The history of the Caswell-Runyan Company - Huntington Indiana

 
Caswell Runyan Company - Huntington Indiana Caswell Runyan Company - Huntington Indiana The following history of the Caswell-Runyan Company, a major Huntington industry, is reprinted from Volume I of Huntington First for May, 1924.

 

 

 

Photo By:
Herbert J. Krause

Caswell Runyan Company - Huntington Indiana Caswell Runyan Company - Huntington Indiana

In the fall of 1906 there was no such thing in the United States, or in fact anyplace, as a cedar chest factory. The article was not known commercially. Everyone, of course, had heard of a cedar chest owned by grandmother, but it was an article that had been built by hand many, many years ago.

In 1907 the Caswell-Runyan Company was organized for the purpose of manufacturing cedar chests as a commercial article and Huntington was selected as the place for the factory. Building was started in May, 1907. The original plant consisted of a one story building 150 x 200 with dry kilns 36 x 75. It was thought at the time that the factory would be large enough to produce all the cedar chests that might be used in the world.

Caswell-Runyan Cedar Chest

Caswell-Runyan Cedar Chest

 In fact, there were very few citizens of Huntington who had any confidence in the business possibilities of the industry, but the venture had not been made without thorough investigation as to the possibilities of manufacturing and selling an article of this kind. Today there are somewhere between seventy-five and one hundred concerns making cedar chests. The plant has been enlarged from time to time until at present it occupies approximately 275,000 feet of floor space and is said to be the second largest wood working plant in Indiana.

Caswell-Runyan Cedar Chest
Photos from my visit to the
Huntington County Historical Society Museum.

In 1918 the original one story building 150 x 200 was raised to the foundation, and a new three story building was erected without stopping the operation of the plant. At the time this was considered quite an achievement and the business judgement of the company was generally questioned, as it was thought building materials and labor were higher than they ever would be again, but today it would cost 50% more to construct the same building.

This page was originally sponsored through the courtesy of Bayman Auctioneers & Realtors, South Whitley and Huntington, Carol's Beauty Salons, Inc., Frank Bond Oldsmobile-Cadillac Inc. and H. K. Porter Co., Amco Works

 
 

In the beginning the company employed from thirty to forty people. In the fall of 1924 six hundred people were employed, and the product is sold over the entire United States. The cedar chest is recognized as a standard piece of household furniture. Its utility has been established by investigation of the part of the Department of Agriculture at Washington. One big feature of the business is the fact that it has been established without advertising, there being but one organization in the country who has ever resorted to national advertising. That the volume of business could be largely increased through consistent advertising goes without saying, as the cedar chest has some advantage over any other piece of furniture used in the home. For instance, a stove or refrigerator once purchased is not duplicated until worn out, while the cedar chest as made today can be placed in any room in the house and offers storage facilities for any kind of wearing apparel.

The introduction and establishment of the industry in so few years merely illustrates the possibilities for new ideas and achievement in America. The original capitalization of the company was 575,000, while today it has an authorized capital of One Million Dollars, all of which is issued. The company has recently erected a warehouse 80 x 90 and has in contemplation an additional building for storage purposes to be three stories high. 130 x 148. The officers of the company are practically the same as they were at the time of its original organization and a great many employees have been with the company fifteen years or more.

Few citizens of Huntington have any conception of the process of manufacturing cedar chests, although the company has always been willing at any time to show visitors through the plant. The schools of Huntington County, especially the Manual Training Departments, make an annual inspection of the plant for the benefit of the students, and Huntington can perhaps point with a great deal of pride to the fact that there are few factories in the furniture industry better known throughout the United States than the Caswell-Runyan Co.

Additional information has been provided by officers of the company: Caswell-Runyan Company, Inc. is located at 1025 E. Franklin St. on the site of the original Caswell-Runyun Co., which was established in Huntington in 1907 by J. W. Caswell and Winifred Runyan. Cedar chests were the principal product manufactured until the advent of radio cabinets and later television cabinets were added to the product line along with cedar chests. In 1929 Caswell-Runyan merged with Utah Radio Products Co. (a loud speaker manufacturer) of Chicago, bringing together speakers and cabinets to complete a radio reception combination. At the close of World War II a further merger was accomplished in 1946 when Utah Radio Products together with wholly owned Caswell Runyan Division merged with International Detrola Corp., (later name changed to Newport Steel) of which Utah and Caswell-Runyan was a part, was acquired by Merritt, Chapman and Scott Corp. of New York. This company liquidated the machinery and inventory of Caswell-Runyan in April, 1956 at which time Adolph H. Schenkel acquired the Articles of Incorporation of Caswell-Runyan Co., Inc. from Merritt, Chapman and Scott Corp., and reactivated Caswell-Runyan as a manufacturing operation.

The company manufactures wood cabinets for Hi-Fi and Stereo music systems and employs 50 to 60 people.

Officers are: Adolph H. Schenkel, President; Ferris D. Creager, Vice President and Plant Manager; Enid M. Schenkel, Secy.-Treas.; Fay C. Geiger, Asst. Secy.-Treas. and Controller; and Maurice Piepenbrink, Factory Engineer.

This page was originally sponsored through the courtesy of Danner's Inc.; 3-D Store; Cambridge Inn Cafeteria, and Sealtest-National Dairy Products Corp.

 
 

The following information was provided by the Huntington County Historical Society:
Caswell-Runyan, located at 1025 East Franklin Street, closed its doors in May 1956 and the factory contents were sold at public auction. The plant sat empty for several years and was destroyed by a 3 million dollar blaze on June 6, 1962.

 

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