I found this interesting little booklet in an old box labeled “Business and Industry.” It’s an employee magazine for the Diamond State Fibre Co., a paper fiber manufacturer in Bridgeport.
But hang on, both of you reading this are thinking, Delaware is the Diamond State! Yes, it is. The company was based in Elsemere, Delaware.
The magazine is unnamed. The back cover advertises a contest with a $5 prize to name it. The inside is filled with information on the Christmas savings fund, humor, children’s pages, and employee updates. There are pictures of some of the equipment at the plant and this one of “The Big Five.”
The company's 12 team bowling league gets a few pages of coverage.
There is only a little bit on what the company actually made. One article explains that the company’s Condensite Celeron was used as insulation for wireless communication. The company installed its own wireless set at the Bridgeport plant. It explains “Our receiving range should be from one quarter to one third the distance around the world.”
This was 1922, and commercial radio was in its infancy. The first station had been licensed only two years earlier in Pittsburgh. The novelty of the radio is clear in the article which says, “A number of powerful radiophone experimental stations are equipped to transmit music by radio and some stations do so on a regular weekly schedule, so that hundreds of receiving stations within their radius can tune their instrument to that wave and listen in to the music.
In 1929, the company merged with the Continental Fibre Company, becoming the Continental-Diamond Fibre Company. I was unable to find when it shut down, but the Bridgeport plant was in business into the 1950’s.
Recently we received an interesting new accession, a business directory for Montgomery and Bucks counties from 1891. Need a stove in Bridgeport? A house painted in Ardmore? What about a plumber in Jenkintown? This fine book provides a lengthy description of each business. The business listings also have many illustrations of equipment.
This image appears by a description for Alfred S. Kohl, a plumber in Jenkintown. The book describes how he won a medal from the Franklin Institute for his exhibitions there. The accompanying image appears to be a “necessary.” The piece also notes that Kohl is a gentleman of “high repute and standing in the social scale.”
In Ardmore, we find Franklin Spohn, who is listed as a purveyor of table delicacies. The description lists “oysters, poultry, game, fruits – both foreign and domestic, fresh and salt fish, meats of every description, green groceries, etc.” In addition, Mr. Spohn is noted as a “man of high social standing and extraordinary business capacity.”
Souderton has some of the more interesting listings including William Souder who made rims and spokes, and H. S. Souder a seller of cigars and packing boxes. Charles H. Schantz was an artistic coach and carriage painter with a “fine reputation.” Need a buttonhole? Look no further than S. D. Yocum. He and his two employees make machine buttonholes on the New Singer Machine. Finally, there is M. S. Stover, the town’s “tonsorial artist” (a barber who specializes in shaving). The book says,
“His tonsorial department is neatly arranged and contains two finely upholstered, comfortable chairs, while cigars, chewing and smoking tobacco, cigarettes, pipes, canes, etc., are kept in this establishment for the convenience of the costumers.”
For dining, A. R. News kept an “eating saloon” in Lansdale serving “fried, stewed and raw oysters, fish cakes, oyster pie and a variety of tempting articles of food.”
Several woman run businesses appear throughout the book, including the Zeigler Hotel in Harleysville, run by Mrs. C. Zeigler and Mrs. M. D. Jenkins, a dressmaker in Bridgeport.
Certain businesses appear in almost every town that have now all but disappeared: harness makers, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, and coal dealers. Other companies were rare even then like the Montgomery Web Company which made elastic and non-elastic web for men’s suspenders. There’s one bicycle seller, who also sold typewriters in Rosemont.
My favorite of all is A. J. Reading, V. S. (I hope the V. S. stands for “veterinary science”) dealer in tonic vermifuge, a worm destroyer for horses. He offers samples for sixty cents. I'm happy to say no images accompanied that article.
In 1933, Montgomery County, like every other place in America, was feeling the impact of the Great Depression. At the same time, the new Roosevelt administration was working to relieve the economic crises with the New Deal. Part of the New Deal was creating new industrial codes, meant to help businesses decrease waste and raise wages. This came at a time of great unrest for American labor.
At that time, thousands of men and women in Montgomery County were employed in the textile industry. The new codes led to a lot of uncertainty according to newspaper articles from the time.
Several mills went on strike, but most turbulent was the strike at the Dexdale Hosiery Mill (later Turbo Machine Company). The workers at the mill went on strike not only for a 40 hour week and higher wages but also for recognition of their union.
The strike began on June 28th and shut down the mill. After two weeks, the company, headed by Ludwig Schierenback, sent this letter to its employers with the card below enclosed.
The Times-Herald reported that more than 50% of the workers voted to return and reopened with the same hours and pay as had prevailed before the strike. About 400 picketers refused follow a proclamation ordering them off the streets, according to an article in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. Darlington Hoopes, a state representative and a lawyer for the union, told picketers to ignore the edict. Two men were arrested, but then the police stopped enforcing the proclamation.
The newspaper articles and these photographs came to the Historical Society from Elmer C. Barnes. The photographs are only labeled with the dates of the strike, June 28 – July 24, 1933, so we don’t know when in the strike they were taken. They do give us a good idea of the disruption.
The attempt to reopen the factory without changing the working conditions only fueled the unrest. On July 18th, the police used tear gas on the strikers. Two days later, Theodore H. Hallowell, Cheltenham’s chief of police, shoot two sympathizers in the legs. Both men, Claude Seiler and Wilmer Kriebel, recovered from their injuries (though both were later charged with inciting a riot). The incident led to Governor Gifford Pinchot getting involved. State troopers were sent in to replace local police, and the union, the American Federation of Full Fashioned Hosiery Workers, agreed to limit the number of picketers. Finally, the new codes were published, raising the minimum wage. The workers at the mill went back to work, but the end of the strike did not get the same newspaper coverage that the violence did. It isn't clear from the newspapers whether the union was recognized.