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Alvah L. Bingham

The Ball brothers knew ability when they saw it, and quite often the ability they recognized was in their own family. One such talent was Alvah Bingham, inventor, designer and holder of at least seven U.S. patents, including four for glassmaking machines. Alvah was first cousin to the brothers. He was the son of Lorenzo Bingham, Maria Bingham Ball’s brother.

clientuploads/Blog/Ball Family/Feb14/Alvah Bingham.jpgAlvah L. Bingham

He was born, raised, and educated in Vermont before moving to Buffalo, New York. In Buffalo, Alvah worked as a telegrapher before he went to work with his cousins at Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company. When the brothers built their factory in Muncie in 1888, Alvah moved here.

Milk glass insert for zinc canning lid.
Milk glass insert for zinc canning lid.

One of the patents that Alvah received was for the Ball-Bingham glassmaking machine, an improvement on the F. C. Ball machine. He also designed the white liner machine, which was used to make the white milk glass inserts for the zinc caps. Bingham constructed the white liner machine around 1902, and it was used until the Muncie glass plant shut down in 1962.

Bingham’s improvements to the glass-making machine.
Bingham’s improvements to the glass-making machine.

Edmund F. Ball once said about this machine, “We never modified it because we never could find a way to make it work better.” The white liner machine is now part of the Minnetrista Heritage Collection as are several glass-making machines.

Ball-Bingham glassmaking machines on a railroad car.
Ball-Bingham glass-making machines on a railroad car.

Ball once said in a letter to one of Bingham’s descendants, “My recollections of Al Bingham as a boy is that he was rather eccentric, opinionated and a little hard to get along with, and had a very distinctive sort of New England accent. There was no question that he possessed considerable mechanical skills.”

Alvah was just one of several Bingham family members who made considerable contributions to the success of Ball Brothers Company.

minnetrista heritage collection

minnetrista collects the objects and archival material that document the people, places, events, organisations, businesses and industry of the region – in other words, the history of east central indiana.

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