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The City of Pittsburgh (Harper's Magazine, December, 1880) - Page 64

made wider and smoother by the inventor and the skilled mechanic, but the window-glass factory of 1880 is a counterpoint of the factory of 1825. A straight blow-pipe and a bench are the workman's appliances. With the former he dips from the "pot" a lump of sticky melted glass, and, if he be a notably good blower, will in five minutes convert that forty-pound lump of cherry-red shapeless stickiness into a splendid cylinder
six feet long and fifteen inches in diameter—a cylinder whose polished crystal walls are uniformly thin in every part to the minutest fraction of an inch; so that when this cylinder is split and flattened it will be a mammoth plate of "blown" glass, measuring forty-five by seventy-six or eighty inches. The blower at work challenges admiration, as his tremendous lungs force air into the growing bubble at the end of his pipe. Its cooling walls grow thinner, and yet the swelling air-cell within is never permitted to burst its fragile prison.
As the mass takes on a cylindrical shape, the man calls to his aid the force of gravity, and the pipe becomes a pendulum, with the growing cylinder for a "bob." And so, by skillful twirling, constant blowing, and laborious but graceful swinging, the perfect cylinder appears, while the gazer is puzzled which to most admire, cause or effect, workman or work. The finished cylinder is now split from end to end by the touch of a red-hot bar, and with others is borne to a queer furnace, whose interior is fitted with a revolting floor like a railway "turn-table." On this are laid the cylinders, and slowly they are borne through positive and comparative to superlative degrees of heat. The fracture being uppermost, the softening cylinder of its own weight parts along the upper side. A workman, with a bit of soft wood on the end of a rod, then operates on the demoralized cylinder as a laundress would work in ironing a big cuff. The block, pushed over the uneven surface, flattens the cylinder upon its stone bed, where it lies, prone and pretty, like a huge sheet of clear gelatine. A turn of the furnace floor, and another cylinder comes within reach of workman and flattener, while the same movement carries the finished sheet to a cooler place, eventually to find its way to the cutter, the packer, and the distant sash of the "consumer."
In the converting of molten glass into table-ware, "bar-ware," bottles, lamps, chimneys, and a thousand other objects, improved machinery is springing unto existence, each device greeted with more or less disfavor by the workmen. But as yet no inventor has succeeded in displacing the big-armed, deep-chested "blower." He defies machinery, lives to a good old age, and surely earns his twenty-five and fifty dollars per week. The latter figure is attained by the few men who can "blow" a sheet of the dimensions already given.