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Life Span: 1922-Present
Location: 333 N. Desplaines
The Shears, August, 1922
BRADNER SMITH & C0., will have one of the largest paper warehouses in the world when the company makes additions to the present warehouse building at Des Plaines and Van Buren streets, Chicago. Plans for such additions have already been drawn up and include a seven story building to be erected next to the present building with an additional floor being put on the old structure. This addition and the combined space of the old warehouse will give Bradner Smith & Co. 240,000 square feet of floor space all of which will be utilized by the firm.
The new building is to be erected on the corner of Des Plaines and Van Buren streets. It will be built on a ground area, 150 feet on Van Buren street and 105 feet on Des Plaines, giving the firm a total frontage of 205 feet on Des Plaines street.
Bradner Smith & Co. is Chicago’s oldest paper house. It was founded by J. Bradner Smith and George C. Smith about 70 years ago. The first location, prior to the historic Chicago fire, was in South Water street. After the fire the firm moved to Wabash avenue near Lake street and later to Madison street. The fourth removal of the firm took it to Monroe street, the present site of the First National Bank of Chicago. Twenty years ago the bank took over this property and Bradner Smith & Co. was again forced to move. The fifth removal took the house to the present address at 175 West Monroe street, where the offices of the firm are maintained.
New Bradner Smith and Co. warehouse and office building at Van Buren and Des Plaines Streets. Chicago, which will be completed by next sprlng. It will have close to 30,000 square feet of floor-pace, said to be “the world’s largest paper warehouse.”
Once Had Ox-Cart Delivery
The history of this firm dates so far back that at one time their product was delivered by ox-cart.
As business grew, the firm was forced to move to new and larger quarters. Each move brought greater opportunity to serve the trade and successively each new and larger home of the firm has been out grown until now, with a large retail store building and office at Monroe street with warehouse facilities. the company is forced to erect an addition to this and maintain the largest paper warehouse in the world of its kind.
In the new location the company will combine all its facilities. The offices which have been at the Loop address will be moved to the top floor of the new building. In this way the company will combine the administrative and executive departments at the same point with the storage and shipping facilities and it is felt that this arrangement will give them a better opportunity to render an improved service to the trade.
In the history of this firm one can read the advance of the paper box and the printing industry pretty closely, for the advance of the house has been closely on a line with that of these other two industries. This advance aflortls a striking suggestion of the increase in demand for paper and paper products by manufacturing, retailing and wholesaling business enterprises.
In personnel and territory covered, the firm, since 1852. the year it was founded, has increased to great proportions. In the beginning the Messrs. Smith, proprietors and founders of the company, were their own sales staff and covered all the territory for the firm. In 1922 the staff of salesmen working the Bradner Smith & Co. lines, is enormous and the territory covered includes the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio.
Service and Representation
The firm in its march forward has at all times felt the need to attune that advancement to the bene fit of the trades it served, and consequently has maintained every facility for co-operation with the paper box and printing trades in respect to extent of stocks, scope of sales representation and prompt delivery service. The firm has nineteen salesmen covering the Chicago territory and in addition to these there are fourteen district representatives, each of whom maintains an individual sales organization for covering his respective territory.
With the completion of the new building it is felt that the company will have still further opportunity to broaden both in service and representation. While the firm holds a high reputation for its completeness of stocks and rapidity in filling orders, it is not beyond their expectations that this can be improved upon through economies in time brought about by all departments being housed under one roof.
Work is to be begun on the additional structures at once. it is announced. This will include the erection of a single story on the present warehouses to make them conform with the new building, and the erection of a seven-story building. Plans have been drawn up and it is now anticipated that the building will be ready for the company’s occupancy early next spring.
Bradner Smith & Co. Advertisement
From Chicago’s First Half Century, 1833-1883
Published by The Inter-Ocean
MANUFACTURERS AND DEALERS IN PAPER.
The firm of Bradner Smith & Co., manufacturers and dealers in paper, is just twenty years younger than the city of Chicago, having been established in 1853 at No. 12 La Salle street in a little store 20×60 feet in size. It was a small beginning, but the firm has kept even pace with the development of Chicago, and has kept growing each year as the city has grown until it is now the largest in Chicago, and one of the largest in the world, doing a business of $2,000,000 a year. The firm has now three establishments in the city of Chicago, branch houses at Kansas City, Minneapolis, and St. Paul, and operates six paper mills, manufacturing and selling every sort and size of news, book, wrapping, writing, blotting, and other papers, card board, envelopes, twines, wood pulp, and paper manufacturers’ supplies.
There was very little paper manufactured in the West when Bradner Smith & Co. commenced business, and most of their stock was brought from Eastern mills, but now they not only make their own stock, but supply hundreds of other houses with their manufactures, shipping paper by the train load from their several mills.
Bradner Smith & Co. commenced manufacturing in 1854 at Rockton, Ill., having that year purchased the Winnebago mill, which now makes ten tons per day of express, manilia, rag, and straw wrapping paper. They continue to operate this mill, and their other manufactories are the Ledyard Pulp Mill, at Ledyard, Wis., which makes four tons of dry ‘pulp per day; the Rozet Mill, at Three Rivers, which produces four tons per day of print and book paper; the Tippecanoe Paper Mill, at Monticello, Ind.. which makes two tons of print paper daily. The Marinette Mill, at the place of the same name in Wisconsin, manufactures five tons of print paper, and the mill at Menoimnee, Mich., produces four tons of manilla paper and six tons of wood pulp daily.
