Kane County History: Cut Glass Was Booming During Roaring '20s in St. Charles

Kane County History: Cut Glass Was Booming During Roaring ’20s in St. Charles

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was written by Lindsay Judd, executive director of the St. Charles History Museum. Images are courtesy of the St. Charles History Museum.

As part of the St. Charles History Museum’s temporary Booming Business exhibit, one of the companies we highlighted is the Heinz Brothers Cut Glass Company.

At the turn of the 20th century, American cut glass grew in popularity and factories began to spread from the east coast to the Midwest and beyond. Chicago quickly became a bustling hub for cut glass factories and gave birth to one of the largest cut glass businesses in the Midwest: The Heinz Brothers Cut Glass Company.

Beginning their career with Pitkin and Brooks and the American Cut Glass company, Richard, Emil, and Otto Heinz decided to venture into their own business.

The Monarch Cut Glass Company was a partnership formed between the Heinz brothers and Herman and Frank Kotwitz. The company organized in 1901 and the factory was located at the corner of Union Street and Carroll Avenue in Chicago.

In 1902, the Heinz brothers bought out the Kotwitz brothers and began to operate the business under the name Heinz Brothers.

Incorporating for $50,000, Richard served as president, Otto as vice president, Emil as secretary, and Herman Schmidt and Herman Eichman were both treasurers. Herman Eichman and Herman Schmidt were also the plant foremen.

Quickly becoming the largest cut glass factory in the Midwest, the Heinz Brothers products extended all over the United States, Canada, and parts of Europe. In 1905, the Heinz Brothers Cut Glass Company built a factory in St. Charles and began operations in August of that year.

This new factory located at Thirteenth and Indiana avenues was 200 feet long and 20 feet wide, with a 28-foot boiler room adjoining the east end and two floors.

The second floor held room for 100 men while the first floor held room for 50. This new factory employed 80 to 100 men and women, some of which were professional cutters from around the country, but most were from St. Charles.

The yearly volume of the Heinz Brothers business transaction reached between $90,000 and $100,000 with a payroll of $40,000. In 1913 Mill, Gardner, & Co. took over operation of the Heinz Brothers business and increased the work force.

When World War I broke out, cut glass factories saw a decline in sales and by the end of the 1920s, cut glass was completely out of fashion. The factory in St. Charles operated until 1927 when the real estate was sold, and the corporation dissolved.

You can see artifacts from the Heinz Brothers Cut Glass Company on display at the St. Charles History Museum as part of our Booming Business exhibit, which is open for the rest of 2020. Make an appointment today! 630-584-6967.

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