Glass crafting has long history in Tiffin

Tiffin Glass Collectors Club is celebrating the 125th anniversary of glass in Tiffin with special exhibits at the Tiffin Glass Museum and vendors from a variety of companies at the club’s June sale.

Paul Coffman, the club’s historian, has compiled an overview of the history of glass manufacturing in the area.

“I do the archive work for the glass museum and the Glass Collectors Club, and I recognized in January of this year this is the 125th anniversary of glass manufacturing in Tiffin,” Coffman said.

When he brought the information to Ruth Hemminger at the museum, she assembled a large display of Beatty Glass in the museum, but Coffman realized “that’s not the whole story of glass here.” So, he reviewed the history and wrote an overview of his findings.

He is to present them at the banquet following the glass show Saturday.

Records show three glass companies set up operations in Tiffin in 1888 following the discovery of natural gas deposits in Wood, Hancock and Seneca counties.

“In that same year, the predecessor for the American Standard Co. arrived, the predecessor of Sterling Grinding Wheel arrived, and there were two other companies, and well over 1,000 new employees got jobs in one year,” Coffman said. “That was a heck of a boom.”

Tiffin Glass Co. opened in September 1888. Led by Samuel Sneath, the company employed 50 workers producing pressed glass to be fashioned into tableware, lamps, globes and specialty items.

Coffman found an ad with sketches of molded glass figures of carts pulled by a goat, donkey or dog. Some had a glass monkey riding atop the cover of the cart, which could be used as a serving container for condiments or for holding toothpicks, matches and other small items.

“I actually saw one of these goats when we were visiting Pennsylvania a month ago,” Coffman said. “The horns were broken off of it and the monkey wasn’t on it, but I had never seen one before that was made by Tiffin Glass.”

The company only remained open for about three years at Second and Broad avenues (now Wall Street).

Sneath went on to establish The Sneath Glass Co. in 1892, but a fire two years later ended that business.

Also in September 1888, the Belgium Glass Co. opened in Tiffin on West Adams Street. It produced flat sheets of clear and colored glass. A 1907 postcard from the company pictures glass blowers at work.

“They blew it into long cylinders and laid it out on a table and flattened it,” Coffman said.

After about three years, the natural gas supply was depleted. The company moved its operations to Indiana.

A.J. Beatty and Sons Glass Co. accepted an offer from Tiffin’s Board of Trade to move its operations from Steubenville to Tiffin in July 1888. The factory was built at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Vine Street. The agreement included the construction of housing for the workers on Seventh, Eighth and Ninth avenues and track construction for trolley service into that area of town.

In its heyday, the plant employed 500 people and was known as the largest producer of tumblers in the country. Company catalogs featured patterns such as Hobnail, Swirl, Waffle and Van Dyke in colors such as canary yellow, blue, flint and opalescent.

In 1891, a consolidation effort began to create a single, large company, U.S. Glass. The Beattys elected to join the conglomerate, along with 17 other plants.

The Tiffin site became Factory R of U.S. Glass and it retained all its workers. In 1937, U.S. Glass closed its Pittsburgh facility and relocated management and production to Tiffin.

From the mid-1960s until 1980, the Glass House had multiple owners. The salesroom remained open until 1984 to sell the accumulated inventory before closing.

A few years later, Robert Yager and his wife, Carol, purchased many of the molds from the Glass House and hired some of its former employees to keep making glass in their own company, called Crystal Traditions.

Crystal Traditions is the only remaining glass producer in Tiffin.

To celebrate 125 years of glass-making, the first Northwest Ohio Class Association show is in the works for Nov. 9 and 10 at the Community Civic Center in downtown Tiffin.

“It’s different because we have 12 or 13 national glass dealers coming in to sell all varieties of glass,” Coffman said.