Chapter 21: the growth of manufacturing.
During Michigan's early development there had been little that the twentieth-century Michiganian would identify or classify as manufacturing. The existing manufacturing was, for the most part, of the domestic variety as families, particularly farm families, sought to provide through their own labors as much as they could for the things they needed. In the villages and towns a handful of artisans and craftsmen, such as blacksmiths and cabinetmakers, produced on demand many of the remaining items that the family was unable to make for itself or which it could afford to have made by others.
In 1840 the federal census of occupations showed 56,521 persons in the new state as engaged in farming. This was more than a quarter of the entire population and more than six times the total for all other occupations. In 1850, out of the 108,978 identified as "gainfully employed," 60 percent were farmers. Of the remaining 40 percent, when one subtracts the professional groups, the merchants, and the self-employed carpenters, tinsmiths, and other craftsmen, it is likely that no more than one percent of these breadwinners held what would later be thought of as a factory job. The Census Bureau, however, defined manufacturing in a much broader sense; for example, it included various occupations in the lumber industry under this heading that in later times would not ordinarily be associated with the manufacturing concept. Even under the Census Bureau's generous use of the term, however, only 9,344 workers in Michigan in 1850 were identified as employed in manufacturing establishments, the number of which totaled 2,033. The total product of these establishments was worth slightly more than $11 million, and the wages they paid to their employees amounted to $2.7 million. By 1860 the number of plants had increased by 70 percent, while the value of manufactured products almost doubled. The largest percentage gains in this period came during the sixties, with the number of manufacturing establishments in Michigan having reached 9,455 by 1870--a gain of 174 percent over the figure of ten years earlier. The value of the product of these establishments was about $118 million--a gain of 262.5 percent. The employees in these establishments now totaled 64,000. Development slowed during the seventies, as the nation's economy was plunged into a lengthy depression, beginning in 1873. Development picked up again in the eighties and continued on up in the nineties, although at a reduced rate because of another severe depression in mid-decade.
According to the Census Bureau, by 1900 the state had 16,807 manufacturing plants, which employed 162,355 workers, although the highest seasonal employment during the year pushed that figure up to 232,353. The value of Michigan's manufacturing product was $356,944,000, wages amounted to $66,500,000, and the total assessed value of the manufacturing property was more than a billion dollars. Even if one were to adopt a somewhat more rigid definition of manufacturing than that used by the Census Bureau, it is probable that by 1900 as many as 25 percent of the state's working population held what most people would regard as factory jobs, an indication of the enormous strides manufacturing had made in the last half of the nineteenth century. (1)
The bulk of the manufacturing establishments were small operations, employing only a few workers, and engaged largely in custom and repair work. The lion's share of this manufacturing was concentrated in the southern part of the state, complementing and even supplanting the agricultural activities that had sparked the initial development of this area. In the northern two-thirds of the state, manufacturing activity was at best spotty, providing no major boost to an economy which was beginning to stagnate or decline as the prospects for further growth in the lumber and mining industries were disappearing. But southern Michigan possessed the most complete transportation facilities in the state, was the site of many long-established communities who actively promoted manufacturing development, and possessed a substantial resident population that could supply the initial labor force required by most of the new manufacturing enterprises.
The emerging industries of major importance tended to be those that developed in Michigan because of the resources available or because of some of the state's earlier activities. In a state where farming had become such a major factor, it was not surprising that agriculturally oriented industries were among the foremost of the state's manufacturers. In 1900 the value of Michigan's flouring and grist mill products was second (albeit a distant second) only to the value of the state's lumber and timber products in the Census Bureau's classification of the state's various categories of manufacturing activities, while leather products and slaughtering also ranked among the fifteen leading manufacturing groups.
In general, food-processing activities grew rapidly in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Early in the pioneer period, New England farmers settling in parts of southern Michigan had supplemented their income by tapping the hard maple trees to obtain maple syrup or sugar. Maple sugar would continue to be an important local product in parts of central Michigan to the present day. Around the time of the Civil War, Michigan farmers also began growing considerable quantities of sorghum, the processing of which to make sorghum molasses was an important activity for a number of years. In the 1890s the growing of sugar beets provided a far more satisfactory source of sugar. Beginning in 1898 numerous sugar beet factories were opened throughout southern Michigan before this processing activity came to be centered in the Saginaw-Bay City and Thumb areas.
The dairy industry was another food-processing activity that evolved from a strictly home industry in the mid-nineteenth century to commercial proportions by the end of the century. Plants producing cheese began to appear in the southeastern part of the state after the Civil War, and by 1899, although over 330,000 pounds were still produced on the farms of the state, more than 10 million pounds were turned out by the commercial producers. Among these producers was a future governor, Fred M. Warner, who operated a dozen cheese factories in the Detroit area. Creameries, however, were slower to supplant the farm as the source of the state's butter, with creamery production in 1888 being less than 8 million pounds in contrast to farm-produced butter, amounting to some 60 million pounds.
The food-preserving industry was still another agriculturally related activity to emerge, beginning modestly with plants that dried apples and some other fruits, and then expanding greatly in scope with the development of canning techniques. By 1914 there were ninety-one food-preserving plants in the state, with the largest number concentrated in the western part of the Lower Peninsula to take care of the products of the fruit belt, with plants elsewhere involved in canning or preserving truck garden crops, such as corn and tomatoes.
One of Michigan's best-known companies by the end of the century was D. M. Ferry & Company of Detroit, one of the largest seed houses in the world. Dexter M. Ferry came to Detroit in the 1850s and became a partner with Miles Gardner in the American Seed Store. Gardner died in 1867, and Ferry took over as the sole owner of the firm. By the 1880s Ferry was employing several hundred workers in his huge Detroit warehouse while hundreds more were serving as field hands on the seed farm he had established near Detroit. Some five hundred carloads of seeds were shipped out annually to the more than 80,000 Ferry dealers, while nearly an equal number of farmers and gardeners ordered their seeds directly after studying Ferry's seed catalogs, of which more than 325,000 were sent out each year. (2) Elsewhere in the state, S. M. Isbell and Company in Jackson, founded in 1878, was another important dealer in seeds, farm products, and fertilizers.
