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When Gustav Adolf Bisler and his brother Emil established their paper box manufacturing company in Philadelphia in 1874, the city claimed to be the largest producer of paper boxes in the United States. In that year, paper boxes for hosiery, boots and shoes, hats, medicines and candies were produced by over thirty firms in Philadelphia employing from 400 to 1,900 men and women. The demand for paper boxes decorated with printed labels increased steadily in the decades after the Civil War. Bisler Brothers, later G.A. Bisler, Inc., specialized in pasteboard boxes and folding cases, particularly folding suit boxes and confectionary boxes including the distinctive boxes for the well-known Philadelphia confectioner Stephen Whitman.

Bisler constructed a new six-story brick building for the paper box factory at 245-255 North 6th Street on the east side of Franklin Square around 1901. Twenty-five years later the building was demolished to make way for the construction of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. The Library Company's photograph collection depicts the factory in the early years of the twentieth century documenting all aspects of paper box manufacturing including images of workers, facilities and equipment.

The earlier part of the collection contains thirty photographs dating between 1910 and 1915 documenting various departments within the factory. Images primarily consist of views of male and female workers operating a variety of paper box machinery including cutting, covering and pasting machines; and group portraits of workers in each section, often including the proprietor G.A. Bisler. These photographs include views of the machine shop, the gold leaf department, packing and shipping rooms, and an office in addition to exterior views of the factory and images of two delivery trucks.

The later images in the collection were commissioned in 1924 by the Delaware Bridge Joint Commission of Pennsylvania and New Jersey to systematically document the Bisler factory, one of more than 290 commercial and residential properties purchased and demolished by the Commission to clear ground for the construction of the piers, anchorage and approaches for the Delaware River Bridge (later the Benjamin Franklin Bridge). The resulting photographic album containing 138 photographs by Camden photographer George Wonfer fully documented Bisler's factory building from the roof to the basement aiding the Commission in the assessment of the value of the property. The photographs primarily depict a wide variety of paper box machinery including several types of printing presses and bronzing, cutting, staying , covering, gumming, and baling machines. The album also contains images of stock rooms showing supplies of cardboard and paper and completed boxes; several offices including the President's and the General Manager's; machine repair and carpenter's shops; sales room; employee facilities including dressing rooms, lockers, bathrooms, dance floor and the smoking room; and building systems equipment including a water tower, a Corliss engine, generator, pumps, boilers, water heaters and switchboard.



The Library Company of Philadelphia, 1314 Locust Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107 (215) 546-3181

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