Let’s take a quick break from all that technical stuff about window repair and maintenance and explore window history for a moment. Have you ever wondered what the residential windows of yesteryear looked like? This brief article on window history may answer a few of those questions.
Going Back in Time to Look at Window History
The windows of early homes were included in the design strictly for their functionality. Whereas the windows of modern homes are far more decorative. In fact, the first windows didn’t even have glass in the opening. In most cases they were nothing more than a crude opening in the wall. Their primary purpose was ventilation, to let fresh air into the home while letting out the smoke from the fireplace or wood stove. About the only thing they had in common with today’s windows, is that both allow light to enter the home.
With no glass in the opening, it’s easy to see why early window openings were much smaller. You can also understand the need for real, working shutters. This would be the only way to keep out pests, not to mention rain and snow during inclement weather. The shutters were also utilized to help keep the heat inside in the winter months, especially in colder climates. In some cases, animal hide, or parchment soaked in oil was used to cover the opening. This method would seal the opening while allowing some light to pass through.
While glass windows date back hundreds of years, the glass in those early windows was constructed using small hand-blown segments. They weren’t exactly translucent, and they were only found in the homes of the wealthy. In 1900 a new glass manufacturing method was invented, called machine-drawn glass. As the glass making process was refined, windows were installed in more and more homes. It was still relatively difficult to make large sheets of glass, which is why early windows were constructed as a grid of smaller panes of glass.
The next major evolution in the glass manufacturing process was the invention of the float glass process in 1959. Introduced by Sir Alastair Pilkington, this method revolutionized the glass making industry. In fact, the majority of glass produced today is manufactured using Pilkington’s process. This new technique, quickly led to the manufacture of larger sheets of glass. In turn, much larger windows were incorporated into architectural designs. Many homeowners still prefer the look of the smaller panes of glass. This led to the introduction of window muntin’s, an artificial grid which replicates the windows found in historic homes.