Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

A family-owned glassworks thrives in eastern Ohio.

Mosser Glass Inc. is a company in Cambridge, Ohio that has been manufacturing pressed glass artifacts since 1971. It is located 80 miles east of Columbus in an area not far from the borders of Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Years ago this area was a hotbed of glassmaking companies. 

“At one time there were a ton of glass factories - kind of like the steel industry,” said Mindy Mosser, co-owner with sister Sally and brother Tim. “But since, all of them have closed down except for ours.”

Sounds ironically a bit like the steel mills in this part of America.

But Mosser Glass continues to thrive because of the foresight of Tom Mosser, father of the current owners. He opened his first factory, Variety Glass, in 1959 and it’s still part of the company making pharmaceutical glass products such as mortars and pestles.

"We haven’t had a layoff since I think it was in the early 80s."

In 1971 Tom opened a new facility and the larger company became Mosser Glass. It now makes a huge variety of glass products including vases, pitchers, tumblers, cake stands, any kind of tableware, figurines for animal, oil lamps, electric lamps and many more items that resemble hand-cut crystal. Mosser Glass also does contract work. If your 1955 Ford needs a new headlight, Mosser will make it for you.

Cambridge Glass Company is where Tom Mosser learned his trade and after Cambridge went out of business in 1954, Tom began working on building his own company.

A worker prepares a Mosser Glass cake stand.

“Cambridge Glass was fairly big with I think about 400 people working there at one time,” said Mindy “They were open from the late 1800s to the mid-1950s. LG Wright and Viking were around that same area and they were the same kind of pressed glass as Cambridge. It was all molded and called press glass.

“It’s manufacturing, just a different process. There is a line, an assembly line. There are certain things somebody could look at and say ‘that’s a classic whatever,’ but we do both the new designs and the classics.”

At Mosser Glass there is a cast iron mold for every piece. The glass is gathered from the furnace on the end of long gathering rods. The glass is then cut off into the mold and a press is used to make the piece.

“Our main business is wholesale so we are shipping to smaller stores,” said Mindy. “Stores will order from us to fill their shelves with unique glass products. A lot of glass factories have closed down. We sell to probably a couple thousand different customers. We look to keep it on the wholesale side for right now.”

The Mossers are fortunate there is a company in nearby Wheeling, West Virginia that still makes the molds. The efficient supply chain allows them to compete with cheaper glass products that are imported from China.

“The Asian products have had a part of closing other glass factories, but I don’t know if it’s the complete reason,” said Mindy. “The only real big problem we have has is we use erbium, which is apparently mined in China. We use that for a couple of our colors and they were limiting the amount they were importing into the States, so the price skyrocketed. And then we also used depleted uranium to make a color called Vaseline, which is a bright-colored glass. It’s been made for over 100 years and a lot of people will collect it because it will glow under a black light. And, of course by now, there are a lot of rules and regulations but now they’ve made it so we can’t purchase it at all.”

Again, it sounds a lot like the American steel industry where China dumps an overcapacity of steel, or restricts the amount of vital rare earth materials needed in making sensitive military equipment.

The new Mosser Glass showroom.

Still, family-owned Mosser Glass presses forward. It currently employs 30 people and is comfortable with its quantity of production.

“We haven’t had a layoff since I think it was in the early 80s,” said Mosser. “We’re very fortunate. We are very steady and we were able to build a new retail store and showroom three years ago. We’re good-sized. We don’t look to grow.”

But a little bit of growth is in the near future. Mosser Glass just received licensing from Ohio State University. College football is big business and Ohio State is one of the biggest.

"We have a little foreign competition, but I think the people that are purchasing our glass are buying it because of the quality and its hand made."

“We don’t have the molds quite yet but we are going to start with a couple of pieces and go from there,” said Mosser. “We are starting out with a paper weight and an Ohio State wine goblet.

“We have a little foreign competition, but I think the people that are purchasing our glass are buying it because of the quality and its hand made. If somebody is going out to buy a set of clear glasses, they are going to go to Walmart. People seek us out and they appreciate the quality and the fact that it is made in the United States.”

Tom Mosser, a kind, funny, patient and generous man, passed away 10 years ago, but three of his children have kept Mosser Glass a healthy company in today’s competitive marketplace.

He taught them well.