Introduction – A Modest Historical Accounting of Kimble Glass Company and Owens-Illinois, Inc.
Mr. Wizard – the Man Behind the Curtain
Kimble Products and the Lectron System
1972 Owens-Illinois Science Projects Order Form and Price List
Final Disposition and Update (2019-10)
Colonel (a title given him by US President Warren Harding in the early 1920’s) Evan Ewan Kimble (born 1868-OCT-18 died at his home in April of 1956 — Buried at the Siloam Cemetery in Vineland, NY – Cumberland County was the fourth of five sons born to William and Deborah (nee Ewan) Kimble), of Tuckahoe near Vineland, New Jersey. The colonel was apprenticed to the Whitall Tatum glass factory in Millville, NJ and was later manager in the Sheldon Glass Company of Gas City, Indiana. In 1902, he founded the Kimble Glass Company (KGC) in Chicago by buying up the lamp-blowing department of Sheldon. Kimble started to specialize in the manufacture of graduated vials for scientific use and gradually moved operations to Vineland, NJ by buying up several companies in the area. In 1914, Col. Kimble also made his residence in Vineland to be close to the blossoming factory.
KGC was a pioneer in the mass production of laboratory vials by developing a process for the automatic glass-blowing of the tubes. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, KGC continued to innovate in the field of laboratory glassware introducing the Kimax brand (similar to Pyrex) as well as other well known brands such as “Neutraglas“, “EXAX” and “Normax“.
Excerpted from the biography of Col. Evan E. Kimble in William S. Myers (Ed.), Prominent Families of New Jersey, pp. 22-24.
Colonel Kimble was also a Freemason.
Colonel Kimble died at his home in 1956 and was interred in a beautiful mausoleum.
Owens-Illinois Inc.’s origins began with a partnership of Edward Drummond Libbey (of Libbey Glass Company fame) and Michael Owens (pictured on the left and an employee there since August of 1888) on 1895-DEC-17 to form the Toledo Glass Company. Mr. Owens, in concert with William Emil Bock, created the first automated bottle-making machine in 1902. On September 3rd, 1903, The Owens Bottle Machine Company opened its doors for business and quickly became a market leader with the automated bottle machine called ‘Machine A’.
Mr. Owens died 1923-DEC-27 but not before leaving the company as a world leader in glassware production. The company was even cited earlier in 1913 by the National Child Labor Committee for having done more to eliminate child labor than had been achieved heretofore by any legislative efforts. In 1929, the Owens Bottle Company acquired the assets of the Illinois Glass Company and renamed itself the Owens-Illinois Glass Company, the largest glass company in the world at that time.
With the KBC acquisition of 1946, Owens-Illinois would begin production of TV picture tubes. In 1954, the company’s corporate name become Owens-Illinois, Inc. The company would go through further mergers and acquisitions processes in the 1950’s – 1970’s including the acquisition Gerresheimer Glas AG in 1959 and the Lily-Tulip corporation in 1968. In 1982, Owens-Illinois acquired the Kontes Glass Company. In 1993, Kimble/Kontes became a joint-venture between Owens-Illinois and the Gerresheimer Glas GmbH of Dusseldorf, the latter owning 51% of the shares. In 1997, Gerresheimer acquired the remaining 49%. The name of the company was subsequently changed to Gerresheimer AG in 2007.
By 2017, KGC had gone through additional various acquisitions and mergers. In 2016, the Duran group had acquired the Kimble Chase Group. In 2017, The Duran group was globally aligned under the DWK Life Sciences under the new brand name of DURAN, WHEATON, and KIMBLE. DWK Life Sciences is located in Millville, NJ.
Today (as of 2019), Owens-Illinois, Inc. remains a global market leader in glassware production. From their website – “O-I glass is made in more than 20 countries around the globe. We create innovative, distinctive and beautiful glass packaging that builds brands and drives consumer intrigue.“
Don Herbert Kemske or known popularly as Don Herbert – Mr. Wizard (born 1917-JUL-10 in Waconia, MN and died 2007-JUN-12 at his home in Bell Canyon), CA was a very well-known television personality due primarily to his numerous educational TV programs geared toward children spanning from 1951 to 1990. “He was the creator and host of Watch Mr. Wizard (1951–1965), Mr. Wizard (1971–1972), Mr. Wizard’s World (1983–1990), and other educational television programs for children devoted to science and technology. He also produced many short video programs about science and authored several popular books about science for children.”
