History of Lovell Manufacturing
The founder of Lovell Manufacturing was Melvin Newton Lovell (1844-1895). A
carpenter by trade, he established his home in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1865 where four years later,
he secured patents on several household articles. The same year, he and Franklin F. Adams began a
partnership F. F. Adams & Company to produce wood products such as stepladders and manual
washing machines. Their small factory was at 14th and Cherry Streets, but the endeavor did not last
long and his three stepbrothers created Lovell Manufacturing Company at 523 and 526 French Street.
Initially, the company produced only spring beds but by 1882 the company expanded and incorporate,
producing other types of wire and spring products including their mouse and rat traps. At the same
time they subsumed Lovell's installment loan company and embarked on the chain store business with
installment loan payment with locations in New York City, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Boston and many
others. By late 1890, they had more stores than the Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company and Jewel Tea
In 1883, the Lovells contracted the first segment of their factory at 13th and
French Streets. The small building encompassed the wood and iron working operations, japanning,
tempering, varnishing, and storage and shipping areas. New product lines included corn shellers,
dynamos (an early name for generators), folding wood chairs, and hammocks.
There, years after Lovell's death in 1895, the company filed a friendly
bankruptcy with its creditors, which was amicably resolved. The company emerged from financial
difficulty, incorporated again, and took charge of even more of its own productions to avoid
supplier charges that had led to its crisis.
Over the following two decades, the company retrenched, closing its retail
stores and concentrating on a more limited range of production with more vertical integration of
operations. The physical plant expanded with a three story annex that covered a half block in
length. This increased the wire working storage, varnishing, and wringer operations and added a
machine shop and dry kilns, a well as, expanded lumberyard storage. The company was able to produce
300 wringers per day and was booming on domestic demand by World War I. After the war came the
company's final construction surge in which the major portion of the existing facility was
constructed. By 1921, the building more than doubled in size, filling the entire oblong block. The
company had a rubber department for wringer rolls, an iron department, and a large new facility for
assembling their new line of power-operated wringers. Wringers would later be manufactured from
cast iron then later cast aluminum rather than wood. The wood working department found new product
lines in hockey sticks, other sport items, and in clacks, the wood-soled sandal used by workers in
coke ovens. The quality and character of Lovell products kept the company afloat during the
depression despite two or three bad years.
World War II curtailed metal wringer production. Despite their small machine
shop, Lovell nonetheless engaged in wartime production of unspecified parts. Employment escalated
to 1,000 people and production soared to its highest levels. Immediately after the war, employment
fell somewhat to 800 as they resumed wringer production. The company turned out one million units
per year using 35-40 tons of sheet, strip and bar steel per day. The roller department used 8,000
pounds of rubber daily and 4,500 board feet of lumber. The company manufactured the chassis and
working parts for wringers as well. In 1948, they added electric dryers to their line (although not
under the Lovell name) to hold Lovell's place as automatic agitator washers threatened to displace
Lovell's traditional line.
In August 1967, Lovell became a subsidiary of Patterson-Erie Company, a local
investor-controlled holding company. Patterson-Erie planned a new production facility in Lake City,
18 miles west of Erie. The company had ceased to be a consumer producer and instead was
manufacturing capital components for other industrial concerns. Their largest division, metal
fabricating and appliance, was fully integrated for precision work in forming, fabricating, and all
metal finishing processes. By the late 1960's, Lovell made metal cabinets for humidifiers and
portable televisions, plus assemblies for computers, office copiers, and other office machines.
The Company continued operations at its 13th and French location until 1974,
when along with Patterson-Erie, it moved to its new headquarters. The original building remained
vacant for six years until 1980 when a number of tenants began to occupy sections of the facility
including a management corporation office, an electronics firm, and a realtor. In 1990, a small
revival of the building's original purpose occurred when Quinn Machine & Tools became a tenant.
In October of that same year, Steve McGarvey purchased the entire building and is leasing space to
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which included the Department of Public Welfare, Office of
Vocational Rehabilitation, Office of Unemployment Compensation Referee's Office, Blindness and
Visual Services, Office of the Bureau of Workmen's Compensation, St. Martin's Learning Center, Team
Pennsylvania-Career Line, and the Erie Book Store, along with many residential tenants who call
their state-of-the-art apartment at Lovell Place "home".
Research and history provided by Barbara Piatt.