The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 2, Page 24.


Valparaiso's Continental-Diamond Fibre Plant Is One of Largest of Its Kind In World; Dates Back 36 Years

Valparaiso is home of one of three plants of the Continental Diamond Fibre Company, one of the largest mica and bakelite manufacturing concerns in the world. The others are located at Bridgeport, Pennsylvania, and Newark, Delaware. Still others are located at Toronto, Canada; Maidstone, England, and Paris France.

This city was made the western hub of the company's new operations in February, of this year, and Valparaiso was selected, instead of Chicago. The first unit of a large expansion program, comprising a two-floor (first floor and basement) structure, sixty feet wide and one hundred feet long, was constructed this year as a north-wing to the present plant.

This building is used for storage of large quantities of vulcanized fibre and Bakelite which formerly were stored in Chicago. The new plant unit cost $30,000.

Thirty-six years ago a Philadelphia capitalist ventured "west" to establish a mica fabricating plant and chose Valparaiso as the scene of operations.

Six years ago the Continental Diamond Fibre Company, one of the largest mica and bakelite manufacturing concerns in the world, became owner of the Valparaiso company, then known as the Chicago Mica and Fibroc Insulation company.

Selection of Valparaiso as the seat of western operations of the company was due to L. L. Howard, general manager of the company, who "sold" the company upon the idea of centering its western division activities in this city.

Coupled with this selection is the fact that Detroit, center of automobile and automobile parts manufacture and distribution and Chicago and Cleveland, centers of electrical supplies, equipment and fabrication, are within a short distance of this city, and these automotive and electrical fabrication industries create the largest demand and market for mica and its associate products, laminated fibroc and bakelite.

Chicago plans of Continental Diamond Fibre company have been discontinued and the Valparaiso plant is now filling orders originating in eastern Michigan, including Detroit, Indiana, Ohio, and parts of Kentucky and West Virginia.

In the production season the Valparaiso division of Continental Diamond Fibre employs 300 workers. Even in the seasonal slack period, employment is given to over 200 workers.

Background for Continental Diamond Fibre operations in Valparaiso is most interesting. It was back in 1899 that the Chicago Mica company, organized a year before, with eastern capital, decided upon location here and purchased one of the city's oldest factory buildings about which successive expansion units have been built.

M. A. Snyder came here as the first superintendent. Mr. Snyder was secretary to a Philadelphia capitalist by the name of Adams who made his money in sandpaper.

In some five years Mr. Snyder was succeeded by F. W. Boyer, who in turn was followed by Edward Heilstedt, now employment manager for the Carnagie-Illinois Steel Corporation in Gary.

Next step in operations came in 1920 and centered in A. W. Pickford, vice-president of the old Girard National Bank, Philadelphia. Through Mr. Pickford, L. T. Frederick was brought to Valparaiso, and Mr. Frederick, with John F. Griffin, of this city, who, starting with the Chicago Mica company as an office boy, had through successive advancements, been made superintendent, a large expansion program was inaugurated. Mr. Frederick was in charge of sales.

Then came a broadening of operations to include the manufacture of fibroc products.

Then followed a period of rapid expansion and in 1926 a preferred stock issue of $100,000 was placed on the market, much of it being bought by Valparaiso investors. Most of this issue has been retired.

Two years later Victor R. Despard, long associated with the McGill Industries here, severed connections therewith and with Mr. Frederick purchased Mr. Griffin's holdings. Another large addition to the plant was built. Steps were taken to merge the local plants with others of the associated industries. Shortly thereafter friction developed in the management and Mr. Despard sold his interests n the Continental Diamond Fibre company. Mr. Frederick remained in charge for a few months, bit finally withdrew from the company. With the passing of Mr. Frederick, L. L. Howard was placed at the head of the Valparaiso operations.

Prior to the organization of the Chicago Mica company several industries had operated in the original factory building built, it is understood, some seventy-five years ago for a pin plant operated by the Fontaine Brothers. Then the Powell family established its knitting mill in it. This plant moved to Chicago, and finally to Muskegon, Mich., where one of the sons of the founder is still operating a knitting mill.

Then Michael Barry took over the building for his wagon works. This plant was operated for several years and was succeeded by the Cosmo Buttermilk Soap Company which came here from Elkhart, Ind., and finally returned to Elkhart in 1896. Then a few years later came the Chicago Mica company, forerunner of the present Continental Diamond Fibre company.

The Fibroc Insulation Company was formed in 1922, under the same roof as the Chicago Mica company. These closely related companies grew rapidly and in 1924, the "old" part of the Fibroc building was built and four years later the "new" Fibroc building was added to this structure.

In 1930 both the Chicago Mica Company and the Fibroc Insulation company were purchased by the Continental Diamond Fibre Company, of Newark, Delaware, one of the largest manufacturers of electrical insulating materials in the country. With this merger the laminated and moulded phenol-formaldehyde products known as Fibroc were renamed Dilecto and Celeron in conformance with the trade names of these products of the Continental Diamond Fibre Company. Built-up mica in the form of sheets, tubes, rings and special shapes continued to be marketed as Micabond. In addition to these products already common to the plant, the fabrication of Vulcanized Fibre and Diamond Insulation, became a new activity to the Valparaiso division.

As early as 1933 a need was felt for more room in the Valparaiso plant, hence the construction of the new building erected this year by the Smith-Nuppnau company, of Valparaiso, general contractors. The basement of the new building is being used as a storeroom for Vulcanized fibre, Diamond Insulation, Dilecto, and Celeron. On the upper floor is located the sawing and shearing department for stripping materials from the basement storage; the socket department, and the maintenance department, whose quarters were taken over in the erection of the new building.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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