In the 19th century, Hamilton was an epicenter of glass production. The city boasted two glass companies, one of which was the Burlington Glass Company that operated from 1874 to 1897. In the beginning production focused on hand-blown lamp chimney’s but soon expanded to include lantern and lamp globes, fruit jars, druggist bottles, and other forms of white glass. At the time, glass-blowing was considered to be a highly skilled trade and workers from the Burlington Glass Company provided fine glass pieces using “free-blowing” techniques in addition to the more common “mould-blowing”. Mould-blowing consisted of hand-blown glass that was carefully pressed into a mould to define its shape.
Glass-blowing skills were highly guarded and valuable, as a result, workers were paid extraordinarily high wages for the time. Other tradesmen in the mid-1800’s experienced lower wages and longer hours in comparison. “I don’t work more than seven hours a day myself.” – local glass-blower Michael Conway. Glassworker’s wages allowed them to take a couple months off during the summer to pursue a number of sporting activities around the Harbour. In 1878, several of the workers joined the Nautilus Rowing Club and over the next two decades, became distinguished rowers throughout North America.
Photo Credit: Hamilton Public Library Archives
Source: Hamilton Industrial Trail