2015 NIA Hall of Fame Inductee
Robert Hemingray was born in Johnstown, PA in 1820 and moved with his family to Pittsburgh, PA early in his life. Somehow, after the death of his father and now being an orphan, Robert completed a college course and he entered business with Phillips & Co., operating a glass factory in Pittsburgh. He remained there until the big fire of 1845 which destroyed many homes and businesses in Pittsburgh.
In the fall of 1847, Robert and another experienced glassblower, Ralph Gray became interested in land in Covington, KY to erect their own glassworks. Unable to get the land at that time, they rented property across the Ohio River in Cincinnati, OH in 1848 and founded the glass manufacturing firm; Gray & Hemingray. The firm was established to manufacture glassware of all types. Advertising as early as 1851 mentioned “Telegraph Glasses and Lightning Rod Insulators” among many of the products manufactured by their firm. Additionally, court records indicate that Gray and Hemingray sold 4,120 glass insulators for a telegraph line in the upper Midwest on April 4, 1850. Certainly Robert Hemingray was a pioneer in glass insulator production.
Through the struggles of epidemics, financial crises, the Civil War and the death of his business partner, Ralph Gray in 1863, Robert Hemingray lead the glass business and incorporated as the Hemingray Glass Co. in 1870. He developed a method for threading glass insulators in 1868 which ultimately led to the Dec. 19, 1871 patent being granted to him. Robert brought his sons Ralph, Dan, and Robert into the business, but remained President until his death in 1898 at the old age of 78. At the time of his death, he was the oldest glass manufacturer in the business. Robert’s contributions to the glass business were numerous and subsequently his contributions to the glass insulator field were very important. He held numerous patents related to glass products and their manufacturing.
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