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Brief History of Glass

The history of glass is quite old and full of mysteries. Ancient people have used a natural black volcanic glass and called it obsidian for arrowheads, knives, and tools and even for decorations. Emperor Nero (A.D. 37-68) even paid around 6,000 sesterces or around $2,500 for two small cups due to attraction by the beauty of glass.

glass is defined as an inorganic solid material typically translucent and may have different colors. It is hard, fragile and made to last to the effects of the wind, rain or sun. It has been used for various purposes such as to make coasters, bottles, mirrors, windows and many more. The shining brightness of glass derives from its rather peculiar properties. Each of the properties has a special function.

The time and the place of the discovery of the combination of materials and heat that creates glass are uncertain. It is believed to have been first made around 3000 BC during the Bronze Age.

It was the Phoenician merchants who were transporting stone actually discovered glass around 5000 BC in the region of Syria according to the ancient Roman historian Pliny. It tells how the merchants which landed on the region, rested cooking pots on blocks and due to extreme heat of fire, the blocks melted and formed an opaque liquid with the mixed of the sand of the beach.

Actually glass had been discovered a long time before 1200 B.C. A deep blue charm that is used to keep away evil spirits was the oldest man-made glass that has been found. This charm was dated by the archeologists at about 7000 B.C. All very early glass articles have been beads and inlays used for metal jewelry. It seems that glass appears to have been used first as a gem which is valued equally with the natural stones that primitive man considered precious.

The first drinking glass mugs and flasks were made from a sand-clay core. The core was molded in the kind of shape they want to form and held together with a piece of cloth fastened around a rod.

It has been around for thousands of years when the skill of melting and forming glass into flat and ornamental shapes started. The name of glass depends on the type materials and process used in forming the glass. The most popular term used for the majority of flat glass product creations is Soda-lime glass, while the typical specialty glass compositions are ceramic and borosilicate glasses. The term that applies to the most common flat glass production method is float glass. The sheet glass process is an earlier methodology that no longer exists in the United States wherein a ribbon of glass is pulled straightly out of the molten glass pool.

The first one to have advances in automating glass production was patented in 1848 by an English engineer named Henry Bessemer. He created a system that produced a continuous ribbon of flat glass by forming the ribbon between rollers. This was considered as an expensive process since the surfaces of the glass needed polishing. The glass can have a perfectly smooth body and this would cut costs significantly. In the U.S. there were several attempts made to form flat glass thru a molten tin bath and there were several patents were given recognition, but this process did not work.

At the end of the 19th century, Michael Owens (1859-1923), an American engineer, invented an automatic bottle blowing machine which arrived in Europe after the turn of the century. He was supported financially by E. D. L. Libbey, owner of the Libbey Glass Co. of Ohio. There were around 200 automatic Owend Libbey Suction Blow machines operating in the U.S. by the year 1920. While in Europe, smaller, more multipurpose machines that come from companies like O'Neill, Miller and Lynch were also well known.

Meanwhile, Irving W. Colburn who was been working on a machine that can continuously draw flat sheet glass since 1900, was supported by Libbey and Owens. They bought the patent of this machine in 1912 in which Owen developed and eventually in 1916 the Libbey-Owens Sheet Glass Company was opened to make window glass.

There was an added momentum in 1923 which was given to automatic production processes with the development of the gob feeder, which ensured the quick supply of more constantly sized gobs in bottle production. In 1925 IS (individual section) machines were soon developed. IS machines were used in combination with the gob feeders which allowed the synchronized production of a number of bottles from one piece of equipment. The combination of gob feeder-IS machine became the basis of most automatic glass container production today.


1. http://www.palaceofglass.com/resources/industry/hiofglin.html
2. http://www.glassonline.com/infoserv/history.html
3. http://inventors.about.com/od/gstartinventions/a/glass.htm
4. http://www.smartglassinc.com/glasshistory.html