Hoosick Township Historical Society

Newsletter - September 2006

Editor: Phil Leonard
Museum Curator: Charles Filkins
Louis Miller Museum (518) 686-4682

Factory on First Street

From Potato Digger to Paper Machinery to Copper Foil. Since 1891, a large factory has been located at 80 First Street.

It started on March 18, 1891 when the Pruyn Manufacturing Company was established to manufacture potato diggers invented by Henry S. Pruyn. The company built a plant at this site and was producing and selling potato diggers all over the country. In the Hoosick Falls Directory of 1893 the last sentence about the company said,”There is no doubt in a reasonable time the Pruyn potato digger will be as well and favorably known over the world as the harvest machine manufactured in Hoosick Falls.” In 1894, the company went bankrupt.

James A. Noble from Lawrence, Massachusetts moved to this area in 1894 to manufacture paper making machinery. A.L. Johnston, a successful store keeper on Church Street, purchased the foundry of the bankrupt Pruyn Company. After a few years Mr. Johnston teamed up with James Noble and the Noble and Johnston Machine Shop was incorporated. The excellent paper machinery produced at this factory was soon known throughout the paper industry. The plant grew into a machine shop, wood-working shop, and a first class blacksmith and steel shop. By 1899, it was employing over 40 people. All was going very well. However, on March 14, 1902 the plant was destroyed by a major fire.

A. L. Johnston declined to invest in the rebuilding of the business and factory. Walter A Wood, Jr. became interested, and the Noble and Wood Machine Company was organized in 1902. A new modern well-equipped plant was established. In several years, over 150 men were working in this thriving enterprise. James Noble was the President of Noble and Wood and Hugh Blackinton, brother-in-law of Walter A. Wood, Jr. became Treasurer. Noble and Wood became a leader in paper making machinery. As a side line, they began manufacturing piano parts These piano parts were cast, machined, plated and polished in the plant and shipped out ready to be assembled. Fifteen to twenty five men worked all year round on this process.

Noble and Wood flourished and during World War II, the company employed over 250 individuals. During this time about 100 woman were employed making artillery shell boosters. Business slowly declined in the 60s until only 50 people were employed. In 1969 Simmons Machine and Tool Corporation of Menands purchased 53% of the company’s stock. The Simmons company went bankrupt in 1973, and the Noble and Wood Machine Company closed in January 1974.

The factory was purchased by Oak Industries. In August of 1977, the manufacturing of copper foil started at this factory through a joint venture between Oak and Mitsui Mining. The business flourished, and in 1988 plans were drawn for a new plant on Route 22 opposite True Value. In 1990 plans were cancelled, and the plant was built in South Carolina. In 1999, the company talked about expanding the workforce. The electronic industry became weak and in July 2001, 100 employees were temporally laid off. In November 2001 the lay off became permanent. Research and development are being done at present with a faint hope that manufacturing at this site will be brought back to Hoosick Falls.

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