From here, though they do not cite their source:
The origins of the yard of ale date back to the early 17th century, during the reign of King James I (1603-1625). Glass-making in England was then in its infancy; the first glass-making factory had only recently been established. Many of the first yard glasses have not survived due to their brittle nature, until George Ravenscroft (1674) introduced a new glass process known as the flint glass.
The yard of ale was made and used not for normal drinking purposes, but for feast and manly displays of prowess. During Anglo-Saxon times through the Middle Ages, the English nation has always engaged in the traditions of heavy drinking. As put in Young’s quote “England’s Bane” written in 1617, “He is a man of no fashion that can not drink by the dozen, by the yard, so by measure we drink out of measure.”
Legend suggests that the yard was also used in old England to serve the driver of a coach. Upon arriving at their destination and relieving its passengers, the coachman would stay and the length of the yard glass would allow him some refreshment.
Some of the same information is repeated in Wikipedia.
I'm certain that most of the history of using this style of vessel comes from fellow drinkers trying to show each other up at parties, but aside from the sheer volume (and perhaps limitations of glass-making artisans), how did this length and volume of the glass first come about? Is there more definitive evidence for the year of birth of the yard, besides the milestone in their history of the introduction of flint glass?
I'm also curious about whether the volume of the glass was satisfying to stagecoach drivers because of their need to wait long periods for their passenger, or whether it was just easier to hand them a tall glass as they remained in the seat.