2005 >> June >> The Western Glass Manufacturing Co  

The Western Glass Manufacturing Co.
By Mike Miller and Tom Katonak

Reprinted from "Crown Jewels of the Wire", June 2005, page 20

PART I: THE BEGINNINGS

Over the years, several articles on the Denver glass companies operating out of the Valverde Glass Works have been published in the Crown Jewels of the Wire. Most recently, we've heard about the R. Good Jr. operation and the Western Flint Glass Company. These accounts concentrated on the "insulators" part of the story. Now it's time to transition to the even more interesting historical aspects of early glass making in Denver and speak to the "people and the times" of the Western Glass Manufacturing Company.

The Origin of WGM Co.

"I was limited for capital. That tank wasn't what it should have been, but I was getting by with it, until the fire╣." These were the words of Robert Good Jr. when discussing the disastrous fire of June 27th, 1899 which ended his western entrepreneurial adventure and "threw about 30 people out of employment."▓ 

Possibly watching the fire from his office across Bayaud Street was Mr. Frank Ashley, the genial secretary and treasurer of the Western Chemical Co. of which his father, Eli, was principal owner, president and general manager.│  It was Frank Ashley who became the driving force behind the creation of the Western Flint Glass Company (WFG Co) upon the embers of Robert Good JR's business. Joining Frank were a few of his boyhood buds, sons of Denver's upper crust who all lived on or within a block of Denver's millionaires row, Grant St. on Capitol Hill.(4) Frank became president of the new firm. Merritt W. Gano, of the noted downtown gentlemen's clothing firm Gano-Downs, took over as business manager. 

TYPICAL USE OF THE FIVE WGM INSULATOR STYLES

STYLE   

UTILIZATION   

REPRESENTATIVE USERS

CD 106   

Rural telephone   

Colorado Tel Co. (CO and NM), Rocky Mt Bell Tel Co. (UT, ID, MT, WY)

CD 121   

Telephone toll Lines   

Colorado Tel Co. (CO and NM), Rocky Mt Bell Tel Co. (UT, ID, MT, WY)

CD 134   

Low voltage power   

Denver Gas and Electric, & most other local power companies

CD 145   

Railroad Telegraph   

WU, AT&SF, Postal Tel, Union Pacific RR

CD 162   

Low voltage power   

Denver Gas and Electric, & most other local power companies

Other shareholders were Gerald Hughes, whose father was a leading attorney in Denver and would soon become a U.S. Senator, and John H. Porter. Porter's father, Henry M. Porter, as a young man, had been employed by the Stebbins Telegraph Company and had constructed the telegraph line from Kansas City to Omaha via St. Joseph in 1860. The following year, Porter was superintendent of the Stebbins contract to construct the Omaha-Julesburg portion of the Pacific Telegraph for Western Union Telegraph Co. (5)

The initial capitalization of WFG was $25,000.(6) On February 7th, 1900, an amendment to the Certificate of Incorporation was filed with the Colorado Secretary of State increasing the capital stock to $40,000.

Despite this auspicious beginning, all was not well. "... the plant was poorly equipped and had been operated more or less unsuccessfully."(7) Perhaps also the blue and green glass, while attractive in an insulator, may not have been acceptable in a beer or catsup bottle. This was to change in the summer of 1900. Henry Porter writes to son John on July 10, 1900: "Frank Ashley was around the other evening and said that they had secured the services of an excellent man to run the glass works. He was out and looked over the situation for five days and has concluded to come to Denver to live, and thinks that he can make the works pay from one to two hundred dollars a day. Fifty dollars a day would be an improvement on what is being done now. He has gone back to St. Louis to arrange his affairs and will be out soon with his family and will take charge of the works as a permanent thing.


WGM Hutch bottles from around the region 
(Perhaps as much as 85% of the WGM revenue 
came from the manufacture of bottles)



Crown top beer and soda bottles from various parts
of the "WGM sales region"

"Frank says they pay him $175 a month and put five thousand in the treasury and give him the profits arising from that for the first year; next year they give him the profit and one thousand (shares) of the stock, the third year the same, and the fourth year the same, and the fifth year all of the stock if he carries out his promises.

