NELSON MATTER AND COMPANY
To most people of the present day it may seem incredible that, but little more than half a century ago, the rough slab bench or the three-legged stool, was not infrequently an article of kitchen furniture, but such is the fact. The pioneer who had an ax and saw and jackknife and auger deemed him self qualified to fit out his cabin with a plain table, a square-post bedstead, and a few seats, to begin housekeeping. Not many brought to their new homes in the woods a good outfit; but soon they saw the day of improvement.
About 1835 came into the settlement at Grand Rapids two or three who set up foot-lathes and were instrumental in the change from the era of square work to turned work. When William Haldane built his house in 1837, no sooner was the rough sheathing on the frame, and the roof shingled, than he moved in upon a rough board floor. Mrs. Haldane relates that blankets sufficed to cover the windows temporarily, and were not very inconvenient doors. Her husband, being a mechanic, made a door and some sash, and traded other specimens of his work for 8 by 10 window glass. lie cut from an old bootleg hinges for his door. They put up a squarepost bedstead, put in the bedcord, put thereon a straw bed and retired, feeling that they had a comfortable home of their own; and she says she does not know but they were as happy in those days as they have ever been. The house was at the head of what was then and for more than twenty years called Justice street, now the south east corner of Pearl and Ottawa streets, and here for many years he carried on the cabinet making business. Archibald Salmon, who came in 1837, had a cabinet shop near Haldane, on Prospect Hill, for a number of years. Samuel F. Butler was another who made cabinet ware, near the Bridge Street House. In 1849, Abram Snively opened a shop for furniture making, on Monroe street in a building that stood where now is the west side of the Morton House, which he carried on for several years. He afterward moved to Grandville.
Most of the furniture making here was done by hand until about 1848, and it is well to remember that in those days the maker had to learn his trade. William T. Powers came in 1847, and he and Mr. Haldane introduced working by machinery, the former at a shop just above Bridge street by the Canal, the latter at a point some distance below. In 1853 Mr. Haldane began working by steam power instead of water. At that time he had a shop and salesroom near the lower end of Canal street. Mr. Powers' first shop was at the corner of Fountain and Ionia, and his first salesroom was on Canal street, a short distance from Pearl. In 1851 he entered into partnership with E. Morris Ball, and they opened rooms on Pearl street near the Arcade; erecting there a neat wooden building into which they put an "open front" of French plate glass, the first one of that style here (except, perhaps, that in the McConnell block on Monroe street). January 1, 1855, Mr. Powers retired from the firm and the business was continued by Ball, Noyes & Colby.
In 1852, Powers & Ball built a factory on Erie street, and for some time were working about forty men and boys, shipping partly finished chairs and stuffs for McCormick's Reapers in considerable quantities to Chicago; at the same time running a sawmill and making their own lumber, of which they worked up about 300,000 feet a year. In 1853, Eagles & Pullman brought in a stock of furniture and went to manufacturing also, their place being at the corner of Canal street and Crescent avenue. Mr. Eagles died in 1854; the Pullmans afterward went to Chicago, and are the men of Pullman Palace Car fame. In July, 1854, E. W. Winchester formed a partnership with William Haldane in the furniture business, which continued until some time in the next year, after which, the brothers E. W. and S. A. Winchester started in the trade, and built a factory near the foot of Lyon street which, September 17, 1857, passed into the hands of C. C. Comstock, and became the foundation of the business now carried on by Nelson, Matter & Company. From such beginnings, and through such gradations, marking the period between 1835 and 1860, has grown the immense furniture manufacture for which Grand Rapids is now celebrated throughout the world.
A representative of the Detroit Free Press, after an inspection of Grand Rapids furniture factories wrote, in November, 1887, concerning them:
Each establishment maintains its own staff of designers, and they are busy the whole year round planning articles of furniture as comfortable, unique and beautiful as the art of man can compass. The designing and execution are alike perfect. The wood carving departments are a wonder in their way. Some of the wood carvers came from Glasgow, having learned their business in the shipyards on the Clyde, carving figure-heads, stem and stern adornments and cabin decorations for the mercantile, naval, racing and pleasure craft of the world. This apprenticeship stood them in good stead. There is no style of carving too intricate for their deft chisels. They could reproduce, if it were required, the carving on the pulpit in St. Gudule's Cathedral at Brussels, one of the most famous bits of woodwork in the world. It is an interesting sight to behold a force of thirty or forty of these handicraftsmen employed in one large room, and to inspect the wonderful variety of work executed there.
NELSON, MATTER AND COMPANY.
In the early part of 1854, E. W. Winchester came to Grand Rapids from Keene, New Hampshire, where he had learned his trade as cabinet maker and wood worker, hoping to find a good field for his skill in this then comparatively new town.
He entered into partnership with William Haldane for the manufacture of furniture. After a year this firm was dissolved, and in 1855 Mr. Winchester formed a partnership with his brother, S. A. Winchester, under the firm name of Winchester Brothers. They built a factory, a plain two-and-a-half-story frame structure, with shingled roof, which would appear insignificant now, but was then considered very large, at the corner of Lyon and Lock streets on the site of the present storage house, finishing and shipping rooms of Nelson, Matter & Company. During the panic of 1857 the Winchester Brothers made overtures to C. C. Comstock to take their plant off their hands, which change was made September 15, 1857, and the business was carried on by him until October 8, 1863.
During this time Mr. Comstock had established a branch house in Peoria, Ill., and opened a fair wholesale trade in Chicago and Milwaukee markets; also had made a complete revolution in the manner of introducing and selling furniture and cabinet wares to the trade. Prior to 1862, the manufacturer peddled his wares by chartering one or more cars, loading up his goods and starting out or sending an agent with them on the road.
Stopping at stations where business was expected or where he was desirous of opening trade, the car would be side-tracked, local dealers shown the articles for sale, and their orders filled as soon as convenient. But as the country became more densely settled, and the variety of styles increased, there came a demand for a cheaper way of introducing the goods. They could not be packed in a trunk and carried about in search of patron age; yet the styles of wares and their looks must be shown. This made it necessary for the salesman to be a fair artist, and illustrate his description by pencil sketches. In the spring of 1862 Elias Matter conceived the idea that if the pencil would show what the articles were, a picture from the camera would do it easier and better.
Mr. Comstock followed his suggestion, and now nearly every large factory has its photograph gallery as part of the needed machinery of the establishment.
In 1863 Mr. Comstock disposed of a half interest in the business to James M. and Ezra T. Nelson, and on October 8, the firm name was changed to Comstock, Nelson & Co. In August, 1865, Manly G. Colson, foreman in the factory, and J. A. Dugh, foreman of the finishing department each purchased an eighth interest from Comstock, who disposed of the remaining quarter to his son, Tileston A. Comstock, and the name was again changed to Nelson, Comstock & Co. April 16, 1870, the Comstock interest was purchased by Elias Matter, and the firm became Nelson. Matter & Company; composed of James M. Nelson, Ezra T. Nelson, Elias Matter, Manly G. Colson and James A. Pugh. September 5, 1870, Mr. Pugh died, but his estate carried on his interest until June 7, 1872, when it was purchased by the firm.
Mr. Colson died October 16, 1871, and May 9, 1872, his interest was purchased by Stephen S. Gay.
The next change in partners was June 10, 1878, when James G. MacBride and Jay D. Utley were admitted members, each buying one-third of Ezra T. Nelson's share. March 1, 1880, Ezra T. Nelson, James G. MacBride and Jay D. Utley purchased Mr. Gay's interest and he retired from the firm. James M. Nelson, the senior member, died January 18, 1883, but his interest in the firm was retained by his heirs until March 8, 1887, at which time, having withstood the vicissitudes of fickle fortune for thirty-two years, during which its progress, though slow and uphill work at first, had resulted in a large and substantial business, the institution became incorporated with a capital stock of $250,000, held by members of the old company and those who for years had been their faithful and trusted employees and who, either in the factory as skilled workmen or in the office, had done their part toward placing the firm in its strong position. The officers of the new corporation were Ezra T. Nelson, President; Elias Matter, Vice President; James G. Mac Bride, Secretary; Jay D. Utley, Treasurer.
In 1868 the company erected a building on Canal street for retail show rooms and offices, three stories and basement, 54 feet front on Canal and 8o feet deep. In 1873 the factory on the corner of Lyon, west of Lock street, was added, together with boiler, engine house and dry kilns in the rear; the former supplied with two seven-foot marine boilers and an engine of 150 horse power.
November 27, 1887, the warehouse, salesroom, office and finishing rooms on Lyon street were destroyed by fire, and it became a necessity to replace them with another edifice. The company at once erected a structure which they occupied in the fall of 1888, then the largest building of the kind in the State outside of Detroit. Facing on Lyon street with 68 feet frontage, it extends on Lock to Huron street, 160 feet in length. It is seven stories high, besides basement 8 1/2 feet deep and a photograph gallery on the roof, and is built of brick and sand stone, with terra cotta ornaments and galvanized iron cornices. The floors throughout are solid, of 2 by 6 inch pine, laid edge wise and covered with inch flooring of maple, making practically a fire proof barrier between each two stories. These floors are supported by iron columns in the basement, and by oak columns above on the inside. The ceilings are thirteen feet high in the first, eleven in the next five, and sixteen sloping to thirteen and one-half feet in the top story. The upper stories are reached by two stairways, one at either end of the building, and an elevator on the west side, each enclosed with brick walls, and all openings in them provided with automatic iron doors for protection in case of fire. The photograph gallery on the roof is also reached by the elevator.
The annual output of this establishment is about $750,000, distributed all over the United States, with a fair trade in foreign countries. The product includes, besides the regular lines of furniture, specialties in chamber suits, side boards, book-cases, chiffoniers and fine tables. They have ten traveling representatives. The manufacture keeps 450 to 500 employees, skilled workmen and others, constantly busy, and calls for a monthly pay roll of $18,000, or more.
Branch offices and ware rooms are situated at 22 East 18th Street, New York City, and at 267-269 Wabash avenue, Chicago.
EZRA T. NELSON, President of the Nelson, Matter & Company furniture corporation, was born in Milford, Massachusetts, May 9, 1824. He came of good old New England stock; his mother's maiden name being Mary Parkhurst of Milford, and his father Capt. Ezra Nelson, who won honor and prominence for himself in the war of 1812. Of his father, the town history says: "He was Captain of the once famous Milford Artillery Company, in his time honored with various official trusts by his fellow-men, and universally respected as a worthy man." Mr. Nelson's early life was spent in his native State: first on the homestead and at the village school, then at the academies of Framingham and Cambridgeport, and later as clerk in the wholesale dry goods establishment of S. F. Morse & Co., of Boston, where he remained two years.
These years of his boyhood included a visit of some months to his brothers at Grand Rapids, Michigan, which stimulated an already strong desire to see more of pioneer life for himself, and in 1842 he turned his face westward. After a trial during the following two years of Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Columbus, he decided upon Grand Rapids as the place in which to cast his fortune. The town had scarce reached its twelfth year from settlement when, in 1844, Mr. Nelson entered business life here as clerk in the store of Henry R. Williams. After two years in this position he resigned it to join a party composed of J. Mortimer Smith, Edmund B. Bostwick and Damon Hatch, in search of adventure and copper in the Lake Superior region. He has pleasant memories of the journey from Detroit by steamer to Sault Ste. Marie, thence by schooner to Copper Harbor, of the exploration of the shores and streams in small boats, and the return, after four months, on the first steamer that ever plowed the waters of Lake Superior, though the expedition resulted only in the location of a few mines which were never developed. Returning to Grand Rapids, Mr. Nelson entered mercantile life, in which, in various branches, he remained until, in 1863, he embarked in the business into which he was to put his best energies, and the building up of which was to he his prominent life work.
The furniture establishment of Nelson, Matter & Co., is one of the three great ones in this place manufacturing exclusively fine furniture, and of the many which make Grand Rapids the greatest furniture center in the world. Their annual sales have increased, since Mr. Nelson entered the company, from $20,000 to more than three quarters of a million dollars annually, and their goods are shipped to all countries. Of the firm, Mr. Nelson is President, senior member and principal stockholder. In politics he is a stanch Republican. In his earlier years offices of trust were frequently tendered him, some of which he faithfully filled, but more often refused, though always alive to the interests of the city and proud of its high place and reputation among the cities of the West. Mr. Nelson married, October 9, 1848, Augusta M., daughter of Charles Valentine of Cambridgeport, Massachusetts. They have three daughters. As a man of sterling qualities of character, firm principle, recognized business ability and public spirit. Mr. Nelson stands high in the respect and estimation of his fellow-citizens.
ELIAS MATTER was born in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, Oct. 6, 1833. His parents were natives of that county. When he was eight years old his father died, and he remained with his mother on the farm during the following three years. At eleven years of age he engaged to work on a farm for his board and clothing and three months' schooling in the winter.
From 1850 to 1853 he served as an apprentice, learning the trade of chair and cabinet maker, in Uniontown, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, and was next employed for two years as clerk in a general assortment store in the same town. In February, 1855, Mr. Matter went to Rochester, New York, where he worked in a chair factory until the following September. He then came to Grand Rapids; was clerk in a boot and shoe store until the spring of 1857; next attended school three months, and taught a district school during the following two winters. In 1859 he entered the employ of C. C. Comstock, worked in the cabinet shop at piece - work some six months, and was then given the position of foreman. In the fall of 1862 he left there and entered a co-partnership with Julius Berkey, in the manufacture of furniture for the wholesale trade exclusively. In 1863 they sold an interest to William A. Berkey; in 1866 George W. Gay also came into the firm, and together they continued the business until February, 1870, when Mr. Matter sold out to his partners. In April following he purchased the interest of Tileston A. Comstock in the furniture firm of Nelson, Comstock & Company, which then became Nelson, Matter & Company, now standing in the front rank of the heavy manufacturing houses of Grand Rapids.
Mr. Matter married, August 17, 1858, Anna, eldest daughter of Adam Toot, a farmer of Irving, Barry County, Michigan. Nine children have been born to them, of whom three sons and two daughters are living. The family are attendants at Park Congregational Church, of which Mrs. Matter is a member. Politically Mr. Matter is an adherent of the Democratic party. He is a member of De Molai Commandery, Knights Templar; also of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Mr. Matter is a representative of the class who win success in business by steady and persistent effort and honorable dealing; has acquired a fair competence, and lives in a handsome residence at 112 Fountain street, a picture of which appears in this volume.
BERKEY AND GAY FURNITURE COMPANY.
In 1859 Julius Berkey, with James Eggleston, in a small shop on Erie street, made sash, doors and blinds, under contract. Being a skillful mechanic, he also manufactured quartette stands, which sold readily. About this time William A. Berkey began the erection of a sash, door and blind factory on Mill street, opposite Hastings, and in the summer of 1860 Alphonso Ham and Julius Berkey were using a portion of the second floor of that building for furniture making. In the following winter Berkey sold his interest to his partner, who soon closed it out.
In April, 1861, Mr. Berkey started in again at the same place, and continued the business alone till November, 1862; thus practically, though not foreseeing such an outcome perhaps, laying the foundation for that colossal institution, the Berkey & Gay Furniture Company's factory, which now stands among the leading furniture factories in the United States.
In November, 1862, Elias Matter, inventorying his tool chest at six dollars, and Julius Berkey with five dollars in cash and a few hundred dollars worth of machinery and materials, formed the partnership of Berkey & Matter, who turned their attention to manufacturing exclusively for the wholesale trade of Chicago and Milwaukee. October 5, 1863, Wm. A. Berkey took a half interest with the young firm, and it was changed to Berkey Bros. & Company, with a capital stock of $17,215.33, including real estate and personal property, for the manufacture of sash, doors, blinds and furniture.
In 1866 Geo. W. Gay purchased half the interest of Wm. A. Berkey and the firm name was again changed to Berkey Bros. & Gay. February 28, 1870, Mr. Matter retired. In January, 1873, Wm. A. Berkey withdrew. The Berkey & Gay Furniture Company proper was incorporated in August, 1873, with a capital stock of $500,000 and has been practically under the same management ever since its organization, the officers being: Julius Berkey, President; Geo. W. Gay, Treasurer; John A. Covode, Secretary.
Their office and salesrooms are at 174 to 180 Canal, on the corner of Hastings street. The factory proper in 1888 comprised three buildings; one 100 by 50 feet and four stories high; the other two three stories high, one 125 by 70 feet the other 8o by 40 feet, all containing the latest and most improved wood working machinery. The principal building, on the corner of Canal and Hastings, containing the offices, shipping departments, storing, finishing and show rooms, is a six story brick block, 75 by 220 feet in size. The property of the company may be said to cover the greater portion of three blocks as platted, the lumber yard and dry kiln occupying one and the buildings the other two.
Every provision is made for the comfort and safety of employees. Heated by steam and carefully guarded from accident, the entire works may be regarded as a model for their uses. The output of the company is from six to eight hundred thousand dollars annually, sent to all parts of the world; though from the class of goods manufactured, consisting of fine furniture in chamber, dining-room, hall and library suits, they naturally seek only the cream of the trade. They have an eastern salesroom, at No. 17 Elizabeth street, New York City.
Four salaried and several commission men represent the company as salesmen; about 450 skilled workmen are kept constantly busy to satisfy the demand for their products; and to reward this force of labor some $20,000 is thrown into circulation each month. At this writing, 1889, the company are finishing a new factory building, largely on the site of the old, extending from Canal street across the canal, over Mill street, and to the river - in size 175 feet on Mill street, 195 feet on the river, 193 feet from front to rear, six stories high and basement, and containing nearly six acres of working space.
Probably there is no larger manufacturing establishment of the kind in the world.
WIDDICOMB FURNITURE COMPANY.
Perhaps no factory in the city is more closely woven with family history and harmony than is that of the Widdicomb Furniture Company. The germ from which this institution grew was planted in 1858, in which year George Widdicomb, the father of four sturdy boys, started a modest little cabinet shop and endeavored to contribute his share toward supplying the wants of the people. This was near the east end of Bridge street where now are the Valley City Milling Company's mills. George Widdicomb prospered in his undertaking to such an extent that he soon had about a dozen men in his employ and opened a large (for that time) retail store on the west side of Canal between Huron and Erie streets, with his sons in partnership, known by the sign as George Widdicomb & Sons; which continued until 1863.
When the war of the Rebellion broke out, the first call of President Lincoln was responded to by William and George Jr. enlisting in the Volunteer Infantry, early in the summer of 1861.
Harry went to the front in 1862, and John followed in 1863. In 1864, the oldest two boys came home and started a small shop near the foot of the East Side canal, doing all their own work. At the close of the war Harry and John returned and the four struggled on with little capital but a thorough knowledge of the business, in which they had all served an apprenticeship, and a determination to carve out success.
Little by little their enterprise grew and one by one they increased the number of their workmen, until, in 1868, they moved to their present place on the corner of Seward and Fourth streets, occupied a small frame building and gave employment to about twenty-five men. January 1, 1869, T. F. Richards was admitted to partnership and the firm name changed to Widdicomb Bros. & Richards, composed of William, Harry and John Widdicomb (George having died in March, 1866), and T. F. Richards. The capital was increased to $12,000 and the building was raised and enlarged.
