Thursday, January 27, 2011

Enterprise Mill #60

Following up on a tip, from my parents, I chased a rarity on Monday.   As a birder, I can chase birds, right? Why not coffee mills! 

A "going out of business sale" at a store in the sleepy town of Saline had this beauty in the front window.  With a flywheel 17 inches across, the overall height is 18.5 inches.  So you have an idea of size here, that is a nickel on the floor in front of the base.  Weight? Cripe, I don't know. I'll say 50 pounds - easily. Maybe a bit more.  Except for the wooden handle, it is all cast iron.   After giving it the once-over in the store,  I flopped some bills on the counter (Not singles, mind you....).  Time to give it a new home, I guess.

One of the cool things about my little purchase is the simple idea that it appears to be original in most regards.  With some collectibles, some people feel they need to "fix 'er up". Coffee mills are no exception.  For me? I like the old seasoned look and this one fits the bill.

Using old photos from the maker, I could see that the words on the flywheel had been painted during the manufacturing process.  The photo was black and white, so I couldn't be sure of the color, but gold seems likely.   Apparently, a previous owner thought gold also and took it upon him/herself to begin painting the letters.  They did a horrible job on just a few letters and then gave up! I think some elementary students could have done better!    It was nothing a few minutes with light steel wool couldn't correct.  (Barely seen in the photo, the gold star on the wheelhub and the gold band just below the lip of the hopper are original paint.)

Sadly, my MacMillen Coffee Index has no reference to the #60 model.  I know that is what it is because it is clearly labeled on the back of the mill!  The #750 is in the book and is pretty similar in design.  It first appeared in a catalog in 1886.  So, I does not make sense to say that the #60 appeared the following the year, but I think it is fair to say that was made in the 1890's. So, for the sake of math, if it was released in 1890, my new addition to my coffee mill collection is 120 years old!  

A purist might frown on me for owning this as a part of my coffee mill  collection. It was not sold as a coffee mill. Clearly labeled "Grist Mill" on the back side, this piece was a multi-functional tool. Think of it as a swiss-army knife - one object with multiple uses.  Bone meal and corn meal could have been processed in this beauty, too. It would not be unusual for a family to have one device and use it for all three purposes.  

Who made it?  The Enterprise Manufacturing Company. The name "Enterprise" has had a long and wonderful history in the United States.  Ranging from ships (past, present and future) to car rentals, that name seems to be everywhere!  During the last quarter of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, it was a name that was in every house. 

The story of the Enterprise Manufacturing Company is, in a sense, what is happening in the United State right now.  Incorporated in 1866 in Philadelphia, they grew readily over the following decades. A short list of their products included bait choppers, beef shavers, bung hole borers, cherry stoners, cheese cutter, cobblers’ kits, cork pressers, tobacco cutters, drug presses, meat juice extractor, flag pole holders, fruit, wine and jelly presses, sad iron handles, ice shredders, lard presses, lawn sprinklers, measuring faucets, measuring pump, meat and food choppers, meat hooks, bone, shell and corn mills, electric mills, rapid grinding and pulverizing mills (dozens of models), electric mixer, motor choppers, motor mills, cork pressers, paint faucets, raisin seeders, sausage stuffers, vegetable slicer, and tincture presses.

Okay, that was not the short list. It was a long list. (but I bet not the whole list).   If you lived in America or operated a business here, you likely had something from them in your house or place of work.  Not unlike General Electric today, I would think.  

Despite a phenomenal track record in the 1800's and early 1900's, they started to slip.  Few changes or improvements where made in the line of commercial products and they saw sales decline. A textbook botch was the loss of the  sad iron.  Those simple blocks of iron used to press clothes were made by Enterprise and they had a huge chunk of the market.  When electric irons became available (1912 or so), nobody in their R&D thought to make an "Enterprise Electric Iron".  Over time, multiple decisions like that stirred up trouble....

Business declines over the decades probably convinced the President of the Company to unload it in 1955.  Purchases and buyouts by other, larger, stronger companies led to the complete loss of the Enterprise Manufacturing Company.  Their factory, located in Philadelphia,  was leveled in the 1970's. 

Fortunately, for collectors like me, they made everything.  While I don't see myself buying a bung hole press any time soon, I'll certainly be looking for more Enterprise mills in the future!

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