Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, August 21, 2005, pg. 9
When we think of 20th century foundries in Albion which are now closed, our thoughts immediately go to such places as the Albion Malleable Iron Company on N. Albion St., or Ideal Castings, or Brooks Foundry east of town. But did you know that Albion once had another foundry? It was the Russell Furnace Foundry, located behind 830 Irwin Avenue of all places. One would not normally think of this residential street as being the location of a foundry.
The Russell Foundry was owned and operated by Titus Russell (1885-1954), a native of Lee Township who was an inventor and business entrepreneur. It was in existence from 1934 until his death in 1954. The Russell Foundry made big round cast iron furnaces that were installed in sections. It also manufactured plow points in the waning days of Albion’s agricultural implement manufacturing era.
In the 1920s, Titus worked as a salesman for the Holland Furnace Company in Holland. He was able to invent an attachment to the furnace which cleaned the ductwork. Called the “Holland Furnace Cleaner,” it worked like a vacuum cleaner with a large cloth sack in the back. Owning the patent on the invention, the company purchased the invention for many thousands of dollars. It was with those funds that Titus established his foundry in back of his home at 830 Irwin Avenue in the early 1930s.
Ed McAuliffe (1904-1980) was the installer who assembled the Russell furnaces in area houses for the company. It was at the Russell Foundry that Ralph Brooks got his start. Ralph worked as the manager of the cupola located in the back, and was in charge of the melting of the iron. He later established his own Brooks Furnace Company which later became Brooks Foundry.
Titus was married twice. First to Lulu Billinghurst, a daughter of “Albion’s Greatest Hunter” Charles Billinghurst. His second wife was Grace Quimby whom he married in 1914. She died in 1927. Their son Smith Russell, who passed away on July 23 (2005) a few weeks ago at the age of 90, also worked at the Foundry throughout the 1930s following his 1933 graduation from Albion High School.
Russell Furnaces were installed in many basements in Albion. Today, the dark barn behind 824 Irwin Avenue (the former Norman Hull residence) is all that is left of the former Russell Furnace Company complex. How many of our readers still have a Russell Furnace in their basement today?
Titus Russell (1885-1954)
Next: ALFRED WELBURN
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic