Follmer, Clogg and Company Umbrella Factory, Lancaster Pennsylvania

Date added: July 19, 2022 Categories: Pennsylvania Industrial
Interior 5th floor (1986)

According to the United States Bureau of Census, Pennsylvania led the nation in the manufacture of umbrellas in 1900. $5.9 million dollars worth of goods were produced in Pennsylvania that year. Lancaster City operations boasted $2.7 million dollars worth of the goods. Six factories were located in Lancaster, several of which were cottage industries. Silk mills and umbrella handle factories were located in Columbia, Marietta and Lancaster City to supply raw materials for the production of umbrellas. Umbrella manufacturing became Lancaster's most important industry, employing 15% of the City's industrial workforce (1,300 workers) and producing a greater dollar amount worth of goods than Lancaster's second leading industry, tobacco. By the 1920's, Lancaster was boasting the production of more umbrellas each year than any other city in America.

The Follmer, Clogg and Company started business in Philadelphia in 1884. In 1892, Follmer, Clogg and Company joined with Rose Brothers and Hartman Company and several other producers of umbrellas and parasols in Lancaster to form the Lancaster based The Umbrella Company. At that time, Rose Brothers and Hartman occupied the former coverlet factory of Peter Otto on South Mulberry Street near the corner of West King Street. This building constructed 1880 forms the oldest portion of the Follmer, Clogg and Company Umbrella Company. Shortly after the formation of the Umbrella Company, the company took over this building and added a large five story plant at the corner of West King and South Mulberry Streets in the same year. Two years later, in 1894, The Umbrella Company went into bankruptcy and a receiver was appointed.

In the Fall of 1894, the principle members of the firms Rose Brothers and Hartman; Follmer, Clogg and Company; and Alvah Hall and Company purchased the assets of The Umbrella Company and incorporated under the name Follmer, Clogg and Company. The Follmer Clogg and Company umbrella operations prospered at the corner of West King and South Mulberry Streets producing large black silk family sized "bumbershoots". In 1900, the company erected an addition to the rear to expand the shipping, cutting and tipping departments. In 1903 a five story building, used solely for silk weaving and warping, was also added to the rear. Again, in 1905 an addition was constructed to the front along West King Street. Mills were also established in Columbia and Lancaster City for weaving of silk. By 1924, the company had a working capital of $2 million dollars, the largest working capital of any umbrella manufacturer in Lancaster. According to the 1924 publication, LANCASTER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA: A HISTORY, Follmer, Clogg and Company was known throughout Lancaster as the largest manufacturer of umbrellas in the City and the largest umbrella factory in the United States.

During World War I, Follmer, Clogg and Company, in addition to its regular business, produced large numbers of life-saving parachutes for the United States Navy and the United States Army. In addition to personnel parachutes, the company made handkerchief chutes and flare chutes. Follmer, Clogg and Company also invented, patented and manufactured a civilian parachute called the "Follmer, Clogg and Company Positive Opening Parachute". This parachute featured a large canopy whose gores were shaped with a "V" cut configuration at its base and a new type of pilot parachute. After the war, the umbrella factory reverted generally to making its original product until its close in 1939. Parachutes continued to be produced in the silk mill at the rear of West King and South Mulberry Streets into the mid 1940's by the Eagle Parachute Company, a subsidiary of Follmer, Clogg and Company. The Eagle Parachute Company was important for producing the "Eagle" Personnel Parachute, one of the first successful steerable parachutes, patented in May 1938 by Richard H. Hart. The initial acceptance and wide use of this parachute was seen when, in 1939, it was the first parachute employed for fire control by the United States Department of Agriculture's Forest Service Smokejumpers.

In 1939, after 47 years of operations at the same site, the Follmer, Clogg and Company sold its assets, closed its books and divided the remains among the stockholders. The silk umbrella business had decreased rapidly due to the popularity of rainwear and to the introduction of synthetic fabrics, which Follmer, Clogg and Company did not have the equipment to produce. In 1944, the building was acquired by the Van Sciver Furniture Company of Camden, New Jersey. The building served as a furniture store, warehouse and repair shop until its closing in 1982.

Like the Rose Brothers and Company Umbrella Factory, the historical significance of the Follmer, Clogg and Company umbrella factory lies in its connection to the manufacturing of umbrellas, Lancaster's most important turn-of-the-century industry. Though Rose Brothers and Company was the pioneer umbrella manufacturer in Lancaster, Follmer, Clogg and Company was the largest producer of umbrellas in Lancaster, owning and operating not only the umbrella factory, but also the silk mills that supplied the fabrics for umbrellas. The Follmer, Clogg and Company is also an innovative manufacturer of parachutes.