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Made in Rockford: J. L. Clark products

Band Aid tin showing Mickey Mouse, made by J. L. Clark

Band Aid tin showing Mickey Mouse, made by J. L. Clark

With the current interest in the sale of J. L. Clark by CLARCOR to CC industries, an affiliate of Chicago-based Henry Crown and Co., here’s some information about their products over time.

In 1900, John Lewis Clark had a hardware store, and patented an improved flue stopper, the Gem Flue Stopper. He spent $70 for equipment–$45 for dies and $25 for a secondhand foot-powered punch press. Because he was dissatisfied with the current lithography available at the time, the company began to do its own. After punching out the flue stopper, there was waste material left over, and, also, not enough volume to run the punch press full time. This gave Clark an idea, and so began the Gem ointment boxes, which were small and produced from the leftover metal from the flue stoppers. A wise use of resources.

By May 1904, the company had moved to 714 Race St., in part of the old Knowlton plant. Both the W. T. Rawleigh and Frank Furst companies, with plants in Freeport, were important customers. Rawleigh expanded to include spices and cosmetics, and the Clark company made many of their containers.

The J. L. Clark Company has been busy over the years making products for industry. During World War Ii, the company produced gas masks, rifle clips, M-1 rifle magazines, and flashlights.

J. L. Clark Company has won the Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award for Continuous Improvement in 2011, 2013, and 2014.

Over the years, products that many of us may have used include spice tins–think McCormick’s pepper, Johnson & Johnson plastic bandage containers, Hallmark containers, the Duracell alkaline battery shells, and dispensers for double-edged razors. Just think of all the items we may have handled, little knowing that they were made in in Rockford!

Sources include the book From Hardware Store to CLARCOR, 1904-1989 (housed in the Local History & Genealogy Room of the Rockford Public Library), Rockford newspapers, and the company website, www.jlclark.com.

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