When reading about WV history and those who made history, I always have extra affection for Fayette and Mason County finds. Today, I am reading about Michael J Owens from Mason County, WV.
Michael Joseph Owens was born on January 1, 1859 in Mason County WV (I thought I found that he was from the area of Hartford but have since lost that reference page – if anyone knows, I would love to hear from you). Michael was an inventor of machines to automate the production of glass bottles.
He left school at the age of 10 to start a glassware apprenticeship at J. H. Hobbs, Brockunier and Company in Wheeling, West Virginia.
In 1888 he moved to Toledo, Ohio and worked for the Toledo Glass Factory owned by Edward Drummond Libbey. He was later promoted to foreman and then to supervisor. In 1891 Libbey opened a new plant in Findlay, Ohio, and Owens was put in charge of making the glass bulbs for Edison General Electric’s electric lights. There he simplified the process by inventing a mould-opening device which could be operated by a glassblower by foot and came up with a paste that prevent the bulbs from sticking to the moulds. This lowered the cost of bulbs by 90%, making them much more available for people. He formed the Owens Bottle Machine Company in 1903. His machines could produce glass bottles at a rate of 240 per minute, and reduce labor costs by 80%.
Owens and Libbey entered into a partnership and the company was renamed the Owens Bottle Company in 1919. In 1929 the company merged with the Illinois Glass Company to become the Owens-Illinois Glass Company.
He died on December 27, 1923.
I was able to track the business somewhat through the newspaper clippings below: