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Henry Clay Fry

Henry Clay Fry
circa 1902
Born September 17, 1840
Shelby County near
Lexington, Kentucky
Died 1929
Resting place
Rochester, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
Occupation businessman, entrepreneur
Known for developing glass techniques
Political party
Spouse(s) 1st wife Emma Mathews,1862
2nd wife Belle McClintock, 1889
Children 2 sons, 3 daughters
Parents Thomas Cousins Fry
Charlott Fry
Relatives John Fry, grandfather

Henry Clay Fry (1840 – 1929) was an American entrepreneur in the glass industry in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century.


The 1850 United States Federal Census shows that Fry was living with his family in Shelby County, Kentucky. Fry received his early education in Lexington, Kentucky. Fry at the age of sixteen years found employment as a shipping clerk in the glass manufacturing industry in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1860, Fry met Abraham Lincoln while on a sales business trip. It is not known if they discussed the topic of glass.[1]

In 1862, Fry enlisted in the 15th regiment of the Pennsylvania cavalry.[1] He was in the army until the end of the American Civil War. He then obtained gainful employment at a glass company called Fry, Semple, and Reynolds.

Fry with others in 1872 formed Rochester Tumbler Company, a glass manufacturing facility. Here in Rochester they built extensive plant building structures on 10 acres (40,000 m2) of land they purchased. The company manufactured pressed and blown glass tumblers, being the largest such manufacturer in the nation. They sold these tumblers worldwide. The Rochester Tumbler Company employed over 1200 employees. All the equipment needed in glass production they made themselves on the premises.

H. C. Fry Glass Factory, c. 1910

In 1897 Rochester Tumbler Company joined National Glass Company of Rochester. Fry became the president of the newly formed corporation. In 1900 he resigned and formed his own company in 1901 called Rochester Glass Company with his sons Harry and J. Howard.[1] In 1902 the company was renamed to H. C. Fry Glass Company.[2][3]

With an investment of $500,000, Fry developed and manufactured a new fine cut glass process using pressed blank hot glass techniques. He patented this invention. The glass was pressed into a mold where previously the technique of cut glass had only been blown by hand.[4] The iron plunger pushed into the mold of hot glass and its marks remained on the inside of the glass producing the cut glass effect.[4]

The H. C. Fry Glass Company made complete dinner sets and tea sets.[5] The company also made a large variety of heat-resistant oven glassware from 1916 under a license from the Corning Glass Works.[3]

They also made electrical glass insulators, however few were sold and they are a very rare collector's item.[5][6] They employed about 1000 people.[7] The plant operated into the 1930s until closure by the receivers.[3][7] There is a H. C. Fry Glass Society for the study and preservation of glass made at the H. C. Fry Glass Company.[7]


Website giving detailed timeline of Fry's life and events and his companies.[1]


Patents licenced to H. C. Fry Glass Company.[6]

Other positions

First Baptist Church of Rochester
  • First National Bank of Rochester, 1883 – 1904.
  • National Glass Company president, 1900 – 1901.
  • Baptist Sunday school of Rochester for 28 years.




  • Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania Biography, Jordan, pp. 95–6.
  • The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, "Henry C. Fry", J.T. White (1904)
  • Kane, Joseph Nathan, Famous First Facts, A Record of First Happenings, Discoveries and Inventions in the United States; H. W. Wilson Company (1950)
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