Cleveland’s Best Industry

Getman Glass Works, circa 1903
Getman Glass Works, circa 1903

Contents

  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Glass History
  • The New Plant
  • Officers
    • Directors
    • Executive Board
    • Stockholders
    • Blowers
    • Gathers
    • Flatteners
    • Cutters
  • Epilogue

Preface

In 2005, the Cleveland Historical Society produced a brochure titled Historical Souvenir of Cleveland’s Best Industry.  The document is a reproduction of an article printed by Lakeside Press Print (Cleveland, NY) dated November 1903 with an Epilogue section appended around 2005.  The text is as originally published, although the listing of stockholders has been alphabetized into a bulleted list.

Introduction

This little booklet is issued as a souvenir of the Getman Window Glass Works an industry which is the pride of every resident of Cleveland and vicinity.  This village, which has a wide reputation as a glass town, had up to the time of the establishment of the above named plant, been deprived of the industry for several years; but by perseverance and much hard work on the part of the enterprising citizens, a fine new plant is in successful operation and Cleveland has renewed something of its old-time life.  This souvenir contains the history of this industry in Cleveland from the building of the first factory to the present day, and we trust that its few pages may be of interest and that this valuable enterprise may never cease to exist and flourish.

Glass History

The first period in the history of the window glass industry in the village of Cleveland began in 1840, when the first factory was built by Anthony Landgraff and his sons and his son-in-law, George Cowarden.  The family came from the village of Vernon, Oneida County, where they had conducted a window glass plant for several years; but the scarcity of hemlock, the fuel used for melting the glass, compelled a removal of the factory, and Cleveland was selected as the new site.  Although there was an abundance of excellent glass sand here also, that fact was not known at the time of the removal, and was not discovered and used for some time afterward.

The tiny village of Cleveland was then surrounded on three sides, except along the lake road, by the primeval forests, in which only here and there an opening had been made by the axe of the pioneer.  On the remaining side stretched the glistening waters and broad expanse of a lake rich in historic association and Indian tradition.  The whole region was a sportsman’s paradise.  The woods abounded in game, the streams literally swarmed with delicious trout and the lake with other fish of great variety and excellence.

The village dates its development and growth from the building of the old Eagle tannery in 1834; so that when the glass factory came, six years afterwards, there was a thriving little village to greet it.  Lake and Bridge streets were built up almost as compactly as they are now, but on the north the forest encroached closely on the little settlement, and the glass factory was built (the present site of the American Window Glass Company’s plant) almost if not quite in the woods.  As before remarked, the fuel then used exclusively for melting and flattening was hemlock wood, cut fine, about three feet in length and dried in brick ovens, and the first wood cut for this purpose was piled against the drying house by the choppers, so nearby was the forest.

The new factory buildings were large and substantial for the time, but the melting furnace was only about 6×8 feet on the inside, and the melting pots little larger than good sized water buckets.  A single blower could and did carry and place them in the tempering oven.  Their capacity was about three hundred feet of glass, but as both double and single strength was then only half their present thickness, these ancient pots held only about one hundred and fifty feet.  The cylinders, ranging all the way from 12×18 to 22×28 single and about the same double, were mere pigmies by the side of the huge rollers of today; but they were opened off hand without the aid of pole or crane, so that the work was not so very light and easy as it would seem.  Each blower gathered, blew, flattened and sometimes cut his own glass, and the tending boys (now gathers) were merely water boys and roller carriers.  In the intervals between blowings the blower had to cut his wooden block for blowing up the ball.  Those were days of long fires and many weary working hours for the blower; but the wages were good even in those days “averaging more than a dollar a box“ and the ways of living simpler and less exacting than now.  The manner of selling the glass was in keeping with the character and primitive ways of those early days of small, local, independent manufactories.  Oneida Lake was, in the middle of the last century, connected with the Erie canal system by a side-cut, and it was customary during to load a canal boat with glass and peddle it out in the towns and villages along the canal from Troy and Albany to Lockport and Buffalo, often in the way of barter for store goods and other supplies.