The Widdicomb Furniture Company proper was organized December 1, 1873, with the following officers: Wm. Widdicomb, President; T. F. Richards, Vice President; Harry Widdicomb, Secretary and Treasurer. The capital stock was $90,000, which from time to time has been increased until it has reached $380,000. At the time of incorporation the plant consisted of the original building 68 by 90 feet, and one three-story frame, 50 by 150 feet, built in 1871, and they had about 150 men on their payroll, turning out in the neighborhood of $8o,000 worth of goods annually. The Widdicomb spindle bedsteads became known far and wide but they soon added other grades to meet the constantly growing demand.
In 1883 William Widdicomb retired from the company to enter the position of Cashier in the Grand Rapids National Bank; his careful methods as a business man having built up handsome fortunes and placed the establishment on a prosperous and profitable footing.
In 1879 a five-story brick building 104 feet square was added, and in 1886, another 68 by 128 feet, until the plant consists of these: Warehouse No. 1, a three-and-a half-story frame building for storage purposes. Warehouse No. 2, a three-story frame also for storage. The main factory, a five-story brick 100 by 150 feet. Engine and boiler house with two 300-horse-power engines and six tubular boilers. Warehouse No. 3, four stories. A five-story brick block 68 by 128 feet for cabinet making and storage. A one-story shed 150 feet long for storage. A five-story brick building for cabinet making, finishing and show rooms.
The buildings are supplied with iron standpipe, hose, automatic fire extinguishers and every possible protection against fire.
The aggregate space of flooring in the building is 253,530 square feet and of ground space 64,750 square feet. There are also five dry kilns with a weekly capacity of a quarter of a million feet of lumber, and lumber yards covering nearly ten acres. Their lumber is obtained chiefly from tracts in the northern part of the State owned by the company and from which over seven million feet annually, of oak, ash, birch and maple lumber is cut for the manufacture of their goods; giving employment to some six hundred men, drawing about $20,000 per month. The annual output averages about $700,000.
Shipments are made direct from the factory, but for the convenience of patrons they have an Eastern agency at No. 17 Elizabeth street, New York, and a `Western agency at No. 267 Wabash avenue, Chicago. This is probably the largest factory in the world manufacturing bedroom furniture exclusively; the specialties being chamber suits, chiffoniers, bedsteads and bedroom furniture in quartered oak, ash, birch and maple. Officers of the company (1889): President, Harry Widdicomb; Vice President, T. F. Richards; Secretary and Treasurer, John Widdicomb.
KENT FURNITURE C0MPANY.
The Kent Furniture Company was organized in January, 1880, with a capital stock of $100,000 - L. H. Randall, President; J. H. Wonderly, Vice President; E. C. Allen, Secretary and General Manager, R. N. Wolcott, Treasurer.
The working department was organized with Franklin Holland, Superintendent, and a force of forty men, and commenced manufacturing a line chiefly of sideboards and center tables, especially painted and ornamented goods, for cottage furniture. Their factory occupies an entire block on North Front street near the north city line, and is equipped with the latest improved machinery. It consists of a four story frame warehouse for shipping and finishing; oil house; large dry kilns; boiler house; engine room; main factory, two-and-a-half-story frame, 100 by 110 feet in its average, and one two-story addition with offices. The product of the firm is chiefly hard wood furniture of medium priced and cheap grades, imitations of walnut, mahogany, cherry and other expensive woods, and includes specialties in bedroom suits, chiffoniers, sideboards, tables and other articles of tasteful and artistic design. The lumber, received on a side track from the railroad, is loaded on trucks and without being again handled goes to the dry kilns and from thence to each department of the factory on tracks laid for the purpose.
Their battery of boilers consists of three tubular boilers of 100-horse-power each, and one marine boiler of 300-horse-power, manufactured at Ferrysburg, Michigan. A 300horse-power, fixed, cut-off engine furnishes the motive power. The works are lighted by incandescent lamps. Their own artesian well on the premises not only supplies the factory but the neighborhood with excellent water.
On their pay roll are 200 employees, receiving some $7,000 monthly, and their annual output of about $275,000 is distributed all over the United States and Canada. Three traveling salesmen look after their interests with the trade.
Officers (1889): J. H. Wonderly, President; J. P. Creque, Vice President and General Manager; R. N. Wolcott, Secretary and Treasurer. The plant, including three lumber yards on Webster, Turner and Scribner streets, covers nearly twelve acres. Factory at 674 to 700 North Front street.
THE PHOENIX FURNITURE COMPANY.
In 1868 William A. Berkey was made assignee for Atkins & Soule, cabinet makers. In 1870 the premises were purchased by parties who organized the Phoenix Manufacturing Company, with a capital limited to $100,000 - President, Wm. A. Berkey; Treasurer, Nelson M. Northrop: Secretary, Frank McWhorter. For several years they did business in a small way at the corner of Ottawa and Fairbanks streets, in the manufacture of miscellaneous furniture.
Mr. Berkey retired from the firm of Berkey Bros. & Gay, January 1, 1873, and devoted his energies to building up the new company which had been reorganized as the Phoenix Furniture Company, with a capital stock of $200,000, to be increased as circumstances should render advisable. The officers were: Wm. A. Berkey, President; Wm. A. Howard, Vice President; L. D. Norris, Secretary, W. D. Talford, Treasurer.
In the fall of 1872 ground had been broken for the erection of a factory on a tract of about eight acres, at the corner of West Fulton and Summer streets, and the company in 1873 moved into the new quarters, which, with additions made in 1875, 1880, and 1883, cover over 700,000 square feet of floor space. The main buildings are of brick, with lumber sheds, freight houses and yards attached, filled with all kinds of lumber needed in their work.
The company has prospered until from 100 workmen, they have increased their force to an average of 550 men, with a monthly payroll of near $18,000. Their products, consisting of the finest grades of chamber suits, folding beds, book cases, dining tables and heavy office furniture, go to every portion of the country and aggregate about $700,000 annually. In connection with their factory they have a large show room where an elaborate display of their goods is made. Present paid up capital, $500,000.
Officers (1889): President, James W. Converse; Vice President, Frank Smith; Secretary and Treasurer, R. W. Merrill; Designer, D. W. Kendall; Directors, J. W. Converse, C. G. Swensberg, D. W. Talford, R. W. Merrill, Adolph Leitelt, Frank Smith, D. W. Kendall.
This mammoth institution has had a very successful career. Commenced shortly before the financial crisis of 1874, its managers weathered the storm, and now it stands among the first in the city if not in the country.
It has also a suit of salesrooms in the Blodgett block, corner of Louis and Ottawa streets, as handsome and capacious as any in the land.
WM. A. BERKEY FURNITURE CO.
On severing his connection with the Phoenix Furniture Company in 1879, Wm. A. Berkey retired from active participation in the furniture trade, with which he had been connected since 1863, but in the spring of 1882, he opened a factory for himself on the corner of Campau and Louis streets, where he made a specialty of the manufacture of fine and medium grade wood-top center tables, in which he continued until January, 1885, when he organized the Wm. A. Berkey Furniture Company, with a capital stock of $85,000, the following being the officers: Wm. A. Berkey, President; Wm. H. Jones, Vice President; Lewis T. Peck, Secretary and Treasurer.
The company have their office and salesroom at 39 to 41 North Waterloo street, and the factory in the same building, being a three-story brick block 118 by 125 feet. They give employment to about 140 men, with a monthly pay roll of not far from $6,000. In addition to the goods mentioned above the company carry a large general assortment for the retail trade, in which they make a specialty of fine parlor work.
The annual output, about $150,000, is sold mostly by commission, going to nearly all parts of the United States.
WILLIAM A. BERKEY, furniture manufacturer, is a native of Perry County, Ohio, born April 12, 1823. His early educational advantages were moderate, chiefly those afforded by the common district schools. In 1844 he began work at the trade of carpenter and joiner. In 1848 he went to Tiffin, Ohio, and engaged in the manufacture of doors and sash. From there he came to Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1855, starting here in similar business. His change to the furniture trade and his career therein are substantially outlined in the history of the manufacturing establishments with which he has been connected, related in this chapter.
Mr. Berkey married, in 1848, Mary Springer, of Seneca County, Ohio, who is still his life partner. From his youth up he has been a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In politics he was a Republican for many years, and subsequently became an adherent of the Greenback party, by which in 1876, he was tendered a nomination for Representative in the State Legislature, but declined to run. About that time he had been giving much attention to the study of finance, and in 1876 published a volume of 384 pages, entitled "The Money Question," of which three editions were issued. Mr. Berkey is a genial neighbor, an exemplary citizen, always a busy man, enterprising and still in active business, in which he has been fairly successful.
WORDEN FURNITURE COMPANY.
This is a co-partnership, dating from 1882, between Adelbert E. Worden and Henry Fralick, with a capital of $50,000, afterward increased to $75,000, the present estimated value of their plant, The factory and grounds are on the west side of the river near the end of the C. & W. M. RR bridge, covering twelve lots on South Front, Earl and Talford streets.
The building is a five-floor brick and wooden structure, 50 by 150 feet, and represents about half the space used by the company. They manufacture chamber suits in ash and maple only. Beginning operations in 1882 with thirty-five men, they now have near 150 on their pay roll, receiving about S5,000 monthly. Nearly every prominent city in the union contributes to their list of patrons, The total sales for the first year were less than $30,000, while their operations for 1888 foot up nearly or quite $150,000..
SCHOOL AND OFFICE FURNITURE.
