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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 4

During the depression of 1893, the company again struggled financially. For a
number of months the company had no cash available to pay its employees. Instead, the
company offered wood used for manufacturing, as partial payment for the workers. The
company's due bills, a form of scrip, were honored by area merchants. This did of course
help to tide the company over through this difficult period.
Following the era of depression, the Wisconsin Chair Company again prospered.
It quickly was back in full operation, employing one sixth of the workers in Ozaukee
County. Huge portions of wooded acreage were purchased and branch factories to supply
wood for production were organized in Kentucky, upper Michigan, Green Bay, Harbor
Springs, and on Chambers Island. The company even purchased a barge, the R. A.
Seymour, Jr., to bring the lumber from these timber lands to the company's very own
dock in the harbor at Port Washington.
The success of the Chair Company had a direct impact on the success and growth
of the city of Port Washington. In 1890, the population of Port Washington was 1659.
By 1895, that population grew to 2661, and by 1898, the number of residents reached
3450. Owing to the presence of the Wisconsin Chair Company, Port Washington had
become one of the most thriving communities in the state.
An article from the Port Washington Star, Port Washington, Wisconsin July 4,
1898, affirms the success of the Chair Company and its positive impact on the city of Port
This company [The Wisconsin Chair Company] was incorporated
October 13, 1888, has a capital of $250,000, and its officers are: F.
A. Dennett, President; John R. Dennett, Vice President; William H.
Ramsey, Jr., Secretary and Treasurer. 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 credited with
being one of the most remarkable examples of development in the
industrial history of the state, and is a grand monument to the
genius that created and has advanced the concern to its present
huge proportions.
Expressions of astonishment and admiration are always heard
when its history is told the visiting stranger by those familiar with
its wonderful growth. But thirty-five hands were employed during
the first year of its existence (1888). In the short period of four
years (1892) the Wisconsin Chair Company had become known to
the limits of the country and 350 hands were required to meet the
demands for its product. This number has steadily been added to
so that now more than 600 people are on its pay roll. Its buildings
and lumber stock cover nearly ten acres of ground, and new
additions and warehouses, machinery of all kinds, and newest
inventions---mostly the result of the mechanical ingenuity of the
factory's own people,---are constantly being added.
Indeed it can be questioned if another chair factory in the
country is its equal in equipment for the special purposes in which

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