Glass Men Decide to Run Their Own Business,

William. Brookfield is President of the Eastern Association of Glass Manufacturer's

[Trade Journal]

Publication: Crockery & Glass Journal

New York, NY, United States
vol. 30, no. 4, p. 23, col. 2




IT was decided at a meeting of the Eastern Association of Glass Manufacturers, held on the 18th inst. at the Windsor Hotel, that the firms included in the organization would refuse the proposition made by the District Assembly No. 149 of the Knights of Labor, composed of glassblowers, and until the acceptance by the latter of the manufacturers terms all furnaces should remain idle. The action was taken after long, and thoughtful discussion. It was decided that the manufacturers were not in a position to continue their business on a purely philanthropic basis. The result of Thursday's meeting will be that fully ten thousand men will be thrown out of employment and glass manufacture will he practically stopped in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

The last difficulty in labor disputes which the glass manufacturers had was about four years ago, when the men stayed out quite two months because their employers refused to make any modifications in their system of employing apprentices. There was no question of wages involved at that time. Previous to that there were periodical labor disturbances caused by the demands of the Glassblowers Union for advanced wages, but all of these, were settled by the manufacturers, either on a basis of a compromise or accepting the proposition of the Union. Then the labor organization continued its bullyragging of the manufacturers until the latter have been compelled to defend themselves, if for nothing else than to preserve their self-respect.

A short time ago the Glassblowers' Union was merged into District Assembly No. 149, Knights of Labor, John Coffey, of Philadelphia, a professional labor agitator who several years ago was turned out of the Whitney Glass Works, Glassboro, N. J., because of his absurd demands, who was president of the Union, becoming Master Workman of the district. Last week the organization held a convention at Atlantic City. N. J., lasting several days, and demanded of their employers that the present rate of payment per piece should be maintained, notwithstanding the representations of the manufacturers that the market was overstocked and that time importations were excessive, and that the apprentice system now in force should be absolutely changed - that is, where now two apprentices are allowed to each furnace in the future the number of apprentices should he apportioned to the number of journeymen, about one to five - a reduction of almost fifty per cent.

The manufacturers declared that they would submit to no further dictation; that their business had been practically at the disposal of the workmen for eight or ten years, and it was a general misfortune that the number of apprentices should be so reduced that only a beggarly few lads could acquire the lucrative trade of glass blowing. When the propositions of the Assembly were received by President Wm. Brookfield, of the Bushwick Glass Works, he at once communicated with the other members of the Association, and it was generally understood that the matter should come up for final action at the meeting room Thursday.

There were present at the meeting representatives of twenty of the best known firms east of the Mississippi river, employing more than ten thousand men and con- trolling more than $5,000,000 capital. Among them were the Whitney Glass Works, of Glassboro, N. J.; Clayton, Bodine, Thomas & Go., of Williamstown; N, J.; Craven Bros., of Salem, N. J.; Cohansey Glass .Manufacturing Co., of Bridgeton, N.J.; the Cumberland Glass Co. of Bridgeton. N. J.; Baker Bros. & Co., of Baltimore; Swindell Bros., of Baltimore; the Scranton, Glass Co.; Hawley Glass Works, of Hawley, Pa.; W. C. Ely's Sons & Hoyt, of Clyde, N. Y.; the Poughkeepsie Glass Works; the Mansfield Glass Works, of Lockport, N. Y.; the Haggerty Glass Works, of Brooklyn; and the Bushwick Glass Works of Brooklyn. Mr. Brookfield presided, and T. W. Synnott, of Philadelphia, was secretary. As soon as the meeting was called to order there was a free discussion of the matter before the Association, the general sentiment of the organization being in favor of a determined light. Resolutions were passed which showed the continued outrageous demands of the Knights to be no longer supportable and decided that an attempt would be made by the manufacturers to conduct their own business hereafter not subject to the dictation of Coffey and his dupes.

It was finally agreed, and every man present signed the agreement, that not a fire should be lighted in the furnaces until the blowers had accepted the terms of the employers - a general reduction of 10 per cent. upon all work and a continuance of the present system of employing apprentices. A committee composed of Wilson Moore, J. P. Whitney, and Walter Swindell was appointed, with instructions to confer with the blowers, offer them the terms of the manufacturers, and receive their reply. Whatever this may be the committee will report November 15. Meanwhile, each manufacturer in employing his blowers will submit to them the terms of the Association, and if they are accepted start his furnaces; if they are rejected, however, no more work will be done. When the agreement had been signed the Association adjourned to meet next January in Washington, when the annual election of officers will take place.

The action of the Association in regard to the proposed fight is unanimous. There is, its members say, very great competition with foreign houses, and with domestic ones as well. Business has been very quiet of late, and the prices have been crowded down to rock bottom, allowing a very small percentage of profit. In face of all this the blowers want as much for their work as during the most prosperous seasons, and in addition want concessions which no American manufacturer who respects the apprentice system can make.

Mr. Brookfield, in speaking of the present rate of payment, said: "The blowers now make on the average from $5 to $10 a day, or, to strike 'another average. about $6 a day. The fight is really over the apprentices, and if the Knights had not insisted on a reduction of these lads it is very doubtful if the manufacturers would have taken their present stand in regard to the payment of the past rate of wages; but the Association is determined that it will defend apprentices, and so long as this issue is made we will remain in the light to ascertain whether we employ the blowers or Master Workman Coffey employs us. The work pays excellently, the men being very well able to earn good wages, for the ten months in which the blast will be open - from September to July. Two men can easily make 100 dozen sixteen-ounce bottles and make $11.70 between them; 300 dozen two ounce bottles may be blown by three men who will divide $15.08; while two men blowing 60 dozen demijohns, one-gallon size, can make $8.64 each, and the same number of men blowing 180 carboys can earn $10.12 a day. I shall offer the terms adopted by the Association to my men, and will abide by the consequences. The market is now overstocked, and we can support a fight of, a very considerable duration, even though we are deprived of all means of securing non-union help. We go into the fight to win, and we count our success."

The officers of the Association are Wm. Brookfield, president J. P. Whitney, vice-president, and Thomas W. Synnott, secretary.


Keywords:William Brookfield : Bushwick Glass Works
Researcher notes: 
Supplemental information: 
Researcher:Bob Stahr
Date completed:November 12, 2005 by: Elton Gish;