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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

William A. Berkey Furniture Co. - Baxter, 1891

On severing his connection with the Phoenix Furniture Company in 1879, Wm. A. Berkey retired from active participation in the furniture trade, with which he had been connected since 1863, but in the spring of 1882, he opened a factory for himself on the corner of Campau and Louis Streets, where he made a specialty of the manufacture of fine and medium grade wood-top center tables, in which he continued until January, 1885, when he organized the Wm. A. Berkey Furniture Company, with a capital stock of $85,000, the following being the officers:  Wm. A. Berkey, President;  Wm. H. Jones, Vice President;  Lewis T. Peck, Secretary and Treasurer.

The company has their office and salesroom at 39 to 41 North Waterloo Street, and the factory in the same building, being a three-story brick block 118 by 125 feet. They give employment to about 140 men, with a monthly pay roll of not far from $6,000. In addition to the goods mentioned above the company carry a large general assortment for the retail trade, in which they make a specialty of fine parlor work.

The annual output, about $150,000, is sold mostly by commission, going to nearly all parts of the United States.

WILLIAM A. BERKEY, furniture manufacturer, is a native of Perry County, Ohio, born April 12, 1823. His early educational advantages were moderate, chiefly those afforded by the common district schools. In 1844 he began work at the trade of carpenter and joiner. In 1848 he went to Tiffin, Ohio, and engaged in the manufacture of doors and sash. From there he came to Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1855, starting here in similar business. His change to the furniture trade and his career therein are substantially outlined in the history of the manufacturing establishments with which he has been connected, related in this chapter.

Mr. Berkey married, in 1848, Mary Springer, of Seneca County, Ohio, who is still his life partner. From his youth up he has been a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In politics he was a Republican for many years, and subsequently became an adherent of the Greenback party, by which in 1876, he was tendered a nomination for Representative in the State Legislature, but declined to run. About that time he had been giving much attention to the study of finance, and in 1876 published a volume of 384 pages, entitled "The Money Question," of which three editions were issued. Mr. Berkey is a genial neighbor, an exemplary citizen, always a busy man, enterprising and still in active business, in which he has been fairly successful.

Source: History of the City of Grand Rapids by Albert Baxter. 1891.

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