Until recently, the huge Consumer’s Glass Company’s buildings and silos loomed over the rooftops of the houses and businesses along Barton Street East, near Chapple Street. The company can trace its origins back to 1864, when it was set up as the Hamilton Glass Company on James Street North. It was acquired by the Diamond Flint Glass Company of Montreal in 1891. This takeover was part of the first wave of consolidation in the Canadian glass industry. Diamond Flint merged with the Sydenham Glass Company of Wallaceburg in 1912 to become the Dominion Glass Co. Ltd. That same year, its James Street North plant burned down.
In 1914, glass-bottle production began on this site. At first, highly skilled workers turned sand, baking soda and limestone into glass products using traditional hand-blowing methods. By 1920, however, automatic bottle-making machines had been introduced.
This facility became part of Consumer’s Glass in 1989 and was closed eight years later. Workers at this plant have been organized within a variety of craft and industrial unions over the past 130 years.
I worked in the furnace room at Dominion Glass in the summers as a kid. The men would pour molten glass into moulds. It wasn’t automated. The moulds would open and you would pick up the bottle with asbestos tongs and put it on the conveyor. It would be so bloody hot that guys would pass out like flies. One time someone opened a window and all the bottles cooling on the conveyor belt broke.
– Ken O’Neill