Posts Tagged With: Maine industry

The Curtis Gum Company

One of the forgotten industries of Maine’s past is the Spruce Gum business, once upon a time providing employment to hundreds of Mainers. Hearty souls would tromp the backwoods of this state with long poles, scraping the oozing sap from the trunks of the mighty spruce for sale to the gum companies. It was a good business and a solid line of trade in the 1800s, with many businesses sprouting up in the industry. Of course, if you ask anyone today if they have any spruce gum, they’ll look sideways at you as if you had some kind of a problem.

Oh well, time changes everything but God, as they say.

I came across an article in the January, 1904 issue of the Board of Trade Journal that detailed some of one gum companies history and status, that being the Curtis Gum Co located at 289 Fore street and 9 Deer Street, next to where today’s Hub Furniture building sits. Today, the location is a parking garage. I have placed a Google maps picture of that building today to the left, as well as an early photo from Portland, Past and Present showing the South Portland factory, the first factory in America built for the purpose of gum manufacturing.

Curtis Gum Co.

The origin of the Curtis & Son Company, 9 Deer and 289 Fore streets, dates back to 1850, when John B. Curtis, who had aided his father in making spruce gum over the kitchen stove, started a small factory, and created a public taste for his gum until the demand outgrew his most sanguine expectations. Of the three different factories erected by Mr. Curtis, for the manufacture of chewing gum, the last, finished in 1866, was the first brick structure ever built in this country for such a purpose. To this building extensive enlargements have been found necessary to keep pace with the growth of the business.

On January 1, 1898, after the death of Mr. Curtis, the concern was made a close corporation with Adam P. Leighton as president and Silas B. Adams as secretary and treasurer. The building on Fore street, which is five stories high, containing three floors, 45 by 135 feet and two floors 45 by 90 feet, is devoted wholly to the manufacture of pepsin chewing gum, of which chickle is the chief ingredient.

The company employs 16 men and 80 to 100 girls, with a daily product of 5,000 pounds of chewing gum, representing a retail value of $2,500.

The branch factory in South Portland is manufactures spruce and paraffin, substances which enter largely into the composition of the different gums. About 30 persons are employed in this establishment, whose daily output will average 1,200 pounds.

The company also maintains a branch factory at St. John, N. B. The factories are supplied with self-acting wrapping machines, capable of doing the work of five girls. The company today manufactures over 40 different brands of chewing gum, not reckoning private brands made to fill special orders. Seven traveling men, are covering territory from St. Johns, Newfoundland, to the Hawaiian Islands, and from Owen’s Sound, Ontario, to the City of Mexico, are kept constantly on the road. Mr. Leighton has represented Ward Seven in the Board of Aldermen, and is vice president of Chapman National bank, and a director of the Mercantile Trust Co.

In a resume of this enterprise, credit must necessarily be paid Mr. Adams for his successful management of the business. Mr. Adams is thoroughly experienced in the manufacture of gum, and was connected with the old concern previous to the present organization. Mr. Adams is also treasurer of the Casco Paper Box Company.

The following is the excerpt from Gillespie’s Portland, Past and Present with a few additional details of this historic Maine company.

Curtis & Son Company

Through the above concern Portland is noted for the manufacture of chewing gum, as the history of the entire business of the world dates back to the start made by John B. Curtis, in 1850. Spruce chewing gum was made by his father with the use of a kitchen stove, and rudely put up in comparison with the marvels of artistic creations of the present day. Mr. Curtis started out with his novel product, and, undaunted by the unpromising reception at first, finally succeeded in educating the dealer, and through him the public, until the demand outgrew his wildest hopes.

Three different factories were built by him, for the making of chewing gum, the last in 1866, is shown in the accompanying illustration. This is the first brick building ever built for the manufacture of chewing gum, to which notable enlargements have been made necessary, from time to time, to keep pace with the growth of the business. After the use of spruce gum had become firmly fixed in the public favor, it was discovered that paraffin was a material which could be made use of in the manufacture of chewing gums, and to this day these white gums are popular with a large portion of the public.