As farming operations became increasingly mechanized in the last half of the nineteenth century, it was only logical that producers of agricultural machinery and equipment would locate in southern Michigan, although not to the extent that such manufacturers would come to be concentrated elsewhere in the Middle West. The Moore-Hascall Combine, developed and demonstrated in the Kalamazoo area in the late 1830s, proved to be too cumbersome for farm operations in the Michigan area, but other farm equipment, of more modest proportions, was soon produced in the state. George Gale and his son began producing plows in Hillsdale in the 1840s, and then moved their operations to Albion, where the Gale Manufacturing Company made that city famous for its plows and cultivators which, by the 1890s, it was shipping out by the hundreds of thousands. Other towns, such as Birmingham, Grand Haven, Jackson, and Port Huron, were the sites of factories producing corn planters, forks, hoes, and threshing machinery. In the last category, the claim was made that Battle Creek "made more traction engines and threshing machinery than ... any other city in America." In Battle Creek the Advance Thresher Company, with nearly a thousand employees, was said to be second only to the J. I. Case Company in thresher production, while the smaller Nichols & Shepard Company is immortalized as the producer of steam-powered threshing machines that could move from farm to farm under their own power. The sight of one in 1876 inspired Henry Ford to work on other kinds of road vehicles in later years. (3)
Battle Creek, however, was soon to become far better known as the site of Michigan's most famous agriculturally related manufacturing activity--the making of breakfast foods. In this case, however, the site of this industry had little or nothing to do with Battle Creek's geographical location or the resources available in the area. Instead, it stemmed from the decisions made by individuals who were motivated not by economic factors but by religious beliefs. A new denomination, the Seventh-day Adventists, which had had its origins in western New York in the 1840s, had established its headquarters in Battle Creek by 1860. In 1863 the denomination's spiritual head, Sister Ellen White, had a vision which inspired her to make proper diet and health care central concerns of the Seventh-day Adventists. Drawing on some of the work of earlier dietary reformers--among them Sylvester Graham, popularizer of graham flour, who had expounded his ideas on Michigan lecture tours--Sister White and her followers now adhered to a strictly vegetarian diet. Then in 1866, again closely following the ideas of a health reformer, Dr. James Caleb Jackson of New York state, the Adventists established the Western Reform Health Institute at Battle Creek, a sanitarium where they could put into practice their ideas regarding health care.
Ten years later, the son of a leading Battle Creek Seventh-day Adventist family, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, whose medical education had been aided financially by the Whites, took over the operation of the Battle Creek sanitarium. The sanitarium had not done well under its earlier directors, but under Dr. Kellogg's supervision it became one of the most famous medical facilities in the country. At the "San," as it was called, Dr. Kellogg began experimenting with new kinds of food that would adhere to the Adventists' dietary beliefs but would add a little variety for the patients. These patients were not required to be members of the denomination to enter the institute but were expected to be fed according to Adventist standards soon after their admission. By the early eighties, Kellogg had developed a substitute for coffee, which, along with all other stimulants, had been banned in the Adventist diet. He also developed the first of the cold cereals that came to be his main interest. Patients who had been served these new foods would shortly have the opportunity of ordering them by mail from the sanitarium after they returned home, but aside from this small-scale business, no active effort was made to promote sales of these and other Kellogg products. Indeed, Dr. Kellogg was basically opposed to such efforts.
In 1891 one of Dr. Kellogg's new patients was Charles W. Post, a small-time businessman from Illinois. Post's wife paid for her husband's expenses while he was in the San by going door to door, selling suspenders that Post had developed. After several months Post left the sanitarium, where he had become deeply interested in Dr. Kellogg's ideas and practices, some of which Post now sought to imitate in a modest facility of his own that he opened in Battle Creek. Most importantly, however, Post recognized the commercial possibilities possessed by Kellogg's foods, and in the mid-nineties, with a reported bankroll of only $69, he began to market a copy of Dr. Kellogg's coffee substitute, a product that Post called Postum. In 1898 Post also marketed Grape-Nuts, his version of Dr. Kellogg's first cold, prepared breakfast cereal. With a masterly advertising approach, Post was an almost overnight success with these two products, netting a million dollars a year by around 1900.
Post's success touched off a spectacular boom in Battle Creek in the early years of the twentieth century as others flocked to the city to try to steal additional Kellogg ideas and make a fortune as Post had done. The Malta Vita Pure Food Company was the first to exploit the flaked type of cereal that Dr. Kellogg and his younger brother, W. K. Kellogg, had developed some years earlier. Dr. Kellogg, who had patented the process, could not get the courts to protect his rights, since Kellogg's imitators were able to prove they had made some minor change which made their product different from Kellogg's. W. K. Kellogg (the W. stood for Willie, which he later shortened to Will) became increasingly irritated and frustrated at his brother's refusal to capitalize on the commercial value of his ideas. Finally, in 1906 the younger Kellogg, with financial backing from a St. Louis insurance man, persuaded his brother to let him form a separate company--the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flakes Company--so he could market a cereal that the two brothers had developed some years before and which W. K. Kellogg felt had the best commercial possibilities of any of these foods. He was right. The product, which he soon renamed Kellogg's Corn Flakes, became the best-selling product of its kind on the market. Despite Kellogg's efforts to protect his cereal from imitators by placing his signature on each cereal box, close copies appeared before long, the most successful being Post Toasties. Nevertheless, W. K. Kellogg proved to be an even better advertiser and merchandiser than C. W. Post, and his company quickly emerged as the giant of the industry. Most of the thirty or forty other companies that appeared during the boom in the early years of the century soon fell by the wayside. The Post Company continued to prosper, but Charles Post, who sold his products as health foods, became increasingly despondent over his own poor health, and eventually committed suicide in 1914. In 1925 his company became part of the merger that created the General Foods Corporation. The Kellogg company, however, under W. K. Kellogg's direction remained independent, and made Battle Creek in the twentieth century one of the most famous cities of its size in the world by the constant reference to itself in its worldwide marketing and advertising as "Kellogg's of Battle Creek." (4)
Another Michigan city whose name had become synonymous with a manufactured product, even before Battle Creek and breakfast food were inextricably linked in the public's mind, was Grand Rapids, which had become the best-known center of the furniture industry by the latter part of the nineteenth century. Since the furniture of this era was made largely of hardwoods, which were the kinds of trees most commonly found in the forests of southern Michigan, furniture manufacturing was one of a number of wood-related industries that could have been expected to, and did, arise in Michigan. But Grand Rapids was not well located from the standpoint of the resource required by the furniture makers, lying on the northern fringe of the hardwood forests and possessing poor transportation facilities until the 1870s. Numerous cities farther south in Michigan were better situated than Grand Rapids in these regards, but that city's economic development, like that of Battle Creek, again demonstrates the importance of individuals in the success of a business venture.
In the pioneer period, cabinetmakers were among the first skilled craftsmen to locate in Michigan, setting up shop in the towns that were developing and making furniture for the local market, although the building of coffins is said to have been their steadiest source of income. By 1850 there were 704 cabinetmakers in the state. At that time, Boston and Cincinnati were the leading centers for large-scale furniture manufacturing which was supplying a market beyond the immediate locality of the manufacturer.
