WV: Michael J Owens

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.

Title: Aerial View of Owens Bottle Company Near Charleston, W. Va.
Description: Artists rendering of the Owens Bottle Company (left) and the Owens-Illinois Glass Company (right) at Owens near Charleston W. Va. along the Kanawha River and the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad main line.
Title: Owen’s Bottle Works; Fairmont, W. Va.
Description: Owen’s Bottle Works was a branch of the Owens-Illinois Glass Company based in Toledo, Ohio which had three other glass plants in West Virginia, including Fairmont, Huntington, and Kanawha City. All plants used the revolutionary Owens bottle making machine, which was invented by West Virginia native Michael Owens in 1903. The factory in Fairmont was built in 1910 on 40 acres of property and originally ran 24 hours a day while employing 200 workers. Around 180,000 bottles were produced daily. In March of 1982 the Fairmont plant was closed.

Per wikipedia:

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.

1923,owens death2 -
CLIPPED FROM: The Times
Shreveport, Louisiana / 30 Dec 1923, Sun • Page 10
The patent for Owens’ machine can be found here:
https://patents.google.com/patent/US766768?oq=owens+bottle+machine

I was able to track the business somewhat through the newspaper clippings below:

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CLIPPED FROM: The Sandusky Star-Journal
Sandusky, Ohio / 03 Sep 1903, Thu • Page 1
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CLIPPED FROM: The Northeast Lincoln News
Lincoln, Nebraska / 05 Feb 1909, Fri • Page 3
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CLIPPED FROM: The Record-Argus
Greenville, Pennsylvania / 20 Oct 1909, Wed • Page 1
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CLIPPED FROM: The Fairmont West Virginian
Fairmont, West Virginia / 11 Nov 1909, Thu • Page 3
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CLIPPED FROM: Detroit Free Press
Detroit, Michigan / 03 Mar 1912, Sun • Page 16
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CLIPPED FROM: The Clarksburg Telegram
Clarksburg, West Virginia / 21 Mar 1912, Thu • Page 7
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CLIPPED FROM: The Daily Telegram
Clarksburg, West Virginia / 20 Mar 1912, Wed • Page 1
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CLIPPED FROM: The Inter Ocean
Chicago, Illinois / 16 Nov 1912, Sat • Page 8
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CLIPPED FROM: The Daily Telegram
Clarksburg, West Virginia / 17 Jan 1913, Fri • Page 8
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CLIPPED FROM: The Daily Telegram
Clarksburg, West Virginia / 19 Feb 1913, Wed • Page 1
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CLIPPED FROM: The Daily Telegram
Clarksburg, West Virginia / 06 Oct 1913, Mon • Page 1
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CLIPPED FROM: The Daily Telegram
Clarksburg, West Virginia / 24 Oct 1913, Fri • Page 13
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CLIPPED FROM: The Daily Telegram
Clarksburg, West Virginia / 05 Jun 1914, Fri • Page 1
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CLIPPED FROM: The Daily Telegram
Clarksburg, West Virginia / 11 Mar 1915, Thu • Page 10
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CLIPPED FROM: Chicago Tribune
Chicago, Illinois / 11 Nov 1915, Thu • Page 17
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CLIPPED FROM: The Baltimore Sun
Baltimore, Maryland / 08 Jan 1916, Sat • Page 2
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CLIPPED FROM: The Daily Telegram
Clarksburg, West Virginia / 10 Mar 1916, Fri • Page 15
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CLIPPED FROM: The Cincinnati Enquirer
Cincinnati, Ohio / 24 Mar 1916, Fri • Page 11

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