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Guilford, Maine

Where history meets the future

Early Manufacturing

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By: Tom Goulette

From the earliest days when the first trees were felled, crude cabins erected and gardens started, Guilford residents have been noted for their industrious nature. This characteristic continues today, nearly 200 years later, as little Guilford is home to more jobs than any other town in Piscataquis County.

Saw Logs Over the Dam, Guilford, ca. 1880
Saw Logs Over the Dam, Guilford, ca. 1880

Item Contributed by
Guilford Historical Society

As the new village began to grow and more settlers arrived, simple subsistence living including home-grown produce and home-raised livestock, along with homemade building materials, no longer sufficed. Out of necessity, Industry in Guilford was born.


Hardwood Products Company

Following a variety of small, one man saw mills, one of the first manufacturers utilizing forest products on a large scale was Guilford Lumber Company, makers of box shooks (the sides of wooden boxes, popular in the days before corrugated boxes), doors, and dimension lumber. Barker Lumber and Box Co. was another such enterprise.

Guilford Lumber Company Mill, ca. 1900
Guilford Lumber Company Mill, ca. 1900

Item Contributed by
Guilford Historical Society

Guilford Lumber Company became Guilford Manufacturing Co., and in 1920 was purchased by Lloyd Cartwright, doing business as the Minto Toothpick and Specialty Company, a Saginaw Michigan concern that processed and sold mint flavored toothpicks, in order to be nearer a large source of white birch when their only supplier in Michigan discontinued operations.

Guilford Manufacturing Company Mill, Guilford, 1896
Guilford Manufacturing Company Mill, Guilford, 1896

Item Contributed by
Guilford Historical Society

Lumbering required transportation of the saw logs to the mill and the river was one of the main highways, the railroad being the other. River drives continued into the 1950’s and were not without perils.

Boom Chain, Guilford, 1908
Boom Chain, Guilford, 1908

Item Contributed by
Guilford Historical Society

It was dangerous work and during one flood, the boom chain that held logs broke, and the logs washed over the dam during high water, smashing nearly every window in the first two stories of both of the textile mills located on either side of the river.

Annual River Drive, Guilford, ca. 1940
Annual River Drive, Guilford, ca. 1940

Item Contributed by
Guilford Historical Society
Hardwood Products, Guilford, ca. 1930
Hardwood Products, Guilford, ca. 1930

Item Contributed by
Guilford Historical Society

They changed the name to Hardwood Products Co., and in 1950 moved their entire operation to Guilford where they soon expanded their product line to include tongue depressors, candy and ice cream sticks, meat skewers, wrapped ice cream spoons and many other items. Toothpicks were dropped from the line in 1956 as focus shifted to medical supply items.

In 1958, a devastating fire wiped out the entire production and warehousing facility, but the dedicated owners and their loyal employees immediately began building a new modern facility that was again operating by 1960. Most of the specialized machinery was built by company personnel on site as it was not available on the open market.

Aftermath of Hardwood Products Fire, Guilford, 1958
Aftermath of Hardwood Products Fire, Guilford, 1958

Item Contributed by
Guilford Historical Society

In 1978, a new office building was constructed, and in 1985 a subsidiary was initiated, Wood Chips, Inc., to utilize waste products and supply wood chips for energy for the plant as well as other factories. Also in that year a new 53,000 square foot modern facility for sterilization of cotton tipped applicators was erected, centralizing all the medical production. Foam tipped applicators under the trade name of PurSwab were added in 1990. A new machine shop was added in 1993, a larger warehouse in 1995, and the company continues to expand as a well established presence in the medical supply field. In 2002, they were named Maine Exporter of the Year.

Hardwood Products Company