Rowan students like myself tend to explore the businesses and eateries that stretch across Main St, High St, Academy St, and College Ave. The businesses stand there today, but years ago two brothers owned a glass factory there that became one of the largest producers of glass in South Jersey.
Being from South Jersey, I’ve learned a lot about how glassmaking was a popular industry in the area for many years. The first glass factory in South Jersey I learned about was one located in the Estell Manor Park. Glass factories were spread out in South Jersey, stretching as far as Salem County, NJ, the sight of the Wistarburgh Glass Factory in Alloway, NJ.
The Whitney Glassworks was the
center of Glassboro’s economy before the Glassboro Normal School was established. The factory however wasn’t the first glass factory in Glassboro.
Making glass in Glassboro originally started in 1871 by Solomon Stanger after he purchased 200 acres of land in Sep 1779. The Stanger family were German immigrants who wanted to take their history glassmaking in Germany to the United States. Stanger and his brothers built a small glass factory in Glassboro in the area across the street from where the Landmark Americana Bar & Grill is today, according to Rick Grenda of the Heritage Glass Museum in Glassboro.
The Stanger’s struggled to be profitable because of congress’ decision to revalue currency in the United States. The family ended up selling a portion of the factory to Colonel Thomas Heston in 1784. The entire factory was eventually owned by both Heston and Thomas Carpenter.
The factory was profitable after Heston and Carpenter took over. The development of “Carpenter’s Landing” in nearby Mantua NJ allowed glass to be transported by boat to Philadelphia, allowing the two men to make more money in Pennsylvania.
Colonel Heston eventually passed away, but Carpenter still owned the glass factory – renamed the “Olive Glassworks” – for a few more years. However, Heston’s daughter Bathsheba would be later prove to be key in preserving glass blowing in Glassboro.
Bathsheba Heston eventually ran into Ebenezer Whitney at the Heston Tavern – where The Landmark Americana Restaurant is today – after Whitney was injured when his ship sunk off the coast of Cape May NJ. At the time, Whitney was a shipman from Maine and was delivering a boat of Spanish Wine to Philadelphia PA. He was being transported to Philadelphia to receive medical attention, but was dropped off at the Heston Tavern in Glassboro in order to receive help sooner. Bathsheba Heston and Whitney became close after Whitney’s unexpected visit to Glassboro, and eventually married and had children. Two of whom being Thomas and Samuel. After he married Heston, Whitney never left Glassboro.
Through their grandfather’s ownership of the Olive Glassworks, Thomas and Samuel Whitney got into the glass making business. Thomas purchased “Harmony Glassworks” from Lewis Stanger, a decedent of the Stanger family. The factory was another glass factory in Glassboro. It stretched from Main St to Academy St, and in the area of High St and College Ave. Grenda recalls that some of the foundation of the glass factory was dug up in the parking lot of Angelo’s Diner on Main St few years ago.
Thomas eventually bought the
other owner’s shares out and made his brother Samuel a co-owner. The brothers renamed the factory, ” The Whitney Brothers Glassworks.”
The factory was profitable. The brothers had many men at the helm of their glass making empire. Grenda says that the brothers owned a lot of land in Glassboro so that they could house their employees on their property. He also said that the brothers used their own form of currency that could only be used a special store in town for factory employees and their families.
The original method of glass making began dissolving in 1905 after the automatic bottle making machine was invented. Company’s could make hundreds of glass bottles a day rather than dealing with the traditional process. Many traditional glass factories closed their doors once this revolutionary technology became standard.
Though both glass factories closed, they’ve proven to be a driving force in the development of the town.
Interested in seeing more pictures of glass made in South Jersey? Click the link for pictures of South Jersey glass on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.