Peabody Singing Tower

 North Manchester, Indiana

Recipient of Indiana Historical Society's Awards--"2013 Outstanding Project Award" &
"2009 Outstanding Historical Organization".  Welcome to our web site!  Enjoy using this Portal to Our Past!

  Home  Eel River  Native Americans  Pioneers  Agriculture  Businesses  Roads  Railroads  Banks  Military    
N.Manchester   Liberty Mills   Laketon   Townships  College   Schools  Churches  Cemeteries  Deeds
Photographs  Biographies  Family Roots  Obits  Newspapers  Architecture  Newsletters   More  



Early 1880s
1890 Directory
1904 Advertisers
1920 Businesses
 Main St. 1923-1928
Beery Orchard
Blackmore Cigars
Cabinet Makers
Canning Factory

Cigar Factories
DeWitt Auto

DeWitt Building
Drug Stores
Excelsior Factory
Farm Implement
Flour Mill
Furniture Making
Grandstaff Rendering
Grove's Grocery
Hayes Motors
Heckman Bindery
Hotel Sheller
Howe Bait
Leedy Motor Co.
Louie's Candy

Mfg Industries
N.M. Airport
N.M. Foundry
Oppenheim-125 Yrs
Peabody Retirement
Peabody Seating
Planing Mill
Rex Windmill
Stickley Furniture
Telephone Cos.
Wagon Makers
Warner Brooder

  Copyright © 2009-2020
North Manchester
Historical Society
All rights reserved.

Please contact
our Center for History
if you find
inaccuracies or
inappropriate content.


Source: North Manchester Journal, August 17, 1905

Shipped Goods to Asia

The Peabody School Furniture company sent out an invoice of forty double school desks, Tuesday, that have to make a trip of over half around the world before getting into service. The goods were consigned to Rangoon, Burma, located in Southern Asia. From here the shipment will go to New York, cross the Atlantic, through the Mediterranean sea, the Suez canal, the Red sea, and through the Indian ocean to Rangoon. This is probably the longest distance that goods have ever been shipped from North Manchester. It would really have been nearer to have sent them around the other way, but this route offers the best facilities. The Hoosier Skirt company has filled several orders for the Sandwich islands, and for the New Zealand islands.

Source: North Manchester Journal, August 10, 1905

Thomas Peabody was in Columbia City Monday, and while there closed a contract to furnish desks for the new high school building which is being erected there. The contract is quite a large one.

Source: Aurora (1910) Ad:

Manufacturers of HIGH GRADE School Furniture, Opera and Folding Chairs

Source: North Manchester Journal, September 1, 1910

Pay Roll Has Surpassed Limits of the Time Clock.

A couple or three years ago the Peabody School Furniture factory in this city bought an employee's time clock for their factory with a capacity of a hundred names. At that time it was thought that the clock would be all that would ever be needed in that way in the factory, and that it would care for all of the names that would ever be on the pay roll, but last week another list had to be prepared for there were 105 people on the pay roll, and there will probably be that many or more there all the time for several months. The pay roll last week at this factory amounted to considerably over a thousand dollars. The output for the month of August was in excess of thirty-eight car loads of school desks, not including the local shipments of less than car load lots. Also in this list should properly be counted eight car loads of castings which were shipped direct from the foundry, and that are not counted with the thirty -eight shipped from the factory. During the month over sixteen car loads of lumber were received at the factory and this will have to be greatly increased for at the rate the work is going now will take an average of fully a car load of lumber a day. The month of August saw nearly eight thousand dollars worth of castings alone used by this factory.

Thus has an institution that only a few years ago made a very modest start grown to a place where it is not only the pride of North Manchester, but is really the pride of the country as well. The Peabody School Furniture is known all over the country for its excellence, and it is taking the name of North Manchester to all parts of the world, for the desks are used everywhere that schools are found. It is a big business, quietly and successfully managed, and is a mighty good thing for North Manchester.

Source: Aurora (1927) Ad:

The Peabody School Furniture Co.
North Manchester, Indiana

The factory of The Peabody School Furniture company is one of the oldest and largest industrial enterprises in North Manchester. One hundred fifty men are given employment for three hundred days each year. The average length of service of the officials and department heads is twenty-one years. Institutions are but lengthened shadows of individuals.

