Union National, Inc.: Smǻland Entrepreneurs

The Union National, Co. had extremely humble beginnings. When it opened its doors, it employed a total of eight men in a 250 feet long by 60 feet wide building that was located at 242 Crescent Street in Jamestown, New York.

In its first year, the company rapidly produced and sold bookcases and desks in an effort to boost profits for the purpose of reinvestment. By the time the company entered its second year of business, it began producing high-end dining room suites.

At some point between 1901 and 1904, the original building was either expanded or rebuilt to allow its growing labor force 65,000 feet of production space. 

Pictured: Union National Inc., American: Jamestown, New York, 20th Century/Contemporary, Black Lacquered Breakfront Secretary Cabinet with Figural, Floral and Architectural Chinoiserie Decoration.

 

The distinction of quality in its product lines created a vast increase in demand early on. This made adding electric motor drives to the company’s machinery a necessity. 

In 1904, the company was incorporated under New York State and began operating as United National, Inc. Its board determined that it was necessary to build a 100,000-feet edition after the brand gained national recognition.

The original building and the new edition were adjoined to create a “U” shape. Its unique architectural layout was said to have almost doubled the buildings size. 

Union National, Inc. employed 175 employees around the time of its incorporation and employed 300 at its peak. Even after closing its doors in 1994, it is still recognized as one of Jamestown, New York’s most elite furniture companies.

Early pieces, adorned with a metal label are highly valued and sought out by collectors nation wide to this day. Many sources report that Union National, Inc. created specialized pieces for Wayne Newton, Lucille Ball, Jerry Lewis and William Holden. One clipping on file at the Fenton History Center mentions the raising of the original Union National, Inc. building when Master Carvers was established in its place in 1997. 

Smǻland Entrepreneurs

Union National, Inc. was established by the Nord brothers in 1901. Although a number of sources list the company as being established in 1891, this date is likely confused with the date that the Nord Furniture Company was established.

The Nord Furniture Company was owned and operated by John, August, Edward and Alfred Nord. Before establishing the Nord family named business, all four brothers initially worked at the A.C. Norquist Company upon their arrival to Jamestown, New York. 

Pictured: A black lacquered wooden box with Union National, Inc. furniture metal emblem. This photo was submitted by Jared Paxton in an inquiry via the Fenton Facebok page. 

In 1900, August, Edward and Alfred set out on their own to form Union National, Inc. after selling their shares of the Nord Furniture Company to their eldest brother, as it had always been the trio’s dream to manufacture high-end dining room suites. 

August Nord initially acted as the president and the superintendent of the company; Edward Nord acted as the general manager, secretary and treasurer; Alfred Nord acted as the vice president of the company and oversaw the cabinet department; and their cousin Frank O. Norquist was elected as an officer.

John Nord was born in 1868 and arrived in Jamestown in July of 1882. He is describes as having had “done well in the business way” in John Phillips Downs’ History of Chautauqua County and its People. 

August Nord was born in 1868 and arrived in Jamestown in 1885. In many publications, he is characterized as the son of a farmer and was said to have had a strong ambition to follow his brother John’s footsteps in America. After some time he was promoted to president of Union National, Inc.  August had holdings in the American National Bank and married Anna Sandburg in 1894, who he had four children with. 

Edward Nord was born in 1871 and arrived in Jamestown in 1891. He married Rose Ogren in 1896, who he had three children with. Outside of Union National, Inc., he acted as the director of the American National Bank and was one of the organizers of the Jamestown Marble Iron Company and the Jamestown Mutual Insurance Company. Interesting enough, Edward also had holdings in the Vinculo Sugar and Reality Company of Cuba.

Pictured: Kalmar Castle, Smǻland, Sweden. Its first tower was raised in 1180. The castles appearance has remained unchanged since 1580.

Alfred Nord was born in 1875 and arrived in Jamestown in 1891 with his brother Edward, mother and father. He immediately began working at the Newman Bed Spring Company and was employed at the A.C. Norquist Company by 1892.

In addition to working at the A.C. Norquist Company, he steadily worked on wood carving techniques at Atlas Furniture Company, Empire Case Goods Company and Jamestown Mantle Company.

During this time, he attentively took evening classes and the Young Men’s Christian Association to expand his education. Alfred married Ester Ogren in 1905, who he had four children with. Like his brothers, he was a lifelong member of the Swedish Methodist Episcopal Church, had strong Republican interests and belonged to the Norden Club. 

 

Interested in learning more about furniture manufacturing in Jamestown, New York?  Visit the Fenton History Center research center, located at 73 Forest Avenue in Jamestown, New York, in the historic Hall House. Find texts like John Phillips Downs’ History of Chautauqua County and its People and review pre-compiled research files.

The Jamestown Furniture file, in particular, includes compiled newspaper clippings and documents that pertain to furniture manufactures in the city. Learn more about all the research center has to offer: https://www.fentonhistorycenter.org/research-center/ 

The museum (67 Washington Street in Jamestown, New York) and research center are open Monday through Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM. Visit the Fenton History Center at fentonhistorycenter.org, like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and find us on Twitter.  

 


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