[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Foundries and Machine Shops - Iron, Brass and Other Metal Works
THE iron foundry business started almost simultaneously in Grandville and Grand Rapids.  Winfield Scott Levake, in 1837, built a small furnace and foundry at the corner of Bridge and Mill streets, which he operated for a few years, when he abandoned it, and the building was burned or converted to other uses.  His establishment was operated by horse power.  At that time the demand for iron casting was light, and the trade small.  George Ketchum and James McCray came to Grandville in 1838, formed a partnership, and built a foundry and machine shop there, of which a few years later Mr. McCray removed the tools and appliances to Grand Rapids.

The second foundry here was planted on the bank of the canal near the "big mill," by Henry Stone and his son Henry G. Stone, in 1842, and made ready for business while James McCray was moving his plant up from Grandville and building the furnace and shops at the foot of the Canal.  After Mr. Stone had his foundry bed leveled a river freshet overflowed it to the depth of several feet, and so damaged it that a good portion of the work had to be done over again.  Henry Stone, who came in 1837, was the first plow maker here.  Gains S. Deane came down from Lyons in 1843, and became a partner in the establishment under the name of Stone, Deane & Co (Henry G. Stone, Gaius S. Deane and Elihu Smith).  This partnership was dissolved in May, 1853, but all of these men were in business as iron machinists and plow manufacturers in that vicinity for many years after.  Luman R. Atwater was connected with it for a time about 1858.  Deane continued in it until his death in 1883.  For years they had a salesroom on Canal street.

Prominent among machinists about 1844 and for a dozen years, was William B. Hill, an expert in the making and setting up of steam engines.  The first engine made here, for the steamboat Empire, was constructed at the shop of Henry G. Stone & Co., in the spring of 1845.  It was of seventy-five horse power; William B. Hill, draftsman, Andrew Ferguson, patternmaker, Horace Wilder, molder.  Hill was a student of the scientific construction of intricate machinery, and an inventor of considerable note.  Hill's Patent Governor, for steam engines, came into general use.

Gilbert M. McCray, Stewart B. McCray, and H. Gaylord built a foundry and machine shop about 1855 on Waterloo street, below the Eagle Hotel.  This firm of McCray Brothers & Company, and the firm of Daniel Ball & Son about that time did some of the first casting of iron pillars and other iron work for store fronts.

Gilbert Marshall McCray was born at Skaneateles, N. Y., May 13, 1826; at twelve years of age came with his parents to Grandville, Mich., and in 1843 came to Grand Rapids.  He was bred to the trade of machinist, in which he became an expert and a master workman.  After operating the shops mentioned on Waterloo street, a few years, he was during most of the time for nearly thirty years foreman in the Grand Rapids Iron Works.  In 1858 he was Mayor of Grand Rapids.

Elihu Smith, in 1856, had a machine shop driven by steam power on the east side of Canal street, opposite the dam, and by it in that year Samuel Tower erected a foundry and shop.  Five foundries were then in operation in this city.

In the foundry and machine business a large amount of capital is invested here; it has become a principal and important factor in our industrial interests, and is probably the heaviest in its line in any interior town of the State.


Except the very small shop built in 1837 by Mr. Levake at the junction of Bridge and Mill streets, the first iron furnace, foundry and machine shop on Grand River was built at Grandville by George Ketchum and James McCray in 1838.  Horace Wilder for these did the first molding and casting.  Their partnership in the business ended January 1, 1843, and their affairs were settled by Mr. McCray, who then moved to Grand Rapids, and began the erection of new works for similar business at the foot of the canal basin, on Huron street.  Here he was joined by Daniel Ball, forming the firm of James McCray & Co., which on August 1, 1845, announced the "Grand Rapids Iron Works" finished and ready for the manufacture of "every variety of castings for flouring, grist, saw and other mills, at short notice and on the most reasonable terms."  Mr. McCray managed the work till his death in 1851, after which it was conducted for a short time by his sons, Gilbert M. and Stewart B. McCray.  About that time Mr. Ball purchased the establishment, formed a partnership with Charles P. Babcock, and it was operated by Ball & Babcock till March, 1855, when Babcock retired and was succeeded by Byron D. Ball, the new firm name being Daniel Ball & Son.  In 1854 it gave employment to twenty-five men, and in the same year constructed its first sawmill engine.  June 5, 1856, a special partnership was formed, in which the senior Ball became a silent partner, and Byron D. Ball proprietor and manager.  This arrangement lasted until December 15, when Richard E. Butterworth purchased an interest, and the firm was known as Ball & Butterworth, William S. Gunn being also a partner for a time.  In October, 1858, Mr. Butterworth bought out the other proprietors, and as sole owner conducted the business till 1869, when James Lowe, from Ashton-under-Lyne, England, came into the establishment, and the firm of Butterworth & Lowe was formed.  Mr. Butterworth died in 1887, but the firm name was continued, in the proprietorship of James and Mrs. Eliza E. Lowe.  Through such mutations has grown the establishment known as the Grand Rapids Iron Works - on the spot where James McCray put its foundation nearly half a century ago - now among the largest and oldest foundries and machine shops in the State.  The working plant and buildings cover about an acre of ground.  The foundry and shops, and rooms in Mineral Block, afford working room in which some fifty men are kept busy the year round.  The invested capital is $110,000, and the annual product of about $80,000 comprises all sorts of heavy castings, engines, general machinery and logging cars.  Under the name of Butterworth & Lowe this firm has become an incorporated stock company, of which the members are James Lowe, Eliza E. Lowe, Edward Lowe and Rowland Lowe.  The musical brass bell which rings the opening and closing hours for work, on this iron factory, is the same one that in 1838 called the men of the Port Sheldon Company to dinner, at the great hotel that was built and soon abandoned at Pigeon Lake, a few miles south of Grand Haven, by the shore of Lake Michigan.


The Valley City Iron Works were started in 1862 by Adolph Leitelt, in a small building, giving employment to only six men, and using only about 6,000 square feet of working room.  The business has grown until at the present time the plant covers 45,930 square feet, and gives employment to 100 men, and at times to as many as 140.  The monthly pay roll averages about $5,000, while the output of steam engines, boilers and all classes of machinery and building castings, amounting to upward of $150,000 annually, goes to all parts of the West and Northwest.  For a number of years the principal product was steam engines, but in 1868 Mr. Leitelt opened a boiler shop, the first of much size started in the city, and since then has added to his products until all classes of engine work and steam heating apparatus, boilers and building and machinery castings are sent out from this factory.  A comparatively new branch of the business is the manufacture of veneer cutting machinery.  The works are partly on Erie street, the original site, and partly across the canal by the river.


Joseph Jackoboice began iron work in 1860; in a small room on the second floor of a sash, door and blind factory on Mill street.  In 1862 he moved into a building near the east end of Bridge street bridge.  In 1865 he purchased a lot on the present site of the Clarendon Hotel, where he put up a building which he occupied about two years, when he removed to South Front street, near the end of Pearl street bridge.  From there, in 1880, he moved to his, present quarters, erecting a two story building on the corner of South Front and Bowery Streets, and opened the West Side Iron Works.  The capital invested by Mr. Jackoboice is $10,000, and gives employment to half a dozen men, with a monthly payroll of about $300.  The annual output of $10,000 or more consists mainly of mill work and wood working machinery, his specialties being Jackoboice's band saws and fire escapes


These were started in March, 1884, by Henry Brobst, John Himes and Peter Petersen, under the. firm name of John Himes, & Co.  In 1888 Mr. Brobst bought out Mr. Petersen, and the style changed to Brobst & Himes. In their shop by the foot of Huron street some fifteen men find employment in making marine, tubular and upright boilers.  The capital employed is $25,000, and the annual output about $50,000.


The Michigan Iron Works have been prominent among foundry and machine shops since they were started by Williams & Smith in 1871, on the southeast corner of Pearl and Campau streets.  In 1872 C. W. Watkins was added to the firm.  In 1873 the erected the building now used, and James G. McElwee was taken into partnership.  The business was carried on at a loss for a short time and the plant was purchased by Crawford Brothers, who sold out in 1874 to H. D. Wallen, Jr.  From this till 1882 there was no change.  A stock company was then organized, known as the Michigan Iron Works Light and Power Company, capital $100,000, with George W. Cass President, H. D. Wallen, Jr., Vice President and General Manager, W. R. Shelby Secretary and Treasurer.  In January, 1885, W. T. Powers & Son, the present proprietors, purchased the business.  The manufacture consists of engines, heavy castings and mill machinery, and amounts to about $80,000 a year.  They make a specialty of veneer cutting machines, which are sent to all parts the country.  The capital invested is $65,000.  They have 21,000 square feet of shop space, on which fifty or more men work for an aggregate average of about $2,400 monthly.

WILLIAM T. POWERS, manufacturer and capitalist, was born at Bristol, N. H., July 8, 1820.  His parents Jonathan and Anna Powers, were natives of the same place.  In 1826 the family removed Lansingburgh, N. Y., where he received a common school education, and after he was eighteen years of age learned the trade of cabinet maker.  He early showed aptness and skill at machine work, a faculty which ever after proved useful and profitable to him.  In June, 1847, Mr. Powers and his family, then consisting of his wife and one child, came to Grand Rapids.  His chief business capital at the time was a good trade, about $300, in cash, a pair of willing hands and a spirit of energy and determination.  Here he began work in a small shop at the southeast corner of Fountain and Ionia streets, where he rented bench room.  Soon afterward he secured better quarters by the east bank of the river above Bridge street and began working by machinery, using water power; making furniture of nearly all kinds then produced, and chairs, not only for the home trade, but for exportation, and having a salesroom near the foot of Canal Street.  About 1851 he formed a partnership with Ebenezer M. Ball, under the firm name of Powers & Ball, in the furniture trade, their business place being near where is the south entrance to the Arcade.  In 1852 they built a sawmill to which they added a larger structure for a factory, on Erie street, where the business grew rapidly; soon giving work to some forty employes [sic], and establishing an export trade in ready made stock for chairs, furniture and reapers.  In January, 1855, this partnership was dissolved and Mr. Powers turned his attention to lumbering, operating a steam mill with a circular saw, the first of its kind in this part of the State, which the firm had built above Leonard street on the west bank of the river.  About the same time he constructed a machine with a gang of circular saws for slitting thick plank into siding and flooring.  Again he added furniture making to his business, and for a time before the civil war had an extensive sales room on Canal street, near Erie.  In 1865 and 1866 he purchased the river frontage necessary and in the three following years constructed the West Side Water Power Canal, a description of which is given in this book.  As a builder since he came to Grand Rapids, Mr. Powers has erected some thirty or more structures for houses, mills, stores, factories and other purposes.  Most prominent among these is Powers' Grand Opera House.  Notable in his work, also, is the Arcade artesian well, where so many thousands daily partake of its refreshing waters, free - a public benefaction.  In 1880 he caused the organizing of an electric lighting plant and company in this city, the first city lighting by electricity in the State.  The works are operated chiefly by water power.  William T. Powers & Son in 1885 purchased and have since operated the Michigan Iron Works at the foot of Louis street.  Indomitable and persistent industry and energy have marked the career of Mr. Powers in Grand Rapids; and besides his successful enterprises at home he has been actively and prosperously engaged in the development of valuable properties in and near Spearfish, Lawrence county, Dakota - the Black Hills region - where he has a water power of some 300 to 400 horse power, some manufacturing buildings, and about 400 acres of land.  He has always exhibited great interest in the material growth and advancement of Grand Rapids.  He was chosen City Treasurer in 1853 and again in 1854, serving two terms.  In 1857 he was elected Mayor and served one term, during which he started and gave a lasting impetus to the system of street improvements that has been so prominent a factor in city development and progress.  Similarly he has stimulated municipal growth by his service in the Board of Public Works from 1873 to 1878, where he was prominent in the establishment of the water works system.  As a politician he has never sought office, but has been a steady and active adherent of the Democratic party.  As a man, an influential citizen and a neighbor, he is held in universal esteem.  From a modest beginning, he has built himself a fine estate and secured a handsome competence, in the accumulation of which he has exhibited rare forecast and sound judgment.  He is yet vigorous and in active business.  Mr. Powers married, in 1839, at Troy, N. Y., Louisa Hall, a native of London, England.  Of six children born to them, four are living - William H., Sara A., Mary L. and Charles B. Powers.

