Ypsilanti Reed Furniture Company
The Ypsilanti Reed Furniture Factory originated in Ypsilanti and moved to Ionia in 1903. They made specialty reed furniture in the state’s factory building at the Michigan Reformatory using the prison labor pool. In 1911 the company started operations at its first plant outside of the prison, in Ionia, with 150 men. The company had been told that Ionia could not support such a company due to lack of labor. They disproved that theory by growing rapidly and even opened an additional plant in 1913. Shortly afterwards a fire destroyed the reformatory factory. The Ionia factory was owned by Fred Green was a Veteran of the Spanish American War, one of the founders of the Ionia Free Fair in 1915, Mayor of Ionia from 1913-1916, and 31st Governor of Michigan from 1927-1931. During World War I the company began making observation balloon baskets and airplane seats.
Ypsilanti, Ionia, what does this have to do with Lowell?
The company prospered and soon needed more factories. Branch factories were built in Portland, Saranac, Lyons, and Lowell. The Lowell Board of Trade (now the Chamber of Commerce) worked hard to bring the company to Lowell. They saw the additional Lowell jobs to be worth their efforts. They wanted to buy the former Auto Body Building. The purchase price could not be agreed upon for the building. The Board of Trade stepped in, seeking donations and pledges from local businessmen and laborers. In the end, with contributions from $5 to $100, the necessary $2300 was raised. The businessmen and laborers all came together for the betterment of the Lowell economy and labor opportunities. Operations began April 5, 1920 with Fred Jacobi as the manager. They employed 200 people, half were men and half were women.
In 1923, the Lowell factory changed from making reed furniture to reed baby carriages. The idea was “not how cheap, but how good” they could be made. A Ledger reporter wrote that he “found a healthy-looking shipment of crated cabs ready for the toot-toot cars to broadcast over the United States, carrying the fame of Uncle Sam’s best finished baby carriage from coast to coast and from Lakes to Gulf.” These baby carriages had a brass plate that read “Ypsilanti Baby Carriage Co. Lowell, Michigan” and were made exclusively in Lowell in 1924.
The company didn’t last long in Lowell, they sold the building to Superior Furniture at the end of 1925. The company suffered during the great depression and sold the Portland plant and abandoned the Saranac and Lyons plants. Furniture production was discontinued in 1948 when the company completely switched names and the products that were manufactured.