It can be said that the merging of Victor Durand’s Flint Glass Tube Company in Vineland and the Chicago-based Kimble Glass Company was a homecoming for Evan Ewan Kimble, who had spent his early years in Vineland and learned his trade in the factories of Millville. Yet it was more than that.
The 1911 merger created the Kimble-Durand Glass Company, which specialized in the manufacture of vials in both Vineland and Chicago. The partnership, however, proved to be short-lived. Reports in the Vineland Times Journal state that Durand “withdrew from the company less than two years [after the merger] and resumed his own business.” Kimble Glass remained in Vineland, seizing the opportunity to widen its output at the start of World War I.
As the Times Journal’s Centennial Edition overview of the Vineland glass industry explains, the war “abruptly ended America’s supply of laboratory, scientific and pharmaceutical glassware from Germany, Czechoslovakia and Japan.” Kimble Glass received a request by the Surgeon General’s Office to expand its operations in an effort to restock the low inventories of glassware. The company complied, increasing production of “vials, ampuls, graduated ware, test tubes and [the] Carroll-Dakin apparatus—an important item used for dispensing antiseptics directly into wounds.”
By 1915, in order to stave off increasing costs to ship its products, Kimble Glass transferred its equipment used to manufacture glassware for the war effort to its Vineland plant, relegating its Chicago operation largely to lamp production.
That decade, machines were transforming the manufacture of glass into an automated process and, over the next 20 years, Kimble Glass would incorporate new developments and improvements to raise the quality of production. The acquisition of several companies, including Durand’s, also increased its output and widened its range to include items like thermometers and hydrometers but, interestingly, not what is now the highly collectible art glass that was Durand’s trademark.
John Rossi, in his Vineland Historical Magazine article “A History of Glassmaking –Vineland Industry,” speculates that Kimble and Durand “had quite different ideas about which direction the Durand business should take” with the first merger in 1911. Durand, he writes, “was much more interested in the ‘art’ glassware” than Kimble, who was, “and perhaps rightly so, interested in pursuing the scientific apparatus field…”
Kimble Glass’ second merger with Durand’s company occurred in 1931 under a shroud of tragedy. The companies were in their fourth month of negotiations when, on April 24, 1931, Durand was seriously injured in an automobile accident. Evening Journal articles at the time reported that it was believed Durand had suffered partial paralysis while driving, causing the car to swerve off the road and hit a fence. Durand died the next day, having suffered a significant loss of blood from a deep neck wound that occurred when the windshield shattered.
Durand’s widow was left to complete the merger, but with the Depression several years old, art glass was neither a necessity nor a viable commodity. Without Durand’s financial support, Kimble Glass phased out this small unit.
By 1939, Kimble Glass succeeded in purchasing the Sheldon Glass Company in Chicago. According to the Times Journal Centennial Edition, the acquisition “gave Kimble Glass a manufacturing unit which produced acid bottles, hospital jars, individualized perfume bottles with exclusive designs and special molded containers.” That same year, on June 7, Evan Ewan Kimble retired as president of the company he had founded at the turn of the century. He was succeeded by his only son, Herman.
Seven years later, Kimble Glass became part of Owens Illinois. In 1961, the Times Journal Centennial Edition boasted that it was “one of the most modern factories of its kind in the country today” producing “on average seventy to one hundred tons of glass per day…”
We’ll continue our look at Kimble Glass when this series resumes.