Terre Haute-based Glas-Col, LLC will celebrate 75 years of manufacturing laboratory products and industrial heating and mixing technology with an open house on October 21 (4:30 – 7 p.m.). A release from the company elaborates:
Glas-Col’s commitment to offering excellence in design and manufacturing for the laboratory product field allows us to provide a high level of service to our customers. We are not satisfied with second class, second rate or second best.
The goal of our company is now and has always been to be a world leader in the laboratory products market and to recognize and develop technology to continually evolve into new and expanding areas.
Our progress through the years can be attributed to our leadership, our dedication to our customer’s and one of our most important and valuable assets, our people. Without their dedication and work ethic our success would have been immeasurably less.
The term “brilliant mistake” might apply to Glas-Col’s earliest beginnings. The company’s web site regales us with the tale of how its founder discovered its earliest offering:
Fires ordinarily destroy businesses. But in the case of Glas-Col, fire sparked an idea that built one new company and brought great benefits to countless others. In 1939 Glas-Col’s future founder, Dr. Glen H. Morey, was a research chemist at Commercial Solvents Corporation in Terre Haute, IN. There as in most chemical laboratories, open flame gas burners and electric glow coils were commonly used to heat oil, sand, molten metal, and water baths. A sudden fire burst out in the Commercial Solvents lab when a gas burner heating an oil bath ignited vapors from a shattered flask of acetone dropped several feet away. Dr. Morey was injured in that fire, and it convinced him lab workers needed a new method for heating flasks–one that would eliminate the hazard of open flame burners and electric heaters with exposed coils.
Working in their spare time, Dr. Morey and his wife Ruth developed a heating device with electric resistance wires woven into a fiberglass cloth sheath. The Moreys called their new invention a “heating mantle” because it could completely envelope a laboratory flask, just as the earth’s mantle completely encloses the planet’s core.
Dr. Morey tested the heating mantle rigorously. He poured highly flammable solvents directly on hot mantles while they were being used to distill liquids from glass flasks. After he was unable to start a fire under any of his own test conditions, he submitted the heating mantle to other research chemists for their evaluation. Test after test proved the heating mantle dependable and non-flammable.
On October 24, 1939, the first purchase order for the heating mantle was sent from the Columbia Chemical Division, Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company of Barberton, Ohio. Two months later, on December 13, the Morey’s formed Glas-Col Apparatus Company to manufacture their new product. At the time Dr. Morey believed demand for the heating mantle would be rather limited and estimated total market saturation at about 25 thousand units. Being a good glass blower, he decided to market glass fractionating columns to supplement the company product line. The name Glas-Col is short for glass columns.
But Glas-Col never manufactured a single glass column. Orders for heating mantles poured in. Not only did companies request mantles for spherical distillation flasks, but they also wanted mantles to accommodate glass beakers, steel beakers, funnels, evaporating dishes and many other common laboratory vessels. Some companies banished open flames entirely from their labs and bought heating mantles even for test tubes. Dr. Morey’s original heating mantle design was issued patent #2231506 on February 11, 1941.
The significance of the Moreys’ invention was nationally recognized in 1951 during the American Chemical Society’s Diamond Jubilee. On that occasion the United States government issued a commemorative stamp which pictured the distinctive Glas-Col heating mantle covering the bottom of a flask attached to a laboratory distilling apparatus. The smoke billowing from the towers of a chemical process plant pictured on the stamp was in that era considered a sign of prosperity and economic vitality.