When Brian Alexander accompanied his mother on a visit to their old hometown of Lancaster, Ohio, he found this Midwest town damaged, discouraged, and fighting for its future. Once called the epitome of the all-American town by Forbes magazine, Lancaster is now struggling to stay alive. Its fate seems to encapsulate many of the complex forces at work in the country, most especially income inequality and the decline of the working class. Brian moved back to Lancaster for a year to research and write his latest book, GLASS HOUSE: THE 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town (St. Martin’s Press, February 14, 2017).
The Anchor Hocking Glass Company, once the world’s largest maker of glass tableware, was the base on which Lancaster’s society was built. As GLASS HOUSE unfolds, bankruptcy looms. Alexander shows how financial engineering took hold in the 1980s, accelerated in the 21st Century, and wrecked the company. We follow CEO Sam Solomon, an African-American leading the nearly all-white town’s biggest private employer, as he tries to rescue the company from the New York private equity firm that hired him.