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date: 22 August 2019

Grand Rapidslocked

  • Oscar P. Fitzgerald

Extract

American city in western Michigan, noted for its furniture production. Its situation at the rapids of the Grand River provided ease of river transportation and proximity to timber from Michigan’s great pine and hardwood forests. The furniture industry began in Grand Rapids when the city’s first cabinetmaker, William ‘Deacon’ Haldane (1807–98), established a shop there in 1836. By 1851 E. M. Ball of Powers & Ball was boasting that he could toss ‘whole trees into the hopper and grind out chairs ready for use’ to fill an order for 10,000 chairs in Chicago (Ransom, p. 5). In the 1870s Grand Rapids became a major factor in the American furniture market. Such companies as Berkey & Gay, Widdicomb, Phoenix and Nelson-Matter built large factories and hired Dutch and other European immigrants to operate them. While most of these manufacturers produced complete lines of bedroom, parlour and dining-room suites, some, like the ...

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