On January 5, 1886, a partnership was formed between Gaius W. Perkins, William T. Hess, and Seymour W. Peregrine, and a factory was started by them on the corner of Prescott and Ionia streets, for the manufacture of school and office furniture.
On May 8, 1887, Gaius W. Perkins, President; S. W. Peregrine, Vice President; Wm. T. Hess, Treasurer, and Charles J. Reed, Secretary, incorporated the Grand Rapids School Furniture Company, with a capital stock of $100,000. Early in 1888 they purchased seven acres of land on the West Side and erected a new factory into which they moved August 1, 1888. Their plant, on Broadway, between Ninth and Tenth streets, comprises all needed buildings and machinery, and furnishes about 70,000 square feet of working space. They have five men traveling to represent their interests, and ship $400,000 worth of products annually to all parts of the Union; manufacturing exclusively school and office furniture and church and hall seating. They employ about 300 hands, at a monthly expense of not far from $12,000. They manufacture complete all the work that they turn out.
Lately they have added $50,000 to the paid-in capital stock.
Another establishment doing a promising business in making school furniture and kindred articles is that of the Haney Manufacturing Company, at 270 North Front street. Elijah Haney, President; George M. Haney Secretary and Treasurer.
The Waddell Manufacturing Company began on Mill street, as John Waddell & Company, in June, 1879, B. Meilink being the copartner. April 12, 1880, Geo. Waddell purchased Mr. Meilink's interest. September 6, 1880, W. E. Hunting was admitted to partnership, and the name changed to the Waddell Manufacturing Company. April 22, 1881, the Waddell Brothers bought out Mr. Hunting's interest and continued the business until, September 6, 1882, E. J. Aldworth came into the firm and they purchased the old hotel property on the corner of Coldbrook and Taylor streets, where they are now located..
January 5, 1888, the company was incorporated with the following officers: J. Waddell, President; G. Waddell, Vice President and Manager; E. J. Aldworth, Secretary and Treasurer.
Capital stock, $30,000. They employ some thirty-five hands at an average monthly pay of $1,200. Their product is exclusively furniture ornaments; their trade extending to furniture manufacturers in all parts of the United States, also in Canada, Great Britain and Ireland; the average annual output being about $30,000. They work with machinery of their own adaptation.
FANCY CABINET WARE.
The Oriel Cabinet Company is the only one in Grand Rapids manufacturing fancy cabinet ware exclusively; making nearly one thousand different designs, new ones being constantly added and old ones dropped, keeping the designers busy the year round getting out novelties; and it is probably the leading manufacturer of fancy and art furniture in the world..
The company was incorporated October 30, 1880, with a capital stock of $100,000. It employs some 200 workmen, at an average monthly wage cost of about $8,000. It occupies three large buildings, with a dry kiln having a capacity of about 50,000 feet. Traveling men push its wares to every part of the country. Geo. W. Gay, President; E. F. Sweet, Vice President; Chas. W. Black, Secretary, Treasurer and General Manager.
The factory, at 420 to 436 Canal street, was totally destroyed by fire May 16, 1890; loss about $125,000.
The Grand Rapids Furniture Company was organized January 1, 1877, with a capital stock of $10,000, which has been increased to $52,000. The incorporators were J. C. More, A. More and L. C. Stow. When the company started they erected a three story frame factory on Butterworth avenue, which was destroyed by fire April 21, 1883, and at once replaced with substantial one story brick buildings. The dry kilns have a capacity of 6o,000 feet of lumber. They operate a 200-horse-power engine and three tubular boilers. Their payroll calls for about $2,500 each month, which is distributed among nearly 100 employees. This is claimed to be the largest exclusive bedstead factory in the world, and perhaps is the only one that uses nothing but hard maple in the construction of bedsteads, finished in the natural color of the wood or in imitation of walnut, mahogany and cherry. The plant covers some five acres. The annual output is about $100,000. The officers are J. C. More, President; L. C. Stow, Secretary and Treasurer. Out of this industry has grown the firm of More & Stow, lumber manufacturers, at Mancelona, who furnish the lumber required by the Grand Rapids Company, their product averaging about 2,000,000 feet annually.
STOW & DAVIS.
In 1881 a copartnership was formed between Russell J. Stow and Thomas D. Haight for the manufacture of tables. In October George A. Davis purchased Mr. Haight's interest, from which time the firm have been known as Stow & Davis. Starting for the exclusive manufacture of common extension and kitchen tables, with a capital of $2,400, they now manufacture all kinds of tables, making a specialty, how ever, of extra fine pillar tables, employing a capital of $48,000. Their monthly pay roil of about $1,500. makes forty or fifty employees happy. The plant consists of two frame factories, with a brick dry kiln, having a capacity of 25,000 feet of lumber. Their annual output of about $6o,000 is sold on commission, and distributed all over the Union, with the exception, perhaps, of two or three eastern States.
The factory is on South Front at the foot of Watson street.
THE SLIGH COMPANY.
The Sligh Furniture Company, on Buchanan street near Wealthy avenue, manufacture a line of medium priced chamber furniture, and sideboards, in walnut, oak, ash and cherry. The company was organized February 24, 1880, with an authorized capital stock of $100,000, of which only $18,500 was paid in. The plant covers about four acres, and has about 6,200 square feet of floor room. It furnishes work and subsistence to some 175 employees. The monthly pay roll is estimated at about $5,000 and the annual output at $120,000. Lewis E. Hawkins is President of the company, and Charles R. Sligh, Vice President.
CLARK & HODGES FURNITURE COMPANY.
This was organized in August, 1887, with a capital stock of $15,000; President, Marsden C. Burch; Vice President, Berend De Graaf, Jr.; Secretary and Treasurer, John P. Finegan. The factory is at 286 and 288 Canal street. Beginning with sixteen workmen, they now employ about fifty, with a payroll of some $1,500 per month, turning out an annual product of about $40,000. They make a specialty of fine center-tables, pedestals and hall-trees, which are disposed of to the trade through commission sales men. To run their machinery, a thirty-five horse-power engine is used.
The New England Furniture Company was organized in April, 1881, by E. Ward, H. C. Brooks, Elias Skinner, O. A. Ward, W. S. Emery, and H. M. Amsden, with a capital stock of $100,000. The principal line of their manufacture is decorated cottage furniture. Annual output, $175,000. The finishing and storage building is of wood, five stories high. The factory is a four-story brick, 50 by 110 feet. The lumber yard and dry kilns cover a space of 120 by 350 feet. They employ 150 men at an average pay of $4,500 monthly.
The line of their goods runs from cheap to extra medium in the latest styles, both of cottage furniture and of center tables. The factory is at 240 to 250 Canal street. President, Henry C. Brooks; Secretary and Treasurer, Orin A. Ward.
Specialties in furniture sometimes seem to be like wheels within wheels. Such is the case, apparently, with the business of the American Patent Dressing Case Company; incorporated in March, 1886, by Israel C. Smith, President; Joseph Penney, Secretary, and James C. Darragh, Vice President and Treasurer, with a capital stock of $30,000. It was organized for the purpose of manufacturing patented articles in furniture, such as dressing cases, sanitary Washstands and other similar products. They gather the various parts and materials and have them put together under contract by some furniture factory, at present. The sales amount to about $30,000 annually. The officers are: President, Joseph Penney; Vice President, C. W. Watkins; Secretary and Treasurer, George G. Clay.
NEWAYGO FURNITURE COMPANY.
The Newaygo Furniture Company was organized in 1880, with a capital stock of $50,000. A. J. Daniels, President; Henry Spring, Vice President; W. D. Stevens, Secretary. The office of the company was in Grand Rapids, but the factory was at Newaygo. In 1885 the Stockwell & Darragh Furniture Company stock was purchased by the Newaygo Company. April 23, 1887, D. D. Irwin, of Muskegon, was appointed Receiver, and the plant placed in his possession to run the business and pay off certain mortgages. Subsequently the entire property changed ownership, and in 1889 the business was merged in that of the Converse Manufacturing Company, with office headquarters in this city. It had reached an output of some $80,000 annually.
THE CONVERSE MANUFACTURING COMPANY.
James W. Converse, of Boston, had acquired the stock and business properties of the Newaygo Furniture Company and the Newaygo Manufacturing Company, and on September 17, 1889, was organized the Converse Manufacturing Company, in which were consolidated those two Newaygo establishments, and the clothespin factory on the West Side in Grand Rapids, that had been operated by D. P. Clay, with the following officers: President, J. N. Converse; Vice President, Costello C. Converse; Secretary, William McBain, Treasurer and General Manager, I. C. Smith.
Thus are brought together several large and prominent manufacturing enterprises, in which Mr. Converse previously held the chief financial interests. At Newaygo are operated two sawmills, a gristmill, a tub and pail factory, a planing mill, a sash, door and blind factory, a furniture factory and a general store, to which are added the clothes pin manufacture and other important industries in Grand Rapids. The capital stock is $150,000, while the business and proper ties represent a total investment of about $300,000.
CROCKETT & HOPPINS.
Crockett & Hoppins, manufacturers and wholesale and retail furniture dealers, 17 Canal and 42 \Vest Leonard street, carry a line of furniture in which they make a specialty of ordered work. They also do considerable work in reupholstering, refinishing and refitting. The business was established in 1885, by S. L. Crockett and E. J. Hoppins. The capital invested is about $30,000, with an annual output of $60,000. In their employ (1889) are fourteen hands, with an average monthly payroll of $600.
FOLDING BED FACTORY.
The Welch Folding Bed Company is perhaps the largest, if not the only, manufactory in the United States whose product is exclusively folding beds. The company was organized December 6, 1886, as a copartnership between L. W. Welch and W. S. Earle.
