By Jack James (originally published January 2019)
The Mansfield Glass Company began in the 1940s in the location of the former Choctaw Brick and Gas Company location in
The company found a great demand for glass products in their day in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Local, inexpensive natural gas rates made it a perfect fit for the company. The late Harold Johnson of Mansfield, formerly of Fort Smith, and his father owned a glass factory on the west end of Fort Smith. Every time the Arkansas River flooded, the factory flooded as well. The Johnson’s bought the old brick plant from Choctaw Brick Company in 1941 and began production. It was a thriving business meeting the demand
In 1958, more than one hundred train loads of lamp chimneys alone were made and sold in the United States each year. Of that total, nine carloads were made in Mansfield. The best markets were found in the states of Louisiana and Kentucky.
The firm, while it specialized in lamp chimneys, was also the largest manufacturer of minnow traps in the United States and Canada. The greatest markets were Texas and Louisiana. The company even shipped a train carload to Alaska.
Lamp shades and vases made by the company were sold through specialty and antique shops; every one being hand blown. The Mansfield firm was at that time the top manufacturer in the nation of these items.
Efficiency at the plant was said to be amazing. A lamp chimney was turned out every forty seconds. The workers there had years of practice and perfecting their craft. Dean Piret (husband of Bonnie Piret and pictured below) began working there at the age of sixteen and spent forty-three year blowing glass.
Plant owner W. F. Wagoner was a former glass blower for General Electric. He was a General Electric employee in 1913 in Niles, Ohio. Wagoner’s company, which was established in 1943, was one of the three hand “blown glass companies” in existence and had very few accidents.
This unique factory had many visitors and observers from across the nation when it was running full blast. Students from local schools always enjoyed field trips and sight-seeing trips to the plant.
Sources: The History of the Mansfield School District Area, October 1994.