Kimble Glass

...and the man who made it a thriving industry.

by Vince Farinaccio

Kimble Glass Company, Vineland’s long-standing glass manufacturer, is truly a tale of two cities, spanning the Midwest to the East Coast. By 1961, Kimble Glass was heralded by the Vineland Times Journal Centennial Edition as “the oldest, the largest and the most important glass manufacturing plant existing in Vineland today…an organization which from the start was conceived in the mind of a man whose vision, initiative, perseverance, ambition and leadership supplied the driving force for almost half a century.”

Evan Ewan Kimble, also known as Colonel Kimble, was born in 1868 in Tuckahoe, New Jersey. The Times Journal places Kimble, along with his mother and siblings, in Vineland by 1873, relocating seven years later to Millville, already a thriving glass town. It was here that young Evan began his career in the glass industry by tending a wood-burning oven at the Whitall-Tatum facility.

John Rossi’s 1997 Vineland Historical Magazine article “A History of Glassmaking – Vineland Industry” explains that in the late 19th century, “wages were low and hours were long” in glass factories and “everything was done by hand.”

Before long, Kimble moved to Indiana to ply his trade. According to the Times Journal, “in 1895, the Sheldon-Foster Glass Company, Gas City, Indiana, primarily a bottle blowing concern, established a lamproom and named Kimble manager of the department.” When this operation was discontinued, the equipment “was given to Kimble as a gift from Mr. Sheldon.”

Rossi notes that, while still a young man, “Kimble moved to Chicago” where he used the equipment to establish Kimble Glass Company in 1901. The Times Journal describes the company’s facility as “a loft building on Michigan Ave. in Chicago…” and reports that “it originally consisted of the manufacture of vials and other small containers made from glass tubing.”

That tubing was sourced from two companies: Chicago’s Illinois Glass Company and Vineland’s Flint Glass Tube Company. The latter proved to be the initial step in reconnecting Kimble with his native South Jersey.

The Vineland company was owned and operated by Victor Durand Jr., who had been born in Baccarat, France in 1870 and learned his trade at the age of 14 in Millville at Whitall-Tatum and Wheaton Glass Works. With financial assistance from his father, he leased the Vineland Glass Manufacturing Company in 1897, changing the name to the Vineland Flint Glass Works, adding a furnace and directing his 25 employees to begin manufacturing glass tubing, rods and thermometer tubes. Within two years, the company was successful enough so that Durand was able to buy out his father’s share of the business.

Durand’s success was significant at the time. According to Rossi, previous attempts to establish and maintain a flourishing glass industry in Vineland had proven elusive. Beginning in 1866, with an abandoned attempt by a Boston entrepreneur identified by Rossi as Benjamin Corlew, glass factories had a limited lifespan in Vineland, either shuttering their facilities or relocating to another town. Durand provided a third option—buy-out.

Ten years after acquiring the Vineland Glass Manufacturing Company, Rossi reports, Durand bought out the Capitol Glass Manufacturing Company located on the Boulevard south of Chestnut Avenue, “and continued to manufacture in the facility for some time afterwards.”

According to Jim Davies’ essay Vineland Flint Glass Works: The Early Years, Durand’s company continued to expand its line of products during the first decade of the 20th century, eventually incorporating additional lab glass, vacuum bottles and tableware, known today as “Durand Commercial” glass.

Concurrently, Kimble “produced the first Babcock Test Bottle, an initial step toward the production of graduated glassware for laboratory use,” the Times Journal reports. Each development brought Durand and Kimble closer to an inevitable partnership.

Next Week: The Merger

Jersey Reflections

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