The Telegraph’s April 1 column-
Editor’s Note: Imagine Nashua: Then & Now is a weekly photo column by Don Himsel. Each week, he will feature an old photo within a more recent photo and an explanation of how he got the shot.
The devil, they say, is in the details.
It was a million-dollar idea that went nowhere, but in the minds of a pair of early Nashuans, it got them started.
Reportedly, in the mid 1800s Charles Gill said to O.D. Murray, “I wish I could make a playing card in quantity. California is going to sweep every pack in the East. There’s millions in it.”
That is in reference to Gold, with a capital G. There were several gold rushes in the western U.S. in the 1800s. Gill and Murray wanted in.
Fortune seekers had plenty of time on their hands while making the trek west. If you had the dough for the boat ride, you could expect to be playing a lot of poker on the 15,000-mile ride. Hanging over the rail as you rounded the churning water at Cape Horn may cut into game time. Still, that’s several months without Netflix and it was probably hard to find people to join in to sing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” after, say, the Jersey coast.
Murray bought out John Fennimore Marsh from his interests in the Nashua Glazed Paper Co. that he started in the mid-1860s on Pearson Avenue. Other interested parties got involved, including a business in Rhode Island that was tapped to provide the stock to print the cards.
However, the head of that company was also a man of the cloth who apparently, when he learned about what his material was going to be used for, pulled the plug on the deal.
In Volume 33 (from 1902) of the trade journal “Geyer’s Stationer,” Gill was noted as a bookseller and printer of reward of merit cards for Sunday schools – essentially good behavior notes for children and now a collector’s item.
“The firm of Gill & Co. was formed, printing and finishing machinery bought and an order for cardboard was placed with Potter & Co. of Pawtucket, R.I. About this time Gill & Co. ran up against a stonewall (sic), for Potter refused to supply cardboard for playing cards, saying that they were the invention of the devil for the purpose of enticing the unsuspecting into the infernal regions.”
“What shall we do? asked Gill of his partners,” the story continues. “We have machinery and no cardboard. C.D. Murray suggested that they make their own cardboard. Accordingly, C.P. Gage packed his carpet bag and started for New York in a quest for a color mixer. When he returned he reported that he had engaged a man who had been in the employ of J. & L. De Jong, and who also had a knowledge of the manufacture of cardboard, which he obtained before leaving Germany. The color mixer induced Gill & Co. to enter in the manufacture of surface-coated paper and cardboard for box makers and printers, and strange as it may appear, Gill & Co. never made a playing card.”
There were more changes – big ones, in fact – as it included an eventual move across Main Street and eventually a metamorphosis into Nashua Corp.
The building became home to other manufacturing ventures and eventually was taken by The Nashua Telegraph. The Telegraph tore the old building down to expand its 60 Main St. operation.
So there you have it. No foolin’.
Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow Himsel on Twitter (@Telegraph_DonH).