Dominion Glass Company

Location: Chapple Street, Hamilton, Ontario

Some Dominion Glass Products

Hamilton Glass Works LogoWhat would eventually become Dominion Glass Company started out as the Hamilton Glass Works in 1864. It was founded by four men: Lyman Moore, John Winer, George Rutherford, and Nathan Gatchell (who was the only co-founder with previous experience, having owned the Lancaster Glass Works in Lancaster, New York). The following year Nathan Gatchell left the company and his interest was subsequently acquired by George E. Tuckett and John Billings. However, these two men didn't find the glass business very exciting and in 1866 they returned to the tobacco business instead.

Plaque for the Burlington Glass WorksThe Hamilton Glass Works was originally located at the eastern end of the block surrounded by Macauley Street, James Street East, Hughson Street, and Picton Street. By 1874 the company had acquired the entire block, illustrating how successful it had become. The following year, however, some competition had developed in the form of the Burlington Glass Works. Founded by Edward Kent, this new company was located at the intersection of Burlington and MacNab Streets in Hamilton. Though the Burlington Glass Works was arguably the most prolific glass works of its day, this did not prevent it from being purchased by the Hamilton Glass Works in 1885. Though this event effectively ended competition between the two companies, in the end it was of little consequence since both glass works were bought up by the Diamond Glass Company in 1891.

Dominion Glass PlantThe Diamond Glass Company was incorporated in 1890 in Toronto but was funded by financial interests in Montreal. This company descended from various glass works starting with the opening of the St. Johns Glass Company in 1875. St. Johns became the Excelsior Glass Company in 1878, which in turn became the North American Glass Company in 1883. This was to be its final reorganization until 1890 when it became the Diamond Glass Company. Its purpose was as a vehicle for the consolidation of the Canadian glass industry. By acquiring control of numerous glass works throughout Canada (of which the Hamilton works were some of the first), the Diamond Glass Company helped to prevent foreign interests from entering into the Canadian market.

In 1892 the Burlington Glass Works was almost completely destroyed by fire. Though the plant was able to continue, five years later it was closed. The property was held by the Diamond Glass Company (and its successor, the Diamond Flint Glass Company) until 1927, at which point it was acquired by the City of Hamilton and turned into a playground.

Owens Automatic Gathering and Blowing MachineIn 1893 the manager of the Hamilton Glass Works, J. C. Malcolmson, left to establish the Toronto Glass Works. Five years later, the Hamilton Glass Works was closed, moving the employees and their equipment to the Toronto Glass Works.

In 1903 the Diamond Glass Company was reorganized as the Diamond Flint Glass Company in order to acquire Canadian rights to machines which mass-produced glass. What followed was a period of consolidation, the introduction of new techniques and forms, and the acquisition of more glass companies.

After installing equipment for the mechanical production of glass, the Diamond Flint Glass Company reopened the Hamilton Glass Works in 1906. The newly resurrected glass plant didn't last long however since in 1912 it was destroyed by a fire. Some of the equipment was able to be salvaged and it was moved to the Dominion Glass plant, which was under construction at the time.

Gerald Stevens Examining Glass Found at the Excavation of the Burlington Glass Works in 1966The Dominion Glass Company was founded in 1912 by the amalgamation of the Diamond Flint Glass Company and the Sydenham Glass Company (of Wallaceburg, Ontario). Production commenced in 1914 once the company had finished construction of its Chapple Street plant. In the 1920's, hand-blowing shops were replaced by a full line of automatic machines (which were subsequently discarded in 1940 with the arrival of new bottle-making equipment). In 1924 an addition was built in the form of a $40,000 building consisting of a machine shop and a stamping room. Though the plant had two furnaces initially, by 1958 a third was added along with a colour tank for making green and amber glass. A decade later the company was expanding again with the start of a $4.25 million modernization project at its Hamilton and Wallaceburg plants. $2 million was spent expanding the glass furnaces and their related production facilities at the Hamilton plant, while $2.25 million was spent constructing new plant facilities and rebuilding the glass furnace at the Wallaceburg plant. Both plants installed final process electronic equipment to detect and reject imperfect bottles. These improvements boosted production at the Hamilton plant to 22 million bottles per year. In 1969, $8 million was spent on improving efficiency to help offset rising labor costs.

Strike in 1987Due to a proposed ban on non-returnable bottles (which made up a large part of the company's output) in 1969, Dominion Glass offered to buy back the bottles (at half a cent each) for melting and reuse in the manufacture of new bottles. In 1974 over half of the 1,300 workers at the Hamilton plant were laid off temporarily due to a shortage of soda ash (a key ingredient in the making of glass). The Hamilton and District Labor Council tried to persuade the federal and provincial governments to sponsor glass recycling (since five tons of glass could produce one ton of soda ash). The following year the plant suffered a fire causing $100,000 worth of damage. Despite this, the Hamilton plant was, at the time, the largest bottle maker in Canada.

By 1976 the newly renamed Domglas Incorporated had had seven deliberate fires at its Hamilton plant over the previous five years, costing it a total of $2 million. Eventually a Domglas employee was charged with arson for three of the fires. In 1982 the plant experienced another disaster as one of its giant furnaces sprang a leak, spilling 450 tons of molten glass. Approximately $1 million worth of damage was caused and 200 workers were laid off until the furnace could be repaired. Three years later a similar accident happened, spilling 55 tons of molten glass.

Plant Closure in 1997In 1988, Domglas Incorporated merged with Consumers Packaging Limited to form the Consumers Glass Company Limited which operated ten plants across Canada. It was the largest Canadian glass company at this point, but consolidation would soon follow. In 1991 Consumers Glass closed the Hamilton mould plant (which was built in 1916) on Hempstead Drive, since contracting production out to American companies was less costly. Closing of the Chapple Street plant was also considered, however it was kept open to concentrate on glass container manufacturing in an attempt to reverse several years of loses for the company. This could also be reflected in the fact that only 550 workers remained at the plant. The following year the plant suffered another molten glass leak. Even though it was contained by firefighters, repairs still cost $1 million.

Although company officials said that they would not close the Chapple Street plant in 1991, six years later they changed their minds. Consumers Glass owned seven plants at this point and it decided that that number was one too many. The Hamilton plant was chosen to close due to its smaller capacity furnaces and old-fashioned equipment.




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