Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Glass, Barnet (1849–1918)

by Kathleen Thomson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Barnet Glass (1849-1918), rubber manufacturer, was born in March or April 1849 at Walkivich, Russia (Poland), son of Jacob Glass and his wife Sarah, née Tafilstein. As a young man he worked in Manchester, England, where he learned the processes of manufacturing waterproof clothing. On 1 September 1869 at Manchester he married Esther Frazensky; they had two sons and three daughters.

Glass arrived in Victoria probably in 1876 and, unable to establish himself, enlisted the support of Frank Stuart who was then connected with L. Stevenson & Sons, traders in softgoods. Glass imported materials and began manufacturing about 1878 in Carlton. In 1882 he bought land in Queensberry Street, North Melbourne, where he built a factory and employed about twenty-five people. He first manufactured rubberized coats and capes for mounted troopers but soon supplied a variety of rubber garments and accessories including 'Baptist trousers', used by ministers when baptizing by total immersion. By the end of the decade the business had two departments: general clothing and waterproof garment manufacture. In 1890 Glass went to England to buy modern plant and machinery, but had to cancel his orders. However, his business prospered despite the depression and in 1894 an office was opened in London and a branch factory, the Pioneer Rubber Co., in Adelaide. In 1893 Glass patented in England, the United States of America and the Australian colonies, a rubber garment called the Hercules.

Two sons, Jacob and Ernest Ezekiel, were already employed in the business, while a son-in-law, F. S. Ornstein (afterwards Ormiston), went to England in the late 1890s for further experience. Barnet's nephew and son-in-law, Philip Joseph Glass, took charge of the Adelaide branch and organized the shipment of plant and machinery for the new Pioneer Rubber Factory of Australia, opened at Kensington, Melbourne, in August 1899.

In October 1900 Glass converted his business into a company, Barnet Glass & Sons Pty Ltd, and became its managing director at a salary of £500 for an agreed period of ten years. In 1905 the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Co. (Dunlop Rubber Co. of Australasia) bought the business. In the preliminary negotiations Glass stipulated that he be retained as managing director for the unexpired term of his contract, but on completion of the transfer he was offered only an insecure post as manager of the waterproof clothing department. He refused the post, sued the Dunlop Co. and was awarded, with costs, £1000 of the £3000 sought. Glass claimed in his evidence that he would find it difficult to establish himself again in competition with Dunlop's, which had acquired not only the factory but his trained staff and customers. However he soon bought land at Footscray, built a factory and plant and, with his two sons and his sons-in-law, began work as Glass & Co. In 1908 the firm was converted into a public company, Barnet Glass Rubber Co. Ltd. As well as manufacturing rubber, the company were agents for Michelin motor tyres. By 1918 Glass had branches in every Australian State and in New Zealand. His tyres had early won distinction—'miles cheaper and Australian'—while his Boomerang anti-skid tread tyres were famous by 1917. In 1929 the company merged with its old rival the Dunlop Rubber Co. Barnet Glass Co. manufactured and traded as a separate organization until 1937, when its manufacturing activities at Footscray were transferred to the Dunlop factories.

Glass took an active part in Jewish communal affairs as a member of the executives of the East Melbourne synagogue, the Jewish Philanthropic Society and the Jewish Education Board. His first wife had died on 26 June 1910. On 16 November that year at St Kilda he married Esther Moses. She survived him, together with the children of his first marriage, on his death on 18 March 1918 at St Kilda. He was buried in Melbourne general cemetery. His estate was sworn for probate at £12,874.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 1 (Melb, 1903)
  • H. Michell (ed), Footscray's First Fifty Years (Footscray, 1909)
  • Victorian Law Reports (1906)
  • Australasian Manufacturer, 16 Mar 1918
  • Australian Storekeepers and Traders Journal, Mar 1895, Sept 1899, Mar, May, Aug 1906
  • Sluyter's Monthly, Jan 1922
  • Jewish Herald, 23 Mar 1918
  • Barnet Glass Co. records (State Library of Victoria, and University of Melbourne Archives).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Kathleen Thomson, 'Glass, Barnet (1849–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/glass-barnet-6398/text10937, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 17 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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