How Corning Inc. has survived here for 150 years
Thursday, January 19, 2017
Corning Inc. and the Twin Tiers region are approaching a significant milestone in their history.
Next year will mark the 150th anniversary of the glass company’s move from Brooklyn to Corning in 1868.
No other economic development project in the region’s history has prospered — over the long haul — as has the $50,000 investment that helped lure the Brooklyn glass company to Corning.
Today, the Fortune 500 company has sales of nearly $10 billion a year. It has thousands of employees in the Twin Tiers and more than 34,000 worldwide. It has produced products that have have significant impact on people’s lives worldwide.
It was not ever a sure thing, however, that the company known as the Brooklyn Flynt Glass Works would prosper when it began manufacturing operations in Corning on Oct. 22, 1868.
In fact, only two years later, it was bankrupt and founder Amory Houghton retired. In 1871 it was sold to Nathan Cushing, a Boston businessman. Amory Houghton Jr. bought it back on credit. In 1875, it was reorganized as Corning Glass Works.
It didn’t help that the country was in economic, political and social turmoil in 1868. Animosities lingered from the Civil War. The economy was perilously weak. Political instability was widespread.
Nevertheless, the community of Corning and its newest employer persevered. In the 1880s, bulb blanks for Thomas Edison’s electric light bulb helped business pick up.
Not everything went smoothly. There were labor problems, as there had been in Brooklyn. There were two world wars, the Great Depression and other major economic dislocations.
Somehow — sticking to its premise that scientific research would yield new products that would result in more business — the company survived and eventually prospered. From railroad signal lenses, to Pyrex and Corning Ware dishes and bakeware, to television glass and optical fiber for communications, Corning Glass Works expanded its product lines.
It made the windows for American space vehicles, including those that orbited the earth and those that landed on the moon. It manufactured huge telescope mirror blanks that pried loose some of the secrets of the distant universe.
In 1989, the company changed its name to Corning Inc.
Today, Corning Inc. is a major player in glass for television and other electronic devices, including cellphones. It is also exploring potential uses for its products in the millions of vehicles sold worldwide each year.
On the whole, it’s not a bad record for the 150 years since it pulled up roots in Brooklyn and put them down in Corning.
It’s a record worth celebrating.