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In the 1920s, the glass company was the largest local employer.

by Vince Farinaccio

Before Kimble Glass, the Chicago-based company established by Evan Ewan Kimble in 1901, became part of Owens Illinois following World War II, it enjoyed a successful series of decades after setting up a Vineland plant as a result of the 1911 merger with Victor Durand’s Flint Glass Tube Company.

Although the Durand partnership lasted less than two years, Kimble Glass chose to remain in Vineland, securing a permanent second merger with Durand’s company in 1931 and updating its equipment to accommodate the burgeoning automated process within the industry. And while its output grew, so did its facilities and employees.

During the 1920s, an article in the Monograph of Beautiful Vineland acknowledged the company’s “forward policy,” referring to the business as “the pioneer in the installation of new methods, and the products of the new automatic machines are far superior to the former handmade wares.”

Those machines, the article declares, “turn out 30,000 to 40,000 pounds [of products] daily” at the Vineland plant located on 10 acres “in the block bounded by Crystal Avenue, Cambridge Street, East Avenue and Fowler Street.” The main structure, we’re told, “fronts on Crystal Avenue,” just behind office suites, with the shipping department located on the first floor.

The second floor of the main structure was used exclusively for the manufacture of lamps. The north wing of the building “is occupied by the packing and cutting departments.” At the time of the article, 14 additional buildings were “in use on the Kimble Company’s extensive plant,” including one devoted to the manufacture of medical vials.

During the 1920s, the company was “the largest employer of the labor in the locality,” according to the Monograph, which offers no specifics as to the company’s payroll but does call it “impressive.” The article does identify that approximately 800 “men, boys and girls are employed.”

Vineland may have become the headquarters of Kimble Glass as of 1911, but its Chicago facility continued to operate. The Illinois plant contained offices and a smaller factory that handled the manufacture of products for the western portion of the country. The Chicago plant would continue to expand so that by 1939 its purchase of the Sheldon Glass Company facilitated the manufacture of more exclusive glass products.

In addition to its Vineland and Chicago facilities, the company opened a New York branch that, according to the Monograph, contained offices and factories. Employees at the New York and Chicago plants totaled approximately 300.

Expansion, however, hadn’t been relegated only to the company. In December 1918, the Vineland Evening Journal reported that Evan Ewan Kimble’s new home on Landis Avenue was nearing completion.

Described by the newspaper as a “palatial residence,” with “striking” architecture, the three-story building, which, in 1964, would become the Sacred Heart rectory, measured “approximately forty feet by eighty feet inclusive of porches and conservatory extensions.” The grounds included an arbor, fountain, sun dial, bird bath and flower beds. It was predicted that the location would be “one of the beauty spots of ‘Beautiful Vineland.’”

The Evening Journal called the architecture “Elizabethan” and noted that “the interior of the house is finished in oak and mahogany with white enamel finish on all doors…” Entering from the front door, “the visitor finds himself in a spacious hall with hardwood cornices and paneled walls…East of the hall is the living room with a large open fireplace and adjoining the living room is the conservatory.”

The house’s interior favored a color scheme of white and cream that, in addition to the living room, could be found in the kitchen, dining room, multiple bathrooms and bedrooms, a game room, Kimble’s den, and a laundry room. The dwelling also included a breakfast porch, which was most fittingly, the Evening Journal reported, “almost all glass enclosed.”

Jersey Reflections