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Glass House summary

Brian Alexander

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

3.7 (26 ratings)
14 mins

Brief summary

"Glass House" by Brian Alexander is a true story of the decline of a once prosperous American city, Lancaster, Ohio, due to corporate greed, corruption, and reckless capitalism. It is a cautionary tale of the consequences of neglecting the needs of the working class and the decimation of traditional American values.

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    Glass House
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    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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    What is Glass House about?

    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.

    Glass House Review

    Glass House (2017) by Brian Alexander is a captivating exploration of how a town's decline reflects larger issues of class, economy, and politics in America. Here are three reasons why this book is worth reading:

    • With its evidence-based analysis and interviews with locals, it offers a nuanced understanding of the complexities behind the downfall of small-town America.
    • Through its compelling storytelling and vivid anecdotes, the book sheds light on the impact of big corporations and economic policies on working-class communities.
    • By delving into the lives of ordinary people affected by economic decline, Glass House humanizes larger issues, making it an engaging and thought-provoking read.

    Who should read Glass House?

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

    About the Author

    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 FAQs 

    What is the main message of Glass House?

    The main message of Glass House is a stark exploration of the impact of economic decline on a small American town.

    How long does it take to read Glass House?

    The estimated reading time for Glass House varies depending on the reader, but it can be completed in a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Glass House a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Glass House is a thought-provoking book that shines a light on societal issues. It offers valuable insights and is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of Glass House?

    The author of Glass House is Brian Alexander.

    What to read after Glass House?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Glass House, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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