Haskelite Manufacturing Corporation
|Fate||Sold off part by part|
|Headquarters||Grand Rapids, Michigan|
|George R. Meyercord |
James R. Fitzpatrick
Emory W. Stoner
|Revenue||$5,600,000 in 1941|
Number of employees
|1,000 in 1918|
Haskelite Manufacturing Corporation (1917–1956) was a conglomerate of Michigan – based companies. It was located on Broadway Avenue in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They manufactured haskelite plywood for a wide variety of applications and vehicles. Their office headquarters were located in Chicago, Illinois. The Grand Rapids corporation was a spin-off from the Haskell Manufacturing Company in Ludington, Michigan. It was a factory twice the capacity at over 100,000 square feet and designed to make up to ten times as much plywood per day as the Ludington facilities. The plywood at the beginning was needed for World War I military airplane body parts. The plywood later was used in houses, buildings, automobiles and ship construction. Different styles and types of plywood were made for particular niches. The corporation made the largest plywood ever produced, which was used in constructing a particular US Navy boat. A well known use for the Haskelite plywood produced at the Grand Rapids facilities was for the construction of the Spirit of St. Louis, Charles Lindberg's plane.
Henry L. Haskell devised a way to make waterproof glue in 1913 from a derivative of dried cow blood. He used this adhesive to put together cross-grained thin veneer layers of wood to create a product referred to as a flat sheet "panel" – now known as plywood ("plies" of wood). The plywood was named Haskelite after himself. In 1915, he innovated a method to mold this plywood into three dimensional shapes using heat, hydraulic pressure and his patented waterproof glue.
Haskell created the Haskell Manufacturing Company in 1916 in Ludington, Michigan. The Haskelite plywood was first manufactured there. It was used for various vehicles including airplanes and flying boats. Sea sleds and hydro-airplane pontoons were made of haskelite. The "panels" came in dimensions up to 7.5 by 50 feet (2.3 by 15.2 m) in length. The thickness varied by the number of layers requested. Other uses for the plywood were door panels, roofing, flooring, portable houses, bread boxes, grain chutes, drain boards, toboggans, barrels, shipping containers, refrigerators, and canoes.
Haskelite Manufacturing Corporation was formed in late 1917 as a spin-off from the Haskell Manufacturing Company of Ludington. Its main purpose was to fulfill World War I needs for mass production of Haskelite plywood. The Ludington factory of 100 men was producing less than 10,000 square feet (930 m2) of plywood per day, while the new Grand Rapids factory, with 1,000 men, was designed to produce up to 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2) of plywood per day. During World War I Haskell manufactured airplane bodies for the American, British and French armies. Over 5,000,000 square feet (460,000 m2) of Haskelite plywood was produced by 1918 for military airplanes. The plant was located on 107 acres (43 ha) of land near the Grand Rapids Fuller Station. This station was a railway passenger depot served by the Grand Trunk Western Railway, Grand Rapids and Indiana Railway, Pere Marquette Railway and local street-line railway.
A temporary trust company, the Factory Construction Company of Grand Rapids, was used to assist the formation of the corporation. It sold stocks and bonds to raise the necessary money to build the new Haskelite Manufacturing Corporation factory building. The new factory cost $250,000 of which $150,000 in bonds were sold and $100,000 in stocks were sold to raise the necessary money to build the factory. The new Grand Rapids factory was twice the capacity of the original factory in Ludington. It was located at 1850–1950 Broadway Ave in the northwest corner of the city. The title to the property itself temporarily stayed in the trust company. It made a 10-year lease to Haskelite Manufacturing Corporation and they paid a rent of 8% net profits. At the end of the lease, Haskelite Corporation bought the property and retired the trust company.
The main offices of Haskelite Manufacturing Corporation were in Chicago where the executive office of George R. Meyercord, the president, was located. James R. Fitzpatrick, the corporate secretary and general sales manager, also had his main office there. Emory W. Stoner, district sales manager, had his offices in Detroit, Michigan. The corporation reported sales in 1941 as 60 per cent higher than in 1940. The net total was $5,600,000, a substantial increase from the previous 20 years. Stoner in 1944 received a promotion to sales manager and moved to Grand Rapids.
The original Haskelite plywood was used in commercial buildings, houses, ship construction and airplane bodies before 1920. By 1922 there were over seventy car manufacturers using Haskelite in one form or another. The plywood material that built most of the Spirit of St. Louis—Charles Lindbergh's plane that made a 3,600-mile (5,800 km) non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927—was made at Haskelite Manufacturing Corporation in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The plywood components for the British fighter bomber de Havilland Mosquito plane came from Haskelite Manufacturing Corporation.
