Offices and warerooms of the Knapp Electrical Works

[Trade Journal]

Publication: Electrical Industries

Chicago, IL, United States
vol. 5, no. 8, p. 248-250, col. 1-2,1

The Knapp Electrical Works.

The importance of the electrical industry is nowhere better shown than in the offices and warerooms of a modern electric supply house. Its history is also illustrated by the rapid growth of these business houses. The invention of the telegraph, and the construction of many lines for electrical communication, created the first demand for electrical devices and material. Subsequent, inventions which now number thousands, have caused a rapid extension of the industry and created a demand for appliances and material in the manufacture of which hundreds of thousands of hands are now employed. To the supply houses who are in constant communication with the consumers, we are indebted for many of the improvements in appliances and methods of installation. Always on the lookout for anything that will benefit the central station manager or engineer they have brought to the attention of the public inventions and improvements which would otherwise have been unnoticed.


Myron A. Knapp.


The Knapp Electrical Works is one of the oldest dealers in electrical apparatus and material of Chicago. The growth of this company is identical with the growth of the industry. It commenced business as the Railway Telegraph Supply Company, dealing exclusively in telegraph supplies and material which constituted then the only field for electrical goods. With the activity in the construction of telephone systems, and the invention of the systems of electric ligthing [sic] lighting, material for these departments were added to the line of supplies. The business of the company rapidly extended, and through the unexcelled facilities afforded by the many railroads radiating from Chicago, the trade of this house reached every section of country throughout the middle and western states. The handling of supplies and electrical apparatus has formed but a part of the business of this company. It early undertook the manufacture of electrical specialties, and has gradually increased this department from the small beginning made some ten years ago to the extensive factories now operated. The extension of this branch of the business, as well as the growth of the supply business, has required several removals. The original quarters, at the corner of Fulton and Union streets, were outgrown at an early date. Larger accommodations were secured on Franklin street for the offices, salesrooms, shops and warerooms. The building at 54 and 56 Franklin street was long known as the headquarters of this house. The two upper floors were occupied by the factory in the manufacture of the lighter specialties. The offices and salesrooms were located on the first floor, and the other floors were used for storing the large stock of wires, fixtures, appliances and specialties of all kinds.


M. B. Austin.


On January first of the present year, after some time spent in looking for the best adapted location for the needs of the company which had again outgrown its available room at 54 and 56 Franklin street, the present building at 271 and 273 Franklin street was leased. The company took immediate possession and now has ample room. This building is well located, being easily reached from all parts of the city by the city railways. It is directly opposite the east entrance to the new Van Buren street tunnel, and diagonally opposite the proposed terminal station of the Metropolitan elevated railway. It is also well located for the reception and delivery of freight. There are some 40,000 square feet of floor space occupied, and two of the floors are double decked to provide more storage room. The upper floors occupied by the factory are well lighted and commodious. The machinery and shafting has been so arranged as to give every facility for the rapid production of first-class specialties. The foundry, where are cast the many small and large pieces of metal that go to make up the larger and complicated devices, is located on the top floor. On the same floor is also located the assembling rooms where the many artistically designed fixtures for which this house is well known, are assembled. A specialty is made of fixtures, and the new designs which have been brought out the past season have been much admired. Many hotels and apartment houses have been equipped by this company throughout with fixtures, and in this line the trade has been extensive. From the trade, orders are being instantly received for both the standard patterns and special designs.


Fig. 1. the Knapp Electrical Works Salesrooms.


The Knapp Electrical Works is one of the largest manufacturers of drop needle annunciators. The new knife switch recently designed, has been adopted by the Chicago Edison Company for its standard service switch, and by the trade the Knapp switches are largely used. For the manufacture of the larger goods, insulated wire and articles requiring a large amount of space in their manufacture, a factory has been located at one of Chicago's growing suburbs which has excellent shipping facilities. The company executes many special orders for customers desiring a particular kind of apparatus. To enumerate the many kinds of electrical supplies manufactured and handled by this company would require a large volume. A glance at the new catalogue just from the press gives a very good idea. It contains some 500 pages, is bound in cloth, and is finely printed on heavy enameled book paper.


Fig. 2. the Knapp Electrical Works General Office.


The company is the western agent of the Safety Insulated Wire and Cable Company of New York, and among recent contracts for the underground cable of this company, is one amounting to nearly $25,000 from the city of Detroit. As western agent of the Ries Electrical Specialty Company of Baltimore, western customers are supplied with the Ries regulating socket, Ries fan motor, etc. The sales of iron clad Climax starting boxes and stage dimmers have been extensive. Among the largest customers of the house are the telephone companies who purchase large quantities of telephone material. Telephone cables, aerial, underground and submarine, are standard goods among users. Many specialties are also made and handled of new designs which are favorites with the trade. The new colored telephone cords and small wires which match the colors of the hardwood interior finish of offices, etc., are being extensively used in the recent installations.


Fig. 3. the Knapp Electrical Works View in Foundry.


The rapid growth and success of this company is largely due to the enterprise and farsightedness of Mr. Myron A. Knapp, who, as general manager of the company, has determined its policy and directed its affairs. Becoming interested in the company in 1884 he saw the field that was opening to electrical supplies and determined upon adding a factory for the manufacture of electrical specialties. After Mr. Knapp secured a controlling interest in the old company, he changed the name to the Knapp Electrical Works, and has since conducted the business on a broad but substantial plan. Being widely known among the electrical fraternity, his own acquaintance with the trade, and his standing as a business man, have aided greatly in building up the extensive business enjoyed by the company. Mr. Knapp has gathered about him men of experience and skill who have taken an interest in the affairs of the house and endeavored to promote its interest. His assistant, Mr. M. B. Austin, has for several years been identified with the business of the company. As a youth he entered the employ of the Western Electric Company with whom he remained for six and a half years, acquiring both a general knowledge of the electrical trade and much valuable information concerning electrical apparatus and material. The acquaintance formed in his earlier work has since been widely extended.


Fig. 4. the Knapp Electrical Works A View in Machine Shop.


To customers of the house, the name of Mr. Watson is familiar. As cashier he is one of the most important members of the company, and discharges the duties of his position to the satisfaction of all. Mr. Pessinger is in charge of the fixture department, which has grown rapidly under his direction. Mr. H. P. Brauns looks after the city order department, his extensive Chicago acquaintance being of great assistance in this department. Among the salesmen with whom many of our readers are familiar, are Mr. E. R. Crolies, Mr. Kleinman and Mr. A. C. Dougall. The superintendent of the factory is Mr. Chas. Franke, who is himself a thorough mechanic. His experience in the manufacture of electrical goods dates from almost the inception of the industry.


Keywords:Knapp Electrical Works
Researcher notes: 
Supplemental information: 
Researcher:Bob Stahr
Date completed:June 22, 2009 by: Bob Stahr;