Star Glass Co. – New Albany

Provenance: Patricia Strang Collection

In the mid-1860s, Louisville, Kentucky was the epicenter of glass production and commerce in the midwest. Just across the Ohio River, from Louisville, is New Albany, Indiana. This is where our museum example of a Star Glass Co. groove ring wax-sealer jar is from.

This jar can be found in quarts and half-gallons in colors such as amber, aqua, cornflower blue, light green, olive green, citron, sky blue, and sun-colored amethyst. The jar is hand-blown with a tooled, smooth lip. The closure is a groove ring wax sealer with a tin lid and an embossed star. Our deep olive-yellow example is extraordinary with the pronounced striations and glass bubbles. This adds a lot of character to the jar.

Fruit jar authority Dick Roller once noted that a jar exists that appears to have a ghosted star figure below STAR GLASS Co. His observation was converted into variation ‘a.’ An aqua quart has also been reported with 4 dots between the lines of wording.

Other production bottles, including strap-side flasks and ales, are known from the area and are marked with a boldly embossed five-point star on the base. These can be safely attributed to Star Glass Co.

In 1867, John Baptiste Ford (1811-1903) joined his sons Emory and Edward in the operation of a glassworks company in New Albany. The father would also inject much-needed capital, as you see, the year-earlier had seen a fire that pretty much destroyed the operation. Ford was an entrepreneur and philanthropist whose innovations advanced the glass industry in the United States. This new company, J. B. Ford & Sons, launched the area’s glass-making industry.

Ford began his career in Floyd County and lived in Greenville, Indiana where, by 1837, he owned the Station Building property. After moving to New Albany in the 1850s, he built up a fleet of steamships. During the Civil War, “Captain” Ford profited from government shipping contracts. By 1867, J. B. Ford & Sons glass works had changed their name to the New Albany Glass Works.

Immediately upriver, was the Star Glass Company, which was owned by the same John B. Ford and Washington C. DePauw, a local businessman and cousin of Fords. They had started this glass works around 1869 primarily for the purpose of manufacturing rough and polished plate glass, window glass, and fruit jars. This, of course, included the wax sealer fruit jar lettered STAR GLASS CO. NEW ALBANY, IND.

John Ford in all his efforts was extremely successful and produced the first plate glass in the United States in 1870. There were advertisements in newspapers from all across the country touting the New Albany Glass Works and the Star Glass Co. and their plate glass. Previously, plate glass had been imported primarily from France and England.

From the New Albany Daily Ledger on November 20th, 1869, we see this paragraph talking about Ford and his Star Glass Co.

His last enterprise, now in successful operation, the Star Glass Works, is meeting his most sanguine anticipations. This manufactory is one of the largest in the United States, and when all of the machinery and appliances have been adjusted, will have a capacity equal to the largest manufactories of the world. The ground occupied by the Star Glass Works covers about seven acres in the upper end of the city and is entirely enclosed by substantial fencing. Upon these grounds have been erected three capacious furnaces, one of which will be exclusively used for the production of plate glass. Other buildings, for tempering, flattening, and manufacturing the necessary articles for the making of glass, with packing houses, &c, cover a large portion of the remainder of the ground.”

In October 1871, The Star Glass Company, purchased the New Albany Glass Works stock and fixtures for $13,000. This effort was led by W. C. DePauw who had bought out Ford. Sometime before 1880, the Star Glass Company changed their name to the W. C. DePauw Glass Company (DePauw’s American Plate Glass Works), and operated under that name until June of 1893, when the Panic of 1893 took its toll and the plant was shut down. Subsequent sporadic attempts during the next two or three years to revive the works failed, and the property (along with another DePauw plant at Alexandria, Indiana) was finally sold by the receiver to the Union Trust Company of Indianapolis in May of 1898.

Reference: Reference to Red Book #11, the Collector’s Guide to Old Fruit Jars by Douglas M. Leybourne, Jr.

Read: Louisville Glass Factories of the 19th Century – Part 1 by David Whitten, Spring 2005, Bottles and Extras

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