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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Powers & Walker Casket Co.

While a casket company may seen an unlikely organization to be included as a furniture company, it must be remembered that the same materials and skills are required to produce a wooden casket as needed to produce household furniture. And, the casket will be in use by the owner for a much longer period of time.

The Powers & Walker Casket Co. had its origin in 1873 as Powers & Walker, with a capital of about $18,000, and in 1884 was incorporated under the present name with an authorized capital stock of $100,000, of which $70,000 was paid in. The official board stands: President, William H. Powers; vice-president, Joseph H. Walker; Secretary and Treasurer, William E. Cox.

They have large and convenient buildings at 77-88 S. Front Street. The factory on the east side of the street is four stories and basement, fitted with the most approved machinery and connected by an elevated tramway with the finishing, store, and showrooms. Everything needed in undertakers’ supplies is kept on the west side of the street.

In their manufacture they make a specialty of fine cloth caskets, and also of burial cases.

Their “flock-covered” caskets are manufactured in such exact imitation of black cloth work that they have a tendency to deceive the very elect among the mourners. This ingenious device is handsome in appearance and so constructed that it is waterproof. This commends them to the undertakers in the most distressingly healthful localities where they might be kept on hand for some time. They can be scoured without injury with a brush and soapsuds, and thus do not deteriorate with age.

It is said that the poor pulmonary, as he journeys toward the snowy peaks of Colorado, in search of life’s greatest boon, can console himself with the thought that should death take him while there, his grief harrowed friends can enclose him in one of Powers & Walker’s productions, which are well known among the Rockies.

Their shipments go to all part of the country, even as far as California, and average annually $150,000, the manufacture of which distributes monthly about $2,000 among fifty to seventy-five workmen. The company closed in 1928.

Excerpted from, “Our Grand Rapids Letter, Nov. 20, 1878.” The American Cabinet Maker, Upholsterer and Carpet Reporter, December 7, 1878, page 14

The History of the City of Grand Rapids, by Albert Baxter, pages 412-13: 1891



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