Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company Records, 1851-1991
Size:88 linear ft.
Provenance: Received from Libbey-Owens-Ford Company in 1987, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1996, and 1998.
Copyright: The literary rights to this collection are assumed to rest with the person(s) responsible for the production of the particular items within the collection, or with their heirs or assigns. Researchers bear full legal responsibility for the acquisition to publish from any part of said collection per Title 17, United States Code. The Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections may reserve the right to intervene as intermediary at its own discretion.
Completed by: Barbara Shirk, Heidi Yeager, and April Dougal, January, 1992 and Marsha Weatherspoon, December, 1998.
Records, 1851-1991 Historical Sketch 1818 The New England Glass Company of East Cambridge, Massachusetts is founded. New England Glass produces high-quality blown and pressed glass for home use. Its engraved glass becomes a particular specialty.
1843 January 21 Edward Ford born in Greenville, Indiana, son of “Captain” John B Ford (1811-1903)
1854 April 17 Edward Drummond Libbey born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, son of William L. Libbey, later manager of New England Glass.
1859 January 1 Michael J. Owens born in Mason County, Virginia (now West Virginia).
1867 Captain John Ford and his sons, Edward and Emory, establish their first plate glass plant in New Albany, Indiana
1878 The American Flint Glass workers Union founded in Pittsburgh.
1880 The Fords organize a new plate glass company at Creighton, Pennsylvania following failure of New Albany venture; the original company name, New York Plate Glass Co., was later changed to Pittsburgh Plate Glass.
1883 William L. Libbey dies; Edward takes over management of New England Glass.
1887 Falling sales of decorative glass and labor troubles lead Edward Drummond Libbey to visit other cities in search of less expensive natural gas and labor; he comes to Toledo late in the year and reaches agreement to move the factory there.
1888 August. Michael Owens begins work at Libbey Glass Company and becomes a supervisor three months later.
1888 August 17. First glass workers from East Cambridge arrive at Toledo’s railroad station and are warmly greeted.
1890 New England Glass begins production of electric light bulbs for General Electric. The large contract improves the company’s gloomy financial picture.
1892 New England Glass changes its name to The Libbey Glass Company.
1893 Libbey gambles on a $250,000 investment in a model glass plant at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The Libbey factory attracts nationwide attention and improves sales of Libbey Glass.
1895 December 17. Toledo Glass Company incorporated to exploit early semi-automatic glass-blowing machines of Michael J. Owens.
1897 Fords leave Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. over dispute about distributorships. Edward Ford decides to open a new plate glass factory in Toledo.
1898 Construction started on Ford plate glass plant in Rossford, Ohio.
1899 Irving W. Colburn (1861-1917), a Pennsylvania inventor, begins experiments which result in a sheet glass machine.
1899 Production of plate glass at Edward Ford’s Rossford plant begins; Edward Ford Plate Glass Company incorporated November 11.
1902 Owens and associates complete work on first fully successful automatic bottle-blowing machine (known as “Machine Number Four”); within a few years the machine’s successor (“Machine A”) revolutionizes the glass container industry.
1903 Owens Bottle Machine Company incorporated.
1904 American Flint Glass Workers Union headquarters moved to Toledo.
1906 August. Colburn Machine Glass Co. formed. The company installs drawing machines at two factories in 1908 but goes bankrupt in 1911 before the technology is perfected.
1907 First machine-blown glass tumblers.
1907 Nicholas Building becomes headquarters for Libbey Glass and Owens bottle.
1912 Toledo Glass Company buys Colburn's patents; Colburn hired soon after.
1913 November. Work begins on refining Colburn process at Toledo Glass experimental plant. On Thanksgiving (November 25) the first draw of sheet glass at Toledo Glass Co. takes place.
1916 Libbey-Owens Sheet Glass Company organized.
1917 First Libbey-Owens plant opened in Charleston, West Virginia.
1917 First machine-made glass tubing produced by process developed by Edward Danner in Toledo.
1919 Owens Bottle Machine Company changes name to Owens Bottle Company.
1920 Edward Ford dies; son George Ross Ford becomes President and Treasurer of Edward Ford Plate Glass Company.
1923 December 27. Michael Owens dies in Toledo.
1925 Libbey-Owens Sheet Glass begins investigating laminated safety glass processes.
1925 November 13. Edward Drummond Libbey dies in Toledo.
1926 Ford Plate Glass obtained license for Bicheroux process for casting plate glass through water -cooled rollers.
1928 First laminated auto safety glass produced by Libbey-Owens-Ford.
1929 Illinois Glass Co. of Alton, Illinois absorbed by Owens Bottle Co.; the new corporation is known as Owens-Illinois Glass Co. Over the next several years, Owens-Illinois, now the largest glass company in the world, purchases several smaller glass companies.