The salesroom and main offices are at Grand Rapids, but the factory proper is at Sparta, Kent county, and, with shipping warehouse, covers 45,000 square feet of floor space, with lumber yards of about ten acres adjoining, giving employment to 100 hands, whose earnings place about $4,000 per month in circulation. Their product, consisting of the Welch patent folding bed (combining six articles of furniture in one), amounts to about $150,000 annually, with an investment of $70,000 capital.
Among the many smaller factories engaged in some special product, is that of F. E. Morris, who in May, 1888, patented a bed lounge, and, working by himself with only a capital of $500 to commence with, manufactures for the retail trade, doing a business of about $500 per month. His shop is at 112 South Division street.
CENTER TABLES AND PEDESTALS.
The Valley City Table Company, 53 and 55 South Front street, engaged in the manufacture of fine center tables and pedestals, was incorporated with a capital stock of $8,000 in January, 1888, by G. H. Clark and L. N. Hodges..
Their factory is a three story building, 80 by 100 feet, in which twenty-one men and boys are kept busy manufacturing, for the wholesale trade only, fine center tables and office desks, at an average monthly pay of about $500.
They have made shipments as far west as Los Angeles, Cal., and east to New York and Philadelphia. The annual output is estimated at S10,000. Mr. Clark is said to have been the first to introduce machine carving into the furniture business in Grand Rapids.
The Grand Rapids Refrigerator Company is a branch of H. Leonard & Sons crockery and house furnishing goods establishment. In 1883 they saw a chance for improvement in the construction of refrigerators, and, patenting their improvements, invested a capital of $I50,000, and commenced the manufacture of their goods, at first in a small way, but now their capacity is upward of a hundred refrigerators daily, giving employment to one hundred and twenty-five men. Their improvement consists of interior walls made removable for cleanliness, air tight locks and solid iron shelves, with an interior construction providing for the preservation of ice. Theirs is the only factory of this sort in the State. Their output of some $200,000 annually is distributed in all parts of the world.
PATENT TRIPODS AND EASELS
The Universal Tripod Company was started in June, 1887, as a co-partnership between Julius and C. H. Berkey, the former having invented a tripod on which the company secured letters patent in that year. At first they manufactured tripods only, but gradually worked into several other kinds of furniture, including light tables and easels. Their factory covers 40,000 square feet of working space, in which are eighty men, whose monthly pay amounts to about $2,8oo, and who produce annually near $60,000 worth of goods.
The Folding Chair and Table Company was organized October 25, 1881, with a capital stock of $50,000, and was incorporated by Wm. H. Washer, President; J. F. Homan, Vice President; A. J. Davidson, Secretary, and J. H. Frey, Treasurer. They began at No. 8 Pearl street, where they remained until 1883, when they moved to the corner of South Ionia street and Wealthy avenue, their building being three stories 48 by 100 feet. In 1887 they added a three-story frame 129 by 24 feet. Starting with ten, they now employ sixty-five men, and the monthly pay roll is some $2,500. Annual output about $70,000. Having gradually worked out of the chair business, they give special attention to the manufacture of tables.
Officers (1889): W. B. Remington, President; A. J. Davidson, Secretary and Treasurer; W. H. Washer, Manager and Superintendent.
M'CORD & BRADFIELD WORKS.
The McCord & Bradfield Furniture Company was organized December 29, 1879, with a capital stock of $150,000, by T. M. McCord, F. R. Luce and John Bradfield. They manufacture chamber suits and folding tables, of which their annual output is $425,000, giving employment to 280 men, and requiring monthly nearly $10,000 to pay them off. Their plant is at 508 Canal and 594 Ottawa street. Their goods are sent to all parts of the world, and four men look after their interests as traveling agents.
The officers are: President, R. C. Luce; Vice President, Chas. Shepard; Secretary and Treasurer, F. R. Luce.
The Company have purchased (in 1889) a site for a new factory, below the gas works and near the railroad track, and are erecting a building thereon to cover about five acres of ground.
The Peninsular Furniture Company was incorporated in July, 1883, with a capital stock of $25,000. Their plant consists of a factory on Canal street, warehouse and offices on the corner of Ottawa and Fairbanks, and a warehouse on the corner of Kent and Newberry streets. They employ fifty-four men, which costs them about $2,000 monthly. The annual output is nearly $75,000. Their principal products are ash and imitation mahogany and walnut sets, and hardwood bedsteads.
Officers (1889): A. B. Knowlson, President; Wm. Green, Vice President; Joseph Homer, Secretary and Treasurer.
Z. E. ALLEN FURNITURE FACTORY.
Z. E. Allen opened a factory at 44 Mill street in January, 1883, for the manufacture of tables, carpet sweepers and patent folding chairs, with an investment of about $6,000. In the summer of 1885 he increased his business, and began the production of chamber suits, of which he now makes a specialty in cheap and medium grades. The shipments are mostly west and south. The establishment gives employment to an average of thirty men - monthly pay about $1,000. Output about $35,000 per annum. The stock investment is $20,000.
MANUFACTURE OF VENEERS.
The Grand Rapids Veneer Works are the practical outgrowth of several attempts and experiments in the manufacture of thin woods. In August, 1882, the Grand Rapids Veneer and Panel Company was organized with a capital of $30,000, but being a new enterprise it was not successful. After about two years it was superseded by the A. B. Watson Veneer and Panel Company. In January, 1886, the Grand Rapids Veneer Works were incorporated, with a capital stock of $30,000, purchasing the entire plant of the A. B. Watson Veneer and Panel Company, with the following official board:
A. B. Watson, President; Cyrus E. Perkins, Vice President; C. B. Judd, Secretary and Treasurer; Z. Clark Thwing, General Manager. Formerly thin veneers were cut in flat sheets through the grain by circular saws, and the product was limited to the comparatively small quantity used in the furniture trade mostly. By the special machinery now used are produced veneers and panels of native woods, used in all sorts of wood work where it is necessary to combine strength with lightness. The log, after being thoroughly seasoned, is sawed to the right length and steamed soft. It is then centered to rotate in front of a heavy knife, which cuts a smooth and continuous sheet of veneer, ranging in thickness from four to one hundred and fifty sheets to the inch, and in width up to ten feet four inches. They have the only machine used exclusively for cutting heavy stock - the half-inch sheet which it produces being used for such work as cutter stock, tops of children's sleighs, and road-cart or carriage bottoms - and, being cut with the grain of the wood, this possesses strength that is unattainable in sawed work; hence there is a demand for it beyond their capacity to manufacture. In panel stock, of every three sheets, one is run through gluing rollers and placed between the other two crosswise of the grain; after being subjected to an immense pressure until thoroughly set, this is finished and sent out to the customer much stronger than if of one solid piece.
The product of this factory, amounting to $60,000 a year, is sent to all parts of the world. The work gives employment to some sixty men whose services cost the company upward of $2,000 monthly. The factory is by the river bank on North Front street, between Eighth and Tenth.
The Furniture Caster Association was incorporated May 26, 1886, with an authorized capital stock of $90,000 - Wilder D. Stevens, President; Melville R. Bissell, Vice President; George G. Whitworth, Secretary and Treasurer - for the purpose of manufacturing and dealing in the Fox Patent Track Plate, Automatic Spring Caster Socket and Removable Casters. This is a Grand Rapids invention, arising out of the demand of the furniture trade for something that was an improvement on the old way of castering. The importance of the invention may be judged from a description.
A socket of malleable iron, provided with a tempered steel spring, is surrounded by a toothed ferrule, or shield holding the several parts in place, preventing the foot or post from splitting and the corners from breaking. The caster has an enlargement or head at the upper end of the shank, over which the spring in the socket slips, holding it in place when lifted from the floor, and yet it is easily removed by a slight pull, in which case the track plates prevent breakage of furniture by sliding over the floors of warehouses. It further permits the manufacturer to caster goods in the factory, while in the process of construction, thus doing the work much cheaper and better.
The enterprise is yet in its infancy, but gives promise of healthy growth and holds a leading place among the many specialties peculiar to Grand Rapids.
ASSOCIATED FURNITURE MAKERS.
The Grand Rapids Furniture Manufacturers' Association was organized June 13, 1881, for the purpose of promoting the mutual interests of the manufacturers and dealers in furniture and kindred branches of business, by securing just and equitable rates of transportation and insurance, giving particular attention to trade matters, and insolvent and dishonest dealers, for the mutual benefit and protection of all the members interested.
The first officers were: Elias Matter, President; T. F. Richards, Vice President; J. C. Darragh, Secretary, and T. M. McCord, Treasurer
August 9, 1886, the Furniture Manufacturers' Association of the United States was organized with office at 62 Bowery, New York, for the purpose of giving those interested information in reference to labor troubles or strikes, and securing co-operation with local associations, and enabling manufacturers to act unitedly whenever desired. The office of the Grand Rapids Association is at 13 Canal street. Officers (1888): John A. Covode, President; John Widdicomb, Vice President; E. H. Foote, Treasurer; H. D. C. Van Asmus, Secretary; Robert P. Lyon, Credit Manager; the latter being the Credit Manager at New York of the National Association.
BISSELL CARPET SWEEPERS.
Melville R. Bissell started the manufacture of carpet sweepers in 1876; conceiving the idea of a central bearing brush adapting itself to any irregularities of surface, on which he procured letters patent. He made several improvements on the original and conducted the business himself up to 1883, working up a large trade, reaching every State in the Union and many foreign countries. He found that with the increase of the business, it was advisable to associate with himself other active men, and for that purpose placed the enterprise in a stock company, which was incorporated in February, 1883, as the Bissell Carpet Sweeper Company, with a capital stock of $150,000, the officers being: M. R. Bissell, President; C. B. Judd, Vice-President; J. W. Stone, Secretary; M. Shanahan, Treasurer.
