Jeannette Glass

Industrial / Pennsylvania

The Jeannette Glass Company is a former glass factory in Jeannette, Pennsylvania.


History

The Western Land and Improvement Company applied for a charter from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvaxnia to form a glass bottle manufacturer in 1887, and was soon approved. 8 The Jeannette Bottle Works Company was founded in Jeanette 1 2 and was headed by James A. Chambers, H. Sellers McKee, J. Gardner Cassatt, Horace Magee, and B. Maurice Gaskill. A company town that developed around the factory was named after McKee’s wife.

The O’Neill semi-automatic bottle blowing machine, invented in 1898, was soon installed at Jeannette Bottle Works, where the company was mass-producing wide mouth jars, pressed glass items such as headlamp lenses, and bottles. 1 The company was succeeded by the Jeannette Glass Company on June 14. 8

By 1904, Jeannette Glass produced bottles for a wide range of products and expanded into prism glass in 1917. 2 Such glass was used to increase light exposure. The American 3-Way Luxfer Prism Company acquired a controlling interest in Jeannette Glass to ensure that they had an adequate prism glass supply.

Plant additions were completed in 1920. 8 In 1924, hand-pressed tableware was introduced into the product lineup, which made up for a decline in the production of prism glass. The American 3-Way Luxfer Prism Company gave up controlling interest in Jeannette Glass in 1926. The Depression-era glass defined the company in the 1930’s, which included the Adam, Anniversary, Cherry Blossom and Pansy pattern lines, and pastel colors such as pink and green. Peak capacity was reached in 1930 with five continuous production lines, although this had decreased to four lines by 1933.

Jeannette Glass became a publically owned corporation in 1935 and was listed on the stock exchange in 1936. 8

Production at Jeannette Glass waned during World War II, with the company down to three continuous lines by 1941 and just two lines by 1944. 8 It had increased to five lines by 1945 due to an increase in post-war consumer spending. 2 8 By the end of the decade, Jeannette Glass employed over 1,500. 6

In 1961, Jeannette Glass purchased the former Thatcher Glass Manufacturing Company’s McKee Glass Division plant in Jeannette and expanded with a new technical glassware department. 8 The company then installed the world’s largest electric glass furnace to melt heat-resisting glass in 1963.

Jeannette Glass became the Jeannette Corporation in 1970 to reflect it’s diverse product range. Connecticut businessman John P. Brogan leveraged a buyout financed by Security Pacific Business Credit in 1981, 10 but due to Brogan’s lack of knowledge in the glass industry, Jeannette was forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1982. The company ceased operations in 1983. 1 2 5

Controversy

The plant was soon purchased by New York businessman Abe Zion for $4 million in a bankruptcy sale. 3 4 5 9 Zion had hoped to reopen the factory as General Glass Industries 11 12 at the cost of $21 million. 11 The city received $1.4 million economic package from the Economic Development Partnership Loan Program, which was to be used as a business loan to General Glass. Under the program, the city was to administer the loan and repay it back as money was available from the profits of General Glass. Additionally, the city loaned $600,000 to Zion in 1986 to jumpstart the project. 5 11 12 but the General Glass project never proceeded.

It was discovered that Zion had bribed city officials with gifts, and had employed the city solicitor to conduct legal work for him. 5 The city council hired Robert Durrant to conduct an internal investigation, who reported to council about the loan and the entangled relationships between Zion and the mayor and city solicitor.  The mayor resigned and the city solicitor was fired by the city council. Another investigation by the state inspector general concluded that the mayor had violated the state’s Election Code and failed to report donations on state financial disclosure forms.

On October 20, the city hired a Pittsburgh law firm in an attempt to recover the $600,000 loan 12 and on November 4, Zion wrote the city a check for the amount of the loan to resolve the issue. 13

Claiming that the plant would be restarted, Zion repeatedly refused or ignored officials regarding proposals for redevelopments, but a 22-hour fire in the mid-1980’s caused significant damage. In 1988, the DEP cited Zion for multiple environmental violations and ordered him in 1989  to clean up latent industrial waste and ship them to an industrial landfill for disposal. The cleanup was completed in 1992. 4

On June 10, 1993, U.S. District Court Judge Gustave Diamond ordered the completion of Jeannette Glass’ liquidation following the settlement of numerous disputes. 10 The reorganization of the debts became a sale of the factory’s assets when a court-appointed trustee, James Moody, filed a lawsuit against Jeannette’s owner and lender for fraud.

