A broom handle factory, previously opened by Charles Smith, Elisha's son, is acquired by Menasha Wooden Ware. Charles receives 900 shares of Menasha common stock valued at $225,000. Charles is chief executive officer of Menasha Wooden Ware Company while Elisha remains titular head as president.
After spending 10 years assembling a 25-acre site on Doty Island to try to attract Downer College to the city and being rejected, Elisha gives the land to the city of Menasha for use as a park. It becomes the first public park in Menasha. Elisha does have conditions for the city to follow, including no drinking of alcoholic beverages in the park, a provision that still stands today. The city is delighted with the gift. In celebration, the fire and church bells chime, whistles blow, sky rockets soar, fire crackers go off, horns honk and gongs ring out. Six thousand residents of Neenah and Menasha, along with four marching bands, parade to Elisha's home to thank him for the park.
Elisha Smith donates $32,500 toward a library in Menasha. The site is bought and the building erected. The library becomes known as the Elisha D. Smith Free Public Library. It remains open until 1971, when a new facility is built.
Elisha D. Smith dies at age 72 after a brief battle with cancer. Being one of the city's few original settlers and the city's greatest benefactor, Menasha's residents do not take the news lightly. Flags are flown at half mast, buildings are draped in black, and businesses close their doors for the funeral. The funeral procession extends more than a mile. At the time of his death, the name Menasha Wooden Ware is known across the United States. Revenues are $1 million annually, with 1000 employees and an annual payroll of more than $350,000. Elisha's oldest son, Charles, succeeds him as president.
Seeking new sources of wood, Charles Smith buys timberland and builds a stave mill in what is now known as Ladysmith, Wis. (so named in honor of Charles' new wife, Isabel).
Realizing western timberlands are selling at incredibly low prices, Charles begins acquiring land and timber rights in northern Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Saskatchewan, Canada. This expansion of timber resources proves to be a wise idea. These beginnings would eventually develop and become the Forest Products Group of Menasha Corporation.
The company acquires a large sawmill near Empire, Ore. – one of the first in that state.
Charles purchases oversized circus boxcars to ship barrels and tubs. The boxcars become a familiar sight, bringing the company and its products to the attention of the public.
After suffering a seizure while riding on a train near Spokane, Wash., Charles Smith dies at age 61. Charles' 17-year presidency saw the height of the woodenware business and the beginning of the end of woodenware sales.
The woodenware market is on a decline and bulk wooden packaging is supplanted by corrugated boxes, glass jars, metal drums and other newer forms of packaging.
Frank Lake, a longtime Menasha Wooden Ware employee, is elected president and chief executive officer.
Mowry Smith Sr., Charles' older son, attends Princeton and joins the company upon graduation. He thinks the time has come for Menasha to begin producing corrugated boxes in addition to woodenware packaging. Frank Lake, who disagrees, resigns over the opposition after serving as president for only 26 months. Thomas M. Kearney, a 62-year-old attorney, takes over as president. He is a management consultant and partner in a Racine, Wis., law firm and is known for his ability to reorganize companies.
After improving Menasha's manufacturing operations and reducing costs in 28 months, Kearney resigns and returns to his law practice. Willis Miner, the Menasha vice president, takes Kearney's place as president. Restoring long-term management stability, he heads the company for the next 15 years.
Even though demand for most types of woodenware is falling, butter tubs are an exception. For most of the 1920s, butter is one of the few products that continues to be sold primarily in wooden packaging. Menasha forms a subsidiary in Tacoma, Wash., called Northwestern Wooden Ware Company, to make staves from Sitka spruce for butter tubs sold in local markets. Menasha's Sitka spruce tubs keep butter fresh for up to a year versus most other tubs made of ash wood that cause the butter to become moldy within six months. Menasha Wooden Ware quickly becomes the number one butter-tub manufacturer in the nation.
Menasha is reorganized into two separate companies. One is called Menasha Wooden Ware Corporation, which continues the marketing and manufacturing operations. The other is called Menasha Wooden Ware Company, which owns a portfolio of stocks. This allows the portfolio to generate investment income for Menasha shareholders even when manufacturing operations are unprofitable. This structure will endure for the next 55 years.
Corrugated board dates back to the 1870s, when the machine that produces the corrugating medium (the squiggly center of the board) was invented. By the 1920s, the use of corrugated containers by shippers of consumer and industrial products is increasing. Recognizing opportunity, Menasha sets up a corrugated box plant, now known as Menasha Packaging.
Menasha opens a plant in Tacoma, Wash., to make "wood flour." This fine powder is produced by grinding and sifting dried spruce shavings and is sold to manufacturers of plastic wood, explosives and other products.
Menasha begins to make a variety of other wooden products in an attempt to generate revenue and keep employees working during the decline of the wooden tub era. Toys, children's furniture, pot handles, butcher blocks, thread spools and other wooden products are made.
The barrel plant is converted to a toy and juvenile furniture manufacturing plant. Barrel-making is discontinued due to a decline in demand.
After serving as president through many challenging times, Willis Miner dies at age 72. Upon his death, Mowry Smith, Sr. becomes president of Menasha Wooden Ware Corporation and Carlton Smith (Charles R. Smith's younger son) becomes president of Menasha Wooden Ware Company. Both Mowry and Carlton are third-generation Smiths and grandsons of the founder.
Mowry Smith, Sr. expands the company "upstream" by acquiring a 60 percent interest in a paper mill on the Kalamazoo River in Otsego, Mich. The Otsego Falls Paper Mill manufactures corrugating medium.
In 1852, company founder Elisha D. Smith bought a struggling wooden pail factory that opened in Menasha, Wis. just three years earlier. In the more than 160 years since then, our devoted employees have worked together to build one of the country’s oldest and most successful privately held family companies.
Take a virtual tour across a century and a half to discover what has grown from Menasha Corporation’s strong roots.