#32 Columbia Embroidery Works in Wrightsville; Countdown of Top 50 York County Factories at the end of 19th Century
In my post Late 1800s Factory Inspection Reports Assist in Identification of an East Prospect Photo I wrote about finding these reports in the State Library of Pennsylvania. For this series on the Top 50 York County Factories at the end of 19th Century, I’m using data from the 10th Report of the Pennsylvania Department of Factory Inspection.
The 10th Factory Inspection Report is for the Department’s year ending October 31st 1899. I ranked the 479 York County factories by numbers of employees; #50 has 47 employees, on up to #1 with 510 employees. In the coming weeks, on Monday and/or Tuesday, I’m counting down to the top employer in York County at the end of 19th Century.
At #32 in the count down of the Top 50 York County Factories at End of 19th Century is the Columbia Embroidery Works in Wrightsville. An 1898 directory of Wrightsville has the Columbia Embroidery Company located on the southeast corner of Front and Locust Streets in Wrightsville. The building at this location is so marked in the 1894 Bird’s-Eye-View Drawing of Wrightsville. Another Wrightsville business making the Top 50 List is also indicated: at #50 is the David S. Detwiler Cigar Factory.
The Ways and Means Committee of the Second Session, Fifty-Fourth Congress of the United States held hearings on Cotton Embroideries Tariffs. The Congressional Record of 1896 shows testimony was given by Mr. P. F. Stoner; representing his company, the Columbia Embroidery Company of Wrightsville, PA. In this testimony on December 29, 1896, Mr. Stoner stated, “We started the manufacturer of these goods when we were under the McKinley tariff, and we had a protection, as you know, of 60 per cent on the manufactured goods and 40 per cent on the bobbinet, which forms the foundation of our curtain.” Mr. Stoner was making a case for maintaining, or potentially increasing the tariff when he stated the following:
Embroidered goods, especially curtains made by the Bonnaz embroidery machines, are made chiefly in Switzerland, but also in Belgium, France, and elsewhere. The cost of labor, which is a very large percentage of the cost of these goods, is very low, running from 15 cents a day for the small help to about 25 to 30 cents for skilled operators, where similar labor in this country commands 49 cents or so a day for the small help, and from 60 cents to $1 or more a day for skilled operators. Under these circumstances even 60 per cent ad valorem is not sufficient to enable this industry to be built up to large proportions in this country.
The 1898 R. L. Polk & Company Directory for York City & County indicates the Columbia Embroidery Company in Wrightsville has $30,000 in capital. Paul F. Stoner is President; thus we now have the first name of the Mr. P. F. Stoner testifying before Congress in 1896. Patrick J. McNally is Secretary and Superintendent. Watson R. Reisinger is Treasurer.
The 10th Factory Inspection Report notes that on March 1st 1899 the Columbia Embroidery Works in Wrightsville has 80 employees; 15 male and 65 female. Of these 80 employees, 59 are under 21-years-old; of which 10 females are between 13 and 16-years-old. The goods manufactured are recorded as “lace curtains, etc.”
I’ve tried to include mentions about local companies in trade journals of the time. This July 15th 1905 article about the Columbia Embroidery Company in Wrightsville is included in “Fibre Fabric,” a trade journal of the American Textile Industries. The article states that Wrightsville’s Columbia Embroidery Company is one of the largest curtain manufactories in this part of the state and their products are sent all over the world. However with the number of employees down to 50, compared to 80 employees in 1899, the manager was exaggerating when he stated, “[we] have never had more orders than at present.”
In consulting George Prowell’s 1907 History of York County, we see the company management and ownership changed shortly after 1899. The 1907 History of York County has this to say about the Columbia Embroidery Company on page 929 of Volume I:
It [the Wrightsville Star; a local Wrightsville newspaper] is owned by the Columbia Embroidery Company, an industrial establishment, engaged in the manufacturer of fine lace curtains, of which Robert S. Magee is president, and W. W. Drenning, superintendent.
George Prowell’s 1907 History of York County has this to say about the Columbia Embroidery Company within the biography of Robert S. Magee on page 469 of Volume II:
In 1896 the Columbia Embroidery Company was moved to Wrightsville, and Mr. [Robert S.] Magee purchased stock in the establishment, serving in the capacitor of secretary and treasurer until 1900. In association with Grant S. Tinsley he then purchased the entire stock of the company, and they have continued under the same name up to the present time.
Based upon the 1898 R. L. Polk & Company Directory listing, evidently Robert S. Magee did not begin to serve in the capacitor of secretary and treasurer until later in 1898 or in 1899.
A review of my count down, thus far, of the 50 top factories in York County at the end of 19th Century follows. As a group, these 19 factories provided employment for 1,143 people in York County during 1899.
- #32 Columbia Embroidery Works in Wrightsville; 80 employees
- #33 Hanover Silk Company in Hanover; 75 employees
- #34 George A. Kohler & Company Cigar Factory in York; 74 employees
- #35 Weaver Organ & Piano Company in York; 71 employees
- #36 York Knitting Mills in York; 67 employees
- #37 D. F. Stauffer Bakery in York; 66 employees
- #38 LaButa Cigar Factory in York; 65 employees
- #39 A. F. Hostetter Cigar Factory in Hanover; 64 employees
- #40 Broomell, Schmidt & Company Factory in York; 62 employees
- #41 William H. Raab Cigar Factory in Dallastown; 59 employees
- #42 Edwin Myers & Co. Cigar Box & Lithographic Works in York; 56 employees
- #43 Paragon Cigar Factory in York; 54 employees
- #44 York Cracker Bakery in York; 53 employees
- #45 Penn Heel & Innersole Factory in Hanover; 52 employees
- #46 George W. Gable Cigar Factory in Windsor; 50 employees
- #47 Charles P. Ketterer Wagon Factory in Hanover; 50 employees
- #48 National Cigar Manufacturing Company in West Manchester; 50 employees
- #49 George W. Hoover Wagon Factory in York; 48 employees
- #50 David S. Detwiler Cigar Factory in Wrightsville; 47 employees