WILLIAM H. POWERS is the eldest son of the Hon. Wm. T. Powers, and was born in the City of Troy, New York, April 7, 1841.  He came to Grand Rapids with his parents in the month of June, 1847, where he has resided ever since.  He received a common school education, and at the age of 18 entered the employ of his father as clerk and bookkeeper, in which position he continued until 1863, when his father closed out his furniture business.  In the spring of 1862 he was elected City Clerk, in which position he served one year; his office where the city business was transacted being with that of his father.  At the conclusion of his term of office he, in company with D. H. Waters, secured from the city the contract for grading, graveling and paving the gutters of Lyon street from Canal street east to Union street; and subsequently they also secured the contract for grading Kent street from Lyon to Bronson, and Ionia from Lyon to Hastings.  At that time this was the heaviest grading contract ever let by the city.  These contracts afforded a fair profit, and this was the business starter for Mr. Powers.  From this he went into manufacturing, having rented from his father the old furniture factory with its machinery on Erie street, where the office and steam fitting shop of A. Leitelt now are.  Here he did a small amount of business at job work, turning, planing and sawing, employing two or three men, running the machines principally himself, wood turning and scroll sawing being his forte.  After operating in this way for some time with but fair profit, be put in shingle machinery and operated one winter on contract for Powers & White, cutting out bolts which were run down from Rouge River and pulled out at the head of the rapids.  In 1866, in company with E. M. Ball, he purchased the interest of the Geo. Whittemore estate, and subsequently the remaining interest of his father, in the steam saw mill on the west side of the river at the head of the rapids, and they commenced manufacturing lumber, continuing the business with reasonable profit until 1868, when they sold their mill to A. B. Long & Sons.  They then invested their means in a water power site on the then new West Side canal, upon which they erected a planing mill and sash and door factory, where the Powers & Walker Casket Company's works are now situated.  Mr. Powers is the principal stockholder and President of the Powers & Walker Casket Company, whose business was founded in 1875, and which is now classed among the largest manufacturing concerns in the Valley City.  In 1885 Mr. Powers, in company with his father, purchased the plant known as the Michigan Iron Works, at the foot of Louis street, and he at once assumed the management of the machine shop and foundry comprising this plant, giving the business his personal attention, and operating it with marked success to the present, time.  Mr. Powers has been, and is still, interested in many other manufacturing enterprises, and has filled many positions of trust of both business and public nature, among which are: President of the Powers & Walker Casket Company, President of the Wolverine Chair & Furniture Co., Secretary of the Grand Rapids Brush Co., Secretary and Treasurer of the Rouge & Grand River Log Running Co. (which position he held for sixteen years), Secretary and Treasurer of the Grand Rapids Electric Light & Power Co. (which position he has held since the first organization of the company in 1880), President of the Martins' Middlings Purifier Co., and for ten years Manager of Powers' Grand Opera House.  Among the public positions which he has filled are those of City Clerk, Alderman, Member of the State Legislature, Member of the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners, at the present time serving his second term as President of this Board, and now just completing his second term as member of the Board, to which position he was first appointed in 1881, being one of the original members named in the Act of the Legislature creating the Board.  He is also an active member of the Board of Trade, being one of its Directors ever since its organization.  He was one of the Charter Members of Mystic Lodge of the Knights of Honor, and has filled all the chairs in that order, to that of Grand Dictator.  Mr. Powers married, February 8, 1865, Sarah L. Bradford, daughter of Durfee T. and Hannah M. Bradford, of Walker Township.  They have had seven children, of whom they have buried three.  The four now living are Frederick W., Frank C., Carrie L. and Gertrude B. Powers.  The record of the Hon. William H. Powers is that of a busy life, marked by energy, industry, enterprise, sagacity, integrity and thrift.  His work and the positions accorded him show, better than mere words could, his standing as a man and citizen, and the place he has won in the public esteem.  In the zenith of middle manhood he is yet at work, with apparently no abatement of vigor.


Frederick Hartmann started at 69 South Front street in 1872, in a small way, a jobbing foundry, doing general work, employing four men, in a room only 40 by 50 feet.  In 1879 he added a small machine shop, and took Louis Dietz into partnership in the latter, under the firm name of Hartmann & Dietz, the foundry being still that of F. Hartmann.  In December, 1884, the foundry was turned over to the management of Henry J. Hartmann.  In July, 1886, the partnership between Hartmann & Dietz was dissolved, and the firm of F. Hartmann & Company organized, with Frederick Hartmann, H. J. Hartmann and Edward Tannewitz as members.  In June, 1888, they moved to 270 South Front street, where (in 1888) the Phoenix Iron Works are doing a business of about $17,000 annually, giving employment to twenty-four men.


