When I was a kid growing up in Kalamazoo, it was known as “The Paper City.” Our fifth grade teacher–a very eccentric personality–told us about the way paper was made and emphasized that the reason we were not to eat paper (a common habit in elementary school) was that the workers in the paper mills would chew tobacco and spit it at random into the vats of liquid paper. That was why we would occasionally see a little burst of tan, like a star or partial star, on a sheet of white paper.
Kalamazoo was home to several paper mills and companies. Here is a little info I found online:
Taking advantage of the area’s bountiful water resources, in 1867 the Kalamazoo Paper Company opened its first mill. According to historian Larry Massie, the company provided a training ground for paper makers and “was one reason for the amazing proliferation of paper mills throughout the Kalamazoo Valley.” The area’s proximity to Chicago, its excellent railroad network and its large labor force further aided the industry’s development. By the early twentieth century, Kalamazoo County was the state’s dominant paper producer. According to 1904 state census figures, its five paper and wood pulp mills (one-sixth of the state’s total) represented 25 percent of the industry’s capital value. By World War I, Kalamazoo was the center of the largest paper-producing area in the United States. The industry employed one-half of the city’s labor force.
My mother-in-law, Diana Dale Castle, painted one of the mills in 1970. This is the Monarch Paper Mill, owned by Allied Paper Company.
Here is a photo of the machine room and of the male workers in 1915. There is also a photo of one John Bushouse at the mill in 1915. All this is left now of the Monarch Mill is the pond. In a Facebook group for old Kalamazoo, people talked about swimming at the mill pond. I can’t imagine this because I remember driving past the pond and thinking ICK and SCARY.
A quick search on Ancestry for John Bushouse reveals that it is a somewhat common name in Kalamazoo and that the owners of the name are immigrants from the Netherlands or their children. I could not find the John Bushouse that worked at the mill in 1915.
I found an unidentified photograph made from one of Joseph DeKorn’s glass negatives that seems to be from the heyday of paper manufacturing in Kalamazoo. Since it was one of the DeKorn negatives that means that the photograph was probably taken between 1903 and 1918. I suspect that it is an image of a paper mill. If you agree that it is probably a paper mill, do you think it is the Monarch mill or a different one? Before you answer that, you should check the photo in the second library link so that you have enough information.
According to one source, at one time, paper mills were the 5th largest employer in Kalamazoo. According to the source I quoted above, HALF the labor population worked in the paper industry! But that business dried up in the 80s. Obviously, paper is still being made, so why not in Kalamazoo?