McHenry Electric Service Company

 

McHenry’s first venture into the electric world started in February 1908. Town leaders wanted to bring McHenry into the electronic age for some time, but this wasn’t as easy as one might think. Electric companies weren’t like the giant corporations that we have today. Many were start-ups, most of which failed. For example, towns would get electric service, only to lose it if the company supplying the electricity went out of business.

buchs-hotel-in-1912
Picture of the Buch Hotel from a Sanborn Map in 1912. The basement of the Buch Hotel was where the McHenry Electric Service Company was located.

In February of 1908, the town board started meeting with George Paige and Lloyd Howell to set up what would become the McHenry Electric Service Company. While the company was a start-up, both Paige and Howell had experience in the electric company business. They would set up and maintain the company’s equipment. This included setting up new lines, fixing broken equipment, and trimming trees that might damage electric wiring. The company’s headquarters was housed in the basement of the Buch Building (where the Old Bridge Tavern is today.) The electricity’s main source of power was a 50-horse gasoline powered motor. The village board was very excited to provide this new service to its citizens, as well as the vacationers who would be in town for the summer.

mes-co
Advertisement from July 1908 of McHenry Plaindealer.

By June of 1908, electric service was up and running. For those who took advantage of the new service, it was well received. The village set up six-foot tall posts with electric lights along the main streets of town. For whatever reason, price or convenience, the service didn’t take off. For a while, the McHenry Electric Service Company even offered to set up customers at the company’s expense. By the summer of 1909, the company came forward to the village board and stated they were not getting the patronage required to successfully run the business. In October, the McHenry Electric Service Company was put up for sale and McHenry looked as if it would spend the winter in the dark.

However, on November 1, 1909, the Illinois Lakes Light and Power Company took control of the business and equipment from the McHenry company. The Illinois Lakes’ company was much larger in scale, offering services in several locations, such as Mount Prospect, Cary, and Crystal Lake. The company was run by Edward Lake. Lake decided to run the electric company similar to a telephone company with lines connecting larger areas including running connections from town to town. It was a more ambitious plan than most electric service companies were running at that time. The Illinois Lakes Light and Power Company went on to become one of the largest electric companies in the state.

Sources

“An Ordinance” McHenry Plaindealer 19 Mar. 1908: 4. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Cement Foundations” McHenry Plaindealer 7 May 1908: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Electric Service Now In Buch Building” McHenry Plaindealer 16 Apr. 1908: 4. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Franchise Is Accepted” McHenry Plaindealer 12 Mar. 1908: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“May Have Electric Lights” McHenry Plaindealer 27 Feb. 1908: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Plant Now In Operation” McHenry Plaindealer 4 Jun. 1908: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“New Engine” McHenry Plaindealer 24 Dec. 1908: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Electric Tidbits” McHenry Plaindealer 14 May 1908: 4. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“$1,000,000 Company” McHenry Plaindealer 18 Nov. 1909: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Company Changed Hands” McHenry Plaindealer 4 Nov. 1909: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“McHenry’s Light Plant” McHenry Plaindealer 26 Apr. 1909: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“More Lights” McHenry Plaindealer 5 Aug. 1909: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“That Lighting Question” McHenry Plaindealer 7 Oct. 1909: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Line Reaches Out After Many Cities” McHenry Plaindealer 30 Nov. 1909: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.