The first cabinetmaker to settle in Grand Rapids was William Haldane, who arrived in the mid-1830s and began to take orders for furniture from the residents. Some of the pieces that he built have survived to the present time and one or more of them are displayed in the Grand Rapids Public Museum. A canal was completed in 1840 that had been intended to carry river traffic around the rapids that gave Grand Rapids its name, but when the necessary locks were not installed the canal became a millrace, which Haldane and others began to use to power machinery, such as a circular saw, which he installed in about 1848. With this equipment, a lathe, and hand tools, he and his men produced tables, bedsteads, chairs, and other pieces. By 1853 Haldane's move away from the strictly handcrafted work of the early period continued as he began using steam power in the shop.
Haldane, the pioneer Grand Rapids furniture manufacturer, was followed in the 1840s by a number of other cabinetmakers who settled in that city. William Powers arrived in 1847 and formed the company of Powers and Ball in 1851. The company owned its own sawmill, and was one of the first of the Grand Rapids firms to attain some size, employing thirty to forty men and turning out a variety of furniture with an annual volume of $30,000. In 1855 Enoch Winchester, who had been a partner with Haldane for a brief time, joined with his brother, S. A. Winchester, to form the Winchester Brothers Company. The company constructed a two-story factory and was the first one to seek sales outside the local area. The Winchesters were forced into bankruptcy in 1857, and the plant was acquired by Charles C. Comstock, a lumberman from New Hampshire who had come to Grand Rapids in 1852 to engage in the lumber business but who now became one of the most important figures in the city's development as a furniture center. Overcoming some initial failures by 1862, Comstock launched the city's first wholesale furniture manufacturing company. He set up branches in Peoria and St. Louis and made arrangements with dealers in Chicago and Milwaukee as he sought to market his furniture throughout the Middle West. Even though Grand Rapids was not linked by railroad to the outside world until 1858, Comstock and other local manufacturers by that time were already annually shipping out approximately $40,000 worth of furniture by wagon or steamboat to Lake Michigan and from there by boat to Chicago or Milwaukee.
A problem that all furniture manufacturers faced in the early days was the need to use dried lumber, since furniture would not hold together if any sap was left in the wood. The drying process took three to four years. The small manufacturer frequently could not afford to have his money tied up for that long a period. Various methods of speeding up the drying process proved unsatisfactory until the development of the dry kiln process, which was largely the work of two Grand Rapids men, A. D. Linn and Z. Clark Thwing.
The early Grand Rapids furniture was strictly utilitarian. For fine furniture, one had to turn to larger companies elsewhere in the country. Julius Berkey is credited with starting the trend toward quality furniture in Grand Rapids. He formed a company in 1859 which went through various changes before Berkey joined with George W. Gay to form the celebrated firm of Berkey and Gay. This firm became the largest and most famous of the Grand Rapids furniture manufacturers, shipping out $125,000 worth of furniture by 1870. Berkey and Gay engaged the very best craftsmen and emphasized the highest quality of workmanship and materials in their products. They began advertising on a national scale and opened a branch in New York. Despite various changes in ownership, the firm continued in business until after the Second World War, but the name Berkey and Gay had acquired such a high degree of public recognition that a decade after the company had gone out of business, a survey in Chicago designed to test consumer knowledge of furniture manufacturers showed Berkey and Gay was still the best-known name in the industry.
By 1870 Grand Rapids and Kent County were listed as having eight furniture companies with an annual sales volume of $348,000. The opening that year of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, which gave the city a link with the Michigan Central, the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern, and other Midwestern rail systems, helped to spur a great expansion of the furniture industry in Grand Rapids in the years that followed. Many of the companies that were formed--over eighty-five in the period from 1880 to 1900 alone--did not survive, but others had a long-lasting impact on the city's development. The Grand Rapids Chair Company, formed in 1872 by Charles C. Comstock and others, pioneered the production of matched bedroom and dining room suites in the early eighties and became one of the city's largest manufacturers. The Sligh Furniture Company, organized in 1880, pioneered in copying classic designs from the past. It turned out a great deal of solid walnut furniture, bureaus with marble tops, and the like. Such big, heavy pieces came to be what many people thought of when the term "Grand Rapids furniture" was mentioned. Other companies began specializing in office and school furniture, with the Grand Rapids School Furniture Company, formed in 1886, evolving into the American Seating Company, which became the world's largest producer of public and institutional seating.
In 1876 four Grand Rapids manufacturers exhibited their furniture at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and created enormous interest in the East. Buyers came to Grand Rapids from around the country, and in 1878 a semiannual furniture market was organized for the convenience of these out-of-town buyers. In 1881 manufacturers from outside Grand Rapids began exhibiting at these markets, which became the most important gathering place for the industry in the country and continued to be held twice a year until the 1960s. In 1881 the Grand Rapids Furniture Manufacturers Association was also formed, the first of a number of trade associations that were created to represent and promote the city's furniture interests. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Grand Rapids Furniture Manufacturers Association could boast, with complete accuracy, that furniture had made Grand Rapids famous, so much so that manufacturers elsewhere sought to capitalize on the name by applying it to their products. In 1942, however, a federal court ruled in favor of several Grand Rapids manufacturers who charged a Chicago company with false and misleading advertising because it was called the Grand Rapids Furniture Company. The court declared: "The city of Grand Rapids is a large and important center of the furniture industry in the United States, which fact is generally known to the public, ... and the words 'Grand Rapids furniture' have acquired in the trade a special significance, and furniture made in that city is held by a large part of the purchasing public to be superior in design, workmanship and value to furniture usually purchased elsewhere."5
Encouraged by the success of the Grand Rapids manufacturers, investors in other cities in Michigan put capital into the establishment of furniture plants. Detroit had twenty such companies by 1890, nearly half as many as were operating in Grand Rapids at that date. All told, 178 furniture factories in the state in 1890 employed nearly seven thousand workers. Grand Ledge, Muskegon--where the Shaw-Walker Company, incorporated in 1899, became a leader in the office furniture and equipment field--Sturgis, Holland, and Monroe were other Michigan communities where significant furniture firms developed.
In addition to the furniture industry, numerous other wood-related manufacturers developed in Michigan, obviously because wood was abundantly available. Sashes, doors, window blinds, handles, even toothpicks and matches were among the products of these companies. At the end of the century several firms in Bay City, Saginaw, and St. Johns pioneered in the development of the precut, portable house which would achieve such popularity much later in the twentieth century. All the wood for a building would be cut to the exact dimensions needed, enabling the entire package to be shipped anywhere and erected in a brief period. The Michigan companies promoted their idea particularly in times of distress, such as during World War I, when military or refugee needs required the rapid construction of many buildings.
Another industry which required large amounts of wood in its product and whose location in Michigan was certainly influenced by the abundance of this resource was the wagon and carriage industry. By the 1890s Michigan ranked near or at the forefront in this manufacturing activity with approximately 125 companies. The bulk of these were small firms, employing only a few workers, and producing a small number of wagons and carriages for the local market. But in 1898 the forty-nine largest of the state's companies produced 371,769 horse-drawn vehicles and had long since built up a regional or national market. (6) Approximately seven thousand workers were employed in the industry, with companies located in forty or more communities. About 75 percent of these workers were concentrated in seven cities: Kalamazoo, Jackson, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Pontiac, Lansing, and Flint. There was considerable debate between Jackson and Pontiac as to which was more important in this manufacturing area, but by the 1890s few in the state would argue with Flint's claim to being the most important center of the industry in Michigan --a claim which had led that city to call itself the "Vehicle City" long before Buick and Chevrolet production would make Flint famous for another kind of vehicle.