“The Mr. Wizard show, broadcast live, was carefully scripted, meticulously researched, and smooth-flowing. Each week, Mr. Wizard—described by Marcel LaFollette (Smithsonian researcher and historian) as a “nonthreatening, easygoing, intelligent man with a smiling face” in shirtsleeves and tie (and the occasional lab coat)—carefully guided his youthful assistants through simple experiments. Using ordinary household items such as eggs, balloons, milk bottles, coffee cans, and knitting needles, Herbert explained larger scientific principles like gravity, magnetism, and oxidation. Although seemingly complex, the experiments actually were simple enough to be re-created by his young viewers in the classroom or at home.”
The above biographical material is quoted from the Mr. Wizard Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History. Craig Orr, archivist and Alison Oswald, archivist. Copyright 2015.
A YouTube collection of Mr. Wizard episode extracts start off with a bang!
Kimble Products and the Lectron System
How did Kimble Products through Owens-Illinois become involved with creating the Mr. Wizard’s Experiments product lines, something quite outside their stated area of business? It was because Owens-Illinois had a Toys and Games Group within their corporate structure, as evidenced by the letter from 1973 shown below. The opportunity to acquire the Lectron System assets and add the Electronics topic to the Mr. Wizard’s Experiments product lines made good business sense.
We know, with a high degree of certainty, that Owens-Illinois acquired all of the Lectron System assets from Raytheon sometime in late 1972 to early 1973. I was fortunate to acquire a letter (see below) from November 6th, 1973 confirming this transaction. The reader will note that the Macalster Scientific Company had originally been a part of the Raytheon Education Company during Raytheon’s Lectron System product era (1967 – 1972). Raytheon also owned D. C. Heath and Company (a publishing concern located in Lexington, MA) from 1966 to 1995. This company was then sold to Houghton Mifflin, another publishing company due to Raytheon exiting the text book business sector that year.
Kimble Products (a division of Owens-Illinois) subsequently created a Mr. Wizard brand initially representing 4 different products which explored 4 topics of general science: Chemistry (1970 – there were 3 models produced varying in components, chemicals and amount of experiments), Ecology (1971), Crystal Growing (1972), and Electronics (1972 – there were three models produced for this science topic as well).
A fifth, Mystery Garden, was added shortly thereafter in 1973.
The graphic below showing the original 4 product lines is from the December, 1972 issue of Boy’s Life.
A close-up of the four initial product lines:
The Raytheon Series 1 cardboard packaging was used for the Mr. Wizard Electronics model. The packaging was changed thereafter (for Models II and III).
Even the internal packaging securing the blocks remained the same, at least for the model I.
The instruction manuals were newly written however. The manuals can be found on the Kimble documentation page.
The three models had similar experiment counts to their Raytheon counterparts. Numerous blocks were omitted however across all three models including both the 680 Kohm biased transistor and the speaker block! Oddly, the Model II had more blocks and variety of experiments than the Model III.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to authoritatively discover what happened to the Mr. Wizard’s Experiments product lines. Even the Smithsonian Museum’s guide to the Mr. Wizard Papers (authored by Ms. Alison Oswald) is silent on this issue although the actual papers beyond the summary index may be helpful in later research efforts. It would seem that the Mr. Wizard Experiments product lines were discontinued by late 1974 or 1975.
In October of 2019, I saw an eBay auction featuring a Raytheon Series One upgraded with the Supplementary Manual No. 1. Looking at the photos, I could tell that this unit was incomplete and contained a hodge podge of parts including 3 earphone blocks and 2 battery blocks. Obviously, at least one additional unit had been combined within the unit up for auction.
Why did I purchase this item? In the photos of the auction I observed a cover for a manual that I had never seen before entitled “Fun With Electronics – Electrolab”. Suitably curious, I purchased the unit immediately.
I received the unit from the Oregon seller within a week of the auction conclusion and imagine my surprise to find that this mysterious manual was published by Owens-Illinois in 1974! And lo and behold, it turned out to be a 65 experiment manual for the Lectron System with a presentation format based on the Mr. Wizard’s Experiments in Electronics.
Interestingly, this manual also had the largest experiment count over the three individual Mr. Wizard model manuals.
This particular manual was likely (speculation on my part) created to be a part of the last vestiges of the Raytheon Lectron System assets Owens-Illinois possessed from their original Raytheon acquisitions back in 1972. Given that the manual was not branded with the Mr. Wizard name and appeared in the same year of the Mr. Wizard’s Experiments in Electronic III model, this is my working hypothesis (for now!).
Lectroneers may examine the manual for further edification.