The Growing Season
Highlights of these first years:The fledgling Union Bag Company was on track to be a leader in the manufacture of industrial sewing machines. The wisdom of the company management in promoting sectionalized garment manufacturing and specialized machines was proved out by a remarkably rapid expansion of its product line. By the turn of the century, Union Special had introduced specialized machines for the manufacture of underwear, shoes, waists, shirts, gloves, pants, bags, mattresses, overalls, bedding, tents, and virtually every other type of sewn product. Through it all Union Special was expanding domestically and globally, boldly making its name and products known.
1880–Corey and Muther share a storefront at No. 20 Adams St.
1881–The first order of machines is built in the Central Manufacturing Block at 86 Market St. (Market St. is now Wacker Dr.; the Civic Opera Building stands on the site.) Union Bag Company founded. Sometime within the next two years the company begins calling itself Union Bag Machine Company.
1884–The company occupies the top floor of the June Manufacturing Building at LaSalle & Ontario. (Coincidentally, the June Manufacturing Company makes a sewing machine called the Jennie June. The company later moved to Belvidere, IL.)
1885–The company name changes to Union Special Sewing Machine Company, to more accurately reflect its product.
1887–The company moves into the Continental Bolt Works Building at Franklin and Michigan St. (Michigan St. became Austin St. which finally becomes Hubbard St.)
1893–Entire line of U.S.S.M.C. machines is shown at the World’s Columbian Exposition. The company earns more awards and medals for its machines than its more established competitors.
1897– Nearly the entire block of Franklin St., from Michigan to Kinzie, is occupied by the company.
1901–Union Special Maschinenfabrik is established in Stuttgart to manufacture and market machines in Germany and other foreign countries. Mr. Fritz Wever is manager and director.
1900-1920s–Union Special Machine Company establishes branch offices in principal U.S. cities.
1904–The company changes its name to Union Special Machine Company, to distance itself from disreputable sewing machine companies and their salesmen.
1912–The Union Special Machine Corporation of America is incorporated to handle increasing foreign business, and branch offices begin to open overseas.
1913–Further factory expansion occurs when a fish market on Kinzie at Franklin is bought out. Into this new space goes the general office, adjusting department, “experimental” department, stockroom and shipping.
1917–In response to needs for sewing machines for the First World War effort, several rooming houses and hotels to the west along Kinzie are demolished, including the old fish market building. Pilings for the new building are driven into place while the old structures are still being removed. This new building becomes 400 North Franklin St.