Flint had been a leading center of the lumber industry in the early days of the lumber boom, and a number of small manufacturers that used wood had begun to develop there at that time, including a vehicle manufacturer as early as the 1850s. With the decline in the area's timber resources by the 1870s a new emphasis was placed on the development of activities that could make up for the loss of revenues from lumber production. The growth in farming in the area helped to promote the rise of agriculturally related businesses, including the wagon and carriage industry, for whose products farmers were among the biggest customers, and whose supply of lumber, although no longer so immediately available in the Flint area, could readily be brought in by rail from the booming Saginaw Valley mills. Although others had preceded them into Flint, two Canadians were instrumental in pushing the industry to a leading status in the city by the 1870s. In 1868 W. F. Stewart of London, Ontario, established a shop which came to specialize in making the bodies for carriages. Subsequently, during the company's sixty-seven-year existence, it made bodies for automobiles. In 1869 another Canadian, William A. Paterson, who had learned the carriage-making trade from R. D. Scott of Guelph, Ontario, established a company in Flint at the suggestion of Scott, who had meanwhile opened the first carriage factory in Pontiac. By the early 1880s Paterson was established as the leading figure in the industry in the city.
In the 1880s two new companies emerged that soon surpassed all the other Flint carriage companies. In 1882 James H. Whiting, a forty-year-old native of Connecticut who had been in the hardware business in Flint for some years, persuaded Josiah W. Begole and Begole's associates in the Begole, Fox and Company lumber company to organize the Flint Wagon Works. Under Whiting's able leadership, the company was soon producing wagons and other vehicles at a rate of nearly fifty thousand per year during the firm's heyday.
Before long, however, all Flint companies were cast into a secondary position with the rise of the giant Durant-Dort Carriage Company. It was the creation of William C. Durant, a grandson of Henry Crapo, the leading figure in Flint's earlier lumber era. Durant, as a young man in his twenties, demonstrated great talents as a promoter and salesman in a variety of ventures in the early 1880s. Early in September 1886 Durant happened to see a two-wheeled cart in operation on the streets of Flint, and when he was given a ride in the vehicle he recognized that the riding qualities of this cart were superior to those of other vehicles of this type. Learning that the cart was produced by a company in Coldwater, Durant proceeded to that city the following day. The proprietors of the Coldwater company had patented the design of their cart, but it was a small outfit, and they were willing to sell Durant the rights to manufacture the cart for a mere $1,500.
Although he had had no experience with manufacturing or selling vehicles, Durant borrowed the money he needed to take the Coldwater carriage makers up on their offer, took in a partner, J. Dallas Dort, and launched the Flint Road Cart Company. While Dort overlooked the company's production, Durant took on the task of selling the carts. On a swing through the Middle West he was so successful in obtaining orders that he and Dort, still novices at manufacturing vehicles, contracted W. A. Paterson to make the carts for them. Paterson soon decided to make his own cart, in competition with Durant and Dort, but he produced enough Flint Road Carts so that Durant and Dort were able to use the money from the sale of these carts to develop their own production facilities. By the time they incorporated their business in 1895 as the Durant-Dort Carriage Company, the two men had built the business into one of the giants of the carriage industry, with their production in the early years of the twentieth century probably exceeding a hundred thousand vehicles a year. (Accurate production figures for the industry are not available.) From the road cart, which started them on the road to success, Durant, Dort, and their able team of associates branched out to include other types of horse-drawn vehicles in their lineup of products, and also acquired control of firms making wheels, axles, harnesses, varnish, and other items essential to their business. This included several thousand acres of timberlands in the South, where they and other carriage manufacturers were now having to turn for some of their wood as Michigan's timber resources became scarce. In the process of creating this industrial empire, Durant in particular was learning skills that he would employ later in an even more spectacular way in the automobile industry. (7)
Another industry that grew rapidly in the last half of the nineteenth century that, at first glance, one might also think would relate to Michigan's abundant timber resources was the paper industry. In reality, the paper mills that used large amounts of wood pulp in their product appeared long after other mills, using rags and other materials in their paper, had been well established. As early as 1834, a small amount of paper was produced near Monroe, on the River Raisin, and in later years Monroe would remain one of the leading centers of the paper industry in the state. Later, in the 1840s, a paper mill would develop along the Huron River, where in 1867 the Peninsular Paper Company would be established in Ypsilanti. In this same period, several mills would be established along the St. Joseph River at Three Rivers and Niles. By 1850 ten paper makers were operating in the state. By 1870 Michigan ranked twelfth in the country in number of paper mills and fifteenth among the states in tonnage of paper produced. By 1905 it had advanced to seventh and fifth respectively in these two categories.
In this period, Kalamazoo and the Kalamazoo area became the most important center of the industry in Michigan. As early as 1847, a local editor had suggested that Kalamazoo was an ideal site for a paper mill, but it was not until 1866 that the necessary local support developed, and the Kalamazoo Paper Company was organized. The company, although financed by local capital, was largely the result of the promotional efforts of an experienced paper manufacturer from Massachusetts, Benjamin F. Lyon. A mill was built and paper, made from rags combined with straw from the wheat and rye fields in the area, began to be produced. After several years, Lyon left the Kalamazoo company in 1872 and started another paper mill in the nearby town of Plainwell, the first of many such companies that would expand the area of paper manufacturing from Kalamazoo out to its immediate environs.
