This Week in Sapulpa History: The era of “Crystal City of the Southwest” begins

Rachel Whitney
Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum

This week in Sapulpa history: the actual start-up date for the Bartlett-Collins (B.C.) Glass plant began on June 28, 1915. “Making of glass in Oklahoma is a new industry in the southwest, but it has come to the state! The big factory of the Bartlett-Collins is now running full blast.” Oklahoma City Times shouted in their headline when B.C. opened.

Bartlett-Collins Glass first furnace, circa 1915.

“The mammoth plant of [B.C.]” held a reception that evening. “All of Sapulpa is invited to attend the Opening and see the pot furnace at work.” It was an opportunity to be shown a guided tour of the plant, and the workings of the machinery explained.

Sponsored by:

B.C.’s manager, George F. Collins, made the decision to host the opening. “The people of Sapulpa should be given an opportunity to see how the finest plant in the southwest makes the tableware for the sideboards.” Mr. Collins explained.

A few days prior to the host’s event, the factory’s furnace was lit early. “There will be glass souvenirs of the occasion for the guests to keep as a reminder of the day.” The host also explained that there will be speeches from the family of Collins and the organization.

Mr. Collins further stated that this may be the only time for such an occasion to have visitors, so people needed to come the opening night if they wanted to see the factory. “On other occasions, visitors will not be very welcome at the factory because of the danger of some of the operations and the interruption to the work.”

Two unique aspects stood out for the new facility.

One being that the new furnace may have been the first of its kind in the United States. “It not only turns out the finest glass but it is equipped with the latest machinery to turn it out faster than any other plant of its kind in the United States.”

Two being that the plant itself is also the first of its kind in the west. It also was said to be the largest in the west. The Oklahoma City Times stated, “the new plant is the only one of the kind west of the Mississippi River. The new plant [has] high grade glassware [that] is not made at any other factory in the state.” Therefore, B.C. was the best of the west.

The glassware was described as a “pioneer movement.” It had blown and pressed high grade glassware. Machinery and tools were available to make fine light cuts to arrange stars and floral designs in the glass.

“Some Oklahoma sand is used and some of the sand is shipped from Missouri. The plant has a capacity large enough for an output of about $300,000 worth of glassware a year (almost $8.5 million today).” The glass included a mixture of other raw materials such as lime and soda ash. The materials came from Illinois and Kansas.

“It promises already to grow into a great business.”

The reception and the opening was a tremendous night for the town. “Fully two thousand men and women, citizens of Sapulpa, attend the formal opening of the big Barlett-Collins glass plant.” Short speeches were made and then the crowd was able to inspect the entire plant.

Premium Glass, circa 1912, before it was Liberty Glass.

The event was so widely viewed that George Collins himself was not prepared. “Superintendent Collins was not expecting such a crowd and only had three hundred and fifty souvenirs” made for the evening.

Schram Glass, circa 1913.

Fun fact: because of the glass plants in the area, Sapulpa began to boom. With the new B.C. plant, families moved to Sapulpa to start a new life. Two marriages, in fact, were celebrated because the husbands wanted to work at B.C. “Mrs. Boren will arrive tomorrow from Pennsylvania to join her husband who has been connected with the Bartlett-Collins Glass plant and will make their home in the city in the future.” Additionally, “Keelin and Bogan from Newark, Ohio were joined [in matrimony]. Mr. Keelin is a glass worker employed at the new Bartlett-Collins factory and they will make Sapulpa their future home.”

Sunflower Glass, circa 1913.

More on B.C. Glass Plant in 1915: The two owners, HU Bartlett and George F Collins, had made a deal with the Sapulpa Commercial Club to build a $60,000 plant and to employ 125 men with an annual payroll of $66,000. At its highest capacity, or as needed, it was agreed to employ 250 workers. The Commercial Club would furnish the site that had been purchased for another plant – that had never come to fruition.

Bartlett and Collins also agreed to pay the owners $15,000* ten days after the plant was completed. An additional $5,000 a year for five years would be given, too, if the plant lived up to its obligations.

B.C. would be Sapulpa’s fourth glass plant. In the span of three years, 1912-15, the four glass plants were not in direct competition with each other – each plant manufactured This was due to the huge amounts of quality sand in Oklahoma and Sapulpa had the cheapest gas in the world. At one time the glass industry employed about a thousand men in Sapulpa and we were known as the “Crystal City of the Southwest.”

Bartlett-Collins Glass, circa 1920s.