Marja-Leena Salo

Curiosity, entrepreneurial spirit and expansive forests

The glass village was established in Nuutajärvi in 1793. This particular site was chosen because of the expansive forests growing in the area. Forest resources served as a basic prerequisite for firing the glass-making furnaces that consumed vast amounts of firewood. Establishing a glass factory was by no means unique in the 18th century; in fact, it was quite fashionable at the time. What makes Nuutajärvi unique is that the glass factory established then has been in operation without interruption to this day.

Emergence of Finland’s glass industry

The first glass factory in Finland was founded by Gustav Johan Jung in 1681. The owner of a glass factory in Stockholm, Sweden, Jung confronted operational difficulties in Stockholm and transferred glass-making operations across the sea to the coastal Finnish town of Uusikaupunki, a good distance from the Swedish mainland. With him he brought skilled professionals from Sweden, as the factory required expertise that was not available in Finland. The new factory produced bottles, crystal objects and window glass, but due to insufficient demand the factory remained in operation for only four years. Window glass, for example, was still considered a luxury even in towns. Disputes between the glassblowers and the owner that led to court cases did not improve the situation, either. The glass factory burned down in the fire that destroyed most of Uusikaupunki in 1685.

A glass factory to serve the needs of the mother country

It took another 60 years before the glass industry obtained a strong foothold in Finland. The standard of living and consumer habits changed over the years, and the demand for window glass in particular was on the rise. Concerned about the depletion of forest resources, which were needed primarily for the iron industry, industrial authorities in Sweden were reluctant to grant the permits needed for new glass factories in the mother country. This prompted the authorities to seek new opportunities for the glass-making industry, which consumed large quantities of firewood, in the remote, richly forested province of Finland.

Jacob Reinhold de Pont (Depong) from Stockholm was the person who took the initiative to establish a glass factory in Finland. Since Sweden was in great need of glass, the government supported de Pont’s efforts in many ways. He was ensured the supply of firewood, for example, through the donation of six abandoned farms from Somero, in South-west Finland. Finally, Åvik glass factory, the second in Finland, was franchised in Somero in 1748, and the business ran briskly from the start. The increased demand for glass had been noted a year earlier, when several complaints concerning the lack of window glass were presented during the parliamentary session of 1747.

Window glass eventually gained ground

In those days window glass was in demand mostly in Sweden, and almost all of the factory’s production was shipped there. At first window glass was adopted by Finnish peasant households very slowly, since glass was the only construction material one had to buy; everything else that was needed for building a house could be obtained and refined from nature. Eventually, however, glass windows became fashionable, and peasants who had been looking to the towns for building examples adopted the use of window glass along with boarding, red paint or a chimney, for example. Window frames were initially small, but they increased in size along with the advent of new styles, such as the Gustavian construction style which favoured large windows. The northern climate triggered an idea that arose from practical needs: double glazing, i.e. a separate inner frame that helped keep the heat inside. Thus it is not surprising that the lack of window glass was discussed even during parliamentary sessions.

Åvik Glass Factory remained in operation without competitors for three decades, until four new factories were founded in Finland: Mariedal in Sipoo in 1779; Tuorsniemi in Ulvila in 1781; Nyby in Oulu in 1783; and Nuutajärvi in Urjala in 1793. The successful operation of new glass factories would not have been possible without an increase in construction and consequently a greater need for window glass. The right to make distilled spirits for domestic use meant an increased need for bottles. The rising popularity of gardening increased the need for glass containers to be used for preservation. Glass containers also proved to be a new, hygienic material for processing milk.

Several glass factories were established in Finland after Nuutajärvi and have been operation for varying durations. Nuutajärvi is the oldest of the glass factories still in operation.

History of Nuutajärvi Glass Factory

Nuutajärvi Glass Factory was established in 1793 by Jacob Wilhelm de Pont, the son of the founder of Åvik Glass Factory. As the heir of Nuutajärvi Manor, he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father as a businessman. The rich forest resources in the area supported the founding of a factory, but de Pont estimated that the need for forest resources exceeded what he himself possessed. He ensured self-sufficiency by taking Harald Furuhjelm, the heir of Honkola Manor in Urjala, as his business partner.

