John H. Paalman

John H. Paalman was but a boy when he initiated his association with the great furniture manufacturing industry of Grand Rapids. Here he became a skilled artisan at the cabinetmaker’s trade, as well as a good general machinist, and he has made his technical knowledge the medium for his advancement to a place among the successful manufacturers in Grand Rapids, where he is now president of the Paalman Furniture Company, manufacturers of high-grade tea wagons and other useful furniture novelties for household application. The company has developed a substantial and prosperous business, and the products of its large and well-equipped factory now find demand in the most diverse sections of the United States and Canada, besides which a very appreciable export trade has been established. The company now employs a corps of nine traveling salesmen. Mr. Paalman was born in the fair old Netherlands of Europe in the year 1871, and is a son of Henry J. and Engberdiena (Ziel) Paalman, he having been a lad of about nine years when he accompanied his parents to America in 1880, and the family home having been established in Grand Rapids. In his native land Henry J. Paalman had been a skilled manufacturer of wooden shoes, and in the earlier period of his residence in Grand Rapids he found no little demand for such products, on the part of the many sturdy Holland Dutch citizens in western Michigan. The subject of this sketch attended the Grand Rapids public schools to a limited extent, and he was but twelve years old when he found employment in the old-time furniture factory of the McCord-Bradfield company. Two years later he entered upon a practical apprenticeship to the trade of cabinetmaker, in the factory of the Widdicomb Furniture Company, his compensation in the preliminary period having been $2 a week, and each day having marked by his walking a distance of three miles morning and evening – from his home to the factory and then back at the close of the day’s work. He became a skilled workman at his trade, and after having been at the Widdicomb factory three years he was employed two years at the Sligh factory and an equal period at the William A. Berkey factory. He was ambitious to gain authoritative knowledge of all details of furniture manufacturing, and his energy, persistence and receptiveness enabled him fully to compass this aim. At the age of twenty-one years he was receiving $1 a day for his services, and when he began work at the Stickley factory his stipulated salary was to be $9 a week. He so proved his value that at the end of the first week he was paid $12 and was assured that this was to be his regular stipend. At the age of twenty-four years Mr. Paalman became a foreman in the machine and cabinet department of a furniture factory in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he remained six years. The Stickley company then prevailed upon him to return to Grand Rapids and assume charge of its machine and cabinetmaking room. In the meanwhile he had given much attention to the designing of furniture, and along this line he did much effective service for the Stickley company. After six years of service as designer and manager of the machine and cabinet department he was advanced to the position of superintendent, which he retained until 1916. In that year he secured the financial and executive co-operation of some of his personal friends and effected the organization of the present Paalman Furniture Company, which was incorporated with a capital stock of $100,000 -- since increased to $150,000. He is president of this company, which initiated its manufacturing enterprise with a force of four employees and which now has a factory corps of ninety skilled artisans. In 1905 Mr. Paalman married Miss Agnes Boshoven, daughter of Bernard Boshoven, of Grand Rapids, and the children of this union are four in number: Henry B., who is now representative of the Paalman Furniture Company as its traveling salesman in the New England States, gained practical experience in the company’s factory, where he learned all details of manufacturing and where he won advancement through his own ability and efforts; Pearl Emma was graduated in Hope College, at Holland, Michigan, and is now a successful and popular teacher in the public schools of Grand Rapids; Hazel Marguerite is, in 1925, a student in the East Grand Rapids high school, and Russell John is attending the grade schools.


Transcriber: Nancy Myers
Created: 17 February 2005