Historic Structures

JJ Deal and Son Carriage Factory - Kiddie Brush and Toy Company, Jonesville Michigan

Date added: June 24, 2022 Categories: Michigan Industrial Auto Companies

Jacob J. Deal arrived in Jonesville in 1857 where he opened a blacksmith shop along with making a few lumber and heavy wagons. In 1865 he sold the blacksmith shop and started to construct buggies and wagons as well as making repairs. The 1884 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the Deal factory occupying four two-story buildings and a lumber shed at the southeast corner of West and South Streets. During 1887 the company made twelve hundred carts, three hundred wagons and carriages, and three to four hundred sleighs. Carts were sold in Indiana and adjacent areas.

In 1891 Jacob's only surviving son, George V. Deal, became a partner in the company and was named manager. The firm was renamed J.J. Deal and Son. George had started as a bookkeeper with his father in 1884, and by 1890 was starting to lead the company to produce delivery trucks. In 1892 the company erected an office and display building at the southwest corner of Chicago Road (US-12) and West Street in downtown Jonesville. The new building joined the larger complex to the southeast across West Street. In July of that year residents were invited to the grand opening to tour the building and hear an orchestra. The 1892 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the now altered large office building and showroom at the southwest corner of Chicago Road (US-12) and West Street. Lumber drying areas are located to the south of the office building. Tiffany Brothers Carriages was located to the south on the west side of West Street. The J. J. Deal and Son Carriage Factory complex is located on the east side of West Street. It was comprised of four adjoining two-story buildings that housed a wood shop, engine room, iron room, blacksmith and painting shops. A two-story warehouse and painting building is connected by a raised walkway, and two lumber sheds are located on the site.

The west half of the J. J. Deal and Son Carriage Factory building was constructed as part of the Deal complex sometime between 1892 and 1897. The 1897 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map is the first to show the west end of the present day building. It is listed as a three-story tall storage house. This correlates to a historic sketch of the factory complex (unknown date or source) that is reproduced in The Deal Story by Wayne Van Patten. The sketch shows a gable roof on a three-story building. The sketch also correlates to the footprints shown in the 1897 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map. With the exception of the new storage building, the surrounding uses and buildings in the complex remain the same as in 1892.

The 1907 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the final expansion of the J. J. Deal complex. The main complex took over another lot to the east along South Street, as well as taking over other businesses and buildings on the west side of West Street, south of the office building. The factory building has been doubled in size with an addition on the east half matching the original west building. The factory building had the following uses:

West Half:
1 - Crating and shipping
2 - Wheel painting and varnish
3 - Gear painting and varnish
Attic - Storage

East Half:
1 - Storage
2 - Shaft painting
3 - Gear storage
4- Top making

The adjacent smaller buildings to the south of the factory building contain areas for assembly, body storage, a gear room, a spring room, painting, the engine room and coal storage. The second largest building, which was only half the size and height of the factory building, contained the woodworking machinery. A steam dry kiln and two lumber sheds were located at the southeast corner of the property. Across West Street the buildings were primarily used for lumber storage and there was a blacksmith shop.

Under George Deal the company continued to expand. Jacob retired and in 1908 the firm was reorganized into the Deal Buggy Company. In November 1908 George died suddenly and Omar Dickerson, a longtime employee who was married to George's sister-in-law, was named manager. In 1909 the first six automobiles were completed from George's designs, beginning a new line of products alongside the popular wagons and carriages. Dickerson was successful at selling both and the company continued to enjoy success and growth. It is said that every resident of Jonesville worked at J. J. Deal and Son at some point. While this is a bit of an exaggeration the company did employ at least one hundred and forty people at its peak. Long shifts and overtime were common to keep up with demand.

The fourth story was added to the factory building in 1909 according the newspaper excerpts listed in The Deal Story. The 1913 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map reflects the change and lists the following functions in the factory building:

West Half:
1 - Crating and shipping
2 - Wheel painting and varnish
3 - Gear painting and varnish
4 - Storage

East Half:
1 - Storage
2 - Storage and priming
3 - Gear storage and finish
4 - Top making

With the exception of a new, larger lumber shed, the buildings to the south and east of the factory were not changed. Across West Street the office building shows storage in the second floor, and smaller buildings housed agricultural implements, a blacksmith shop, a lumber warehouse and parts storage.

Despite the promising beginnings of auto production the Deal Company failed and went out of business in 1915. What caused the collapse is unclear, but contributing factors may have included the loss of experienced leadership - the death of George Deal in 1908, Omar Dickerson's leaving in 1913, and Jacob Deal's death in 1914 - plus the decrease in demand for horse-drawn buggies and wagons coupled with the rise of competition in the auto industry. Two Deal automobiles are known to survive, one displayed in the Jonesville Village Hall, and one in the National Automobile Museum, The Harrah Collection, in Reno, Nevada.