Peabody products are well known in the U.S. More than 30,000 school desks and 23,000 folding chairs were furnished California Schools during 1926.

The commodious gymnasium and auditorium erected by Manchester College last year was equipped with our popular No. 600B opera chair.

When interested in School or Church chairs, address THE PEABODY SCHOOL FURNITURE CO., North Manchester, Indiana.

Source: Certificate of Partnership, Wabash County Partnership Book 1 (1941-1985), p. 20, December 28, 1942:

The Peabody Company
North Manchester
, Indiana
Firm Members/Partners:
Thomas A. Peabody, resides at North Manchester, Indiana
Fred J. Gingerick, resides at North Manchester, Indiana
Otto M. Parmerlee, resides at North Manchester, Indiana
Nolan D. Walker, resides at North Manchester, Indiana

Source: Certificate of Partnership, Wabash County Partnership Book 1 (1941-1985), p. 26, July 1, 1943:

 The Peabody Company
North Manchester
, Indiana
Firm Members/Partners:
Thomas A. Peabody
Otto M. Parmerlee
Fred J. Gingerick
Nolan D. Walker
Robert M. Stauffer

All residing in North Manchester, Ind.
Previous partnership was dissolved on June 30, 1943 (see above)

 Source: Notarized Partnership Certificate, Wabash County Partnership Book 1 (1941-1985), p. 38, May 15, 1944:

 The undersigned, Fred J. Gingerick, Mary M. Peabody, Mary K. Peabody, Otto M. Parmerlee, Robert M. Stauffer, and Nolan D. Walker, all residents of the Town of North Manchester, Wabash County, Indiana, do hereby certify that we are engaged as partners under the firm name and style of The Peabody Company, in operating a business at North Manchester, Indiana, such business being substantially the business formerly conducted by a partnership of the same name, which consisted of Thomas A. Peabody, Fred J. Gingerick, Otto M. Parmerlee, Robert M. Stauffer, and Nolan D. Walker, and which was dissolved on May 12, 1944.

Source: Aurora (1953) Ad:

1902 "Going to school for 51 years" 1953

VOLUME VII, Number 4 (November 1990)

Peabody Impact Beyond North Manchester and School Seating
By Nolan D. Walker

James B. Peabody who was in the hardwood lumber business with his brother, Simon J. (Jack) Peabody, in Columbia City joined with J.H. Stiggleman of Wabash in 1902 in negotiations with the business men of North Manchester.  An agreement was reached whereby the Excelsior factory building at the corner of Fourth and Beckley Streets was purchased for $3,000.  Peabody and Stiggleman signed a contract with the Manchester merchants to transfer the building debt-free to Peabody Stiggleman Company when 60,000 hours of labor had been paid to their employees.

The officers of the new corporation were J.B. Peabody, president; J.H. Stiggleman, vice-president; and T.A. (Tom) Peabody, son of J.B., secretary-treasurer. 

The balance of 1902 and early 1903 was spent in acquiring manufacturing equipment and materials.  Production started in April 1903.  Many of the patterns for the line of school furniture were purchased from the Wabash School Furniture Company which had dissolved several years earlier.

The first or early years were struggling ones, and many times the management debated at considerable length whether or not to continue.  After two or three years Stiggleman left the company, and the Peabodys  changed the name to The Peabody School Furniture Company.

Things began looking up: the young company began turning out a line of school desks, teachers’ tables, opera and church chairs and folding chairs that became the envy of the industry.

Key people in those early years were J.J. (Jake) Wolfe, plant superintendent; Fred Gingerick, vice president; C.B. (Bert) Delancey, sales manager; Arthur Wagner, woodworking foreman; Chesley Bone, finishing foreman; Albert Olinger, shipping foreman; and Otto Grossnickle, packing foreman.  As sales and production increase, the plant increased from 15,000 square feet to its ultimate size of 230,000 square feet.

As long as Peabody produced school furniture and public seating, it was never completely closed.  During the depths of the Depression production was reduced to a three-day work week, and the unsold furniture was stored in warehouses.  This policy was a direct order from Tom Peabody to furnish limited employment to his employees.

