Volume 35, Number 2, February 2000



Time to Set the Record Straight

the “real” glass inventors are identified

by Lyle R. Hill


In honor of the imminent arrival of St. Patrick’s Day, Hill has chosen to take readers back to where it all began—to the real origin of glass. Forget what you’ve heard, according to Hill’s recollection and research of Irish folklore, the O’Plate Brothers are credited for this historic discovery. (This article was originally published in the March 1997 issue of USGlass).

• • •

As a child of the sixties, I was taught not to trust or believe anyone—particularly politicians, historians, and manufacturers’ representatives. To this very day, my skepticism forces me to doubt almost everything I hear and a great deal of what I see. Unfortunately, this cannot be helped. It would be much easier to be one of those trusting, optimistic, happy-go-lucky people who doesn’t have a care in the world. But this is not my plight. In fact, this condition has actually worsened with age. So it was this skepticism, combined with an innate sense of curiosity, that ultimately led me to question the commonly accepted theories pertaining to the discovery of glass.

Simply put, the accepted historical accounts did not make sense. And, somewhere deep down in my Irish heart, I knew they were wrong. Thus, I began my quest for the truth. And while the truth may or may not set you free, it’s usually worth a buck or two to somebody. Ultimately, I discovered the truth and right here, right now, I’m sharing what I’ve learned with you. Yes indeed, I am now going to set the record straight.

The most generally accepted theory says the Syrians discovered glass in the Messopo-tamian Valley. Certain Egyptian historians dispute this and have produced quite a bit of impressive evidence to support their claim that they were the first. I spent a great deal of time reviewing this evidence, but finally I had to reject the Egyptian’s arguments. You see, there is no record of any pyramid ever having a window. Had they known about glass, surely any number of pyramids would have had reflective glass skylights and every chariot would have had a shaded windshield—barcoded and everything. No, the Egyptians were not the first.

I also followed up on other claims, including some of the Chinese which, for awhile, looked quite promising. But these also turned out to be false claims.

As theories were dispelled one by one, I became even more determined to find the truth, even if it took a lifetime to do so. No stone was left unturned. Every possible lead was investigated, and finally, after years of tireless research (which has left me old before my time), I ultimately came to know the real story.

It was the IRISH who first discovered glass. The basis for this belief is taken from Irish folklore—long known to be the world’s most reliable source of truth. The story, which has been handed down accurately for more than 5,000 years, claims that the O’Plate Brothers, Patrick and Michael, actually made the discovery while participating in a traditional Irish potato bake on a sandy, windswept beach around 3,000 B.C. Unfortunately, the boys never fully appreciated what they had found and failed to capitalize on the discovery. In fact, legend has it that brother Michael pursued a career in religion, realizing early on that there would always be more money in that than in the glass manufacturing or distribution business. The other brother, Patrick, was last seen heading west in a small wooden vessel in search of new continents and a reliable metal supplier.

wpe6.jpg (4635 bytes)Lyle Hill is president of MTH Industries-Glass America of Chicago, IL.




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