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1903 General Catalogue of E. L. Roberts & Co. Wood Millwork - ORIGINAL

1903 General Catalogue of E. L. Roberts & Co. Wood Millwork - ORIGINAL
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Number 500 General Catalogue of E. L. Roberts & Co., Wholesale Manufacturers of Doors, Glazed Sashes, Blinds, Mouldings, Fine Stairwork, Art and Window Glass, Mantels, Grilles, Parquetry Floors, and Everything in the Line of Millwork in Any Wood., by E. L. Roberts & Co., Chicago, 1903. 265 black-and-white illustrations. 130 black-and-white photographs, including at least a dozen beautiful color pictures of room interior examples. 6 ½ x 10 hardcover, 441 pages.

This ORIGINAL catalog is in poor condition. The front and back covers are heavily soiled and badly edgeoworn at the corners and at the top and bottom of the spine. The binding is failing, and a few pages have come loose, including the front flyleaf. There is some water and moisture damage throughout, but most of the pages are affected only along the edges, and are quite legible. The worst damage is from page 380 back, with many pages stuck together. This is the section that has line profiles of stops, casings, base, porch rails, and baluster stock.

One of the most important links on the North American continent is the area of the swampy portage between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River. When the Illinois and Michigan Canal was completed in 1848, a waterborne system of transportation finally tied the east coast of the United States with the trans-Mississippi west and the Gulf of Mexico. Goods and people could travel by water up the Hudson, through the Erie Canal, along the Great Lakes, through the new canal at Chicago and down the Illinois, then Mississippi Rivers, all the way to New Orleans. The census of 1850 showed that the population of Chicago was just under 30,000 souls – a nearly ten-fold increase in twenty years. By 1870, the population of Chicago had increased ten-fold again, to 298,977. Then the Chicago Fire struck in 1871. It really did not stop the amazing growth in population. The destruction caused by the Great Chicago Fire and the consequent need to rebuild, along with the continuing rapid growth – Chicago would record over one million residents in the 1890 census – created the largest building boom in the history of the nation. In 1885, the first steel-framed high-rise building, the Home Insurance Building, rose in the city as Chicago ushered in the skyscraper era.

The demand for building materials was such that carpenters just could not work fast enough using hand tools and methods. In response, some entrepreneurs built factories to produce in quantity commonly used items, such as doors, windows, sashes, blinds, and architectural trim. Because of the fickleness of architectural tastes, this was not really mass production, but the process of production was mechanized as much as possible, while retaining the ability to change designs of the product cheaply and with as little bother as possible. Two such businessmen were Edward L. Roberts, and William L. Sharp, who established E.L. Roberts & Co.

When E.L. Roberts & Co. — a Chicago-based wholesale manufacturer of architectural woodwork — issued a catalog of its millwork products in 1903, the firm boasted that the publication included “more novel and useful features … than any sash and door catalogue yet published,” and that it was a book designed to satisfy “critical buyers who demand stylish and tasteful goods.”

This is an ORIGINAL rare turn-of-the-century Roberts catalog, displays a vast assortment of finely-crafted products — from window blinds, brackets, china closets, church fittings, doors, frames, gable finishes, linen closets, moldings and office furniture to parquet floors, sashes, shingles, sideboards, side lights, store fronts, wainscoting and windows.

Nearly 300 sharply-defined line drawings and photographs also provide detailed close-ups of exquisitely carved rosettes, head blocks, grilles, arches, and other decorative accents. Included in these illustrations are superb views of late-Victorian interiors finished with ornately carved balusters and newel posts, paneled walls, exquisite filigree, lovely stained glass windows and magnificent fireplace mantels.

This collectors item will crown the collection of architects, students of architectural history, carpentry enthusiasts, preservationists, restorationists and anyone interested in the interior design and furnishings of a younger American bursting with brawn, ambition, and determination.

A February 1912 biography of Edward Roberts in the American Lumberman carried this information:

EL Roberts one of the aggressive sash and door jobbers of the country since 1869 has changed his vocation to that of a gentleman of leisure He has retired from active business in which he has been known for many years as the principal of EL Roberts & Co WL Sharp manager of the company has also practically withdrawn from active connection with the business EL Roberts & Co have been succeeded by the Roberts Sash & Door Co EL Roberts is one of the picturesque and well loved characters connected with the sash and door industry Always aggressive but of even temperament and regular habits he has been a conspicuous factor in sash and doors for very many years His private olfice has always been a place of welcome to all his friends which include the representatives of the AMERICAN LUMBERMAN He did not forget his customers Many has been the retailer who had not seen Mr Roberts for 15 or 20 years who has been agreeably surprised when dropping in to hear the colonel say How do you do Johnson How are things out in Iowa He could remember names and faces especially those with whom he came into commercial or social contact and this made him one of the most popular men in the sash and door business It is needless to say to the readers of the AMERICAN LUMBERMAN that Mr Roberts business enterprises were successful His methods and his personality made that certain He was very happy in the selection of the coworkers who aided him in building up his business Messrs Roraback and Abbott two of his associates who will continue with the Roberts Sash & Door Co arc celebrating respectively 30 and 21 years connection with the institution In other branches of this industry old employees of the concern have built up enterprises of their own successfully Mr Roberts has always been on friendly terms with those connected with his organization and has the satisfaction of knowing that those who have left his employment are still his friends. Forty six years is a long time to be active in one industry doing business in practically but two locations Mr Roberts started with his brother in the firm of UN Roberts & Bro at Davenport Iowa in 1866 They did a jobbing business one of the first in existence A few months later they bought the sash and door mill of French & Davis who were in the lumber business as well Mr Roberts retired from the partnership with his brother when he came to Chicago in 1879 to start in the sash and door jobbing business Of the men who were then operating millwork factories or selling sash and doors but few are actively engaged in the business today In the early days the volume of business was not so great but the prices were satisfactory Good shop lumber could be bought for $26 and a good pine door sold for $4

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