In 1885 William R. Fox started the Fox Machine Company, on Canal street, near Hastings.  In June, 1887, he removed to Erie street and in October, 1888, to a two story brick building on Front street.  He makes several kinds of special machinery, having one of the finest establishments for its size in the country.  In 1879 he patented a trimmer to take the place of saw and block plane in short cuts, and shortly afterward a combination dado or grooving saw head, which two articles comprise his principal products, and are sent to all parts of the United States.


In the winter of 1873-74, in a small room, the shingle machine manufacture of Harford J. and Willis J. Perkins was begun.  Starting with one small patent, they now have, and control nearly fifty.  Two years after beginning they doubled their room, and in 1880 moved to the old stone wagon factory building on North Front street, doubling its size in 1882 and again in 1888, until they have nearly forty thousand square feet of working space (against one thousand in 1874), and (in 1888) give employment to about 100 men.  Perkins & Company make a large share (they think half) of the most improved shingle machines in the United States.  The works are at 60 to 120 North Front street.


Daniel Sullivan, the proprietor of the Grand Rapids Boiler Works, started in 1873 on the east side, at the foot of Huron street.  In the same, year he purchased land on the west side, at 35 South Front street, on which in 1880 he built his works.  With a capital of $25,000, he keeps some ten men at work, turning out about $20,000 worth of heavy boilers yearly.


The establishment of James C. and Frank Simonds, 53 and 55 North Waterloo street, was founded by the former in 1856, since which it has done a steady and fairly remunerative business in the manufacture of various kinds of mill works and shingle mill machinery.  In April, 1887, the firm name was changed to J. C. Simonds & Son, and the works were enlarged.  With a capital of $25,000 they give employment to nine men, and send their products to most of the shingle producing States of the country.


Charles Buss, the founder of the Buss Machine Shops, was an early inventor.  It is stated that while learning his trade he invented the revolver or six-barreled pistol from which Colt took the idea and obtained the first patent, Buss not feeling able to patent his invention at the time.  The Buss Machine Works have yet the old revolver which he afterward patented.  Early in life he developed great mechanical ingenuity, making a complete steam engine that a thimble would cover.  After acquiring his trade, the J. E. Fay Company of Cincinnati, manufacturers of wood-working machinery, employed him to help develop some of their machines. In 1848 he established at Marlboro, N. H., a machine: shop which was the foundation of the present business of the Buss Works, and in 1867 George F., the eldest son, became a partner, and they began the improvement of planers, making the first panel planers for fine work, which took a first prize in Massachusetts in 1869.  In 1878 they removed to Grand Rapids and established the present works at 36 and 38 Mill street, opposite Hastings; the firm then comprising Charles Buss and his four sons, George F. Buss, Henry C. Buss, Edward, P. Buss and Wendell R. Buss.  Here they began further improvements in wood working machinery, and made a specialty of machines adapted to the manufacture of furniture, organs, pianos and fine cabinet wares; and with such success that they have constructed machines for 400 or more factories in the United States.  Their improved special furniture planer, the first of its kind; carving machine for free-hand carving, and patent carving machine; the patent dado machine of George, F. Buss, and the glue jointer, have met with phenomenal favor.  George F. Buss, who has been at the head of the firm since their location here, is a native of New Hampshire, who learned his trade thoroughly, in all its details, and at seventeen years of age was able to command high wages as a skilled mechanic.  The Buss Machine firm has grown to be known in every large city and town in the United States.  The buildings are of brick, 48 by 100 feet, three floors, and 35 by 100 feet, one floor; pattern room, 48 feet square.  Capital invested, $80,000; annual output about $86,000; men employed, 55, with a monthly pay roll of about $3,000.  George F. Buss is president and treasurer (1889), with Wendell R. Buss as manager and superintendent.


No town or village is properly equipped without its quota of one or more blacksmiths, and in cities these useful artisans form no inconsiderable part of the mechanical workers.  Grand Rapids had its blacksmiths before the growth of the white settlement began.  There were two white blacksmiths at the Indian Mission, and an Indian learned the trade there.  Louis Campau had a blacksmith at his trading post when the settlers came in 1833 - Antoine Carmell.  This man worked in a log shop between Canal street and the river, where Huron street now is, and did more or less of repairing wagons, sharpening ploughshares, setting of horseshoes, and similar work for the pioneer farmers.  A. D. W. Stout opened a blacksmith shop near the foot of Pearl street in 1834.  Others soon came, among them, in 1836, H. R. Osborn, on Kent street; John Westcott, about 1838, and in 1840 John Rice, who did the blacksmithing for Lucius Lyon, while the latter was sinking his salt well.  About, that time a little log blacksmith shop was built on Ionia street, between Monroe and Fountain, where a forge was kept busy for some fifteen years.  Nehemiah and Charles W. Hathaway, William N. and Josiah M. Cook, and two or three more were here in 1843-44.  Soon after, David C. Porter, Alson Adams, P. R. Jarvis, Joseph Emmer, Joab Jones, and others contributed to swell the ranks of the craft, and now these hardy, ingenious and toilsome "Sons of Vulcan" may be found in every convenient locality for the prosecution of their trade.  Nehemiah Hathaway set up the first triphammer, in the spring of 1844, at his shop by the canal basin, in McCray's foundry and machine works.


