Burlington Glass Company

(1874)

Hamilton became a major centre of Canadian glass production in the 19th century. The Burlington Glass Company stood on this site from 1874 until 1897. It was the smaller of the city’s two glass factories.

At first, workers in this plant produced hand-blown lamp chimneys. The company had expanded its product list by the mid-1880s to include lantern and lamp globes, druggists’ bottles, distillers’ supplies, fruit jars, and “all kinds of white glass”.

Glassblowers were among the most highly skilled workers of the 19th century. Workers at Burlington Glass produced some items using free-blowing techniques. More common was “mould-blowing”. In this process, hand-blown glass was carefully pressed into a mould to give it a highly defined shape.

Glass workers used their closely guarded skills to win virtual control over the workplace. They told their bosses how much they would produce and how long they would work each day. Their extraordinarily high wages allowed them to take a two month break each summer. When other local craft unions were fighting against the ten or twelve hour day in the mid-1880s, Hamilton glass blower Michael Conway could calmly declare “I don’t work more than seven hours a day myself.”

Hamilton glassworkers used their ample leisure time to pursue a variety of sporting activities around the shores of the Bay. A number of them joined to form the Nautilus Rowing Club in 1878. For close to two decades members of this club distinguished themselves at regattas throughout North America. Nautilus members Denny and Jenny Donohue, Charlie Furlong and W. Wark won the senior fours at Boston in 1885.

An historical plaque commemorating this site is located near the north-west corner of Burlington and MacNab Streets.