toy history






American Rule & Block Co.

People    Products

Former Plant. of Menominee River Brewing Co. Transformed Into a Big Industrial Enterprise.

Monday, November 13, 1922

Three years ago a young man landed in Menominee with an idea, not a new idea, but with somewhat of an evolution of an original idea that may some day make him and his associates rich. That's the "A. B. C:" of it.

Like some aspirants to political office who, in their own estimation, would make the most efficient, but who find it quite difficult to put their prospective constituents in the same frame of mind, this young man met similar obstacles along the line of what college professors call the psychology of suggestion-making people want what you want them to want.

He brought along with him to Menominee, in addition to his ideas, a whole lot of experience and enthusiasm . But if he had not decided to come here, Menominee would have at least one less industrial enterprise, and one that, superficially to the writer, looks like one of the most promising of our various enterprises-one that will be a very important factor in maintaining Menominee's position as the "Industrial City of Cleveland."

This man is Frank. A. Redner, general manager of the Menominee Rule and Block company, the plant of which now occupies the site and former buildings of the Menominee River Brewing company in West Menominee, one of the principal products of which is "A. B. C." blocks.

Sought Basswood Forests.

Realizing the advantage of a location that its in immediate nearness to raw materials, Mr. Redner sought the land that produces the most basswood, and his first inquiries were made in lower Michigan. While his proposition to establish a factory in the lower peninsula met with considerable enthusiasm and response of capital required, he learned from lumbermen at Saginaw, Bay City, and other places down that way, that 85 percent of all the world's supply of basswood is found in the forests of upper Michigan and northern Wisconsin, and he was particularly directed to Menominee.

While the project to establish a rule and block factory in Menominee meant that it would be only the third plant of its kind that would have the United States for its market, yet local capital was unexpectedly tight, and it was with some difficulty that Mr. Redner succeeded in getting a start.

An organization was formed, however, and the wheels of a plant were set in motion in a small way in conjunction with the Fisher Box company on Kirby street, in March, 1919. The facilities there were decidedly limited and the little saw mill, one of the necessary adjuncts to the operations increased the fire hazard to surrounding property that the company was. compelled to move. This, however, was only one of the masons why a move was imperative. The business was outgrowing the plant.

Company Reorganized.

So, early in 1920 the company was reorganized, additional capital was secured on July 6, 1920, the property of the Menominee River Brewing company was taken over. To transform the old brewery buildings into a modern factory consumed eight months of time and many thousands of dollars. A saw mill had to be erected. The great vat houses that for many years had stored thousands of barrels of "The Beer That Made Milwaukee Jealous," and through which no ray of light ever entered, had to be lighted up by cutting many windows, and in numerous other alteration converted into the principal manufacturing department of the factory. Other changes in the former brewery were almost too numerous to mention. In March 1921, the company began to operate in its new plant. Since that date more than 2,500,000 board feet of logs have been cut into lumber, which, in turn, is leaving Menominee in the shape of rules and blocks at the into of two big car loads a week.

The plant today is humming with activity, and if orders continue to come in at the present rate, it will be necessary before long . greatly increase the present big force of help.

Makes Own Machinery.

Before beginning operations in its new factory buildings many new machines had to be constructed, and these were all made in the company's own machine shop. An Interesting feature in this connection is the fact that none of the machinery used in the manufacture of the products of the American Rule and Block company could be purchased in the open market. In fact, they did not exist. There are only. two other plants in America engaged in the manufacture of alphabetical blocks, rulers. etc. and because of the secrecy that shrouds their machinery it is about as easy for a stranger to gain admittance as it would be for a book peddler or a lightning rod agent to get a hearing with the Pope at Rome. Consequently, each plant has to make its own.

A trip through the plant of the American Rule and Block company is unusually interesting and full of compensative value. Starting where the logs go up, the slide on a "dog chain" you'll see a circular saw splitter cutting the "round stuff" in two and from there it travels to a band saw where it is cut into boards and planks up to 21/2 inches in thickness. The latter, when "ganged" provides material for the blocks of largest size. This lumber leaves the saw mill in huge piles on trucks and is rolled into the yard. Tracks convey these piles into a dry kiln and from the dry kiln the trucks are switched onto other tracks that lead up to the saws, where the seasoned material, is cut into sizes.

300,000 Blocks Dally.

For the alphabetical blocks, strips two or three feet in length and in widths according to the size of the blocks required are cut and then passed on to a machine where they are fed in crosswise and cut into cubes. The capacity of this latter machine is 300,000 blocks daily.

There is a special machine for nearly every one of the various. products-there are knives that turn speed of 7.000 revolutions a minute shaping paint paddles and out of one machine yard sticks come pouring out all sized and smoothed in almost countless numbers daily.

One of the interesting departments of this plant is the printshop where the alphabetical blocks are printed and embossed. Yardsticks which leave the Menominee Rule and Block company by the thousands go out already stained and printed and the advertisements are stamped on at the rate of 12,000 an hour. One machine will soon be installed that will print 1,000 A. B. C. blocks a minute.

The paint department is another place where production is featured. Within the brief space of five seconds 280 of the largest size blocks are painted and in the same time 600 the smallest sizes can be colored.

No Waste of Material.

One splendid feature in the manufacture of the various products of the American Rule and Block company, that no material is wasted. For instance yardsticks that are culled because of knots in the wood are segregated and the good in them is converted into small articles such as handles or small rulers. Practically every inch of lumber is utilized.

The complete line manufactured embraces building blocks, A. B. C. blocks, yardsticks, rulers, thermometer backs, flyswatter handles, fan handles, paint paddles, and the line will soon be extended to dominos and checkers. The enterprise has for its market the entire United States, a large part of which will some day be supplied by the Menominee factory. As long as babies continue to bless the American home, A. B. C. or building blocks will demanded and today on the shelves of the merchants where holiday goods are displayed the label of the American Rule and Block company of Menominee. Michigan, is to be seen on the fancy containers.

The fact that the factory uses small size bolts down to 6 inches in thickness to 40 inches in length, a market is supplied for the farmer who, in clearing land, has considerable second growth timber on hand.

The growing business of the American Rule and Block Company has necessitated the erection of a new building 50 x 100 feet. two stories, the first story being used for a warehouse and the second for a packing room. The growth of the business has also made imperative the doubling of the capacity of the saw mill, and new machinery is being made that will double the output of the finished product in a number of important articles manufactured there. The number hands on the factory payroll is now nearly 100, and it should be a matter of only a short time before the number of workers reaches the 500 mark. The building blocks, yard sticks, and the various other products of this plant are graded as the best on the market.

The officers of the American Rule and Block company are, Louis Dobeas, president;. Chas. Janson, vice president; Arthur Rettke, secretary and treasurer, and Frank A. Redner, general manager. These with the following, constitute the board of directors: Alfred Henes, Louis Leisen, Wolfgang Reindl, Mike Blahnik and Otto Grassl.