Besides their own manufactories, Bradner Smith & Co. carry all varieties of fancy goods, wedding and other stationery, imported and domestic, the Hurlbut plate paper, Crane’s pure linen flats, the Germanic flat and ledger papers, and all other classes of goods used by stationers, printers, book-binders, and publication houses. Regular sizes and standard weights are always in stock, but special sizes and weights can be made to order and furnished promptly at mill prices, the facilities of the firm for supplying the trade being unequaled by any house in the West. A full stock of colored papers is always on hand, ana fancy papers for special purposes will be made to order in quantities to suit. They are also manufacturers of the very best map paper, ana will furnish any weight or size desired at short notice. In cover papers Bradner Smith & Co. have the larirest and best-assorted stock in the country, East or West.
The firm are sole agents for the sale of Weston’s pure linen ledger and record papers, which were awarded the gold medal at the Paris Exposition and the highest award at the Centennial Exposition for a combination
of all the desirable qualities. They are also sole agents for the celebrated “commercial safety paper.” for checks, notes, bills of exchange, bonds, letters of credit, etc.. which has been officially indorsed and recommended by the clearing-house authorities of the principal cities of the country. This is really a safety paper, combining positive security from fraudulent alterations, either by the use of chemical agents or mechanical means.
This paper is made from the very best materials, treated chemically in its manufacture with agents which give positive results. Any attempt at alteration by chemical means immediately destroys the color in the body of the paper, also the surface tinting or lining, which, being once destroyed, cannot be restored.
Bradner Smith & Co. make a specialty of fancy ruling, using: only the very best inks, which, for brilliancy of color and durability, are not excelled. They also carry a full line of all colors, sizes, and styles of envelopes, and will make odd sizes to order. All kinds of fancy stationery and stationers’ sundries are kept in stock, and also a full line of illustrated advertising’ cards, manufactured by Marques, Gair & Bailey, of Paris, London, and New York.
The reputation of the firm and the character of their goods needs no indorsement. A record of thirty years of active business places them at the ‘head of the trade in the West, and their references are their customers.
Chicago Tribune, September 7, 2000
Oldest City Firm Packs Up For Another Town
By Jon Anderson, Tribune Staff Writer.
It’s old, possibly the oldest commercial firm in Chicago doing business under one name. And it’s leaving town.
Over the next few weeks, Bradner Smith & Co., paper merchants, will be pulling out of a seven-story warehouse and offices at 333 S. Desplaines St. and setting up shop in a building in Elk Grove Village. The company’s 2,200 products–different sizes, colors and qualities of paper–will be stocked in a one-floor facility that thankfully, they say, has no elevators.
The move makes business sense–even if it does rip the fabric of local history.
The new quarters will have a dozen loading docks instead of the two behind the current building, built when horse-drawn Bradner Smith wagons used to haul paper over to Printers Row. Trucks will be able to zip in and out, making pickups and deliveries quickly instead of waiting in line for hours. Without elevators, product will move even faster.
Then there is the changing price of real estate.
Once, the Near West Side was, to put it mildly, untrendy. Now, ornate buildings with open floors are being cut into lofts at prices of $300,000 or more. Other space is being shaped into upscale offices, as is likely to happen with Bradner Smith’s building once sales contracts are finalized and new owners take over, probably in the fall.
Gone by mid-September will be Bradner Smith, a company that goes back to the days when Chicago was a rough backwoods town with dirt streets, 40,000 people and overtime for the makers of covered wagons heading west.
It was a time, notes a company history, “when travel was mainly by horseback, wagon or boat. There was no bridge across the Mississippi River anywhere.” Railroads were primitive. The telephone was a distant dream. The union had 31 states, the West was “largely virgin territory” and Millard Fillmore was ending his term in the White House.
“Yes, 1852 was a long time ago,” noted Richard “Rick” Bull III. His office filled with moving boxes, he took an hour off Tuesday during a busy transition period to hark back to the days when his great-great-grandfather, John Bradner Smith, helped set up the firm’s first office, a one-room operation at 12 LaSalle St., just south of the Chicago River.
Later, after several moves, the firm occupied a site later to be known as the First National Bank Plaza. Then, in 1923, it moved to its current address, a building described at the time as “one of the largest paper warehouses in the world.”
“We’ll still keep an office downtown,” said Bull, who is now president of Bradner Smith’s parent firm, Bradner Central Co., which oversees seven paper-related subsidiaries. “What happened was that our customers moved.”
In earlier days, when horses pulled carts at 3 m.p.h., “we needed to be close to the printers, to get paper to them,” Bull said. Indeed, vintage photographs on the firm’s boardroom walls show a company wagon ambling from its warehouse and stables, then at 119 Monroe St., through the streets of the Near North Side.
Now, in an age of speedy trucks, printers can be located far from their paper sources.
Indeed, some theorists wonder if, at the dawn of an era of electronic publishing, paper has had its day.
The building has since been converted to lofts and is now known as the 333 S. Des Plaines Lofts.
On Nov. 4, 2013, Central National-Gottesman Inc (CNG) acquired the assets and business of Bradner Central Company (Bradner Smith & Co.).
Bradner Smith is no more.