Universal Body Company, Jonesville Screw Products

Despite the Deal Company failing in 1915, as is typical for many Michigan communities, Jonesville continued to contribute to the automobile boom. The Universal Body Company took over the entire Deal complex in 1918. The company was incorporated in 1917 and manufactured motor buses, Ford Sedan bodies, Arrow Line buses, and truck cabs and bodies. F. M. Rudd of Bronson, Michigan was the company president until his death in 1921. Universal Body occupied the entire Deal complex on both sides of West Street, including the office building on Chicago Road. According to the 1922 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map the west half of the factory building was used for assembly on floors one and two, paint shop on three, and trimming on four. All of the floors in the east half were used for storage except for the second floor which was used for assembly.

The uses in the buildings to the south of the factory were similar to Deal's and included a woodworking shop, a blacksmith, storage, painting, coal storage, engine room, kiln and lumber piles. The office building housed spring manufacturing, and the buildings along West Street included a steel warehouse, implement warehouse, blacksmith and lumber piles. In 1923 the office building on Chicago Road was remodeled as a temporary school for the community after fire destroyed the school building. In 1924 Universal Body was managed by George Sharp. The company remained in business until 1928.

According to newspaper accounts in 1932, two businesses joined Bauerly's woodworking shop in the factory building. In February 1932 Jonesville Screw Products Company was founded by two Hillsdale men, C.E. Pottinger and D. Perry. The company specialized in manufacturing automobile parts on automated machinery. They took over the east end of the first floor that had been previously used as storage. In July of the same year, Jonesville Sheet Metal Products, owned by Bert Swager, opened in the west end of the building, west of the woodworking shop. The company initially had orders for steel boats. In February 1935 Swager moved Jonesville Sheet Metal Products to a different building in Jonesville and in April, another new company, R-B Stamping and Die Company, took their place in the Deal factory building. The company was owned by two experienced die makers, Earl A. Root of Jonesville and C. E. Blair of Hudson. The company did three types of work relating to manufacturing. "First will come designing, both of parts for other manufacturers or for dies to make those parts. Second will be the manufacture of dies, both for themselves or for other metal stamping plants. Third will be the production of finished parts for other firms."

In October and November 1935 the newspaper reported that the chamber of commerce was recruiting the Titan Electric Company to move from Hillsdale to join R-B Stamping in the Deal factory, but it appears the re-location never took place.

In July 1936 the newspaper reported that the factory was being repaired but did not mention what firms were occupying the building. Rotting posts had caused the roof to sag and fail in the center, so the posts were repaired, the roof structure was lifted back into position or replaced as needed.

Kiddie Brush and Toy

In November 1937 it was announced that Paul A. Jones, owner of Kiddie Brush and Toy Company, was purchasing the Deal factory. Kiddie Brush and Toy Company was founded in Bryan, Ohio by Paul (Casey) Jones and John Doty. The company made toy brooms, carpet sweepers and mops. By 1930 the production of children's carpet sweepers was located in Jonesville. In 1931 the company expanded their line to include toy brooms, carpet sweepers, mops, shuffle boards, game boards, games, house cleaning sets, and prize package toys. Croquet sets were manufactured in Byron, Ohio. Branch offices (presumably sales offices) were located in New York City and in the Chicago Merchandise Mart.

By 1934 Paul A. Jones was the sole owner of the company and all of the manufacturing had moved to Jonesville. His purchase of the Deal factory building in 1937 included the entire parcel of land at the southeast corner of South and West Streets that was part of the Deal complex. The November 4, 1937 Jonesville Independent article about the building sale noted that Kiddie Brush and Toy was using "almost all of the first three floors ... either for storage or for manufacturing."

The 1938 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows that Kiddie Brush and Toy was located in the west half of the building with the factory on the first and second floors, and storage on the third and fourth floors. The east half of the building was an onion warehouse on the first floor and painting on the second floor. The map also shows that the remainder of the Deal Complex on the east side of West Street had been demolished, and the buildings on the west side of the street had different owners.

In early 1948 a newspaper article reported that Kiddie Brush would show its most extensive line of toys since the war. Toys sold out during the 1947 Christmas season and 1948 promised more purposeful play with the creation of "every phase of American life reproduced in miniature." The "Friendly Acres Dairy Farm" shown in a 1948 Billie and Ruth toy catalog had a metal barn and plastic cows and fences.