Since the date of this organization its manufacture has continually increased, not withstanding a fire destroyed the entire plant the next year after the company was formed, and it has grown to be the largest and only exclusive establishment of its kind in the world. The original invention of Mr. Bissell has been improved upon until the company are manufacturing thirty styles of sweepers under seventy-five different patents, all originating with its members. They employ 250 hands, with a monthly payroll of about $7,000.
The annual sales amount in round numbers to about $400,000. In 1883, on the organization of the company, their buildings were: A main factory on the west side of Mill street, five stories and basement, which was destroyed by fire March 12, 1884, and at once replaced by another of four stories and basement, 175 by 44 feet. In 1885 they erected a six story brick building on the opposite side of the street, in which are the general offices, shipping department, decorating and other rooms.
The buildings are of solid brick walls with stand pipe and line of hose to each floor, and iron doors separating the rooms, making the precautions against fire as near perfect as they could devise. The company also have a branch store and warehouse at 103 Chambers street, New York, under the management of T. W. Williams, where they furnish sweepers for the supply of the trade in the Eastern portion of the United States, the British Provinces, and other foreign countries. The officers of the company are the same as at organization, except that the offices of Vice President and Secretary have been consolidated, and the position is held by C. B. Judd. In 1886-87, they purchased adjoining property east and north, including a three-story and basement brick building, and a commodious warehouse, together with sufficient water power to carry their now extensive plant, and are constantly adding brick structures and room, with more working machinery.
[The President of this company, Melville R. Bissell, died March 15, 1889 (since the above sketch was written), aged 45 years; and the office is filled by Mrs. Bissell.]
The attaches of the Bissell Carpet Sweeper establishment have a mutual aid association, of which H. Decker is President, J. T. Alcott, Secretary, and John Shanahan, Treasurer. The object is to assist disabled and needy members, and to pay death losses.
MELVILLE R. BISSELL, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was one of the many successful business men of whom our State and Nation may well feel proud. A brief review of his life exemplifies in a conspicuous manner the possibilities of an American citizen, no matter how obscure or limited the beginning may be, when the person is distinguished by the possession of strict integrity) ability and unflagging perseverence.
Melville R. Bissell was born in Hartwick, Otsego County, New York, September 25, 1843. His parents moved to the West in 1848 and settled at Racine, Wis., remaining there about three years, after which they moved to Berlin, in the same State. Mr. Bissell obtained his early education in the public schools of that place, and at the age of seventeen he left school and learned the baker's trade, which business he soon abandoned as not sufficiently remunerative.
Mr. Bissell communicated to his father the disgust which he entertained for the baker business, and also signified his intention to leave Berlin in search of a location that would afford broader scope for the development of his native energy and enterprise. He gave his father the choice, however, to go himself in search of the desired location or he would start within forty-eight hours. The old gentleman, knowing the determination with which the boy pursued his purposes, concluded to gratify the youth, and immediately started on a tour of investigation. He visited several localities and finally stopped at Kalamazoo, Michigan, attracted by the busy and prosperous appearance of the town. This was in the year 1862. He sent at once for Melville, who realized what he could for their effects at an auction sale, preparatory to leaving. While engaged in the baker trade Mr. Bissell took advantage of leisure moments in the business by packing shingles for a lumber company. He allowed his earnings in this direction to accumulate, and when he called on the company for a settlement he found a balance of $150 in his favor. With this amount of cash resource he reached Kalamazoo.. After investigating the town and the various opportunities to engage in business, the father and son together rented one side of a small store and put in a stock of groceries. The business prospered, and after some time they added crockery to their line, which addition also proved successful. They finally purchased the building in which they had been doing business, and in 1869 sold the same, realizing a handsome advance on the purchase price, and with the proceeds of the sale of the business came to Grand Rapids and embarked in the crockery trade with marked success.
Mr. Bissell also speculated in real estate, realizing large profits. He owned various tracts of acre property in the Fourth and Fifth wards, which he platted and placed in the market with the skill and energy of a veteran real estate dealer. He pushed the real estate business with vigor until the panic of 1873 somewhat checked operations in real estate, and in the meantime he turned his attention to his other business. Among the house furnishing goods which Mr. Bissell handled in his store was the old-style carpet sweeper known as the "Welcome;" and on one occasion, when exhibiting this sweeper to a customer, his mechanical perception discovered, a defect in the manner of adjusting the brush. He readily conceived a remedy for the defect, and securing the necessary material for the construction of the model to be forwarded to the patent office he commenced the manufacture of the first carpet sweeper embracing a central bearing brush. He had no difficulty in the patent office, as the idea was entirely new, and in 1876 his first patent was granted. He made various changes and improvements in the sweeper at a large expense, none of which gave him complete satisfaction until he placed rubber tires on the iron wheels for the purpose of promoting friction on the brush roller. This improvement gave carpet sweepers the first prominent feature of popularity, and from a luxury they became a necessity, and from that time the business has steadily and rapidly grown to its present proportions.
In 1883 Mr. Bissell placed his sweeper business in a stock company, with a paid up capital of $150,000, retaining two-thirds of the stock. In 1884 the plant of the Bissell Carpet Sweeper Company was entirely consumed by fire, which was a severe business reverse, but again the energy of Mr. Bissell proved equal to the occasion, and before the flames had completed their destruction, necessary material for the establishment of a plant was ordered; a place in which to do business while rebuilding, rented; and in one month the company commenced shipping goods.
Eventually the factory was rebuilt and the manufacture of carpet sweepers energetically pushed until the business is, at the present time, the largest of its kind in the world. In 1888 Mr. Bissell, who was an ardent admirer of a fine horse, established the Standard Stock Farm at Reeds Lake. He made it one of the choice and model institutions of the kind in the State, thoroughly equipped throughout and stocked with a well-selected and fine-bred class of horses. In 1865 Mr. Bissell married Miss Anna Sutherland, of De Pere, Wis.., and it is safe to say that no happier union of man and wife could well be found. They had five children, four of whom are living. Mr. Bissell was a prominent member of the Methodist Episcopal church, and always took an active and leading part in its affairs, and was for many years a member of the Official Board. He also served for a number of years as Superintendent of the Sunday School. Mr. Bissell was conscientious in all that he did. No person had a more kind appreciation of the circumstances of those surrounding him than he. His actions bore testimony that he "did not live for himself alone, but for all others." Ever ready to patronize any worthy object of charity, large and numerous were the benefactions made from his substantial competence.
In February, 1889, he bought the magnificent residence, No. 80 South College Avenue, and was looking forward to its occupation as a home with the brightest anticipations, a pleasure never to realize. Shortly after the purchase he went to Lexington, Kentucky, to buy some stock for his farm. He contracted at the latter place a cold, which resulted in catarrhal pneumonia, from which he died on March 15, 1889, surrounded by wife and children and those endeared to him in a business and social way. In his untimely death his family and the public sustained an irreparable loss. His early demise carries with it unusual elements of sadness. Only in the prime of life and just in the moment of victory, to be cut down and deprived of the enjoyments growing out of the use of his bountiful resources is a circumstance which must necessarily challenge profound sympathy and regret. His wife and four children survive him and reside in the family residence on College Avenue, surrounded by the enjoyments of life which his industry, enterprise and business foresight provided for them.
MAURICE SHANAHAN was born August 3, 1848, in the village of Watertown, Canada. His parents were natives of Ireland. When he was three months old the family removed to Michigan, and settled on a farm at Columbus, St. Clair county. There he passed the days of his childhood and youth, working on the farm and having hut the advantage of a small portion of the time for attendance at the common schools. Being ambitious to learn, however, he studied much by himself, and acquired a knowledge of some of the higher branches with out the aid of preceptors, and constantly improved in general education by reading the works of the best writers on school studies and in popular literature.
In 1872 he came to Grand Rapids as a delegate to the Democratic State Convention by which Austin Blair was nominated for Governor; and he liked the appearance of the town so well that he soon settled here for a permanent residence. Immediately after coming he took a course of commercial instruction in the business college of Prof. Swensberg.
While there, M. R. Bissell visited the school to procure the services of some capable and trustworthy young man as bookkeeper, which resulted in the engagement of Mr. Shanahan for the place. This was in October, 1878, and from that time forward he retained the position at the Bissell Carpet Sweeper establishment of bookkeeper and confidential clerk of the proprietor, until the organization in 1883 of the Bissell Carpet Sweeper Company, when he was chosen Treasurer, filling also the place of confidential clerk as before, and has remained in the same position ever since. Also since the death of Mr. Bissell, Mr. Shanahan has been the Manager and confidential attorney for the Bissell estate, a trust which carries its own comment as to the implicit confidence placed in him.
His business capabilities are indicated by the steadily successful and profitable conduct of the establishment with which he is connected, which is the leading one of its kind in the wor1d. He was elected Alderman of his ward (the Fifth) in 1887, and served acceptably two years - was President of the Common Council during the second year of his term - but declined a renomination. Mr. Shanahan married, October 21, 1880, Julia Mackley, of Rochester, N. Y. They have four children; two sons and two daughters. Their home is a beautiful place, at the corner of Grove street and Plainfield avenue, built upon a pretty elevation, with a handsome house and tastily arranged grounds. He has an interest in several business associative enterprises, financially, in some of them officially, and is an active, enterprising, well-respected man and citizen.
The Grand Rapids Brush Company are probably among the largest manufacturers of drawn work in all its branches in the United States - employing 180 operatives and sending out about $125,000 worth of work annually.
