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Centenial - page10

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1954 Centennial Book

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FOSTORIA IN THE "GAS GLASS" DAYS

Probably the greatest single event to bring northwestern Ohio into world prominence was the striking of the world-famed gas well, the great Karg Well just this side of Findlay -roared and burned with a flame over one hundred feet high, that could be seen and heard for a radius of ten miles, and seemed to burn and burn with a never-ending stop. How long it took to cap and control this well, I've never been able to find out but in the period of over a year, the Lake Erie and Western railroad would run excursions to that point and people came from all over to see this marvelous sight.

That was the beginning of the "gas-glass" days in Fostoria in 1887. Well after well was put down - not for gas but for the precious oil. Gas was the by-product. No means had been provided for its storage, use or transportation; so with the abundance of this by-product, natural gas, free fuel was given to any industry who would come and locate in Fostoria. Hastily constructed pipes were laid on the ground with no attempt made to bury them. Gas was piped to all home owners and given all they could use for $1.00 per month.

The Glass Industry learning of the abundance of gas in this locality - free for their use in the manufacture of their product, and gas being the major expense of materials entering into the cost of glass, they were vitally interested so came in great numbers to locate in Fostoria. Among those coming in 1887, 1888, 1889, and 1890 were the following: Fostoria Glass Company located on the present site of the Seneca Wire: the Mosaic Glass Company located on the present site of the Fostoria Ice & Coal; over on Sandusky Street across from the school building was the Butler Glass Company; the Nickel Plate Glass Company was located out McDougal Street on the lefhand side where the street crosses the railroad; the Fostoria Lamp & Shade in the west part of town; the Seneca Glass Company south and east of the Harter Mill. Then there was the Mambourg, the Crocker, and the Caliseum Glass Companies located out on the Hocking Valley railroads.

These nine glass companies represented the main factories flourishing during the period of Free Gas.

As near as I've been able to determine, the largest and most representative of the Glass houses flourishing in our community during the period of 1888 to 1894 was the Seneca Glass Co., which occupied a space of over two and a half acres in the west part of town to the east and south of where the Isaac Harter Mill now stands and in the space between the Nickel Plate, B&O and LE and W Railroads. The officers of the company were: President Otto Jaeger who some of you will remember was an important factor in Presbyterian Church activities - he was leader of the choir many years and a very congenial, jovial man. Frank K. Bannister, another prominent Presbyterian in Fostoria at that time was Secretary of the Company.

The factory gave employment to several hundred men, about one-half of whom were foreigners. The workmen employed were of the most skilled to be found in the country and averaged in wages from $5 to $7 per day.

The articles the Seneca Glass manufactured were known as Blown Lead glassware, made exclusively for table and bar use. Tableware included items such as pitchers, tumblers, goblets, nappies, etc. Bar goods included everything from goblets and wine glasses to soda tumblers.

The large percentage of glass workers, as I have said, were foreigners - the great majority of whom had not learned to speak English. One of my friend's father, who was a clerk in the shoe store at that time, told me of how his dad would study French at night in order to be able to wait on his trade. The fine artisans working with glass seemed to have come from Belgium, France and Austria.

Child labor was more or less common then. In fact, the Glass houses seemed to depend upon a certain percentage of boys to run the errands and do "help-out" jobs, so all of the houses had a number of boys between the ages of 10 to 16. In fact, the present President of the Fostoria Glass Co. now located at Moundsville, W. Va. tells how at the age of 12 started in the shipping and packing room of the Fostoria Glass Co. then located at Fostoria, Ohio - and takes pride in his having mastered the art of blowing glass and of coming up the hard way.

One of the glass companies built a special dormitory and imported a large number of orphans from the east to relieve their labor situation.

The general exodus of the glass industry from Fostoria started in 1894. There seemed to be an epidemic of fires. As the surplus gas played out, it became necessary to pipe the gas from nearby communities to supply fuel. And, naturally, there was a charge required so that the expense of manufacturing glass in Fostoria became prohibitive and one by one they left to go to other localities where they put down their own wells, or purchased coal-producing land for the manufacture of gas, or where other inducements were offered by different communities.

Some of the outstanding personnel of the early 90's in the glass industry going to other communities are:

The Fostoria Glass Company - located now at Moundsville, W.Va. on a site wherein they own and control their own coal mines and manufacture their own gas for consumption.

