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Kearsarge Peg Co., Inc. is a business that was located in Bartlett, NH for 121 years. The company prospered through the years on its reputation for quality products and timely delivery. The original product (hardwood shoe pegs and hardwood tumbling media) is still manufactured in the facility, and in fact, Kearsarge is the only manufacturer of this product in North America. In the 1980’s the company started a research and development effort to diversify its product line. This effort produced the “PEGCO Process Laboratories Division”, a subsidiary with a number of activities related to abrasive tumbling and metal finishing.
This PEGCO division currently manufactures a wide variety of abrasive materials that are used in conjunction with hardwood tumbling media. The division also maintains a process laboratory that solicits metal finishing problems from customers and then develops processes using aerials made by PEGCO, along with others, and machinery that PEGCO offers for sale.
Kearsarge Peg Co.
The company was established in 1865 in Andover, NH by Gerry and Augustus Morgan and the Baker, Carr & Sons Co. Sometime later Baker, Carr & Sons’ interest appears to have been purchased by Jacob R. foster and he along with the Morgan brothers moved the Kearsarge Peg Co. operations to Bartlett, NH in 1878. (A Portland Locomotive and Marine Engine Works steam engine, [with an 1878 manufacturer’s nameplate] was the primary energy source for the factory operations up until its retirement in the 1980’s. The steam engine is now currently housed and operational at the Maine State Museum in Augusta, ME.) The two Morgan brothers purchased Mr. Foster’s interest in the business, and ran the business until a fire destroyed the plant in 1905.
History Of Kearsarge Peg Co.
Pictured Above: View of Kearsarge Peg Co. in 1920, the white birch seen here was favored for making specialty hardwood shoe pegs. The primary market for the company’s product at this time was the shoe industry.
At this time, the trademarks and goodwill of the business were purchased by Edwin and George Foster (sons of the Jacob mentioned above) who rebuilt and operated the plant from 1911 until it was purchased by Stanley E. Davidson and Francis L. Brannen in 1944. These two operated the Bartlett facility until Mr. Brannen’s death in 1962, whereupon Mr. Davidson became the sole owner.
In 1966, the firm was incorporated in the State of New Hampshire with Stanley E. Davidson Sr., as President and Stanley E. Davidson Jr. as Vice President. This arrangement continued until 1979 when Mr. Davidson Sr. retired and the corporation redeemed his stock, Leaving Mr. Davidson Jr. as the sole stockholder of the corporation.
The principal business of the company at its inception was the manufacture of shoe pegs. Shoe pegs were long cross sectioned hardwood shapes with a point on one end, manufactured primarily from white, yellow and silver birch, although white maple and beech are occasionally employed as well. The Kearsarge Peg Co. manufactured approximately seventy-five different sizes of shoe pegs, which varied in size from 5/16 in. long by 1/18 in. wide to ¼ in. wide by 2.0 in. long . This product was used as a component of shoe manufacturing in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, and replaced shoe nails, as a means for insuring a lasting bond between the last and sole of the shoe. It was considered superior to metal nails, in that over time the wood peg would draw moisture from the ambient atmosphere and swell, forming a lock fit between these two components. Shoe manufacturing along with textiles was a major segment of the economy of New England at this time, and there were dozens of plants, which made this product in competition with Kearsarge. In its earlier years, Kearsarge exported heavily to the shoe industry in Norway, Germany, Australia and elsewhere. The last existing competitor in North America, the Moore Peg Co., in Lisbon, NH was lost in a fire in 1949. This company (Moore) had been owned by the Lupoline Corporation in Bronx, New York which was a pioneer in the use of natural materials, including wood pegs as a tumbling and final finishing medium for the plastics, jewelry and precision metalworking industries.
The use of pegs in shoe manufacturing came to an abrupt halt with the advent of the Second World War. (Exception: custom made climbing, skiing and cowboy boots). Not only did the company find that its export markets were now closed, but new developments in shoe manufacturing technology obviated the need for pegs to tie or lock the last and sole of shoes together.
Lupoline, under the director of its founder Joseph Lupo of pioneered dry barrel finish or tumbling techniques in the early part of the twentieth century, with some patents dating as early as the 1920’s and 1930’s. He found that “shoe pegs” made an ideal mass finishing media for smoothing and polishing plastic parts in rotary barrel finish equipment. This technology was quickly adapted by major manufacturers such as Bausch & Lomb, Foster-Grant and the American Optical Co. and others to replace tedious manual finishing methods that involved buffing. These large manufacturers of eyeglass frame and sunglass frame components were soon utilizing hardwood pegs in bulk, by the truck load and even car load for abrasive finishing and polishing operations. This continues to be the primary use for hardwood pegs and other hardwood preform shapes that the company manufactures to this day.
In the early 1980’s the company management decided that there was a need to become more involved on a technical level with the finishing industry. As a result the PEGCO Division was instituted as a marketing and technical arm to more aggressively market hardwood media for other applications. It soon became apparent that there was a need to make PEGCO a technical resource for the finishing industry. Its focus became providing technical solutions to difficult edge and surface finish problems by process development in its “process laboratory” and offering turn-key equipment and abrasive supply packages as the solutions to these problems.
As of 2016, the company’s office and manufacturing facilities were found at the same location in Bartlett, NH. These facilities comprised approximately 25,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space encompassed in an eleven building complex, situated on seven acres bounded by Kearsarge Street and the White Mountain National Forest.
A fire in February 2016 burned the entire facility to the ground (see the drone footage). Many businesses may have been destroyed by such a devastating event; however, Kearsarge Peg Co. turned to its long time business partner, Kramer Industries, for help. It was determined that Kramer Industries would purchase the assets of Kearsarge and re-build the product line and the goodwill Kearsarge had developed in its over 150 years in business.
After some struggles determined the best way to manufacture the products that Kearsarge had been selling and identifying the core products to produce, Kramer Industries was in full production mode within 90 days of the fire.
Currently, Kearsarge Pegco, as a division of Kramer Industries, Inc. has a full line of dry finishing and tumbling media and compounds along with the tumbling equipment used to get the best finishing on metals and plastics. We are very excited about the opportunities in front of us and look forward to another 150+ years of success and growth.
Kearsarge PegCo, a division of Kramer Industries, Inc., is the leading provider of dry finishing tumbling equipment, media, and compounds for metal, plastics, and wood parts. In operation for over 150 years, Kearsarge Pegco is the place to start when you need to finish something.