The Landgraff family conducted this factory “the old Cleveland Glass Works“ for twenty years, and then, after a brief period under William Sanders, it passed in 1863 into the hands of J. Caswell and Crawford Getman, who conducted it with great ability and success until 1877, when Mr. Caswell retired and Mr. Getman continued the business alone for many years, but with no slackening of diminution in the vigor or success of its management.  In 1851 the Union glass factory was built on the site where it stills stands, by a stock company composed mostly of Cleveland citizens; but after a year or two it was reorganized and came under the control of William Foster, Forest Farmer and Chales Kathren, who ran it with success and gave it a high reputation in the glass market of the country for more than twenty years.  Then for several years the factory was idle, and after several changes and vicissitudes it was sold in 1882 to Crawford Getman, the proprietor of the Cleveland factory, who conducted the both with great credit to himself and benefit to Cleveland and its surrounding country until the fall of 1889, when he sold both plants to the United Glass Company.  This company conducted them until 1893 and the old factory a few weeks in 1894, and then owing to the hard times closed them down, this completing the first period in the history of glass making in Cleveland.

The second period was a short one.  In the spring of 1897 the United Glass Company, a great expense and in a very creditable manner, converted the old Cleveland factory into a modern and model tank with an electric plant attached, and with every facility but cheapness for making window glass.  But their two fires were short and in the fall of 1899 they sold it to the American Window Glass Company, who promptly closed it for the blast and during the next one, operated it for little more than three months and then closed it down apparently for good.  This ended the second period, for the Union factory had been practically abandoned.

The period of forty years, from 1834 to 1874, contained the palmy days of Cleveland.  With its large tannery, two glass factories, numerous saw mills, its brickyards, chair factory, wagon shops, lake and canal traffic, it was a very busy and bustling place, full of picturesque life and incident.  The tannery and glass factories consumed great quantities of bark, lumber and wood, and so mingling with the residents of the village, with its business men, casual men, tannery and glass workers, were the men of the farms and the woods’ lumbermen, bark peelers, wood choppers and hunters, forming a motley population of various races and occupations.

But one by one these different industries dropped out or were abandoned, and finally nothing remained but the glass industry, and it looked and seemed as if that, too, had left us and forever, and only for the fact that Cleveland had among her residents two veteran glass manufacturers and managers “Crawford Getman and Eugene Morenus “ who were experts in the business and believed that under proper conditions and good, economical management it could still be made to pay in its old home, the future of the village would be dark indeed.  Many of the citizens and glass workers were discouraged.  They had contributed much and sacrificed much toward the building of the old tank only to see it closed after a few months on the ground that it did not pay to make glass in Cleveland.  Then came the wage settlement of the spring of 1901 which struck out the differential of seven and a half percent which had heretofore prevailed in favor of this district, and the elimination of which made it unsafe, if not unprofitable, for the ordinary stock company or corporation to make glass here.  Then Messrs, Getman and Morenus turned to the glassworkers and urged them to form a co-operative company, promising that they and the citizens generally would aid in the undertaking.  Nothing was done until Attorney James Gallagher formulated the plan of a worker’s co-operative corporation which would enable the workman to be their own employers, and, to a great extent, regulate their wages and profits by the conditions of the trade.  A meeting of the workmen and citizens was held and the plan of Mr. Gallagher adopted, and under his counsel and aid the company was organized and incorporated under the name of the Getman Window Glass Company “a just name of the Getman Window Glass Company“ a just tribute to that gentleman and a recognition of his zeal, aid and persistence in behalf of the project.

