|History of Two Rivers|
|Growth of Manufacturing|
From its lumbering era, Two Rivers emerged into a period of woodworking - a graduation experienced in many communities where the combination of a good harbor, plenty of lumber, and a supply of labor permitted the development.
About 1852, Isaac Taylor and Company of Racine built the second saw mill on the ground now occupied by the Reiss Coal Company docks on the south side of the West Twin Rivers. This company constructed a pier, as H.H. Smith had done in 1850. At their own expense, also, they constructed a bridge across the river, connecting with Jefferson Street. After several years of operation, the mill was sold to the Pierpont Company of which H.S. Pierpont was local manager. The company failed during the crisis of 1857 and the mill closed down. Evidently the rapid cutting of the best timer in the vicinity was the prime cause for the failure, for all of the saw mills in the town failed about the same time. The Lindstedt mill, which began operations on the site now occupied by the Eggers Veneer Seating Company in 1855, closed in 1857. David Smoke's saw mill, just north of the Lindstedt mill on the East Twin Rivers, was also quiet by 1857. Another mill, situated north of the Smoke enterprise, burned down in 1858.
Before the sawmills closed, however, a new industry was launched successfully, the manufacture of wooden materials and products. In 1856, the New England Manufacturing Company was started, consisting of Aldrich, Smith and Company of Two rivers, William Honey, Thomas Burns, Charles Jennison and Alanson Hall.
They began the manufacture of wooden chairs in a factory on the south side of the West Twin Rivers, about where the Aluminum goods Plant Number Four now stands. The company became involved in the financial difficulties rife in 1857 and in 1857-58 the firm passed to Aldrich, Smith and Company who continued the business. The chairs most popular were those with cane seats and backs and the "home industry" policy was established in connection with the factory. Families of the men employed made "extra Money" by weaving the cane into the frames of the seats and chair backs.
Just a year after the launching of the chair industry, in March 1857, Henry C. Hamilton and Company began the manufacture of pails and tubs in a building 40 x 120 feet, with two stories and an attic. The Building was built near the north bank of the West Twin Rivers, about a block north from the Monroe Street bridge and about a half block west from the street. The company included Aldrich, Smith and Company, Henry C. Hamilton of Two Rivers, and William H. Metcalf of Lockport, N.Y. The architect for the pail factory was Homer Glass.
G.H. Albee came to Two Rivers on March 30, 1857 to supervise the installing of machinery and later to superintend the factory. In six or seven years, the factory was extended 88 feet east, bringing it to Monroe Street. The new firm ran into the financial difficulties prevalent in 1857 and the interests in the new industry were purchased by the S.H. Seaman and Company, which included Conrad Baetz. This new company also took over the interests of Aldrich, Smith and Company, which included the old Smith mill, the newer mill on the south side, and the pail factory. Soon after the opening of the Civil War, Seaman and company sold out to Joseph Mann of the Mann Brothers of Milwaukee, but H.H. Smith still retained an interest for several years. Leopold Mann came to Two Rivers three or fours later and bought up stocks and took active part in the management of what came to be know as the Two Rivers Manufacturing Company.
the next thirty years of Two Rivers history might well be called the Mann regime, for Henry, Leopold and Joseph Mann practically owned the town through their control of the Two rivers Manufacturing Company. The company acquired the chair factory and greatly enlarged both its size and producing. The manufacture of pails and tubs expanded until it was maintained that the Two Rivers Manufacturing Company was the largest producer of these articles in the world. The company owned and operated a general store on the site now occupied by the Two Rivers Mercantile Company (more recently the Ott-Glick company). During the Civil War, when flat money practically drove all good money of of circulation, the Company began the practice of paying its employees with order on the general store for merchandize and food. These orders became known as "shin pasters." The system was a good one for the company because all of its wages were paid back with a margin of profit at the general store. The practice of issuing these scripts redeemable in merchandise only continued until 1875 when it was declared illegal.
The Two Rivers Manufacturing Company built a modern saw mill on the West Twin River above the pail factory for the purpose of preparing its own lumber. The lumber yards and kilns occupied the expanse of land from Monroe Street to the river and from the Monroe Street bridge to 21st Street, with the exception of the lots bordering on Monroe Street. The company owned it own railroad freight cars and until recently one of them was used as a shed beside the Aluminum Goods spur at 13th Street. The logs, for the most part, were shipped in by railroad, although some were driven down the river.
