Publication: The Muncie Star
Muncie, IN, United States
Discovery of natural gas in East Central Indiana and Western Ohio in the 1870s and 1880s did not in itself cause the booming industrial activity that the area enjoyed for more than a generation.
Obviously industrial production needs a market, and that was provided with the southwestward movement of the nation's center of population throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
Many people are aware that one industry which natural gas brought to this area was that of glass production — not just jars and bottles and other containers, but also flat glass.
An 1893 Muncie city directory lists seven glass manufacturers. They were located throughout the city, including one in its new industrial suburb of Boyceton, east of White River along the Selma (Jackson Street) Pike and near the Big Four and Lake Erie & Western railroads.
Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Co., relocated here in the 1880s by the five brothers who owned and operated it in Buffalo, N.Y., was at the southeast edge of the city — the former Galliher farm. The directory says it's on Merriweather Avenue (now Ninth Street) near Blaine Street.
Hemingray Glass Co., which moved here from Covington, Ky., was east of the Ball plant, across Macedonia Avenue and near Douglas Avenue (now 10th Street).
Maring, Hart & Co. was in Boyceton along Bellaire Avenue, near the current location of Indiana Steel and Wire Company.
Muncie Glass Co. was in a southwest Muncie area known as Winton Place, platted from his family farm by early Muncie physician Robert Winton. The directory says it was "at the north end" of Sampson Avenue, which places it north of the present-day site of New Venture Gear. Its office, says the directory, was on "Anthony Street (now Fifth Street) opposite Sampson Avenue, Avondale."
Nelson Glass Co. was west of the business district along the two railroads, at Sullivan (now Second) and Pierce streets.
C.H. Over was located on Macedonia Avenue at the Belt Railroad, which would have put it adjacent to Hemingray's.
And the directory says Port Glass Co. was located on Hutchinson Avenue on the "West Side." So does an 1895 city map.
The Port firm has been discussed before in Our Neighborhood. Even "West Side" oldtimers a few years ago could not recall it being there, but goodness, a person would have had to be born in the 1880s or before to remember an 1893 business.
However, another account located the Port firm closer to Sixth and Rochester streets, and there's a building there that looks like one of the buildings depicted in an advertisement for the company.
Port also bad a plant in Belleville, Ill., perhaps after the Muncie plant was closed.
F.C. Ball, president of Ball Brothers when it came here and continuing in the post until his death, once said the firm located in Muncie because the people he met while looking the place over were "friendly and business-like."
The 1893 directory lists sheet metal ware as one of the firm's products besides fruit jars and bottles. The company has had numerous other products over its long history.
Hemingray's made "flint, opal and amber" glassware, according to its listing. It turned out insulators for telephone, telegraph and electric power lines by the millions. The company was acquired by Owens-Illinois in the 1930s, and the plant closed a couple of decades later.
Maring, Hart & Co., is shown as a manufacturer of "window glass, flint bottles and flasks" in a city directory printed in 1900, but the company probably closed a few years after that.
Muncie Glass Co. manufactured "flint prescription ware," and its president was Charles Boldt. At one time in the city's history there was also a glassmaking firm bearing Boldt's name; they might have been one and the same.
Nelson Glass Co. was a maker of fruit jars and bottles in 1893. It had disappeared from Muncie business listings by 1910.
Charles H. Over, who ran the firm with his name, was a manufacturer of window glass. The company continued in business into the second decade of the 20th century.
The terms "flint," "opal" and "amber" were used in some of the glassmakers' listings. What do they mean?
A desktop edition of The American College Dictionary has three choices for flint glass: 1. An optical glass of high dispersion and relatively high index of refraction; 2. A glass containing alkalis, lead oxide and silica, with or without other bases; 3. A colorless glass. One might think the latter two descriptions would be accurate for the flint glass made in Muncie a century ago, with the exception of Muncie Glass Company's "flint prescription ware," which fits the first definition.
Amber as a substance is a fossil resin, sometimes pale yellow, at other times reddish or brownish. The term came to become one of color, and that is its usage in glass terminology. Opal is a form of silica often found in a milky-white state. Some iridescent forms of the mineral are valued as gems. But in glass it's a descriptive term.
All of the glass manufacturers listed above had plants in locations that remain industrial more than 100 years later. Ball Corp. remains headquartered in Muncie; vestiges of the other firms are mostly forgotten.
An exception is the Grace Keiser Maring Branch of the Muncie Public Library. Opened in the 1930s on South Madison Street, it was named in honor of a benefactor, a member of the glassmaking family. Despite their influence for several years of their businesses on the city's economy, there is no Over Street, or Hemingray Park, Nelson School or Boldt Block.
But there is a Port Avenue, perhaps named for the family that had the glass company (and nearer its suspected location than the site listed for it in the 1893 directory). In fact, an 1887 map of Center Township shows more than 100 acres in the vicinity owned by Thomas Port.
■ Wiley W. (Bill) Spurgeon is a contributing writer to Our Neighborhood.
|Researcher:||Roger Lucas / Bob Stahr|
|Date completed:||September 6, 2009 by: Bob Stahr;|