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Volume 6 / Issue 1
Butler’s Legacy - Arsenic and Old Glass 

Early in the 20th century, western Pennsylvania was home to several plate glass manufacturers who used arsenic in their process. Dr. Frank Preston, the founder of American Glass Research, worked for one of these American companies.
Why was arsenic used? Arsenic is a refining agent in glass production that reduces the number of seeds (i.e. bubbles). The use of arsenic has since been discontinued in North America and Europe, where sodium sulfate (Na2SO4) is the preferred refining agent. Arsenic continues to be used by some glass factories around the world.
 To learn how our English founder ended up in western Pennsylvania
Dr. Preston first came to Butler after his England-based employer passed up a business deal with PPG. In 1922, Preston was sent to Standard Plate Glass in Butler, PA, to install an experimental device that automatically dispensed polishing compound on a 36-foot plate glass polishing machine. Unfortunately, his tests with the polishing device interfered with production and in Preston’s own words, “nobody loved it.”
Despite this lack of success, Preston’s employer eventually allowed him to work solely for Standard Plate Glass, cementing Butler as his home. Hard times at Standard Glass led to Preston being laid off in 1927, and he went into business for himself. The lean years spent working in a small shed unintentionally sowed the seeds of future fame. Bottles left by a previous tenant cracked when the water froze overnight in the poorly heated workspace; however, the fragments were held in place by the ice. Preston’s fascination with this phenomenon led to “much scientific work” and the “designing of testing machines.” Some of Dr. Preston’s early works produced during this period are available as free downloads in our website White Paper Library.

As for the factory itself, Standard Glass continued to operate until the late 1960s. The former site of the plant is now a Butler township park and housing development, but piles of glass cullet are heaped to the side of a trail at one end of the park. A few percent of arsenic can be detected in glass collected from the cullet pile. 
 AGR’s analytical laboratory in Maumee, Ohio, regularly performs analyses for heavy metal content, including arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury, and hexavalent chromium. Raw materials are analyzed using wet chemical analysis and OES-ICP spectrometry, which is sensitive to levels of parts per million. Glass is usually analyzed with XRF spectrometry at sensitivities of 0.01%. Please Contact Us or call Neal Nichols, the Research Manager +1(419) 740-6071 of our analytical laboratory to discuss your needs. 

AGR White Paper Published

The AGR white paper “Mechanism of stress generation during thermal shock events” written by AGR’s Senior Scientists Dr. Wenke Hu and Gary Smay appeared in the November/December issue of Glass Worldwide Magazine.

The authors present results from a study into the effects of thermal shock on glass containers under different conditions.

Sound interesting? Click HERE to download.
Did you know... that AGR has a One Day Concept Design Development Service?

Here’s how it works…

  • An experienced and knowledgeable AGR Design team meets with key brand decision makers to discuss design concept, objectives and constraints
  • A range of designs are created         
  • Multiple aesthetically pleasing and functional designs are selected for further development
  • Selected designs are refined and computer simulation is conducted for evaluating the performance
  • AGR will provide a 3D solid model file or if time permits can create a 3D printed bottle in real-time
  • Further design refinements and adjustment can be made if necessary
  • The Final design is validated and available for approval

The One Day meeting can occur at your location or ours or through video conference (Goto Meeting).  Contact Us to learn more or to discuss your immediate needs.



AGR Senior Scientist Peter de Haan, manages the Delft Testing Laboratory in the Netherlands, which officially opened in February 2018.  In addition to his management responsibilities he is involved with fracture diagnosis, container performance testing, glass forming issues, design interpretation, filling line evaluations and is a key instructor in numerous training seminars.

He has co-authored and been involved with several published white papers that relate to container design, container performance and glass innovation.

Peter joined AGR 2013. He has ten years of experience with a leading manufacturer of architectural glass and eight years of experience with a world leading manufacturer of glass and metal packaging for the food and beverage industry. He graduated from NCOI Business School, Rotterdam and holds MTS degrees in Chemical Technology and Industrial Automation.

 When not working he enjoys hiking and the outdoors. You can contact Peter directly at to discuss your glass issues.


Broken glass tells a story… and we can teach you how to read it many different languages.

Wuxi, Jiangsu, China has just been added as a location for our “Fracture 1: Testing and Breakage Diagnosis” in June.  Munich, Germany, Moscow, Russia and Bangkok, Thailand will also host this training seminar in the first half of 2019. Our Butler, PA, USA campus will also host this seminar multiple times this year.

Visit our Training Catalogue to learn more or to register. See our complete 2019 Training Schedule for all of our seminar locations and dates.

American Glass Research
603 Evans City Road, Butler, PA 16001
Tel: +1 (724) 482-2163
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American Glass Research · 603 Evans City Road · Butler, PA 16001 · USA

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