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.

CIRCLE-A-TOR

Morning Star, June 7, 1993, pg. 4

A very big part of Albionís history has been the Albion Malleable Iron Company. Originally founded in 1888, this manufacturer of automotive castings truly made its mark on the economy, population, and the direction of our community. Many people in Albionhave ancestors or relatives who worked at the Malleable at one time or another. Albion owes its ethnic diversity to the Malleable, which actively recruited workers from central and Eastern Europe in the early 1900s, from such countries as Italy, Poland, Lithuania, and Russia. The Malleable recruited black workers from the south, who also moved to Albion. Workers were housed in company housing in the Austin Avenue, N. Albion St., and W. Cass St. areas.

The Company promoted the family togetherness theme in its publication, the Circle-A-Tor, a name centering around the Malleableís letter "A" with a circle around its logo. The Circle-A-Tor first appeared in October 1946, and was published monthly thereafter through the Ď40s, Ď50s, and Ď60s. The purpose of the publication was to print news and pictures of interest to the employees of the Company. It was first distributed to employees only, and then later the circulation was expanded to include Albion merchants, professional people, Malleable customers, vendors, and friends. Malleable executive Gardner Lloyd served as editor of the publication in the early 1950s, as did a number of other executives through the years.

The Circle-A-Tor covered all types of subjects, in newspaper form. This included news about the Malleableís baseball team, the Giants; photographs of the "biggest fish" caught by employees, bowling team news, safety tips, Company news, announcements of births, photographs of "old timers," photographs of Albion High School graduates of Malleable employees, and a multitude of photographs of company employees, whether they be at work, on vacation, at home, or in the community.

What is the significant about the Circle-A-Tor is that it is an excellent resource today when researching Albion's ethnic history and also the development of the black community in Albion. The Circle-A-Tor regularly printed photographs of minority workers in everyday life in the 1950s, during a time when the local daily newspaper in town would not. The Circle-A-Tor often would feature individual employees in its issues, giving biographies and interesting details about a personís family and interests. The publication was printed on high quality glossy paper, using the very high quality engraving process for each photograph, much like the old Journal of Albion newspapers of the late 1950s and 1960s. This has resulted in the preservation of very precious photographs which many persons in Albion may not be aware of. A set of Circle-A-Torís are in the local history room at the Albion Public Library, where they may be read. If any of your relatives worked at the Malleable during the 1940s through 1960s, chances are good that their photograph will appear someplace in the Circle-A-Tor.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present the cover of the August 1954 issue of the Circle-A-Tor, depicting the east side of the 200 block of S. Superior St. in downtown Albion in line drawing form. This very interesting depiction of Albion during the 1950s shows the Bohm Theatre marquee featuring the Malleableís movie which they had made about themselves that year. Moving south, is the Nick Kostianes' Soda Shop, now the Thomas T. Lloyd building, home of the Albion Civic Foundation and the Albion Volunteer Center. Lloyd, who served as executive vice-president of the Malleable, founded the Albion Civic Foundation and bequeathed thousands of dollars which had been earned at the Malleable into the Foundationís endowment Fund. Next is the Commercial & Savings Bank (now the City Bank & Trust Company), the Buick Garage sign (the Maple City Auto Company in the Market Place), the old antique clock which once stood in front of Tuchtenhagenís Jewelry, and of course, Frostís Shoe Store. The title of the cover proclaims "AMICO (Albion Malleable Iron Company) LIVES HERE."

This illustration is especially historical, as not too long afterwards, Nickís Soda closed, the Commercial & Savings Bank was merged with the Jackson City Bank & Trust Company, the small building next to the bank and the adjoining one were torn down in 1960 to make way for Homestead Savings & Loan, and of course that antique clock was smashed to bits many years later in the early 1980s by a wayward semi-truck.

The Circle-A-Tor is a cherished part of Albionís history, much like old issues of the Journal of Albion. The issues are rich in Albionís diverse ethnic make-up. I encourage our readers to go to the Library and browse through the issues. You will find them fascinating, and filled with previous memories of an era now gone by [POSTSCRIPT: This writer needs issues from the 1946-1949 period for his research archives, as well as some issues from 1955 to 1959. Let me know if you have copies I could have for my history archives]. Frank has a limited number for sale.


Circle-A-Tor, August 1954.

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