loading background

Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

cover photo

Panic of 1893: Some of the Factories are Resuming Business

There is a silver lining to every cloud and the mists which overhang the furniture interests of this city are beginning to show the brighter side. Orders are coming in sufficient volume to warrant the resumption of business. After a long period of idleness the whirr of the wheels is a pleasant sound to the mechanic’s ear, for to him it means not luxury perhaps, but food, clothing, shelter, and the necessaries of life.

There are, in round numbers about 8000 idle men in the city, but the number is being gradually reduced. The apprehension felt earlier in the season that there would be a general shut down of all the local furniture factories, has entirely passed away and in its place is the assurance that there will be work for many during the coming season. Should the January sales prove to be good the effect will be felt at once, for the factories, though well stocked when the dull time came, have been gradually reducing to fill the orders that come in while no new stock was being made. There has been a readjustment of the scale of wages in most institutions, but no further change is anticipated at present.


A visit to many of the leading factories yesterday disclosed a general resumption of business and a more hopeful feeling among manufacturing circles. Berkey & Gay have again started their factory after an idleness of about two months. The force is not large, but is being increased from day to day to meet the demand.

W.H. Gay, who has just returned from Chicago, says, “There is undoubtedly a much easier feeling in the money market, but the demand for goods is not urgent just at present. We started our factory in a small way two weeks ago with some necessary orders and we shall add to the working force as necessary, or if orders should cease we may be compelled to stop work. It is a problem, which must work itself out. It cannot be hastened or delayed. There was not over-production in furniture lines; in fact none of the local factories were carrying more than the usual quota of goods when the dull times came. Orders simply ceased and it was of no use trying to make goods if there was no sale for them. We do no apprehend that times will be any harder this winter; in fact the indications point the other way.’


E.K. Mohr of the Widdicomb factory said his firm had no reason to complain. They were having a good trade and were employing nearly the full number of men. Wages had been reduced but it was thought the worst time was past. A similar state of affairs existed in the Widdicomb Mantel Company’s factory.


About two week sago the Oriel Cabinet Co. ceased cutting new goods, but they are employing about one-third of the usual number of men, the principal work being in the finishing and trimming departments. In these two departments now men are being added each day and a general good business is anticipated.

The Kent Furniture factory rather breaks the record. It has run a full crew continuously throughout the summer, save one week, when is shut down to replace a broken main shaft. Just now they are experiencing a little dullness, but anticipate a good trade in the business for next year.

Evening Press, October 26, 1893, page 3 


Like Us on Facebook
site by GRCMC