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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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A Visit to the Grand Rapids Chair Co.

by William A. LeRow

"This company is an important factor in the furniture product of this enterprising city. It is not enough to merely locate here to be successful. The name Grand Rapids does not impart success. One must have brains and money to manufacture profitably here. This company began operations a little before the Phoenix people, and have been very successful in their business. Their means are ample and they posses all the requisites necessary for success.

Their great brick factory, 308 x 45 feet, and four stories high, while their saw mill, lumber sheds, kiln, and storehouse, 55 x 100 feet and four stories high are on the eastern bank of Grand River at the railway crossing, a site possessing rare advantages. The factory is divided into three sections of 100 feet, each separated by fireproof walls and doors, reducing igneous dangers to a minimum. The great engine of 300-horse power drives their complicated machinery and also heats the establishment.

Two hundred and fifty men find employment here in producing the 450 styles of chairs manufactured by this company, and which require 300 boys and girls outside the works to cane the seats. The State Reform School at Lansing finds employment for its 300 boys on the productions of this company. They have seven “tourists” on salary and commission, and the whole country, west of the Alleghenies, is their field.

Their line is an excellent one, principally of the medium and better class of work, and in their factory can be found every aid to the thorough and economical production of the goods. Their full capacity represents about 400 workmen. They are making some changes in their work and confidently expect a very large trade for 1879. They are constantly bringing out new and tasteful patterns, which appear to be in active demand from the retail trade.

C.C. Comstock is the president, and D.H. Powers is the secretary/treasurer, to whose courtesy I am indebted for my visit to, and information about this important branch of manufacture. They have just begun on parlor frames, and from the samples and prices that were shown me I predict an extended sale for their work."

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

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