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Aerial view of Foster-Forbes, ca. 1970-1973
Foster-Forbes played a huge part in the advancement and history of Marion, and Grant County. In the company’s physical growth and technological advancement it furthered the economic and demographic development of Marion and Grant County. Although it is now closed, the changes set in place by this company are still ringing through the surrounding areas.


Upland Flint Glass, ca. 1912
In a sense, Foster-Forbes began in 1842 in Stoddard, New Hampshire. Here Joseph Foster immigrated from England and began The Granite Glassworks. (History of Foster Forbes..., 1) In 1858, George Foster, Joseph Foster’s son, began The New Granite Glassworks in Stoddard, New Hampshire. This factory was even more successful than Joseph’s and was later sold to a Boston firm. (History of Foster Forbes..., 1) George Foster then began the firm of Dean-Foster & Co. in Boston, Massachusetts. Here A. M. Foster worked as a bottle salesman.

Upland Flint Glass, Co, November 14, 1925
In 1885 he moved to Chicago, Illinois and opened a branch of the same company. Upon doing this, he showed interest in several Indiana glass plants, including the Marion Flint Glass Co. and Upland Flint Bottle Co. (History of Foster-Forbes..., 1) Marion Flint Glass Co. was acquired and/or organized by A. M. Foster in 1887. (Roller, 61) Then in 1911, Upland Flint Bottle Co. was incorporated. (History of Foster Forbes, 1) In 1923 the operations of the entire Upland plant were moved to Marion, and mechanized operations were joined with the hand blown facilities that remained in Marion. By the year 1925 there were no more hand blown shops, and five machines had taken their places. (History of Foster-Forbes..., 1)

Mergers and Acquisitions

Birds-eye view of Foster-Forbes plant in N. Marion in the early 1930s, show how company had grown since taking over old Marion Flint Glass Co. facilities. Properties of Koeppen Mould, upper left, and Standard Co., rear, were to be acquired in later years.
A name change ensued in 1929, when the company became Foster-Forbes Glass Co. This name combined the last names of A. M. Foster and Mr. William C. Forbes, who had been an associate of Mr. Foster since 1900. (History of Foster-Forbes..., 1) In 1933 Standard Glass Co. was acquired. Standard Glass was a direct competitor with Foster-Forbes, and since its property was adjacent to the Foster-Forbes factory it seemed appropriate to incorporate it into the further expansion of the Foster-Forbes empire. When Standard Glass was acquired it was modernized by the addition of a new furnace and new machines to increase productivity. After this Standard Glass Co. was dissolved and became a unit of Foster Forbes.

Another purchase was made in 1944 when Foster-Forbes purchased the Koeppen Mould Works. This business was also in close proximity to the Foster-Forbes plant and also had done business with Foster-Forbes in the past. It had created its bottle and jar moulds. Under the guidance of Foster Forbes, it would produce new moulds and also repair machinery exclusively for the company. (History of Foster Forbes..., 2)

In 1946 the new batch handling and storage plant was built. This plant was fully automatic in the sense that it measured batch materials for Flint and amber glass by itself. It was also capable of storing three to four weeks of supply of all raw materials. (History of Foster Forbes..., 2) A year later in 1947 a small furnace was built in an existing building near plant one. This furnace was primarily for the production process of creating amber ware. (History of Foster Forbes Glass..., 2)

A New Factory, an IPO, and More Consolidation

Another major milestone was reached in June 1952 when a new factory was completed. With a cost of over $1,200,000 this plant was designed to accommodate further expansion of facilities. It housed the company’s fourth furnace and allowed for easy expansion, new warehouses and production facilities. Such an expansion occurred in 1954, when additional warehouse facilities connected to the new plant were completed. (History of Foster Forbes..., 2) In 1956 a second furnace and six more machines were placed in operation in the new plant. This new furnace was capable of producing 125 tons of Glass every 24 hours. Additional warehouse facilities totaling 50,000 sq. ft. were also added in 1956. (History of Foster Forbes..., 2)

