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Published: 10/28/2005

O-I archives find home at U of Toledo library

BY MARY-BETH McLAUGHLIN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
A doll and a tie are souvenirs from the Chicago World's Fair. A doll and a tie are souvenirs from the Chicago World's Fair.
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Leather-bound sample books are part of the collection. Leather-bound sample books are part of the collection.
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The freehand sketches are a far cry from today's computerized designs.

Yet the drawings by Michael Owens are a tangible link to the famous automatic bottle-making machine that revolutionized the glass industry and helped earn Toledo the title of Glass Capital of the World.

They are included in the hundreds of boxes of records and artifacts that trace the 102-year history of Owens-Illinois Inc. and were recently turned over to archivists at the University of Toledo.

Barbara Floyd, director of the university's Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections, said the O-I archives will join those of the former Libbey-Owens Ford Co. (now Pilkington North America) and smaller collections to create an extensive library in glass industry history.

"It will be a really wonderful research collection," Ms. Floyd said.

Donation of the collection completes a process started in 2003, when O-I employees were preparing for the company's 100th anniversary and were searching archival materials to mount an exhibit that is still open in the lobby of O-I's downtown headquarters, said spokesman Kelley Yoder.

What was not used was sent to a company called the History Factory in Virginia, which was awaiting word on whether it should create a searchable database of all the company's materials.

That was interrupted when O-I received a letter in May from Tim Messer-Kruse, chairman of the history department at UT, who wanted to gauge interest in having the collection moved to the Canaday Center.

"We thought 'What a great way to keep our heritage in northwest Ohio,' " Ms. Yoder said.

O-I has its roots in the Libbey Glass Co., created by Edward Drummond Libbey in 1888.

In 1903, Mr. Owens, who worked for Libbey, perfected the automatic bottle-making machine.

In addition to the drawings of that machine, the collection has incorporation papers of the Owens Bottle Machine Co., created by Mr. Libbey and Mr. Owens to market the invention.

In 1929, the company acquired the assets of the Illinois Glass Co. and became the Owens-Illinois Glass Co. Documents from the early his-linois Glass Co. and became the Owens-Illinois Glass Co. Documents from the early his-tories of these two companies are among the archives in 100 boxes of papers and documents presented to UT.

About 400 of O-I's collection of ancient glass and product samples of its own offerings also arrived at the university less than a month ago.

The company adopted its current name in 1965 to reflect broader operations, which included production of plastic containers.

The company has 100 manufacturing plants on five continents.

The cataloging process will take months, but Ms. Floyd and Kimberly Brownlee, manuscripts librarian, are excited about what they've already found.

There are doodle-filled letters from Mr. Owens to his chief engineer, as well as several small leather-bound glass-sample books from the Illinois Glass Co., stamped with the name R.H. Levis.

Also in the collection are a tie and small doll, both made from glass fibers and sold as souvenirs at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893.

Ms. Floyd said she is particularly excited about the correspondence and information about Mr. Owens, about whom she said little is known.

The collection should be ready by late next summer for researchers, said Ms. Floyd.

An exhibit looking at the history of O-I and glass in Toledo is planned for the center in September.

Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at

mmclaughlin@theblade.com

or 419-724-6199.



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