Shute & Merchant
once located at the Head of the Harbor in Gloucester Massachusetts

Shute & Merchant

History of the Merchant Box Company

When started in 1877, the box company was referred to as Lewis H. Merchant, Box Manufacturer. In 1889 the name was changed to the L. H Merchant Box Company, the name it retained until 1892, one year after the death of Lewis Holmes Merchant. As part of the process of incorporation in 1892, it was decided to rename the firm the Merchant Box and Cooperage, a name it retained until the mid 1920s, when the name was shortened to the Merchant Box Company.

Eventually, the box company outgrew the space at S & M, and built a much larger facility at the corners of Cleveland and Willow in Gloucester. This location put them right along the railroad line, which was especially important in terms of the materials being delivered to and shipped from the firm.

The photos show one section of the firm as it looked in 1895 and 1916. According to an 1896 booklet with a short section about this box company, the faciltiy is described a being a three-story frame building, 60 feet by 225 feet in size, and with teh capacity of producing over one and a quarter million boxes annually.

By the time of the 1916 photo, the end of the building had been modified so an extra section was added on the near end. At this point in time, the factory had about 500 feet of rail road track inside, making it possible to bring raw materials in and load finished product to be sent out for shipment.

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1895 photo
1916 photo

1916 adcover
1895 Merchant Box Co. billhead

Lewis Holmes Merchant remained in charge of his box company until he experienced health issues a year or two before his death in 1891. When he needed to step down at that time, he enlisted the help of his nephew, Samuel L. Merchant, to assume the control and operations of the firm. S. L. Merchant, served as president for a number of years.

Gorton's and the Benjamin A. Smith's, a prominent Gloucester family, also have ties to the Merchant Box Company. This link comes through the merger of four fish companies in 1906 to form the Gorton-Pew Fisheries Company --- Slade Gorton, John Pew & Son, the David B. Smith Fish Company and Reed and Gamage. The 1907 sale of Shute & Merchant to the Gorton-Pew Fisheries, included the Merchant Box and Cooperage Company. A 1914 Gorton-Pew billhead lists Benjamin A. Smith as the manager of vessels. Around 1920, a short time after the death of William t. Shute, B.A. Smith may have taken over as president of the Merchant Box and Cooperage. Later, Benjamin A. Smith, II (the man who completed John F. Kennedy's senatorial term when J.F.K. ran for president) also served as president of the company.

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© Shute & Merchant 2016