1910 – Lansing Manufacturing Plants story

By Arthur T. Hugg.
LANSING, Mich., May 28 – No other city can boast a development more even, though speedy, and spectacular than that which has characterized the state capital. Twelve years ago, or perhaps at a late even less remote, Lansing was dependent for her livelihood largely on her prestige as a seat of government. With a population of 15,000, she was known chiefly for her state institutions; the legislative chambers, the Michigan Agricultural college, the Home for the Blind, the Industrial School for Boys, and a few factories. In her own right, by the power of her own civilities-?, she held practically nothing.

Then came a day when enthusiasm flamed brightly and suddenly Lansing knew she was destined to become a city of great manufacturing wealth. It was the awakening. Within the next two years the spirit of laissez faire had changed into one of the most extraordinary growth ever witnessed in Michigan. In 1901, when the movement began, Lansing’s Industries numbered 74, her capital-invested was $2,055,133; the average number of wage earners was ????, and the value of her product was $2,942,306. A year ago, when a similar table was cast, the results showed its industries, $11,127,018 capital, ???? employees, value of products $22,727,631.
By 1908, Lansing’s boom has become an established institution, so to speak. It had been booming it so long that the business men felt they could depend on it. The business men’s association adopted a slogan: “40,000 population in 1918,” everybody began to talk exponential-? factories crowded in at a rate of 10 to 50 a year. Free sites and low tax rates were temptingly advertised. A new era was inaugurated, and today Lansing has doubled its population of six years ago, while its factories have increased many fold.

In all this sudden expansion one distinguishing feature shines an everlasting credit to the city. Through 10 years of incessant expansion, Lansing has extended her municipal improvements to meet every emergency. Where a new manufacturing plant was located, sewers were extended at once; telephone, lights, water and gas mains have followed close on the heels of each new industrial district. This makes for permanency, and steady growth.
The Business Men’s association is determined that Lansing shall not decline. It is the boast of this organization, composed of the most influential men in the city, that in the 10 years of rapid development, they have not admitted not a single discreditable history-?.
The board of directors of the association is composed of the station merchants, bankers, and manufacturers of the city whose personnel includes the following: President, C. P. Downing; vice-president, William K. Prudden; secretary, Orien A. Jenison; treasurer, Edgar M. Thorpe; E. S. Porter, manager, Lansing Spoke Co.; Lawrence Price, president, Auto Body Co.; M. R. Potter, of Michigan Screw Co.; H. D. Lace, of the Hugh Lyons Co.; J. Edward Roe, cashier, Lansing State Savings bank; F. J. Hopkins, cashier City National bank; E. F. Peer, secretary-treasurer of Reo Motor Car Co.; F. N. Arbaugh of Arbaugh and Cameron; A. C. Bird, state dairy and food commissioner; J. J. Laird, vice-president, Capital National bank; W. J. Mead, general manager, Olds Motor Works.
This is Lansing’s industrial past. Her industrial present is equally interesting; her future promises activity even more intense.
Naturally, the question is: “What makes Lansing?” and when you ask that, you’re getting into deep water.
Lansing’s chief asset, of course, is spunk.

Lansing might claim her shipping facilities as a leading factor in her industrial development for she is sitting on four railroads: Pere Marquette, Grand Trunk, Michigan Central and Lake Shore, and in addition to these, has the Lansing Manufacturers’ railroad, a belt line connecting the four trunk lines and circling the city. On this road is located the Olds Motor Works, Seager Engine Works, Emergency Forge Co., Lansing Fuel & Gas Co., Lansing Sugar Co., and other large industries.
These roads run 34 passenger trains a day in nine different directions and their freight business has so increased that many additions have been made to the depots.
The competition of these four roads together with the assurance of the city that cars from any road may be run to any manufacturing plant, gives to manufacturing concerns an abundance of cars, and the minimum shipping rates. Three electric lines cover surrounding territories with competent service.
The broad industrial policy which Lansing has always employed, lends much to the city’s popularity. A reserved district held by the city provides free factory sites to acceptable concerns; power, light and water, the last two municipality owned, are furnished at special rates. The rate of taxation for new manufacturers is made as low as possible. The wage scale is high, and never in the history of the city has there been an organized strike of any serious duration.