The manufacture was started in 1871 by W. M. Clark, Julius Berkey, Anson L. Sonn and Richard G. Mathews, under the firm name of Sonn, Clark & Co. Beginning on Mill street, they soon moved to a building near the west end of Pearl street bridge, where they remained until the fall of 1873, when the burning of the building temporarily crippled them, and the infant industry was protected by the organization of a joint stock company, with a capital of $50,000, and occupying another building near by.
In the fall of 1878 they moved into their present quarters on Front Street, near Pearl Street bridge. The officers of the new company were: A. B. Watson, President; Joseph A. McKee, Secretary, Treasurer and Manager, which position Mr. McKee has held for sixteen years. The stock of the company has been increased, first to $75,000 and later to $100,000.
It is said that the pioneers here, many of them, were not unacquainted with the art of making a broom of the brushy twigs of pine, hemlock, or fir. In 1855 Michael Steele began the manufacture of broom corn goods in Milwaukee, and in 1881 started a branch factory in Grand Rapids, which for a short time divided his attention with the original one. In 1884 William H. Gardiner became a partner, and the "feeder" was known as the Milwaukee Broom Factory. With a capital of $3,000, they employ twelve hands and turn out about $18,000 worth of brooms and whisks annually, having a capacity of two hundred dozen a week when running a full force. Steele & Gardiner are at 526 Ottawa street.
Something like a quarter of a century ago George Gould started the manufacture of brooms, and carried on the business very successfully until December 26, 1886, when he closed out to and was succeeded by J. F. and F. B. Slooter, young men of energetic business push, who determined to take the lead in this industry if possible. The result shows a two story building, 163 North Division street, in which five men are kept busy turning out all kinds of brooms and whisks for the wholesale trade.
Besides the main factories of broom corn goods, there are several of more or less minor importance, until we reach the little fireside, where the honest workman, too proud to beg and too old for hard labor, with his "know how" for capital, makes enough brooms to stock his hand cart, and from door to door cries his wares, and feels well paid in netting four to five dollars weekly.
J. A. Smits has of late been doing a snug business in brooms and brushes at 153 Eleventh street.
The first chair shop in Grand Rapids was in a small building, where was also the first turning lathe run by other than foot power, upon the little creek which comes down from Division street and discharges into the river a short distance below the Chicago and West Michigan Railway bridge.
A portion of the foundation and race or flume where the shop stood, is yet discoverable, a little south of the gas works. It was built in 1835 by David Wooster and Zephaniah Adams, and in 1836 John L. Smith, a turner and chair maker worked there. (Robert M. Barr, a settler of 1834, says that Smith made the first chairs manufactured in this town, and the latter, in 1865, so stated to the writer of this).
Several of the pioneers now living have chairs, well preserved, that were made by Smith or Wooster as early as the spring of 1837 or earlier. When they began business doubtless 300 chairs would have supplied nearly all the settlers in this region. Soon came others who made chairs - William Haldane and Archibald Salmon among them. In 1841, Loren M. Page was carrying on the business in a small way, and advertising for material.
Then among those who in the forties were more or less engaged in the business, were James T. Finney, Warren W. Weatherly, and Nehemiah White. Mr. White was a thorough workman at this trade, it being his life occupation. He made the first flag-seat chairs for this market, and these were considered somewhat of a luxury in those days for common and even for parlor use. About 1848 William T. Powers had men engaged in chair making, and in 1849 Albert Baxter and Cyrus C. Bemis. The beginnings of chair making of course were small. Salmon, Haldane and Powers made it a part of their regular cabinet business, and it was generally carried on in connection with cabinet-making. It was not until after the civil war, when the rapid development of our mechanical industries began in connection with machine work, that chair manufacture as an exclusive business assumed much importance. Yet as early as 1853, William T. Powers began the making of chairs for shipment, and sent large quantities of chair frames to the Chicago market in the "knock down" or unfinished state.
CHAIR AND CABINET WORKS.
The Grand Rapids Chair Company was incorporated in October, 1872, by Henry Fralick, President; C. C. Comstock, Vice President, and F. W. Worden, Secretary and Treasurer; with a capital stock of $300,000.
Buildings were erected in that and the following year. The main factory is a four-story brick structure; the engine room and boiler house are also of brick, and the factory store house and offices are four stories.
The saw mill is a two story frame, sheathed with iron. The dry-kilns have a capacity for about 184,000 feet of lumber. The premises occupied are extensive, covering nearly twelve acres of land, through which tracks run from every lumber pile to the dry kilns, and thence to each section of the factory. Up to 1882 the company manufactured chairs exclusively. Now, in addition to fine chairs, they turn out chamber sets, tables, book-cases, sideboards and chiffoniers of medium grades in a variety of woods, mostly maple, birch, cherry and walnut.
The annual output is about $325,000, giving employment to some 40 girls and 250 men,. at a monthly cost of about $10,000. Three traveling men selling to the jobbing and retail trade have made the name of the establishment known in nearly every State in the Union.
Officers (1889): President, C. C. Comstock; Vice President, R. W. Butterfield; Secretary and Treasurer, E. H.. Foote; Superintendent, John Mowat. Directors: Charles C. Comstock, R. W. Butter field, Julius Houseman, Julius Berkey, E. H. Foote, John Mowat, Cyrus E. Perkins.
The property investment as inventoried in July, 1888, amounted to $362,789. The saw mill cuts about 4,000,000 feet of lumber per year, all of which is consumed in the factory.
The enterprise had but poor success until 1882, when to chair making furniture was added, the stock not being all taken till then. It has since prospered, and though no dividends were made until 1888, it is considered one of the soundest manufacturing establishments of the city.
CHARLES CARTER COMSTOCK, who has been energetic and prominent during thirty-five years in the development and building up of the industrial and material interests of Grand Rapids, was born at Sullivan, Cheshire county, New Hampshire, March 5, 1818. His father was a farmer of moderate means. His early education was that of the common schools of the time, and, like most New England boys of those days, he labored on the farm until eighteen years of age. In business he soon developed ability and tact as well as energy in the management of affairs. In 1842 he became interested in lumbering, built a saw-mill and shortly became the owner of several. In 1853, with his family, he came to Grand Rapids, when the population of this city was somewhat less than 4,000. Here again he engaged in the lumber business, and soon started also several branches of manufacture in connection therewith, introducing machinery for the production of sash, doors and blinds, and was one of the first exporters of those articles to outside markets.
In 1857 he purchased the furniture factory of E. W. & S. A. Winchester, with its business, which he carried on with vigor and largely increased. The financial revulsion of that year, however, had the effect soon to embarrass him in his operations; but with persistent determination he rallied, and in about four years had met and satisfied his financial obligations, and was once more in the full tide of successful enterprise, in the wholesale furniture trade, in the establishment of which he took the lead. In 1863, he disposed of a half interest in this business to James M. and Ezra T. Nelson, and in 1865 he sold the other half to his son, Tileston A. Comstock, and others. In the fall of 1863 he formed a partnership with E. E. Bolles in the manufacture of pails and tubs, and in the following year purchased his partner's interest in that business, which he carried on extensively for about twenty years, till 1883. For this he built a large brick factory, at the corner of Canal and Newberry streets, stocking it with new and improved machinery, and making it the largest establishment of the kind in this part of the country, giving work for many years continuously to more than a hundred employees, and using some 10,000,000 feet of timber annually.
In the last named year he disposed of the movable machinery, leased the factory, and retired from personal prosecution of the pail business. At this time his private business enterprises, in all departments, had for fifteen years given work to employees averaging some three hundred in number.
Meantime he had purchased valuable farming property north of the city line, and platted Comstock's Addition, now thickly settled upon and an important city suburb. Mr. Comstock has held several offices of trust and responsibility. In 1863 and 1864 he was elected Mayor of the city, and served two terms. In that capacity as well as individually he was active and successful in facilitating the raising of troops for the War. He was also enterprising in the matter of public improvements in the city, and the most important of the measures suggested by him ultimately found favor with the Common Council and the people. After ward he was one of the early advisers in the effort to perfect a system of City Water Works, and as a private enterprise put the first reservoir on the hill, for protection against fire in his neighborhood.
In 1870 he was the candidate of the Democratic party for Governor, and in 1873 for Member of Congress; and again in 1878 was the candidate of the Greenback party for Congress. In 1884 he was elected Representative in Congress for the Fifth Michigan District, on what was termed the Fusion ticket (Democratic and Greenback), receiving 20,406 votes to 20,050 for John C. FitzGerald (Republican).
He was prominent in organizing and assisting to a basis of profitable working the Grand Rapids Chair Company, incorporated in 1872, of which he has been for several terms and is still the President. Mr. Comstock, in his native town, in 1840, married Mary M. Winchester, who died in Grand Rapids just at the close of the year 1863. She was a most comely and amiable lady, and an exemplary wife and mother. Their only son, Tileston A., a young man of great promise and much beloved, died at the age of 26 years in this city, in 1870. Their eldest daughter, Alzina, with her husband, Albert A. Stone, and their little son, perished at sea, by the wreck of the steamer Brother Jonathan, which went down in a storm, off the coast of California, July 30, 1865. In 1865 Mr. Comstock married Mrs. Cornelia Davis, daughter of Daniel Guild, one of the pioneers of this valley. His domestic life has been pleasant. In public affairs, Mr. Comstock has ever exhibited much interest as a man and a citizen; in enterprise great zeal and activity, and in charities liberality.
To the Baptist Church, in the name of his deceased wife and daughter, he presented twenty lots on his city addition, from which the society realized a handsome sum. He is a man of individuality and directness of purpose, influential in the community, and has a high place in popular esteem. In property he has accumulated a handsome competence for his declining years.
