Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!
By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum
An online search shows five working foundries in Maine today. One is the Millinocket Fabrication and Machine Company as it is now known. “The Foundry,” named Millinocket Foundry and Machine Company, originally was started by Thomas Corrigan about 1905 when he came to Millinocket after seeing a need for such a business in the area where the Millinocket GNP mill was continuing to grow and the new East Millinocket mill was being constructed. The Foundry was and is still located on the west side of town near the railroad. Through its 116 years, this business has been led by several members of the Corrigan family including Fred Lewis, current owner and grandson of Thomas.
A 1955 article in the Bangor newspaper reveals some interesting information. In the early years, it was the two local mills that the foundry provided castings for and that continued for many years. GNP was their #1 client. The railroad was second until it discontinued the use of steam engines as the foundry made the smokestacks for the railroad’s steam locomotives.
Wartime restrictions (WWII) on the use of scrap metal (important to any foundry), threatened the business operations until the Corrigan’s received a contract to make big shaft bearings for the Liberty ships being made in the country’s shipyards. Thousands of the shaft bearings were made right here in Millinocket! They also produced bronze propellers cast from scrap for many of the towboats used to haul the booms on area lakes.
The article tells of Swedish immigrant Olaf Johnson who arrived in Millinocket and went to work as a pattern maker at the foundry. His job was to fabricate from wood an exact reproduction of the desired casting. He worked from blueprints, drawings or rough sketches. Then the shop molders would make sand molds into which the molten iron would be poured. The molders would pack the special sand mixture around the two halves of the pattern, remove the wooden reproduction and place the two parts of the mold together and lock them securely. Then they would be handed off to the furnace men and pourers. Charcoal was used to heat the mixture. After the casting were set, the final machine work occurred to get the item ready for shipment. Note: Johnson also carved wood as a hobby. The museum has two wooden figures (approx.14” high) he carved as well as a pair of handmade wooden skis.
A more recent article in Maine Seniors magazine by Anne Gabbianelli (Corrigan relative), tells of changes of the company’s name and of producing items for the changing world of today, custom orders for many uses…no longer producing castings for the local mills and the railroad.
The museum is looking for photos of “The Foundry.” Currently the only one shows a small portion of one building (far left) in a photo taken of the B & A railroad yard in the 1930’s.