Men started making glassware along Pierce Avenue in Lancaster, Ohio, in 1905. That was when Ike Collins and his business partners fired up a small furnace to melt silica and other minerals inside The Hocking Glass Company near the banks of the Hocking River. Locals were soon calling the outfit “The Hockin’.”
There were other glass companies in Lancaster, drawn there by cheap natural gas. But following a 1937 merger with the New York-based Anchor Cap and Closure, The Hockin’, now Anchor Hocking, grew into the world’s largest manufacturer of glass tableware and the second-largest maker of glass containers such as beer bottles and peanut-butter jars. It even played a role in the invention of late-night TV, in 1950, by sponsoring the pioneering NBC show Broadway Open House. Anchor Hocking became Lancaster’s largest employer by far, the rare Fortune 500 company based in a small town. At its peak, it employed roughly 5,000 people there, including executives in the headquarters, and many more in plants around the country.
But then came the 1980s. Since the start of the Reagan administration, Anchor Hocking has undergone a series of staggering transformations as a result of the financial manipulation that has come to define the American economy in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Carl Icahn bought up shares and demanded a board seat and other changes, then agreed to leave the company alone after being allowed to sell back his ownership stake at a premium—a practice commonly referred to as “greenmailing.” Then, Anchor Hocking was purchased in a leveraged hostile takeover by Newell Corporation. After Newell’s own near-disastrous merger with Rubbermaid, Anchor Hocking was sold off in a debt-financed buyout to the huge private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. The company promptly fell into bankruptcy, out of which it was sold in another debt-financed buyout to a much smaller private-equity firm called Monomoy Capital Partners. There was a forced marriage with the silverware company Oneida, then an initial public offering after which the stock soon tanked. In quick succession came a shutdown, a notice (in accordance with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act) that the place might close for good, a second bankruptcy during which the former creditors became the equity owners, and countless leadership rotations. During the past 15 years, it’s had three different corporate owners. In January the company’s name was changed from EveryWare Global to The Oneida Group.