In the suit, Moody stated that Brogan purchased a profitable factory and drained its assets for quick personal gain. Moody had sought $16 million to pay the creditors and 700 former employees. The lawsuit was eventually ruled in favor of Moody, although it was partially overturned by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. 10 As part of the settlement, most of the $2.2 million in proceeds secured went to Security Pacific Business Credit while $591,000 went to cover lawyer fees. 10

In 1994, two Russian-born scientists sued Zion over the failure to restart the ovens at Jeannette, claiming breach of contract and defamation. 5 14 Leonid Landa and his wife, Ksenia, who once lived in Jeannette, stated that Zion had enticed them to immigrate from Israel, and promised them a prosperous future at a factory and research center designed for their needs. 14 Upon arrival, they were hailed as honorary citizens and were offered a car, house, medical benefits and a salary of $52,000 each. The salary would double within a year, according to an oral agreement.

The Landas’ had developed glass manufacturing process in which glass could be transformed through pressure, resulting in a form of glass that was unbreakable. 14 They had also developed a glass cutting technique using ultraviolet light. Together, they would develop and refine the process at a restarted Jeannette glass plant.

But Zion had paid Landas only $8,000 for working just a few months and then stopped payment. 14 The Landas’ car was also repossessed in February 1993, and they were not allowed to work in the glass plant. In March, Zion took their airline tickets the couple had planned to use to fly to Israel for their daughter’s wedding, which they ultimately missed. In addition, Zion withheld information for their visa application extension with the hopes that they would be deported back to Israel. The lawsuit also included the mayor and former city solicitor, both who had made public comments defaming the Landas.

In November 2003, just as a jury was to be selected for the Landa civil case, Zion settled out of court. 5

The state ordered Zion to demolish the ruins of Jeannette Glass in January 2011, which by that point had become far too deteriorated to salvage. 3


Gallery


Sources

  1. Weatherman, Hazel Marie. Colored Glassware Of The Depression Era 2. N.p.: Weatherman Glassbooks, 1977. N. pag. Print.
  2. Wiggins, Pamela. “Jeannette Glass Company.” About.com Antiques. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2011. Article.
  3. Gazarik, Richard. “Jeannette glass plant hearing set back a year.” Tribune-Review [Pittsburgh] 6 July 2011: n. pag. Web. 16 Oct. 2011. Article.
  4. Gazarik, Richard. “DEP inspectors search Jeannette Glass site for toxins.” Tribune-Review [Pittsburgh] 5 Oct. 2010: n. pag. Web. 16 Oct. 2011. Article.
  5. Gazarik, Richard. “Suit involving Jeannette Glass building owner ends in settlement.” Tribune-Review [Pittsburgh] 4 Nov. 2003: n. pag. Web. 16 Oct. 2011. Article.
  6. Paterra, Paul. “Owner of Jeannette glass plant site signs documents.” Tribune-Review [Pittsburgh] 1 Sept. 2010: n. pag. Web. 16 Oct. 2011. Article.
  7. Gazarik, Richard. “Toxins discovered at old Jeannette Glass.” Tribune-Review [Pittsburgh] 5 Jan. 2011: n. pag. Web. 16 Oct. 2011. Article.
  8. McHugh, William James. “Eighty-five Years of Glass: A History of the Glass Industry in Jeannette, Pennsylvania, 1888-1973.” MS thesis. 1974. Print.
  9. Woodall, Candy. “New Hope for Jeannette Glass Co. Plant Site.” Post-Gazette [Pittsburgh] 29 July 2010: n. pag. Web. 17 Oct. 2011. Article.
  10. Gaynor, Pamela. “Jeannette Glass Firm Saga Over.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 12 June 1993: B10. Print.
  11. Smith, Matthew P.. “Jeannette Failed on Loan, State Says.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 30 Sept. 1993: B4. Print.
  12. Hoffman, Ernie. “Jeannette Acts to Recoup Loan.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 21 Oct. 1993: B4. Print.
  13. Hoffman, Ernie. “Jeannette to Return PA. Loan.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 5 Nov. 1993: B5. Print.
  14. Bucsko, Mike. “Russian couple files suit claiming theft of ideas.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 30 Sept. 1994: C1. Print.