Zalmon G. Simmons

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Zalmon Gilbert Simmons
Born (1828-09-10)September 10, 1828
Euphrates, Montgomery County, New York
Died February 10, 1910(1910-02-10) (aged 81)
Kenosha, Wisconsin
Occupation Businessman, Politician

Zalmon Gilbert Simmons (September 10, 1828 – February 10, 1910) was a businessman, manufacturer, Wisconsin legislator, and mayor of Kenosha, Wisconsin.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born September 10, 1828, to Ezra and Mary Gilbert Simmons in Euphrates, Montgomery County, New York,[2][3][a] Soon after Zalmon was born, the family moved to Oneida County, New York and established a farm. After 1839 Ezra moved to Benton Township, Lake County, Illinois, where Zalmon attended common schools during the winter months. On June 12, 1843, Ezra moved to Southport (now Kenosha), Wisconsin.[3] Simmons came to Kenosha with US$3 (equivalent to $86 in 2016) when he was 15[1] or 21 years of age.[3] His brother was Rouse Simmons who also served in the Wisconsin State Assembly[5] for Kenosha. Rouse was a member of the Republican party and served in 1875.[6]

Zalmon Simmons completed his schooling in Kenosha[b] and then worked as a teacher[1] between 18 and 21 years of age.[3]

Business career[edit]

Among his pursuits, Simmons was the president of the First National Bank of Kenosha, Northwest Telegraphy Company, and the Rock Island Railway Company.[1] In 1859, he was the president of the Kenosha and Rockford Railway Company, while also working at the Wisconsin State Telegraph Company.[4]

Merchant[edit]

Beginning at the age of 21, Simmons worked as a general store clerk for pioneer Seth Doan for $200 (equivalent to $5,758 in 2016) per year. Due to Mr. Doan's ill health, Simmons ran the store after six months employment. He bought the store after working there 16[3] or 18 months.[1] He ran the store successfully for 12 years, until he sought other interests.[3]

Telegraph[edit]

Simmons acquired half interest in the Wisconsin State Telegraph Company in 1856,[3] became a director, and in December 1858 became its secretary and treasurer. In 1864, he was made president. The company became the North-West Telegraphy company when it merged with the Minnesota State Telegraph Company in 1865. Simmons was elected president of the new company.[4] He remained president until 1881, when the company leased its lines to the Western Union Telegraph Company.[3] At the time that Simmons invested in the company, it was almost worthless and had service only between Milwaukee and Madison. Simmons extended service into remote areas, with lines established through nearly impenetrable swamps and forests.[3]

Simmons was on the board of directors of the Western Union Telegraph Company.[4] Simmons designed a wooden telegraph insulator and on April 16, 1871, purchased a cheesebox factory that became the Simmons Manufacturing Company to manufacture the insulators.[1]

Simmons Bedding Company[edit]

One of his general store customers paid for merchandise with a patent for a woven wire bedspring. At that time, mattresses were made of cotton or horsehair. Simmons took the ideas from the patent and found a way to make the cost of manufacturing affordable.[1] In 1870, Simmons founded what would become the Simmons Bedding Company,[7] but the market had not yet developed for spring beds. Instead, Simmons manufactured brass beds that were sold domestically and internationally.[1] The Northwestern Wire Mattress Company was incorporated in 1884 and in 1889 the name was changed to Simmons Manufacturing Company.[1] In 1925, Simmons produced the Beautyrest mattress, for which the company is best known. It was sold at three to four times the cost of wire mattresses at the time for $39.50 (equivalent to $539 in 2016) and four years later had sold more than $9 million (equivalent to $125,529,070 in 2016) of the mattresses. The company introduced the pull-out bed, Hide-a-Bed, in 1940.[1] By 1941, the company made springs, mattresses, steel beds and furniture and employed about 2,500 men.[7] During World War II, it produced 2,700 different products needed to support the war effort.[1]

Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway[edit]

Simmons surveyed the Englemann Canyon for telegraph lines to Pikes Peak in Colorado.[8] He was instrumental in stringing telegraph lines alongside railroads and had earlier purchased a fifty percent interest in a telegraph company. He had such a miserable time climbing to the top on a mule that he financed the building of the Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway in 1889. The railway itself was built by Italian laborers and was operational by 1891.[9] It can still ridden to the top.[10]

