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Glass House

The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town

By Brian Alexander
10-minute read
Audio available
Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town by Brian Alexander

Glass House (2017) tells the cautionary tale of Lancaster, Ohio, a town that went from boom to bust over the course of the past fifty years. At the heart of this downfall is the Anchor Hocking glass factory, a major source of employment that turned into a bitter disappointment. This story is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the current state of affairs in American society and politics.

  • Politicians and policy-makers
  • Students of history and American studies
  • People interested in the current state of American affairs

Brian Alexander is a former contributing editor for Wired magazine and an award-winning reporter on American culture. He is also a proud former resident of Lancaster, Ohio, where he was born and raised. His previous books include America Unzipped and The Chemistry Between Us.

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Glass House

The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town

By Brian Alexander
  • Read in 10 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 6 key ideas
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Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town by Brian Alexander
Synopsis

Glass House (2017) tells the cautionary tale of Lancaster, Ohio, a town that went from boom to bust over the course of the past fifty years. At the heart of this downfall is the Anchor Hocking glass factory, a major source of employment that turned into a bitter disappointment. This story is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the current state of affairs in American society and politics.

Key idea 1 of 6

Lancaster, Ohio was a quintessentially American town in the decades following World War II.

For a while, Lancaster, Ohio, was the perfect American town. A place that B.C. Forbes, the editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine, once held up as a perfect example of what could be accomplished without the meddling of “left-wingers.”

At its height, Lancaster was a thriving, industrious town, and at its center was the Anchor Hocking glass factory, which employed over 5,000 of Lancaster’s residents.

Lancaster also looked the part, with a picture-perfect town center where neighbors would greet each other in passing.

Herb George was a typical Lancaster resident. Like many others, he got a job at Anchor Hocking in the years following World War II and worked his way up the ranks. His wife, Nancy, was active in the community, volunteering at hospital fundraisers and campaigning to get new schools built.

Lancaster was typified by such families throughout the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s: the husband worked at the glass factory while the wife was busy with community causes, whether it was city-council meetings, vaccination drives or making sure the sidewalks got repaired.

Lancaster was the kind of town where kids were free to run around on their own and friendships crossed class lines. The vice president of Anchor Hocking would drink at Old Bill Bailey’s tavern, shoulder to shoulder with the factory workers, and it wasn’t uncommon for an Anchor executive to hire a new employee from among the bar’s patrons.

It was also common for a teenage boy to graduate from high school and start work at Anchor Hocking the very next week, well aware that he’d spend the next 40 years there and then retire with a comfortable pension.

Lancaster wasn’t the seat of luxury, but people lived worry-free lives and held their heads high with the pride that comes with making an honest living.

Like any other small town, Lancaster had its share of minor scandals, alcoholism and instances of poverty, but it was as close to Hollywood’s version of idyllic small-town America as you’d find outside of a movie. In fact, the town was used to film the 1948 movie, Green Grass of Wyoming.

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