De Pont’s interest in glass waned quickly. Since he was no longer interested in running the business, he sold both the factory and the manor to Johan Furuhjelm, his partner’s younger brother. The new owner was very interested in maintaining the manor and carried out many renovations there, including the construction in 1822 of the current main building. The glass factory, however, did not particularly attract his attention, and he leased it to others until the Furuhjelm family left the manor in 1843. The factory remained a small-scale business producing mainly window glass, bottles and pharmaceutical glass.

Economic difficulties forced the Furuhjelm family to relinquish both the manor and the glass factory in 1843. The buyer, Johan Agapetus Törngren, had no intention of running the glass business, so he let it out to the three glassblowers who worked there.

Adolf Törngren changed the life of the glass village

When Adolf Törngren inherited the factory and the manor from his father in 1849, life in the glass village began to change. Adolf Törngren was very enthusiastic about developing the factory’s operations. He was convinced that a Finnish glass factory could become the equal of those abroad. To learn more about the latest achievements in glass technology, he travelled to Central Europe and hired a number of German glassblowers to improve the quality of the glass produced at Nuutajärvi. This is when the Finnish glass factory embarked on the path to meeting international quality standards.

Adolf Törngren paid special attention to the buildings. He realized that modern technology would also call for state-of-the-art facilities around it. In addition, he wanted to build an enjoyable environment for the glassblowers coming from Germany, France and Belgium. It was assumed that those arriving from Central Europe would have habits and requirements different from those of Finns, who were used to more modest circumstances. Törngren turned to the most renowned architect of his time, G. Th. Chiewitz, Architect for Western Finland Province.

Törngren’s eagerness for renewal was clearly manifested in his choice of architect. He was firmly determined to raise Nuutajärvi Glass Factory to worldwide fame and glory in every respect. Just as by hiring glassblowers from abroad, by choosing Chiewitz as the architect he could be assured of a modern, first-class outcome. Törngren had undoubtedly learned about the buildings of the nearby industrial community in Forssa, which included manufacturing facilities, social and residential buildings that Chiewitz had been designing since 1851. Later, in 1857, Törngren contracted Chiewitz as the architect to design a linen factory (later to be known as Tampella Ltd) in Tampere as well as his own villa.

The products turned out by Nuutajärvi Glass Factory came to be in great demand and the foreign market also started opening up. Window glass was exported to Russia until World War I, while utility glass and glass jewellery as well as medical bottles and ink bottles were exported especially to two Baltic capitals, Riga and Tallinn. Adolf Törngren achieved his goal: by the end of the 1850s, Nuutajärvi had become Finland’s leading glass factory. Törngren’s entrepreneurial spirit directed him to other fields of business, and in 1859 he rented out the glass factory to Carl Heitman, the factory’s hot shop master, and to Mr. Jansson, a local shopkeeper. Economically they had very limited possibilities for developing the operations of the factory. The fire that destroyed the hot shop in 1861 was another factor that slowed down development of the factory.

In 1869, Torsten Costiander took over as the new owner of Nuutajärvi Manor and the glass factory. He was especially interested in developing the manor’s environment, including the surroundings, buildings and farming, but was not familiar with the glass factory at all. For this reason he formed a limited partnership with Carl Heitman, who had rented the factory, and made him the supervisor responsible for the factory. In this way the factory gradually came to an arrangement where it was led by an employed manager.

In 1950, after a fire in the hot shop Nuutajärvi Glass Factory, officially Nuutajärven Lasitehdas Oy – Notsjö Glasbruk Ab, a limited company founded by the owners of the manor, was sold to Wärtsilä Group, thereby ending the factory’s era as part of the manor and giving way to a period of corporate management. It had become necessary to sell Nuutajärven Lasitehdas Oy – Notsjö Glasbruk Ab following the fire because the factory had not been fully covered by insurance and the company lacked sufficient funds to build a new hot shop. Finnish art glass gained international recognition during the Wärtsilä years and in the 1950s.