A picture atlas issued in 1891 says, "The Two River Manufacturing Company alone has, during the past year, worked up more than 10,000,000 feet of lumber in its pail and chair factories and has recently built one of the finest and best equipped saw mills in the States." That Two Rivers was growing healthily during its "woodenware" era is apparent from an extract from the same atlas: "Unlike the majority of lumbering towns which generally decay with the dwindling woods that once so proudly girdled them, Two rivers has not only survived the destruction of the surrounding forests, but is today a live, thriving town, sturdy and prosperous, and growing year by year in size, wealth and importance."
Woodworking, however, was to have its day just as lumbering had, and already an industry had been born which was destined eventually to gently transfer Two Rivers into anew kind of manufacturing.
After the Manns retired from the company, about the opening of the new century, it became the Two Rivers Woodenware Company and later the Two Rivers Company. The chair factory burned to the ground in a rather spectacular night fire about 1910 and its is a singular fact that the older section of the pail factory was similarly destroyed in a most ravenous fire in 1920, the first fire that the new motorized fire department had to fight. The old saw mill, after more than a decade of idleness, was lately started by the Schroeder Lumber Company. The pail factory has had a decade of trials, during which it changed ownership and management several times, and was lately under the management of J.F. Conant. It is now used to produce baskets under the management of Mr. Conant's son, Newell, a Harvard graduate.
The son of H.C. Hamilton, owner of the old saw mill, was destined to start an industry which is leading in Two Rivers and in the world today - the manufacture of wood type and printers' goods. James E. Hamilton was born in a little yellow house which stood just north of where the Hamachek Garage now stands: it was right near the mill. His father, who was a doctor, preacher and businessman, had married Diantha Smith. Deacon Hezekiah Huntington Smith's daughter. James, after having worked for several years as water carrier in a stone quarry and as a newsboy on Lockport, N.Y., his father's former home, returned to Two Rivers and got a job turning clothes pins in the pail factory. Later he quit to become a pile-driver engineer about the time the piers were being built at Two Rivers. Lured by the stories of Black Hills gold, he went west in 1877, but returned a half year later, much poorer and wiser. he set himself up in business sawing out brackets and fancy woodwork with a scroll saw and after his marriage in 1880 to Miss Etta Shove, a school teacher from Appleton, Wisconsin, he conducted a small workshop in his home besides working in the pail factory.
William F. Nash, editor of the Two Rivers chronicle, had an order to print some posters advertising a grand ball in the old Turner Hall and since he had no large display type, he asked Mr. Hamilton to try to manufacture some. Mr. Hamilton, with the help of his wife, drew the patterns and cut them out of thin wood with a scroll saw, then glued them on blocks of wood to make them "type high" and the first wood type was made in Two Rivers. The two type blocks, "GRAND BALL" and "TURNER HALL" proved very satisfactory and Editor Nash straightway ordered a font of display wood type from Mr. Hamilton. Seized wit the possibilities of the new venture, the young craftsman sent samples of his type to printers all over the state and soon began to receive orders. The first came from the Green Bay Gazette for $3.00 worth. The next day a stupendous order for $12.50 came from a Mr. Cunningham of Chippewa Falls, He quit his pail factory job and turned all his time and attention to designing type, manufacturing it and supplying printer's goods and needs.
About a year later, he secured a moneyed partner, Max Katz of Milwaukee, whose father bought him a half interest in the new industry for $1,500. They built a small factory and in November, 1881, moved all the machinery and equipment into it with only a small wagon drawn by a bill goat to the hauling.
After four years, Katz sold his interest to William B. Baker of Springfield, Ill. During this period, Hamilton and Baker added a line of printers' furniture to the business. In 1890, Mr. Baker sold his interest to Hamilton and Hamilton Manufacturing Company was incorporated. A brick addition to the factory increased facilities and 20 men were on the payroll in 1890. He continued to expand the business, adding more and more to the cabinet, case and job galley lines. Many additions to the plan were made and younger men were taken into the firm. During the first decade of the new century, a group of men, H.C. Gowran, T.W. (unknown last name) and E.J. Soik among them, organized the American Cabinet Company to build and develop dental office furniture. The Hamilton Manufacturing Company made cabinets under a certain contract arrangement. Since then, this phase of manufacturing has grown and widely expanded. The company now produces high quality cabinet work and has trained hundreds of skilled workers. Today the wood printer's goods is the smallest part of the concern's work. Cabinet work of every description is made according to blueprint, although dozens of catalogues contain the stock goods. Dental office furniture, desks, optical cabinets, office equipment, filing cabinets, drawing and draughting furniture, radio cabinets, bank and office counters are among the newer products. During the World War, the Hamilton Manufacturing Company landed a big government contract for making De Haviland airplane fuselages and wing frames; it also made thousands of field batter boxes, field dental cases and field hospital furniture.
