Wednesday, September 15, 2010

UPDATE: More on the Evans Weed Queen/Neptune by Chuck Julian


Chuck has continued his research and writes:

I spoke with Bob Evans today.  He said that his father never spoke of the lure business to him.  He said that he had a lot of them around the house but didn't realize that his father made them.  E.S. Evans and Sons was started by Edward Steptoe Evans and his two sons, Robert B. Evans and Edward S. Evans II. Bob says that he remembers that his father bought Richardson Rod and Reel and he personally had something to do with that. E.S. Evans and Sons was primarily in the business of making auto hauling railroad cars. Bob said that Evans Walton was another of their companies.

Definitely verifies what I found. Chuck also discovered that the Evans Products Company was a successful wood products maker. The following blurb is from a history of the firm written by Steve Greif:

The company founder, Edward Steptoe Evans, was a self-made man who had worked as a printer, a store clerk, a cowhand, a librarian, and an author when finally, at age 35, he developed a product that made him a fortune.  In 1915, he created the "Evans Block," a small wooden device that made loading and shipping automobiles by rail more efficient.  Evans' involvement in the car industry led him naturally to produce another product for the auto: battery separators. Dozens of thin shields were needed to separate the numerous positive and negative plates inside storage batteries while allowing for the flow of the battery acids. Evans' research and development personnel found that Port Orford cedar was an ideal material for these separators...

With the onset of World War II, battery separators for military vehicles, tanks, and submarines were in high demand, and the Coos Bay plant produced over 500 million separators in 1942 alone. The heyday of operations was in the early 1950s when over 1,000 laborers with an annual payroll of over three million dollars found work at the Coos Bay plant.

Even during the Great Depression, Evans had hundreds of women workers in an industry that was traditionally male. Known as "Lumber Jinneys" (a spin-off of the familiar term "Lumber Jack"), these women predated the familiar "Rosie the Riveter" by at least a decade.

The Evans Company had a reputation for innovation and diversification. Besides battery separators, they produced railroad ties, fence posts, and broom sticks in the 1930s. They were also the leading producer of high quality Port Orford cedar Venetian blinds.

Upon his father's death in 1945, Edward S. Evans, Jr., headed the company and continued with new product lines. In response to the need for post-war housing, the Evans Company manufactured lumber for pre-fabricated homes. Using 3500 feet of fir lumber for framing, wall panels, cupboards, and shelves, the company claimed it could complete an "Evans House" on a poured foundation in forty-eight hours.

By the 1950s, the company was an important producer of plywood. It developed wooden stadium seats that were installed in the newly constructed Marshfield High School gym, and made high quality wooden furniture. One author claims that the term "wood products" came into common use in the 1940s and '50s as a result of the company's prominence.

The Evans Products Company plant closed its doors in Coos Bay in the spring of 1962. Newspaper editorials at the time speculated the closure was due to the growing scarcity of Port Orford cedar, increased foreign competition, and the creation of other materials that replaced traditional wood products. After a failed attempt to restart the business, the city of Coos Bay burned the old Evans buildings in 1965. A section of Highway 101 near the old plant site was designated Evans Boulevard, one of the few reminders of this once important Coos Bay business.

Thanks, Chuck! The search continues...

-- Dr. Todd

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