J.E. Marsden Glass Works
Glassware from the WVHS Collection
Glass Machinery Drawings from the WVHS Collection
HISTORY OF J.E. MARSDEN GLASS WORKS, INC.
John E. Marsden, of Mount Airy, Philadelphia, PA was one of the founders of the Liberty Cut Glass Works, Egg Harbor, NJ when it began operations in 1902. The company produced a variety of products including cups, plates, tableware, fancy vases and decorative items. Known for their overall hand cut designs, collectors called this Brilliant Cut Glass.
John E. Marsden purchased the Wampole Pharmaceutical factory on Pen-Ambler Road, Ambler, PA in 1924. There he established J.E. Marsden Glass Works, Inc., a glass works that relied on raw materials being shipped in by rail. Especially important was the sand that came from southern New Jersey. The factory building was a large two story stone and frame structure built in the 1870’s, with a clerestory window on the roof. The factory had three furnaces and fifteen rings for production. In addition to the factory building, a machine shop, carpenter’s shop and office occupied the property along Pen-Ambler Road and Brookside Avenue. It is believed Marsden Glass Works moved to Conshohocken, PA in the early 1930’s before going out of business.
Opposite the Marsden Glass Works another new industry, the American Chemical Paint Company, would also be located on Brookside Avenue, along the Reading Railroad, in 1924.
Marsden Glass Works produced cut glass, laboratory glassware, and special flint glass with extremely low expansion properties, kitchen glassware, automobile headlight glass, railway signal light glass, novelties and specialties. The company was one of the first to perfect a method of cutting glass by machine. No identifiable pieces of Marsden “cut” glass have been found to date.
On August 16, 1924, shortly after production began, a disastrous fire swept through the Marsden Glass Works destroying the office, warehouse, packing department, mold and machine shop. Rebuilding within months, the company resumed operations with new and improved machinery enabling them to further expand into kitchen glassware and bar goods. These items became the company’s best sellers and helped finance the more decorative wares. The glass works building was torn down in 1992.
In 1924, the company began to patent their designs for glass pieces and improved machinery for glass making, blowing and cutting. In the summer of 1996, Wissahickon Valley Historical Society (WVHS) member, Newton Howard, found Marsden Glass Works 1920 era machinery drawings of glass making and cutting machines in the former Ambler National Bank vaults. The collection is available for viewing at the WVHS Museum. Between 1925 and 1933, the company produced a line of green kitchen glassware named TUFGLAS® which was a durable oven or refrigerator ware similar to PYREX®. This line was marketed throughout the country and was particularly popular in the Midwest. According to the Ambler Gazette, trainloads of glassware were being shipped to the Midwest. Glass marketed under the trademark names TUFGLAS®, “KOLD or HOT”, or “SANITARY” was known for its unique color and design and became popular with collectors of depression era glassware.