Alanson B. Houghton was born on October 10, 1863, in Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. He was the second of five children and elder son of Amory and Ellen Ann (Bigelow) Houghton. Both parents were natives of Boston; his father's forebear, John Houghton, had come to Massachusetts from England about 1650. Alanson's grandfather Amory Houghton, Sr. , who had operated a small glass factory in Massachusetts since 1851, moved the family in 1864 to Brooklyn, N. Y. , where he and Amory, Jr. , took control of the Brooklyn Flint Glass Company; in 1868 they moved to Corning, N. Y. , and founded the Corning Flint Glass Company. This business failed and was sold in 1871, but Alanson's father stayed on as manager. Four years later he formed his own company, the Corning Glass Works, which specialized in the manufacture of railway signal glass, thermometer tubing, and pharmaceutical glass.