After a shaky start that climaxed in an 1872 fire that destroyed its original mill, the Kalamazoo Paper Company prospered under the able direction of Samuel Gibson, whom Lyon had brought in from Massachusetts shortly after the company was founded. By 1879 Gibson doubled the company's output, and doubled it again by 1885. In addition, during the years that he ran the company until his death in 1899, Gibson trained many of the men who would later go on to establish paper companies in Plainwell, Otsego, and other localities in western Michigan. Not until 1895 did two of Gibson's proteges establish Kalamazoo's second paper company. In the early years of the twentieth century the paper industry in Kalamazoo enjoyed its greatest boom with the establishment of a number of new and successful paper companies as well as companies that produced materials, such as brushes and chemicals needed in paper manufacturing, and other companies that used paper, such as stationery companies, label makers, and printers of office forms. (8)
Although wood pulp was a minor factor in the early development of the paper industry in southern Michigan, around the turn of the century mills at Port Huron and Munising began drawing on Michigan's timber resources for the kinds of paper they produced. In the same general period, several other industries that were new to the state developed specifically because of the availability of particular resources. One of these was the chemical industry, which never would have achieved its importance had it not been for Michigan's salt deposits. Sodium carbonates, such as soda ash, which are used in the manufacture of glass, soap, paints, and in many other industrial processes, are obtained from salt. In 1890 Captain John B. Ford, the founder of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, sank an experimental well at Wyandotte, seeking to tap the known vein of rock salt in that area as a source of soda ash, which he required in his glassmaking operations and which he and most other American glass producers at that time had to import from foreign sources. The experiment proved successful, and in 1894 Ford's company was incorporated as the Michigan Alkali Company under the leadership of Ford's grandsons and his son Edward. The firm prospered, and in 1943 became the Wyandotte Chemicals Corporation. This created a wealthy Ford family in Detroit that came to be referred to by society editors as the "Salt Fords" or the "Chemical Fords" to distinguish them from that other Ford family, whose wealth came from another product that began to be manufactured a decade or so after Captain Ford launched his venture. (9)
A second Detroit-area chemical company developed in 1895 when the Solvay Process Company, a New York firm that used a method developed some years before in Belgium for treating salt to produce soda ash, bicarbonate of soda, caustic soda, and other products, established a plant along the Detroit River just below Fort Wayne in Delray, a suburb annexed to Detroit in 1906. Prior to this time, Detroit had imported some 40 million pounds of soda ash per year. By 1918 the Detroit area's chemical industry was shipping out 238 million pounds of soda ash per year, plus large amounts of other by-products of salt.
Michigan's salt deposits are also the source of other by-products. The brines in the Midland area contain, among other things, bromine, and by 1888 Midland had become the largest producer of bromine in the world. In 1890 Herbert H. Dow, a native of Ohio and a chemist with a degree from the Case School of Applied Science in Cleveland, came to Midland and rented a well to test out a new process he had developed for extracting bromine from the Midland brines. Out of this modest beginning grew the giant Dow Chemical Company, incorporated in 1897. In addition to bromine, Dow came to be the source of over four hundred other products that it extracted from these same brines, including calcium chloride, which the company successfully promoted as an effective agent in reducing the dust that twentieth-century motor traffic created on gravel roads. In 1927 magnesium, a light metal obtained from the magnesium chloride found in these brines, began to be produced. The Dow company expanded to other Michigan communities, including Ludington, Mount Pleasant, and Marquette, where it obtained a majority interest in a chemical company established earlier by the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company. (10)
Around the turn of the century the "Salt" Fords' Michigan Alkali Company was also involved with the sudden emergence of the cement industry, which came to be one of the largest users of Michigan's limestone--a material that the Michigan Alkali Company used in producing its chemicals. Marl, which is found in over a hundred different locations in the Lower Peninsula, was initially used in the manufacturing of portland cement that began in Michigan in the 1890s, two decades after the first production of portland cement in the United States had occurred in Pennsylvania and Indiana. In 1896 one cement plant in Michigan produced 4,000 barrels of cement. By 1900, however, the number of plants had increased to six, with annual production totaling more than 60,000 barrels, a record that was quickly erased by the million-barrel production of ten plants in 1901. Production continued to rise in the years that followed, reaching nearly 14 million barrels by 1927. Limestone began gradually to replace marl in the manufacturing of cement. The impressive ruins of the Great Northern Portland Cement Company's plant at Marlborough in southern Lake County, which ceased production in 1908, testify to the decline in cement production that used marl in the face of the less costly limestone process. It was not until 1952, however, that the Consolidated Cement Corporation at Cement City in Hillsdale County abandoned the use of marl.
In 1903 Harry J. Paxton, who had been managing a small cement mill at Fenton, persuaded several Detroit-area businessmen, including Stanford T. Crapo, grandson of Governor Henry Crapo and a cousin of Flint's W. C. Durant, and John B. Ford, vice president of the Michigan Alkali Company and grandson of the company's founder, Captain Ford, to form the Wyandotte Portland Cement Company. It took over a cement plant that the Michigan Alkali Company had operated earlier in an effort to use the leftover limestone from its chemical operations. By 1906 the Wyandotte Portland Cement Company was doing well, but in the meantime the alkali firm had had to go outside that area to search for the large amounts of limestone that it required. It had found vast deposits on Thunder Bay, near Alpena. The first shipments from this quarry were made in 1903. By 1906 the enormous extent of its Alpena limestone holdings led officers of the Michigan Alkali Company to consider using some of this resource for cement production. Harry Paxton and Stanford Crapo of the Wyandotte Portland Cement Company did most of the work in setting up this new operation, which it was decided would be handled by a new company rather than being made part of the Wyandotte cement company's operations. In 1907, therefore, the Huron Portland Cement Company was established, and by the end of the year the first kilns had been built at the new plant in Alpena. By 1910 six kilns were in operation and 900,000 barrels of cement had been produced. In the years that followed, the Huron Portland Cement Company plant at Alpena became the world's largest cement-producing facility. There was a close link between the company and the Michigan Alkali Company, with John B. Ford, the active executive head of the alkali company, serving as president of the Huron company from its founding in 1907 to 1939, while other members of his family were also active in both firms. The same individuals were also involved with the Wyandotte Portland Cement Company, which in 1914 came under the ownership of the Huron Portland Cement Company and which continued to operate the cement mill at Wyandotte in addition to the plant at Alpena. (11)
Besides the giant Alpena cement works, there were other major cement producers in the state. The Dundee Cement Company used the limestone found in southeastern Michigan, and in the north, across the peninsula from Alpena, there was the Penn-Dixie Cement Company at the limestone deposits just outside Petoskey. A short distance down the Lake Michigan shore was the Medusa Cement Company at Charlevoix. By the 1960s Michigan's cement industry, the fourth largest in the country, had an annual production valued at close to $100 million. By the 1970s, with production nearing the 6-millionton figure, the value of the state's portland cement in 1974 topped $140 million. (12)
Just as the Michigan Alkali Company was connected with both the chemical and cement industries, the Dow Chemical Company was also connected with the chemical industry and the pharmaceutical industry--an industry that rose to the forefront in Michigan in the last half of the nineteenth century, because the Dow company became one of the principal United States manufacturers of aspirin. The pioneer in establishing the pharmaceutical industry in Michigan, particularly in Detroit, was Frederick Stearns, who had studied pharmacy at the University of Buffalo and had come to Detroit in 1855 to open a retail drugstore. He soon began manufacturing some of the drugs that he sold, and in the years that followed he built the business into one of the larger drug companies in the country. Stearns, who rose to be president of the American Pharmaceutical Association, enjoyed the wealth he gained, traveling extensively and acquiring a vast collection of oriental art, which he ultimately gave to the present Detroit Institute of Arts. He also donated an unusual collection of antique musical instruments to the University of Michigan. In a different vein, Stearns became the owner of Detroit's baseball team in 1885 and bought the contracts of some of baseball's best hitters, who powered the team to the championship of the National League in 1887 and victory over St. Louis in the equivalent of the World Series later that fall. (13)
An even bigger and more long-lasting influence in the pharmaceutical industry was that of Parke, Davis, which grew out of a drugstore opened in Detroit in 1862 by Dr. Samuel Duffield, who was both a physician and a pharmacist. In 1866 Duffield teamed with a businessman, Hervey C. Parke, and George Davis joined the firm the following year. Duffield retired in 1869, and two years later the firm was reorganized as Parke, Davis. With astute management, the company grew rapidly and by the 1890s was commonly referred to as the largest pharmaceutical house in the world.
