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Grand Rapids in 1856

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John Widdicomb Now Owns the Mantel Company Plant

Everybody in Grand Rapids knows Mr. John Widdicomb. Everybody in Grand Rapids is more or less acquainted with the detail of his unusual success in building from the very foundation a manufacturing enterprise the reputation of which is worldwide. In consequence of this, the announcement that Mr. Widdicomb has made a most important change in his business affairs comes in the light of a commercial sensation, and has been a most popular subject of conversation for the past few days.

In a word, Mr. Widdicomb has severed his connection with the Widdicomb Furniture Co., the institution that is identified with his life work, and has purchased outright the plant of the Widdicomb Mantel Co., which he will personally conduct as an individual venture as the Jno. Widdicomb Co. The Mantel company plant, which was originally established under Mr. Widdicomb’s management, is one of the very best in this country for the manufacture of that line of goods, the name of which is almost synonymous with the name of Widdicomb.

The plant originally cost $70,000, and its mechanical equipment is said by experts to be substantially faultless. Since the crisis [Panic of 1893] which made it necessary to close down the factory nothing has been disturbed, and so thoroughly in repair has everything been kept that it is thought that a week’s preparation will make it possible to turn the wheels with as little friction as thought the fires had never gone out.

The details of the purchase would be of little interest to the public, which cares nothing more than to know that one more large furniture factory will come into existence, under the direction of a man of such consummate courage, skill, and experience that nothing but success is likely to await upon his endeavors. It seems to have been a most opportune time during the furniture convention, for Mr. Widdicomb to send forth an announcement of his intention, and the congratulations he is receiving from the furniture buyers seem to presage a strengthening, if possible, of the confidence that the better class of dealers have in Mr. Widdicomb’s ability to make furniture that will sell.

It will be a matter of gratification to all people who have the welfare of the city at heart to know that with the starting of the new factory, 150 more men will be employed than at present, which means that 150 families will be directly benefited. In these times of depression this incident in itself means a great deal.

In speaking of Mr. Widdicomb’s new departure, the Michigan Artisan of this morning pays this most flattering tribute to the energy, perseverance, and sterling business qualities of John Widdicomb:

“In 1864 the Widdicomb Brothers founded the business and Mr. Widdicomb who now severs his connection with the old company to form the new one, has been a most potent factor during the thirty-two years of its existence in building up the plant to its present proportions. No man in the business ever worked harder or more hours a day, and few if any ever paid more attention to the details of a business.

“He is now rich in experience, in the very zenith of his manhood and without doubt what he did for the old company he can do for the new. He takes to his new business a ripe, mature judgment that must avail him much. Every furniture man on the continent will wish him abundant success, and the Artisan joins the others with its good wishes.”

Excerpted from Evening Press 1/11/1897, page 2

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