In 1912, a modern steel plant was erected and the Hamilton Manufacturing Company began the manufacture of steel printers' furniture and cabinets. The popularity and practicality of these goods have caused the steel plant to grow with abnormal speed. Eight brick additions have been made to the mammoth plant of the company within as many years. In 1926, two additions were made, one to the steel plants and one to the type plant. In 1938, Hamilton's began producing the very first automatic clothes dryer.
J.E. Hamilton retired from active business in 1920. His son, George, who had entered the business at the age of 20 and had since gained about 20 years of practical experience in all phases of the industry, succeeded his father as president.
J.E. Hamilton, it should be said, however, had something to do with starting the other major industry of which Two Rivers boasts, the manufacture of aluminum utensils. About 30 years ago, Joseph Koenig, a young man who had sold aluminum combs made in Germany at the World's Fair, asked Mr. Hamilton for help in starting the manufacture of such combs. Koenig was given a room in the Hamilton shop and power to drive his saw. After a year of experimenting, Mr. Koenig was sure his business would be a going one if he could get money enough to carry out his schemes. A company was formed, therefore, with H.P. Hamilton and J.E Hamilton furnishing the money and Joseph Koenig supplying the brains and ideas.
From this humble beginning, the aluminum manufacturing in Two Rivers was developed into two mammoth plants, now employing 1,500 men and owned by the Aluminum Goods Manufacturing Company with main offices at Manitowoc. The Mirro and Viko aluminum article are universally advertised. Besides these brands, the company makes lighter weight utensils which are imprinted with the trademarks of dozens of other companies and jobbers. Both of the plants are very large, covering a total area of at least five square city blocks. The buildings are of reddish pressed brick. Two large additions were made to plant Number One in 1926.
An outgrowth of the aluminum industry is the Metalware Corporation which manufactures a kind of nickel and copper ware but which draws ins craftsmen from the aluminum factories. The industry is relatively young, but in the four or five years of its existence it has grown nicely.
The development of the manufacturing saw the establishment of many smaller industries, many of which have grown very steadily. The Eggers Veneer Seating Company was stared on the site of the old Linstedt mill and went into the manufacture of chair seats and backs and bulk veneer. While the company has not grown to the size of the other two plants mentioned, it employs the third largest roll of men and constructed a new brick plant about five years ago.
The Kahlenberg Company on south Monroe street began, in a small way, the manufacture of gasoline marine engines. These engines soon became known on the Great Lakes and their dependability served to advertise them even abroad. Lately, the engineers have perfected a crude oil and kerosene-burning marine engine which has greatly increased the demands for the company's products. This firm, also, has just finished a brick addition to its plant.
A canning factory, known in its heyday as the Wisconsin Pea Canning company, was erected on the South side at School Street and the lakeshore and for some twenty years or more it did a thriving business of canning peas an beans. The company leased fields from farmers in the community and hired women and children to harvest the crop of beans; machinery was early invented to harvest the peas. In the early days, bean pickers were paid 10 cents for picking a good-sized half-bushel basket full of beans. A system of home labor similar to that used by the old chair factory was employed to snip and "string" the beans in preparation for canning. The pay was one cent a pound. It is the belief of the author that the gradual disappearance of suitable and available fields due to the expansion of the city and dividing up of farms, together with the growing difficulty of getting pickers at any wage, was the chief reason for the decline of the industry. Today, practically no canning is done in Two rivers.
Two knitting mills have been in operation for about a score of years, the Friedlander and the Crescent Companies. The latter started as the Zulu, but has changed hands several times. Gloves, mittens, sweaters and caps are produced or have been.
Two Rivers had the first brewery in Manitowoc County; one started by R.E Mueller. The most famous brew was Golden Drops Beer and the industry flourished until Prohibition brought a change in ownership and product. Now near beer, soda water, several fruit "crush" drinks and ice cream are being manufactured by the Two Rivers Beverage Company.
Another industry which began in a small way and which is still in the progressive state is the Millwork and Cabinet Company, which began as the Two Rivers Textile Company. this was somewhat a misnomer, because the company did not manufacture textile. It made small articles of wood, chiefly spools and racks of different kinds used in the textile industry. The Millwork and Cabinet Company makes all kinds of cabinet work, mostly according to specifications and carries little stock goods.