H. C. Fry Glass Company, Rochester, Pennsylvania

H. C. Fry Biography

[Trade Journal]

Publication: Crockery & Glass Journal

New York, NY, United States
vol. 80, no. 26, p. 53-55, col. 1-2


IN a survey of the attainments of Henry C. Fry we cannot do better than begin by quoting from the "National Glass Budget," which said recently: "For more than forty years Mr. Fry has been engaged in the glass business at Rochester, Ps., the output of his factories having been poured into every nook and corner of the civilized world. Although now past seventy-four years of age, he is still in the harness and still in an excellent state of physical and mental preservation. From youth up, every ounce of his massive figure has been charged with an energy that knows no let-up, and it has been characteristic of him that he was every ready to invest his accumulations in any sort of proposition tending to the upbuilding of the flint glass industry at home and securing a market for it in every land upon which the sun shines. He has made and spent one fortune after another developing improves appliances and compounding batches suitable to the production of high class goods, and in the end has proved a winner in the race, finding himself, as he does, in excellent financial condition after having put behind him more than three score years and ten, all filled to overflowing with earnest endeavor and well-directed effort.

"Mr. Fry was born in Lexington, Ky., September 17, 1840. When seventeen years old he entered the employ of William Phillips & Co. as clerk in their glass works, where he remained until 1862, when he enlisted in the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, participating in all the battles in which the Army of the Cumberland was engaged. Returning to Pittsburgh he engaged in manufacturing glass as a member of the firm of Lippincott, Fry & Co., which later became Fry & Scott, and then Fry, Semple & Reynolds. In 1869 he was a general manager for James B. Lyon & Co., Pittsburgh, but in 1872 went to Rochester, where he organized the Rochester Tumbler Co. He also organized the First National Bank, of which he is president and director.

"In 1901, the H.C. Fry Glass CO. was organized and a factory built in what is now known as North Rochester. This marked the beginning of a new era in the glass business. This establishment is not only a factory, but a home for its workmen as well. The original buildings have been added to by newer ones of fireproof construction, surrounded by grounds that are beautifully kept and made to blossom as the rose. Cleanliness is the watchword in the Fry plant, and a visit is all that is necessary to convince one that surroundings count even in the manufacture of glass. Roominess is the keynote inside, and beauty the leading feature outside of the different buildings. With a park-like entrance flanked by flowing shrubbery, the visitor is at once impressed with the idea that here is no ordinary manufacturing plant. In short, everything possible is done at the Fry works to add to the comfort, cleanliness and pleasant surroundings of its employees. And this care is reflected in the bearing and dress of the workmen themselves. Pride in the institution and a feeling that everyone has a hand in keeping up the 'Fry quality' is evident on all sides. In reply to the question 'Does it pay all this expense in beautifying and keeping up the park-like grounds?' an official of the company recently said: 'It's not a question of dollars and cents. Most of us live here. This is our home. Here is where we spend most of our waking hours. Why shouldn't we make it attractive?'

"The Fry plant employs from 750 to 1,000 workmen, a large percentage of those being skilled artisans. The highest scale of wages is paid and a premium is placed on efficiency that gives additional remuneration to the unusually expert workmen. The buildings and grounds cover a space of ten acres and the plant has grown steadily since its inception. The officers of the company are: H. C. Fry, president; J. Howard Fry, vice-president; Edw. T. David, secretary and Herbert Ailes, treasurer. All these gentlemen are widely interested in other business ventures in the Beaver valley, and all have been instrumental in the development of Rochester, both from a commercial and financial standpoint.

'In addition to every kind of cut glass product, the Fry company specializes in blanks, lenses for automobiles and moving picture machines, headlights, searchlights and reflectors."

The personal side of Mr. Fry will be seen in the following excerpts from and article in the Beaver Daily Times:

When Mr. Fry realized the extent to which profits were being eaten up in gas bills, he determined to reduce the bills by drilling his own gas wells. He bought the necessary leases, or property, and within a radius of a half-mile there are several gas wells that supply the factory with a large portion of the gas used.

When Mr. Fry tired of the water given to Rochester as a thirst-quencher, he determined to have good water, and he determined that his employees should also have good water to drink. A half mile from the Fry plant wells were sunk through forty feet of rock. Pipe lines were from the wells to the plant and the water distributed to all departments in this manner. To do away with a pump on the grounds, small pipe lines were laid parallel with the water pipes and compressed air is forced through them to the bottom of the wells, thus lifting the water and forcing it through the pipes at an average pressure of twenty-five pounds to the square inch.

When Mr. Fry tired of the old idea of storing up ice for cooling purposes he investigated several other devices and installed a special cooling system which has been the source of envy to countless other manufacturers. Today there is not one pound of ice used about the big plant, yet everything is as cool, not to say cold, in some parts, as though tons of frozen liquid were scattered about.

Henry C. Fry.

