Article ID: CBB328901722

From Georgian traders to Victorian glass makers: The evolution of the Chance family business and its role in developing glass manufacturing (2020)


The firm of Chance Brothers became the major British manufacturer of optical and lighthouse glass during the second half of the nineteenth century. But this specialised business grew out of a number of precursor partnerships and companies in the West Midlands and Bristol regions dating back into the eighteenth century which among, other items, manufactured window glass. In a number of instances, for example by employing French workers to transfer Continental techniques to England, these earlier businesses foreshadowed later practices of their successor. This paper examines the development of these family-based businesses until the mid-nineteenth century. It argues that their innovatory technical, engineering and manufacturing practices were shaped by many social and cultural influences. In this case of Chance, these included: intra-family relationships; educational provision; the supply of capital, where connections with the slave trade were significant; and a profound understanding of how to use the tax system for maximising profit. What is striking compared to the contemporary Midland businesses of the Wedgwoods or of Boulton and Watt, is the lack of interest by the Chance family until mid-century in using scientific knowledge and method.

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Authors & Contributors
Nuvolari, Alessandro
MacLeod, Christine
Weightman, Gavin
Allen, Douglas W.
Liedtke, Rainer
Trinder, Barrie Stuart
Business History Review
International Journal for the History of Engineering and Technology
Cambridge Journal of Economics
Economic History Review
Cambridge University Press
Grove Press
University of Chicago Press
Carnegie Publishing
Reaktion Books
Industrial revolution
Business history
Technological innovation
Inventors and invention
Watt, James
Boulton, Matthew
John Baildon
Time Periods
19th century
18th century
20th century
20th century, early
Great Britain
United States
North America
Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (Great Britain)
London Stock Exchange
Anglo-American Brush Electric Light (firm)
Edison and Swan United Electric Light Company, Ltd.

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