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Wester, Kevin J. (ed.) / Consumed by fire : a collection of writings about the famous Wisconsin Chair Company fire, Port Washington, Wisconsin, February 19, 1899

A brief history of the Wisconsin Chair Company Port Washington, Wisconsin,   pp. 1-10

Page 2

On September 18, 1888, the work whistles of the Chair Company had already
begun to blow and a crew of thirty-five men was employed. Fred A. Dennett served as
president of the corporation. In 1889, his half-brother, John R. Dennett, joined the firm.
John R. Dennett served the company as vice-president for many years and became a
leading resident of Port Washington. Over the years, John M. Bostwick continued to be a
major investor and stockholder in the corporation. He later served the company as vice-
president and president. Yet in the early years of the business, Fred A. Dennett and his
brother, John R. Dennett, were the names and personalities equated with the Wisconsin
Chair Company.
The first few years of the company's existence were rather difficult financially.
But in 1891, the firm acquired the patent to the MacLean swing rocker. This popular
rocker set the company on a course toward rapid success. By 1892, the Wisconsin Chair
Company gained a national reputation for the quality of its rockers. In order to meet the
demands of consumers, the company soon employed 350 workers. Practically over night,
the Wisconsin Chair Company had become the largest employer in Port Washington and
one of the fastest growing companies in Wisconsin.
A special edition of The Port Washington Star, Port Washington, Wisconsin,
December 10, 1892, gives insight into the rapid success of the Chair Company:
Although the city [Port Washington] has several industries each
qualified by its greatness to be a worthy leader, yet the concern
whose name forms the caption of this article [The Wisconsin Chair
Company] wields the sceptre. It is not only the largest industry
here, but one of the largest in the United States devoted to the
manufacture of specialties in the chair line. It is said to be one of
the most remarkable examples of commercial development known
to the industrial history of the state, and from those familiar with
its history we hear nothing but expressions of astonishment as well
as admiration for the genius that gave it birth and life.
Four years ago the business employed thirty-five men, how
three hundred and fifty are required to meet its demands, and in
this short time the name of the company has become known to the
limits of this country. Like sending "coals to New Castle," the
company now sends its wares to the very doors of those who were
monarchs in the trade. This certainly could not have followed
unless the product was superior to that offered by the competition.
The management selected at the outset certain specialties to
manufacture, which proved to be a most enlightened move, for by
the concentration of thought and power upon a limited number of
objects, rapid improvement and the best results were obtained.
The quality of the product has been maintained at the best standard
of excellence, and, in fact, every legitimate means has been
adopted to make the corporate name a synonym of the best in its
line of manufacture. The wisdom of the decision needs no

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