Welcome to Who Made That Glass

the blog about people who made things… 

mostly glass, but other things too 

And mostly in the Victorian era 

but also up to today.

Here you can find a collection of biographical sketches of people from the past who worked in various industries. As the blog grows, the posts will range from highly skilled artisans and entrepreneurs to simple labourers; from engineers who travelled the world to button-makers who never left Birmingham; from bicycle manufacturers to Japanese traders, and from Manchester blacksmiths to Scottish glassmakers. In addition, industrial heritage and family history research will be discussed.


My name is Sally Haden. Since 2005 I’ve been researching and writing about people in industrial history, having been inspired by some interesting tales handed down in my family.

For example, my Scottish great-grandfather, James Speed, helped the Japanese modernise their glass industry at a pioneering model factory in Tokyo in the 1870s-1880s. His story really piqued my interest and led me to my major focus, glassmaking.

a portrait of my great-grandfather signed in Japanese by one of his trainees
James Speed, my great-grandfather, who taught glassmaking in Japan. This portrait was preserved by one of his Japanese trainees. Courtesy Osamu Shimada

But there was also bicycle-making in my family. While James Speed was sailing to Japan, an English great-grandfather named George Joseph Haden was busy establishing one of Britain’s earliest bicycle factories. Following hard on his heels, his son Alfred Hamlet Haden developed our own motorcycle marque, the Haden Comet.

A H Haden Ltd motorcycle assembly c.1920
Motorcycle assembly about 1920 at A. H. Haden Ltd., Princip Street, Birmingham, England.


These and several other Haden ancestors, together with many more skilled craftsmen and business people connected with or beyond my own family, both at home and abroad, are the subject of this blog. In the course of learning about them, and writing articles for publication and a book with my brother, I gathered a large amount of material which now needs a new home. Who Made That Glass is to be that home.

As the website unfolds from September 2021 onwards, posts will carry material which has previously been published in print – but far more than that. A variety of crafts, skills and industries will be included, from different historical periods and at various levels of interest.


I hope to generate interest in the meaning and value of family and industrial heritage, because I believe they are increasingly important in our modern world. The global pandemic and other serious contemporary issues have left many of us wondering who we are and what we should do next. We feel uprooted, unnerved. In such circumstances, history and heritage can be very instructive. Looking back and asking where you come from – thoughtfully and without too much sentiment – can really help individuals, families, cities and nations re-establish their identity and purpose. It’s time to find ways to step forward, with courage and creativity.

This website honours the lives and work of all our ancestors who made things that were beautiful or useful, whether by craft or manufacture. Who Made That Glass invites you to learn about more of these people here, and to get in touch if you have any questions or similar stories you would like to share.


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