Glass has a very rich history. The first factory in the United States was built in 1608 in Jamestown, Virginia. However, it failed in under a year due to a famine that killed many colonists. In 1621, glassmaking was attempted again, but ended a year later, due to an Indian attack. The glass industry was reestablished in the United States in 1739, when a glassmaking plant was built by Caspar Wistar in what is now Salem County, New Jersey. It operated in 1780.
One of the great names in early American glass is Caspar Wistar. Henry William Stiegel is the second great American glassmaker. Steigel made clear and colored glass, engraved and enameled glass, and the first lead glass produces in North America.
Window glass was in great demand by the early 1800’s, and was called crown glass. It was made by blowing a bubble of glass, and spinning it until it was flat. A sheet of glass was made using this process with a bump, or crown, in the middle. By 1825, the cylinder process, in which molten glass was blown into the shape of a cylinder, had replaced the crown method. The cylinder was cooled, then sliced down one side. When it was reheated, it opened up to form a large sheet of thin, clear window glass. Plate glass was developed in the 1850’s, for mirrors and other products requiring a high quality flat glass. This was made by casting a large amount of molten glass onto a round or square plate, polished on both sides.
Nowadays, new methods of cutting, welding, sealing and tempering have led to new uses of glass, such as making pipelines, building blocks, cookware and heat insulation.
Ordinary glass turns browns when exposed to nuclear radiation. As a result, a special non-browning glass for use in observation windows in nuclear power plants was made by glass companies. Automobile companies introduces fiberglass-like plastic bodies in 1953. Other types of glass have been developed that turn dark when exposed to light and clear up with the light is removed. These are called photochromic glasses. These glasses are used in the type of eyeglasses that change from clear to sunglasses when exposed to light.
By the 1960’s, collection centers existed where empty bottles, jars and other glass products could be recycled. In the recycling process, the glass is melted with silica sand, limestone and soda ash to make new containers. Glass does not deteriorate with age or use, so it is easily recycled. Still in effect today, glass must be separated from regular trash in order to be reused.
Optical fibers were introduced in the 1970’s. They were used as “light pipes” in laser communication systems. Light pipes maintain the brightness and intensity of light transmitted over long distances.
By the late 1900’s, new specialty glasses were introduced, including glass ceramics, used to make cookware. Also developed was chalcogenide glass which is an infrared transmitting glass used in the development of night vision goggles.