The End of An Era As Glass Plants Close in Salem and Cumberland Counties

The End of An Era As Glass Plants Close in Salem and Cumberland Counties.

Gerresheimer Glass has announced that it will close its plant in Millville, NJ, by the end of September, when 100 workers will lose their jobs. The German-owned company, which operated the plant for the past 22 years and in 2011 employed more than 500 people in Millville and Vineland, said it will consolidate its molded-glass operations at its facility outside Chicago. 

The latest closure is a further blow to a glass industry that had been a principal employer in Cumberland County since the 1700s. Glass plants operated by the Wheaton family once operated around the clock and, at one point, Bridgeton had 17 glass factories. Now that once-proud tradition can be seen only at the Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center in Millville, founded as Wheaton Village in 1968.

Around this time last year the last bottle manufacturer in Salem, NJ, Ardagh Glass, announced it would close its plant in October, resulting in the loss of 290 jobs and the end of glassmaking in Salem City. The plant, formerly operated by Anchor Glass, was the oldest manufacturer of glass containers still operating in the United States.

In operation in Salem County since 1863, the plant was originally operated by Hall, Pancoast and Craven. It became Craven Brothers in 1881; Salem Glass Works (1895); Anchor Cap and Closure Corp.(1934); Anchor Hocking Glass (1938); Anchor Glass (1983), and then Ardagh in 2012. Originally known for its hand-blown glass when it started, the facility grew and evolved over the years and machines for making bottles were introduced in 1913. 

Among the reasons for the area's prominence in glass manufacturing were South Jersey's rich supply of sand best suited for glass making and, in the early years, large supplies of wood for furnaces.