Many of the workmen and citizens gave substantial aid in time and labor in addition to their money contributions, especially John Kime, vice-president, and S.F. Putney, secretary, of the company; but the credit for initiating, organizing, perfecting and pushing to completion the project is mainly due to Crawford Getman, James Gallagher and Eugene Morenus, and to the last named gentleman, especially, is credit and praise due from worker and citizen.  Elected president and superintendent of the new company, he had entire charge of the construction of the plant.  It was a cold, hard, vexatious task performed during an unusually long and severe winter, but performed with economy, fidelity and trust, and the result of his skill and labor is seen in the substantial and unique buildings as shown in the frontispiece of this souvenir “pleasing additions to the attractions of Cleveland“ erected at a comparatively low cost and in a remarkably short time, when the severe winter, the unavoidable delays and the financial difficulties are taken into consideration.  No one could have done better; very few could have done as well, and to him great and deserved credit is due.

The company is a purely co-operative one, composed of and officered by the workmen themselves.  The tank is one of twenty-four pot capacity, and each one of the skilled workmen subscribed for one thousand dollars of stock and paid in two hundred dollars.  The balance necessary to build the works was raised by selling bonds to citizens and capitalists.  These bonds were secured by a mortgage on the plant, and by the further security, pledged in the articles of agreement, that the workmen leave twenty percent of their wages as a sinking fund in addition to the net profits of the business.  The success of the undertaking depended something of course upon the men themselves.  With a body of men unmatched in skill and industry, with an abundance of cheap and excellent sand, good shipping facilities and low taxation, the prospects were indeed favorable for a paying industry.  That such would be the case was the sincere wish of the people of Cleveland and vicinity.  It was the beginning of the third period as a glass town, and should the attempt result in failure it was thought to be almost hopeless to try again.

The New Plant

Cleveland is one of the most attractive small towns in the State of New York, located on the north shore of a sheet of water that is equaled by few, surpassed by none.  Having a splendid gravity system of as pure water as can be found anywhere, combined with many other advantages, make it a very desirable place of residence.  For years many glass workers have spent a portion of each season here and gladly availed themselves of an opportunity which gave them the privileged of making Cleveland their permanent residence.  The establishment of a glass plant here that could be kept in operation gave them this privilege.  With such facilities as are here, there is no such thing as fail, when pluck and energy are combined with a thorough knowledge of the business, backed by men of integrity and stability, and the stockholders of the Getman Glass Company are of this type.

The first start was made May 14, 1902, and a record-breaking run of six weeks followed.  Work was resumed the 20th of the following September, and the first full season’s run was completed April 18, 1903; the output for the season being over 2,000 fifty foot boxes of glass per week.  Although this was not a long season, the company paid about $85,000 in wages to its employees.  Work was commenced this year September 30th, and an excellent run is being made, for although several carloads are shipped each week, the stock in the warehouse remains about the same.  The glass has a wide reputation for its superior qualities, and the volume of business being done by the company is proof that its product is incomparable.

Since starting the plant, the company has put in two new boilers each of fifty-horse power capacity in the place of second-hand ones first installed; a system of steam heating for the cutting room and an acetylene gas plant for lighting the factory have been added; a trestle constructed from which cars of coal can be dumped by the side of the gas producers; a cullet room and a large addition to the warehouse have been built, and besides these many minor improvements have been made.  There is now in process of construction an addition 44×136 feet in which will be placed an oven in which a sheet of glass 56×90 inches can be flattened, and the addition will also give more floor space for the cutters and packers.

The temporary organization of the company was capitalized at $12,000.  This was soon increased and as eight new stockholders have recently been taken into the organization, the capital stock has been raised to $85,000, of which $65,000 has been paid in; each of the sixty-five stockholders owning ten shares, equal to $1.000.

The plant is located very nearly in the center of the village, between Center and North streets, on the south side of the New York Ontario & Western railroad tracks and just west of the station.  The site containing three acres, was donated by Crawford Getman, the veteran glass operator, in honor of whom the company is named.

