From the beginnings of a small company in a little village known as Washington, PA came the largest glass manufacturer in the world The Hazel Atlas Glass company was formed in 1902 out of a merger between the Atlas Glass Company (circa 1880’s) and the Hazel Company, two small glass manufacturers located in a little town called Washington, PA just south of Pittsburgh PA. This union started a long history, which would later produce the largest glass company in the world.
Unlike many of the dozens of Glass manufacturers of the era, Hazel Atlas excelled in that not only did they produce functional and utilitarian glass, but they were the fore-runner of the household glass production which was an indispensable industry during the formative years of the Great Depression. While many glass houses closed or changed production away from everyday utilitarian glass, Hazel Atlas continued to make great strides in manufacturing the Glass our Mother’s and Grandmothers would use everyday in cooking, baking serving and storing food.
At first, after this 1902 merger, Hazel Atlas continued their production of fruit jars and commercial food storage containers, as they had for many years prior. Fierce competition in the fruit jar industry and a desire to expand business, led the company to seek out other lines of production. This expansion had it’s beginnings in the early 1920’s when Hazel Atlas would first produce, something that up until that time had primarily been relegated to the pottery and porcelain industry, A dinner ware line for the average homemaker. Not a line of elegance or superiority, not a line of notable decoration and style, to appeal to the wealthy, but rather a simple and plain line that the common housewife could purchase inexpensively and use everyday.
This concept began in 1923 when Hazel Atlas designed and began production of what we know today as the Ovide pattern. That year Hazel Atlas would be the first glass house in America to produce for widespread use, a colored transparent dinnerware, which today we refer to as Depression Glass. The Ovide pattern, which was produced only in green, would become the testing ground for the large majority of the Hazel Atlas dinnerware lines over the next 30+ years. Enjoying mild success from this first venture into dinnerware, other companies took note and began producing their own lines of dinnerware as well, only expanding the idea and adding in intricate patterns. This of course, sparked a revolution in the American glass industry which would last for practically 20 years and inspire Hazel Atlas to produce more decorative and appealing dinnerware lines such as:
Hazel Atlas was so successful in their production, that they were the only Glass Company and one of the few publicly traded Companies in the USA to pay a stock dividend during all the depression years. Not only were patterns becoming an important concept, but so were a flurry of colors. In addition to the original Green color, pink, Ritz Blue, yellow, amber, black, amethyst and white glass became equally important in marketing their wares to the public. Hazel Atlas became industrious in formulating their own unique colors (even so, that they received a patent on one color and trademark on another), so as to easily distinguish them from their competitors, as now the country was in a great depression and successful marketing would determine the fate of many glass houses. Note the difference in the Hazel Atlas blue which was called Ritz Blue. It is distinguished from the deep cobalt blue of other companies, the golden yellow produced by Hazel Atlas has no comparable counterpart, and their pink glass (Sunset Pink) was consistently formulated so as not to deviate largely, like that of Jeannette and Hocking Glass companies. While most of these colors lasted only a few years on different patterns, the continued mainstay of Hazel Atlas was the clear glass (mostly commercial), green glass and a patented process they called Platonite, which in large part is the focus of the book.
Platonite is a semi-opaque white glass (which some incorrectly refer to as milkglass). Hazel Atlas again striving to set themselves apart from the crowd, formulated and produced a semi opaque white glass reminiscent of the Victorian period milkglass produced some 50 years earlier by various glass houses. Hazel Atlas applied for and received in 1936 a US Patent for this glass known as Platonite, being the first and only company ever to receive a patent for a color of glass.
Hazel Atlas continued innovating and defining the household glass industry, producing kitchenware, dinnerware, children’s ware, commercial containers and hostess ware until in 1956 a buyout by the world’s largest food container company, Continental Can Company, brought an end to over 50 years of phenomenal growth for a small glass house that had it’s roots in Washington PA.
Today, both original factories Hazel No. 1 and Hazel No. 2 still stand. Hazel No. 1 was bought by the Chapman Corporation and is used as an Office Building, while Hazel No. 2 is being used as storage, warehouse and office space. The original smokestack on Hazel No. 2 still exists and is quite visible from Interstate 70 in Washington PA. There were 8 other Factories in the USA, Two in Zanesville OH, One each in Wheeling WV, Clarksburg WV, Buffalo, NY, Ada OK, Oklahoma City OK.