Nichols & Shepard MANUFACTURING INTERESTS

An envelope from Michael Streff

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Van Buren Flywheelers 64958 M-43 Highway Bangor, Michigan 49013

Taken from The History of Calhoun County, Michigan 1830 to 1877

Although we don't know the publication date of this article, it appears to be circa 1878.

There is nothing more indicative of the prosperity of a place than its manufacturing interests; and basing the present activity and the prospective future development of Battle Creek, Michigan, as a manufacturing centre, upon its natural advantages and eligibility, and upon the enterprise of its citizens, very promising results are manifest. The most prominent establishment in the city is that of Nichols, Shepard & Company, the proprietors of the 'Vibrator' thrashing machine works. It is generally appreciated by the farmer that the thrashing machine is one of the most important articles of farm-machinery that the inventive talent of the age has produced. Its province and distinctive field is to secure to the farmer and grain-grower the net results of many months of patient toil. Hence the manufacture of this essential adjunct of agricultural industry, and that too on a scale proportionately unsurpassed in the country, is an honor of which Battle Creek feels justly proud. The nucleus around which this extensive establishment has developed was a comparatively small works located in West Canal Street, originated by Messrs. Nichols and Shepard in 1848. A remarkable feature connected with its growth and progress is the fact that it has been continuous for twenty-nine years, there having been no change in the firm nor no essential alteration in the class of manufacturers, except so far as the advancement in mechanical science demanded.

An extended visit to the establishment of Messrs. Nichols, Shepard & Company for the purpose of writing a description of their works, enables us to submit to our readers and their posterity the subjoined account:

As above stated, the works were originated by the present senior members of the company in West Canal Street in 1848. There they flourished until 1869, when they erected their present works, which are located at the junction of the M.C. and C. and L.H. Railroads. We first called at the office, which is a substantial building, as nearly fire-proof in its construction as possible. It is forty feet square, and, like the other buildings, is of brick. In it are the main office, located on the first floor, and several other rooms necessary for the transaction of the official business of the establishment. It is furnished with a fire-proof vault, in which are the safes, wherein are kept the books and other valuables of the company. Here several clerks are employed, and an admirable business system is observable in every department.

The building first reached after leaving the office is the foundry, which is one hundred and twenty feet in length and eighty feet in width, with walls eighteen feet high, surmounted with an elevated roof, which is supplied with windows, so that the workmen are supplied with a plentitude of light and air not generally the case in similar establishments. Into the foundry is brought the pig-iron, which is there cast into the different parts necessary for the iron-work on the machines.

To the left of the office, and next on our way from the foundry, is a large T-shaped structure, which contains several departments. Its entire length is three hundred and fourteen feet, and its width fifty feet. First in this comes the iron machine-shop, into which the rough castings are brought from the foundry, and by means of a great variety of the latest improved machinery are prepared for their intended use. It is no exaggeration to state, relative to the multitudinous array of machinery found in this building, that it is equal to that of any manufacturing establishment in this state, and excelled by few, if any, similar institutions in the Union. Adjoining the above, and divided from it by a brick wall and connected by iron doors, is the wood machine shop, where the immense quantity of lumber two million feet being used annually in the manufacture of the 'Vibrator' is taken in the rough as it comes from the Michigan lumber regions, and is here converted in the necessary sizes, shapes, and degree of finish requisite for the parts of the thrasher for which it is to be used. This room is furnished with every conceivable machine for the careful preparation of lumber for plain or ornamental work. Here are planers, matchers, tenoners, mortisers, and other apparatus, with all the modern adjuncts of improvement and extra facilities for rapid and perfect work. In the wheel-room alone two men are enabled to turn out forty or more wagon-wheels per diem. Adjacent to this is the belting department, where the large amount of belting required for the machines is manufactured from the raw material.

In the engine-room, which is near the room last described, can be seen the motive-power which runs the machinery of the establishment. The engine is of one hundred and ten horsepower, and was manufactured by C.H. Brown & Company, of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and is certainly an admirable piece of mechanical workmanship, and without a superior in the northwest.

Here is a sketch we received on an envelope from Michael Streff, 2766 Wasson, Cincinnati, OH 45209, who does humorous illustrations.

The boiler-room, which is next adjoining, contains two boilers of sixty-inch diameter and eighteen feet in length, with sixty-six three-inch flues. These are from the well known works of John Brennan, of Detroit, and are made of Lake Superior charcoal boiler-plate iron, which is the best for the purpose in use. In connection with this is the fuel-room, which is especially noticeable from the fact that by a very ingenious arrangement it is made the receptacle of the shavings and refuse from the wood machine-shop, which are conveyed into it through a large tube, the necessary force for the purpose being furnished by a fan kept in constant motion by the same power which the fuel is used to create. It may also be noted here that the entire establishment is heated by steam furnished also by the boilers, and conveyed by pipes throughout the different shops.

Among the accessories to and located not far from the iron machine shop is a separate building erected for use as a blacksmith shop, which is one hundred and sixteen by forty feet, and like all the other buildings, is remarkably well lighted. The necessary draught for the forges is furnished by machinery. The shop is also supplied with improved shears and punches, the former being used for cutting the material and the latter for punching the numerous pieces of iron required in the construction of the machines.

Next comes the setting-up room, which is conveniently located, and is one hundred and fifty by fifty feet. Here the various parts of the machine are laid together, piece by piece, until the powerful instrument, which is to accomplish the work of a thousand flails, stands complete, a marvel of mechanical excellence and economy.

The paint-shops are buildings one of which is one hundred and ten by fifty feet, and the other eighty by forty feet where the process of painting the machines is accomplished, after which they are removed to the warehouse and storage-room, which is the largest single structure on the grounds, being two hundred and fourteen feet long and one hundred and seven wide, and four stories high. This building has a capacity for storing eight hundred machines, and when well filled presents a fine display of Battle Creek industry.

The steam fire-engine house is quite a necessary institution. It contains a complete Sils by rotary fire-engine, supplied with water from an artesian well. It is connected with the engine proper of the establishment during the day, and at night is usually kept fired up, so that in a few seconds it can be utilized. On the grounds are five hydrants, of two streams each, so that from ten to twelve streams can be put in play very shortly in case of fire. The engine-house is of brick, and has a galvanized-iron roof. All the rest of the buildings have gravel roofs.

The grounds, including the buildings, lumber-yard (in which are kept seven million feet of lumber), and depot, occupy ninety-seven acres. The company has a private locomotive for the transfer of freight, and, in fact, have every facility for the systematic and perfect conduct of their mammoth business.

In 1869 the old firm of Nichols & Shepard was incorporated under the title of 'Nichols, Shepard & Company.' The first officers were: President, John Nichols; vice-president, H.H. Taylor, of Chicago; Superintendent, David Shepard; Secretary and Treasurer, E.C. Nichols. The present officers are: President, John Nichols; Vice-President, David Shepard; Secretary and Treasurer, E.C. Nichols.

The company has a capital and surplus of eight hundred and forty thousand dollars, and employs two hundred and fifty hands, with an annual payroll of one hundred and forty thousand dollars.

The development of so extensive an industry required vast enterprise, great energy, and unremitting industry, coupled with executive ability of no mean order. Those who are acquainted with the management of the 'Vibrator' Thrashing Machine Company require no assurances from us as to the possession, by its members, of all the qualities above enumerated. A residence of thirty years in Battle Creek, and a close identification during that period with its material progress and industrial growth, insure a reputation as enviable as it is well deserved. In every state in the Union, and wherever the agriculturist plies his vocation successfully, the 'Vibrator' is used, and wherever used it stands pre-eminently meritorious.