Updated 03-I-2020

Fostoria Bulb & Bottle

The Fostoria Bulb & Bottle Company was one of three lamp glass factories in the small town of Fostoria, Ohio. Early in its history it came under the control of the Fostoria Incandescent Lamp Company, and was merged with two other glasshouses into the Fostoria Glass Specialty Company. It was one of the founding factories that made up the National Electric Lamp Works in the USA, and ultimately became a factory of General Electric. Following the drying up of natural gas supplies in Fostoria, continued production could no longer be justified and its products were transferred to other GE Lamp Glass factories in the region.

Fostoria Bulb & Bottle Company, 1901

Address Hissong Avenue & State Street, Fostoria, Ohio, U.S.A.
Location 41.1443°N, -83.4074°E
Opened 1897-1900
Closed 1919-20
Products Glass Bulbs, tubing and cane

Start of Operations
The origin of the Fostoria Bulb & Bottle Company is not known, but it is likely to have been established shortly after 1897. In that year the Fostoria Incandescent Lamp Company opened, at first importing its glass bulbs from the Libbey plant in Toledo, Ohio, but later switching to local sources. Fostoria was a major glass centre owing to the plentiful supply of natural gas, and following the start of lampmaking a number of small companies sprang up to supply the necessary bulbs and tubing.

One reference cites this factory as having been founded in 1900, whereas another states that it was taken over by the Fostoria Incandescent Lamp Company in 1898. A letterhead of the company shows that it was certainly in existence in 1901.

Takeover by Fostoria
In 1899 the Fostoria Incandescent Lamp Company established its own glass production, setting up the Fostoria Glass Specialty Company in a former glassworks directly adjacent to the Bulb & Bottle site. Following its acquisition by the lampworks, the Bulb & Bottle Company was re-named The Fostoria Glass Specialty Company. It later acquired another glassworks, the Loudon Glass Company, which was also absorbed into Fostoria Glass Specialty.

In 1901 Fostoria merged with the Sunbeam Incandescent Lamp Company to form the National Lamp Works of General Electric - a group that later expanded to amalgamate numerous small lampmakers and bring them under financial control of GE.

In 1902 the Bulb & Bottle factory encountered problems with a prolonged strike by the Union which was demanding a 10% pay increase for its members. Determined to fight the Unions, National decided to relocate its glass bulb production to Germany where prices were considerably lower. It shipped its moulds to Berlin, and believed that despite paying 60% import duties, it could achieve costs of $ 14 per thousand bulbs, somewhat lower than the $ 18 per thousand in USA. The operation appears not to have been successful, as bulb production continued at Fostoria for many years thereafter!

Incorporation into GE and Closure
In 1911, General Electric was ordered to fully absorb its subsidiary, the National Lamp Works, and on that occasion the Fostoria Lamp and Lamp Glass factories came fully under the control of GE. Around that time GE ended much of the Fostoria glass production, which was based largely on hand-made processes that were labour intensive, relatively expensive and suffering large dimensional variations. GE favoured the superior machine-made products of Libbey Glass and Corning, and all but a few special products came to an end at Fostoria. In 1919-20 when the natural gas supplies at Fostoria finally dried up, local production could no longer be justified and the factory was closed. Production of glass bulbs was transferred to Niles Glass and Pitney Glass in Ohio, and tubing was relocated to the newly established Bridgeville Glass Plant.

1 Letterhead with image of factory
2 Results of Triangulation and Primary Traverse in Ohio, 1898 to 1911, Location of Fostoria Bulb & Bottle Works.
3 History Note by Brian Crouse, Waldenwoods Newsletter, March-April 2009, p2.
4 Glass in Northwest Ohio, Quentin R. Scrabek Jr, Arcadia Publishing 2007, ISBN 978-0-7385-5111-1 p.56.
5 Fostoria Bulb & Bottle Co. to make bulbs in Germany, The Pittsburgh Press, 17th June 1902, p.2
6 Fostoria Bulb & Bottle Co. to remove glass-making plant from USA, Boston Evening Transcript, 9th June 1902, p.7
7 The Electric Lamp Industry, Arthur A. Bright, publ. The Macmillan Company 1949, p.251