News and Tribune

Floyd County

July 10, 2013

NEW ALBANY BICENTENNIAL: Plate glass manufacturing

(Continued)

Profits began to flow, and the company grew. In the 1896 book entitled “The Kings Handbook of the United States” by Moses Foster Sweetser, the author stated the company occupied more than 30 acres of land. Likewise, it became a leading industry in Indiana and the largest plate glass operation in America, if not the world. Klerber listed the amount of employees at the facility as between 1,500 and 2,000 men. 

“It was said to positively affect every working person in New Albany, including the merchants who sold to the workers and the farmers who sold to the merchants,” Klerber said. 

Unfortunately the same wheels of progress that brought glass making to New Albany in the end proved to be its downfall. You see, Ford didn’t give up after he lost his business to his cousin. Instead, he went to Jeffersonville and began a glass manufacturing plant there. In 1883, he and his sons moved to Pennsylvania and formed Pittsburgh Plate Glass. Here the industrialist discovered something new that would make the production process not only cheaper but better: natural gas. Coal needed to be shipped to the manufacturer and hand-fed to the flames, giving at times an uneven heat. Not natural gas. 

Around the same time, this new fuel source was found in central and eastern Indiana. The plate glass manufacturers packed up their equipment and moved to these cheaper locations. A financial panic in 1893 didn’t help matters either. By 1900, the once thriving plate glass industry had disappeared from New Albany. 

Founding numerous successful ventures following New Albany, Ford would later be known as the father of the plate glass industry. He died in 1903, shortly after the trade he helped to start in our river city suffered a similar fate. 

— Contributing Writer Amanda Beam

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