Chair company employees display some of their company’s products.
Bethel Historical Society photo.
Bethel: The Democrat reported that “the chair factory building is finished outside and is a noble looking building”. Machinery was being installed and a large number of unfinished chairs were being stored in the building. The employment news indicated that about 100 hands would be hired to run the factory.
Bethel: The engine for the chair shop arrived Tuesday from J.W. Penney, Mechanic Falls.
Bethel: The steam was put on the boiler of the chair factory for the first time last Tuesday and everything worked like a charm even if the concern did cost the town of Bethel $8,000. A car load of part of chair frames arrived at the station Tuesday.
In January 1887, the Grand Trunk agreed to put in a siding for the chair factory. Another $500 was appropriated at a special town meeting for the purchase of a steam heating system for the new factory. In the summer three new families arrived for the men to work at the new factory and the families will rent. The year ended with many orders and the factory was rushed with work.
For 1888, business continued in a strong manner with supplies of various hardwood species being delivered for chair manufacturing.
Bethel: The Bethel Chair Company was incorporated. Elections provided the following slate of officers: Pres. J. H. Barrows; Secretary and Treasurer, H. G. Brown; Directors: J. H. Barrows, H. G. Brown, Calvin Bisbee, E. C. Rowe, J. U. Purington . At the end of the year the monthly payroll was reported at $1,000.
In 1889, Rialto Hall, the former roller skating rink on Main Street, was leased by the chair company to be used as a finishing work area as well as a sales and display room. Factory work continued very strongly and demand for wood stock supply was equally strong.
For 1890 sales continued to be excellent and a number of new chair styles were introduced. The next year, 1891, the chair factory was visited by officials from the Grand Trunk Railway. More overtime was scheduled in order for commitments to be met and more help was added to the upholstering department.
In 1893, the annual meeting of the Bethel Chair Company was held in their office Tuesday. J.H. Barrows remains president; J.U. Purington was elected secretary; F.H. Young, assistant secretary; Ellery C. Park, Treasurer; directors are: J.H. Barrows, H.G. Brown, J.U. Purington, Calvin Bisbee, W.W. Hastings, and E.C. Rowe. Net earnings were $5,546.60. Gross earnings or sales, $40,000; paid for labor about, $17,000. The concern is in a flourishing condition with a healthy supply of orders. This view of good market may have been premature because the panic of 1893 did affect all wood products manufactures— dowels, spools and chairs.
In 1894 the year started with some notes of gloom. The chair factory is now running with about half crew. Mr. Barrows intends to have a large number of cords of birch sawed; all of the men will have employment with the lumber is hauled. The annual meeting of The Chair Factory was held and the old officers were re-elected. The business last year had made a good showing; a dividend of six percent was voted the stockholders. The mill of the company has started again after two weeks shut down while inventory was taken and preparations made to manufacture long lumber. A large amount of birch will be sawed also. A shingle machine will be put in at once. It was explained that in this way the mill will better utilize power that would otherwise be wasted plus give employment to a number of men.
But, it has been found necessary due to the strained condition of business to cut down wages some ten percent, yet men feel themselves fortunate to get employment even at reduced wages, so many mills are shut down and the employees thrown out of work entirely
However, well before the end of 1894, business seemed to have recovered to its former brisk state.