One of the principal things that has given Lansing fame is the fire department. All over the state, she is noted for her modern apparatus, which numbers among other equipment, an automobile fire engine and a motor chemical wagon. Three years ago the Lansing fire department composed of one fire chief, 18 call men, and four paid drivers, 22 in all. Today, it is one of the best equipped departments in the country and the mecca of junketing aldermen from other towns who wish to improve the systems in their local fields.
As a convention city, Lansing has few rivals among cities of her size. Her many hotels give ample accommodations, and during the summer, visitors from all over the United States flock to her doors. The state capitol building and the sessions of the legislature naturally add much to her popularity.
Within the year, Lansing has acquired over 25 new industries, bringing the total up to 163, employing in all over 10,000 men. The automobile business, which has developed considerably there, now includes the separate manufacture of practically every automobile part, as well as the production of several high-grade cars complete.
And now comes a mass of isolation data, all telling of the capital city’s growth, but so heterogeneous that they scarcely admit of category. They are set down here, disconnectedly, merely to show, in the shortest possible spaces the elements which go to make the capital city’s success.

Lansing’s public schools number 15, with three parochial schools additional. Including a new $100,000 high school, which is nearing completion. Special instructors are employed for music, manual training, drawing and cooking.
There are 25 churches and religious organizations in Lansing, as follows: one Seventh Day Adventist, three Baptist, one Christian Science, three Congregational, one German Evangelical, two Lutheran, four Methodist Episcopal, one Protestant Episcopal, two Presbyterian, one Roman Catholic, one Universalist, one Young Men’s Christian association, one Young Women’s Christian association, and one Salvation Army. Both Christian associations are in new buildings, well equipped.
Lansing has four banks, two building and loan associations, three opera houses, 60 miles of water mains, 350 are lights and 15 miles of brick pavement.
The daily pay roll of all factories inclusive of about $51,000. Eighty-five per cent of the work force own their own homes.
Five hundred residences were built in Lansing last year; 900 more are now in prospect of construction. In March last year the demand for homes was such that employees of Seager Engine works slept in tents and huts near the plant until houses could be erected for them.
Lansing has a capacious cut stone post office, but so heavy has been the increase of mail matter that there is talk of building another.

Every factory in Lansing in running full time, a great many are on time-and-a-half, while a number are working night and day shifts to catch up with orders.
During a period of nine months, 25 Lansing manufacturing firms, selected at random, paid dividends amounting to $1,631,200.
Several of the new industries have doubled their capacity during the first year of operation.
Lansing has considerable money invested in bridges across the Grand river and its tributary, the Cedar. Of the 29 bridges in the town, three are owned by the railroads and the remainder by the city.
More than 60 fraternal orders are represented in Lansing, most of the chapters maintaining their own halls, and some of them temples for their own exclusive use.
One of the most needed improvements in the city will be the general hospital for which Hon. E. W. Sparrow has just contributed $100,000.
From a perusal of these facts, it will be seen at least, that there have been things doing at Lansing in the past; things besides those that transpire when legislator meets legislator at the soda water fount adjacent to the capitol. What Lansing is endeavoring to do now is to hold a steady rein; keep every factory it has as big as it is, have them grow as much as possible, and get as many more good ones as she can.
The following was received just as this page was being made up:
“A. T. Hugg, Detroit News – Have just closed for two more factories since talking with you. This is going some.” – “O. A. Jenison, Secretary.”


