Fairfield Paper Company
Founded in 1907, the Fairfield Paper Company has gone by many names and changed hands several times. The original strawboard mill came into existence around 1893, the year that twenty-two-year-old Henry Smart, while riding his bicycle with friends, stopped for a rest in Baltimore. His father had owned a mill, and young Henry wanted to do the same. The canal provided the perfect location: there would be plenty of business from nearby towns and boats passing through the canal, and a steady water supply from lock no. 6 could power the machinery. Smart used a concoction of rags, acid, and straw provided by local farmers to create the pulp.
In 1896, the mill shut down due to complaints from townspeople about the foul odor emanating from the mill and its wastewater. Smart had prepared to move the mill operations out of town. However, the mill soon reopened and began shipping in pulp from Canada to make manila paper instead of strawboard.
In the early 1900s, the mill went by two names: the Twin City Paper Mills and the Twin City Paper Company. Business boomed; the mill frequently shipped out multiple tons of paper per day. However, in 1907, the mill had been scheduled for auction, and town officials debated whether to reopen the mill, since the canal had been closed. In November that same year, Joseph Smart, the founding Smart’s son, purchased the mill for $7500, moving to Baltimore with his wife the following February and reopening the mill as the Fairfield Paper Company.
By May 1908, the mill had the ability to generate its own electricity for lighting. The next year, the announcement came that the mill would be opening full time under the operation of a man named N. H. Carpenter from Bogota, New Jersey, under a one-year lease. He renamed the mill the Fairfield Paper Board Company, and it manufactured wrapping and roofing paper. In 1910, construction began on the company’s corrugated box plant.
On May 15, 1913, employees at the box plant organized a strike and allegedly attempted to appeal to buyers in Marion, Ohio. Sixty-five people lost their jobs, and locals purchased the box plant.
In 1919, T. D. Griley, then president of the company, announced an expansion project that included a straw mill in Dresden, Ohio, and a box manufacturing plant in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. A few years later, in April 1923, construction began on a boarding house and the “mill restaurant” on the mill’s property. The mill’s name changed again in 1948, when it became the Fairfield Paper & Container Company, a title which better advertised its products.
Two years later, the St. Louis-based Gaylord Container Corporation purchased the company. By this time, the Beaver Falls plant had closed due to a high volume of strikes, and the Dresden mill had been sold. On November 1, 1951, the Fairfield Paper & Container Company fully merged with the Gaylord Container Corp. Almost exactly four years later, the Crown-Zellerbach Corporation purchased Gaylord, whose operations continued as a division of its new owner.
In 1979, an English financier referred to as “Mr. Goldsmith” purchased Crown-Zellerbach stock. He then sold it for $29 million. The same year, a strike occurred and resulted in an operational shutdown at the box plant. In 1982, Mr. Goldsmith again purchased Crown-Zellerbach stock. This time, he took over the entire corporation, selling off several divisions, including the Gaylord and Crown-Zellerbach divisions, and closing all others. Mr. Goldsmith purportedly made $93 million without ever leaving London.
Fortunately, a Gaylord holding company purchased the Gaylord division, and work at the Baltimore location continued. The box plant eventually moved operations to the Boise Cascade Plant in Marion, Ohio, also owned by Gaylord.
Since the 1980s, the mill has had many different owners: chronologically, the Westinghouse Credit Corporation; Cesar, Inc.; Ohio Paperboard; the Newark Group; and, currently, Caraustar Industries, Inc.
In addition to the sources listed in the bibliography, the information in this article was found in a short article with no known author entitled “A History of the Fairfield Paper & Container Company.”
Maxwell Dibble, 2018 Collections Intern
Photo edited by Katherine Kunkler, 2018 Graphic Designer