5. Libbey Glass Company
| 940 Ash Street | Welcome to the Libbey Glass Company manufacturing facility. Built in the 1880’s when the city fathers agreed to provide a four-acre parcel and 50 lots for workers' homes. In addition to the offer of property, Libbey was attracted to Toledo because it was ideally situated, close to natural gas fields, a major railroad center, as well as Lake Erie. As part of the move, the business was incorporated in Ohio as W.L. Libbey & Son Company, then renamed in 1892 as Libbey Glass Company.
In August 1888 a special train arrived in Toledo from Boston containing 50 carloads of machinery and 250 workers. Other glass workers were also recruited from West Virgina, including a young glassblower named Michael J. Owens. Born to poor immigrant parents in Mason County, West Virginia, he had gone to work in a glass factory at the age of ten. Ambitious and eager, Owens developed his talents and became a union leader. Libbey quickly recognized Owens' leadership abilities and eventually put the 29-year-old glassblower in charge of the new Toledo plant and the two began a succesful partnership that would help build the Glass City.
Owens went on to patent the Owens Automatic Bottle Machine and launched the Owens Bottle Machine Company in 1903. Notice the name, "Bottle Machine" Company, the focus was on the bottle making machine - not necessarily on making bottles. In 1919, he and Libbey partnered to rename the company the Owens Bottle Company - with a focus on making glass bottles. Libbey and Owens also partnered in the Libbey-Owens Glass Company, we'll hear more about that when we drive through Rossford this afternoon.
Michael Owens died in 1923 and the Owens Bottle company merged with the Illinois Bottle Company in 1929 to form what we know today as Owens-Illinois. Meanwhile, Libbey Glass went on to become the leading global manufacturer and marketer of glass tableware products in the Western Hemisphere. READ MORE...