By Lyle Hill

This column ran previously in the February 2015 issue of USGlass magazine.

As a child of the sixties, I was taught not to trust or believe anyone—particularly politicians, car salesmen and manufacturers’ representatives. My skepticism forces me to doubt almost everything I hear and much of what I see.

Unfortunately, this cannot be helped. It would be much easier to be one of those trusting, optimistic, happy-go-lucky people who don’t have a care in the world. But this is not my plight.

I became driven by the need to know the answer to the age-old question of who it was that first discovered glass and developed a process for its everyday usage. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

My condition has worsened with age. So, this skepticism and an innate curiosity ultimately led me to question the commonly accepted theories about the discovery of glass. As a seeker of truth and a lifelong participant in the glass and glazing industry, I became driven by the need to know the answer to the age-old question of who it was that first discovered glass and developed a process for its everyday usage.

I can’t think of a product that is more important to mankind than glass. Some might say the wheel was the greatest development of all time. Others would say it is the cell phone or perhaps unitized curtainwall, but I know better. The accepted historical accounts of the discovery of glass did not make sense to me. And, somewhere way down in my Irish heart, I knew they were wrong.

Thus, I began my quest for the truth. And while the truth may or may not set you free, it’s usually worth a buck or two to somebody, so I assumed my quest would prove worthwhile. After a great deal of effort, expense and any number of setbacks, I did discover the truth, and right here, right now, I am going to share the truth with you … because that’s the kind of guy I am.

And yes, you may send me cash if you are inclined to help defray the incredible cost of my search. Please mail all donations in unmarked envelopes to my home address. If you are considering sending me anything less than $5, please don’t bother. You need it more than me.

Okay, take a deep breath and prepare for what I will tell you.

The most generally accepted theory for generations was that the Syrians discovered glass in the Mesopotamian Valley. Certain Egyptian historians dispute this and have produced impressive evidence to support their claim that they were the first. I spent much time reviewing this evidence, but finally, I had to reject the Egyptians’ arguments.

You see, no record of any pyramid ever having a window. Had they known about glass, surely any number of pyramids would have had reflective glass skylights, and every chariot would have had a shaded windshield—barcoded and everything. You can’t tell me that riding in a chariot behind large horses would not have been much better with a windshield … had the Egyptians had such a thing.

No, the Egyptians were not the first. I also followed up on other claims, including some from the Chinese, which, for a while, looked quite promising. However, as I reviewed the facts and researched the matter further, these also turned out to be false claims, and I had to dismiss the Chinese as I had previously done with many others.

As theories were dispelled individually, I became even more determined to find the truth, even if it took a lifetime. No stone was left unturned. Every possible lead was investigated, and finally, after years of tireless research (which has left me old before my time), I ultimately came to know the real story, and now is the time to share it.

It was the Irish who first discovered glass.

The basis for this belief is taken from Irish folklore—long known to be the world’s most reliable source of truth! The story, which has been handed down accurately for more than 5,000 years, claims that the O’Plate Brothers, Patrick and Shamus, actually discovered while participating in a traditional Irish potato bake on a sandy, windswept beach around 3,000 B.C.

Unfortunately, the boys did not fully appreciate what they had found. They failed to capitalize on their discovery for personal gain, leaving it to the English and the Scots to advance various manufacturing technologies. Legend has it that Brother Patrick pursued a career in religion, realizing early on that there would always be more money than in the glass manufacturing, distribution or installation business. The other brother, Shamus, was last seen heading west in a small wooden vessel searching for new continents and a reliable metal supplier. It is believed that his quest was at least partially successful … he’s credited with discovering Greenland.

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