[Text of box info]

Standard Foundry Co. (making iron castings) – $20,000 in Capital
Emergency Forge Co. – 100,000
A. C. Barber Co. (making cigars)
Auto Wheel Co. (making wheels) – 150,000
American Savings Bank (general banking) – 100,000
Lansing Grinding Co. – 50,000
Clark Power Wagon Co. (making autos) – 500,000
Gardner Artificial Lumber Co. – 200,000
Longstreet Lumber Co. – 65,000

General Motors, $5,000,000 to $40,000,000
True Blue Gem Co., $20,000 to $50,000
Capital Castings Co.
Eureka Machine Co.
Reo Auto Co.
Emergency Forge Co.
Union Building & Loan, $1,000,000 to $1,500,000
The Briggs Co., $10,000 to $40,000
Michigan Screw Co.
Omega Separator Co.

Lansing Pure Ice Co., $50,000 to $80,000
Atlas Drop Forge Co.
Thoman Milling Co.
Oldsmobile Co.
Seager Engine Works
Capital Furniture Co.
W. K. Prudden Wheel Co.
Hildreth Motor Co.
New Way Motor Co.
Michigan United Railways
Lansing Wheelbarrow Co.
Severance Tank & Silo Co.
Lansing Wagon Works
Auto Body Co.
Auto Wheel Co.
H. H. Hardy Sprayer Manufacturing Co.
Gier & Dall
Bell Telephone Co.

A new garment factory
Gas lighting fixture factory
Newly patented stamp affixer company.


[Text of photo captions]

The pictures show, along the ??? – Bay City aldermen looking over the Lansing auto fire engine; the Oldsmobile factory; and the new high school building; below the fire engine is a picture of the Masonic temple; to the right of the temple, the sugar beet factory, and Mayor Bennett; then Secretary O. A. Jenison of the Business Men’s association, and to the right, the Lansing Wheelbarrow works; below Mr. Jenison is the plant of the Reo Motor Co. The bottom row shows the state capitol, the main building of the Michigan State School for the Blind, and the plant of the Seager Engine Works.

The lower building is the Agricultural hall, newly erected at the Michigan Agricultural college. The upper cut shows the Lansing post office.


Copied from The Detroit News Tribune; Detroit, Michigan;
Sunday, May 29, 1910; Illustrated Section, Page 6.

Transcribed by Timothy Bowman – February 5, 2014.
Note: There are some parts I could not read on the faded microfilm copy.

scan of the original article
Lansing's Manufacturing Plants story-1910-MI-3


4 responses to “1910 – Lansing Manufacturing Plants story

  1. My name is Helen Prudden and I live in Melbourne Australia and I am very interested to know if there are still sights to be seen to do with William K Prudden in Lansing MI? We are visiting Ontario Canada in late May 2017 and would like to visit Lansing should this be the case.

  2. Ms. Prudden,
    Sorry for not getting back to you until now. There are not many sights of Mr. Prudden left in Lansing, Most of have been torn down. The smoke stack with the Prudden name on it is still up over 100 years later. Near a Prudden Street, which has no houses on it anymore. The Prudden Wheel Company merged with three other companies in 1921 to form the Motor Wheel Corporation. Which went on until the 1990’s. The old Motor Wheel buildings were transformed into loft apartments around 10 years ago. In the past there was a Prudden Auditorium, gone since the 60’s. Also a Prudden building in downtown Lansing, burned down in the 1920’s. A 2nd Prudden building was built on the same spot and still stands, but is called something else now. And there is a small concrete plaque in a grassy area in the middle of busy East Michigan Avenue that has his name and others on it. While his physical legacy is mostly gone, local historians like me still remember. May I ask, are you related to him? If you have any more questions, please send to my e-mail address below.
    – Timothy

  3. michele johnson-bryant

    when I was younger I was taken to a place by old lansing road that had the remnants of what I remember to be a old brick factory in lansing Michigan. if you walked far enough there was a spot with a pond and some sandy area in which teenagers used to have bonfires. can not remember the name of the old factory. does any of this ring a bell.
    lansing resient.

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