Michael J. Owens Becomes Subject Of Biography

For a man who's been dead 83 years, Michael J. Owens is getting a lot of attention lately. The prolific glass-machinery inventor is the star of a new video, the subject of a new book, and last year was a comic-strip hero of sorts.

The latest tribute to Mr. Owens - whose name is part of Owens-Illinois Inc., Owens Corning, and Owens Community College- is a book by Quentin Skrabec, Jr., a Maumee resident who is an adjunct professor of business at the University of Findlay.

His book, Michael Owens and the Glass Industry, published by Pelican Publishing Co. this month, tells how the "tough Irishman" created such revolutionary machinery as the automatic bottle-blowing machine that became the foundation of O-I, which celebrated its centennial three years ago.

Mr. Skrabec, in management for steel companies for 22 years and the author of four other business and history books, said the book is the first biography of Mr. Owens.

"It's almost sad," he said of the lack of published works on Mr. Owens.

"If he had been in New York or [another] east coast city, he would have gotten the publicity."

Mr. Owens also has a role in a short video - taken from a 1910 movie of an early bottle-making machine in operation - that is part of the "Time in a Bottle" exhibit that runs through Dec. 29 at the University of Toledo's Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections.

In that video, Mr. Owens is shown examining two bottles made by the early machine that could produce about 13,000 bottles daily. Modern versions of O-I's glassmaking machinery can produce a million bottles daily.

Last year, he was one of 12 inventors honored in a series of education comic strips highlighting some of the greatest inventions in the 125-year history of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Mr. Skrabec said he researched Mr. Owens' life for about three years and spent about eight months writing the book.

He was inspired, he said, largely by articles in The Blade about Mr. Owens several years ago urging that Mr. Owens be named to the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He has not been inducted.

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