The company's most popular line was the Susy Goose products. The Susy Goose name first appears in the 1941 Toys and Bicycles Buyer's Guide. Billie and Ruth toy catalogs in 1955, 1957, and 1960 all feature the Susy Goose Housekeeping Set that contained a carpet sweeper, broom, dust pan, floor mop, ruffled apron and cleaning "agents" such as a Brillo pad. Kiddie Brush also made the following toys: Friendly Folks Motel; a grocery store sold by Sears in the 1950s and a rocking horse called Perky Pinto.

Kiddie Brush and Toy expanded the factory by ten thousand square feet between 1959 and 1961. In the 1960s the company continued to make children's house cleaning utensils such as housekeeping, laundry, dishwashing and cleaning sets, toy carpet sweepers and brooms, and period furniture units. Besides the Susy Goose toys which included the Susy bassinet set, the company expanded the use of plastic injection molding to create toys such as Chatty Cathy poster beds, Chatty Baby cradles, and Barbie wardrobes. For the 1961 Christmas season the company received permission from Mattel to use the Barbie name with a four poster bed and accessories. Barbie was the largest selling toy at the time. That year the company discontinued making toy supermarket and motel sets. In 1962 the company's toys were given away on Art Linkletter's afternoon "House Party" show.

In 1970 the company moved the plastic injection machinery to Edon, Ohio and its name changed to PlasTex Corporation. Since 1970 a number of manufacturers have used the Deal factory building, J.R. Headers from 1972; Interdyne, producer of dynamic rubber components, from 1976; and Seed America from 2007. According to Hillsdale County Building records an addition of an unknown size was constructed in 1984 and another in 1991. The building is now used for storage and is in foreclosure. There are plans to rehabilitate the building and convert it into senior housing.

Jonesville History

Jonesville was founded in 1828 by Beniah Jones. It was the first village in Hillsdale County and served as the county seat from 1831 until 1841. Early development included a hotel, school, gristmills and a general store. As the population increased, houses and churches were built. By the time Michigan became a state in 1837 the Detroit-Chicago Turnpike had been constructed through Jonesville and Beniah Jones ran the first stagecoach from Tecumseh to Coldwater. The Michigan Southern and Indiana Northern Railroad reached Jonesville in 1849. A woolen mill was constructed in 1853. Sixty-five employees produced wool cloth until 1875 when the company went out of business.

In 1853 Jonesville became a village. A fire department was created in 1856. By 1860 Jonesville was inhabited by 2,000 people. The library was started by the Ladies Library Association that donated books and raised funds to maintain the library. In the second half of the nineteenth century businesses that were founded in the village included a cotton mill, Powers Clothing, Varnum drugstore, the Grosvenor Savings Bank and the Mack Brush Company. It was during this era of growth in Jonesville that the J.J. Deal and Son Carriage Company was formed and grew with the community. The Andrew Mack and Son Brush Company was created by Andrew Mack, a foreman at J. J. Deal who developed a better method of producing paint brushes. The company is still in business today.

Jonesville's growth continued in the first half of the twentieth century. In 1904 an opera house with seating for five hundred people was constructed. Regular passenger rail service brought audience members from other cities. The theater burned in 1932 but was rebuilt several years later as a movie theater. A Michigan State Police post was established in 1917. In 1918 Slesserman and Son began producing sauerkraut and pickles in the former cotton mill. In 1922 prisoners who were completing the paving of US-12 were housed in the town. Roadwork had started on the east and west sides of the state and the paving was joined together in Jonesville at US-12 and M-99. In 1923 a new school for all grades was constructed on the northeast side of downtown, replacing an earlier structure that had burned. While the school was under construction the former Deal office building was used temporarily for classes. The new school served all the students until the 1950s when two new elementary schools were added.

From 1940 to 1950 Jonesville had the highest percentage growth in population in Hillsdale County. This allowed many of the businesses that began in the late 1800s and early 1900s to continue into the 1970s. These included the Varnum drugstore, Langs Grocery, Powers Clothing, Jonesville Lumber Company, and Slesserman and Son. In 1942 Vaco Products Company, a producer of tools, opened a facility in Jonesville. In 1952 Jonesville Products was established to produce automobile related parts; by 1978 it employed 250 people. In 1953 Jonesville Paper Tube Company was started, it employed thirty-five people in 1978. Addison Products, air conditioner manufacturers, began in Jonesville in 1956 and employed 750 people in 1978.

Manufacturing still plays a role in Jonesville's economy at a newer industrial park on the outskirts of town. The village has about 2,400 residents, and a downtown block centered on US-12 (Chicago Road). The commercial area has a mix of older and modern buildings and is surrounded by small neighborhoods containing houses and churches dating mostly from the late 1800s through the early 1900s.