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Glass was used in windows at least as early as Roman times, although no installed glass survives from that era. The earliest glass that is still in the windows where it was installed dates back to the 12th century, when brilliant stained glass windows began to be used in churches and cathedrals in Europe. One reason stained glass became popular was that clear glass suitable for windows was extremely difficult to make. By the 14th century, stained glass windows were declining as an art form. Relatively few stained glass windows were made until a revival of the art in the 19th century.

From the 14th century, handmade crown glass was in demand for windowpanes because of its relative clearness and good quality. Crown glass, which had a center like a bull's eye surrounded by concentric ripple lines, was made by first blowing a gob of molten glass into a pear shape, then flattening it while it was still hot. Beginning in the 17th century, crown glass was gradually replaced as a window glass by glass manufactured using other processes. During the colonial era in the United States, however, there was great demand for crown glass, which was produced in Boston from 1793 to about 1827.

Very little glass was used in buildings until the 19th century. But a flood of manufacturing innovations revolutionized glassmaking, and by the mid-1800s the output of clear flat glass was vastly increased. Glass became popular in many new building applications. Along with the increased demand for glass was a new demand for trained glaziers to cut and install glass. In the past century, the continuing development of new kinds of glass, new manufacturing processes, and new methods of cutting, joining, and sealing glass in place has assured glaziers that they will be providing important services in the construction industry for many years to come.