In about 1871, gum chicle, which had been brought to New York for purposes of experimenting, and as a hoped-for substitute for gutta percha, was found to be a very acceptable substance, and perfectly adapted to the making of chewing gum; since that time the use of this material has increased enormously, and with a very large part of the public, has supplanted the use of spruce and paraffine. The output of this historic factory is over 1,000 boxes daily. Shipments are now made covering the entire territory from St. Johns. New Foundland, to Honolulu, and from Owen’s Sound, Ontario, to the City of Mexico.

The business in this city requires from 65 to 85 hands the year round, and the factory is equipped with all the labor saving devices in the way of modern machinery. There is used at the factory 200,000 pounds of sugar, 75,000 pounds of gum chicle, 25 tons of spruce, and 20 tons of paraffine annually. This concern, the pioneer in the chewing gum business in the United States, and in fact, the world, for many years enjoying and meriting a monopoly, was, until his decease, carried on under the firm name of Curtis & Son, by the late John B. Curtis, a well known citizen of Portland. On January 1, 1898, the business was merged into the present close corporation, of which Adam P. Leighton is president, and S. B. Adams, treasurer, both of whom are well known in business and financial circles.

Categories: history, Maine, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sawmills: a vanishing heritage

I actually made this vedeo some time ago, and had it over at Vimeo, so you may have seen it there already. Recently, I migrated all of my Vimeo videos over to my YouTube channel as this is going to be the platform for all of my video programs.

This one concerns the legacy and vanishing heritage of the old logging and lumbering days. Enjoy…

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The Lombard Log hauler

A Unique Waterville Industry

Manufacturing a Steam Log Hauler that, meets with popular favor among the lumbermen, the business of A. O. Lombard, Waterville has grown to large proportions and volume since he became established in 1903.

When the business was founded the facilities were small, to-day the firm occupy about 20,000 square feet of floor space, with modern offices, fire proof boiler house, spacious machine shops etc. In 1910 the firm erected a new and modern brick building two stores high 110 x 38 feet which is fire proof throughout.

The lower story of the new addition is used for assembling the Log Haulers, the upper story being devoted to the construction of gasoline engines for traction purposes. The Lombard Steam Log Haulers have an unsurpassed reputation in the United States and Canada and are known to be first-class and soundly serviceable, each hauler developing 100 horse power. Every outfit made at this plant is designed with the greatest care, constructed skillfully and painstakingly by experienced workmen and the highest grade and most durable material only is used. Employment is given to about 22 hands, all of whom earn good wages.

Mr. A. O. Lombard, the inventor, who still remains the head of the business, was born in Springfield, Maine, and has been a resident of Waterville for 16 years. His progressiveness and sagacity in the conduct of his present enterprise have given him a sound and desirable standing in the commercial world.

So says the Board of Trade Journal in a May 1910 edition of that then popular business magazine. Lombard, an inventor from Waterville Maine gave the logging industry a swift kick in the pants, providing a new way to maximize productivity for the timber harvest here in Maine, and elsewhere as well. There were other versions of this steam-powered tractor, such as the Canadian variety produced by the Jenckes Machine Company of Sherbrooke, Quebec and the Western variety made by the Phoenix Company in Eau Claire Wisconsin. The Lombard version was considered the best in the industry, however.

The Lombard was capable of pulling many more sleds than a team of oxen or mules were, capable of pretty much creating their own roadways, and were much better in the snow than other means of hauling logs were. This made the tractor a favorite choice as it was much more economical, and saved much labor, thereby reducing harvesting costs even further. Nevertheless, it did have its drawbacks. Downhill runs were dangerous as there was no way to brake the hauler, and sleds loaded down with logs were prone to jackknifing and overrunning the tractor. For this reason tracks were made with steep sides to run the “train” in to prevent this from happening. “Snub lines” and Barienger Brakes were also used at times on particularly steep grades.

