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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Paine, Edward Lathrop 1801 - 1893


lumberman, b. Pomfret, Conn. He worked for a number of years in various mercantile enterprises in New York and Pennsylvania, and later operated a lumber business in Canisteo, N.Y. In 1853 he made a preliminary trip to Wisconsin to examine the lumbering prospects, moved to Milwaukee in 1854, and in 1855 settled in Oshkosh. There, with his son, CHARLES NELSON PAINE (b. Orwell, Pa.), he built a sawmill on the Fox River. In the early days of the operation, Charles Paine spent most of his time in the woods supervising logging operations, while his brother, GEORGE MILTON PAINE (b. Orwell, Pa.), and father directed operations at the mill. The elder Paine retired from the business in 1870, and after that date it was known as C. N. Paine and Co. Although it was burned out by a disastrous fire in 1874, the company rebuilt larger facilities, and by 1880 it was Oshkosh's leading producer of lumber, shingles, sashes, and doors. The firm was reincorporated in 1883 as the Paine Lumber Co., Ltd., and upon Charles Paine's death in 1885, his brother George M. Paine assumed the presidency. George Paine was president of the firm until his own death in 1917, and in this capacity insured the success of the door and sash factory (built in 1884) by convincing railroad men of the feasibility of transporting logs by rail and by building flatcars especially designed for this purpose. The innovation enabled him to tap timber resources in Iron County, Mich., and in Forest County, Wis. When even these pine-lands sources were threatened with exhaustion, Paine inaugurated the production of hardwood doors, and in 1904 erected a veneer mill, the first to be used exclusively in door manufacturing. When George Paine died in 1917, his son NATHAN PAINE, b. Oshkosh and educated at Lawrence College and the Univ. of Michigan, became president of the company. He served in this capacity until 1947, and during his tenure the company became the largest in the American millwork industry. In the 1930's he engaged in the construction of hollow core doors based upon a French patent owned by the SociTtT le Rezo, an innovation that enabled the Paine Lumber Co. to weather the depression of the 1930's. He was also known as a philanthropist, and founded the Paine Art Center and Aboretum in Oshkosh. Paine Lumber Co., 100 Years Paine Lumber Co. (Oshkosh, 1953); W. A. Titus, Hist. of the Fox River Valley . . . (3 vols., Chicago, 1930); P. V. Lawson, et al., eds., Hist. of Winnebago Co. (2 vols., Chicago, 1908); Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, May 7, 1885, June 17, 1893, Dec. 29, 1917, Jan. 15, 1947.

The Wisconsin Historical Society has manuscripts related to this topic. See the catalog description of the Paine Family Papers for details.

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]
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