The Sneath Glass Company - owned and controlled by the Sneath Interests in Tiffin located in Hartford City, Indiana amid the rich surrounding gas area.

The personnel of the Hazel-Atlas Glass Company - located at Wheeling, W.Va. was the outgrowth of one of the nine companies mentioned above. The same can be said of The Cambridge Glass Company of Cambridge, the Anchor Hocking Glass Company at Lancaster, which has several plants owned and controlled in different states, and the Duncan & Miller Glass Company of Washington, Pa.

In fact, a few years ago, if you were to go into almost any glass company in the middle west and ask any old timer there about Fostoria, you would find that if they were in the glass business in the late 80's or early 90's they would have had some experience in one of the glass companies previously located in Fostoria.
(Excerpts from a paper read before the University Club by A. Gordon Gray, 1944)

PIX#31 Fostoria's Municipal Hospital -designated the recipient of all profits from the operations of the Centennial.

"THE GAS BOOM"

There probably never has been a time when a communit's hopes were boosted higher, nor dashed more cruelly, than in those days in the late 1880's when the discovery of natural gas in seemingly huge and inexhaustable quantities in the area west of Fostoria between Bowling Green and Lima, centering around Findlay. Gas had been known to be present in and around Findlay for many years, but it was not until 1884, that a well was drilled, obtaining gas in quantity. Then on Jan. 20, 1886, the great Karg well came in with a flow of 20,000,000 cubic feet per day. It soon became the Wonder of the day. Other wells were drilled and a great supply was uncovered. The whole area became a madhouse of excitement. Individuals and communities could see only prosperity and fabulous fortunes to be made, by attracting and establishing new industries, with all the "fringe" benefits, of increased business, inflated land values, increased tax valuations and everything. No gas wells were drilled in Fostoria, but they were so near that gas could be cheaply piped into town for industrial and domestic use.

Immediately, the leaders of the town went into action, in a concerted effort to bring factories to town. In April 1887, J.P. DeWolfe, publisher of the Review, issued one of a series of supplements, advertising the advantages offered by the town. The masthead carried this message. "FOSTORIA, OHIO offers greater advantages and inducements to MANUFACTURING INSTITUTIONS than any other city in the country. It has NATURAL GAS - the great fuel of the future - in overwhelming abundance; five Trunk Line Railways, reaching out in every direction; six Telegraph Companies, Telephone Exchange, three Express Companies, Brush and Incandescent Systems of Electric Light; a College, Business College, Normal School, and many other advantages. The city has practically no debt. If you contemplate a change of location, read these pages carefully." The Northwestern Ohio Natural Gas Company with Gov. Chas. Foster as its president was organized to secure and drill more wells and plans were made to encircle the town with a large gas main into which any industry could tap and secure gas, FREE. About $70,000.00 was raised and the belt main was built. Several factories did make the move to Fostoria, especially glass plants, attracted not only by the free gas, but also by the high quality of the lime being obtained from the local quarries, with glass sand being secured from nearby Silica. Within a year the population boomed from about 4,000 to well over 8,0000. It was incorporated as a city, and entered upon its modern era with high hopes, but, the gas gave out, and with it went a lot of hopes. The city survived the loss, however, and showed that fundamentally the thinking and planning of its citizens were sound. Eventually, the glass plants all moved away. Since then, other factories have come and gone, and probably always will.

In 1888, four glass plants in Fostoria were listed with the number of employees. They were:

The Fostoria Glass Co., 150; Nickel Plate Glass Co., 215; Mambourg Glass Co., 60; and Butler Art Glass Co., 141; a total of 566 people.

The number of glass plants in later years was: 1890; six; 1893, seven; 1896, only one manufacturer listed; 1902, none; 1909, two; 1913, one; 1916, two electric lamp makers; 1923, one.

EARLY SHARPERS

Away back in 1837-38, two sharpers by the names of Brooks and Bird, began the secret manufacture of counterfeit Mexican dollars, and circulated many of them before the people of Rome and Risdon became suspicious of them. They were arrested and jailed in Tiffin, but cut their way out and made for parts unknown.

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Information courtesy of Joan Fleming