The new Haskelite factory was a one-story building of nearly 105,000 square feet (9,800 m2)—522 by 201 feet (159 by 61 m). It was started in construction in January 1918. The ground was frozen from the cold Michigan winter, but work commenced anyway due to the urgent wartime need. New roads were made to the construction site for the teams of horses that supplied the material. There were as many as 75 teams of horses coming and going to the site daily. The building was completed and occupied by April, a record time for building construction in Grand Rapids.
The largest plywood panels ever made were manufactured by the Haskelite Manufacturing Corporation. They were built for a US Navy boat designed to go over 50 miles per hour (43 kn). The panels were made of veneers with mahogany on the faces and a Spanish cedar center core. The thicknesses of the plywood panels were from 3⁄16 to 3⁄8 inch (4.8 to 9.5 mm). They ranged in area from 30 square feet to over 388 square feet (36.0 m2). The largest dimension was 88 by 636 inches (2,200 by 16,200 mm) long.
Different styles and types of plywood were developed for specific niches after 1930. Some of these were for boat hulls, doors, household refrigerators, street cars, and freight trailers. Among the dozens of new plywood materials were the brand names of KarVarT, Plymetl, Plymold, and Phemaloid.
Haskelite Manufacturing Corporation made a plywood consisting of additional layers of metal sheet plating (steel, aluminum and copper) and were branded Plymetl (plywood + metal). Plymetl plywood was used where a strong lightweight material was needed with a high resistance to impact. It was used to make clothes vaults and storage facilities. It was also used in ships, yachts, aircraft and vehicles–especially luxury automobiles. During WWII, plywood from the Grand Rapids factory was a major contributor to the war effort in the construction of military vehicles, combat ships, fighter airplanes and tanks.
Haskelite Manufacturing Corporation was involved with the development of a plastic veneer plywood called Plymold. It was known also as duramold plywood by the Fairchild Engine and Aircraft Corporation. These veneer wood pieces were infused with phenolic resin synthetics for extra strength. They could be shaped into three dimensions which was advantageous for airplane and ship parts. Haskelite Manufacturing Corporation added 21,000 square feet (2,000 m2) of floor space to their existing building in Grand Rapids in 1942. The main purpose for this was the need for special shaped plywood pieces for WWII military airplane body parts and ship interior parts. The plymold material was also used in railway cars, buses, automobiles, and boats.
Haskelite Manufacturing Corporation made a plywood with a phenol formaldehyde resin called Phemaloid. It was fire-resistant and constructed electrically. It had high resistance to moisture, was of high tensile strength, and had fungi destroying properties. Airplane parts were among the uses for this plywood. It was also used in railroad cars.
Haskelite also manufactured a variety of serving trays with flower, animal, and cartoon themes. Walter F. Gibian, supervisor of Haskelite's Specialty Division, had the idea for the product. His goal was to make economical serving trays for the general public through mass production. Up until this time serving trays were considered a luxury item. Sales of the line exceeded expectations.
The next products Haskelite manufactured were in the toy market under the brand name "Hasko." These consisted of "fortune telling" mystic trays and boards that were so called "talking boards" of the future. These included models of the Mystic Tray, Mystic Egyptian style Board, and the Hasko Mystic Board with different zodiac borders. "Hasko" was one of the prolific producers of these mystic "talking boards" in the world. The Hasko Mystic Trays were introduced in 1942 and the Hasko Mystic Boards in 1944. Sales of mystic items exceeded four million by 1945.
The No. 2 plant of Haskelite Manufacturing Corporation at 701 Ann Street in Grand Rapids was sold to an industrial buyer in 1949. The company agreed to sell their other assets of the Grand Rapids Corporation to Evans Products Company of Plymouth, Michigan at the end of 1956.
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- "Haskelite Co. To Sell Unit / Will Dispose of Plant". Grand Rapids Press. Grand Rapids, Michigan. April 2, 1949.
- "Evans Company Adds to Plant Holdings". Corvallis Gazette-Times. Corvallis, Oregon. December 28, 1956 – via Newspapers.com .
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After the war, it also furnished plywood components for Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis.
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- Railway Signaling (1945). Railway Signaling and Communications. Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Haskelite Manufacturing Corporation.|
- Museum of Talking Boards
- Chair made by the Haskell Manufacturing Company
- Haskelite Manufacturing Corporation ad showing Chicago trolleybus