The tin and sheet iron divisions of the hardware trade and manufacture have their root in the shop of the skilled mechanic, the tinsmith; the man who fashions from the raw materials the articles which are placed on sale.  Most especially have the workers in tin and iron, a prominent part in the building up of the mechanical industries of this city.  Like the other sources of our abundant prosperity, this art has grown with our growth, and strengthened with our strength.  No sooner was the village fairly started than, with a new field for his labor, the tinner made his appearance.  Wilder D. Foster came in 1838, and worked, for a time at the tinner's trade for E. G. Squier, and then entered into partnership with him, opening a small shop in a building owned by George M. Mills, on the north side of Pearl street at the foot of Monroe, where they advertised to "make to order on short notice tin and sheet iron ware, stovepipe, tin conductor pipes and eavetroughs.î  In February, 1841, this partnership was dissolved, and Foster continued the business in the employ, or as a lessee, of Mills.  In 1845 came Thomas W. Parry, also a tinsmith by trade, and entered into partnership with Foster, the firm name being Foster & Parry.  They worked together about nine years.  In November, 1848, they removed from the Mills site to the west elbow near the foot of Monroe street, below Irving Hall, their building facing up Monroe street.  This was, in part, where now stands the extensive hardware store of Foster, Stevens & Company.  January 1, 1855, Mr. Parry retired from the firm, and was succeeded by Henry Martin.  The business had grown rapidly, and in 1856 Martin Metcalf was admitted to partnership, the firm name being Foster, Martin & Co.  From those beginnings has grown the mammoth store and factory of Foster, Stevens & Company, whose building is one of the finest for its uses in the city.

WILDER DEAYR FOSTER was prominent in the business and social life of Grand Rapids during a period of more than thirty years.  In the mercantile and manufacturing line, and as a public-spirited citizen, he was among the foremost in laying broad and deep the foundations, while it was yet a village, for the thriving, pushing, progressive and populous city that is now the pride of Western Michigan.  Personally and in trade he was well known and universally esteemed in all this part of the State.  Wilder D. Foster was born at Monroe, Orange county, N. Y., January 8, 1821.  His father, Forris D'A. Foster, was a descendent of an early New England family, and emigrated to Orange county from Maine.  It is among the family traditions that five of its members, brothers, were in the Revolutionary war; that they were minute-men at the battle of Bunker Hill, and that one of them was killed there.  Forris D'A. Foster, after about 1848, spent the closing years of his life in Grand Rapids, and died here December 12, 1871, aged 87 years.  The early educational privileges of the son, Wilder D. Foster, were slight; but he had a studious turn of mind and an eager thirst for knowledge, and in his school boy days he resorted to books to add to the stock of information obtainable at the common schools.  While yet but a lad he engaged as an apprentice to learn the trade of tinsmith; but his term of service was short by the removal to Michigan and a change in the circumstances of his employer.  With the latter he came to Marshall in this State in 1837.  In 1838 he came to Grand Rapids, and worked for a time as a journeyman; next went into business with E. G. Squier, in a small shop on Pearl street.  This partnership was dissolved in February, 1841, and Mr. Foster continued business by himself until the fall of 1845, when he entered into a co-partnership with Thomas W. Parry.  The firm of Foster & Parry was continued until January 1, 1855, at which time Mr. Parry retired.  In 1848 the business was removed across Monroe street, to a building which stood facing the east, and in part on ground ever since occupied by the Foster & Company hardware store and tin and sheet iron manufacturing shops.  After Mr. Parry, Mr. Foster had in succession as partners, Henry Martin and Martin Metcalf and then for ten years as sole proprietor he conducted the fast increasing business of the establishment; in 1869-70 erecting the fine brick block at 16 and 18 Monroe street, and in 1872 laying the foundation walls at Nos. 10, 12 and 14.  January 1, 1873, was formed the firm of Foster, Stevens & Company, Wilder D. Foster taking as partners his eldest son, Frank W. Foster, and his nephew, Wilder D. Stevens, which firm name is still retained in the business and trade at the same place.  Further reference to the name and fame of that hardware establishment is scarcely needed here.  In it Mr. Foster spent his business life.  It was prominently and favorably known all over the State, and its prestige is well sustained by his successors.  As a successful merchant whose character stood for the embodiment of integrity, such confidence was reposed in him and his management that the house never suffered in credit; and it safely weathered several financial storms before which many others went down.  A quiet, private life best suited Mr. Foster's taste and inclinations.  But such men are needed in public affairs, and it was in accordance with the nature of things that he should be called to participate therein.  In the village days he was an active member of the Grand Rapids Lyceum, and often took part in its debates.  There he was storing and training his mind for other spheres of action.  He was prominent in organizing and starting an efficient fire department, in which he afterward served as Chief Engineer.  During nearly a quarter of a century he had an active part in the management of the public schools, which had no more earnest friend than was he.  Industrious, practical, sound in judgment and principles, he was often called to official positions of trust and responsibility.  Though not intensely partisan, he was an earnest Republican from the organization of that party.  In earlier life he at first voted the Democratic ticket; but in each of the National elections of 1844, 1848 and 1852 he gave his vote for President to the Anti-Slavery candidate.  As a man, a citizen and a public servant he had the undoubting confidence of all who knew him.  In 1851 and 1852 he was elected City Treasurer.  He represented his ward as Alderman in 1852.  In 1854 he was one of the Board of County Superintendents of the Poor.  He was thrice chosen Mayor of the City - in 1854, 1865 and 1866.  In the legislative term of 1855-56 he was a member of the State Senate.  At a special election in 1871 he was chosen to represent his (then the Fourth) District in Congress, receiving a majority over his chief competitor of 5,481; and at the general election in 1872 was re-elected to the same position, receiving 8609 majority, and almost two thirds of the total vote of the District.  In public service Mr. Foster was always found faithful, manful, honorable and efficient.  He did the work of the people well.  Both there and in private life he was a very busy man, with an energy that never flagged and which sometimes carried him beyond the support of his physical strength.  He was kind and sincere and benevolent.  No worthy person in need appealed to him in vain.  During the war his sympathies and his generosity went constantly out to the soldiers in the field and to their families at home.  Toward those about him in his business and the workers in his shops his bearing was ever that of the kind and considerate friend.  He treated his employes [sic] as men, and assisted the humblest among them as he found opportunity.  He was quick to recognize the good, and slow to believe evil of any one.  To an employe [sic] who had been with him nineteen years he wrote, shortly before his death: "One thing I know you cannot help thinking about, as you grow older and feebler; that is whether your place will continue to you, and I now say that you need not borrow any trouble on that point.  There will always be place for you as long as the business is run by a Foster or Stevens, whether you can do as much as now, or twenty years ago, or not."  In that expression shines Mr. Foster's real character.  He lost much, through his accommodating spirit, but was never heard to complain, nor to censure those by whom the losses came.  "With malice toward none and charity for all," he was yet steadily successful in business, to the end.  January 11, 1849, Mr. Foster married Fanny Lovell, a sister of judge Louis Lovell of Ionia, who survived him in life, subsequently was married to Noyes L. Avery, and died in this city May 8, 1886 - a lovely woman who won affection by her virtues and graces.  Mr. Foster died at his home in this city September 20, 1873.  At his funeral was a vast concourse of citizens attesting their love for the deceased and their great grief over his departure.  In the matter of religious faith he had never professed allegance [sic] to any creed; in his belief he doubtless came nearer to Universalism than any other.  He was an attendant, regularly, with his family, at the Congregational Church.  His religion was in his life of morality and purity.  He was a strictly temperate man, and as such, an exemplar and teacher to all about him.  His life and his work are inwrought in the materiality and growth of Grand Rapids; this record is for him both a eulogy and a monument.  [See page 116.]

