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The Gayner Family

This is a history of John Gayner, father of J. William Gayner of Lynchburg Glass Corporation, and Edward Gayner, older half brother of J. William Gayner. It is from 1900, when J. William Gayner was only 33 years old and had not yet assumed leadership at Gayner. From: Biographical, Genealogical and Descriptive History of the First Congressional District of New Jersey, Vol. 1, Lewis Publishing Company, 1900, 176-182, accessed March 13, 2018.


New Jersey is pre-eminently a manufacturing state and ships her products to all parts of the world, and probably no town within her borders adds more to the shipping list than Salem. This thriving little city is situated in the county of that name, on the Salem river, and is directly connected, by the Delaware river, as well as by rail, with Philadelphia, which is the principal shipping point in this part of the county. Among the leading industries which have contributed largely to the growth and prosperity of Salem is that owned and controlled by the Gayner Glass Company, which company is incorporated with a capital stock of fifty thousand dollars, with John Gayner as president; Edward Gayner, treasurer; and John W. Gayner, secretary.  In the factory employment is furnished to a large force of operatives, and the mammoth business is the outgrowth of the personal efforts and industry of John Gayner, whose name introduces this review, one of the most prominent business men in his section of the state.

He was born December 5, 1831, and is a native of England as were his father and grandfather. The latter, John Gayner, Sr., was a resident of Bristol, England, where Edward Gayner, the father, was born and spent his entire life. There he was married, on the 7th of June. 1829, to Elizabeth Parker. He was celebrated in his native town for his ability as a manager, having charge of a glass factory into which he took his sons, teaching them the business. Three of them have made it their life occupation. The father died at the age of sixty-eight years and the mother passed away at the age of seventy-four.

In their family were thirteen children, namely: Eliza, who was born July 5, 1830, died September 9. 1831; John was born December 5, 1831; Edward, born January 23, 1833, was in early life a glass-blower of Bristol, England, but afterward became a resident of Norristown, Pennsylvania; James, who was born October 3, 1834, located in Australia, where he engaged in the grocery business; Eliza, born February 15, 1836, died when about twenty-five years of age; Robert, born September 4. 1837, is a resident of Bristol. England; Richard, who is also living in Bristol, was born February 14, 1839; Frank, born November 2, 1840, located in San Francisco, California; Mary, born April 17, 1843, is still living in England: Mathew, who was born in January, 1843, came to this country with his brother John, but soon returned to England, and his present place of residence is not known to his family; Ann, born December 23, 1847. is still living in England; George, who learned the trade of shoemaking, is following that pursuit in the land of his nativity: and Hannah, born July 23. 1837, is married and resides in England.

John Gayner is largely a self-educated as well as self-made man. Having little opportunity to attend the day schools, he pursued his studies in evening classes, and by reading and observation has added largely to his knowledge. At the age of twelve years he entered the glass works of which his father was manager, and after two years he was apprenticed to the firm of Coathupes & Company, of Bristol, and Nailsea. England, for a seven-year term, to learn the art of window glass and shade blowing. He was to be paid seven shillings or about a dollar and seventy-five cents a week for the first year and to receive a shilling additional each week through each succeeding year until his wages had become twelve shillings or three dollars per week for the sixth and seventh years. The firm was so well pleased with the manner in which he served his apprenticeship that he was presented with the following letter:

February 1, 1853.

To all whom it may concern: The bearer. John Gayner, has served his time with us as a sheet-glass blower for seven years, and I have much pleasure in stating that throughout the whole of his time he conducted himself with strict propriety,—so much so as to induce us to enter upon an immediate engagement with him as a journeyman. He is a very good workman, and of sober, steady and industrious habits, superior to most of a similar class. I am further,
Yours very truly,
Oliver Coathupes.

The company offered him five pounds—twenty-five dollars—if he would enter into another agreement for another year as a journeyman and at the end of that time renewed their contract, and thus kept him in their service until their retirement from business about four years later. He was with that company and its successors for twelve years and then withdrew with the intention of engaging in business on his own account, having acquired quite a little capital as the result of his industry and economy. Accordingly he began operations in Bristol in an old deserted flint factory, manufacturing glass shades, but he found that he had very strong competition and that the enterprise would not prove a profitable one. For this reason he closed out the business, and, severing his home ties, started for the New World, taking passage on the Nova Scotia. He was accompanied by his wife and six children, and after about fourteen days spent on the water landed in Portland, Maine, with twenty-five dollars in his pocket.

