Orinoco Furniture Company
Location: 1720 17th Street, Columbus. (Bartholomew County, Indiana)
Installed: 2007 Indiana Historical Bureau and Nugent Foundation
ID# : 03.2007.1
Incorporated and its factory built here 1890. Reorganized 1891; William H. Lincoln then led the company to great success, stressing quality and artistic merit in fine, high-grade furniture. By 1895, production included parlor, library, and tea tables and ladies' desks; furniture was sold throughout U.S. Lincoln Chair Company established 1913.
The companies were important in Columbus' economy; they were part of Indiana's extensive furniture industry. Employees included many skilled craftsmen Lincoln died 1935; the companies were reorganized into Lincoln-Orinoco, Inc. The company closed 1940; buildings and all assets were sold at auction. Buildings have had various uses over time.
Business, Industry, and Labor
Incorporated and its factory built here 1890.(1) Reorganized 1891;(2) William H. Lincoln then led the company to great success, stressing quality and artistic merit in fine, high-grade furniture.(3) By 1895, production included parlor, library, and tea tables and ladies' desks;(4) furniture was sold throughout U.S.(5) Lincoln Chair Company established 1913.(6)
The companies were important in Columbus' economy;(7) they were part of Indiana's extensive furniture industry.(8) Employees included many skilled craftsmen.(9) Lincoln died 1935; (10) the companies were reorganized into Lincoln-Orinoco, Inc.(11) The company closed 1940; buildings and all assets were sold at auction.(12) Buildings have had various uses over time.(13)
(1) Date of the incorporation of the Orinoco Furniture Company was April 19, 1890. Index of Incorporation, 1852-1896, microfilm, Indiana State Archives (B00431).
Newspaper articles document the city approval of the business, praise for the business acumen of the Rominger brothers who are part of the management, and the actual building of the factory. Columbus Republican, April 11, 1890 ("Another Industry"), April 16, 1890, May 3, 1890, August 5, 1890 (B00432, B00433, B00434, B00484).
The land for the factory was in the William M. Graves Addition to the City of Columbus. Deed of sale, William M. Graves and Mary A. Graves to The Orinoco Furniture Company of Bartholomew County, May 2, 1890 (B00435); this deed stipulated that "Orinoco Furniture Company shall erect and operate a furniture factory on Block A of the lands above described." See also, indenture of Orinoco Furniture Company by Henry S. Rominger, secretary, and Irwin T. Rominger, president, recorded October 27, 1890 (B00477). Recorders Office, Bartholomew County.
Details of subsequent factory building construction and grounds are provided on the 1892, 1898, 1906, 1912, 1927 Sanborn Maps of Columbus, Map 12 (B00475).
(2) The Rominger brothers retired from the company at this time. "Reorganized, " Columbus Republican, June 3, 1891. (B00457)
(3) "Orinoco, " Columbus Times, July 17, 1895 (B00437); "Local Factory Is Leader Now, " Columbus Republican, March 13, 1929 (B00467); Carl D. Spencer, "Lincoln-Orinoco Furniture, " The DU PONT Magazine, June 1929, pp. 4-5, 24 (B00439).
William H. Lincoln was born in Logansport, Indiana, June 5, 1867; worked in Chicago for the C. B. & Q. Railroad, then in other business enterprises. On July 30, 1888, he married Mary Crump Lucas. Came to Elkhart 1891 and ran Orinoco Furniture Co. and started the Lincoln Chair Co. The Evening Republican, March 30, 1935 (B00469); Rhonda Bolner, e-mail message to Stephen Berrey, IHB, December 29, 2005.
(4) "Orinoco, " Columbus Times, July 17, 1895. (B00437)
(5) "Orinoco, " Columbus Times, July 17, 1895 (B00437) indicates furniture is sold "especially throughout Central and Eastern States." Henry R. Fish, Illustrated Columbus, 1915 (Columbus, IN, 1915), n.p. (B00440), notes that Lincoln Chair Company (see below and note 6) is "shipping chairs to all of the larger cities in the United States." Spencer, "Lincoln-Orinoco Furniture, " 4-5, 24, (OD 505) indicates that "The products of these shops are confined to a very few of the leading furniture dealers throughout the country, and the line is shown in its entirety only by dealers in the larger cities" (p. 24) Spencer includes several illustrations of some of the furniture pieces, and notes that the company's output was limited to furniture for the bedroom, dining room, living room, and hall.
In a biographical sketch of William H. Lincoln from 1929, Lincoln was praised for his achievements with the "Lincoln-Orinoco Shops" where "two large modern factories are required to supply the demands of leading fine-furniture merchants and better class decorators in all metropolitan cities." Kin Hubbard, ed., A Book of Indiana (Indianapolis, 1929), 338 (B00447).
Both Hubbard and Spencer refer to the Columbus operation as the Lincoln-Orinoco Shops even though they are two separate companies in 1929. Lincoln Chair Company was organized and operated in a new modern factory built in 1913. Henry R. Fish, Illustrated Columbus, 1915 (Columbus, IN, 1915), n.p. (B00440). This source indicates that the brick and concrete buildings were "near fire-proof" and the company was "devoted to the exclusive manufacturing of high grade chairs of all kinds."
(6) Fish, Illustrated Columbus, 1915 (B00440). An article, "Local Factory Is Leader Now, " Columbus Republican, March 13, 1929 (B00467), states that "in 1913 the Lincoln Chair Company was established to build chairs for furniture suites made at the Orinoco plant." Former Lincoln Chair Co. factory is located four blocks south of the Orinoco factory. Rhonda Bolner, e-mail message to Alan Conant, IHB, December 5, 2005.
(7) Columbus Times, July 17, 1895 (B00437).
Fish, Illustrated Columbus (B00440). calls Orinoco "one of the leading industries of the City of Columbus."
(8) A typescript list, dated August 28, 1937 and titled "Furniture Manufacturers of Indiana" (B00473) lists 128 companies with more than 100 employees who are manufacturing furniture (copy in Indiana Division, clippings files, Indiana State Library); the list was based on data from Indiana State Chamber of Commerce, compiler, Directory of Indiana Manufacturers (Indianapolis, 1936) (B00472). The latter source shows 134 total furniture manufacturing companies in the state.
(9) By 1929 the roster of employees included "some three hundred people, including a host of specially skilled craftsmen such as hand carvers, inlay experts, veneer specialists, decorative artists and finishing experts." Hubbard, A Book of Indiana, 338 (B00447).
Spencer, "Lincoln-Orinoco Furniture, " 4, 5 (B00439) also praises the "old-time" hand craftsmen.
(10) Lincoln died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on March 30, 1935. "Manufacturer Is Found Shot, " Indianapolis Star, March 30, 1935 (B00468); "W.H. Lincoln Dies as Result of Pistol Shot, " Columbus Evening Republican, March 30, 1935 (B00469).
(11) Notice of special meeting of stockholders of Orinoco Furniture Company, typescript, October 8, 1936 (B00494); and "Lincoln-Orinoco, Inc., " typescript, n.d. (B00493). Both items are in the possession of Rhonda Bolner, Columbus, Indiana.
(12) "Lincoln Plant Will Be Sold, " July 5, 1940, "Date Set for Lincoln Sale, " August 21, 1940, "Public Sale, " advertisement, August 24, 1940, "Noblitts Acquire Lincoln Factory, " Columbus Republican, August 27, 1940 (B00448, B00451, B00450, B00452).
(13) Rhonda Bolner, e-mail message to Alan Conant, IHB, January 10, 2005 (B00454).