History of Gardner MA by Lewis Glazier

Lewis Glazier’s work, “History of Gardner, Massachusetts” was published January 1, 1927 and is in the public domain because the author died at least 100 years ago. We’ve excerpted a portion of the book regarding business in Gardner as it provides an interesting glimpse into the rise of the furniture industry:


The principal business of this town for the first fifty years after its settlement, was farming. There were several coopers, but none that carried on an extensive business. About the year 1805, Mr. James M. Comee commenced on a small scale the manufacture of chairs. The only machinery used then in making chairs was an ordinary foot-lathe for turning some parts of the stock then used, the rest of the work was done entirely by hand. This may be considered the commencement of chair manufacturing in New England, as, before it was done solely in connection with cabinet work. Mr. Comee continued in this business a number of years without competition. But at length, as it proved to be lucrative, and in the way it was carried on at that time, requiring but little capital to commence with, it was taken up by one and another until it has now become the principal business of the town, and is carried on to some extent in the neighboring towns. Mr. Comee acquired a handsome estate, and was a man much respected by his townsmen; he lived one-fourth of a mile east of the center of the town, where Mrs. A. Gates now resides. The rise and progress of the chair business in this town if written in detail, might be interesting, but as I have not the facts sufficient, I shall confine myself to some general statements:

For many years the only machinery used was a foot-lathe. When water-power was first applied to the turning-lathe, it was a matter of astonishment to many, to see with what rapidity the work was done. Next came the circular saw to prepare the timber for the lathe; and machine has followed machine to the present time, and a large part of the work is now done with them.

The annual amount of chair business may be set in round numbers at $550,000. Number of men employed, 450; number of chairs made, 620,000; amount paid for seating the same, $55,000; which last is done by women and children.

The largest establishment for chair-making in town, and probably the largest in the United States, is that of the Heywood Chair Manufacturing Company. Their factory is situated on the stream flowing from Crystal Lake, and near its outlet; for motive power they use both water and steam; they employ over 200 men, and manufacture 200,000 chairs annually, varying in prices from $6 to $120 per dozen, making an aggregate amount of $230,000. The amount paid by them for seating, is $18,000 annually. In addition to the above, the same company manufacture 50,000 gallons of varnish annually, valued at $83,000, 8,000 of which is used by themselves in finishing chairs. The business of this company in 1849, was one hundred thousand dollars: in 1859, three hundred thousand dollars. Their office in Boston is 113 Fulton street.

The following table will show the amount of chair business done by individuals and companies, at the present time:

 Company NameAnnual
Amt. of
of hands
paid for
Heywood Chair
Manuf. Col.,
$230,000 Chairs
70,000 Varnish
Collester, Rugg & Co.,30,0002025,0003,500
L. H. Sawin,24,0001730,0004,000
E. Wright & Co.,24,0001540,0003,000
P. Derby,16,0001716,0002,000
A. White & Co.,20,0002536,0004,000
Greenwood & Wright,75,00040100,0008,000
S. K. Pierce,60,0004550,0007,000
W. Hogan & Co.,40,0003080,0005,000
Greenwood & Nichols,10,00057,8001,000
John Sawin & Co.,8,000726,000 
E. C. & O. A. Travers,6,000410,000700
Asa Perley,5,00076,000400
Company Name

The apparent discrepancy in the above table, may be reconciled from the fact that some manufacturers make more of the higher priced chairs than others, and some increase the amount of their business by painting more or less of the chairs they manufacture. To the above, we may add the business of A. H. Brick, in painting chairs; his shop is near the depot, and he employs fifteen hands, and finishes about 50,000 chairs a year, making the whole amount of chair business of the town, nearly $600,000.

There is one Pail and Tub factory in town, owned and occupied by Amasa Bancroft. He employs twelve men and makes 8,000 nests of tubs, and 30,000 pails, annually; valued at $15,500.

The Mercantile business of the town, exclusive of flour and grain, may be set at $180,000, and is done at the present time by A. S. Wood, Stevens & Greenwood, Warren & Marean, N. B. Howe, Rugg & Osgood, Wood & Bryant, G. W. Black, G. T. Ellsworth, and L. D. Lyon.

There are in the town nine saw-mills, one grist-mill, (Nichols & Baker’s, who are doing a business of $30,000 annually, in flour, grain and meal;) one bakery, one tin-shop, three blacksmith’s shops, one jeweller, two public houses, four livery stables and two post offices.

Another History of Gardner by William D. Herrick

Another History of Gardner by William D. Herrick published in 1878 was digitized by the Internet Archive in 2015. When you click on the link, you’ll be able to read a digital version of the book on the screen – Read complete book