to Muncie were lamps, lamp globes, table ware and hollow glassware generally.

Came the telephone and telegraph into general use, and with them a demand for glass insulators. In 1900 this demand had become so urgent that the Hemingray company began to devote almost all of its attention to meeting it. Within a brief time, insulators became the company's sole product.

By the adoption of improved methods, the Muncie organization soon came to be the recognized leader of the world in the manufacture of glass insulators.

Subsequently, when the need for insulators was satisfied to the extent that further production was necessary for the most part only to provide for breakage, the company turned part of its attention to the manufacture of bottles.

These two products since have been the plant's "leaders."

Elected president to succeed his father when the latter did [sic] died in 1897, Ralph G. Hmingray [sic] Hemingray continued in that office until his death in 1920, when Philip W. McAbee became president of the company. Mr. McAbee has held that office in the organization for 13 years.

Keywords:Hemingray : Owens-Illinois Glass Company
Researcher notes: 
Supplemental information: 
Researcher:Roger Lucas / Bob Stahr
Date completed:August 18, 2009 by: Bob Stahr;