Port Glass Company of Muncie
Karen M. Vincent
Minnetrista Director of Collections
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Natural gas was discovered in East Central Indiana in the late 1800s. Availability of cheap, abundant fuel attracted more than 150 glass manufacturers to this area. The gas soon dwindled to almost nothing and most of the manufacturers sold out, moved, or closed.
The next time you drive by Westside Park in Muncie, look to the north as you pass Hutchinson Avenue. One hundred years ago, you wouldn’t have seen any houses, trees, or the nursing home. Instead, you would have seen Port Glass Works, a large operating glass factory, where hundreds of workers made fruit jars by hand.
Founded in 1892, Port Glass operated in Muncie for about ten years, named for its owners, John W. and Thomas Port. Their jars can be identified by the name “Port” embossed on the bottom or side of the jar.
Around 1903, after closing in Muncie, Port Glass was resurrected in Belleville, Illinois, where the company produced jars on machines. This operation was eventually bought out by a more famous Muncie glassmaker—Ball Brothers Company. Some of the original jar molds were modified, with the word “Port” being changed to read “Ball.”
Little else remains today as evidence of the company’s existence—just faint traces of a rail spur at the former factory site and a street named Port Avenue on Muncie’s south side. Some Port jars do remain though, and examples can be found in the Minnetrista Heritage Collection. Minnetrista and other museums and historical societies in East Central Indiana are the keepers of information about Port Glass and many of the other glass manufacturing companies that dotted the landscape. Even though these companies are no longer here, they contributed greatly to the history of this area. Check back again soon for future blogs about other glass manufacturers.