Chicago Industrial History
Chicago Industrial History

Halsam Products Co. & Elgo Plastics, est. 1917

 

Museum Artifact: Elgo American Plastic Bricks set No. 705 (1950s) and Halsam Double Twelve Club Dominoes (1960s)

Made By: Halsam Products Co., 4114 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago, IL

Upon encountering an old cylindrical cardboard container of “American Plastic Bricks by Elgo,” nine out of ten people are likely to make the same spontaneous assumption—that they’re looking at a cheap knockoff of LEGO.

Gateway Engineering Co., est. 1933

Museum Artifact: Gateway Junior Model NP-1 Sewing Machine, c. 1950

Made By: Gateway Engineering Company / Gateway Erectors, Inc., 233 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL

“The Toy Sewing Machine that really sews!” —1948 advertisement for the Gateway Junior Model

Produced only for a short time from the late 1940s into the 1950s, the Gateway line of toy sewing machines represents a case study in a business making the most out of its extraneous materials.

F.H. Smith MFG Co., est. 1892

Museum Artifact: “The Universal” Cast Iron Rivet Setter, c. 1910s

Made By: F. H. Smith MFG Co., 3017-47 W. Carroll Ave, Chicago, IL

Half a century before Rosie the Riveter turned a once tedious trade into a patriotic call-to-arms, Chicago inventor and businessman Fred Herbert Smith was already ahead of the curve, if only lacking in proto-feminist iconography.

Smith (1858-1908) grew up near Boston,

Ampro Corporation, est. 1914

Museum Artifact: AMPRO Precision Projector, KS model, c. 1936

Made By: The Ampro Corporation., 2839-51 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL

“Everything that projection engineers could wish to achieve . . . everything that you movie-makers have felt should go into the ideal 16mm mechanism . . . everything you could possibly wish for, is combined in the AMPRO Precision Projector.” —advertisement in Movie Makers magazine,

Turtle Wax, Inc., est. 1941

Museum Artifact: Turtle Wax “Hard Shell Finish” Auto Polish, 1950s

Made By: Plastone Company / Turtle Wax, Inc., 4100 W. Grand Ave. and 1800 N. Clybourn Ave.

On June 4, 1956—just five years after the first bottles of Turtle Wax “Miracle Auto Polish” hit the consumer market—Chicago workmen began installing a new, ludicrously enormous advertisement for the product, situated atop the roof of the Wendell State Bank “Flatiron” Building at the intersection of Madison,

Florsheim Shoe Company, est. 1892

Museum Artifact: Florsheim Ladies Shoes, c. 1940s

Made By: Florsheim Shoe Company, 3963 W. Belmont Ave. and 130 S. Canal Street , Chicago, IL

“I have always attributed our success to three essentials: a good shoe, an efficient organization, and advertising—always keeping in mind that our shoe measured up to everything that we said in our advertising.” —Milton S. Florsheim,

Revere Camera Company, est. 1939

Museum Artifact: Revere 88 Movie Camera and Revere 85 Movie Projector, 1940s

Made By: Revere Camera Company, 320 E. 21st St., Chicago, IL

“The Revere takes the clearest and steadiest home movies you have ever seen. Its advanced design (pocket size), its exclusive automatic film-threading sprocket, five speeds (including slow motion), precision construction, and many other proven features make Revere the outstanding value of 8mm movie cameras.”

Nestor Johnson MFG Co., est. 1912

Museum Artifact: Johnsons Ice Skates, c. 1960s

Made By: Nestor Johnson MFG Co., 1900 N. Springfield Ave., Chicago, IL

“The first pair of tubular skates made in the United States or Canada were made in Chicago by Nestor Johnson. . . . He made the only really important change in centuries of skate making. From the old flat steel or solid type skate to the All Steel,

Langson Manufacturing Co. / LMCO, est. 1923

Museum Artifact: LMCO Cody Colt Paper Buster Gun, 1950s

Made By: Langson MFG Co., 4200 W. Wrightwood Ave., Chicago, IL

It might have the look and sound of a typical cowboy-themed cap gun from the 1950s, but there’s something a tad different about the LMCO “Cody Colt”—something that helps distinguish Chicago’s Langson Manufacturing Company from most of the competing toy gun manufacturers of its era.

L. H. Thomas Co., est. 1863

Museum Artifact: Thomas Black Ink Paper Bottle and Price List, 1890s

Made By: L. H. Thomas Co., 7059 N. Clark Street and 921 Fulton Street, Chicago, IL

“In the considerable number of fountain pen inks on the market, none are more strongly intrenched among the trade’s ‘best sellers’ than the packages which bear the Black Cat trade mark of the L.

Allied MFG Co., est. 1934

Museum Artifact: Komic Kamera Film Strip Viewer, 1934

Made By: Allied MFG Co., 1338 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL

Once upon a time, during a fleeting moment of optimism smack dab in the solar plexus of the Great Depression, an 18 year-old kid named Harold B. Shapiro applied for a patent on a device he called a “film exhibitor”—a small bakelite box intended for the “direct viewing of scenic or other picture films .

Adams & Westlake Company, est. 1857

Museum Artifact: Adlake Truck Lamp, c. 1910s

Made by: Adams & Westlake Co., 320 W. Ohio St. / 319 W. Ontario St., Chicago, IL

Much like one of today’s showbiz power couples, the partnership of Chicago railroad supply magnates John McGregor Adams and William Westlake produced its own linguistic portmanteau in the late 1800s, as the name “ADLAKE” (combining ADams and WestLAKE) soon evolved into their company’s primary identity.

Ekco Products Co., est. 1888

Museum Artifacts: EKCO Miracle Can Opener 885 (c. 1960s) and EKCO Helmet Bottle Stopper (c. 1940s)

Made by: Ekco Products Co., 1949 N. Cicero Ave., Chicago, IL

“We taught your mother a new way to open chicken soup,” read the presumptuous tagline of a 1965 advertisement for the Miracle Can Opener—arguably the most recognizable of the thousands of utensils produced by the EKCO Housewares Company.