The business of the Central Glass Company was started on the co-operative plan in the spring of 1863, with a capital of $5,000. After the expiration of three years the company bought the grounds and buildings of the East Wheeling distillery and pork packing house, for the purpose of converting them into a glass manufacturing establishment, which, in point of magnitude and completeness, was destined to stand on a par with anything of the kind in the United States.
In 1867 they obtained a charter to conduct the business on a joint stock plan under the firm name of the Central Glass Company, with a capital of $80,000, which also represented the original capital of $5,000. The new company, however, reserved the right of buying in and cancelling all the shares which might be offered for sale by its individual members, and the result has been that the original 434 shares have thus been reduced to less than one-half of the original number.
The capital of the company for several years past has been $260,000, the average sales per annum about $400,000, and they employ about 500 hands. Until the introduction of natural gas they have been operating their own coal fields, comprising fifty acres in the vicinity of the works. Their manufactures are among the most popular in the United States, and are extensively shipped to the Canadas, West Indies, South America and the German markets.
The production of these works is confined to table ware, bar and lamp goods, the variety, quality, and beauty of which find ready sale. Up to the year 1872, they operated only two furnaces, but during that year was added a third, with the necessary outbuildings. They also erected on the west side of McCulloch street their new two-story warehouses with excellent offices and selecting and packing rooms attached. The main packing room is 65 x 85 feet, and the warehouse 287 x 70 feet. Both are acknowledged to be the most extensive as well as the most practically arranged buildings in this country. Both buildings are connected with the factory by means of an elevated bridge with narrow gauge track. A steam elevator hoists the glass in open hand boxes from the factory floor to the floor of the bridge, which is on a level with the selecting and packing rooms. In addition to the main factory on the east side of the street are the following departments: The mould and machine shops, cutting shop, pot making rooms, blacksmith shop, coke ovens, two buildings with eight lears or annealling ovens, and the largest and best arranged engraving shop in the country.
Mr. John Oesterling, the first manufacturer of the works, was a man of wide practical experience and shrewd executive ability. To the fact that he was at the head of the enterprise from its inception in 1863, until his death three years ago, is mainly attributable the great success it has achieved. At the time of his death in 1883 the works had attained a high reputation. Previous to his engaging in the Central works, Mr. Oesterling was employed in the mould room of Hobbs, Barnes & Co. at a salary of about $7 per week. As indicative of his ambition, it may be stated that while still in the employ of Hobbs, Barnes & Co., he made the first pair of moulds for the Central Company at his home on the kitchen table holding a candle while he performed this work. Mr. Osterling was one of the eleven original Republicans in Richietown when it was almost worth a man's life to stand by that party in this locality. He suffered persecution in many ways -- among other complimentary attentions being stoned in the street. His copies of the New York Tribune were seized and burned.
Upon the death of Mr. Oesterling the Directors chose as the head of the great hive of industry Mr. N. H. Scott, long his trusted right hand man. Mr. Scott's management has more than justified the confidence and the expectation of his associates. He is not only thoroughly versed in the business, but he is very popular iwth the trade.
The present officers of the company are N. B. Scott, President and General Manager, succeeding Mr. Oesterling; Mr. H. E. Waddell, Secretary; W. E. Goering, Treasurer. Directors, Peter Cassell, August Rolf, N. Crawley, W. E. Goering and N. B. Scott.
A year ago the Central Company purchased the Brilliant Glass Works, sixteen miles from the city, to be operated as an annex. The principal output from the Brilliant Annex consists of fancy colored shades, globes and a line of specialties. About 350 men are employed, and the outlook is very promising for a further enlargement.
Being asked what he had to say about natural gas in the manufacture of glass, President N. B. Scott said that with gas in other places and none here, it was either a question of moving to the gas, bringing the gas here, or shutting up shop.
"With the introduction of natural gas there is no question about the prosperity of of the glass industry. Success cannot but attend the manufacturer of glass as well as other industries in the city."
"Well, Senator, what are the advantages of gas over coal in your line?"
"In the first place, gas will rid us of an annoying dependence upon Benzine and coal. The saving in fuel alone will be about 33 percent."
"How will it effect your labor?"
"I am really sorry to say that the introduction of natural gas will necessitate the displacement of a great many men, but there is not alternative. The men have been with us a great many years and performed their work very satisfactorily, and nothing but the best of feeling has existed between us."
"Do you refer particularly to your miners?"
"No! In addition to the miners the gas will reach firemen and teasers, laborers about our coke ovens, men who haul ashes, glass washers and others."
"How do you avoid two handling of the glass?"
"When the ware is pressed and placed in the lears, which are heated with coke, it comes out very dirty, keeping a number of hands busy placing the glass in carrying boxes; then to the wash room, where it is washed piece at a time, then repacked in the boxes and sent to the packing room. In the double handing of ware a great amount is broken, and with gas the ware will be taken directly from the lears to the packing room."
" With the displacement of this laobr and the saving in fuel, do the advantages of natural gas stop?"
"No, indeed. There are many saving features which are attributable to gas over coal. For instance: During the summer months the Flint Glass Workers' Union declare a vacation. During that vacation our fires go out. In order that we may overhaul our furnaces and rebuild them we draw our fires. The chilling of our pots causes a general breakage, necessitating a complete new set of pots in our twelve pot furnace. The saving in this particular alone is quite an item. Gas will not destroy the furnaces as coal does, there being no clinkers or sulphur, our furnaces will stand an indefinite period. When the men cease work in the summer we can keep an even temperature in our furnaces without much cost, thereby saving our pots."
"Have you no fear about the gas?"
"None at all. Our factory is perhaps the best equipped for natural gas. The pipes were fitted by Hibbard & Son, of this city, and a mercurial test of sixty-five pounds to the square inch was put on, and I stood fully an hour without any perceptible change in the mercury. With a test of sixty-five pounds -- and our consumption will only be a few ounces -- there can be no possible danger. With all its disadvantages natural gas has its dark side, in that it necessitates the severing of our connection with so many men who have been with us many years. Our relations have always been pleasant. No strikes; but a disposition on their part to ever work advantageously to their interest and that of the company."
"What are the possibilities of increasing your export trade?"
"None. We were the pioneers in introducing American ware into the German markets. We could manufacture and ship our pressed ware there and sell cheaper than German manufacturers could put their blown ware on the market. But lately our trade has been curtailed, from the fact that they have learned the moulding process and engaged extensively in it. With their advantages of cheap laobr and the same facilities for manufacture that we have, it is only a question of time until this country will be flooded with cheap German ware uniless the tariff is increased sufficiently to protect our manufacturers and workmen.
"Do you think the introduction of gas will advance Wheeling?"
No doubt about it. Natural gas is Wheeling's salvation. While we have advantages in coal possessed by no other city, we are still more greatly blessed with gas, and should it give out, which is hardly probable, we have our hills filled with the black diamonds -- the best coal for heating in this country."
The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, Sept. 14, 1886. (Special natural gas edition)
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