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Displaying items by tag: Businesses

Wednesday, 24 January 2024 19:57

The Dill Company

One question people often ask me is "How do you research some of the items in HSMC's collection?" This depends a lot on the type of item in question and what we already know about it from the donor's records. For example, there are some items, like this medicine bottle pictured below, that come to us with limited information.

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Medicine Bottle, The Dill Co., HSMC Collection, 2013.016.020

For this piece, we can see that it is labeled "The Dill Co." on one side and "Norristown, PA" on the other. Based on its size and shape, we can guess it was likely a medicine bottle from either the late 1800s or early 1900s. Beyond that, we really did not know anything about this Dill Company.

Since it was a business, the best place to start searching was our Norristown City Directories. Sure enough, from 1908 to 1931 I found references to Dill Co. and Dill Medicine Co. under the "Patent Medicines" section. The directories list C. H. Alderfer as the president.

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Medicine Bottle, The Dill Medicine Co., HSMC Collection, 2013.016.009

Now the question remains, who started this business? Based on my searches, I know there was a Dr. Wallace W. Dill (1877-1953) living in Norristown at the same time the company operated. We also have two other medicine bottles connected to this company. One is labeled "Prof. W. W. Dill" and the other is labeled "The Dill Medicine Co." The one with Prof. Dill's label is my personal favorite because the bottle was supposed to hold something called the "Balm of Life". I wonder what could have originally been held in that bottle.

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Medicine Bottle, Balm of Life, HSMC Collection, 2013.016.010

Anyway, although Dr. Wallace W. Dill's address was not the same as the Dill Company's address, it is still very possible that he was the creator of this company. As for C. H. Alderfer, if I found the correct person, Clayton H. Alderfer served in the Norristown Banking industry at this time. Perhaps he helped Dr. Dill with a loan or money matters and was thus made the president of the company.

 

Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 17 August 2023 15:51

Summerill Tubing Company, Part 2

After our last post about the Summerill Tubing Company, one of our volunteers gave us some extra insight into this company's history. As most of you likely know, Charles Lindbergh was the first person to fly a non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. An article about his accomplishment was on the front page of the Times Herald on May 23, 1927.

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Times Herald May 23, 1927

However, what you may not have known is Summerill Tubing Company made parts used in Lindbergh's plane, the Spirit of St. Louis. An article about the company appears in the same paper right next to the Lindbergh article.

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Times Herald, May 23, 1927

The company made the complete framework of the undercarriage chassis as well as the tail skid. The article explains the tubing was shipped to Ryan Airlines of San Diego, California from the Bridgeport Summerill Tubing Company prior to Lindbergh's flight. Once assembled, the plane was flown from San Diego to New York. It would then go on to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.

Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 27 July 2023 20:19

Summerill Tubing Company

Every now and then someone asks us "Did you know this happened in Montgomery County?" You really never know what you will come across in your research. In this case, we learned that a Bridgeport company was once evaluated for a potential clean up project after fears of potential uranium exposure, according to the Wall Street Journal

According to the short excerpt found online, the Wall Street Journal cited the Summerville Tube Company was conducting metal fabrication research and development on uranium metal in the early 1940s. They cited their source as the Department of Energy, which initially considered cleaning up the site under the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program. It appears no clean up was done since exposure was considered minimum. 

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While looking for more information I found there were documents about "Summerville" and "Summerill" Tubing Company. Both were located in Bridgeport apparently. Are they the same company? For now, my guess is yes. It turns out we actually have some magazines from Summerill in our Archives! They are all from the early 1940s and are advertising the company's manufacturing during World War II. 

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This company, as can be guessed by the name, produced steel tubing when they were located in Bridgeport in the early 1900s. You can see an advertisement below from Aviation, Volume 23.

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According to Montgomery County the Second Hundred Years book in our library, Summerill Tubing Company was founded in 1899 in Philadelphia. They bought the Protectus Paint Company in Bridgeport in 1910. They eventually moved to Pittsburgh in 1946.