The same day he took the train for Boston, where he secured a position in the Crystal Glass Works, being there employed until the last of July, when the factory closed down, never to resume business again. Finding himself out of work with a large family dependent upon him, and funds getting low. he started out again and obtained a position at Bergen Point, New Jersey. He entered upon the duties of his new position in August, and the following September that business also was closed down and did not resume operations until some time afterward and never again at that place.

Mr. Gayner then went to Syracuse, New York, but after four months passed there he was called home on account of the illness of his wife. He had entered the service of the Syracuse company with the understanding that he might return to Caven Point when the old Bergen Point Company, which was to be reorganized, should need him. As that company was almost ready to resume business he did not return to Syracuse, but removed his family to Caven Point, the place where John William Gayner, the present secretary of the Gayner Glass Company, was born, May 27, 1867. But the new place of residence afforded no school or church privileges and Mr. Gayner, with a desire to give his children good educational advantages, went to Norristown, Pennsylvania, where a new glass factory was being opened under the management of Jacob Green.

He accepted a position as window glass and shade blower and for two or three years was fortunate in having continuous work, during which period, through the assistance of his estimable wife, he was enabled to save some money. On the 27th of April, 1869, they made their first payment—nine hundred dollars—on their first little home, which they purchased of William Vaughan. Not long after this Mr. Gayner was offered the position of manager of a window glass works at Wheeling, West Virginia, and removed to that place, where he remained until offered the position of superintendent of the factory at Norristown. in which he had formerly been employed. He then returned to the Keystone, and on leaving Wheeling he was given the following letter:

To whom it may concern: The bearer, Mr. John Gayner, has been in my employ as manager in the Window Glass House, and I hereby recommend him as a sober and capable man and competent superintendent.
George W. Robinson.
Wheeling, West Virginia.
December 29. 18

After taking charge of the Norristown plant Mr. Gayner found it in a bad financial condition. He hoped to straighten out its affairs, however, and when asked to go on a note to pay the workmen he consented. He found, though, that the business was too much involved and the demands of the creditors could not be put off, so that he lost all of his savings by this act of kindness. At the sheriff's sale a banker purchased the factory-, but before doing so asked Mr. Gayner if he thought he could make a success of the business if money was furnished him. Mr. Gayner replied he thought he could, and accordingly was hired to superintend the works.

After three very successful years, during which the enterprise proved a very profitable one for its owner, and when he had just completed the furnaces for a fourth year's work, he was asked to resign. Wishing to know the reason for this he was told that the other workmen were dissatisfied (which was caused by a jealous spirit as they noted his advancement) and they persuaded the banker that it was useless to pay Mr. Gayner so much for managing when his own son could do just as well. The banker, desirous of saving the salary paid Mr. Gayner, fell in with the plan of the workmen and not only asked for Mr. Gayner's resignation but also collected the note which Mr. Gayner had signed for the bankrupt company, amounting to about two thousand dollars.

The year following Mr. Gayner's retirement affairs moved with some degree of success in the factory, but with less the next year, and the third year he was asked to return and assume the management again. This he refused to do, and things kept going from bad to worse. Six times was he solicited to return, but each time he refused, and the factory was at length closed down and is now falling into decay.

In the meantime Mr. Gayner, with the few hundred dollars which remained to him of his earnings, had removed his family to Waterford, New Jersey, in 1874, and there went into business with Maurice Raleigh. After two years Mr. Raleigh withdrew, and through the following year the business was conducted by the firm of Gayner & McDevitte. On the expiration of that period Mr. Gayner started a very small furnace for making glass shades and entered into partnership with S. J. Pardessus. of New York city. In July. 1879, they removed their business to Salem. New Jersey, where they employed six or seven men. The firm of Gayner & Pardessus was dissolved in the year 1885, the senior partner wishing to admit his sons to a partner-ship in the business.   He considers that the substantial foundation of his present prosperity was laid during the years of his partnership with Mr. Pardessus. for he found in him a true friend, to whom he feels most grateful.

He is now conducting the largest fruit-jar manufactory in the east, his sales amounting to over one hundred thousand dollars annually. Year by year his business has increased until it has assumed extensive proportions, and at the same time he has seen those who used him unfairly gradually lose their business until it was involved in utter failure.