In August, 1845, Joseph Stanford started a "copper, tin and sheet iron manufactory" at the corner of Canal street and Crescent avenue, the present site of the Grinnell Block, where he conducted a moderate business for several years.

In the summer of 1846 William H. McConnell started a small tinshop in connection with a hardware store on the south side of Monroe street, two doors above Waterloo.  With him, then or soon after, was his brother John McConnell, a practical workman, who continued the business there for a time, and afterward for many years on Canal street, with a fair degree of success.

JOHN McCONNELL, who has been a highly esteemed citizen of Grand Rapids for some forty-three years, is a native of the old town of Newbury, Berkshire, England, where he was born September 22, 1821.  His early schooling was in what was known as John Moss' Academy, at the place of his birth, and was somewhat limited, his feeble health obliging him to give up study at ten years of age.  In 1833 he, with his father, William McConnell, and family came to America and settled in Rochester, N. Y.  There he was employed in mercantile houses until 1842, when he moved to Mount Morris, N. Y.  In 1844 he opened a store at Dansville, N. Y.  In 1847 he disposed of that and came to Grand Rapids.  Here he again engaged in mercantile trade, which he followed, chiefly in hardware, some twenty years, with a good degree of success.  In 1850 he purchased a tract of ten acres of land next south [sic] of Wealthy avenue and west of Division street - then in the woods - and built there a pretty residence, the first on that quarter section of land, in which he still lives.  He has served as Alderman and Supervisor of his ward, giving faithful and efficient service in both positions.  He has also served several years on the Board of Education.  October 5, 1848, Mr. McConnell married Mary Escott.  They are both members of the Episcopal Church.  He has been a vestryman at St. Mark's a number of years; was one of the chief founders of Grace Church, and for some time a Trustee and one of the Managers of St. Mark's Home and Hospital.  He has been a member of the Masonic Fraternity since 1848, advancing through all the degrees of the original American system, and was among the earliest of the Knights Templar in this State.  He is recognized as a citizen of practical good sense and judgment; one who takes great interest in whatever tends to promote the general welfare and prosperity.  He was one of the original stockholders and Directors in the Grand Rapids and Holland Railroad Company, afterward merged in the Chicago & West Michigan.  In 1871 he retired from active business, and with a fair competence and pleasant social surroundings is enjoying happily the evening of life.

Nearly every house where the hardware trade has been a specialty has carried on the tin and sheet iron business industrially, to a greater or less extent.  Among those who have operated shops may be noticed: Goodrich & Gay, on Canal street, 1858; William S. Gunn, for about thirty years past (who with his sons has built up a very large trade on Monroe street, with a wholesale house on South Ionia); De Long & Scribner on West Bridge street, for a short time after the war; William P. Kutsche, for fifteen years or more, east side of Canal near Bridge street; Carpenter, Judd & Co, 1873 and for a few years near Sweet's Hotel.  At later dates there have been: John Whitworth & Co., West Bridge street; Peter Dogger, toward Coldbrook on Ottawa street; Maris, De Graaf & Co., 115 Monroe; J. A. S. Verdier, Spring street; William Miller, South Ionia; Frank Leitelt and F. A. Prin West Bridge street; Ferdinand Scheu East Bridge; Joseph Berles, Canal, between Pearl and Crescent; N. B. Kromer & Son, Plainfield avenue; Rickard Brothers, South Division; Whitworth & Alden, 37 West Bridge; Barstow & Jennings, East Bridge; Melis Hardware, Grandville avenue; Blakeley & Jennison, 78 South Division, and Schmidt Brothers, 224 Fulton.  Most of these employ journeymen, and a number of others are engaged in this industry.

