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Globe Casket Company

Innovators of the Cloth-Covered Casket

“Among the most important enterprises of Kalamazoo is the Globe Casket Manufacturing Co., and it is probably no exaggeration to say that they are at least as well and widely known as any other great concern in the same line in this country.”

Kalamazoo Illustrated (Dayton, 1892), p.44

Organized and incorporated in 1870, Kalamazoo’s Globe Casket Company was one of the first of its kind in the world to manufacture cloth-covered caskets. Along with the emergence of the Kalamazoo Paper Company (est. 1867), the two businesses helped to usher in Kalamazoo’s grand industrial era.

Advertising Carte de Visite, c.1876. Kalamazoo Valley Museum Collection

The businessmen associated with the company’s establishment were Oscar M. Allen, W. B. Clarke and J. P. Woodbury. Allen, like so many of his entrepreneurial ilk, contributed much to the business and charitable life of Kalamazoo throughout the late 19th century. Allen, a native of Lockport, NY, arrived in Kalamazoo in 1853, knowledgeable in the trade of coach painting. Overtime, Allen had a hand in several of Kalamazoo’s most prominent businesses, including the Henderson-Ames Company, the Bryant, Superior and Imperial Paper mills, the Illinois Envelope Company, and the Kalamazoo Corset Company. Allen obtained primary ownership from 1874 to 1887, but a company reorganization and reincorporation in 1887 saw Allen relinquish his hold on the company. He stayed on as president until 1899, when he retired and was replaced by R.D. McKinney. Allen, who is buried in Mountain Home Cemetery, has one of the cemetery’s most notable headstones–an ostentatious globe. The company continued their success into the 20th century at their Water Street location, until 1950, when they began the process of liquidation.

“The Globe Casket Company has played a significant role in the development of Kalamazoo as a major industrial center in Michigan and the Midwest. Founded shortly after the Civil War by one of the city’s most ingenious inventors and entrepreneurs, it soon became one of the nation’s leading casket manufacturers. The Globe Casket Company was known for several innovative and unique products such as a cloth draped casket and a movable window in a coffin. It also enjoyed a prestigious reputation as a producer of quality products.”

National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 1989

Oscar M. Allen house, corner of West Main Street and Allen Blvd., 1894

205 E. Water Street Factory

The company’s original headquarters were situated on the northwest corner of North Burdick and Water Street (aka the Allen Block). This original building was built in 1868 by esteemed local contractors Bush & Paterson. The second building was built in 1900 at 205 E. Water Street by contractor Arthur Rickman, and survives today because of the effort to revitalize the abandoned building in 1997 by Portage developer PlazaCorp. With a new lease on life, the rebranded (Globe Building) four-story, 40,000 square-foot structure is home to several commercial enterprises, including the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange.

 

Written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, May 2023

Sources

Books

Compendium of history and biography of Kalamazoo County Mich.
David Fisher and Frank Little, 1906
H 977.417 F53

Kalamazoo illustrated
Frank C. Dayton, 1892
H 977.418 D276


Articles

“O.M. Allen today is 80 years young”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 16 January 1908

“Globe Casket firm to be liquidated”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 20 October 1950

“Globe gets a new life”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 8 March 1997, page A1, column 2

“Casket company building being resurrected”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 3 November 1997, page C1, column 3


Local History Room Files

Subject File: Buildings – Kalamazoo – Water, E., 205

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