A Brief History of Tiffin Glass Co.

by Barbara Shaeffer
Glass Review - December 1985

One must begin in Steubenville, 0hio to trace the history of the Tiffin Glass Co.

Early in 1847 Joseph Beatty and Edward Stillman started a small glassware factory there, an area rich in all the basic mineral resources for glass manufacture. The factory failed in 1850 and was purchased the following year by Alexander J. Beatty. In 1875 he brought his two sons, Robert J. and George Beatty into the partnership. The business prospered and in 1880 the factory was enlarged.

In 1888, A.J. Beatty & Sons contracted with the city of Tiffin to build and new and larger glass works. Tiffin was chosen because of an abundant supply of inexpensive natural gas from local wells and the location of railroads. To make Tiffin even more appealing to Beatty, local investors put up a $35,000 cash bonus and land and other property worth $15,000.

Construction was underway by September of 1888 and in August of 1889 the first pots of glass were poured. The new plant, costing $65,000, not including machinery, had a production capacity of 500,000 tumblers a week and employed 50 glassblowers.

On January 1, 1892, the firm of A.J. Beatty & Sons joined the U.S. Glass Co. to become Factory "R". U.S.G.C. was based in Pittsburgh, PA with 19 manufacturing plants in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

In the late 1890's different plants were changed to manufacture only certain types of glass. The Tiffin plant would eventually become a blow ware factory, producing lead-blown tumblers, stemware and fancy cut glass. Records show that the Tiffin plant had a higher percentage of profit, with fewer labor problems than any other plant of the U.S.G.C.

By the 1920's, Tiffin Glass was working day and night just to keep up with demand for its glassware. The skilled Tiffin glass workers would take the additional time to finish the glassware, therefore the quality was better and customer demand greater.

By 1927, when other glassware plants were being closed in the wake of the Depression, the Tiffin plant remained open. During this time, production of Tiffin glass had more than double the output of A. H. Heisey and the Cambridge Glass Co.

Profits from Tiffin were used to support other factories of the U.S.G.C. which were losing money. One by one these factories closed until there were only two left, including the Tiffin plant. In 1937 the U.S. Glass Co. closed its Pittsburgh operation and moved its main office and headquarters to Tiffin. Now, all that survived of what was once the largest glass company in the world was the Tiffin plant. The company had become indebted to the Reconstruction Finance Co. in the amount of over $1 million.

In 1938, at the insistence of the Reconstruction Finance Co, Mr. C. W. Carlson was elected president of the U.S.G.C.

Also at this time Carlson introduced many new colors and shapes, among them Azure, Banana, Cerulean, Copen Blue, Citron Green, Desert Red, Killarney (green), Plum, Twilight and Wistaria to name a few.

After he reorganized the sales force, the superior Tiffin Glass was once again being marketed in prestigious stores throughout the United States.

In 1940 the "Tiffin Swedish Line" was introduced. Swedish-trained glass masters made these hand-blown, hand-fashioned pieces. Carlson, with the help of the Tiffin glass masters, developed sand carving of Swedish Optic Lead Crystal. These sand carved crystal vases and bowls have an unmatched quality.

Sales increased from $900,000 to nearly $5 million during this time and they were able to pay off their indebtedness. The decade between 1945 and 1955 is considered the high point of the Tiffin Glass factory.

In 1955, the Duncan and Miller Co. of Washington, PA became the Duncan and Miller Division of the U.S. Glass Co, Tiffin, OH. A number of the more experienced Duncan glass workers, along with a large number of molds and tooling were moved to Tiffin.

In 1959, C.W. Carlson retired, having served 20 years as president of the U.S. Glass Co. The business started to decline and was sold to an investment group in New York. By 1962 the glass company went bankrupt and the factory closed.

This factory did not remain idle very long, however. This time, with the help of C.W. Carlson's son, C. W. Carlson, Jr., and three of his former workers, the plant was incorporated as "Tiffin Art Glass Co." and was back in production.

Tiffin Art Glass Co. purchased the molds, patterns and equipment of T.G. Hawkes Cut Glass Co., Corning, NY in March, 1964.

In 1966 the factory was sold to the Continental Can Co. which operated it as the "Tiffin Glass Co." until 1968. Then, Interpace Corporation, the parent company of Franciscan China, purchased the firm.

In May of 1979 the factory was sold for the last time to Towle Silversmiths, MA. In May, 1980 the furnace was turned off and in October, 1984 finally closed.