Both Stearns and Parke, Davis sought to distinguish their operations and their products from those of the dispensers of patent medicines. The two Detroit companies emphasized the nonsecret character of their drugs, which were for the most part available only with a doctor's prescription, or, if sold over the counter, were simple, well-known remedies for minor ailments. By contrast, the patent medicine industry, which flourished in Michigan as elsewhere in the country in these years, made its magical cure-alls available to anyone gullible enough to pay for them. The city of Marshall, in the latter part of the century, was especially noted as a center of these fly-by-night operators. (14)
One outstanding and eminently respectable drug firm that did arise in the outstate area was the Upjohn Company of Kalamazoo. It originated in 1885, when Dr. William E. Upjohn, a physician in nearby Hastings, moved to Kalamazoo and joined with three of his brothers to begin manufacturing pills using a new process which he had developed that coated the pill in such a way that the pill could be dissolved in the human system. Many earlier pills had had an outer coating that was insoluble, causing the drug in the pill to pass through the person's system without ever taking effect. The company enjoyed a modest growth for many years before its expansion later in the twentieth century into one of the major drug firms in the nation. Another outstate drug company, L. Perrigo Company in Allegan, was established in 1887, two years after Upjohn had been started. Perrigo was for many years a relatively small packager and distributor of various patent medicines, selling the products to rural stores around the Midwest. In the 1920s, however, the management got the idea of increasing sales by imprinting the individual store's name on the product. This so-called private-label concept caught on and led to the Perrigo company becoming the world's largest producer of nonprescription medicines and personal care products for private-label retailing. Major customers for its aspirin, mouthwash, toothpaste, and hundreds of other products in 1992 included Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Osco, Kroger, Walgreens, and Eckerd. (15)
The center of manufacturing activity in Michigan naturally developed in Detroit, if for no other reason than that it was by far the largest city in Michigan, possessing the largest pool of labor and investment capital. The chemical and pharmaceutical industries were but two areas of manufacturing that had grown to importance in Detroit by the end of the century. The diversity and variety that characterized Detroit's industry in the nineteenth century contrasts with the situation in the twentieth century, when one industry would assume overriding dominance in the city's economy. Early in the 1800s, hides, liquor, soap, and hats had led the list of Detroit's small-scale manufactures. Later, in the thirties and forties, flour milling and sawmills were important before these activities moved elsewhere in the state where the needed resources and swift-moving waters to power the mills were more readily available, although Detroiters continued to provide much of the capital, particularly for lumber operations to the north, and to arrange for the sale of the lumber in the East. Later, in the 1860s, the smelting of copper from the north was the leading activity, before smelters were developed at the mines in the Copper Country, reducing copper smelting in Detroit to relative insignificance by 1880. (16)
In the 1880s Detroit's manufacturing economy began to achieve more stability as a number of products boosted the city's economy. In 1880 the single most valuable group of products of Detroit's factories was, surprisingly, tobacco products. Tobacco has never been an important crop in Michigan, although it has been grown in significant amounts since prehistoric times in Ontario, some hundred miles to the east. Nevertheless, the production of chewing tobacco began in Detroit in the 1840s in the cellar of a small shop operated by Isaac S. Miller and his sons. By the 1880s more chewing tobacco was produced in Detroit than in nearly any other location in the country. Reportedly, either Detroit's climate or the methods used by its manufacturers gave Detroit-made chewing tobacco a special flavor unmatched by those from other areas. This may account for some of the success of the industry, but another reason for the concentration of tobacco companies in Detroit at this time can probably be laid to the city's reputation as an "open shop" labor town, which enabled employers to pay a lower wage than in other areas where tobacco workers had become unionized.
Daniel Scotten and John J. Bagley, the future governor, were among those who worked for the Millers in the forties and who went on to become millionaires with their own companies. Bagley marketed his Mayflower brand chewing tobacco, and Scotten his Hiawatha brand. American Eagle, Bijah's Joy, Prairie Rose, Silk Plush, Fearless, and Honey Dew were some of the colorful names of other Detroit-made chewing and smoking tobacco. In addition, close to 40 million cigars were produced annually in the city by the eighties, causing Detroit to be dubbed the "Tampa of the North." In later years, the industry would decline in importance, but in 1909 tobacco products still ranked fourth in value among Detroit's manufactures.
The tobacco industry was not confined to Detroit, with numerous small cigar-making operations located across the state. For example, Ann Arbor had a dozen such plants at the end of the century. Also widespread were the breweries that produced the beer the cigar smokers might also enjoy. Beer making was probably Detroit's first manufacturing activity; a brewery was reportedly established there when the city was founded in 1701. By the 1880s Michigan had 110 breweries turning out over 400,000 barrels of beer annually. All told at least 287 breweries have been in operation throughout the state, with 67 having been located in Detroit. In 1985 the Stroh Brewery Company, founded in Detroit in 1850 by Bernhard Stroh, shut down the last of the Detroit breweries, though the company remained in business with the breweries it had acquired in other states. (17)
By the 1880s, despite the fame and the value of its tobacco products and the number of its breweries, Detroit was also the site of industries that were more in keeping with the kind of manufacturing for which the city would become world-renowned. The first of these to develop had been the shipbuilding industry, which had started as early as 1769 when the British built a merchant sailing vessel at Detroit. The British also built a number of naval vessels at Detroit. In 1827 the Argo, Detroit's first steamship, was built on the river near Wayne Street. In 1833 Oliver Newberry had built the Michigan and had gone on to be a major figure in the Great Lakes' shipping industry. In the middle of the century, shipbuilding developed in a more organized fashion. The Detroit Dry Dock Company built the first drydock at the foot of Orleans Street in 1852. A company was formed in 1863 to produce marine engines. Other companies sprang up to meet the needs of the shipbuilders, with the Berry Brothers varnish works, established in 1858, developing into one of the largest paint and varnish companies in the country.
Between 1827 and 1887, more than 175 steamboats were built at Detroit. In the early 1890s Detroit and the neighboring Wayne County shipyards launched the largest number of ships of any shipbuilding center in the country. (18) The passing of the wooden-hulled vessel and the increasing use on the lakes of steel hulls caused problems of adjustment for the Detroit companies, but the area's shipyards continued to be busy well into the twentieth century before more and more of this business went to shipyards elsewhere in the Great Lakes area.
