The Rich History of Glassboro, NJ

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The beauty of history is that oftentimes, you can find amazing facts about almost any place on Earth. This applies even to your own hometown! Despite your possible assumptions, Glassboro has a long and rich history – and we’re not talking about who scored the record touchdown a few decades ago. Some of Glassboro’s greatest moments actually played a part in both national and international affairs. Here are some of the more notable events in the community’s long history.

It’s All in the Name

With a name like Glassboro, you just know that the borough has to have some history with glass. And indeed, the Glassboro community, which is just about as old as the United States itself, was first established in 1779 as the “Glass Works in the Woods.” With an abundance of sand in the area and the borough’s closeness to Philadelphia, the glass works was able to thrive, though it passed through many owners’ hands throughout the years.

Of course, southern New Jersey isn’t known for its glass production these days, but its effects are still felt today. For example, the Owens Bottle Company, the last major owner of the glass works, went on to become a multinational company. While the company–known now as Owens-Illinois–is no longer based out of Glassboro, it’s very interesting to see how Glassboro is still, in some way, responsible for boosting the glassmaking industry.

The Spirit of Glassboro

1967 was a troubling year for the United States, as well as for the rest of the world. The U.S. was losing a war in Vietnam while also engaging in an arms race with the Soviet Union.  It was with these two conflicts in mind that that, after some diplomatic cooperation with the Soviets on issues going on in the Middle East, the United States invited the visiting Soviet premier, Alexei Kosygin, to meet with President Lyndon B. Johnson. The government hoped for a thaw in the ongoing Cold War, while the rest of the country hoped for help in exiting Vietnam.

Originally, Kosygin wanted to meet in New York City, while President Johnson wanted to meet in Washington, D.C. In a compromise, they ended up on settling on Glassboro for the meeting, as it’s the midpoint between the two cities. So, for three days in June 1967, the two world leaders met for talks at Hollybrush, which was then the home for the president of Rowan University. While the talks didn’t lead to any major changes in relations between the two countries, the Glassboro Summit Conference was, and still is, noted for the peaceful talks it produced.

A Presidential Speech

Nowadays, it’s common to see the current president in office give speeches to graduating high school students. But, believe it or not, this wasn’t a custom until very recently, and it’s a tradition that President Ronald Reagan kicked off when he visited Glassboro High School in 1986.

In his half-hour-long speech, Reagan spoke on the accomplishments of the United States as well as the progress yet to be made. Interestingly, he made mention of the Glassboro Summit Conference, saying that it was simply “not enough,” and that more work needed to be done to bring peace between the Soviet Union and the United States. Thankfully, the speech is available to watch online.

If you find all this history interesting (as you should!), you can learn more about Glassboro’s local history–from glass to politics–by visiting the South Jersey Museum of American History and the Heritage Glass Museum downtown.  

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