Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

1890s INDUSTRY FASHION SHOW

Morning Star, February 10, 2013, pg. 3

I am currently working on a new book with the theme being Albion picture postcards, with most (but not all) being early 20th century. I’ve got lots of "building" type postcards (please, no more Methodist church ones) already, but now I am looking for some unusual/rare photos, and postcards with people in them. I’m thinking of postcards featuring local sports teams, clubs, and school classes, also neighborhood grocery stores, etc. If you have a collection of Albion postcards please contact me at (517) 629-5402 or Albionfp@hotmail.com and let me know what you’ve got. I might be able to use some of them. Thank you for your help.

Recently I obtained an unusual old Albion photograph. I knew I had seen a similar photograph before, and thought I’d share this unusual photo with our readers this week here in our Historical Notebook. I don’t have the specific details, but apparently in the early 1890s there was some sort of business exposition which included Albion merchants and industries. I read about this once in a reference and if I recall correctly, it stated the event might have been held in nearby Jackson. What was unusual was there would be a charming young girl in a long dress representing the company. Her dress and attire would be embellished with objects that the company sold or produced.

I first was alerted to this "event" when I spotted another photo from the same event, in the October 1949 issue of the Albion Malleable Iron Company Circle-A-Tor several years ago, on page 3. It shows two girls, one representing the Malleable on the left. The Malleable girl has tiny castings sewn onto the dress, like sequins. Another girl, representing the R. Miller Furniture Company of Jackson, is shown holding a "purse" shaped like a rocking chair, amongst other items. We printed this photo in the July 6, 2003 edition of this column.

This article’s particular photo features the Groff Brothers Planing Mill. It was located on E. Cass St. in the 1880s and 1890s, and the two brothers who owned it were John W. (1844-1928) and Ozile W. (1848-1924) Groff. This firm was the predecessor of the Albion Lumber Company which was organized there in 1904. Today the Morning Star and the Albion Recorder are located on part of the property. Their complex consisted of 160 feet of frontage on E. Cass St. and included a planing-mill, with adjoining wagon and blacksmith shops. They carried all kinds of lumber, and processed wood for all types of building purposes. A nice photo of their complex is located on page 33 of the 1895 Headlight publication.


Nellie Groff (1875-1960) circa 1891

This photo features Nellie Groff (1875-1960), the daughter of John W. Groff. She was the wife of Albion City Clerk 1906-1915, WWI postmaster, and insurance man Willard R. Noyes (1872-1946). The couple were married in 1896. Nellie was a local school teacher, and appears to be around 16 years of age in this photo. Nellie is shown standing next to an ornamental sign that states, "GROFF BROS PLANING MILL."

Glued to her dress are various wood shavings, and miniature wooden ornamental decorations, such as you would place under the overhang of your roof. She is also shown wearing some sort of chain around her waist. Notice her hat. That hat also contains shapes that would have been produced at the Groff Brothers Planing Mill.

This "occupations" or "dress your business" theme might make a nice promotion for our Albion Chamber of Commerce or a Festival of the Forks theme sometime. It certainly would be unusual and make for an interesting fashion show here in town. Special thanks to Becky Scott of Cedar Springs for supplying us with this week’s photo here in our Historical Notebook.

Next: THE 1899 REPUBLICAN CLUB BUSINESS MEETING AND BANQUET

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