I wondered how Victorian fashions were kept clean. Excelsior Starch Manufacturing Company provided the answer. This company was started in June, 1873, with $30,000 in capital. The factory (or works) comprised a 110 x 150 foot four floor brick building (the graphics on the Victorian trade card to the left says otherwise, so am not sure on this point).
All kinds of starch were made using corn; from packages in any desired weight for use in preparing dishes for the table, to laundry (I was unaware a laundry product could be made from corn), and other starch grades. Absolute chemical purity was the standard of excellence.
Excelsior’s Rise to Success
At first, the works consumed about 40 bushels of corn per day, and employed no more than 10. By 1880, the works employed 60 to 70, with an average daily consumption of 800 bushels of corn. This increase showed how prosperous Excelsior had become, with an annual products value that had reached about $125,000.
The Man Behind Excelsior’s Success
Peltire Hill was Excelsior’s superintendant at the beginning. Mr. Hill was viewed as a practical man who understood starch making and the machinery used in it’s making. He’d gained experience as foreman of Buffalo’s famous Gilbert’s Starch Works, supervised the construction of the Muzzy & Sage Starch Mill upon arrival in Elkhart in 1870, and then supervised the successful installation of Excelsior’s company works. Mr. Hill’s experience sounds like the forerunner of today’s millwright trade. This experience helped propel Mr. Hill from vice president in the company’s second year, to president in 1880.
The Excelsior Starch Works was one of the few in the country which manufactured by the same chemical process as the more famous Duryea Co.
More wonderful victorian trade cards like the above trade card, with great graphics and advertising, can be found in my store.
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