The following piece is from the Horseless Age magazine, vol10, issue 22, in which Lombard writes a letter to the editor describing the haulers:

A Steam Logging Outfit

Waterville, Me., November 21. Editor Horseless Age:

We have just completed one of our steam log haulers, run it .out of the shop and taken a picture of it, which you will find enclosed. You will notice that the machine now has wheels under the forward part: we use wheels in the summer and a sled in the winter; the rest of the machine remains the same both summer and winter. You will notice in looking at the photo that we have an endless lag bed which makes the rear runner carry practically the whole weight of the machine of about 15 tons, with the exception of about 1 ton that bears on the forward sled. The runner is driven by a pair of engines and takes its steam at five-eighths stroke, so it can never get on dead centre. The runner, or endless lag bed, which you can see in the picture, is made of steel castings jointed together in such a way as to run over the sprocket wheels with toe cocks cast on them, the same as on a horse, so when they come in contact with the snow or ground there can be no slipping, even if it strikes the glare ice. This runner is driven through its rear sprocket wheel, which is constructed in such a way that the runner can tilt at any position that the road may require. The entire weight of the machine sets on a 5-inch axle running through the runner and hung loose at the ends so that the runner always tilts easily over rough going, rocks or anything that it may come in contact with, with a remarkable easy and quiet motion, which it is impossible to get from a round wheel. The opposite side of the machine is a duplicate of the side you see in the picture.

The machine is driven by a 100 horse power equipment. The boiler is a regular locomotive boiler fitted up with the necessary injectors, water tank and suction hose for taking water from springs or streams along the road: also with a cabin and wood box in the rear, as we always use wood, for the reason that using wood is far cheaper in the lumber woods than to use coal. The machine is reversible, the same as a locomotive, and will run one way as well as the other. It has a force draught, caused by the exhaust, the same as a locomotive: it also has a governor on the steam pipe just before it branches to each engine, which governor controls the speed of the machine and is belted to the main shaft.

This governor is set to give the machine a speed of 5 miles per hour, and presents the advantage that the engineer may pull the throttle wide open and the machine will take care of its own speed in plunging in and out of sharp pitches and cradle knolls, and gets the necessary steam ior up hill. This machine, without any load hitched to it, is capable of climbing any grade that a man can climb up afoot. Our experimental machine, which we had in the woods last winter, could easily carry 20.000 feet spruce lumber per load over a logging road of 7 miles and make two turns per day. The reason why we put on two sets of double engines, making four cylinders in all, is to get rid of the compensating gear: in making turns in the road one pair of engines runs a little faster, which makes it the best possible compensating arrangement. To steer this machine we put one horse in the shafts of the sled that belongs under the front end, tie up the reins and let him go. We never ask him to start or stop.

The Lawrence. Newhall & Page Company, of Shawmut. Me., have bought the experimental machine that we had in the woods for them last winter; also the two new machines now under construction, which are practically all done, and of which enclosed is a photo. They intend to move on a road of 7 miles their entire output of lumber, making 7.000.000 feet. According to our experiment last winter we can haul as much lumber for about $8 or $10 expense as they can for $too expense with horses, to say nothing about the larger depreciation in horses compared with this machine. We hitched up four of their lumber sleds, one behind the other, and put feet on each sled. The front sled has a coupling on the end of the pole, the machine is backed up and a pin dropped, the same as on steam railroads. This machine is especially useful in snow to break out its own roads or to haul snow plows after big storms, etc. A patent was granted on it May 21. 1901.

A. O. Lombard

When all is said and done, in spite of the gas and diesel motors rapid development, Lombard’s steam tractor did indeed provide a valuable piece of equipment to the logging industry. It proved the value of machine of sheer animal power in the field, and spelled an end to the era of twitching logs with ox teams and horses or mules. The Lombard Hauler gave way to gas powered skidders and tractors as the even greater power they provided decreased the costs of harvesting even more.

Lombard also developed an electric log hauler which he named the “Forest Echo,” and operated it in the area of Alder Stream. This also was a successful invention, though nat as popular as the steam and later gas powered haulers as a system of electric wires was required to operate the machine. The electric hauler had an engine of 25 horsepower, weighed fourteen tons, and on a test run pulled a load seven miles that scaled 17,280 board feet of logs.

Maine has a long line of inventors to her name, and some, such as A.O. Lombard achieved renowned success, and a success that we true Mainers can be proud of.

The Lombard Hauler gas powered version

Another view of the Lombard Hauler

Categories: antiques, history, Maine, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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