Detroit was not the only center of shipbuilding in Michigan. Bay City was of equal importance, with the tonnage of the ships built there exceeding that of Detroit's in the 1890s, although Detroit led in total number of ships built. Another area of some importance was Marine City. There the start of the industry early in the century introduced Michigan to the state's first industrial giant. Sam Ward came to the St. Clair River in 1819 and bought land at the mouth of the Belle River. He began a brick manufacturing yard and built a handsome brick house which still survives in Marine City. Ward started building sailing vessels early in the 1820s, later turning to steamboats and becoming part owner of Newberry's Michigan. In 1822 Ward's young nephew, Eber Brock Ward, began working for his uncle. In later years the Wards moved from building ships to operating them. When the Michigan Central was built, the Wards built two steamboats to carry passengers from the Michigan Central terminal in Detroit across Lake Erie to Buffalo. Eber Brock Ward also operated two steamers in Lake Michigan, carrying rail passengers from St. Joseph to Chicago.
In 1848 the Michigan Central began operating its own steamship between Detroit and Buffalo, and in a few years through rail connections were opened to New York in the East and Chicago in the West, ending the Wards' transfer business. But Eber Ward had already turned to other interests. In 1853 he and several associates organized the Eureka Iron and Steel Company. Land was purchased downriver from Detroit and a blast furnace and rolling mill were constructed, around which the city of Wyandotte developed. The company nicely combined several of Ward's business interests. He had previously acquired some Upper Peninsula iron ore holdings and, to develop them, he had been one of the major promoters of the Soo Canal in the fifties. One of Ward's vessels brought the first cargo of iron ore through the newly opened locks in the summer of 1855. The ore was then unloaded at the mill in Wyandotte, where charcoal, made from timber holdings obtained by Ward, provided the fuel to convert the ore into iron.
The Eureka operation seemed to presage the rise of the Detroit area as a major iron-producing center. In addition to conventional methods of treating the ores, the Eureka works in 1864 had the distinction of being the first American firm to produce steel through what became known as the Bessemer process. Ward's staff, however, used the process as it had been developed by the American, William Kelly, whose work preceded that of the Englishman, Henry Bessemer, by several years. In the spring of 1865, the Wyandotte plant produced the nation's first Bessemer steel rails. It soon became evident, however, that the plant would have to be expanded in order to produce steel rails economically. Some of Ward's associates objected to spending money on such an expansion. Ward then turned to the Chicago area, where he built the South Chicago Rolling Mills, which grew into the world's largest producer of steel rails thanks to the enormous boom in railroad construction that occurred throughout the country in the last decades of the century. The Wyandotte company languished and eventually in the early 1890s shut down entirely.
Meanwhile, E. B. Ward dropped dead on a downtown Detroit street early in 1875. At the time of his death, he was worth, according to various estimates, from ten to thirty million dollars; he was probably Michigan's richest person and certainly the first to become a millionaire through manufacturing activities. (19)
For several years, the biggest users of iron in Detroit were the stove manufacturers. Stoves had begun to be shipped into Michigan in the 1820s with the opening of the Erie Canal, and they gradually began to take the place of fireplaces in more and more homes and businesses. Troy and Albany, New York, were the centers of the industry, which meant a long wait for a Michigan stove owner who needed a new part. In the 1830s an iron works in Detroit began to repair stoves, and an employee of the firm, Jeremiah Dwyer, became the father of Detroit's stove industry. He went to New York to learn the business, and in 1861 he and his brother James and another partner formed J. Dwyer and Company, and began to manufacture stoves in Detroit. New partners were added in 1864, and the company was renamed the Detroit Stove Works. Seven years later, Jeremiah Dwyer broke away and formed the Michigan Stove Company. Ten years later, James Dwyer formed the Peninsular Stove Company, thus completing the lineup of Detroit's big three stove manufacturers, which, together with several smaller firms, made the city the largest center of this particular industrial activity in the entire world. By the early nineties the Michigan Stove Company, which claimed to be the biggest firm of this type in the world, employed 1,200 workers and turned out 76,000 stoves a year under the familiar "Garland" trade name. The Detroit Stove Works, which frequently contested the Michigan firm's claim to primacy, produced the equally famous "Jewel" stoves. In later years the two companies merged and continued in business until 1957. The "Big Stove," a huge wooden replica of the Garland stove that the Michigan Stove Company built as part of its exhibit at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and then later displayed on its grounds in Detroit, was the object of efforts by sentimentalists, after the closing of the Detroit-Michigan Stove Company, to preserve this symbol of another of the city's past industrial glories.
The stove industry was not confined to Detroit, although in 1900 eight of Michigan's twenty-one stove factories were in that city. E. Bement and Sons, a Lansing company, in the latter part of the nineteenth century marketed its stoves, along with other products, over a wide area in the Middle West. Then in 1900 some Kalamazoo businessmen and others who had been connected with the stove industry in Detroit and Chicago organized the Kalamazoo Stove Company and sold directly to the customer through mail orders, using the immortal slogan "A Kalamazoo Direct to You." The company prospered and was for years one of that city's major employers with a labor force of nearly 1,100 as late as 1948. Outsiders purchased the company in the 1950s, however, and further operations in the city ceased. In 1906 in Holland the Holland Furnace Company began construction of the bulky central heating units that would before long make the Michigan city's name known around the country as it followed the Kalamazoo Stove Company's example and sold directly to the consumers. In time the company had some five hundred branches in forty-four states to handle the installation of its furnaces. It later also became a pioneer in air conditioning and would boast that it was "the world's largest installers of home heating and air conditioning systems." Eventually, however, charges that company salesmen commonly deceived customers into believing they needed a new furnace when the old one was still capable of being repaired and the failure of the company to update its product with smaller units led to the plant's closure in the early 1960s. Around the same time, a Dowagiac manufacturer who produced what some would regard as the most famous of all Michigan stoves, the Round Oak stove, also went out of business. The Round Oak stove was the creation of Philo D. Beckwith, who established the Dowagiac stove works in 1871. The stove--for heating, not cooking--shortly became the most popular stove of its type. In the nineties the company occupied fifteen acres, employed 350 men, and used forty tons of pig iron a day. (20)
By the nineties the largest industrial employer in Detroit was not the tobacco or the stove or the pharmaceutical or the chemical industries but the "car industry," as it was familiarly called. The cars, however, were not motor cars but railroad cars. As early as the 1830s, John E. Hays had pioneered in the building of passenger coaches at Detroit for the railroads that were being opened in the state. In 1853 Dr. George B. Russel organized a company which received a contract to build twenty-five cars for the Detroit and Pontiac Railroad. Russel's company was later incorporated as the Detroit Car and Manufacturing Company, and its factory was acquired in 1871 by George M. Pullman, who began producing his new Pullman cars. Some years later his request to the Detroit city council for permission to expand his operations was denied. This decision helped to persuade Pullman to concentrate his main manufacturing activities at the new plant he built near Chicago, around which he built the model town of Pullman. He did, however, continue to use the Detroit plant as a branch operation until 1893.
