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19th century ended with good news from Greensburg Glass Co. plant

| Sunday, Dec. 5, 2004

Good news on the Greensburg-area industrial scene in the final weeks of 1899 was the announcement that the Greensburg Glass Co. plant, south of the city, was to resume operations after being idle for more than a year.

After a thorough overhaul of its facilities, the plant was known as Factory No. 8 of the National Glass Co., a firm that controlled a large part of the tableware market in a several-state area. National's plants included the large McKee Brothers glass factory in Jeannette.

The Greensburg Glass operation resumed with 150 employees. It included a 13-pot furnace and a 10-pot tank under the supervision of plant superintendent J.F. Miller. A decorating department was a planned addition.

There were a number of glass plants in the Jeannette-Greensburg area around that time, frequently changing ownership and names, and some not often long in operation.

Getting down to business

Business and industrial history is but one aspect of looking back at the past, perhaps not as exciting as Indian wars and other events, but of interest. A sampling of vignettes from this aspect of history:

  • Nearly a century ago, a South Connellsville safe-manufacturing company turned out about 10 safes daily, and made shipments to all parts of North and South America.

  • The first canal boat to get to Pittsburgh on the old Pennsylvania Canal arrived Oct. 31, 1829, with a cargo of 130 barrels of salt from Saltsburg.

  • "Danger" signs in Fayette- and Westmoreland-area coke ovens a century ago had to carry that one-word message in seven languages because of the diverse work force -- workers were of English, German, Czech and Slovak, Hungarian, Polish and Italian descent.

  • Uniontown native Thomas Lynch coined the phrase "safety first" while serving as general superintendent of Frick coke operations in 1891. Lynch's efforts at industrial safety were widespread. He moved to Greensburg, where he lived for some years before his 1914 death.

  • Said to be the largest lump of coal mined in Indiana County was a 4,600-pound piece of bituminous that was 7 feet long, 3 feet thick and 2 1/2 feet wide. It came from the Dixonville Coal Co. mine, near the town of that name, in April 1906.

  • The widely known Jersey Cereal Co. plant near Irwin went bankrupt in 1922 when some diversification efforts failed. The company produced a large volume of breakfast cereals and associated products, such as molded chocolate candy with crushed cereal in it.

  • When L.E. Smith Co. was formed in Mt. Pleasant in 1907, its original product was German mustard. The company purchased a bankrupt glass firm to make its jars, and the glass part of the business prospered.

  • Albert Gallatin, the Fayette County native who served as U.S. secretary of the treasury, met several glassblowers at a Wheeling, W.Va., inn while traveling from Frederick, Md., to Louisville, Ky. He persuaded them to help start the area's first glass plant in New Geneva, Fayette County, in 1794. Gallatin spoke German, which enabled him to converse with the men.

  • Beginning quite early in the 1800s, many Southwestern Pennsylvania counties appointed flour inspectors because so much flour was being shipped from this area. The inspector checked each barrel and branded it as "fine" or "superfine," using a long hollow drill, which held about a pound of flour, boring through the barrel staves for his sample. His pay was the flour removed by the drill, plus a few cents per barrel.

  • During the first two decades of the 20th century, the largest paper mill in Pennsylvania was said to be the Peters Paper Co. in Kingston, between Latrobe and Ligonier. The plant, built in 1902, operated for 17 years.

    -- Excerpted from Robert B. Van Atta's "Vignettes" columns of Dec. 5, 1982 and 1993.

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