Sunday, August 23, 2015

Maze Nails

Bird's Eye View
I went west on Water Street, Peru, IL, trying to follow the IR/.../CB&Q/IV&N tracks to see where they go. Unfortunately, Water Street rather quickly deadended. As I took side streets trying to get back to the tracks, I noticed a big industrial building with a sign of Maze Nails. Since it was a rainy day, I did not bother to take any pictures. Fortunately, the Bird's Eye View gives us a feel for what the building looks like. It looks modern enough that I would not expect to find it in a 1939 aerial photo, which is true. But we shall see there was an older plant off of Church Street.

20150808,09 3784
I knew Maze had a lumber yard down by the river because I took a picture to document their abandoned industrial spur. Did Maze make their own nails? Yes! They started the lumber business in 1848 and started making nails in 1886. In 1886, they made their cedar shingle nails from pure zinc rather than steel so that they would not rust and allow the singles to blow away. Their supply chain was short because Illinois Zinc was a few blocks east on Water Street and M&H Zinc was in the adjacent town of La Salle. (History)

1916 Sanborn Map, Sheet 7
In 1916, West Street went south across the Rock Island tracks to Water Street and W. H. Maze Co. had a plant just south of the tracks on the east side of that street that made shingle nails and glaziers points. Unfortunately, the scanning resolution of the map does not allow one to read much else.

1939 Aerial Photo from ILHAP
In 1922 they moved to a plant off Church Street. (History) I suspect that this 1939 image is of that plant. It has been replaced by the much larger plant pictured at the top of the post.

Nail manufacturing started out as a free inducement to buy cedar shingles and all of the other supplies needed for a job. But their zinc nails quickly grew into a separate business as other lumberyards took advantage of their access to the I&M Canal, riverboats, and two railroads to buy their nails. In 1914 they produced their first hot-dipped nails branded ZINCLAD. That is, they dipped a steel nail into molten zinc because the cost of zinc was skyrocketing. Not only did hot-dipping reduce their material costs, it made it easier to drive the nails because they had a strong steel core. In 1955 their engineers developed an automated nail dipping line to keep up with the demand. The line double dipped the nails to create their improved STORMGUARD nails. They added additional hot-dipping lines in 1972, 1988, 2006, and 2011. They have had several other innovations such as packaging nails in 50- and 5-pound boxes instead of 100-pound kegs and spiral shank nails.

They bought Independent Nail in 1990 and, according to their web site, are America's premier specialty nail company. According to Wikipedia, they are the only American nail company.

Update: A video of a machine that cuts nails.

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