Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Opinion

June 14, 2014

NIAGARA DISCOVERIES: Merritt machinery has 160-year history

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Although the history of the Lockport-based Merritt Plywood Company is long and often serpentine, the origins of the firm date back to 1851. It was at that time that a man named T. R. Bailey began manufacturing a special kind of wood turning lathe in his workshop on Elm Street. 

Nearly 20 years later, in 1870, Isaac E. Merritt, who ran a grocery store, received a threshing machine as payment for a debt. Merritt decided to go into the agricultural implement business with his father-in-law, Thompson Mann. They purchased a building at 58-60 Market St. which had previously housed Field Force Pumps. Ten years later, T. R. Bailey leased space from Merritt at his Market Street building. When Bailey’s Company went bankrupt the following year, Merritt took over the business and formed the “I.E. Merritt Machinery Company.”

The firm specialized in manufacturing woodworking and veneer machinery. Twelve years later, the Market Street location was destroyed by fire. Isaac Merritt decided it was time to retire and turned the business over to his sons, Louis and Herbert, who rebuilt the facility on Market Street. By this time, Louis had married Anna Hayward, a school teacher and librarian for whom Anna Merritt School was later named.

In 1901, the company left its longtime location on Market Street and moved to Michigan Street at South Niagara Street, former home of the Lockport Glass Company. This move allowed the business to grow and expand, and by 1910 Merritt had established a world-wide as well as a domestic market for its machinery. 

In 1920, Louis Merritt stepped down as president in favor of his son, Ericsson. The company now included not only the manufacture of machinery but also research and development of new products and services. During World War II, Merritt became a subsidiary of Monsanto Chemical Co. of St. Louis, Mo., and became known as the Merritt-Monsanto Corporation.

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