In 1956 the Foster Forbes Board of Directors decided to go public.(Conover, A3) In July of 1957 a third furnace was built in the new factory that will be equipped with three feeders and machines. This furnace was able to produce about 70 tons of Glass every 24 hours. (History of Foster Forbes..., 2) In the year 1959 and additional 69,000 sq. ft. of warehouse facilities were built. (Conover, A3) Then as a final addition, in 1966 the first bottle-blowing machine was installed. By this time, the company had increased its sales by more than 100 times since the l920s. (Conover, A3)

Recent Decades

Foster-Forbes interior, 1969
Between 1970 and 1995, a large number of mergers and purchases ensued causing the employment number to fluctuate. In 1970 Foster-Forbes merged with the National Can Co. taking over the operations of the plants in Burlington, Wisconsin; Oil City, Pennsylvania; and Milford, Massachusetts. At its peak in 1983 the Company employed approximately 1000 people at the Marion plant). (Conover, A3)

On a negative note, a large fire engulfed the 1500 ft. section of the Foster-Forbes Glass Co. on Monday, March 10th, 1980. The building destroyed in this blaze was the Koeppen Mould shop. Approximate two months before, Foster Forbes had moved all of its machinery out of this building in preparation to demolish it.(Witherow, sec.2 p.11)

In 1988, Pechiney S. A. purchased the firm that owned National Can. (Conover, A3) Thus Foster Forbes operated as a part of the American National Can Glass Division. (Conover, A3) Then in the 1995 Foster Forbes Glass Co. ceased to exist when the company was bought by Ball Corp. and Saint-Gobain. (Conover, A3) The company’s name was changed to Ball Foster. (Conover, A3) Finally, in 1999 Ball Foster announced that the Marion plant would close in early 2000. (Conover, A3)

Use of Bottle and Jar Moulds

Foster-Forbes' moulds are extremely advanced. They could cost as much a $6,000, (nearly as much as a Cadillac DeVille in earlier days) and were used to shape the molten glass pulled from the furnace into the shape of the bottle desired.(Empty Bottles, 2) When being used, these molds required 17 different steps of handling:

1. Call them out of Mould storage. This is where the molds along with their bottom plates, baffles, fumbles, neck rings, sleeves, plungers, blow heads and takeout jaws are all gathered in prepared for transport. 2. Move the molds to their machine. 3. Unwire the moulds. These wires protect the joints during storage. 4. Attach the molds to the machine carefully so that the joints and cavities will not be damaged. 5. Use the moulds to produce different containers. 6. Remove of the Mould equipment from the machinery. 7&8. They are assembled and made ready for Mould cleaning. When readying a Mould for cleaning they totally rewire it to protect the joints. 9. Put them in mould cleaning. The molds are loaded cavity side up so as not to scratch them, the different parts are laid on the basket bottom so they don’t bang together. 10-13. The molds are given four different baths. They are given alkali, acid, rust inhibitor, and rinse baths. 14. All equipment is polished with either steel wool or fine emery cloth. 15. The mould shop inspects every mould that comes back. 16 & 17. If approved they are readied and returned to storage. (“Empty Bottles”, 2-3)


As you can see, Foster-Forbes was rich in history. In its life and death, it transferred much of its history to the community. Foster Forbes Co. had a significant impact on Marion Indiana’s economic and demographic growth through its physical and technological advancement.

Works Cited

  • Conover, Sheri. “Glass Brought Union Strength to Marion” Chronicle Tribune 2 Dec. 1999, A3+.
  • Foster Forbes Glass Company. ”Empty Bottles,” Scattered Issues March 1963-December 1969. Marion, 1969.
  • Foster-Forbes Glass Company. History of Foster Forbes Glass Company, 1842 — 1957. ts. Indiana Room-Marion Public Lib., Marion.
  • Roller, Dick, comp. Indiana Glass Factories Notes. Paris: Acorn Press, 1994. Witherow, Phil. “Fire” Chronicle Tribune 11 Mar. 1980, sec.2 p.11.


This article was written by Steven R. Blazekovich and submitted on December 6, 2004 for Mr. Munn’s AP US History class at Marion High School.