16 thoughts on “SE 17th Avenue, 1934

  1. Great picture of an important company in early 20th century manufacturing. Iron Fireman is all but forgotten now. If I remember correctly, that building, or one almost like it is still there.
    I also like the well-worn footpaths on both sides of the street. There are homes in the distance but I’m guessing that many workers rode the streetcar on McLoughlin and walked to the factories along 17th.

  2. Great Photo. I live nearby this location and go through this intersection often. Love the difference between now and then.

  3. I have to agree with the billboard. The 1934 Buick was arguably one of the most beautiful Buicks ever built. The ‘Knee Action’ refers to a new hydraulic shock absorber that worked one the wheels independently which was new in the early 1930’s giving cars a greatly improved ride quality.

  4. The first mention of the Iron Fireman Manufacturing Company in the Historical Oregonian database is on April 12, 1925 (p. 30). It begins: “COMPANY WIDENS FIELD: Iron Fireman Factory Forms New Sales Organization – The Iron Fireman Manufacturing company, which operates a plant at 984 East Seventeenth street for the manufacture of its product, an automatic coal burner, has formed an eastern sales organization to take care of the distribution of these “iron firemen” in the east and middle west…. This new organization is the Iron Fireman Corporation of Omaha.”
    On February 12, 1928 (p. 24): “IRON FIREMAN FIRM STARTS THIRD ADDITION: Manufacturers of Furnace Stoker Find Business Too Brisk for Present Quarters – Construction of the new addition to the plant of the Iron Fireman Manufacturing company is now well under way. This is the third large addition to the original plant, made necessary by expansion of business during the last year. … The new addition covers a ground area 100 feet by 150 feet. H.C. Carter, superintendent of production, is at present in the east buying several carloads of new machinery for installation in the new addition.”

    Even in the middle of the Great Depression, the company did well. On January 12, 1934 (p. 10), The Oregonian ran a story titled “IRON FIREMAN GROWS.” It went on to describe the company’s having “enjoyed one of its most successful years in 1933, and as a result of net earnings in excess of $325,000” voting dividends of 80 cents a share to investors.

    Throughout the following years, numerous Oregonian stories mentioned the growth and success of the company. The final article in the database (which takes the Oregonian up through 1987) is dated January 10, 1962: “IRON FIREMAN STAYS – If the proposed merger of the Iron Fireman Manufacturing Company with Electronic Specialty Company is effected, the Iron Fireman name will not be lost, but rather should become even better known, writes William H. Burgess, president of Electronic Specialty. The letter from the head of the Los Angeles-based concern was in reply to an editorial in The Oregonian, Dec. 22, in which we expressed the hope that the Iron Fireman name, associated with Portland manufacturing for four decades, would not be lost in the proposed consolidation.”

  5. Around 1947 they had a big neon sign on the factory roof, with an animated image of a fireman shoveling coal (their logo). We lived a couple of blocks away.

  6. Billboards, civic corruption, gangster take overs of unions and shanty towns (Hooverville’s) were plentiful in town during these days. The Longshoreman’s 3 month strike was probably going on during this time.

    Bromo-Seltzer (Emerson Drug Co.) came in pretty blue bottles and was popular for treating headaches. Bromides are a class of tranquilizers and that is a main reason the product was popular with drinkers for hang-overs. Note: Bromides were withdrawn from the U.S. market in 1975 due to their toxicity, they caused many deaths.

  7. Great photo. Lots of memories here. My aunt and uncle worked there in the late 1940s. That’s where they met, which eventually led to their long marriage. Johnny, thanks for supplying the Iron Fireman Company history link. Fascinating reading! It’s interesting that most of their customers were in the East and Midwest because of all the coal-burning furnaces back there. The company must’ve been very competitive to have broken into and developed that lucrative market all the way from the West Coast. As a kid I always loved their distinctive logo — the robot-man shoveling coal. Very cool!

  8. Oregonian December 17, 1950 page 27

    Thomas Harry Banfield (1885-1950) Industrialist, Highway Commissioner, Public Servant

    Excerpt story on this story.
    The combination of great private industrialist and public servant brought him in 1949 selection as “first citizen of Portland.” With C. J. Parker he started (1912) a small Portland foundry which in 1923 became the Iron Fireman corporation, builder of an automatic stoking apparatus whose use became more than nationwide, with branches in Cleveland and Toronto In 13 years including 1948 the factory’s output was valued at $190,000,000

  9. The Banfield Expressway is named for Thomas Harry Banfield. Thanks for that excerpt of the story on his connection to the Iron Fireman corporation, Dennis!

  10. The great history Johnnie Mnemonic gave us the link to led (via its bibliography) to a website that gave further information about what happened to Iron Fireman —

    “In 2000 Iron Fireman was acquired by Vapor Power, who moved operations to Franklin Park, Illinois, where they operated until production ceased in December 2011.

    On Dec. 31st, 2011, the owners of Iron Fireman ceased burner production and sold all remaining assets for burners of the Iron Fireman business to OEM Boiler Parts Inc., of Elizabethtown, PA- including all engineering and sales records, parts inventory and production tooling.”


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