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The Poor Relation

Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!

By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum


            “The Poor Relation” is what GNP historian John E. McLeod called the Madison mill. It was part of GNP’s holdings until 1955. When purchased, the Madison mill was a sulphite mill, so Schenck got authorization for a groundwood mill and a two-machine paper mill with a 50 -ton daily capacity. At first, the mill made about 25 tons of newsprint a day with the first shipment going out in November 1899.

            McLeod details some of the early problems with this mill stating the mill could not match the production of the new Millinocket mill. Through its lifetime, the Madison mill produced newsprint, bag and wrapping papers and specialty papers on its two paper machines. It also produced pulp for sale to other mills.

McLeod describes some of the problems encountered in the first 20-30 years such as lack of water storage, no bleaching facilities and other factors that limited production. In the 1940’s, not having the equipment and ability to produce a “gravure sheet” for the colored Sunday comics became a setback for the Madison mill.

After WWII, there was a short up turn for Madison production. The mill produced several types of paper including “eye ease green” for children’s books. In 1947, the mill made a profit of $600,000. This up-swing was short-lived.

Then, Madison decided to produce paper for paper towels which after the war had become a house-hold necessity. Off to a great start, this seemed like a great idea, but complaints came in stating the paper wasn’t “creped” enough so production was halted. A consultant later discovered the problem. The paper hadn’t been dried enough before it was creped! Visit the museum to see one of the rolls of paper towels on GNP Madison mill insufficiently creped paper!

By the late1940’s Madison was struggling to survive. New GNP management tried to decide what to do about Madison. Shut down the sulphite mill and use pulp produced at Millinocket? They lost money on that idea. Paper machine #2 was shut down at Madison and #1 was placed on a seven-day schedule, but that didn’t help.  

By the early 1950’s, GNP President MacDonald decided Madison should be sold along with timberland in Kennebec County. The timberland would be used as bait for the sale of the failing mill. In 1955, a 3-way deal was struck between GNP and the Economy Company (wanted the mill, dam, Anson power station & a few other things for $2,000,000) and Scott Paper (wanted the timberlands but not the mill for $500,000). The deal went through and “the poor relation” was no longer part of GNP.

McLeod’s The Northern, The Way I Remember is a condensed version of his long 7 volume history of GNP compiled in the 1970’s. He was employed at GNP in various positions for 35 years. His original complete text and materials were donated to U Maine’s Fogler Library, Special Collections (available online). Five other copies were presented to the Maine State Library (Augusta) and to public libraries in Millinocket, East Millinocket, Bangor and Presque Isle. Occasionally, the museum has a copy or two of the condensed 162-page summary version for sale.  

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