Copied from The State Journal, Lansing, Michigan; Sunday, May 8, 1938.
From Guns To Automobiles
Lansing Has 65 ‘Little Industries’ That Turn Out Everything from Drop Forgings to Permanent Wave Pads and Give Employment to Hundreds of Persons
Did you ever see chewing gum made? Or did you ever see the manufacture of permanent wave pads? Or did you ever see soap manufactured? If you didn’t you can do so without going outside the city limits of Lansing.
Lansing is known generally as an automobile city and rightly so, but did you know that there are 65 other industries here that make articles other than automobiles?
These 65 industries manufacture everything from drop forgings to cap hangers.
Some of them are little plants, employing one or two persons. Others are much larger, with several hundred persons on the payroll. The 65, however, provide employment for several hundred persons here the year around.
For instance, out at 731 North Hayford avenue, is the plant of the Lansing Specialties Manufacturing company. It is operated by Byrd H. Stelle who builds supports for plants, such as rose bushes and the like, markers and even dogs’ beds.
Stelle formerly was employed by the Melling Drop Forge company here. In his spare time he made “gadgets.” He found a ready sale for his articles and soon launched out on the sea of business with a full fledged, flourishing concern.
His factory is in the basement of his home. There he turns out “lawn protectors,” a sort of fence, supports for garden plants, holders for the garden hoses and other smaller articles, all of which are finding a ready market.
Then, too, there is the Fox Garment company at 811 Seymour avenue, which manufactures permanent wave pads, and the Fresca laboratory at 522 North Francis avenue, that makes antiseptic powder.
At 210 Isbell street is the plant of the Huntington Regulator company, which manufactures gas regulator devices.
Right downtown is another small industry, probably little known to the general public. It is the Lewis Cap Hanger company, which manufactures cap hangers at 113 South Washington avenue.
In the northwestern part of the nation where winds sweep across the flat lands and breezes are more than zephyrs men wear caps. Likewise in the Carolinas and Virginia, gentleman apparently own at least one apiece. So says Earl Lewis, who owns the only cap hanger manufactory in the United States. Northwest and southwest America have the best markets today, he says.
Mr. Lewis patented the hanger in 1921, inventing it the first year after he entered the clothing business. He followed it by tie racks and his circular racks with layers of circles going round and round are located not only in every state in the Union but in 10 foreign countries. “We have shipped to Scotland, England, Australia, China, the Argentine, Brazil and Germany” he says. “First we made the hangers by hand from a die. We used to buy a ton of wire at a time. Finally we developed an automatic wire machine and increased the output 10 fold in the same time. Looking back to the hand work it seems a slow process when we can feed wire in the machine and see it come out ready made hangers.”
First invention of its kind, the Lewis hanger provides a little hook which keeps the cap in shape and is suspended from a long rack. The machine which makes the product today was made by Anton Winters, expert machine worker in a Lansing automobile plant.
Also on Washington avenue, at 213 1-2 North, is the plant of the True Blue Gum company which for years has turned out a product that is popular in many parts of the country.
Climbing the stairs in a building to this industry, the nostrils and jaws are tantalized by a company of pleasing and spicy odors. This is the van guard of the True-Blue gum factory owned by John Bohnet. It is the only stick gum manufactory in the state and one of the 35 general gum makers.
Protracted and few jaw movement through a wide are by countless hundreds of people is needed to dispose of 15 tons of gum, the amount made last year by the Lansing firm for a Grand Rapids company. The thought of 20 tons for the year distributed throughout the United States makes the gum chewer feel that he is not alone.
In the Bohnet factory the visitor finds great quantities of choice, basic material for the best gum, which is imported from South America and refined on Staten Island, New Year. Cane sugar, ground to powder, and corn syrup are the other ingredients and when each is properly processed one great chewy mass boils in one fourth of a ton at a “mix.” Cut by piano wires – no knife is fine enough – it goes through a kneader where starch is mixed with sugar to keep it from sticking. Cooled and rolled it reaches the proper thickness, the latter determined by a micrometer; for it must be adjusted to the wrapping machine, and made into two stick or five stick packages.
Flavor for the gum may come via New York from the peppermint fields of Michigan, or from countries abroad, homes of of the essence of strong perfumes. Good gum calls for double distilled oils. “We have to be sure of our source for flavor” says Mr. Bohnet, “in order to have the proper distillation.” A ton of gum calls for 900 pounds of sugar and syrup making the basic material around one-third. Capacity for a ton per day exists in the Lansing factory. It opened in 1909 and Mr. Bohnet has directed it for the past five years. Until recently he has provided gum for outside firms only who sell it under their own trade name. This year marks a package bearing his own brand.
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Studio couches are turned out by two industries here. The Burton Dixie corporation, out West Willow street, and the Bunday company also makes mattresses.