The Everett Phonograph & Music Store

The Everett Hunter Manufacturing Company was a staple in McHenry for many years. Everett Hunter’s boat making business started in 1889 when he immigrated to the US from England. In 1919, business was booming and it was decided that they would expand into producing phonographs as well. What put phonographs on the map was that they were designed with two needles, one for recording and one for playing music. This looked like a great industry for the Hunter Company to invest in.
ehm-ad-3-4-1919
Advertisement from the Plaindealer on 3 Apr 1919.
In March 1919, the Everett Phonograph was introduced to the public. The Everett sold so well that the Hunter Company put out ads looking for workers to help construct them. Phonographs were interesting to make, as they required the mechanical components that made or recorded sound. However, these components were housed in attached cabinets to make them more attractive for people to have in their homes.
everett-music-store-ad-17-10-1920
Ad from Plaindealer on 7 Oct 1920
During the first ten months of production, the Everett was sold out of the warehouse at the Hunter Manufacturing Company. However, with business doing so well, the Everett Music Store was opened in January 1920. Located on Green Street, it was run by Everett Hunter Jr. This also opened the door for the business to sell other musical merchandise, mainly records. The music business took off. Sometime in 1921, the Hunter Manufacturing Company stopped making the Everett Phonograph and became a dealer for Brunswick Phonographs and merchandise. In 1922, the Everett Music Store expanded it’s location in McHenry and branched out, opening a store in Woodstock. The success was short-lived however, and by 1924 the Everett Music store was bought out by the Nye Music Store. Yet, for a short moment in history, McHenry had its own manufacturer of phonographs represented by the Everett Hunter Company.
Sources:
“Big Free Display” McHenry Plaindealer 6 Apr. 1922: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Change At Music Store” McHenry Plaindealer 17 Feb. 1921: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Drop In” McHenry Plaindealer 15 Jul. 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Factory Needs Help” McHenry Plaindealer 1 Jan. 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Free Concert At Boat Factory” McHenry Plaindealer 4 Dec. 1919: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Has Neat Quarters” McHenry Plaindealer 26 Feb. 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Is Branching Out” McHenry Plaindealer 30 Nov. 1922: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Music Dealer In New Territory” McHenry Plaindealer 30 Jan. 1921: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Music Store Expands” McHenry Plaindealer 9 Jun. 1921: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“New Quarters For Music Store” McHenry Plaindealer 29 Jan. 1922: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Repairing Building” McHenry Plaindealer 29 Jan. 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Saxophone Demonstration” McHenry Plaindealer 30 Mar. 1922: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Will Open Retail Store” McHenry Plaindealer 22 Jan. 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.

McHenry’s Dollar Days

During most of the 20th Century, McHenry had a semi-annual event called Dollar Day. Eventually, in the 1950s as the event became more popular,  Dollar Days that was held most often over a two day period. The concept was relativity simple. Businesses in town would offer items at a $1 or offer drastically reduced prices on items. Dollar Days started in the 1920s and ran approximately bi-annually into the 1980s. They event had anywhere from 25 to 60 businesses involved on any given year.
Dollar Day - Feb 18, 1926
Dollar Day promotion from February 1926.
There were two main reasons for the push for this type of event. First, even in the 1920s and 30s people could see the importance of shopping locally. It helped build the community and strengthen the local economy. Secondly, it gave store owners the chance to promote new items, unload merchandise that wasn’t selling or clothing that was soon going to be out of season. This was a very useful way to unload clothing you didn’t want to store over the off-season.
Dollar Day Bargains - Jan 20, 1921
Dollar Day advertisement for McGee & Conway that ran in January 1921.
There were a variety of items that were offered. Everything from clothing, tools, hairdryers, subscriptions to the McHenry Plaindealer, specials on food at local restaurants and even DDT bombs for pest control. Many of McHenry’s longtime businesses participated such as Thomas Bolger’s Pharmacy, Ace Hardware, Hornsby’s and the National Tea Company just to name a few.
Overall the events were generally very successful in attracting hundreds of shoppers. Dollar Days were usually sponsored by the McHenry Chamber of Commerce. The local newspaper, the McHenry Plaindealer, also advertised heavily, often having full paged ads. It was through the paper and the mail, that flyers for the event could be circulated.
Dollar Day Ad - March 14, 1935
Dollar Day ad from March 1935.

Sources

“City Merchants Are Offering Fine Values.” McHenry Plaindealer [McHenry, IL] 16 Feb. 1956: 1.
“Extraordinary Values Offered In City Stores.” McHenry Plaindealer [McHenry, IL] 20 Aug. 1953: 1.
“Local Stores Offer Numerous Special Sales.” McHenry Plaindealer [McHenry, IL] 7 Feb. 1957: 1.
“McHenry Dollar Day Successful.” McHenry Plaindealer [McHenry, IL] 28 Mar. 1935: 1.
“Merchants Offer Good Bargains.” McHenry Plaindealer [McHenry, IL] 21 Mar. 1935: 1.
“Outstanding Values Offered By Businessmen.” McHenry Plaindealer [McHenry, IL] 8 Aug. 1963: 1,8.
“Twenty-Six Merchants To Offer Values.” McHenry Plaindealer [McHenry, IL] 8 Feb. 1962: 1.
“36 Stores Hold Dollar Days.” McHenry Plaindealer [McHenry, IL] 21 Jan. 1976: 1.