The Herald Bulletin, Ken de la Bastide
March 2, 2023
ANDERSON — Most people today think back to the recent time when Madison County’s economy was dominated by General Motors. But the “Made in Madison County” display at the Madison County Historical Society points out that long before GM was in town, Anderson and Madison County were home to numerous industries and artisans.
“Made in Madison County” will run through the end of 2024. The display contains hundreds of decorative glass pieces, the famed Irish Mail children’s toy and numerous displays of other manufacturing companies, including both Guide Lamp and Delco Remy. “We’re focusing on the things that impacted us,” said Steve Jackson, Madison County historian. “Those companies stimulated the local economy.” Belinda Mabbit worked for Guide Lamp for 30 years. “There were a lot of go-getters in Anderson,” she said. “We’re proud to be in Madison County.”
Carol Grace, a retired schoolteacher, said the display is really amazing, and she enjoys it when students from local schools come to the museum. “It’s fascinating that they want to come back and bring their parents.”
It all began in March 1887 when natural gas was discovered in Alexandria and later in Anderson. The first company to move to Anderson was Fowler Nuts and Bolts, which relocated from Buffalo. What rapidly followed were a number of glass manufacturers.
“It started with the discovery of natural gas,” Jackson said. “The availability of natural gas brought the gas makers. Making glass required a hotter flame that natural gas provided.”
Jackson said the local community encouraged glass makers to locate in Madison County, and the industry thrived for about 15 years until the supply of natural glass dwindled.
“Anderson was known as the Queen City of the Gas Boom,” Jackson said. “The three
newspapers played a historic role in advertising the community “There were real artisans and innovators here.” There was the Wright Rich Glass, MacBeth-Evans and Lippincott, all of which made fabulous glassware.
Lippincott went bankrupt and was purchased in 1925 by Aladdin Mantle Lamp company, which is the best known local company. “Aladdin was known worldwide and popular,” Jackson said. “There is a group of collectors that have selected the Madison County Historical Society to house their collections. “They looked at Alexandria, where the company was located, but decided to move to our building.”
Anderson was home to the Irish Mail, a popular child’s hand car that sold over 1.5 million units during a 20-year span. The Irish Mail won the gold medal at a Brazilian Toy Exposition right after the turn of the 20th century.
National Tile in Anderson provided the tile for the Anderson High School Indian symbol on the Wigwam and provided tile for the White House. The Sellers Furniture company in Elwood make handcrafted wood furniture, producing 80,000 units per year before going out of business in 1950. American Playground opened in Anderson in 1911 and provided the playground equipment for California’s Disneyland in 1955. Red Gold started production in Elwood in 1942 as part of the war effort. Charles Miller invented a vulcanizing process for rubber that resulted in the method to retread tires.