1930 Edward Ford Plate Glass Company and Libbey-Owens Glass Company merge to form Libbey-Owens -Ford Glass Company.
1930-31 Empire State Building constructed using Libbey-Owens-Ford glass.
1933 New line of tableware designed by A. Douglas Nash introduced by Libbey Glass; discontinued in 1935 because of poor sales.
1934 Owens -Illinois exhibit at Chicago “Century of Progress” fair features a glass block building with a fifty-foot tower.
1935 Owens-Illinois moves into former Ohio Savings Bank and Trust Co. building on Madison Avenue (the large illuminated O-I sign was installed in 1955).
1935 Owens-Illinois Glass Company acquires assets of Libbey Glass, which becomes a subsidiary and later an operating division.
1938 First machine-blown glass stemware produced by Libbey.
1938 Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corporation formed by Owens-Illinois and Corning Glass works to pursue research and development of fiberglas. Company headquarters established in Toledo, although manufacturing operations are located elsewhere.
1939 Owens-Illinois and Libbey-Owens Ford exhibit at New York World’s Fair.
1940 Modern America series of tableware, the last line of handmade Libbey Glass, released; discontinued 1943 because of war restrictions.
1943 Libbey Glass becomes an operating division of Owens-Illinois.
1946 Libbey-Owens-Ford Thermopane factory opened to manufacture insulated window glass.
1951 Declaration of Independence and Constitution sealed in Thermopane glass at National Archives.
1959 Owens-Illinois selected as one of the thirty dow-Jones Industrial Average stocks.
1960 Libbey-Owens-Ford’s new headquarters building opens in downtown Toledo. “Glass wall” architectural style used.
1966 LOF licenses float-glass process for production of plate glass from Pilkington Ltd.
1968 Libbey Glass celebrates 150th anniversary.
1969 Fiberglas Tower, headquarters building for Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., completed.
1971 Plasti-Shield soft drink bottles with foam covering test-marketed by Owens-Illinois.
1982 Owens-Illinois moves into new world headquarters building at One Seagate.
1983 Owens Bottle Machine chosen as an International Historic Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
1985 Glassmaking operations of Libbey-Owens-Ford acquired by Pilkington Ltd.; LOF’s other divisions are split off and become TRINOVA Corp.
1987 Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company acquire Owens-Illinois; the Libbey division’s name is changed to Libbey Glass Incorporated.
Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company
Scope and Content Note
The records of the Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company range from formal minutes of the company’s board of directors to personal photos of individuals involved with the company’s history. The materials date from 1851 to the present, and include documents on a multi-national leader in the glass industry, L-O-F’s parent company, Pilkington plc. Major figures in the corporate entity include Edward Ford (1843-1920), Michael Joseph Owens (1859-1923), and Edward Drummond Libbey (1854-1925).
Administrative records in the collection include corporate record books from L-O-F and its predecessors: Edward Ford Plate Glass Company (1899-1930), Toledo Glass Company (1895-1931), Libbey-Owens Glass Company (1916-1933), and other subsidiaries. Annual reports from Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company (1930-1982) and the Pilkington Group (1988-) provide summaries of corporate activities. They are found in boxes 4 and 5. Corporate file records (1895-1958) deal primarily with contracts, subsidiaries, and notably a government anti-trust investigation of L-O-F (1930-1948). Government publications are found in box 5, folders 26-28 and box 14, folders 1-10.
Publications, speeches, and reports created by employees of L-O-F comprise a significant portion of the collection. A manuscript copy of The Roots Grow Deep (1956), a history of L-O-F by Earl Aiken along with his research materials, as well as materials related to the publication of William Fairchild’s Fire & Sand (the second book in the L-O-F trilogy) are included in this series. Company publications consist primarily of newsletters, including: Batch (1939-1941), Glassic, (1939-1983), L.O.F. News and Views (1944-1953), L.O.F. News (1954-1961), OLO Echoes (1953, 1961), L.O.F. Newsletter (1969-1974), and the Shield (1970-1980). These publications provide information on labor relations, especially management’s efforts at promoting good industrial relations. They also feature photos of women at work during World War II.
Publications that pertain to glass manufacturing and advertising, generally include: bibliographies (1950-1961), glass industry periodicals, and works on the career of Irving Wightman Colburn, the inventor of the Colburn process for making flat glass. Pamphlets from the 1893 and 1934 World’s Fairs feature Libbey and Owens-Illinois displays. Government hearing publications relating to the glass industry date from 1957 to 1969 and include United States Tariff Commission reports (see box 14, folders 1-10).
