Historical society celebrates Superior manufacturing
New “Products Made in Superior” display includes everything from brewers to candy makers.
A new display at the Douglas County Historical Society shines a spotlight on Superior's manufacturing past. The list of items made in Superior spans the years 1890 to 1998, and includes everything from coal briquettes and wooden chairs to candy, butter and books. There’s even a mystery the nonprofit hopes to unravel. When creating the display, board member Valerie Burke included only businesses that the historical society had artifacts from, so visitors could see tangible slices of history. The display includes the following.
Northern Brewing Co., 1890-1967
Kinkert Brewing was founded by John Klinkert and Louis Rueping in 1890. Located at 702 N. Eighth St., the business had five buildings and went through 35 tons of ice a day, producing four kinds of beer.
In 1898, Klinkert Brewing became Northern Brewing Co. At one time, it outsold all other brands of beer in Superior. Besides northern Wisconsin, Northern beer was sold in the Milwaukee area.
At some point, there was a bad batch of beer produced, and it was returned to the company in truckloads. Northern lost many major accounts due to this, and the business was bought by Cold Spring Brewing Company of Minnesota in 1967. Cold Spring shut down by 1995.
From fridge to museum piece: The can of beer on display once belonged to Leonard Lundry, the great uncle of DCHS Business Manager Jon Winter.
It was still in a refrigerator until about 1970, where Lundry’s widow Adeline had kept it. Winter, who had started collecting beer cans as a hobby, noticed the can one day while visiting and asked if he could have it for his collection. She agreed on one condition, that he promised never to open it.
Webster Manufacturing Co., 1892-1937
The Webster Manufacturing Co. started in 1892 and was located in south Superior around North 57th Street and two blocks west of Tower Avenue. The plant covered 15 acres and had four buildings, including a drying plant. The company moved to the area from Menasha, Wisconsin, because of the available lumber in the Superior area.
In 1899, Webster produced 3,000 chairs a day and employed 300 people. By 1915, the company offered 900 different styles of chairs. Within 10 years, Webster started producing other kinds of furniture. In 1932, Webster made 7,000 chairs for the Republican National Convention held in Minneapolis.
During the Depression, Webster closed in 1932. The business reopened briefly in 1935 and closed for good in 1937.
Fun fact: Some of the Webster buildings were used for a few years in the 1950s by Cornwell-Superior Corporation to produce furniture cabinets for televisions and radios.
Russell Creamery, 1898-1982
Started around 1898, Russell Creamery was originally located at 612 Tower Ave. The business, started by Charles Russell and Newell Russell with L.G. Nevin, produced pasteurized milk, cream, butter, cheese and eggs. The business had relocated to 1021 Tower Ave. by 1904.
Russell Creamery built a two-story building at 1623 Broadway St. for the business in 1910. Initially, the creamery was in the basement and half of the first floor; the rest of the building was a hotel.
By 1924, Russell was selling 5,000 bottles of milk a day. In addition to recycling most of the bottles, the company was purchasing 8,000 new bottles a week.
In December 1954, the company merged with Beatrice Foods, which shut down in 1982.
Fun fact: Russell Creamery supplied the butter used by Guenard’s Candy Store for popcorn.
Guenard’s Candy Store, 1904-1984
It started with popcorn.
Harry Guenard opened a popcorn store, the Corn Crib, on Tower Avenue in 1904. About 10 years later, the building was razed and a new one built at 1421 Tower Ave. It became Guenard’s Old Fashioned Corn Crib, which served lunch and had an ice cream parlor. It also sold cigars and tobacco.
In the early 1930s, the business was downsized to just a candy store and moved to 1113½ Tower Ave. for a year before settling two blocks away at 1328 Tower Ave.
The store sold 45 varieties of candy, caramel apples, mints and popcorn. At its peak, Guenard’s used 10,000 pounds of raw chocolate per year and 200 pounds of sugar a week.
Harry’s son Ed worked at his father’s store starting at the age of 10, and eventually bought the business from his father. Ed’s sister Bernice also helped run the store. In 1984, they retired, and the business closed.
The popcorn, however, lives on. The Guenard’s popcorn machine is now housed at the Elk’s Lodge in Superior. The Douglas County Historical Society creates a close approximation of the candy shop’s secret recipe — dry popped white popcorn with plenty of real butter — for special events.
Fun fact: Harry Guenard was a chair maker at The Webster Manufacturing Co. before he started his popcorn store.
Tyomies Society, 1914-1998
The Tyomies Society moved to Superior in 1914. For 95 years, the society produced a newspaper in Finnish. The paper was critical of American capitalism and encouraged socialism and labor unions.
The society, located in the Agen building at 601-603 Tower Ave., also served as a cultural and social center for the Finnish community. Tyomies published children’s periodicals, books and pamphlets. It also had an active drama group.
Fun fact: The Agen building is now home to the Sweeden Sweets candy store.
Co-operative Central Exchange, 1917-1963
Founded in 1917, the purpose of Co-operative Central Exchange was to unite with other co-op stores to buy in bulk at lower costs. They bought a three-story brick building at 1701 Winter St. as their headquarters. Initially, 15 co-ops joined. They had their own branded products under labels such as “Red Star” and “Cooperator’s Best.” Coffee was a big seller. In 1927, the cooperative sold 325,000 pounds in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan.
The company was associated with the Finnish-American workers' movement and the Socialist Party of America. In 1931, the company split in two with the hardline Communists forming their own group, which only lasted until 1939. The other half became Central Co-operative Wholesale and moved into the Eiman building on 1901 Winter St. It merged with Midland Co-operatives in 1963 and became part of Land O’ Lakes in 1982.
Still there: The 1701 Winter St. building still stands and is part of Charter NEX Films, Inc.
Mac-Dell’s Toothpicks, 1931-?
Exactly where in Superior the can was made is a mystery, one the Douglas County Historical Society hopes to solve with the public’s help.
The U.S. Patent Office granted “Mac-Dell’s Dainty Flavored Picks” of Superior, Wisconsin, the trade number 41,500 in November 1931. The research staff at the historical society has been unable to find an address for the company, however, or any clue to how long it was in operation.
“There must be an interesting story out there somewhere,” according to the display.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the historical society at 715-392-8449, email email@example.com, visit the Douglas County Historical Society website or stop by 1101 John Ave. from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.