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Why Industrial History?

1. Agricultural Beginnings

2. The Thomas Family Busines

3. Central Chemical and the Fertilizer Industry

Why Industrial History?

Names like Möller, Pangborn, Mack Truck, and Fairchild are probably familiar to all of you and most residents of Hagerstown. The last 125 years of this city’s history are intimately linked with the story of these and other industries in the city. The arrival of the railroads in Hagerstown in the 1870s and 80s quickly led to the development of industries of all kinds in the area. “Made in Hagerstown” is a label that could have been stamped on products as diverse as furniture, shoes, rubber, organs, airplanes, radar equipment, sandblasting equipment, gloves, fertilizer, ribbon, cars, and refrigeration doors. These products were most frequently shipped to outlets within Maryland and the neighboring states of Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. However, products from Hagerstown were also sold in Europe, Australia, and throughout the rest of the country.

The history of Hagerstown’s many industries however is not as simple as a story of founders and products. First there is the question of the physical presence of industry in Hagerstown’s landscape. Originally, industries were most frequently located near railroads downtown on the inside of blocks that housed residential and commercial uses on their street faces. As industries grew, they too often adopted a street face. However, as larger industries began to require more land, public policy began to discourage downtown industrial locations, and suburbanization of everything from housing to schools and work became common, many newer industries established themselves out of town on campus-like settings. Another thread of the industrial history of Hagerstown is centered around the philanthropy of its founders. Probably the two most well known industrial philanthropists here were M.P. Möller and Thomas Pangborn. Both men gave much back to the community, helping fund parks, churches, and the YMCA. An additional layer of industrial history is the one of the men and women worked in the factories. Some industries employed as few as ten workers while the payrolls of others numbered in the hundreds. Some were mainly staffed by women; others by men. Some were unionized; others were not. A number of the industries had long tenure in their workforces with little turnover and vacant positions being filled by family members of current employees. The make-up and character of company workforces in Hagerstown were as diverse as the products they manufactured.

These few themes do not touch upon all of the facets of Hagerstown’s industrial history. In fact the most vital thing about it is the manner in which it is connected with the larger history of the town and its people. It was Hagerstonians who founded these industries, worked in them, and bought and sold their products. Therefore, the history of Hagerstown’s industries is really a history of its people. --Rebeccah Ballo

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