Wilmarth Show Case Company

657-658-659 - Wilmarth Show Case Company. Of the beginning and development of this important industrial corporation of Grand Rapids, of which Oscar B. Wilmarth is the executive head, brief record may consistently be given. In 1889 J. J. Wheeler and A. A. DeLisle organized a company for the manufacturing of hand screws, and in February of that year the incipient industry was incorporated under the title of the Grand Rapids Hand Screw Company and with a capital stock of $12,500. The original headquarters were established in the Reelman building on Grandville avenue. April 20, 1890, Oscar B. Wilmarth became a stockholder and was made treasurer and general manager of the company, the factory of which at that time was on the second floor of the Geissler & Fritz wagon factory, at the corner of First and Alabama streets. Under the management of Mr. Wilmarth the concern did a business of $18,000 during the first year of his connection therewith. The enterprise expanded rapidly and normally in scope, and larger quarters were soon acquired, at 55 Front street, northwest. In 1900 the company acquired still better accommodations for its growing business in a building at the corner of Ionia and Bartlett streets, where was instituted the manufacture of show cases, in addition to the hand screws. In 1907 the company built the first unit of its now extensive manufacturing plant, situated at the corner of Jefferson avenue and Cottage Grove street, on the Pere Marquette Railroad. The first structure here erected was a building of U shape, each wing being 300 by 64 feet in dimensions and connected by a structure with a frontage of 36 feet. This substantial and modern brick structure of two stories later received the addition of a third story, and a three-story extension gave each wing a length of 350 feet. In 1922 was erected the office and warehouse building, three stories in height and 95 by 135 feet in lateral dimensions. The spacious offices of the company are modern in equipment and general appointments. In 1908 the hand-screw department of the business was sold by the company, and the title of the corporation was then changed to the Wilmarth Show Case Company. The death of Mr. Wheeler was followed by the election of Walter C. Winchester as his successor in the office of president of the company, and since 1920 Mr. Wilmarth has been both president and general manager of the corporation, the splendid growth and success of which has been in large measure due to his vigorous and progressive policies. In the first year of his connection with the enterprise the company had but ten employees in its factory and, as previously noted, the business for that year aggregated $18,000. A comparison with conditions at the present time offers its own significance. The number of employees is now 350 and the business for the past year reached an approximate aggregate of $2,000,000. Operations are now based on a capital stock of $600,000, and the other officers of the company are as here designated: Lewis T. Wilmarth, vice-president; Edmund Morris, secretary and sales manager; and Harold C. Wilmarth, treasurer. Oscar B. Wilmarth was born in Grand Rapids, April 28, 1861, and is a son of the late Oscar R. and Ada (Brown) Wilmarth, whose marriage was solemnized in 1858, in the state of New York. Oscar R. Wilmarth came from the old Empire state to Grand Rapids in 1856, and here became local representative of the Aetna Insurance Company. His ability and effective service eventually led to his being advanced to the position of Michigan state agent for that company. In the seventies he removed with his family to Edmore, Montcalm county, where for a number of years he was engaged in the manufacturing of shingles. Eventually he returned to Grand Rapids, and he and his wife were venerable and honored pioneer citizens of this city at the time of their death, he having passed away in 1914 and his widow having survived until 1918. Oscar B. Wilmarth gained his early education mainly in the public schools of Grand Rapids, and as a youth entered the employ of the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad. Later he was employed in the freight office of the Detroit, Lansing & Northern Railroad, now the Pere Marquette Railroad, at Stanton, Montcalm county, and while thus engaged he was induced by M. R. Bissell to take a position in the offices of the Grand Rapids Felt Boot Company, with which he continued his association seven years, during the last three of which he held the office of superintendent. He then identified himself with the Grand Rapids Hand Screw Company, and of his business activities since that time adequate record has already been given in this review. He has become one of the representative figures in the industrial and commercial circles of Grand Rapids, and is a vigorous, loyal and public-spirited citizen. Mr. Wilmarth married Miss Carrie Coye, daughter of Albert Coye, of Grand Rapids, and they have four children, namely: Mrs. C. Harley Bertsch, and Harold, Albert and Donald Wilmarth. Subsequent to the writing of the above article the Wilmarth Show Case Company has completed negotiations for the consolidation of their organization with the Welch Manufacturing Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan, a concern with which they have been closely allied for a period of some fifteen years. The new consolidated organization is to be known as the Welch-Wilmarth Corporation. The consolidation represents one of the largest financial and industrial amalgamations in the recent history of Grand Rapids, and brings under one control the factories and organizations of the Wilmarth Show Case Company and of the Grand Rapids and Sparta factories of the former Welch Manufacturing Company. Both institutions have been among the most permanent and successful in the industrial expansion of Grand Rapids. The new institution will have a total capitalization approximating $3,000,000 and will be the second largest organization in the country manufacturing store equipment. O. B. Wilmarth, the founder of the Wilmarth Show Case Company, and for many years its president and general manager, will continue actively in the management of the new corporation as secretary.

Transcriber: Nancy Myers
Created: 17 January 2004