11 March 2012

Indiana Novelty Manufacturing Company: the oldest link to Plymouth's industrial past is gone

Bird's eye view of the Indiana Novelty Manufacturing Company (c. 1898)



I was spending a quiet afternoon at the home of an accomplished architect in Beverly Shores Saturday when phone calls started streaming into our home regarding an enormous fire that was raging in one of Plymouth's largest landmarks. The smoke could be seen in neighboring towns. This morning the hulk of a building was still smoldering, but it was indeed gone.



A later photo (c. 1915) when the building was used by the Abrasive Manufacturing Co.


Plymouth's oldest link to our industrial past was quickly engulfed in flames Saturday afternoon. The building had been recently used for storage and to most Plymouthites is no doubt known by any number of names, however, as a memoriam, I'd like to reflect on its grand beginnings.



The Indiana Novelty Manufacturing Company was organized in 1891 by several leading Plymouth businessmen. Among them were H. G. Thayer (owner of the Thayer mansion), James Gilmore, George Marble, and C. L. Morris (who owned the Morris house kitty-corner from the factory). The company manufactured wooden novelties and was particularly known for wooden bicycle rims and mud and chain guards for bicycles. The company was also the first to invent and market "the famous one-piece interlocking joint, which is excelled by none and which has made the Plymouth rim famous throughout the world." In 1898 the plant was the largest of its kind in the world and at full capacity was producing 10,000 rims PER DAY (in the 1890s!).



The company had sales houses in "every principle city" of the United States and marketed the rims to foreign countries as well. It was estimated that Indiana Novelty was producing more than half of the rims used by cycle makers in the 1890s. The firm employed over 300 hands (whether that means 150 men at 2 hands each, I don't know!) and had a company payroll of $8,000 per month. The company was unrivaled in Marshall County and much of this part of rural Indiana for its size.


The company's own dedicated fire department building
At a bicycle exhibition in about 1895 this was said of the company "the exhibit of the Indiana Novelty Manufacturing Company consisted of a full line of the well known Plymouth wood rims for American or English makes of tires as well as a complete line of handle bars and guards" (from Sporting Life magazine, Jan. 30). The firm was likely at its financial height when the owners sold the company to American Bicycle Company Inc., which was better known as the Bicycle Trust. The Trust was incorporated in June, 1899, and had $40 million in capital. It secured control of 44 plants nation-wide, including two others in Indianapolis (New York Times, Sept. 1, 1899).



The original two story portion of the plant (right side above) housed the company offices. The board room/manager's office had the most remarkable wood coffered ceilings I think I have ever seen. The plant was outfitted with its own fire department building in the southeast corner of the plant. As subsequent owners and manufacturers used the facility, additions were made to the north of the original building and to the south of the original manufacturing line, connecting the once stand-alone fire department building to the rest of the facility. Had the small brick fire department building still been isolated, it may have survived.

Thayer Mansion, Plymouth

The building, which at one time had put Plymouth on the world map, has now moved into our past. Pictures of the fire are here: http://am1050.com/2012/fire-destroys-400-pennsylvania-avenue/

15 comments:

Shelly said...

Thanks for posting, Kurt. I loved that building, and it saddens me to see it gone.

Anonymous said...

Are you aware of any remaining examples of those wooden rims?

hoosier reborn said...

I'm hoping the local museum has one?

Anonymous said...

Had you done previous research on the Manufacturing Co.? Marshall County museum info? Thanks for blogging this event.

From a Hoosier afar.

hoosier reborn said...

Hello Hoosier from afar,
I had looked into some of the available history on this building a while back. It came mostly from resources I have personally or found on-line.

HR

Wally Thayer said...

My Great Great Grandfather was Henry
George Thayer. I heard about him all my life and even saw were the old factory.My father Walter Thayer was always proud of his Hoosier roots.We all live in St Louis mo now

hoosier reborn said...

Wally,

I don't know if you have seen a picture of your ancestor's home in Plymouth "the Thayer Mansion". If not, let me know and I can post a picture. Unfortunately it was demolished several decades ago.

Wally Thayer said...

Kurt if you could post a picture of the Thayer Mansion I would sure appreciate it. Thanks Wally Thayer

Wally Thayer said...

2Kurt if you could post a picture of the Thayer Mansion I would sure appreciate it. Thanks Wally Thayer

hoosier reborn said...

Wally,
Hopefully you see this update with a picture of the Thayer Mansion. It was designed by W. S. Matthews, an architect from Ohio who moved to Plymouth for a brief time.

Wally Thayer said...

Thanks for Posting my great great grandfathers house. By the way my family is still involved in woodworking. we sell woodworking machinery.Thanks for posting it makes me proud of my Hoosier roots
Wally Thayer

hoosier reborn said...

You're very welcome....sorry for the delay.

Anonymous said...

Do you by chance have a picture of the C.L. Morris house? We knew as "Dickerson Hill" when we were kids (I don't know why!)...Many, many amazing memories from that house for me as a kid. It would be awesome if you could find one from it's glory days.

hoosier reborn said...

I've seen photos of it, but don't have any myself. However, I think that the Marshall County Museum has posted a photo of it at least once, you might check there.

Thanks for stopping by HH.

hoosier reborn said...

https://www.facebook.com/146279682128258/photos/pb.146279682128258.-2207520000.1422710361./701506659938888/?type=3&theater

Hopefully this will take you to the photo on the museum's FB page.