Exhibition explores ‘fascinating’ business history

WESTFIELD-A Made in Westfield exhibition – spanning more than 300 years of the city’s history – ends April 30 in the Jasper Rand Art Museum at the Westfield Athenaeum.

“This is a fascinating exhibit featuring some of the industries that have shaped how Westfield evolved as a city and community,” said Daniel Paquette, director, Westfield Athenaeum. “It is also a look at some of the companies still producing products in use locally and globally – and some may be pretty surprising.”

Unique items from Westfield businesses spanning the past 300 years are currently on view at the Westfield Athenaeum. (Submitted photo)

The exhibition, which took two months to produce, was created by Kate Deviny, archives and museum coordinator, with assistance from Ann Tumavicus, a fellow staff member. The show is also being conducted in conjunction with the city’s 350th anniversary celebration.

The unveiling of the project was conducted during an evening public reception on March 26. More than 45 area residents attended along with representatives from Westfield Gas & Electric, Savage Arms, Angy’s Landolfi Food Group, Westfield Grinding Wheel, Westfield Whip Manufacturing Co., and Instrument Technology, Inc., discussing their respective businesses. Also, local historians Bruce Cortis and Dennis Picard answered questions on whip and ice manufacturing companies.

Some items on display have been donated specifically for the exhibition, including micro powders from Micro Abrasives Corp., the metal hips from Jarvis Surgical, machined rifle barrels from Savage Arms, grinding wheels from Westfield Grinding Co., borescopes from Instrument Technology, Inc., and whips from Westfield Whip Manufacturing Co.

“The rest of the items come from the Westfield Athenaeum archives,” said Deviny.

Items on view at the “Made in Westfield” exhibition. (Submitted photo)

Deviny said there were several “interesting finds,” including a cotton thread book which shows how much cotton thread was produced by a mill that Richard Falley built on the Westfield River, and borescopes manufactured to see inside of nuclear reactors, rooms and people.

“The Loomis Automobile was also interesting,” said Deviny, adding it was built “when Gilbert Loomis saw Duryea drive through town.”

Other fascinating aspects of the exhibition, noted Deviny, includes discovering that the Colonial Art Co. developed the use of celluloid for pricing and Vitrified Wheel’s grinding wheel became the government standard.

“We also found that so many companies were affected by World War II,” said Deviny, adding, “the marble quarry was shut down because it was deemed not necessary for the war effort.”

Deviny noted that the earliest invention on display is Lyman Wheeler’s portable steam engine, even though the city had brickyards, tanneries, gun powder and ice manufacturing before that time.

A “Made in Westfield” exhibition is currently at the Westfield Athenaeum. (Submitted photo)

Companies highlighted in the exhibit include Adams Nursery, Angy’s Landolfi Food Group, Advance Manufacturing Co., American Casket Hardware, Anderson & Sons, Atwater Knitting Co., Bemben’s Greenhouses, Berkshire Industries, brick manufacturers (L. B. Walkley, Westfield Brick Co. and Westfield Clay Products), Bryant Box, Colonial Art Co., Colton’s Flavors & Elixirs, Columbia Bicycle Manufacturing Co./Westfield Manufacturing Co., Digital Equipment Corp., Erastus Grant Furniture, Foster Machine, and ice companies (Congamond Ice Co., Hugh Crean, Gladwin & Lane, William Ferriter, Hiram Hull, Little River Ice Co., Fitzgerald Coal & Ice – Hygienic, Purity Ice Co., Spring Water Ice Co., and Westfield Ice Co.)

The exhibition also features companies including Instrument Technology, Inc., H. B. Smith, Jarvis Surgical, Johnson Organ, Knight Club Soda, Lewis Stove, Loomis Automobile Co., Micro Abrasives Corp., Old Colony Envelope Co., Planet Manufacturing Co., Rand Hoop Skirts, Robinson Reminders, Rotary King Washer Co., Lyman Wheeler portable steam engines, Sandstone & Marble Co., Savage Arms, Stanley Home Products, Sterling Radiator/Mestek, U.S. Line, U.S. Golf Co., Vitrified Wheel Co., Westfield Grinding Wheel Co., W. J. McCarthy Co.,  Warren Thread, Westfield Whip Manufacturing Co., Westfield Bottling Co., Westfield Gas Light, Westfield Box & Lumber Co., Ensign Box Co., Ralph Sizer, and other organ manufacturers (Steer & Turner, Edwin Hedges Metal Pipe Organ, Emmons Howard, Skinner Organ), and Stimpson’s Piano Leg Co.

The exhibition runs through April 30 and can be viewed during Athenaeum hours.

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