Nearly all manufacturing enterprises in this city had their beginnings in the area between Fulton and Bridge streets, within forty rods of Canal street, and tinsmithing is no exception.  On the West Side it was started about thirty years ago by S. Rawson.  About fifteen years ago some shops were opened near Coldbrook, and in 1876 Gerrit Meinardi gave it a start on South Division street.  More recently, in 1882, the region on Bridge Street Hill, near Barclay street, became the center of a little cluster of stores and business houses, where Fred N. Jennings opened a shop, leading to the business since conducted by Barstow & Jennings, and near them Kromer & De Windt are in the manufacture and trade.  Every ward in the city now has some of these indispensable workshops.


The manufacture of galvanized iron cornice commenced here about 1870.  In that year it was made a branch of their business by Foster, Stevens & Company, hardware merchants, who placed Frederick Shriver and Warren C. Weatherly in charge of the work.  The latter are probably entitled to the credit of originating the idea of the use of such cornices in Grand Rapids.  Shortly after, the firm of Shriver, Weatherly & Company was formed, and took full control of that special branch of the trade.  They succeeded well, and soon in addition to cornice work began to shape galvanized iron into a variety of forms, fanciful and convenient, for different uses in the construction of the fronts of buildings, making it ornamental as well as useful, in brackets and imitations of stone work, in various styles and designs.  Later, in 1873, Sokup & Company entered this field of enterprise, the individual members of the firm being Frank J. Sokup and John Hormuth.  This firm is still in existence, and working at 93 Campau street.  In March, 1882, W. C. Hopson commenced the manufacture of galvanized iron work (now located at No. 9 Pearl street), and W. S. Gunn & Company also added this branch to their business.  McDonald & Emmerson began the manufacture in May, 1888, at 75 Ottawa street.  The cornice on the McMullen building, corner of South Division and Island streets, is a specimen of their work.  A. B. Hum & Company, Hermitage Block, and Barstow & Jennings of East Bridge street, among others, are workers in this line.  It is an industry which has grown steadily and quite rapidly from its beginning to the present time, and constitutes a very important feature in the architecture of the city, turning out an annual product of not far from $120,000.


In the early part of 1851 William N. Cook and John Blain opened a shop on the bank of the river, a little south of Bridge street, east side, for the manufacture of axes and coopers, carpenters and shingle makers tools, and built a trip hammer for the work.  Blain came here from Waterloo, N. Y., and was a skillful artisan at the trade, and Cook was also an expert workman in iron and steel.  In the early part of 1852 the works were burned, but were immediately rebuilt on a larger scale, with steam power added; near the junction of Ionia and East Fulton streets, William S. Gunn having joined the firm at the new works they were enabled to manufacture six dozen axes per day, besides a variety of other edge tools.  In July, 1853, Mr. Gunn bought out his partners, and continued the business for about three years, when he disposed of his interest to Hathaway & Alcumbrack, the plant having in 1854 been removed to the canal bank, by the site of the old Lyon salt well.  Charles W. Hathaway and Daniel Alcumbrack constituted the new firm.  This shop was burned when the bridge burned in April, 1858, at which time F. T. Ranney had succeeded Mr. Hathaway.  Rebuilt, and again in the hands of Mr. Hathaway, it was doing a thriving business in 1864.  Another trip hammer had been added to the works, and, soon after, James D. Lyon became a partner.  In 1870 they were turning out about 240 axes per day.  The factory in 1873 passed into the hands of James G. Granger, and a little later the Grand Rapids Ax and Edge Tool Works Company was organized, the members being Benjamin W. Chase, Asa E. Hawley and Charles G. Quivey, under the firm name of Chase, Hawley & Quivey, by whom the works were operated for a few years.  More recently the manufacture has been prosecuted by Edward A. Munson, at 52 Mill street.  Though not one of the heavy factors in our manufacturing interests, edge-tool making has been carried on here forty years, and still gives employment to fifteen or twenty men, whose annual product will average perhaps $1,000 each.  The history of the works here briefly sketched comprehends substantially that of the entire business in Grand Rapids, only one or two small shops besides having taken part therein.

William N. Cook came to Grand Rapids in 1843, a blacksmith by trade.  He was born at New Hartford, Oneida County, N. Y., May 13, 1821.  His first work here was in forging iron work for flouring mills.  Soon opening a shop, he followed his trade during most of his business career.  His sign was a familiar one for twenty years or more, being the motto of the order of the Mechanics' Mutual Protection - "The Hope of Reward Sweetens Labor."  He was also for some years engaged in the making of edge tools, an expert in most lines of his craft, and though resting from hard work is still a sprightly citizen.  He has served efficiently in several ward and city offices, and takes much interest in horticulture.  He ironed by hand work and set up in 1843 the first buggy with elliptic steel springs made in this valley.


Samuel Buchanan came to Grand Rapids in 1842 and opened a gun shop on Ionia street, a little south of Monroe.  He worked at the business of making and repairing firearms for near a dozen years.  His son, John C. Buchanan, learned the trade, and removed his little factory to the north side of Monroe street, opposite the National Hotel, where be continued the business until the breaking out of the War of the Rebellion, when he enlisted and went into the army.  About 1858, or a little earlier, George R. Pierce opened a gunsmith shop on Monroe street below Waterloo, and Chester B. Turner embarked in the business on West Bridge street.  This is not classed among the heavy branches of manufacturing in Grand Rapids, but from the beginning two or three mechanics of the trade have found in it a fairly remunerative occupation.  In 1867 Charles Lindberg opened a shop on Ottawa street, and followed the business most of the time for about twenty years.  John H. Mahieu in 1867 and for some time, carried on a shop on Monroe street.  Christian G. Baisch, locksmith and gunsmith, has worked at the business a dozen years or more near the Bridge Street House.  Other parties at recent dates have been trading in guns, pistols and sporting goods generally; among them William H. and Henry W. Calkins for several years on Ottawa street prior to 1885; also Lysander S. Hill & Co., on Pearl street, recently and up to the present time.  (Mr. Hill, the senior partner of this last named firm, died in December, 1888.)


The Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad Company opened their shops in 1876.  They are in the southern part of the city between Hilton and Wallen streets, occupying about twenty-five acres.  Repairs for the railroad are made in these shops, as well as building new coaches and freight cars. In 1886 the coach and paint shops were destroyed by fire, but were rebuilt with substantial structures on a much larger scale.  The capacity of the shops (1888), in addition to repairs, is two coaches and from fifteen to twenty freight cars per month.  The average number of men employed in the shops is about three hundred and fifty, at an expense of some twenty thousand dollars per month; but as the department in charge of the Master Mechanic, S. K. Bradley, includes all engineers and firemen on the road, the total number of employes [sic] in his charge averages about six hundred, with a monthly pay roll of nearly thirty-five thousand dollars.


Work at this trade began immediately after the introduction of gas in this city.  As early as July 28, 1857, Norcross & Co. advertised their readiness to receive orders for gas fitting in all its branches, at the store of Foster, Martin & Co. William W. France, Jan. 1, 1858, opened a gas fixture shop near the foot of Monroe street, and about the same time the hardware firm of which Wilder D. Foster was the head made gas fitting a branch of their business.  Previous to that, plumbing, though a small business, had been done by most of the hardware establishments.  As a distinct business that of plumbing and gas fitting has become quite an important one.  In 1865 Thomas Smethurst entered the field, near the corner of Ottawa and Monroe streets, where he and after him J. A. Smethurst, continued the business for about a dozen years, and then removed to Lagrave street.  In 1873 Shriver, Weatherly & Co. began this class of work at the corner of Lyon and Canal streets, Thomas Smith & Co. on Monroe street, and William A. Brown on Canal street.  Since the latter date have appeared, McDermot Bros., afterward McDermot & Runions, on Ottawa street; William Miller, on South Ionia street, and Sproul & McGurrin, as steam fitters also, on Canal street.  Still later, since 1880, Ditric & Hoffman, Thompson & Robertson, A. F. Worfel & Co., Allingham & Bannerman, W. J. Cunningham, A. B. Hum & Co., Manns, Soule & Co., and Hunt & McCall, and perhaps some others have operated in the trade.  With half a dozen establishments in operation, this important branch of industry is now an adjunct of considerable proportions to our manufacturing interests, giving employment to a large number of hands, and it is to be hoped that the workers are accumulating profits with the ease and facility traditionally attributed to the professional plumber.  Weatherly & Pulte are running a good business on Pearl street, and Fred Shriver gives employment to several hands at his works on Island street.


Moulton & Rempis - L. V. Moulton and J. H. Rempis - have a thrifty business at 54-56 North Front street, where they make a specialty of grey iron castings, manufacturing a variety of convenient and useful articles, such as lawn vases, settees, roof crestings, carriage steps and hitching posts.


The manufacture of brass goods as a distinct business in Grand Rapids was begun in May, 1882, when Daniel W. Tower associated himself with Thomas Farmer, Jr., for the purpose; making cabinet hardware and trimmings.  In 1887 Mr. Tower purchased Mr. Farmer's interest in the firm, and in July, 1888, it was merged in the Grand Rapids Brass Company then organized - President, Daniel W. Tower; Vice President, M. S. Sinclair; Secretary and Treasurer, George F. Sinclair.  Their factory is of brick, four stories, 50 by 92 feet, at 162 to 166 Court street, finely, equipped with the best of machinery, and as near fire-proof as may be.  Capital stock, $25,000.  Employes, [sic] sixty.  Output of goods about $75,000 per year.


File making was begun in this city about 1863 by William Cox, whose shop, for a time, was on Lyon street, afterward removed to Erie and then, about 1872, to Mill street.  Two or three years later the establishment was taken to the West Side and is located at 75 Front street.  It gives work to four employes [sic].  The business consists of the manufacture and recutting of mill and machine and three-cornered files.  The sales amount to some $4,000 annually.  It is the only factory of that kind in the city.


A new enterprise in this city is that of the Steel Wire Nail Manufacturing Company at 62 and 64 South Front street.  It was organized in January, 1888 - Herman Leitelt, President; Wensel Ansorge, Vice President; William Leitelt, Secretary and Treasurer.  Capital stock, $8,000; annual output thus far, about $10,000.


The manufacture of various kinds of wood working machines has been carried on to some extent by most of the iron machinists of the past forty years, in connection with their general Work.  For some twelve or fifteen years two or three have turned their attention to the making of special wood working machinery as their main business, and the great growth of the demand for such work has made it a profitable business.  C. 0. & A. D. Porter have an establishment on North Front street giving employment to many skilled hands.  Alexander Dodds conducts a similar establishment on South Front Street.


Edward Racine, about 1876, established a factory for wire work on Monroe Street, and has continued the business to the present time; having recently removed to Waterloo street, near Fulton.


This article is a movable fire-place, made to be set in any room where it can be connected by pipes with a chimney.  It has a grate for burning coal, and is finished with a mantel, making it ornamental as well as useful.  The Aldine Manufacturing Company - A. D. Rathbone President; J. T. Philips, Secretary and Treasurer - with factory at the corner of Shawmut avenue and Court street, has been operating some three years.

Document Source: Baxter, Albert, History of the City of Grand Rapids, New York and Grand Rapids: Munsell & Company, Publishers, 1891. (Name Index)
Location of Original: Various.
Transcribers: Ed Howe
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/baxter1891/40metal.html
Created: 19 February 2000[an error occurred while processing this directive]