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Glass Manufacturing Workers

History

People have been manufacturing glass for about 4,500 years. The earliest glass objects were produced taking little advantage of the special qualities of hot glass. A major advance came around 200 B.C., when techniques were devised (probably in Syria) for blowing air into gobs of molten glass to shape the glass into useful objects. The new knowledge about working with hot glass spread quickly among glassmakers, and soon other peoples, notably the Romans, were making blown glass items. With the decline of Rome, much of the knowledge of working with glass was lost, not to be revived until glassworkers in Venice created a thriving industry around the 13th century. For hundreds of years, Venice was the leading center of glass production. In time, Venetian methods spread, new kinds of glass were developed, and good-quality blown glass was produced across much of Europe.

Skilled glassmakers were among the early European colonists in North America. However, not until the 18th century did glassmaking become a successful industry in the United States. Even at that time, glass was still made by hand and was so difficult to produce that it was expensive and seldom found in poor homes. In the 19th century, a steady stream of technological innovations simplified the various methods of production and made glass much more common. More efficient furnaces melted raw materials much faster; new molds made bottles much easier to mass produce; improved methods simplified the production of flat glass; and better polishing equipment greatly increased the output of plate glass for windows, creating a new look in buildings.

Major advances in the scientific understanding of glass and its properties have brought changes in manufacturing processes and new applications for glass products. Many new types of glass, such as heat-resistant glass, glass fabrics, and laminated glass, have been introduced. Although some craftworkers and artists still follow the old ways of making glass by hand, most modern glass is made in factories that use highly organized, automated industrial processes.

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