Lake Erie’s Glass Giant
When Lynne Brady and her husband, Larry, bought three acres on Ohio’s Lake Erie shore in 2016, they had never heard of beach glass. A year later, they ended up finding the largest piece of beach glass on record!
After Lynne and Larry bought their lakefront property, some friends asked them if they would be looking for beach glass. Lynne and Larry replied they had no idea what their friends were talking about. When they explained what beach glass was, and Lynne and Larry found some on the beach near their house, they assumed it was something found only on the shores of Lake Erie.
On October 4, 2017, Lynne climbed down the bluff to look for beach glass with her husband. While Lynne was looking for glass, she heard Larry yell, “Come look at this!”
“My first thought was, ‘Geez, leave me alone, I am looking for beach glass,’” Lynne laughs. But when Lynne got over to where Larry was pointing, she saw something that looked like black glass sticking out of the sand. What they saw was just the tip of the iceberg—and below that corner of glass sticking up was the rest of a giant piece of beach glass. The process of getting the giant chunk out was strenuous. “We dug it out and our daughter helped us tie it to the side of the bluff,” Lynne explains.
Next, they had to figure out a way to get the piece up the bluff from the beach. They went to Lowe’s and got supplies and tied the chunk by rope to their Blazer. Lynne drove forward a little at a time while Larry helped guide the massive piece up the bluff. “I would drive 10 feet and run back and yell, ‘You OK?’ while Larry crawled up with it and moved it around trees.” It took two hours, with Lynne continually worrying that Larry might tumble down the 150-foot bluff. “I kept thinking: All this for a piece of glass.”
When Lynne had the piece home, she went online to find out what she had found. The first thing she discovered was that she wasn’t the only one collecting beach glass. “I went on Facebook and saw a group with 15,000 members.” Within a half hour she yelled to Larry, “Beach glass is all over the world!” They were completely surprised to learn that beach glass and sea glass were collected on beaches worldwide.
“We really had no idea. How much glass I missed finding on our travels!” she moans. “Argh!” Slowly Lynne and Larry became educated, learning as much as they could about beach glass, sea glass, and where their giant find might have originated. But, still no luck. The piece weighs 275 pounds and measures about 12 inches high and 64 inches around. The outside of the glass is frosted, as you would expect with beach glass, but the inside, when viewed through a chip on the side, is completely clear.
“We have tried every avenue to find out where it came from. No glass companies along Lake Erie produced such a high quality of crystal-clear glass,” says Lynne. “We have been told it went through an annealing process of 8 to 26 months—if not the lake would have broken it apart.”
Lynne and Larry have shared photos and brought the piece of glass to experts. Several have said it had likely been in the lake approximately 100 years. Shipwreck experts at the Buffalo Beach Glass Festival said that it could have fallen off of a ship many years ago. When Lynne and Larry contacted the Corning Museum of Glass in upstate New York, they said it seemed to have been created for some purpose but had no idea what use the piece would have had.
“They are stumped,” Lynne says. “We have contacted every place suggested to us, but no one has been able to positively identify our find.”
For now, the piece sits in their home on its custom-made stand with color-changing LED lights. It will be on display at the Great Lakes Beach Glass Festival in Erie, Pennsylvania, on May 4-5 this year, if you want to get a look at it in person.
And, if you have any ideas of what this record-holding piece might be, comment below!
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine May/June 2019 issue
Ready to start looking for your own giant (or not so giant) beach glass on Great Lakes beaches?
- Beach Glass Bill
- The Giant Blue Pickle
- Great Views from the Great Lakes
- Lake Michigan: Beachcombing on the Ancient Sea Floor
- Leland Blue Stones: Happy Having the Blues
- Michigan: Thumbs Up to Lexington
- The Phenomenon of the Seiche
- Presque Isle State Park: Erie, Pennsylvania
- Railroad Marbles: Lake Michigan's Hidden Gems
- The Shipwrecks of Lake Erie
- Urban Beachcombing
Come to the lakeshore of Lake Superior in Duluth to search for beach glass with Ann
I worked at Brockway glass in Washington PA. And that looks man made not true beach glass.
First thought was maybe from a Fresnel??
Where did you get your beautiful top in the photo? Please let me know. I can’t find it anywhere online.Got to have it!
Grew up near Stony Point and used to find lots of glass. Had some very large pieces of different colors. All the stuff that is really clear or very slightly green is from the Ford’s old glass plant. Largest in the world for many years. Started for Model T production of windshields, dash gauges, headlights and especially during the World Wars. Flatrock is one place that made headlights. The plant is right next to the dam. Lots of scrap glass went to Detroit by barges and would be lost during travels. The above comment I believe is correct about it being from a crucible that was left to harden off. Large melt pot in the furnace would take a couple days to cool enough for the workers to repair or reline the furnace (tempering). A huge slug like yours would be hard to get rid of even as scrap. It would take too much effort and energy to reduce it’s size to be recycled and be worthless. Or it slid or maybe rolled off the barge during rough seas. Old man Ford could have been dumping his scrap in the lake. Lake Erie was toxic when I was a kid. The large pieces I have that had the green tint were from the windshield plant.
Its most likely a left over slug from a glass factory that some ship owner or bost owner was useing for ballast may seem silly but they used all kinds of things for ballast. Just a thought
could it have been on a ship that sunk off Ashtabula that was delivering telescope glass to the warner and swasey company in Cleveland?
Hiave you asked the glass people at the Toledo Museum of Art? They seem to have a handle of the history of glass .
i appreciate everyones input. we check every lead we receive. the telescope was ruled out. I can’t remember which expert . I have a museum researching and a few engineers. If we find any concrete leads the magazine will be the first to know. thanks for all the ideas.
Part of the dome or Filament that covers the earth read the Bible ?
Could be portal glass from a prototype sub or early ship
Light house glass blank Uncarved.
Piece from an old lighthouse?
Most likely a glass blank for grinding into a reflective telescope mirror.
It looks like a blank to be ground into a lens. Possibly for a telescope or a lighthouse.
Perhaps this is a blank for a telescope lens? See the link for a story about the Hale telescope construction.
Maybe a lens blank for a telescope? Yerkes in Wisconsin?
Perhaps a lens blank for a telescope. Glass of that clarity would be needed for that purpose, and could easily be that big.
What an exciting find!
It looks like a production blank for optical glass. It wouldn’t be quartz for semiconductors or sapphire as it is dated too old… but all three are produced to this size and shape.
Could it be for grinding out a large lens?
From the shape it could have come from a crucible furnace that was turned off full and left to anneal on its own. ???
I’m guessing, since they said it may be 100 years old, that it was intended to be ground down and polished for some sort of lens, perhaps for a telescope or something. And while there may not be glass factories off Lake Erie there are several, or used to be, many in southwestern PA around little Washington, PA. If it was produced at Brockway Glass (my father use to work there years ago) and then shipped north it could have gone overboard or dumped there in the lake. One other possibility would be this could be a slug left over from a glass furnace being shut down. The glass would have taken the form of the vessel it was to be melted and poured from. Cool whatever it was from.
Perhaps it was heading to the University of Illinois. I think it was made to be ground into a lense for a large telescope
Possibly a blank, to be ground into a mirror for an astronomical telescope?
Would love to see this.