Prized by Collectors
The gas boom was led by energy-intensive manufacturers including glass companies. Glass plants popped up by the dozens in the region, making everything from window glass to stained glass to dinnerware and art glass items. For a time in the 1890s, Indiana produced more glassware than any state in the country.
D.C. Jenkins was a “glass-makin’ man.” He managed a glass company in Findlay, Ohio, another gas boom city, then helped start a new company that made pressed glassware in Gas City, Indiana. In 1894, he was looking to expand when he was approached by a representative of Greentown, who offered a free building site, railroad access, and a gas well. It was the same enticement used successfully in Kokomo and several other gas boom cities. It worked for Greentown, too.
The Indiana Tumbler and Goblet Company was incorporated in early 1894. Construction began almost immediately in the northeast corner of town, near what is now the Howard County Fairgrounds. The gas well was drilled and the buildings were finished that April. The equipment was delivered in May and the furnace was fired in June. Eight more glass pots (the large heat-resistant vessels used to melt raw materials) were added to the original ten in 1896. The company began to make colored glass along with the traditional clear glassware.
Indiana Tumbler and Glass merged into the National Glass Company in 1899 and Jenkins soon left the Greentown works to start another, newer, glass operation in Kokomo. The Greentown factory grew by adding popular lines of chocolate and agate glass that are now prized by collectors. However, the gas boom was coming to an end. The gas reserves were running on empty, and the glass companies were looking for affordable ways to keep their furnaces going. When the gas was gone, so was the free energy, which meant manufacturing costs went up.
On June 13, 1903, water dripping into a bag of soda ash set off an explosion that quickly turned into an unstoppable blaze at the National Glass Greentown factory. Everything in the factory was destroyed, including the glass molds. With the gas boom over, the company in financial trouble, and the buildings and equipment gone, Greentown’s role in the glass industry was over. The glass made at this location lives on with collectors, the National Greentown Glass Association, and the recently-renovated Greentown Glass Museum.