History of the New England and Libbey Glass Companies 1818-1888
The early years of the company were marked by great prosperity due to successful management and high standards which produced glass equal in quality if not better than much European glass. By 1818 there were about forty glasshouses in operation in this country but most of these produced crown window glass, although this was to change as the century progressed. However, most of these glasshouses were small establishments compared to the New England which employed about 500 men and boys by 1865. With this comparatively great size, the New England soon developed specialized departments of cutting, engraving, gilding, pressing and enamelling. It depended upon very few outside manufacturers.
Almost all of the articles made by the company were of fine flint or lead glass, but the development of less costly soda-lime glass in West Virginia during the Civil War (1864) was to end this period of prosperity. Ironically, this development was created by the experiments of William Leighton, one of the sons of Thomas Leighton, a distinguished early New England Glass Company superintendent. In order to meet competition, most of the glasshouses switched to the production of this cheaper type of glass. The New England Glass Company and the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company refused to lower the standards of their metal, although the latter was forced to give up the production of only fine lead glass in the late 1870’s.
Selections from the book “Keefe, John Webster. Libbey Glass; A Tradition of 150 Years, 1818-1968. Toledo, Ohio: Toledo Museum of Art, 1968, 69 p.”