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Corning Glass Works Photograph Collection

Identifier: MS-0028
The provenance of this collection is unknown. The bulk of the photographs, which are mostly of the factory’s exterior, date from 1868 to around 1905. Some photographs in fragile condition have been conserved. The collection has been divided into two series. The first series includes photographs from the original factory and several glassmakers at work, and the second series includes photographs of the construction site and newly rebuilt factory taken after the flood of 1889. The dates of some photographs have been determined by the number of factory smokestacks. It is known there were five in 1888, eight in 1891 and 1898, ten in 1903, and twelve in 1905. Using this information, some photographs have been given tentative dates.

The first series contains photographs of the original Corning Glass Works factory. Most of the photographs depict the exterior of the factory, but there are a few photos of glassmakers at work. The earliest photo dates anywhere from 1869 to before the fire in 1876. There are only two smokestacks in the background. The photo from 1889 depicts the disastrous effects of the flood and the damage it caused to the factory. There are two copies of a photograph of glassmakers with an unknown date. The man in the center of the photograph is Elsworth J. Van Etten and it is noted that he was the first in the region to blow ruby red glass. There is a photo of another glassblower, but his name and the date are unknown.

The second series contains photographs of Corning Glass Works construction sites and the newly rebuilt factory. One of the photographs depicts construction workers in 1889 rebuilding the factory after the flood. There are five smokestacks in the background. Another photograph depicts construction being done to the factory, with eight smokestacks in the background and a possible date of 1891-1900. There is a photograph depicting construction workers between the years 1900 and 1905 adding an additional two smokestacks. There are also two photos that compare the original factory from 1868 to the factory at the end of the nineteenth century.


  • 1868-1905


Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

The Copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research." If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement. The user agrees to defend, indemnify, and hold harmless the Corning Museum of Glass and the Rakow Research Library against all claims, demands, costs and expenses incurred by copyright infringement or any other legal or regulatory cause of action arising from the use of Library materials.


4.3 Linear Feet (2 Boxes)

Biographical / Historical

Corning Glass Works was founded in 1868 in Corning, NY, by Amory Houghton, Sr. The original building was a two-story brick building with two smokestacks and a Mansard roof. In 1876, the roof was replaced after a fire caused damage, and a major flood in 1889 damaged the factory and forced the company to rebuild. By 1890, five hundred people were employed by Corning Glass Works, and in the following years the factory produced a variety of products, including glass bulbs for Thomas Edison’s electric light bulb.

In 1908, Dr. Eugene Sullivan was appointed Head of Research and Development at Corning Glass Works and established one of the first research departments in the United States. He earned his PhD at the University in Leipzig in Germany and was in charge of researching German borosilicate glass. In order to better understand the properties of glass, Sullivan hired physicists, chemists, and optical scientists to collaborate in the research department. The current research facility is named Sullivan Park after Dr. Sullivan.

Throughout the twentieth century, Corning Glass Works continued to gain a worldwide reputation for its innovation. Corning Glass Works produced a highly durable cookware and laboratory glass product known as Pyrex, which is still available today. In 1935, Dr. George McCauley, a Corning physicist, designed and produced a two-hundred inch mirror blank, regarded as the world’s largest piece of glass at the time, for the Hale Telescope at Mount Palomar. Corning also mass produced TV picture tubes, a contribution that led to millions of people being able to afford televisions. In 1994, Corning received the National Medal of Technology for life-changing and life-enhancing inventions.

The company is now known as Corning Incorporated and produces advanced optics products, science equipment such as microplates and petri dishes, optical cables, environmental filters, pharmaceutical tubing, and much more. Corning Incorporated has research centers distributed throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. The Corning Glass Works tower that once produced thermometer tubes, fondly known as Little Joe, still stands over the town of Corning today.


This collection is arranged in two series. Series I. Photographs of the original Corning Glass Works factory. Series II. Photographs of the reconstructed factory.

Custodial History

Provenance is unknown.


Corning Glass Works Photograph Collection, 1868-1905
A Guide to the Collection
Mackenzie Kriel
July 2016
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Rakow Manuscript Collections Repository

Rakow Research Library
Corning Museum of Glass
5 Museum Way
Corning NY 14830 USA