VALLEY CITY RATTAN WORKS.
The tendency to specialization and division of leading industries into separate branches, is nowhere more marked than in the manufacture of furniture. This has led to the establishment of factories devoted to the manufacture of particular lines of furniture, the products of which are widely celebrated for superior construction and finish. The Valley City Rattan works, 10 and 12 Winter street, were started in the fall of 1884 by Alfred Falkel, as an experiment.
He, being a practical cabinet maker, conceived the idea that the manufacture of rattan reed chairs and reed goods exclusively would give a good profit, and started the business without capital but with the determination to make a success of it.
The first fourteen months gave him a pretty good knowledge of how to make rattan chairs. The result proved the clearness of his vision, as the present plant is worth about $3,500; and it gives steady employment to twenty operatives, on piece work, and earning from $6 to $12 a week each. The products of this factory are shipped as far south as Florida and Louisiana; Boston contributes to his coffers from the east, and Omaha and St. Paul give him large orders. While he has a fair trade the entire year, his harvest is at Christmas time. The strong and tasty rattan rockers and easy chairs are popular, and guaranteeing his goods has enabled him to work up a business of $12,000 a year, with prospects of a steady and healthy increase.
WOLVERINE CHAIR FACTORY.
The Wolverine Chair and Furniture Company was incorporated March 10, 1880, with a capital stock of $30,000 - Wm. H. Powers, President; Byron R. Pierce, Vice President; T. B. Bradfield, Secretary; D. H. Powers, Treasurer.
For a time they gave employment to from 50 to 100 men and made $50,000 worth of goods annually. In February, 1887, the company was dissolved and the business carried on under the name of the Wolverine Chair Factory on South Front Street, at the end of Pearl Street bridge, by Wm. T. Powers, making a specialty of ordered work and chairs, in which are employed twenty-five hands, in the average, at a monthly expense of $800. The building is a three-story frame. The annual output is about $20,000.
There are half a dozen or more upholstering shops in the city. This business has been closely connected with furniture manufacture, and has grown with it in proportion to the demand. Among the first workmen making it a specialty were William Koch and John H. DeNuit, who began the business near thirty years ago. This trade now works a capital of about $50,000, and, with upward of fifty workmen, turns off a product of about $160,000 annually.
STRAHAN & LONG.
The Strahan & Long Furniture Company, of which Nicholas Strahan is President and Harry W. Long is Secretary and Treasurer, was started in July, 1886, with a capital stock of $25,000, for the manufacture of parlor suits, lounges, and some other goods for the wholesale trade only. Their office and factory are at 117 and 119 South Front Street and 116, 118, and 120 Court street.
They employ about forty men, at an average monthly payroll of near $2,000, on upholstering only, the frames being purchased from the frame factories. The annual out put is about $100,000 [This firm has recently been incorporated as the Grand Rapids Parlor Furniture Company, with the same officers.]
The Gleason Wood Ornament Company was incorporated in April, 1883, with a capital stock of $100,000 - President, John Widdicomb; Secretary, W. D. Stevens; Treasurer, Thomas R. Perry.
The buildings are of brick with solid foundation, at the corner of Fifth and Seward streets. In their employ are forty men whose monthly earnings are $1,500. The annual output is about $70,000. Their product consists entirely of end-wood ornaments, for house building and piano and organ manufacturers; making a specialty of corner, head, center and base blocks for door and window casings, which are cut with a single blow of a die made by their own die sinker. The name of the company has recently been changed to the Widdicomb Mantel Company; John Widdicomb, President; E. L. Widdicomb, Secretary; T. R. Perry, Treasurer.
The scope of the business has at the same time been enlarged, to include as a prominent branch the manufacture of wood mantels of all grades, and looking to the employment of upward of 100 men.
In the packing of furniture the use of the article of finely shredded wood shavings known to the trade as excelsior has become almost universal, not to say indispensable. It is also much used in upholstering and in mattress making. It is made usually of dry basswood, of which a cord or more is required for a ton of excelsior. The wood is cut into lengths of about eighteen inches, the bark is taken off, and the shredding is done by machinery.
Formerly this material was procured from eastern dealers, but western enterprise took up the trade and successfully experimented in the manufacture. Several styles of machines are in use technically known as uprights, wheels and rotaries - but the principle is the same in all; a set of knives cutting the wood into fine strings, followed by a knife shaving them from the block. Hundreds of carloads of excelsior are used annually in this city. Samuel O. Dishman, in 1874, erected a small factory on Third street in which he put four upright machines. In January, 1875, he entered into partner ship with John Wheeler. For a year or two progress was slow.
In 1876 two wheel machines were added to their plant, and in 1878 they had an order from San Francisco for seven carloads. The local furniture men often purchased abroad as well as at home; but from some cause the foreign supply at one time failed, and the home trade received the benefit of an advance of $4.50 per ton in price. After some mutations in partnership, in 1883 the firm of Dishman & Co. was dissolved and the business sold to Donker & Quist, who removed the machines to Elizabeth street, near the north line of the city, where they have of late been working chiefly upon piece or order work.
In 1877 Franklin B. Day started a small excelsior factory on Sixth street, west of Broadway, operating one wheel of twenty knives, with a capacity of about a ton a day. John W. Fox was a special partner - capital only $1,500. Mr. Day died in 1880, and his widow, Rosanna R. Day, continued the business until 1886, when Mr. Fox purchased her interest and enlarged the works. The plant has now an invested capital of $18,000, and puts out an annual product of about $35,000, giving employment to some fourteen men. The outfit consists of a frame factory; frame warehouse; five acres of yard room; four upright machines of one knife each; one twenty-knife wheel and one twenty-four-knife wheel; the latter having interchangeable plates (the invention of Mr. Fox) by means of which a set of knives can be adjusted in a few minutes, whereas by the old way an entire change took several hours of time.
In March, 1880, Alfred M. Collins put ten excelsior wheels in operation at 100 Grandville avenue. In 1885 H. W. Miller purchased an interest, and the firm of Muller & Collins continued about eighteen months, after which Collins bought out his partner and has since operated the factory at the same place in his own name. The product goes largely to Chicago, but he has a fair trade elsewhere. The plant and premises are spacious, fitted with all the necessary machinery, and contrivances; among them a horizontal or rotary twelve block wheel, having a capacity of eight tons daily, and feeding into a perpetual automatic baler which carries the bales to the warehouse ready for shipment. The capital invested is $30,000; annual product about $50,000. Some sixteen hands are here given employment.
The Grand Rapids Excelsior Company was incorporated September 1, 1883, with a capital stock of $25,000 - Lewis C. Butts, President and Treasurer; Wm. M. Butts, Secretary. Their establishment is at the corner of Colfax and Sweet Streets - a frame factory, with warehouse, kilns, engine-room and brick boiler house. The employees average twenty five, with a monthly pay roll of about $800. The annual output averages $30,000.
The Grand Rapids Mattress Company was started in 1882 as a co-partnership between Henry C. Russell and Lyman H. Austin, for the manufacture of mattresses and bed springs. In their factory about forty operators are kept busy, earning the $1,600, or thereabout, which the monthly payroll shows. The capital represented is $50,000, and the annual product, sold entirely to the trade and going to all parts of the United States, amounts to about $100,000. Their factory on Huron Street 47 burned in 1889, and the business was removed to near the northwest corner of the city.
Generally, for a quarter of a century or more, a number of individual workers have been making mattresses for custom trade, and several of the furniture manufacturers have made of the business a department in connection with their other enterprises.
In 1885 Collins, Hughes & Co. began the manufacture of mattresses. In 1886 the business became that of the W. H. Hughes Mattress Company, and then September 15, 1887, passed into the hands of Henry Ives.
The factory is at 258 Canal street. It gives employment to some ten men, and turns out an annual product of near $15,000. Capital $5,000.
The sales are chiefly in Michigan. In addition to all kinds of mattresses, Mr. Ives deals in curled hair, tow, moss, wool, husks, excelsior, and all the component parts of a mattress.
The Sherwood Manufacturing Company was incorporated in November, 1885, with a capital stock of $50,000; their specialty being the manufacture of tubular veneered goods, such as umbrella handles, carriage bow and whip sockets, curtain poles, easels and articles of a similar nature, for which there was a great demand on account of their many superior points of excellence and usefulness. This industry, the only one of the kind in the United States, it is said, consists of constructing on a form a tubular body of thin veneers, alternating the grain, which renders the finished article much stronger and less liable to warp than if made of solid wood, besides being capable of a finer finish.
For a time they have confined their manufacture chiefly to tubular veneer curtain poles and easels. The factory is equipped with the special machinery needed in their work. In 1888 it was giving employment to thirty-five men, whose monthly pay averaged about $1,000. Their annual output of $50,000, or thereabout, goes to all parts of the country. Officers of the company (1889:) J. F. Ferris, President; H. H. Drury, Vice President; J. G. Alexander, Secretary and Treasurer. Place of business, corner of Division and Prescott streets.
SECOND HAND FURNITURE TRADE.
This is a line of business that has attained some prominence. P. M. Goodrich conducts a brisk trade at the corner of Canal and Erie streets, which includes the handling of nearly every kind of household goods.
At 67 Canal street is an establishment that has grown to be a veritable curiosity shop. It was established about a quarter of a century ago by Robert H. Smith. Upon the death of the latter, in 1887, it passed into the hands of its present proprietor, J. M. Travis.
It is a store full packed with almost everything imaginable in the line of old and venerable as well as newer things - second hand goods - and has a thrifty trade. Mr. Travis is a native of Virginia, was a soldier in the late war, afterward a traveling showman many years, and has been a resident here eighteen years.