Corning monument honors glass workers

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of the Courier.




Just a little over 80 years ago, tragedy befell 19 glass workers from Findlay who met death in a railroad accident in eastern Ohio.

They were employees of the Richardson glass factory which was located in the structure now occupied by the Jackson Furniture Co. at 416 East Main Cross St. They were en route to their home in Corning, N.Y. for a vacation of several weeks. They had come here on a temporary working basis for a time from their home in New York State.

The railroad accident happened at Ravenna, Ohio, July 3, 1891 on the Erie Railroad. The 19 who were killed were part of a group of some 75 Findlay glass workers who were making the trip to Corning, planning on being back home over the July 4th holiday. Forty-five of the men were from the Richardson plant, the others being employed in other Findlay glass factories.

In addition to the 19 who were killed, a number of others were injured. The bodies of the 19 workers who died in the wreck were taken to Corning, N.Y., where they were interred in the St. Mary’s Cemetery. A massive granite monument was erected over their graves by the American Flint Glass Workers’ Union, to which all belonged. At the top is shown a glass worker with one of the tools of his trade. Corning is the center of extensive glass interests. From (the late) Don Smith come the facts herein.

On the front of the August 1971 issue of “American Flint,” the journal of the American Flint Glass Workers Union, appears a color print of the Corning monument. The picture was presented to the union’s 88th convention at Miami, Fla., on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the railroad accident.

The Corning-bound party from Findlay had boarded the Toledo and Ohio Central train here for Kenton, where they transferred to the Erie railroad station in the evening, expecting to reach Corning the following morning to join their families who had remained in the New York City area when the men temporarily came to Findlay.

“The men killed in Ravenna,” said the old Morning Republican on July 6, 1891, “were among the best workmen in the employ of the Richardson factory and among the best bulb blowers in the whole country.” The men were not working in Corning because of a labor dispute there and came to Findlay where there was a shortage of glass workers at the time. They expected to be back in Findlay July 29.

The Ravenna accident happened when the Erie passenger train, due at the eastern Ohio city a little after midnight, was run into by a freight train and completely wrecked. The cars were telescoped into each other. The wreck caught fire and in a short time three coaches were burned up. The Findlay Glass workers were all in the rear coach, which was completely demolished.

Solon O. Richardson Jr., whose name the Findlay plant bore, and who was at its head, telegraphed from Findlay instructions to draw a draft on him for funds with which to provide for the proper care of those injured in the wreck. Mr. Richardson had gone to Put-in-Bay on Lake Erie with his family for a vacation the day the workers left for Corning.

The Richardson firm was again in full operation July 23, 1891. “The employees have not yet entirely recovered from the gloom and sadness occasioned by the death of their fellow workmen in the Ravenna wreck,” said the Morning Republican.

The Richardson plant was a branch of the W.L. Libbey and Co. of Toledo. Mr. Richardson was a member of the Libbey Co. As head of the Richardson firm, he worked with Michael J. Owens, who was the factory manager. The Richardson company operated in Findlay from January 1891 through June 1892, or 18 months. The East Main Cross Street plant made electric light bulbs. Only the glass bulbs were made here and they were shipped elsewhere to be completed. At the height of operations here, some 200 men were employed at the plant which ran day and night. The capacity of the factory was 250,000 per week. The payroll amounted to over $2,000 weekly. The plant closed down at the end of June 1892, when the owners of the building and the Libbey interests were unable to agree on an extension of the lease.

Mr. Richardson became president of the Libbey Co. in Toledo in 1899. He died in 1927 at 63. He was chairman of the board of the Libbey Co. when he died. Michael J. Owens, his Findlay manager, went on to become a big figure in the glass business as head of the Owens Bottle Co. and a leading member of the glass firm of Libbey-Owens-Ford in Toledo.


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