Since 1986, Americans have been celebrating the life, work, and impact of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a federal holiday. More recently, it’s become more than a day off, but a day on — the National MLK Day of Service.
The Phillips Packing Company began in Cambridge, Maryland in 1902 with a single plant and went on to become the largest employer in Dorchester County and one of the most recognized names in seafood. As the company expanded, so did its legacy on the Eastern Shore through both buildings and stories. A former Six-to-Fix program project, Preservation Maryland supported the effort to revitalize the Packing Company by identifying funding to support the critical repair of the iconic smokestacks and increasing public awareness of this important preservation project on Maryland’s eastern shore.
Our Vice President Katie Parks is featured in this Maryland Public Television (MPT) special that tells the story of Cambridge, Maryland – “from boomtown that went bust to a modern hub for innovation poised to revitalize the landscape and economic future of the region.”
Made in Maryland: The First Umbrella Factory in Baltimore City
07/18/2019 By Preservation Maryland
Baltimore City has the distinction of being the location of the very first umbrella factory. The Beehler Umbrella Factory was founded in 1828 by German immigrant Francis Beehler. The company’s motto was, “Born in Baltimore, Raised Everywhere!”
By the 20th century, Baltimore had many successful umbrella factories and became the umbrella capital of the world, shipping out over 1.5 million umbrellas across the country each annually. Many companies competed against one another. One of those umbrella manufacturers was Polan, Katz & Co., which was founded in 1906 by Charles Katz, Jesse N. Polan, and William Fox. Within eight years of its founding, Polan, Katz & Co. became the largest umbrella manufacturer in the country, surpassing another Beehler Umbrella Factory and another Baltimore company, Gans Brothers.
After WWI, sales of parasols declined but, umbrella sales increased. As these sales grew, the manufacturing facilities had to grow as well. The peak of production for umbrella manufacturing in Baltimore was 1927. A city directory listed in addition to the Beehler Umbrella Factory, such makers as Baltimore Umbrella Manufacturing, Brunswick Umbrellas, Samuel Cohn, Walter J. Cornelius, Michael Daneker, Fink & Easter, Polan, Katz & Co., Abraham Nowitch, Siegel Rothschild, Gans Brothers, and Minnie Stevens.
As conditions and fashion changed, the Baltimore umbrella manufactures developed and patented special umbrellas. Two such special umbrellas were the “Name-On”, which allowed for easy recognition of one’s umbrella and the “Travella” umbrella, which had a removable handle so it would fit into a suitcase.
Additionally, Polan, Katz & Co. made headlines with the first vat-dyed umbrellas, which let anyone have a cheerful colorful umbrella for a rainy day. Polan, Katz & Co. were also the first company to create a 16-rib umbrella, umbrellas made of Dupont’s nylon fabric, and “Touch ‘n Go” umbrellas that opened by pressing the tip on the ground. Furthermore, Polan, Katz & Co. was the first company to develop acetate prints and use Goodyear’s “Pilofilm” for see-through umbrellas and raincoats.
After decades of growth through artistry and innovation, the umbrella business declined in part because of the affordability of automobiles. Beehler closed their factory in 1976 and Polan, Katz & Co. closed theirs in 1981.
MADE IN MARYLAND
Maryland has a proud industrial heritage including being the birthplace of game-changing mechanical inventions and hosting major milestones. In this Made in Maryland series, Preservation Maryland and the Baltimore Museum of Industry, will bring you many, “I didn’t know that was invented here!” moments. The Baltimore Museum of Industry celebrates Maryland’s industrial legacy and shows how innovation fuels ongoing progress. The author is Ross Bater, a Waxter Intern at Preservation Maryland.