The Peabody Company was largely responsible for starting and continued production of the North Manchester Foundry.  J.B. Peabody, looking for a satisfactory source of castings for his school desks, induced John Stauffer, father of Robert Stauffer, to start the Foundry.  In the late 1920’s the steel fabricating section was added under the direction of Albert Ronk and George Ulrey to manufacture steel desks and folding chairs.

The philanthropies of the Peabodys were numerous, many of which were never publicized.  The Peabody Memorial Home, a retirement home for the elderly, was built.  In addition, Warvel Park was given to honor the memory of Tom Peabody’s close friend, Jonas Warvel.  In 1935 a bonus of $100 per year was given to each bona fide employee for each year the employee had been with the company.  After Peabody’s death his will provided another bequest of $100 per year of employee service.

Thomas Peabody died in 1944, but the company had been under Fred Gingerick’s leadership for several years.  As World War Two came it had a limited war production and a quota of 25,000 desks.  In addition, Army chairs, folding cots, tool chests and tail assemblies for fragmentary bombs were produced here.  After the war full production of public seating was resumed.  Upon the death of Fred Gingerick in 1949, Otto Parmerlee, treasurer and director of purchasing, was elected president; Nolan Walker, vice-president and general manager; Mary Peabody, secretary; Delbert Johnson, treasurer; and Robert Stauffer, chairman of the board.

More recent sequence of events includes installations in outdoor areas
--- New Castle Products Company of New Castle, Indiana, approached the Peabody Board of Directors about the possibility of purchasing the company.  Since a number of the officers and executives were approaching retirement, the decision was made to sell.

Some of the more glamorous or better-known seating installations were outdoor arenas, such as Boston’s Fenway Park, Cleveland American League Park, Baltimore American League Park, addition to Yankee Stadium, Roosevelt Raceway, Aqueduct Racetrack, Kentucky State Fairgrounds, Fort Wayne Coliseum, and a soccer stadium in Saudi Arabia where the chairs had to be packed into the interior by camel back.

Shortly after the sale New Castle Products appointed Howard Barber president of the company.  A new line of school furniture was designed and put into production.

1960 --- Plastic seats and backs were added to the line, and chrome plating was made available on the metal frames.  A year later Curtis Miller became vice-president and general manager, succeeding Barber, and R.J. Piros, president of New Castle Products, also assumed the presidency of Peabody.
1965 --- A folding wall partition was put into production and 70,000 square feet of floor space was added.
1969 --- The American Standard Corporation acquired the New Castle Products Company and the Peabody Plant.  Dick Shoemaker was appointed president of the Peabody and majestic Furnace plants.  Production of school furniture and public seating was discontinued in favor of a line of metal fireplaces.  Sometime thereafter Shoemaker retired for reasons of health.
1984 ---American Standard Company elected to close North Manchester operations completely.

Source: NMHS Newsletter Feb 2002

Peabody Seating

During the latter part of 1902 James B. Peabody and J. S. Stiggleman started the Peabody-Stiggleman School Furniture factory in what was known as the old Excelsior building, Beckley and Fourth. Stiggleman soon retired and the business became the Peabody School Furniture company, later the Peabody Company and still later The Peabody Seating Company, Incorporated. By 1950 the board of directors included Robert Stauffer, chairman, Mrs. Mary Peabody and Otto M. Parmerlee. James B. Peabody died in California November 15, 1934, but the factory had for some time been under the direction of his son, Thomas A. Peabody, who with Fred J. Gingerick continued in charge. After the deaths of both of these men a new organization was formed with Otto M. Parmerlee as president.

Other public seating was added many years ago to the school furniture line. By 1950 in point of output and number of employees this factory was at the top of the list in North Manchester.

For many years in the Peabody office was an interesting relic of the old days, a letter press book in which copies of letters sent were made by dampening the original, putting it in a book with tissue paper leaves and applying heavy pressure. This old book contained probably a couple of hundred pages, and in it were copies of all of the letters sent during the year of 1903. Today it would take many times that much space just for the federal tax reports, and other information demanded by the government. In 1903 one clerk could act as bookkeeper and stenographer, while the manager could generally handle the office routine in a couple of hours, having the rest of the day to superintend actual production.