At the turn of the century, Sidney was able to boast of
many profitable and nationally known businesses and industries. Although perhaps not as
well known as the steel scraper companies, or
many of the Wagner industries, one of our
important businesses of this time was the Sidney School Furniture Company. For
approximately 20 years, it sold school related items all over the United States.
John D. Loughlin, born in 1852, came to
Sidney in 1880, and with a man named T.D.Scott, purchased two lots between Main and Ohio
Avenues, (lots 289 and 290 on North Ohio Street). This was an excellent location being
just north of the feeder canal that went through Sidney. They erected a main building, 165
by 60 feet, and a smaller office building which faced Ohio Street. The factory began
operation in February of 1881 by manufacturing the "Fashion", the most
progressive school desk of the time.
The most important feature of this desk was the "Patent T-head". This was an
innovative method of joining the wood of the top, back, and seat to the cast iron legs and
framed the wood and iron directly together, doing away with screws and bolts. This made a
much more sturdy and durable desk. The desk was manufactured in different sizes to be used
with all ages of children. An excerpt from the companys catalog explains that the
"Fashion" desk was "the latest and best". "No desk in the
market is made with more care, nor of better materials than the "Fashion", and
none has met with a more popular reception, or gives better satisfaction. We are now
prepared to make it better than ever before, and will guarantee it to stand the test of
school-room use, and to please all who can be satisfied by the best material and
workmanship, and perfect mechanical construction."
Besides this student desk, the company made many other school related items. Among them
were office and teacher desks, recitation benches, a variety of chairs, school bells, and
slate blackboards. They also made a globe holder that boasted of having a stand that was a
"recent patented invention". It was tripod in shape, made of iron, and solid in
nature, not held together by screws. It is thought that most of the iron work done for the
factory was from the Philip Smith, Bro.
& Co., an ironworks company which was located on the east side of Main Street.
of the Sidney School Furniture Company,
along with some examples of the school desks they manufactured.
In the first few years the sales of the desks far exceeded
the expectations of the owners and in 1882 they added an addition to meet the growing
needs. A profit of $75,000 after only the first year in business resulted in the addition
and by the late 1880's it was "now the most completely equipped school furniture
factory out side of the largest cities, and is scarcely second to any in facilities and
capacity in the Union..." At this time they employed about forty workers, and
could produce around three hundred desks per day. Sutton, in the History of Shelby
County, informs us about the factory: "Theirs is the noble task of
administering to the convenience and bodily comfort of the pupil, while his mind peruses
the illuminated page which lightens up the path that leads to fame."
During the most productive of the years in business, John Loughlin built the home which
to this day is known in Sidney as "the castle".
It was built in the mid 1880s and is located on the top of the hill on Walnut
Avenue. It is 5,118 square feet and includes a 30 x 50 brick carriage house.
He named it Bonnyconnellan and patterned it after a castle of that name situated near the
estate of a friend who lived in the vicinity of Cork, Ireland. It was this friend who
suggested the name for the home and to this day it adds charm and history to our
community. In 1891 the original school desk plant was destroyed by fire. However, it was
immediately rebuilt of brick. In 1901 Mr. Loughlin sold the company to J.B. Tucker who
later also bought Bonnyconnellan. Unfortunately, just a few years later the school
furniture factory went out of business.
Loughlin then invested a large amount of money in the once famous Mary L Poultry plant,
which was located in east Sidney, off Brooklyn Ave. He also built another house on
Brooklyn and it is today inhabited by Eric and Gay Smith. The poultry plant was very
prosperous and well known throughout the country, and was, at the time, perhaps the
largest in the world. Unfortunately, this venture also ended in failure and most of the
money that Loughlin had made was lost.
The Sidney Daily News tells of John Loughlins death in August 1909 after he
left Sidney and moved to Philadelphia. He had been in ill health following two gallstone
operations. John died penniless.
building is believed to be one of the original school furniture buildings
located today at 405 North Main Avenue in Sidney, Ohio.
There are a number of school desks around today that were
built by the Sidney School Furniture factory. It is easy to determine which are the Sidney
desks because the words "Fashion" and Sidney were molded into the wrought iron
which comprises the leg portions of the desks. There is also a number from 1 to 6 which
denotes the size of the child for which it was intended.
Possibly, one of the original school furniture buildings is still standing on Main
Street. At the very least it looks much like the brick building on the back cover of the
original Sidney School Furniture catalog. It is located at 405 North Main Avenue and is
one of the buildings of the Sidney Manufacturing Company, owned by Jon Baker.
Sidney School Furniture Company
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