James Van Keulen

Page 370-371 - James Van Keulen has become one of the successful manufacturers of furniture products in the city of Grand Rapids, he having been a lad of about fourteen years when he came with his widowed mother from the Netherlands to the United States and established a home in Grand Rapids. Here his advancement has been won by his own ability, and here he has developed an industrial enterprise of substantial and important order, the same being conducted under the name of the Colonial Furniture Company, being engaged in the manufacturing of frames for high grade furniture. Mr. Van Keulen was born in Middelberg of the Netherlands in the year 1864, and is a son of Adrian and Gertrude (Van Derwall) Van Keulen, the former of whom died when comparatively a young man. The subject of this review was a child at the time of his fatherís death, and in his native land his widowed mother gave to him the best possible educational advantages, as she herself had been well educated, her father having long given effective service as a teacher in the schools of the Netherlands. The same maternal devotion and good judgment that prompted Mrs. Van Keulen to giver her son educational advantages, moved her also in her final decision to come to the United States, where she felt assured of better opportunities for her son. In 1878 she came to this country and established a home in Grand Rapids, where she passed the remainder of her gentle and gracious life, secure in the affectionate regard of all who had come within the sphere of her influence, and sustained by the filial devotion of her son. She was a zealous communicant of the Reformed church. In his studies in his native land James Van Keulen had studied French and English, both of which he could speak well, as well as the Holland Dutch language, at the time when he came to the United States. His knowledge of English greatly aided him as a youthful worker in Grand Rapids, where the financial resources of his mother were so limited that he forthwith found it incumbent upon him to obtain employment. While employed in the finishing room of the factory of the Phoenix Furniture Company he further fortified himself by attending night school during two seasons. In the factory of the Nelson-Matter Furniture Company he learned the trade of cabinet maker, and as a skilled artisan at this trade he was employed thirty-two years at the plant of the Luce Furniture Company. In 1910, in harmony with his ambition to enter business independently, he became associated with two other men in purchasing the plant and business of the Colonial Furniture Company, on Pearl street, a concern engaged in the manufacturing of piano benches. Three years later Mr. Van Keulen purchased the interests of his two associates, and he has since continued the business in an individual way. He added to the production of piano benches the manufacturing of other special types of furniture, and with the expansion of the business he found larger quarters, in a part of the plant of the Grand Rapids Bedding Company. Continued growth of the business later demanded still broader facilities, and Mr. Van Keulen then rented the Nelson-Matter building on Lyon street. There he continued operations until 1921, when he erected a cement block building, two stories in height and 64 by 140 feet in dimensions, besides providing a large boiler house and adequate dry kilns. In 1925 a third story was added to the main building, and the mechanical equipment is of the best modern type throughout, the output of the factory being now confined to the manufacturing of frames for high grade furniture. Mr. Van Keulen has been an industrious, far-sighted and progressive business man, and has won substantial success that marks him as one of the prominent figures in the industrial circles of Grand Rapids. He continued to give close personal supervision to all departments of his manufacturing enterprise, and has as valued assistants his two sons, Alfred N. who has charge of the office, and James C., who is superintendent of production. Mrs. Van Keulen, whose maiden name was Nellie Roest, was born in Holland and was six years of age when her parents established their home in Grand Rapids.

Transcriber:  Nancy Myers
Created: 6 July 2003
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net//white1924/personal/vankeulenj.html