Sweeping compound is a product of two industries here. One is the J. P. S. Chemical company at 702 East Grand River avenue, and the other is the Michigan company in the Strand Arcade. The Grand River avenue concern also manufactures soaps.
In the heavier industries, are several steel concerns, forging plants, factories making furnaces, centrifused brake drums, brass castings, gravel handling equipment, Diesel engines, lawn mowers, carts and scrapers, dies and tools, jigs and stampings, screw machine products, gas engines, and sheet metal products.
Included in this are the Atlas Drop Forge company at 209 West Mt. Hope avenue; the Capital Casting company at 500 South Hosmer street, the Capitol Tool-Engineering company at 611 North Grand avenue, the Capitol Steel corporation, the Ebel Hoist and Pump company at 326 South Hosmer street, the Federal Drop Forge company at 2200 South Washington avenue, the Gerson-Carey company at 411 East Kalamazoo street, the Hill Diesel Engine company at 238 Mill street, the Ideal Power Lawnmower company at 704 East Kalamazoo street, the Jarvis Engineering company at 901 River street, the Lansing Brass and Aluminum company at 411 East Ottawa street, the Lansing company at 603 North Cedar street, the Lansing Pattern and Manufacturing company at 700 Sheridan street, the Lansing Stamping company at 1159 South Pennsylvania avenue, the Lansing Steel corporation 636 North Larch street, the Laverty Machine and Welding Works at 427 South Capitol avenue, the Liden Manufacturing company at 702 Sheridan street, the Lindell Drop Forge company out South Logab street, the Melling Forge company at 1401 Case street, the Michigan Brass and Iron Works at 411 East Ottawa street, the New-Way Engine and Machine company at 706 Sheridan street, the Novo Engine company at 702 Porter street, the H. P. Spafford company, 326 South Hosmer street, the Standard Aluminun Casting company at 326 Hill street, the Thoman Die and Machine company at 528 Anderson court, the Wilson Machine works at 124 East Madison street and some other smaller ones.
If you want to see how spray pumps and garage equipment is made there is a factory here that will satisfy your curiosity. The John Bean Manufacturing company makes these articles in its plant at 735 East Hazel street.
You could paint the town with the paint turned out by factories in Lansing. There are three of them here, the Capital Paint Manufacturing company at 519 East Michigan avenue, the Lansing Paint and Color company on Glenrose street, and the Superior Paint company at 214 South Larch street.
Furnaces and air conditioners for homes and public buildings also bear the stamp of “made in Lansing, Mich.” The Dail Steel Products company at 750 East Main street, turns out these products.
Display fixtures for stores, also are made in Lansing by the Davis Metal Fixture company at 615 Brook street and the Hugh Lyons company at 701 East South street.
There are two monument concerns here, the Lansing Monument company at 510 East Michigan avenue and the R. A. Yunker company at 1026 East Mt. Hope avenue.
If you are need of cement blocks, Lansing makes them at the plant of the Robert Martin Cement Block company at 1420 East Main street. This company also manufactures septic tanks.
Far out in the northern section of the city on Highmount street is the Michigan Fertilizer company which makes fertilizer and chemicals.
Hardware specialties are made here, too, by G. S. Ressler and Son on South Cedar street.
Ring gears, steel culverts and piping, commercial refrigeration and electric water heaters add more products to Lansing’s ever growing list of manufactured articles.
Many of these plants are tucked away in out-of-the-way places in the city and are practically unknown except to their own trade. But year in and year out they plod alone, turning out products that find their way to all parts of the United States and into foreign countries.
Among the larger industries engaged in the manufacture of articles not associated with the motor car industry is the Motor Wheel corporation, which, in addition to making automobile wheels, also manufactures oil burners and steel barrels.
There are several other concerns engaged in the manufacture of automobile parts. These include the Luce Manufacture concern, which makes custom truck bodies.
The Duplex Truck company, another Lansing industry, manufactures motor trucks which are sold throughout the world.
All these with the giant industries of the city – the Oldsmobile, Motor Wheel, Reo and Fisher Body plants – make of Lansing one of the leading industrial centers of the middle west.
Lansing, through all its history has been something of a manufacturing town, but it showed its greatest advance as a manufacturing center about the turn of the century.
In 1883, the name of P. F. Olds and Son, loomed large in the list of Lansing factories. The “son” in the firm was destined to make Lansing the giant industrial center it is today. Ransom E. Olds in those days was just experimenting with a “horseless carriage” and which in 1897 brought forth another company known as the Olds Motor Vehicle company. These were the first steps toward the industries of the Olds Motor Works and The Reo Motor Car company which today are among Lansing’s leading plants and the products of which are known throughout the world.