Former plant manager proud of glass creations that put Mt. Pleasant on map
Forrest Kastner remembers well the days when Mt. Pleasant was an internationally recognized glass producer.
The plant manager of the former L.E. Smith Glass factory will share his memories of the region's golden years of glass production at 7 p.m. Thursday at Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum.
Kastner graduated from Ramsay High School in 1958 and went on to earn a degree in mechanical engineering from Penn State.
After working for U.S. Steel-Homestead for six years, he took a job at L.E. Smith Glass factory. He would serve in various administrative capacities for the next 40 years, retiring as plant manager.
Kastner said there are many similarities between forging steel and making glass.
“In forging steel, you take raw materials and pour them into slabs and ingots,” he said. “The process of making glass is fairly similar in that you take molten glass and forge handmade products.”
Kastner recalls his years at L.E. Smith as the glory years of glassmaking.
“When I started there, the popularity of hand-cut glass had reached its peak, “ he said. “The words ‘hand-made' drew people to our products. It wasn't just L.E. Smith glass, but lots of other glass producers as well. We had lots of orders. It was a challenge to get them shipped.”
Overseas competition, however, brought those glory days to an end, Kastner said.
“As our wages went up, we began to have more competition from Europe and from Asia,” he said. “They produced some products cheaper than we could.”
Kastner said the biggest change in glass production was in the types of furnaces used to heat the glass.
“The actual making of the glass products has been the same always,” he said. “The change has been in the types of melting furnaces we use. At first, we used direct fired-wood burners. Then we switched to recuperators — a type of engine that recycles heat — to save fuel. We then used oxygen enrichment — a system that uses liquid oxygen for combustion — and then to oxygen only.”
Kastner says he wants future generations to know the sacrifice that professional glass makers have to make.
“These men were tough,” he said. “They endured many blisters. You have to enjoy heat and have a good set of hands to be a glass maker.”
The L.E. Smith Glass Factory opened in 1907 and was renowned for its black glass, punch bowls and swing vases. It closed in 2005.
Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum is at 402 E. Main St., Mt Pleasant — the site of the old Lenox Factory. Admission is a suggested donation of $3.
For more information, call the museum at 724-542-4949.
Barbara Starn is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rotary Club of Mt. Pleasant returns with 2015 calendars
- Festival of Lights to mark 25 years in Mt. Pleasant
- Mt. Pleasant church to host Thanksgiving Day meal
- Mt. Pleasant Township supervisors approve preliminary 2015 budget