It appears the same company might still operate, but is now in Scottdale, PA under the name Summerill High Precision Tube. If it's the same company, they claim to have been in business for over 100 years!

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

Aviation, Volume 23. https://books.google.com/books?id=8jRSAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA1188&lpg=PA1188&dq=summerill+tubing+company+bridgeport+pa&source=bl&ots=vdqRxM7OvS&sig=ACfU3U1VA0Jno0uyMvawX1Plu-4Uygf05g&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjim9WGuq-AAxW8EVkFHQ5WCeU4FBDoAXoECAMQAw#v=onepage&q&f=false

Decisions and Orders of the National Labor Relations Board, Volume 60. https://books.google.com/books?id=2EE-AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA896&lpg=PA896&dq=summerill+tubing+company+bridgeport+pa&source=bl&ots=uGj46BngMt&sig=ACfU3U35XuHkQqqPYnjziV41s-v8-YWgng&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiYrofyua-AAxXCEFkFHRD6AAE4ChDoAXoECAIQAw#v=onepage&q=summerill%20tubing%20company%20bridgeport%20pa&f=false

Summerill High Precision Tube. https://www.summerilltube.com/

The Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/graphics/waste-lands/site/444-summerville-tube-co/

Published in Found in Collection
Wednesday, 09 December 2020 21:13

Norristown Big Business Monopoly

For many families, playing games is part of their holiday celebrations. Over Thanksgiving my family played many web-based games together since we live in different states and could not safely gather this year. Everyone watch out for my mother, she is a talented Imposter in Among Us!

Anyway, pre-COVID my family and many other families played board games over the holidays. While in the vaults this week I decided to take a closer look at some of the games we have in our collection. This monopoly board piqued my interest as it is clearly homemade.

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This game was a Christmas gift given to George Newman, Sr. (1898 - 1963) in 1929. Who made it is not clear, but I would guess it was probably made for George by one of his family members.

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When we take a closer look at the spots on the board you can clearly make out local businesses and institutions that were in the Norristown area in the early 1900s.

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Even the traditional jail spot on the board was replaced. The creator of this board substituted the Norristown State Hospital for the jail spot on the corner of the board.

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Although we do not know who made it, this game was clearly loved by George. Just look at all the scratches, worn pieces, and penciled in spots!

 

Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 05 March 2020 21:22

Montgomery County, 1959

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Lee Templeton car dealership in Norristown

 

I started on a new shelf in the stacks this morning and discovered 42 photographs of buildings from all over the south-eastern side of Montgomery County. The large format black and white photographs are mounted on cardboard. With the cardboard backing, most measure 18 by 24 inches.

The cardboard backing is signed by the photographer, Ellis O. Hinsey. A few have a date, 1959. I suspect that they’re all from that year or year before. They might have been mounted on cardboard for an exhibit.

All of the photographs are of buildings and several are of churches and parochial schools.

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St. Gertrude's Parochial School, West Conshohocken

 

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Epiphany of Our Lord (now Holy Rosary), Plymouth

 

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Mother of Divine Providence (now Mother Teresa), King of Prussia

There are also a few businesses.

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Two shops in downtown Norristown

 

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Hale Fire Pump Company, Conshohocken

Ellis O. Hinsey was born in 1902 in Akron, Pa. For his day job, he was an English professor, first at Temple and then at the Pennsylvania Military College, now Widener University. He lived in Wyncote, and according to his obituary in the Glenside News, he was a freelance portrait photographer of 20 years. He died at 58 from complications of lung cancer.

Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 16 August 2018 19:53

The Diamond State Fibre Company

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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.

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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.”

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The company's 12 team bowling league gets a few pages of coverage.

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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.

Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 01 March 2018 20:57

Industries and business in 1891

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 01 June 2017 20:22

The Dexdale Hosiery Strike

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Published in Found in Collection