People had been making glass since ancient times, and it became the first industry in America when John Smith established a factory in 1608 in Jamestown colony.
But O-I's story begins after the Civil War, amid the drive to find a way to mass-produce bottles needed to hold an ever widening array of consumer products.
Four years later, the firm made an acquisition that would prove momentous. of Alton, Ill., in 1929, would provide the firm with not only a new name but also young blood.The leader of the new pack was William Levis, who at age 40 in 1930 became president of the newly christened Owens-Illinois Glass and today is viewed as integral to the firm's success as its founders.A single Owens machine could produce six times as many bottles as a shop of a dozen glass-blowers and apprentices.By 1923, 94 percent of bottles were made by machines.Locally-based Plastic Technologies Inc., a packaging consultant to soft drink manufacturers that is responsible for plastic recycling advances, is among dozens of companies founded by former O-I executives.
President Tom Brady is a local boy, but he could have gone anywhere after earning a Ph D in plastics from the University of Michigan in 1971.By 1948, even part of the company's testing methods had become mechanized. The most significant advance in glass production in over 2,000 years,” the American Society of Mechanical Engineers wrote two decades ago about the invention in Toledo of a machine for mass-producing glass bottles.This week, that advance and the Toledo company it spawned turn 100 years old. 3 will be observed in characteristic low-key fashion at the headquarters of Owens-Illinois Inc. It was mentioned in the firm's glossy annual report to shareholders.Richard Byrd on his famous Antarctic expedition in 1928.Mostly, however, it brought to Toledo a lot of bright and industrious people who increased their personal wealth and that of their new-found city.But as early as 1908 the company shifted its strategy from merely building machinery to producing bottles.