The Jeannette Glass Company, located in Jeannette, Pennsylvania, was in operation from 1887 until 1983.

In 1887, the Western Land and Improvement Company applied for a charter from the state of Pennsylvania for the start up of a glass bottle manufacturing company and was soon approved.8 The Jeannette Bottle Works Company was founded in Jeannette1 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 was invented in 1898 and soon Jeannette 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 14s.8

By 1904, Jeannette Glass was involved in the producing 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 had purchased controlling interest to ensure prism glass supply, and shortly after, all Jeannette production operations were turned to press ware.

Plant additions and improvements were completed in 1920.8 In 1924, hand-pressed tableware was introduced into the product lineup while prism glass was dropped. The American 3-Way Luxfer Prism Company’s controlling interest was removed in 1926, although they still had significant control of Jeannette Glass.

The Depression-era glass, as it was later to be called, included the Adam, Anniversary, Cherry Blossom and Pansy pattern lines, and pastel colors such as pink and green. With it’s wares selling steadily, Jeannette Glass reached peak capacity with five continuous tanks operating by 1930, although it was reduced to four tanks just three years later, reflecting a downward economic trend.

In 1935, Jeannette was recognized as a publicly owned corporation, and its stock was listed on the American Stock Exchange a year later.8

Production at Jeannette Glass waned significantly during World War II, reducing to three continuous tanks by 1941 and just two by 1944. It increased to five tanks in 1945 due to an increase in consumer spending post-war.2 The company employed over 1,500.

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

Reflecting it’s diverse product range, the company was renamed to the Jeannette Corporation in 1970. 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 just one year later and closed in 1983.1 2 5

Liquidation & Lawsuit

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 What would have been a typical reorganization of the debts became sale of the factory’s assets escalated when a court-appointed trustee, James Moody, filed a lawsuit against Jeannette Glass’ owner and lender for fraud. The case dragged on for eleven years after the closure of the glass plant.

In the suit, Moody stated that Brogan purchased a profitable factory and drained its assets for quick personal gain. Moody sought $16 million, which would have gone into Jeannette Glass’ estate in Bankruptcy Court that would have been divided out to creditors, including 700 former employees. The lawsuit was eventually ruled in favor of Moody, although it was overturned in 1992 by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals.10

As a result of the settlement, most of the $2.2 million in proceeds that were held for over a decade went to Security Pacific Business Credit.10 About $591,000 went to cover lawyer fees.

Industrial pollution was a common scene at Jeannette, according to city employees and neighbors. It was reported that chemicals were dumped into the ground. In 1980, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health analyzed hair, urine and blood samples from 35 employees and discovered arsenic levels that exceeded government standards and noted that a significant health hazard existed at the facility.7

In 1983, the former Jeannette plant was purchased by New York businessman Abe Zion for $4 million in a bankruptcy sale. Zion had hoped to reopen the once famous glass factory.3 4 5 9 In October, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) conducted an inspection of the factory for hazardous wastes.7 The inspection details, released in 1985, were not favorable. Zion was cited for violations by the DEP for industrial pollution, stating that the 13-acre facility contained asbestos and hazardous wastes, such as PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls and acetone.

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 a year later to clean up the wastes and ship them to a specific landfill for disposal. The cleanup was completed in 1992 and afterwards, Zion refused all city and state official and inspector access.4

On June 11, 1993, the Pennsylvania Department of Commerce and the Department of Community Affairs sent notice to the city of Jeannette, noting that the city had failed to repay a $1.1 million state loan for economic development and that the state would not finance a $21 million glass plant or any project within the city limits until the loan is repaid.11 The letter insisted that Jeannette Mayor Glenn Hoak repay the loan immediately.

The $1.1 million was part of a $1.4 million package that the city received in 1987 under the Economic Development Partnership Loan Program, which was to be used as a business loan to General Glass Industries.11 12 Under the program, the city was to administer the loan and repay it back as money was available from the proceeds, although that never occurred. The Commerce Department at a later point stated that Jeannette could keep $310,000 of the $1.4 million as collateral for another state development program administered by the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority.

In addition, the city had loaned $600,000 to Zion in 1986 to jumpstart the mill’s resurrection, although the state of Pennsylvania never approved of such a package.5 11 12 The loan did not require him to repay the loan if he did not receive further financial assistance from the state.5 Zion in return bribed city officials with gifts and donated money to various elections. He employed Troglio to do legal work for him while employed as solicitor. The deal was made through a 5-0 vote from city council.

The deal ended up causing a stir in the city. 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.  Hoak resigned as mayor and Troglio was fired by city council. Another investigation by the state inspector general concluded that Hoak had violated the state’s Election Code and failed to report donations on state financial disclosure forms.5

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

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 enticed them to immigrate from Israel, and promised them a prosperous future at a factory and research center in Jeannette 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 taken 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 Jeannette Mayor Hoak and former city solicitor Pete Troglio, 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

In January 2011, the state Department of Environmental Protection issued citations, ordering Zion to demolish the abandoned buildings and reclaim the soil at the plant.3

[stag_toggle style=”normal” title=”Sources” state=”closed”]
  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.” 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.