Dr. Russel's three sons, Walter, George, and Henry, went on to form the Russel Wheel and Foundry Company, which specialized in railroad equipment for logging operations. Although they were the pioneers, the Russels were not to be the most important figures in this industry. In the early 1860s Edward C. Dean and George Eaton began building freight cars in Detroit. They were soon joined by John S. Newberry and the business was called Newberry, Dean and Eaton. In 1864 the firm was reorganized again as the Michigan Car Company when James McMillan, a Canadian by birth who had come to Detroit in the 1850s, invested in the organization. McMillan quickly became the dominant figure in the company and used the influence he gained to become the most powerful force in the Detroit business world. He held this position until the time of his death in 1902, even though he spent nearly all of his time in the East after his election to the United States Senate in 1889. In 1885 the leadership of the Michigan Car Company was challenged with the organization of the Peninsular Car Company by Charles L. Freer and Frank J. Hecker. Seven years later, however, the two companies were merged with the Russel Wheel and Foundry Company, the Detroit Car Wheel Company (another of McMillan's interests), and several other companies to become the Michigan-Peninsular Car Company. The resulting giant made Detroit the leader in railroad car production, with over 9,000 employed in manufacturing products with an annual value in 1898 of $28 million in plants that had a capacity of 100 freight cars per day. In 1899 the combined McMillan-Hecker-Freer-Russel interests became part of an even larger merger that created the American Car and Foundry Company, with some forty plants throughout the country. The Detroit division came to specialize in the construction of steel freight cars.
In addition to such industries as railroad cars, stoves, carriages, and tobacco that were widely represented in the state, other manufacturers were virtually one of a kind in the product they marketed. An example would be the firm of Pingree and Smith, founded in Detroit in December 1866 by Hazen S. Pingree and Charles H. Smith, who had purchased the equipment of a small boot and shoe factory for $1,360. Primarily through the efforts of Pingree, who had learned the leatherworking trade in New England, the company by the 1890s was reportedly the largest shoe manufacturer in the West. When Pingree turned to politics in that decade, the company capitalized on his success by advertising one of its shoes under the brand name "Governor."
In western Michigan an even more distinctive product came out of the town of Belding, originally called Patterson's Mill. Hiram and Mary Belding had moved there from Massachusetts in 1855. Two of their sons, Alvah and Hiram, Junior, had supplemented the family income by selling silk thread, among other items, from door to door. They did so well that they joined with two other brothers and opened a store in Chicago under the name of Belding Brothers and Company. They shortly expanded into manufacturing silk thread, with several mills at various locations. In 1871 the people of Patterson's Mill renamed the town Belding, probably in hopes of inducing the brothers to locate a mill there. In 1885 the brothers did build a silk mill in the town; although they sold the mill when it was completed to a former employee, they later reacquired it and operated it, along with a second silk mill and a weaving facility they had also opened in Belding. By 1909 they employed 1,200 silk workers, a fourth of Belding's entire population. Most of the workers were women, the majority from the area, who could live in dormitories or private homes built for them by the company. The workday and the workweek were long and the work often exhausting but the company seems to have sought to be fair in its treatment of its employees, and for the women the job was a welcome addition to the limited employment opportunities available to them at the time. In 1925 the company was sold, and in 1931 the new owners announced plans to cut back on operations elsewhere and move them to Belding. But in 1932 the city of Putnam, Connecticut, made the owners an offer to locate the operations in that city that Belding could not match, and the silk mills in the Michigan city were shut down. Adjusting to the loss of its biggest employer was painful but Belding survived, as did the Belding name, which continued to appear on the spools of thread used by dressmakers across the country. (21)
Thus by the end of the nineteenth century a highly diversified manufacturing economy, centered in the southern part of the Lower Peninsula, had become well established in Michigan. As yet, however, manufacturing had not replaced in the public's mind the image that the earlier agricultural, lumbering, and mining operations had created. The 1890s witnessed an enormous increase in product advertising as publishers of mass-circulation magazines, caught up in price wars, discovered that advertising revenues enabled them to sell magazines at a price less than their cost. But on the whole, Michigan manufacturers contributed only in a small way to this advertising boom. Institutional advertising was an approach that was still in the future, and thus many of the most important industries in the Michigan economy, such as the railroad car industry and the chemical industry, as well as the lumber and mining companies, saw no point in engaging in advertising campaigns that were aimed at increasing customer sales. Few sales for the Michigan Car Company's railroad equipment or the Solvay Process Company's soda ash were likely to be generated by advertisements in the Saturday Evening Post. It was a different story with the stove industry, however, and even before the Kalamazoo Stove Company began its large-scale advertising campaign in the early twentieth century, Detroit's Jewel and Garland stoves were being advertised nationally. (22) At the very end of the nineteenth century, Charles W. Post was regularly placing advertisements for Postum and Grape-Nuts in Scribner's and other magazines, an early sign of the extent to which Battle Creek's cereal manufacturers would advertise their products in the future. Surprisingly, few ads appeared for Grand Rapids furniture. Most of that city's furniture manufacturers apparently still preferred older methods of promoting sales. Some Michigan advertisers did not represent a product that was widely manufactured in the state. Such was the case with Detroit's Pingree and Smith, a frequent advertiser, which was, in the 1890s, the state's only significant representative of the shoe industry. By contrast, the advertisements for Wright's Dentomyrh toothpaste, produced by a Detroit pharmaceutical company, scarcely gave an indication of the true importance of that city's pharmaceutical industry. Neither did the frequent advertisements in national magazines by the Truscott Boat Manufacturing Company of St. Joseph or the Michigan Yacht and Power Company of Detroit, manufacturers of pleasure crafts, provide readers with an accurate picture of Michigan's shipbuilding industry.
An offshoot of the shipbuilding activities was the marine engine industry, and in the 1890s small advertisements for such firms as the Monitor Engine Company of Grand Rapids appeared. Early in the same decade, a Lansing company, P. F. Olds and Son, began advertising its steam engines in Scientific American. In 1896 this company turned to the production of gasoline engines, with advertisements frequently emphasizing their marine usage. In 1900 the Olds Gasoline Engine, manufactured by the company that was now called the Olds Motor Works and was headquartered in Detroit, was advertised in such publications as Harper's Monthly. Early in the following year, however, these same publications began to carry advertisements for one of the company's newer products--the Oldsmobile. A new century had dawned and with it a product that would completely transform Detroit and the state of Michigan.
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|Publication:||Michigan: A History of the Wolverine State|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1995|
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