The Glass City

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Libbey Factory, 1930

Libbey Factory, 1930

When TMA founder Edward Drummond Libbey moved his family’s New England Glass Works in 1888 from Massachusetts to Ohio, he set the stage for Toledo to become the Glass City. In 1892, the company changed its name to the Libbey Glass Company and specialized in glass tableware.

Libbey’s greatest achievements in the glass industry were a result of his support of the inventions of Michael J. Owens, who developed the technologies to automate the manufacture of electric light bulbs, kerosene lamp fonts, bottles, and window glass.

In 1930, the Libbey-Owens flat-glass operation merged with the Edward Ford Plate Glass Company, also located in Toledo. The Libbey-Owens-Ford Company became a major producer of flat glass for the automotive and building products industries, and made Toledo the glass-making capital of the country.

In 1936, the first building to be completely covered in glass was constructed in Toledo: a building for the Owens-Illinois Glass Company and a milestone in architectural design.

In the 1960s, the Studio Glass Movement was born in Toledo, and TMA became the first museum to build a facility and studio specifically designed for teaching glass working techniques. That tradition was reinforced in 2006 with the construction of the Museum’s Glass Pavilion.

Today, even as the manufacturing age has declined, the tremendous growth of “green” industries has kept Toledo on the forefront of glass production. The Glass City is home to dozens of solar energy companies that turn glass into solar cells, panels and coatings.