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On The Cutting Edge

September 9th, 2022

(Adapted from April 2001 Historical Society Newsletter)

During the late 19th and early 20th Century, metalworking and iron production were one of the mainstays of Geneva’s industrial base.  Several forges and foundries prospered in the city during these years, at first manufacturing agricultural tools and machinery, and later consumer goods.  What follows is a short history of one of these businesses.

Postcard of Geneva Cutlery now the Cracker Factory

Geneva Cutlery

One of the earliest metal businesses in Geneva was the small cutlery business Phineas Prouty established with his hardware store in 1815.  The cutlery business expanded and changed during the 19th Century.  In 1902 the business was incorporated as the Geneva Cutlery Co.  with D.H. Henry as president.  The company became know for its high grade Genco Razor and at one time the company was said to be the largest manufacturer of razors in the world.  A report, circa 1912, notes that the company owned its own plant in Torrey Park (Lehigh Street), employed 200, and produced 300 dozen standard razors daily.

Brick Building Black Doors Event Entrance

Entrance to the Cracker Factory.

In 1934, Ekco Products of Chicago purchased the company and renamed it Geneva Forge.  Manufacturing shifted from razors to cutlery and kitchenware.  In 1939, reacting to rumors that the Forge would be moving, the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, Geneva Industries, and the city took action to provide a new plant for the company.  In 1946, Geneva Forge moved to a new site on Preemption Street.  Five years later the size of the plant doubled.  At its peak, 600 men and women produced a variety of flatware products.  Eventually, foreign competition began to affect sales and in November 1961, Ekco Products announced that the Geneva Forge plant would close and be consolidated with a plant in Canton, Ohio.  When it closed 225 people were employed at the factory.  Zotos International (now Henkel Company) purchased the Forge Avenue facility in 1963.

Since 2007 the Geneva Cutlery building on Lehigh Avenue has housed Miles & May Furniture Works, a small company that handcrafts furniture from recycled and reclaimed wood. With 6,000 square feet the second floor was converted into a multi-use space called the Cracker Factory in 2010.  The Cracker Factory has hosted art shows, concerts, dance performances, and private events.

Join Historic Geneva for an evening at the Cracker Factory on Thursday, September 22.  Explore the Miles & May Furniture Works and a private apartment.  Listen to a talk by Historic Geneva Curator John Marks. See a pop-up exhibit tracing the building’s industrial history.   The event will run from 6 to 8 pm.  Hors d’oeuvres will be served with a cash bar.  Pre-sale tickets are $25 per person and $30 at the door.  For tickets call 315-789-5151 or purchase online at historicgeneva.org.  Proceeds from the event benefit Historic Geneva.

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