BASKET MANUFACTURING IN THE EARLY TO MID 1900S
Each Jersey Package Plant had seven major departments: 1. a Repair and Upkeep Department, which consisted of machine shops, garages, and carpenter shops; 2. a Log Department, which besides purchasing, unloaded, sawed, steamed, and skinned the bark off the logs; 3. a Saw Department which sawed the logs into required lengths; 4. a Lathe Department which, rotary cut the logs into veneer, sorted, and, if necessary, dried the veneer; 5. the Production Department which manufactured the various styles of baskets or crates; 6. the Yard Department which stored, loaded, and shipped the finished products. 7. The Office where management took care of hiring, payroll, ordering, and sales.
The Company purchased logs from Southern Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Delaware, then shipped them either by freight car or barge to its New Jersey Plants. Three foresters worked for the Log Department in different sections of the above states to select and purchase the logs. When a forester found a tract of land containing suitable trees, he would contact the owner and, if the owner was agreeable, the company would draw up a contract for the timber. The company then moved saws, trucks, and cranes onto the site to remove the logs. (Sometimes the contracts would call for the owner to cut the timber himself.) The logging crew measured every log’s length and circumference before loading and shipping it. They sent all measurements to the receiving factory’s office.
The loggers usually shipped the timber in lengths of ten to twenty-five feet. The plant’s Log Department then sawed them into bolts of twenty to fifty-two inches. After they’ve cut the logs into the necessary lengths, they put them into sealed steam boxes and steamed them for twelve hours, usually overnight. In the morning they removed the bolts and the bark either fell right off or could easily be peeled off. The Lathe Department then moved the bark free log to the lathe which cut it into veneer. As the log spun in the lathe a knife trimmed off sheets of veneer, beginning with rough scrap pieces until the log was perfectly round. Then the veneer came from the lathe in one long sheet, usually 1/8" thick, that must be cut into pieces. As the veneer slides down a long table it arrives at a knife that automatically cuts it into manageable pieces. The pieces dropped onto a conveyor table where workers sorted it. Knotty or cross-grain pieces went into the boiler’s fire hole. Other workers cut the good stuff to size and forwarded it to the Production Department who made it into baskets. Green, wet and damp from twelve hours in a steam box, the basket strips were ideal for bending into baskets. In the Bridgeton Plant, which made crates, they moved the veneer to a dryer for later use in their crates.
The Coe Company of Painesville, OH manufactured the lathe that made baskets possible and makes such lathes to this day. Their log sized lathe spun and cut logs up to fifty-five inches long. The thickness is one-eighth of an inch for most veneer and the length varied depending solely on the type basket or crate it was intended for. The Production Department, had machines for laying out the staves of the baskets, stapling them, wrapping the hoops on them, and attaching the handles and hooks. Overhead spinning shafts, driven by the steam boiler, had leather belts that drove most of the machines. The machine operators activated a clutch mechanism, usually with a foot pedal, that put the machine to work - spinning, stapling, etc.
The yard department moved wagon loads of finished baskets to the open air drying sheds where the wood cured. When it was ready and the Office received an order, the Yard Department loaded them onto a tractor trailer for shipment, and the Jersey Package baskets went out the plant gate in a steady stream.
You can view most of the manufacturing steps in the old 8mm movie video on the home page.
Ref: Report on Jersey Package Co. Barbara Ann Sheppard; Business School Final Paper.