Mr. Gayner has been twice married. He first wedded Frances Atkin, and to them were born six children, four of whom reached years of maturity.—Francis. Margaret, Edward J. and Frederick Charles. The mother of these children died at the age of twenty-eight years, and Mr. Gayner was married October 1, 1861, to Miss Elizabeth Wilkins, by whom he had several children, all of whom died in infancy, with the exception of J. William -1- and Eliza Florence, the latter the wife of Frank Morrison, a clerk in the office of Mr. Gayner.   The mother was called to her final rest September 3, 1899. [John Gayner, Sr., died October 20, 1925 -2-]

Since locating in Salem Mr. Gayner has made many friends by his honorable dealing, and is now one of the most popular and esteemed citizens of the county. He is a valued member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and of the Methodist church, and is a public-spirited citizen who takes a commendable interest in everything pertaining to the welfare and progress of the community along educational, social, material and moral lines. His success is most creditable, being the result of his own well directed efforts. His close application to business, his perseverance and capable management have brought to him a degree of prosperity which numbers him among the wealthier men of his adopted county. His life is an exemplification of what may be accomplished through determined purpose and laudable ambition in a land where merit and talent are not hampered by caste or class, and where opportunity is open to all who care to advance.


Edward J. Gayner occupies the prominent and responsible position of treasurer of the Gayner Glass Company, and possesses undoubted business ability. He stands high in-the esteem of his fellow citizens and is considered a man of most exemplary character.

He is a son of John and Frances Gayner and came to America with his parents and four brothers and sisters when he was but a lad. He was born near Bristol, England, as were his father and grandfather, Edward Gayner. His grandfather was a prominent glass-worker in his native city and had the management of the factory situated in Bristol for many years. He married Eliza Parker and had twelve children, who are now widely scattered in different parts of the world. James went to Australia, where he is a glass-blower, and several of the sons sought homes in America, among them Frank, a resident of San Francisco, California; Edward, a glass-blower of Norristown, Pennsylvania; and John, the father of our subject.

John Gayner had unusual advantages for becoming familiar with the work of glass-making, as he entered the factory as soon as his school days were ended, and remained there until he was proficient in the work. He married and had five children, when he decided to locate in America, which he did in 1866. After visiting several places, among them Boston, Massachusetts, Jersey City, New Jersey, Norristown, Pennsylvania, Wheeling, West Virginia, and Waterford, this state, he settled in Salem and started a glass factory here in 1872. This was necessarily begun on a small scale and employed but six or seven men. The business increased steadily, but he continued at the same place until 1884, when the buildings were destroyed by fire, and then he rebuilt, on a more extensive scale. The factory now occupies four acres of land and is supplied with all modern machinery to facilitate the work, enabling them to turn out sixteen tons of goods per day. He first married Frances Atkin, by whom he had six children, four of whom grew to manhood and womanhood.— Francis, Margaret. Edward J., our subject, and Frederick C.

His second wife was Miss Elizabeth Wilkins, who with her two children, William -1- and Eliza Florence, are still living, the latter the wife of Frank Morrison, who is employed in the office of the glass company.

Edward J. Gayner received his earlier education in England and. was a student in the schools of this country for six years,—at Boston, Massachusetts, Bergen, New Jersey, and Norristown, Pennsylvania. After the glass-works were established he entered the factory and learned the trade of window-glass cutting at Norristown, following his father to Waterford and Salem, there learning the business and rising at length to the position of treasurer and being actively identified with the actual management of the plant. He is a shrewd business man, whose common sense and sound judgment make him prominent in business circles. He has rendered his father invaluable assistance in running the factory, and aims to make only the best goods.

They employ one hundred and seventy-five hands,—men, women and girls.—and use only modern methods, having two machines for the construction of boxes and a Seaman gas-melting tank furnace. They ship largely to jobbers, but also supply retailers, sending their goods to all parts of the country. They manufacture large quantities of fruit-jars and also make battery jars, and have taken out a patent on the mold for a storage battery jar.

Mr. Gayner was married January 14, 1878, to Miss Rebecca C. Miller, daughter of Joseph Miller, a farmer of Burlington county, this state. They have been blessed by the birth of six bright children,—Sarah Edna, John M., Joseph F., Rebecca, Margaret and Marion. Mr. Gayner is a man of a deeply religious nature, consistent and earnest in all his acts, and has been a power for good in this community, where he has taken an active interest in the cause of prohibition and endeavored to advance public opinion both by example and precept. He is a member of the Broadway Methodist Episcopal church at Salem, and counts any work connected therewith a privilege, giving freely of both time and money. He has been an incumbent in each office in the church, serving as a trustee, steward, choir-leader, class-leader, Sunday-school chorister, president of the Epworth League and assistant superintendent of the Sunday-school.


1. This establishes that J. William was the son of John Gayner, Sr. and Elizabeth Wilkins Gayner. J. William married Sarah Elvia Sinnickson, and had one son, John Thomas Gayner, John William Gayner, accessed March 14, 2018.

2. The Glassworker, Saturday, October 31, 1925, vol. 45, no. 5, p. 13-14, col. 4, 1, avaiable at The Insulator Gazette.

Lynchburg Glass Corp. History


Lynchburg Glass History Archive