Political career[edit]

In 1865, Simmons was served the Wisconsin State Assembly for Kenosha. He was a member of the Union party.[6] He was mayor of Kenosha, Wisconsin from 1884 to 1886,[11] during which time he refunded its debt of $1.75 million (equivalent to $46,647,222 in 2016).[12]

Personal life[edit]

Simmons married Emma E. Robeson from Lake County, Illinois on April 20, 1850, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Emma was the daughter of Captain Morris Robeson.[13] Their children were Minnie, Emma, Gilbert, Zalmon[14][13] and two sons who died during their childhood, Nelson who died at three years of age and Ezra who died when he was 13.[15] Emma and Zalmon were Unitarians.[15]

He built the Gilbert M. Simmons Memorial Library and donated it to the city of Kenosha[12] in memory of his son who had died in 1890. The building, dedicated on May 30, 1900,[14] is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[16]

Emma died on October 11, 1899.[15] Simmons died on February 11, 1910, in Kenosha,[13] and his son, Zalmon Simmons, Jr. took over the Simmons Manufacturing Company.[1]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ His biography in The Telegraph in America: Its Founders, Promoters, and Noted Men states that he was born and from Marcy, Oneida County, New York.[4]
  2. ^ Nelke states that Zalmon completed his education in Lake County, Illinois at the age of 18.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Jennifer Snyder (June 18, 2003). "Simmons Company Records: 1892–2000. History". Archives Center, National Museum of American History. Retrieved January 17, 2015. 
  2. ^ J.H. Beers & Co (1906). Commemorative Biographical Record of Prominent and Representative Men of Racine and Kenosha Counties, Wisconsin: Containing Biographical Sketches of Business and Professional Men and of Many of the Early Settled Families. J.H. Beers & Company. p. 6,7. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j David Inman Nelke (1895). The Columbian Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of the Representative Men of the United States: Wisconsin Volume. Lewis Publishing Company. pp. 505–510. 
  4. ^ a b c d James D. Reid (1879). The Telegraph in America: Its Founders, Promoters, and Noted Men. Ayer Company Pub. pp. 282–284, 533. 
  5. ^ "Biographical Sketch of Samuel S. Simmons". Commemorative Biographical Record of Prominent and Representative men of Racine and Kenosha County, Wisconsin. Kenosha, Wisconsin: L.H. Beers & Company. 1906. pp. 554–555. 
  6. ^ a b "Wisconsin Legislature members 1849–1999" (PDF). State of Wisconsin Legislative Bureau. September 1999. Retrieved January 17, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Wisconsin (1 January 1973). Wisconsin, a Guide to the Badger State. North American Book Dist LLC. p. 201. ISBN 978-0-403-02198-7. 
  8. ^ Tim Blevins (1 January 2012). Film & Photography on the Front Range. Pikes Peak Library District. p. 58. ISBN 978-1-56735-297-9. 
  9. ^ "About Pike's Peak". Manitou & Pike's Peak Railway. Retrieved January 17, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Along the Route". Manitou & Pike's Peak Railway. Retrieved January 17, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Kenosha, Wisconsin mayors". Political Graveyard. Retrieved January 17, 2015. 
  12. ^ a b Grand Army of the Republic (1904). "Zalmon G. Simmons: The Soldier's Friend". Journal of the Third-Eighth National Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic. Chicago, Illinois: M. Umbdenstock & Company. pp. 258–259. 
  13. ^ a b c The National Cyclopædia of American Biography: Being the History of the United States as Illustrated in the Lives of the Founders, Builders, and Defenders of the Republic, and of the Men and Women who are Doing the Work and Moulding the Thought of the Present Time. J. T. White. 1916. p. 137. 
  14. ^ a b "Gilbert M. Simmons Memorial Library". The Historical Marker Database. Retrieved January 17, 2015. 
  15. ^ a b c J.H. Beers & Co (1906). Commemorative Biographical Record of Prominent and Representative Men of Racine and Kenosha Counties, Wisconsin: Containing Biographical Sketches of Business and Professional Men and of Many of the Early Settled Families. J.H. Beers & Company. p. 20. 
  16. ^ "Gilbert Simmons Memorial Library". Landmark Hunter. Retrieved January 17, 2015.