Joliet was known for it’s limestone quarries, it’s steel mills, and it’s numerous railroads. A lesser known but a very successful business for years was wallpaper manufacturing. In the 1900’s, Joliet was a leading manufacturer in this business.
Many might wonder why wallpaper manufacturing would flourish in the Joliet area. There were a number of reasons for this:1) it was near many large markets; 2) there was a large labor pool; 3) there was a well established transportation net. This included railroads, water (I and M Canal, Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal), and highways.
The paper was shipped from Maine, Michigan and Wisconsin. The clay used for mixing colors was shipped from Georgia.
At one time, there were 6 separate wall paper companies in Joliet. They were: Star Peerless Wall Paper Company, Joliet Wall Paper Mills, Lennon Wall Paper Company, Midwest Wall Paper Mills, Superior Wall Paper Company, and the United Wall Paper Factory.
The first company was Star Peerless. It began in 1907. It’s founder was Frank Kelley. He originally had an operation in Chicago. He moved to Joliet as a cost saving measure. He originally set up a wall paper machine in a loft. He eventually built a plant on Maple Street. His company was very successful.
The next company to open in Joliet was Joliet Wall Paper Mills. It incorporated in 1914. The original president was Charles Nowell. The plant was located on 4 acre site. It had 150 employees. The plant was 240 X 550 feet.