Whitall Tatum Company

Digger Odell Publications 2007

WHITALL TATUM COMPANY

One of the Philadelphia firms which has been in existence for three quarters of a century is that of Whitall Tatum Company, which maintains large and commodious offices at 410 Race street, where a splendid line of samples is always on exhibition, and also a complete establishment at 46 and 48 Barclay street, New York, and agencies in Boston, San Francisco and Sydney, N. S. W. This concern has always stood for the very best line of goods that could be produced: quality has always been kept in view and there hag been no attempt to win trade by merely cheapening prices.

In 1904 the writer visited the plant of Whitall Tatum Company, which is located at Millville. N. J., a thrifty town of about 12,000 inhabitants situated upon the banks of the Maurice River, which, when the glass works were started in 1831 by John M. Whitall. of honored Quaker fame, was the sole means of communication with Philadelphia and New York. The town belies the reputation which sometimes attaches to glass blowing communities of being populated by a drunken, roistering set. In fact. largely through the votes of the glass blowers, the town is " dry," local option being in force. Numerous handsome churches take the place of saloons; there are also many comfortable houses (surrounded by gardens) that are occupied and owned by operatives.

On the train the visitors to the plant, one of whom was the writer, were given badges of ribbon, the visitors wearing the mixed colors getting off at the station going first to the " upper works," those with solid colors going directly to the " lower works." Each party was sub-divided into smaller groups, each with its own color, and assigned to the charge of a guide. The writer's group was called the " Brownies." Everything moved like clock work, a certain time being given to each place, all of the groups assembling occasionally at central points and changing guides. To describe in detail all that was seen would compel one to write a book. The "lower works" are devoted to the manufacture of flint glassware and specialties, an interesting operation being the blowing of aquaria, percolators and graduates. The manufacture of glass tubing was also of much interest, a glass blower with a helper blowing at one time a tube of about 100 feet in length and of almost uniform diameter. The system of graduating the various glass measures attracted much attention, the rapidity and accuracy of the work being a revelation. The trade mark was applied to the graduates by pressing the ware upon rubber stamps coated with a mixture containing hydrofluoric acid. In one room were exhibited two contrasting bottles, one holding 65 gallons, the other about 5 minims. The pot house is an important part of the works. The clay, which comes from Germany and Missouri. is ground, mixed, worked and finally trodden by a man with his bare feet, who has followed the occupation summer and winter for 15 years. The clay pots are called by various names, according to size and shape, viz., monkey, gorilla, elephant, etc.

Numerous barrows filled with raw stock (soda ash, lime, sand and sodium nitrate) were seen. The heat used was derived from the combustion of coal, crude WHITALL TATUM COMPANY. One of the Philadelphia firms which has been in existence for three quarters of a century is that of Whitall Tatum Company, which maintains large and commodious offices at 41o Race street, where a splendid line of samples is always on exhibition, and also a complete establishment at 46 and 48 Barclay street, New York, and agencies in Boston, San Francisco and Sydney, N. S. W. This concern has always stood for the very best line of goods that could be produced: quality has always been kept in view and there hag been no attempt to win trade by merely cheapening prices.

In 1904 the writer visited the plant of Whitall Tatum Company, which is located at Millville. N. J., a thrifty town of about 12,000 inhabitants situated upon the banks of the Maurice River, which, when the glass works were started in 1831 by John M. Whitall. of honored Quaker fame, was the sole means of communication with Philadelphia and New York. The town belies the reputation which sometimes attaches to glass blowing communities of being populated by a drunken, roistering set. In fact. largely through the votes of the glass blowers, the town is " dry," local option being in force. Numerous handsome churches take the place of saloons; there are also many comfortable houses (surrounded by gardens) that are occupied and owned by operatives.

On the train the visitors to the plant, one of whom was the writer, were given badges of ribbon, the visitors wearing the mixed colors getting off at the station going first to the " upper works," those with solid colors going directly to the " lower works." Each party was sub-divided into smaller groups, each with its own color, and assigned to the charge of a guide. The writer's group was called the " Brownies." Everything moved like clock work, a certain time being given to each place, all of the groups assembling occasionally at central points and changing guides. To describe in detail all that was seen would compel one to write a book. The "lower works" are devoted to the manufacture of flint glassware and specialties, an interesting operation being the blowing of aquaria, percolators and graduates. The manufacture of glass tubing was also of much interest, a glass blower with a helper blowing at one time a tube of about 100 feet in length and of almost uniform diameter. The system of graduating the various glass measures attracted much attention, the rapidity and accuracy of the work being a revelation. The trade mark was applied to the graduates by pressing the ware upon rubber stamps coated with a mixture containing hydrofluoric acid. In one room were exhibited two contrasting bottles, one holding 65 gallons, the other about 5 minims. The pot house is an important part of the works. The clay, which comes from Germany and Missouri. is ground, mixed, worked and finally trodden by a man with his bare feet, who has followed the occupation summer and winter for 15 years. The clay pots are called by various names, according to size and shape, viz., monkey, gorilla, elephant, etc.

Numerous barrows filled with raw stock (soda ash, lime, sand and sodium nitrate) were seen. The heat used was derived from the combustion of coal, crude oil or " producer gas." After lunch the members of the writer's party went to the "upper works" and the others to the "lower works." At the "upper works" green glass and amber ware are turned out. In the immense warehouse where finished stock is stored were seen bottles for many of the prominent drug and patent medicine firms of the United States. In one of the buildings used by girls for inspecting and grinding jars there was a notice tacked up, saying: "We are all married." One of the tricks played by the boys was to get several of the party to pull upon a glass snake, which would then fly into a thousand pieces, the effect being produced by chilling the glass when blown by suddenly plunging it into cold water. An interesting sight was the blowing of 13 gallon carboys, the men receiving for this work very high wages. In one yard were thousands of carboys stacked in the open air.

An important part of glass making is the annealing. One method is to place the bottles upon sheet iron trays, which are then slowly drawn through long ovens heated quite hot at one end, the bottles being cooled as they pass to the other end of the oven. When they reach the lower end the bottles are turned over to the packers. The other method of annealing, followed in the manufacture of larger ware, carboys, aquaria, etc., is by stacking the ware in ovens which are kept at a high heat for some 24 hours and then gradually cooled. The stock out of which the glass is to be made is melted in both pots and tanks. the latter being built up of large clay blocks. One of these tanks measured i6 x 6o feet. 40 inches deep, held 175 to 200 tons and was heated at 2800 F. As we looked through a piece of blue glass at the boiling, hissing molten liquid it reminded us of some of the descriptions of Dante's Inferno.

A machine of more than passing interest is one which blows and moulds the ware, its work appearing to be done with almost human intelligence. In the mould and plate storage house were stored thousands of plates belonging to customers in every part of the world, reproductions from two of the most interesting ones being shown. About 2,200 employees are on the pay roll, and it is no exaggeration to say that the Whitall Tatum Company works are the backbone of Millville, or that this enormous plant (one of the largest of its kind in the world) owes its success largely to the fact that it has been built upon the foundations of honesty and excellency.