"They all seem to think a great deal of this man and the record that he had made in St. Louis, the long years he had managed there, and the success that he and his brother made in the business."(8)

Dateline ALTON, IL July 21, 1900: "Michael Nester is here from Denver, Col., endeavoring to enlist some Alton glassblowers to go West with him to work (the) next fire at the Western Flint Glass Co. plant at Valverde, near Denver, which he will manage next year."(9)

And again September 4,1900, Henry Porter to son John: "The glass works have taken an evolution to the front since you were here. They have a new man by the name of Nester who was a great success east, who has engaged himself for five years, who has made some changes, who is to take part of his pay in stock of the company provided he makes what he agrees to. The company will increase its capitol stock to 80,000, Frank Ashley and you to pay 2000 each more and get 6000 more stock or 14,000 each...I paid 1000 for you and will pay 1000 more.


Top Row: Tolls in four colors from one of the four molds 
Bottom Row: Four mold toll set



Top Row: Ponies in all four molds 
Bottom Row: Additional pony color variants



Several mold variants of the Western Union style 
WGM 145's



Group photo of Denver glass showing various colors and styles

"Nester thinks he can make 100 to 200 per day if he can sell the glass and they are making arrangements to sell to the beer men a big lot of stuff, say 50,000 worth I believe.

"They all like the new man, he is quiet and methodical, and understands what he is doing and going to do.(10)

John Porter, in Magdelena, New Mexico, replies to his father on September 6th, 1900: "I note what you say about the Glass Co. and am glad to know that they have things, as I think, in better shape...I am obliged for the additional stock you took for me and hope that it will turn out good. It should in time."(11)

Michael Nester learned the glass trade from his father, Fred Nester, in one of the Pittsburgh glass houses. The family moved to Illinois Glass in Alton in 1882. In 1893, they purchased a portion of the Obear Glass Co. of East St. Louis, IL. The name was changed Obear-Nester Glass Co. with Michael's elder brother Joseph Nester becoming president.(12)

In Denver, one of the first changes Michael Nester made was the introduction of manganese into the glass chemistry to de colorize the glass. New insulator molds, embossed "WGM Co" were purchased and the old WFG molds that had been Robert Good JR's were retired...at least for awhile. The new corporation, Western Glass Manufacturing Co., now capitalized at $100,000, filed its certificates with the Secretary of State on November 8th, 1900.(13) This change of name may have been part of the attempt to polish their image, but more likely it was to resolve a conflict - there was an existing Western Flint Glass Co. in Eaton, Indiana.(14)

- to be continued -

(A tip of the old hat to historian Bob Stahr who has been mining the musty old files of the Commoner & Glassworker - and other journals. Some of the fruits of Bob's labor are incorporated into this article.)

Notes:

1. Quoted in the Poughkeepsie Sunday New Yorker, Mar 11, 1945

2. Denver Post, June 27, 1899

3. Denver Post, September 24, 1899

4. Sandra Dallas: Cherry Creek Gothic, Norman, OK, 1971

5. H.M. Porter: Pencilings of an Early Western Pioneer 1929

6. September 14, 1899, State of Colorado Archives

7. Commoner & Glassworker, April 18, 1903

8. Porter Papers: Colorado Historical Society Library

9. Commoner & Glassworker, April 18, 1903. (Glass works in this period operated from after Labor Day to the end of June; this season was known as "a fire")

10. Porter Papers op cit

11. Ibid.

12. East St. Louis Journal, February 21, 1893 and Commoner & Glassworker Apr 18, 1903

13. Colorado State Archives

14. Dick Roller: Indiana Glass Factories Notes, Paris, IL 1994


Group photo of WGM glass
(Note many of these are embossed AMTEL and WFG!)



WGM styles: Postal (left) VS. Western Union (right)

a) The Postal style molds have a base dimension of 2-15/16"
 whereas the WU style bases are all 3-1/8".
b) There are four separate molds for each style 
distinguished by the shape of the dome.



WGM PONY with large bubble in skirt



WGM TOLL with black "pollywog"



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