Monday, December 14, 2009

More Machinery and a Paper Industry Mystery

A few years ago, I had a call out of the blue from the caretaker of the mansion in Lenox, Mass., of the late Milos Krofta. Fred had found out that I was interested in papermaking and paper history and suggested he had something that might fit both categories.

He sure did. First, a bit of history. Milos Krofta was a brilliant engineer and entrepreneur originally from Yugoslavia. He became involved in the paper industry there and was in charge of three mills as a young man. With the outbreak of World War II, his mills were confiscated by the Italians and Germans. In 1945, the remaining mill was again confiscated, this time by Communist Russia. When he learned that he was to be arrested as a capitalist enemy of the people, he fled to Trieste and freedom.

For six years, Krofta operated successfully as a consultant in Switzerland and Italy. In 1951, when the war in Korea erupted and the Italian Communist Party made great political gains, the Kroftas immigrated to the United States.

OK, back to Lenox. In Krofta's basement, there was a papermaker's dream: a complete mini paper mill. There was (sorry while I fall into paper-speak) a Voith cycle beater, an automated headbox pulp delivery system, a hydraulically assisted vat, a 100-ton hydraulic press, a pilot plant calender and a drying system that used hot oil - yikes! This stuff was so large, that it had to have been assembled in-place. It was marvelously over-engineered.

I made all sorts of calls to see if I could get anyone to take these machines out of the basement to save them, but alas, they were too big. They are now scrap.

But I did save one thing, and I could use your help solving a bit of a mystery. Here's the machine:

Here's some of its insides:

Here's the identifying label:

So, I know it's a micro paper machine. I sort of guessed that before seeing the label, as there are some recognizable elements inside the machine, albeit quite a bit smaller.

So, what's its history? Did it every work? Are there any others in existence?

So many questions, but one thing is certain: I will get this thing making paper. I'm sure it won't be any time soon, but it will make paper. I could sure use some help.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Excellent Machinery Along The Paper Trail

I've always had a soft spot for machinery, ever since my parents took us kids on a string of factory tours many years ago. So you can imagine that a place like Crane & Co. in Dalton, which makes stationery and currency paper and a bunch of other stuff using machinery that probably can't be found many other places, holds a continuing fascination for me.

Crane stationery arrives at the store in boxes. One probably takes boxes for granted. They hold your stationery; big deal. They're really not worthy of further consideration. After all, they're just boxes.

Oh Yeah?

Check out Crane's Box Machine:

Did you see the guy in the blue shirt about 3/4 of the way through the video? He's an Adjuster. Yup; Crane's Stationery Factory has a staff of Adjusters. They Adjust machines. They are really good at what they do. I am seriously envious that they get to spend all day Adjusting Machines.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tragic News: Egremont Inn a Total Loss

It's a very sad day here on The Paper Trail.

Earlier today, an historic building in Western Massachusetts was destroyed following an early morning fire, according to local reports. There is no doubt that The Egremont Inn was as important to the region's papermakers through their history here as it was to the local economy - until today.

No one was hurt in the fire, but now more than 225 years of history, dating back to the Revolutionary War, have literally gone up in flames.

Fire and heavy smoke poured out of the building, which is in a national historic district.

According to WTEN in Albany, NY, firefighters say when they arrived on scene the flames were in one room on the bottom of the building and quickly spread from there.

Authorities say it is a complete loss, and because of the intensity of the fire, the effort to put it out is far from over.

"We're putting plenty of water on that," said Great Barrington Deputy Fire Chief Edward McCormick. "The building is too dangerous to allow our firemen to enter the building. That's probably what we're going to be doing for the rest of the day."

Firefighters say the cold weather is not making fighting the flames any easier.

In fact, because of all the water being used on the building, there is the danger of ice forming on the ground around where the firefighters are moving and the hoses freezing, as well.

The inn originally opened as a tavern in 1780.

Video from today's disaster can be seen here.

E.D. Jones - The World's Millwright

One of the most fascinating stories from The Paper Trail is that of Edward Dorr Griffin Jones, or E.D.Jones, as he and his business would come to be known around the world.

Just as early papermakers would locate their mills within easy distance of printers, it became the practice along the Housatonic River for businesses that serve the interests of papermakers to situate themselves close to their customers.

The most prominent in the valley was E.D. Jones, who set up shop in East Lee on Greenwater Stream a tributary of the Housatonic and home to several small mills. According to "The Jones Story" (1966) by Dwight E. Jones (no relation): "Every indication pointed to an association with Bradford M. Couch whose shop was located along the Greenwater stream, on the opposite side from what now is the East Lee Inn. The exact working relation which he had with Bradford Couch is not clear, i.e. whether Couch, who was about twenty-six at the time, had started a shop earlier; whether they were partners or whether he simply used the Couch shop for headquarters and to get some mill work done or timber that was to be installed in paper mills. In any event, from accounts passed down by word of mouth, E. D. Jones spent much of his time in these first years with his own tools doing millwright work in the paper mills."

The dam that powered E.D. Jones' millwright shop.

Jones was not the first to set up a service shop. There were several others up and down the Housatonic, so Jones had to excel in areas that others could not. He found his first major toehold building overshot waterwheels, largely constructed of wood, with the exception of the shaft; assembled in Jones' shop then taken down to be transported to and mounted in place on the main drive shaft of the mill.

In 1856, Couch sold his interest in the shop to Jones. Around this time, there was continued expansion in the paper industry, not only on Greenwater Stream, but on other waterways as well. "For a time it seemed that paper mills sprung up like mushrooms, all up and down the streams in Lee, Tyringham, Stockbridge, Housatonic, Great Barrington, and there were times when men, seemingly bemused by the lure of this industry, erected little "one family" mills on their farms and went headlong into the business, knowing little or nothing about it and prospering little or none," writes author Jones.

Most would come to rely on the services of E.D. Jones. And because so many did, in 1866, Jones sold his shop to two of his journeymen and moved his operation north to Pittsfield. In the 1880s, two of Jones' sons joined the business, which was now associated with iron founders Wm. Clark & Company, and building complete paper mills and, interestingly, school houses and freight elevators. The business was incorporated in 1896.

A wagon dumping jack made by E.D. Jones

The end of an era passed in 1905 with the death of E.D. Jones, but the foundation which he laid would prove solid for the future.

Stay tuned for Part II of the Jones story.