One day Mr. Fry was walking through the plant when he came upon a young woman employee who appeared ill. He asked her if her work was too hard; she said no. He asked her if she was working too many hours; she said no. He asked her if she felt unable to take care of her position, and again she said no. Then Mr. Fry studied a little while.

"Are you ill?" he asked. "Just tired," answered the girl. "Say Jim," called Mr. Fry to the general superintendent, "we've got to have a place for these girls to rest in when they are all tired out this way. Now," turning to the girl, "you go home and go to bed and get rested."

Within a few days the erection of the rest room began. Today the rest room is completed, and here is what the interior is like:

A long, wide room with polished floors, electric lighted, rugs scattered about, library and dining room tables setting at intervals, bearing big, cut-glass bowls and jars filled with fragrant flowers. Late magazines, weeklies and books lie on the tables and a spic and span matron in a big gingham apron sits there all day to keep the place in order and to care for the wants of the women employees. There is absolute quiet in the place and the girls and women, tired from a morning's exertions, may come to the room, lie down on one of the several lounges or sit in comfortable chairs and read the periodicals, during the noon hour. If one gets faint during the working hours, she may come to the room to recuperate.

It is such things as these which Mr. Fry has done which caused the president of the American Flint Glass Workers' Union to say: "Mr. Fry is the best and whitest manufacturer in the glass world today."

It is not only these things that have caused the name of Fry to become famous wherever glass ware is known, but some of the ideas that Mr. Fry advocates. He has some maxims that he tries to practice every day and which are pithy and to the point. Some of them are:

"Make condition about the workmen better, and there will be better workmen."

"Live and act in such a manner that the employees will not believe that a manufacturer necessarily must be without a soul."

"Make the environment of the employees more pleasant and cheerful and the employees will repay in producing better products."

"A cheerful workman is a good workman; therefore, see that all workmen are always cheerful. If there is any obstacle to his being cheerful, remove the obstacle."

Mr. Fry is perhaps the best loved employer in the glass world. And there are numerous reasons for this. He is a stern disciplinarian, but never is harsh; he wants things right, but allows for a man's shortcomings; he demands the highest percentage of quality in a man's work, but never asks for more thana man can do, nor ever asks for this high percentage without paying back that employee in either better wages or a better position.

When Christmas rolls around and the workmen are digging in their jeans or in their purses, according to sex, for the wherewithal necessary to buy baby, wife or sweetheart a present, Mr. Fry has a talk with his bookkeeper and paymaster. The talk isn't long, but is of a vast import to employees. The result of that brief talk is that when the pay before Christmas is due, every employee of the plant received one week's pay, in full, as a Yule gift from Mr. Fry.

Mr. Fry has a hobby. Most big men have. Mr. Fry's hobby is flowers. He loves them for their beauty, fragrance and fragility. He has a conservatory at the very portals of the Fry plant. In it are grown the flowers that fill the jars and bowls in the women's rest room, and shrubs and flowers are profusely abundant about the plant. In front of the big office of the plant is a lawn. A big, well-kept lawn with many trees. These trees were set out twelve years ago by Mr. Fry's orders and he made a gift of them to the company.

While operating the Rochester Tumbler Co. the panic of 1907 cast its shadow over the land. Other plants closed down and the employees were penniless. Mr. Fry had a better idea. He called his workmen together.

"Boys," he said, "things look bad. Will you go ahead working at this time, and work for half pay, with the proviso that when things pick up you get every cent of your back wages?"

The men said they would. So, working for half pay, that little army of men went ahead making glass. There was no market so the glass went in stock. The stock rooms and warehouses were filled. There were no places apparently to put it. Mr. Fry procured some land across the railroad tracks from the plant and had barrels and boxes piled there hundreds and thousands of them.

By and by the panic passed. Times picked up. Glassware was in great demand. Frantic dealers telegraphed equally frantic manufacturers for ware; but the manufacturers had none that is, excepting Mr. Fry. For three consecutive months ten car loads a day wer ehsipped from the surplus stock Mr. Fry had caused to be piled up in anticipation of good times coming again.

Henry Clay Fry is a man of big ideas, a big intellect, and the means to put his ideas in execution. He is large, smooth-faced, with a healthy complexion, and has kind, though intensely steady and penetrating eyes. His face, in repose, is rather stern, but when he smiles the very acme of good humor seems to be bubbling from him. He shakes hands with a man's grip, firmly and business-like. He either likes you or dislikes you from the start, and has particular objections to three vices of the human race; drinking, cursing and gambling. He believes drink ruins a man, and should be tabooed; he believes swearing waste of time and something too little for a real man to indulge in, and he believes gambling the natural outlet for dishonest instincts; therefore, has no use for a gambler. Also, he shuns a liar. If you lie to him once and he learns it, you never get a second opportunity to repeat the offense.


Keywords:H. C. Fry Glass Company
Researcher notes: 
Supplemental information: 
Researcher:Bob Stahr
Date completed:December 27, 2007 by: Elaine Corriero;