Updated 21-XII-2019

Jackson Lamp & Glass Plant

The combined Jackson Lamp and Glass Plant was opened in 1941 to provide extra capacity for GE's rapidly expanding fluorescent business. It soon became one of the company's principal fluorescent plants and was a high efficiency operation - producing not only the lamps but also the raw glass tubing, all under a single roof. Fluorescent volumes continued to expand and vast increases in space were required, which led to the construction of other fluorescent lamp plants in the USA. Jackson was perhaps under-dimensioned for the size of the business, and in 1985 production was closed and absorbed into GE's other much larger fluorescent lamp plants.

GE Jackson Lamp & Glass Plant, viewed from the Glass Furnaces end, 1952

Address GE Jackson Lamp & Glass Plant #5451, 931 West Highway 80, Hinds County, Jackson, Mississippi 39204, U.S.A.
Location 32.2844°N, -90.1986°E.
Opened 1940.
Closed 1985.
Floorspace Unknown.
Products Fluorescent Lamps, Glass Tubing

Fluorescent Manufacturing
GE's initial ventures in fluorescent lamp manufacturing naturally emerged within its Nela Park heaquarters, in Cleveland, Ohio. It soon became clear that volumes were booming, and a dedicated new production facility was essential to cope with the skyrocketing demand. One of the challenges involved in the production of fluorescent lamps is the great amount of space required, owing to the large physical size of these lamps. Because they are long the transportation costs are also higher than for other lamps. This applies equally to their raw materials - in particular, for the glass tubing.

Glassmaking is a very different industry than lampmaking and until the emergence of the fluorescent business, glass components and lamps were always manufactured at different sites. However, the cost of transporting glass tubing from the glassworks to the lampworks represents a significant portion of the cost of making a fluorescent lamp. Already by 1940 GE's forward-thinking plans demonstrated that the way to become a cost leader in the fluorescent business was to manufacture both the lamps as well as the raw glass tubing within the same factory. That is precisely what it built at Jackson, the first combined lamp and glass plant. It is not known what attracted GE to Jackson - almost all of the company's other lamp plants were built in Ohio. It is possible that the Southern location was chosen because of its proximity to the Tennesee Valley Area, which at one time used to represent the largest concentration of consumers of electrical goods in the world. Local production of fluorescent lamps may have avoided significant costs of transporting finished goods down from Ohio. Alternatively, the ready supply of natural gas may have been beneficial to the establishment of glassmaking in this area.

Construction of the unusually dimensioned long building, consisting of a glass tube-drawing line feeding directly into the fluorescent lampmaking groups, was commenced in 1940. It was designed by local Jackson architect R.W. Naef and has an iconic appearance that is characteristic of many American glass plants. At the far end of the building above the glass melting tanks, the roof is crowned with two vast wings, known as a Robertson Monitor Air Extractor. Its purpose is to evacuate the intense heat of the furnace room to the outside, a spectacularly efficient invention which functions on natural convection currents without any energy consumption. Jackson represented a huge financial investment of $ 4 million. By 1951 it exmployeed 400 workers, which had grown again to 480 by 1953.

The creation of Jackson alone was not sufficient to cater for the massive demand for fluorescent lamps. Running one year behind it was the construction of another almost identical glass plant at Bucyrus in Ohio. Bucyrus was constructed in 1941 initially as a glass plant, but lampmaking also then arrived. Still later in 1948 the vast Circleville Lamp Plant was created to further boost fluorescent production volumes.

Historic photographs reveal that GE's fluorescent plants did not all grow in parallel. There were many building extensions at Jackson as the aerial photographs below reveal, but it was outstripped by the vast scale of expansion at Bucyrus and Circleville. Possibly those locations were favoured because of their proximity to GE's home town of Cleveland in Ohio, and because transport costs gradually decreased over the following decades and the need for a satellite fluorescent plant became less important.

The 1980s marked a painful period in the history of GE's lighting operations. The company had invested heavily in the previous years to create state-of-the-art manufaturing operations, and the new equipment and manufacturing processes left it with considerable overcapacity. In parallel, the American lampmakers were facing increased competition from overseas and lamp prices were falling.

General Electric's 'Lighting Leadership Plan' was unveiled to resecure the company's position in the north American lighting business, and on the 7th June 1983 it was announced that ten of the company's 42 lamp plants would close by the first quarter of 1985 - including Jackson. The site was soon occupied by new owners and indeed even in 2013 was still well maintained and in operation. Since 2017 it is evident that the site has been abandoned and is largely derelict, missing all windows and with part of the roof having collapsed.

View from Glassworks, 1951 Aerial View Lamp & Glassworks, 1951 Front View along Highway 80, 2008 Front View from the Glassworks, 2008

Examples of Jackson Lamps
Mazda F14T12-W Mazda F15T8 Blue Mazda F15T8 Red

References & Bibliography
  1. A Century of Light, James A. Cox, published by The Benjamin Company / Rutgers, 1979, ISBN 0-87502-062-3, p.141.
  2. Proceedings & Debates of the 83rd Congress, Vol.99 Pt.6 p.8468, US Govt. Printing Office, 1953.
  3. Worker Dislocation, Capital Flight & Plant Closings, 98th Congresss, US Govt. Printing Office, pp.334-335.
  4. Industrial Mississippi, Jackson Lamp & Glass Works, Elmalvaley, 09 Jun 2016.
  5. GE Jackson Lamp Plant Advertisement, Manufacturers Record, Mississippi Edition, June 1951 p.40.
  6. MDAH Historic Resources Inventory, GE Lamp & Glassworks, Jackson MS.