Grand Rapids Brush Company


Powers on board

Northeast corner of Front Avenue and Pearl Street NW. Manufacturer of hair brush handles.

1873— Sonn, Clark & Co. reformed as Grand Rapids Brush Co.
1873 — Shares space with Perkins & Co
1873 — Reconstructs Building after Fire
1880 — Moves West across Front Street to new brick building
1880 Feb —Wolverine Chair & Furniture Company moves into the building

Grand Rapids Brush Company — Founded (established in 1873, but founded as Sonn, Clark & Co. in 1868/69) more than forty five years ago during which period its business has shown a steady and consistent growth the Grand Rapids Brush Company furnishes a good example of Middle-Western initiative and enterprise. From its inception it has had connected with it business people of recognized standing and ability, and the substantial reputation which it has earned is based upon a policy of honorable methods, making it typically representative of the manufacturing interests that have given Grand Rapids its recognized prestige among American manufacturing cities. The Grand Rapids Brush Company came into existence in 1873, when a company was formed with a capital stock of $50,000, the first list of officials being Amasas B. Watson, president; Julius Berkey, vice president; William Clark, secretary; and O. R. Wilmarth, treasurer. The concern started operations in the old Powers building (northwest corner Front and Pearl Streets, later Wolverine Chair & Furniture Company) but by 1880 the business had increased to such an extent that it was found necessary to seek larger quarters and eventually the present building on Front street corner of Pearl, or rather the original part of it was erected. Since then various additions and changes have been made in the structure to modernize it and take care of increased trade. In 1884 N. L. Almy succeeded to the vice-presidency and J. A. McKee assumed the dual duties of secretary and treasurer, and subsequently the capital stock was increased to $75,000. J. D. M. Shirts became treasurer and general manager of the company in 1891 and held those positions for eighteen years or until his death which occurred May 10, 1909. In the same year that Mr. Shirts assumed his official duties S. S. Gay became vice-president and held that office continuously until his death, October 26, 1907. In 1909, Julius Berkey who had succeeded to the presidency also passed away and a new list of officials were elected as follows: C. C. Converse, president; James A. Covode, vice president; J. E. Coulter, treasurer and manager; and Mrs. Kathryn Estes Greene, secretary. These officials still remain (1918) with the exception of the treasurer and general manager who is H. M. Barnes. The company has always been fortunate in securing men for its employ who have been loyal to the interests of the organization and who have made its fortunes their own. An example is found in James F. Smith an expert brush maker who came from the East about 1878 joined the company, became manager of the hand drawn brush department, and remained with the concern for nearly forty years. In 1892 the company began making machine made brushes and its product now includes hair, bath, flesh, face, nail, clothes, shoe, hat and horse brushes, with the entire United States as its market. The capital stock of the company is now $100,000 (1918) and 150 people are employed in the plant, while four traveling salesmen represent the concern on the road. In its personnel the company is represented by leading business citizens of Grand Rapids; in its product it furnishes proof that the best goods obtainable can be manufactured in this city and in its policies and manner of operation it contributes in full measure to the reputation for honorable dealing that has gained Grand Rapids firms the confidence of the trade throughout the country.
Grand Rapids and Kent County, Michigan: History and Account of Their Progress from First Settlement to the Present Time, in Two Volumes, Vol. II. Chicago, Robert O. Law Company, 1918, edited by Ernest B. Fisher, pgs 137–138

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