Some of the reasons have already been mentioned why the plant has been so successfully operated during the past eighteen months and many more could be given.  The success of an enterprise does not depend entirely upon its environments; the basis of organization, the character of the members, the officers selected and the spirit of enthusiasm with which idle and insolvent plants were pointed out, the Getman Glass Company has launched a successful business venture, with every encouragement and bright prospects for the future.

Officers

Eugene Morenus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . President and General Manager
John P. Kime . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Vice President
S. Frank Putney . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Secretary
Thomas T. Williams .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Treasurer
James L. Eddy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bookkeeper and Assistant Secretary

Directors

  • E. F. Beckley
  • Charles Best
  • Frank Best
  • E. W. Extale
  • A. C. Humez
  • L. A. Humez
  • John Kime
  • Eugene Morenus
  • S. F. Putney
  • E. E. Watson

Executive Board

  • H. H. Beckley
  • Chas Kime
  • John Kime
  • F. T. Koehler
  • Eugene Morenus
  • E. J. Welch

Stockholders

  • Eugene Morenus

Blowers

  • A. Bernet
  • Alfred P. Bonneau
  • W. L. Bristol
  • B. N. Delahunt
  • P. Desguin
  • W. B. Dunn
  • Frank Gouchie
  • W. N. Herman
  • A. C. Humez
  • Charles Kime
  • J. P. Kime
  • E. Lang
  • E. Lavancher
  • C. W. Morenus
  • O. M. Morenus
  • W. C. Morenus
  • D. F. Reynolds
  • L. Rumsmoke
  • C. L. Senecal
  • P. L. Senecal
  • H. A. Schlernitzauer
  • Gasper Schmidt
  • Ernest Watson
  • T. T. Williams

Gathers

  • Leon Bonneau
  • W. P. Bonneau
  • E. H. Butler
  • F. E. Collier
  • J. C. Dillman
  • E. Gouchie
  • John Gouchie
  • A. J. Griesmyer
  • H. G. Griesmyer
  • W. Hackett
  • L. A. Humez
  • V. Lang
  • J. Lavancher
  • M. Leichtnauer
  • J. W. Leonard
  • L. G. Leonard
  • L. McCluskey
  • A. Mumford
  • S. F. Putney
  • L. Roberts
  • C. W. Schlernitzauer
  • H. A. Short
  • E. E. Watson
  • E. J. Welch

Flatteners

  • Charles Best
  • Frank Best
  • C. Dunn
  • F. T. Koehler
  • C. E. Ladue
  • Charles Towne

Cutters

  • E. F. Beckley
  • H. H. Beckley
  • M. C. Bristol
  • Thomas Clark
  • E. W. Extale
  • W. V. Fitzpatrick
  • T. F. Hackett
  • Claude Peachin
  • J. E. Peachin
  • J. E. Stinger

Epilogue

Those future prospects burned bright for many years.  The Getman Window Glass Works operated very successfully until 1908.  The cost of the soft coal used to produce gas needed to melt the glass had increased.  In other parts of the country window glass was being manufactured by natural gas and machines.  Blowers, gatherers, flatteners, cutters and other workmen labored hard for reduced wages because the prevailing wages for manual labor could no longer be paid.  This continued operation for two years only to succumb to the greater competition in 1910.

The Getman Glass Works with its up-to-date machinery and its exceptional product, was bankrupt.  The plant was no longer of any use as a factory and during World War I was torn down and junked.  Each working stockholder had paid in on average $800.00.  Glass making in Cleveland had come to an end.

The United Glass Company’s large iron smokestack, 25″ in circumference and 115″ high, was used as a landmark by fisherman on Oneida Lake until April 18, 1937, when it was dynamited and came tumbling down.

Today, 2005, remnants of the industry remain in the form of canes, chains, darning balls, animals, ornaments and many other “trinkets” or treasures in the homes of descendants of the factory workers.  There are also original window panes in some of Cleveland’s homes.  Many gardeners can find fragments of the industry in the form of “cutlet” or waste slag in their yards in Cleveland.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *