Lost Huntington: The Boldt bottle factory
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the 35th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington landmarks.
HUNTINGTON -- In 1913, the Charles Boldt Co., which operated a glass bottle plant in Cincinnati, Ohio, began searching for a city where it could build a second factory. Attracted by Huntington's strong rail and river transportation network, the company purchased a tract of land on the city's South Side at West 5th Street.
There Boldt built, in 1914, a glass plant with three furnaces. Later it would add a fourth furnace and then a fifth, along with a box factory and corrugated paper factory. On the promotional postcard reprinted here, the company wasn't exactly modest about its new Huntington plant, proclaiming it "the finest and best equipped bottle factory in the world."
The Boldt plant used automatic bottle-making machines that were licensed from Michael J. Owens (1859-1923), a West Virginia native who had invented them. Born in Mason County, Owens left school at age 10 to become a glassware apprentice in Wheeling. In 1888, he moved to Toledo, Ohio, and went to work at a glass factory owned by Edward Drummond Libbey. He quickly rose to foreman and then to supervisor.
His inventive genius -- backed by Libbey's cash -- gave birth to a bottle-making machine that revolutionized the glass industry. The Owens machine could produce glass bottles at a rate of 240 per minute and reduce labor costs by 80 percent.
The Boldt Co. operated its Huntington plant for only four years. In 1918, Owens, who had formed the Owens Bottle Machine Co., took control of the plant and removed the Boldt name from it. In 1919, Owens and Libbey entered into a partnership and the company was renamed the Owens Bottle Co. A decade later, in 1929, the company merged with the Illinois Glass Co. to become the Owens-Illinois Glass Co.
Over the following decades, Huntington's Owens plant produced literally billions of glass bottles and containers. But production declined sharply in the 1980s, as plastics gained an ever larger share of the market. Finally, in 1993, the plant closed, writing an end to a significant chapter in the city's history.
For more from this series, go to www.herald-dispatch.com. Click on News, then Lost Huntington series.
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