John Baptiste Ford (1811-1903)

"Captain" John B. Ford, Founder of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company etc.

He was born in a log cabin in Danville, Kentucky. He was apprenticed to a saddlemaker at the age of 12 but two years later ran away to Greenville, Indiana, where he found the same work with his future father-in-law. From 1831, he and his wife ran a dry goods store and expanded into manufacturing tin "pie safe" kitchen cupboards that they were soon selling across the country. In 1854, they moved to New Albany, Indiana, where Ford opened a box factory and bought a rolling mill and foundry to produce commercial iron products. Quickly realizing that he was unable to compete with the likes of Andrew Carnegie in Pittsburgh, he converted his premises and diversified into shipbuilding. He built his own line of steamboats (many of which were requisitioned by the Union Army during the Civil War) and became known as "The Captain".

In 1864, he went into the glass manufacturing business with his son, Emory, and they successfully mastered the technology to produce the first plate glass in the United States. By 1883, what was by then known as the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company was the most successful plate glass manufacturing company in the country. In 1893, Ford opened the Wyandotte Chemical Company to produce soda ash for glass production which became one the country's leading chemical firms. Ford City, Michigan, was named in his honor and Ford City, Pennsylvania, was established by him as a company town employing 5,000-workers. In 1831, he married Mary Bower and although they had seven children only two sons survived to adulthood. The fortune he established allowed his grandchildren to build five of the most magnificent mansions that once lined Lakeshore Road in Grosse Pointe, eg., Clairview. John B. Ford died at his home in Tarentum, Pennsylvania.  
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 25/08/2021 and last updated on 25/08/2021.