The single largest series in the L-O-F collection focuses on sales and promotion of Libbey-Owens-Ford products and is delineated into several subseries. There are files on 50 distributors and dealers of L-O-F products across the United States dating from the 1930s to the 1970s. Press releases issued by the company date from 1946 to 1984. Indexes to those releases are located in box 24, folder 13 (1976-1980), and box 25, folder 9.(1981). Advertising yearbooks chronicle L-O-F’s print campaigns from 1932 to 1977. Scrapbooks compiled by the advertising department date from 1851 to 1969, and include a scrapbook prepared by the Saturday Evening Post to document L-O-F advertising in that publication (1927-1966). These materials document promotional efforts at L-O-F and its predecessors. They reflect changes in the national advertising industry over time, and may also be used in sociological studies of advertising.
“Glass at Work” files comprise a large portion of the sales and promotion series and serve as a valuable source of information on the actual uses of L-O-F products, as well as the advertising department’s use of “real-life” applications of L-O-F products for promotional purposes. These files are broken down into several categories of applications.
Commercial buildings files include glazings in airports (1955-75); hospitals and clinics (1945-78); hotels, motels, lodges and country clubs (1949-82); and other miscellaneous commercial settings (1948-76, n.d.). Commercial Storefronts files include airlines offices (1947-68); apparel stores (1947-76); automotive buildings (1949-66); banks (1948-78, n.d.); drug stores (1946-58); florists (1950-65); furniture and appliance stores (1947-65); jewelry stores (1961-76); restaurants (1949-74); theaters (1967-68); and other miscellaneous commercial storefronts (1954-67). Public Buildings files document glass applications in churches (1958-69); libraries (1951-79); schools (1948-); and other miscellaneous public buildings (1948-66, n.d.). Residential files include privately owned homes (1943-77) as well as model homes and housing projects (1946-61). International files document uses of L-O-F products outside the United States (1972-79, n.d.).
Each file generally contains information on the product utilized, the name of the building or owner of the building, photographs of the structure, and dates of information in the file. While these files are by no means comprehensive, in that they do not include every application of L-O-F products, they provide information on a wide variety of glazings from across the United States and internationally. A set of “Glass at Work” scrapbooks (1962, 1965, 1971-72) concludes the series.
“Glass at Work” files primarily reflect the use of the “glass wall” architectural style. They provide photos and documents on the types of glass used in each application. These materials may provide information for studies of the history of glass technology as well as twentieth century architectural trends.
An entire series of the collection is devoted to divisions of L-O-F and the products created in those divisions. These files include photographs and documents. Major divisions include Aeroquip, Liberty Mirror, LOF Engineered Products, Inc., LOF Glass of Canada, Ltd., and Woodall Industries. Notable products include Electrapane, patterned glass, plate glass, safety glass, Thermopane, Tuf-flex, and Vitrolite.
Another section of the collection includes records and photographs on several of L-O-F’s plants nationally and internationally. These comprise files on three buildings in Toledo, Ohio; one in Italy, and others in California, North Carolina, Iowa, Illinois, West Virginia, and Louisiana.
Subject files consist of relatively recent photos and documents on company involvement in civic programs, public relations materials, and other miscellaneous materials.
The final series in the collection consists of materials dealing with Irving Wightman Colburn’s (1861-1917) experiments with the mechanization of flat glass manufacture. This series includes glass plate negatives taken by Colburn [ca. 1900-1920], prints from those negatives, photograph albums, correspondence with the United States Patent Office (1908), and several scrapbooks of newsclippings (1901-1920). Colburn’s papers could form the basis of a biographical study featuring his innovations in glass technology. Researchers of hobbies in history will find his scrapbooks fascinating, as they document two of his other interests, photography and bicycling. These two pasttimes were extremely popular at the turn of the century.
Other ideas for research using the Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company Records are outlined in a brochure titled Making Their Business Your Business: The Use of Corporate Archives for Interdisciplinary Research, available at the Canaday Center.
Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company
Records, 1851-1991 Folder List
S1. Corporate Record Books(x linear inches)
(Microfilm copies of these records (Box 1, Folders 1-7, Box 2, Folders 1-6, Box 3, Folders 1-8 and Box 4, Folders 1 and 2 (only)) are located in MSS-066 Audio-Visual Materials Shelf 4 #208.)
Edward Ford Plate Glass Company; Record Book, 1899-1909
Edward Ford Plate Glass Company; Record Book, 1910-1930
Libbey-Owens (Sheet) Glass Company; Record Book I, 1916-1919
Libbey-Owens (Sheet) Glass Company; Record Book II, 1919-1926
Libbey-Owens (Sheet) Glass Company; Record Book III, 1925-1929
Libbey-Owens (Sheet) Glass Company; Record Book IV, 1929-1933