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Forgotten Glass Furnaces of Western Pennsylvania
Sunday, June 24, 2018 @ 1:00 pm - 5:00 pmFree
FORGOTTEN GLASS FURNACES OF WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA-The BHF offers a rare glimpse at one of the regions original industries, as well as samples of beautiful glassware that came from area furnaces and factories. Teaming with top experts in the field, we’ll talk about the working people, often children, who worked in this industry, what they made, and review maps of the area’s many glass-making furnaces. Colorful, expertly-crafted glassware from our region will be on display at the Pump House from 1 – 5 p.m. Sunday, June 24, 2018. Speakers, led by Kathy Roth, will make presentations, beginning at 1:30.
Kathy writes, ” Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the 20th century became known as “The Steel City”, but the city was known in the 19th century as “The Glass City”
Because travel was long and hazardous over the Allegheny Mountains, Pittsburghers soon learned it was better to produce goods themselves rather than pay and wait for items to be shipped from the east. The city’s population was only about 300 by the 1790s, but many residents were skilled craftsmen, who could transform the region’s agricultural products into goods that could be used at home or easily shipped and sold downriver. During this period, whiskey was an important product.
The first and largest industry emerging in the 1800s was boat building—keelboats and flatboats were used to transport waves of pioneers and goods downriver. Keelboats with a strong crew could propel upstream as well.
The wealth of natural resources such as coal for fuel, silica from the river sand, potash from burning hardwood and limestone made Pittsburgh an ideal spot for glassmaking.
In 1797 Gen. James O’Hara established, with the help of Major Isaac Craig, The Pittsburgh Glass Works (near the site of today’s Duquesne Incline) where they made utilitarian wares, such as windowpanes and whiskey bottles. “Our market is plentiful and cheap and our Climate is healthy,” wrote Craig, in 1801.
Its success prompted other glass establishments to develop in and around the area, and glass became the regions second biggest industry. Access to the rivers, abundant raw materials and coal supplies for fuel allowed Pittsburgh to find huge success in the market west of the Appalachian Mountains. Pittsburgh increasingly became known as the “Gateway to the West”.
Hear more of this fascinating story on June 24th!