1877 … this was the year that the Lewis H. Merchant Box Company was established as a business. At the start, this box firm was an extension of the Shute & Merchant fish business. According to family records kept by George E. Merchant, it was James L. Shute who came up with the plan to add a box making section to the business, and it was Lewis H., the younger brother of Wm. T. Merchant, who ended up taking this idea on and eventually making it his own business. Having an on-site box manufacturing entity, made it far easier for S & M to have the packing materials needed for their fish products.
Initially the Lewis H. Merchant Box Co. made its home in the buildings show in the center of this photo of the S & M wharf. Apparently, George Merchant, Jr., who had a seine and net repair business located on the S & M wharf, helped his cousin Lewis H. learn the trade of box construction
Every firm involved with the packing and selling of fish, as well as all sorts of other companies that produced other types of items, were in need of boxes and supplies for packaging and shipping those products. A company such as the Lewis H. Merchant Co., which was renamed the Merchant Box and Cooperage in 1892, was much needed in a city such as Gloucester.
Boxes were only one piece of the fish packing related items the Merchant Box and Cooperage supplied. As with many businesses, the packaging use for products being shipped by the firm also served as advertising.
A short history of the firm from 1916, provides the following description about one aspect of the Merchant Box and Cooperage: "… probably the best equipped wood-printing plant in the country. There are twenty wood-printing presses, which can accomplish any and every description of work in this line. The company does its own engraving, makes its own plates and has a large and varied equipment of steel type. At the outset, this business was upon a very limited scale, having only one small printing press worked by foot power."