History Center talk: Glass factory days brief but memorableThe Colorado City Glass Company lasted for scarcely four years - opened in 1889 and essentially closed four years later - but it had a major impact in its time.
The factory operated around the clock, manufacturing up to 20,000 bottles a day and employing 200 people or more, explained retired Pikes Peak Library District employee/researcher Brenda Hawley in a Feb. 14 presentation at the Old Colorado City History Center.
About 60 people attended her talk, which was organized by the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS), the all- volunteer group that owns and operates the center. With help from Manitou Springs historian Deborah Harrison, Hawley was encoring a presentation that she first gave to the OCCHS 26 years ago.
Many of the Glass Company employees lived in cottages and boarding houses built by the business owners. These were next to the plant, which was located on about 20 acres in the present-day Midland area, surrounded by Race, Wheeler, Arch and Busch streets. A trailer park fills the site now, Hawley said.
Before the 1900s, bottles could not be made automatically and each one had to be blown into a mold. Bottle-making was prevalent in Europe, and a number of the factory's blowers came from Germany, Hawley said.
One of the company's biggest customers was the Manitou Mineral Water Company, which was also owned by the same four people - Jerome Wheeler, Louis R. Ehrich, Joel Addison Hays and Charles Adams. A fifth member of the Glass Company's board of directors, Edward Modes, also was a plant superintendent (and the person for whom the short, angled Midland street is named).
In just one year, Hawley reported, the factory sold 1,300,000 bottles to the Manitou Mineral Water Company, although modern collectors can't necessarily discern them because the identifying “CGC” that the factory typically stamped on the bottom was not used for the Manitou bottles, she said.
The Manitou owners decided to make their own bottles because at the time it was cheaper than importing them. All of the raw materials for bottle-making were available in Colorado City, except a type of soda that had to be imported from England.
However, the business apparently was not a money-maker. Company debt exceeded receipts in the two years that they were provided (1891 and '93). Then, in September 1892 a fire destroyed much of the facility. Wheeler led efforts to rebuild, but his personal finances - including heavy investments in silver - were compromised by the Silver Panic of 1893. The final blow appears to have been the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act of 1894, which made it cheaper for companies to import bottles from outside America, Hawley said.
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