Poof Tardiff: A Town of Today VI

Hello fellow Berlinites. As I near the end of my stories about the early days of Berlin up to 1896, I will continue with the Burgess Sulphite Fiber company.

Their freight bills back in 1896 on outgoing products amounted to over $100,000 annually, of which it was interesting to note that about one half was paid on Androscoggin water that was contained in the pulp. Fifty thousand dollars a year was a good deal to pay for freight on water that nobody had any use for, but the proportion of water to solid matter was even larger in other kinds of pulp. The Burgess Mills had a noticeable feature and that was the originality shown in both process and mechanical appliances. The use of labor was dispensed with wherever possible.

Wood was unloaded from the cars on to an automatic conveyor which took it directly to a tank that was as large as a small pond, where it was soaked. From the tank it was taken out and the bark removed on revolving knives. It then went by a way of another conveyor to a machine in which it was cut up into chips.

These chips, in turn, were automatically carried to a sector in which the sawdust and the larger pieces were sorted out from those which were the correct size. The large pieces were carried to the boiler room for use as fuel, while the right size chips were taken to the top of this mill and dumped into the digesters which were great vats in which the chips were cooked.

There were six of these digesters, each 14 feet in diameter and 35 feet high, when the mill was finished in 1893. One hundred and twenty three years ago they were the largest digesters in the world.

The substance with which these digesters were lined was the invention of Mr. T. P. Burgess, the general manager of this mill. He was also the inventor of other certain features of the process of manufacture and many labor saving gadgets.

The officers of this company were W. W. Brown, president; Aretas Blood, vice president; Theodore P. Burgess, treasurer and general manager; Frank Carpenter, Herbert Brown and O. B. Brown directors and George E. Burgess, superintendent. This company employed a large office force and were building some of the finest mill offices in the state of New Hampshire in 1896.

Another mill that was in operation by 1896 was the Glenn Manufacturing Company. This industry came to Berlin in 1885 and built on the original Berlin Falls, a mill, which the town voted to exempt from taxation for ten years.

It was certainly the best investment that the town had ever made, because this company steadily and rapidly increased its plant size and in 1896, they owned six large mills. These mills ran from today's Mason Street Bridge all the way down to where NAPA now operates. Back in the mid-1890s, they employed 400 men, with a weekly payroll of about $4,500. There were many men who also worked in the woods to supply this company with their product.

Their first paper machine was set running in the spring of 1886 and was named after Col. C.H. Taylor, of the Boston Globe. In 1887 they made an addition to their original mill, giving them three paper machines.

In this same year, they bought a mill which had been operating for a short time. This mill was called the White Mountain Pulp and Paper Company and was situated where the Dead River enters the Androscoggin. They incorporated their mill number five from this early mill. Number three mill was built in 1889, one machine was added to number one in 1890 and number four was built in 1891. In 1892 number five was constructed and in 1893 number six, the sulphite mill was created.

120 years ago, the Glenn Manufacturing Company had a complete plant that ran along the east side of Main Street in back of today's City Hall to Glen Avenue. They manufactured everything that went into paper, the sulphite took the place of rags, of which, it was formally necessary to use a smaller quantity in order to give the paper it's requisite toughness.

By 1896, they were manufacturing 35 tons of sulphite pulp and 80 tons of ground wood pulp daily. From this, they made 65 tons of paper in Berlin and the rest was shipped to their mills in Haverhill, Massachusetts, where 50 tons of paper was made daily.

This company ground up annually about thirty million feet of spruce logs. They owned about 100,000 acres of timberland and contracted for cutting their timber. Their facilities for obtaining the raw material were unequaled by any other large paper mills in this country and for this reason they were able to manufacture at an advantage over those less favorably situated. Even with out the Cascade Mill that had not been built yet, there were mills from today's Heritage Park all the way down the Androscoggin River through Berlin.

The Glen Mills also had three dams which developed twelve thousand horsepower. They had 36 pulp grinders and five paper machines. The process of manufacture in its first steps resembled the sulphite process, up to the point at which in the latter the wood was cut into chips.

In the mechanical process, the blocks of wood, from which the bark was removed, were ground up under a heavy water pressure on large grinders, stones like ordinary grindstone, but about five feet in diameter and two feet in thickness. I know that there is one of these grindstones that sits near the entry of the Public Service (Eversource) Park as one enters from the Tondreau parking lot today (2016).

The pulp then underwent various processes by which a considerable part of the water was removed and it was then rolled out into thick sheets for transportation.

This pulp that was soaked in water and mixed with a sulphite pulp, was then passed through the paper machine in which the moist pulp, passing over felts and screens and between warm cylinders, over various appliances for drying out water, came out the other end in the form of a wide sheet of white paper.

It was 10 feet wide on the largest machine in the Glen Mills. This was then wound up in a great role ready for the printing press, at the rate of about 300 feet per minute.

The Glen paper machines during the mid-1890s turned out over 60,000 square feet of newspaper every minute and ran day and night continuously 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In a little over two months, they made enough paper to and circle the earth around the equator about eight feet wide.

This mill had continuous contracts with the Boston Globe and the New York Tribune ever since their first mill was built and their paper was used in newspaper offices from Maine to Texas and even in the British Isles.

The officers of this original mill back then were John L. Hobson of Haverhill, Massachusetts president, H. M. Knowles of Boston, treasurer and I. B. Hosford, general manager, also of Haverhill.

I will continue with the rest of the industries that were operating in the town of Berlin during 1896, before Berlin became a city.

Poof Tardiff writes a weekly column for The Berlin Daily Sun. Questions or comments email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Also, join the many friends of “Once upon a Berlin Time” on Facebook and guess at the posted weekly mystery pictures.

Glen Manufacturing CompanyGlen Manufacturing Company

Glen Avenue 1896Glen Avenue 1896

Col. C. H. TaylorCol. C. H. Taylor

Brown O. BO.B. Brown