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Glass City History

Toledo is known as the “Glass Capital of the World” due to its long and fascinating history of glass manufacturing. Toledo’s abundant natural gas and high-silica content sandstone led New England Glass Company to relocate here in 1888. Its owner, Edward Drummond Libbey, hired Michael Owens of Newark to help manage the firm.

At the time, bottles were produced by individual glassblowers, a slow, inconsistent process. By 1904, Michael Owens had patented a machine that could manufacture glass bottles at the rate of four per second. Libbey financed manufacturing of the new machine and in 1929, the Owens Bottle Company acquired Illinois Glass Company and the name became the Owens-Illinois Glass Company.

Libbey-Owens-Ford was formed by the merger of Libbey-Owens Sheet Glass and Edward Ford Plate Glass Company, both of Toledo. LOF produced the first laminated windshields in 1928 and became a major supplier of automotive and architectural glass. It was acquired by Pilkington Group in 1986 and in 2006, became part of Nippon Sheet Glass or NSG.

Other glass-oriented firms continue to make Toledo their home.Libbey, which produces glass tableware and bottles; Owens-Corning which is a manufacturer/marketer of fiberglass insulation and roofing; and First Solar, the largest manufacturer of solar panels in the western hemisphere.

Toledo is also the birthplace of the Studio Art Glass Movement. In 1962, Harvey Littleton (a potter) tried and failed. Then Dominic Labino of Johns Manville advised building a furnace that could melt glass marbles at the Toledo Museum of Art. In 1969, the Museum constructed a Glass-Crafts building designed for teaching. A major new glass building at TMA was built a few years ago. Today, the Toledo area has several hot glass studios and glass artists worldwide embrace this Toledo-born artform.

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