Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/617

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THE GLASS INDUSTRY.

stretching westward from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, for the eminently utilitarian quality of its products.

But the most important thing in regard to the development of glass-making in America remains yet to be said. It is the tendency which the industry discloses in this year of grace 1893, four centuries after the discovery of the country. The events briefly outlined in the foregoing pages have given the industry a certain heredity, if one may so express it, a certain projectile force which tends to carry it along easily distinguishable lines of development. Acting with this in point of time, and occasionally against it in the matter of direction, there is an equally definite industrial environment in the midst of which this force is to operate. One is made aware of these dual factors by a comparative study of the census reports. But industrial history is made so rapidly at the present time that, if one is to speak of the tendency of to-day, it must be in the light of strictly contemporary events. The importance of the glass industry has warranted the establishment and maintenance of a number of very admirable trade journals, and it is in the columns of these journals that one is able to discern the signs of the times.

There is an unmistakable tendency toward the substitution of machine for hand processes. It suits the American temper better to exercise itself over the invention of a machine, or over the improvement of one already invented, than it does to plod along in the exercise of a routine dexterity. So we find the most rapid growth and the greatest relative perfection in those departments the most dependent upon mechanical processes, such as the manufacture of the pressed ware, of bottles, and of plate glass. Not less marked is the tendency to supplant the reservoir system of melting in pots by the continuous system represented by tank furnaces. In one department, that of bottle-making, this substitution, as we have already seen, has been in large measure carried out, and in other departments it seems indeed only a question of time as to when it will be realized. Similarly in the matter of fuel, the continuous supply of gas is rapidly taking the place of the less convenient and less continuous solid fuel. But the centralizing force of natural gas is beginning to lose its power. It is being practically demonstrated that manufactured gas and petroleum are able to economically compete with the natural product. Even within the natural-gas territory, shortage of supply and other irregularities have led several glass-makers to turn for their gaseous fuel to manufactories more contemporary than the Devonian gas rock. At Beaver Falls, Pa., for instance, the Co-operative Glass Company was threatened with disaster by the failure of its gas supply. But it turned at once to gas-producers and improved melting furnaces, with results which were highly