James Brookfield early history of life

[Trade Journal]

Publication: The Commoner and Glassworker

Pittsburgh, PA, United States
vol. 26, no. 37, p. 7, col. 1


How the Pioneers of the Trade Blazed the

Way for the Immense Present Day

Industry How and where the

Brookfield's Started in Business

By John R. Downer


James Brookfield, 70 years ago, was a cutter at the old Marshallville glass works, Tuckahoe, N.J., where they made three melts a week and the blowers flattened and cut their own glass the other three days. Mrs. Daniel Earling, my very intelligent octogenarian informant, herself a descendent of the New England Endicotts, remembers that Brookfield celebrated the glorious Fourth in an ingenious but not very judicious way. He made a crude cannon of a large piece of iron pipe and loaded it heavily with powder and brickbats, touched the blamed thing off down by the river wharf, when it burst, flinging old iron, pieces of brick and dirt over that section, but fortunately no one was hurt.

Brookfield had brains, nevertheless, and years later, when William Wescott, the carpenter who built all the factories in those days, at last settled down in a factory of his own at Columbia, now off the map, he secured cutter and cannoneer, James Brookfield, to be his factory manager. Jesse Richards, the famous old South Jersey landowner and iron master, then in business at Basto, backed Wescott and bought his glass, but failing, left his protege without sufficient resources to go on with the business. But Brookfield was no quitter, and turning his back on Jersey mosquitoes and sand, began business for himself at Honesdale, Pa., where he built a six-pot window glass furnace and captured a Columbia crew to work it: Wm. Saunders, Rance Cale, Wm. Nichols, Jacob Webb, William, Jonathon and Bodine Bond and John Keisenhof.

David Emmett was the handy man, who could build furnaces, make batch, master shear, mend pipes; in fact, anything around the factory but blow. Graves Gifford was master shearer in the window house. Stephen Fautz and Wm. Albertson flattened and Charles Foster, Henry Chew, Samuel Hazelback, James Lilley and John Sooy were cutters. A bottle house was soon added under the same roof, 1856, with five pots. Blowers: John McArdle, James, John, and Samuel McLaughlin, William and James Bethel, William Manks, James Focer, Andrew Pancoast, John and Thomas Campbell, William, Daniel and Louis Gifford.

In 1858 Brookfield built a fine new bottle house nearer the water, but the next year misfortune overtook him. The Delaware and Hudson Canal Co.'s reservoir, six or eight miles above, burst, and Isaac Bunnell, whose sawmill stood in the path of the flood two miles or so above Honesdale, sent the alarm down just in time for the Brookfield family to escape in their night clothes. Their home and new factory were swept away and so strong was the rush of water that their piano was recovered ten miles down stream. Damages paid by the canal company enabled Brookfield to make a good move, this time to Williamsburg, near Brooklyn, N.Y., where he established the Bushwick Glass Works.

His son, William Brookfield, grew up in the business, managing the store at Honesdale and becoming associate and successor of his father at Brooklyn. Their wonderful good luck in entering the manufacture of telegraph insulators at the right time made them millionaires. They missed another chance, however, almost equally great, not foreseeing the outcome of John L. Mason's experiments in getting up the screw-neck fruit jar.

The first order of this now world-famous jar, shipped by trainloads and issued by millions, was made by James Brookfield in 1856, and Thomas Campbell, from whom I obtained most of this history, blew the ware, two gross. Those present during the first trial almost unanimously condemned the invention, declaring it would never work, but maybe the boys who guyed "Uncle Tom" at Whitney's works, Glassboro, as he stood watching the jar blowing machine, didn't "put the lid on" when he told the story of making the first order 49 years ago.


Keywords:Brookfield : Shop : Bushwick Glass Works
Researcher notes: 
Supplemental information: 
Researcher:Bob Stahr
Date completed:April 30, 2005 by: Bob Stahr;