Thomas F. Garratt

Page 272-273-274 Thomas F. Garratt - The record of no Grand Rapids business men perhaps indicates more clearly what can be accomplished when energy, determination and ambition lead the way than that of Thomas F. Garratt, late president of the Michigan Chair Company, and for nearly half a century an honored resident of this city. Although he has passed from the scene of earthly activities he is remembered as one of the sterling pioneer business men of Grand Rapids, whose efforts not only contributed materially to the industrial and manufacturing interests of the city, but in the promotion of charitable movements and all measures tending to the public good, he was an active and unostentatious worker. To him Grand Rapids ever meant much, and his character and achievements meant much to Grand Rapids in whose history his name shall ever merit a place of prominence and distinction. Mr. Garratt was born in Detroit, Michigan, July 28, 1852, a son of Elijah and Elizabeth (Jackson) Garratt, who early in 1840 migrated from England to the United States and settled at Detroit, where the father engaged in the tailoring business. As a youth Thomas F. Garratt manifested unusual business talent. He early became self-reliant, and when only twelve years of age he secured a position in a tub and pail factory conducted in Detroit by D. W. Sutton. After remaining with that concern for several years he entered the Detroit Chair Company, with which he learned the art of making chairs. This alliance proved most valuable and was destined to have important influence in directing his subsequent activities. In 1874 he entered the employ of the Laporte (Indiana) Chair Company where he remained four years, coming to Grand Rapids in 1878. For the ensuing five years he was engaged with the Grand Rapids Chair Company as a contractor, making principally all their high-grade chairs. In 1883, with H. S. Jordan and Edward Crawford he founded the Grand Ledge Chair Company. The enterprise was first conducted in a modest way, its factory consisting of an old sawmill, located at Grand Ledge, Michigan. The capital stock was about $250.00 together with the pluck and energy of the promoters, and the employes consisted of Garratt, Crawford and Jordan. They manufactured chairs of medium grade and their output for the first year was less than ten thousand dollars. In 1890 they commenced operating a factory at Grand Rapids and for two years conducted both factories. In 1892 they sold their Grand Ledge plant and continued the Grand Rapids factory. In 1894 the business was reincorporated under the title of the Michigan Chair Company, with a capital stock of $150,000. They manufactured everything in the chair line from a medium grade dining chair to a high-grade parlor chair, and their products are sold in all parts of the United States and foreign countries. The concern takes precedence over all other enterprises if its kind in Grand Rapids, both in prolonged period of operation and in the scope and importance of business controlled, and its status has long been one of prominence in connection with the representative industrial activities of the country. For nearly forty years Mr. Garratt's time and energy were devoted to the building up of this great enterprise, and its present prosperity may be attributed in no small degree to his able management and executive ability. At the time of his death, July 19, 1922, he was president of the corporation and had served in that capacity for a number of years. His career was one of secure and consecutive progress, and in all his dealings his course was marked in inflexible integrity and honor. He always gave effective co-operation in movements for the betterment of the community, and ever stood as an exponent of the best type of civic loyalty and progressiveness. He was a life-long member of Zion Lodge, F. & A. M. of Detroit, and belonged to Saladin Shrine and DeMolay Commandery, Knights Templar. Mr. Garratt was married in 1881 to Miss Hattie Rich, who was a daughter of Francis A. and Margaret Rich, of Grand Rapids, and who died in 1916, leaving one son, Charles F. Garratt, who succeeded his father to the presidency of the Michigan Chair Company on the death of the latter. He was born at Grand Ledge, Michigan, May 11, 1888, and obtained his education chiefly in the public schools of his native state. He has been identified with the Michigan Chair Company since the beginning of his active business career, and has proven himself a man of sagacity and probity. He began in a minor position and worked his way through the various departments of the factory, mastering each detail of the industry, so that he was well qualified, after the death of his father, to assume management of the company. Aggressive and practical in business affairs he is well upholding the honors of the family name, and like his father, he has earned an excellent reputation as a business man and citizen, and has demonstrated his fitness for the responsible position he holds. He is a thirty-second degree Mason, and an Elk, and is prominent in both business and social circles.

Transcriber: Gloria Paas
Created: 28 January 2003