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"The Rebuttal of the Glassmakers"

All About Glass

One of the remarkable periodicals in the Chambon collection, which was acquired by The Corning Museum of Glass in 1983, is entitled La Revanche des verriers: Organe officiel des travailleurs du verre en Belgique.1 This publication was brought to the attention of the Museum's librarians by two researchers from Belgium, the Rev. Jean Ducat and M. Roger Dardenne. They visited the Rakow Library in an effort to document for the Belgian-American Heritage Association the activities of Belgian immigrants and their influence on the development of the glass industry in America.

The title of the periodical means "The Rebuttal of the Glassmakers," and it has to be approached in context—that is, against a background of turbulent labor-management relations in Belgium. This culminated in the "troubles of 1886," when the Badoux factory and the owner's residence were nearly destroyed by a mob of workers. The Chambon collection is rich in contemporaneous documentation of this episode, but a late 20th century recounting of the story has never been written either in French or in English.

Fig. 1: Political cartoon from La Revanche des verriers, 1914.This monthly, four-page newspaper relates the story. Its first issue, which appeared in February 1895, was preceded by a January 1895 broadside calling for the formation of "La Nouvelle Union Verriers." The Rakow Library has a complete run of this newspaper (except for the issue of August 1938), which ceased publication with the German invasion of May 1940. Our visiting researchers could not locate a set in Belgium, and there is no mention of one in the comprehensive Union List of Serials of United States libraries. There are no issues dated during World War I, but we believe that publication was suspended during that time. In its 46-year history, the newspaper had but two editors: Edmond Gilles, its firebrand founder, and Oscar Lejour from 1925.

Amid the reports of union pay considerations, working conditions, and the state of the Belgian glass industry, La Revanche des verriers carried notices of workers delinquent in the payment of dues. It also contained news of upcoming festive "masked balls." Among its biting political cartoons is one from 1914 that condemned Emile Fourcault, who in 1902 invented a machine to draw a continuous sheet of flat glass (Fig. 1). The cartoon contends that by licensing the machine to countries such as Japan, Australia, and China, Fourcault contributed to the severe decline of the Belgian flat glass industry—and it criticizes him for daring to run for public office.

This newspaper will be of interest both to scholars of economic history and to those who wish to learn about the "social life and customs" of a bygone era. Because of their age and the fact that they were printed on the acid paper typical of newspapers, the original copies of La Revanche des verriers, are in fragile condition. They have been microfilmed to preserve their content, to permit the copying of selected portions via a microform reader/printer, and to make possible the duplication of the entire run for deposit in libraries in Belgium and elsewhere.

This article was published in the Journal of Glass Studies, Vol. 37 (1995), 147–148.

1. The Corning Museum of Glass, Rakow Library, microfilm reel nos. R-530-532.

Published on July 10, 2013