The Gilman Brothers Company
The Gilman Brothers Company had its origins in New York City, where in 1897, Nathan Gilman established himself in the bedding business. From the start, the Company had direct ties to Connecticut for in Bozrahville (now Gilman) on the banks of the Yantic River stood the Bozrahville Manufacturing Company which supplied him with raw material. As one of the oldest manufacturing sites in New London County, the first large-scale manufacturing began here in 1814. Industrious and enterprising individuals were attracted to this site because of the river’s unique topography, and ample volume provided the water power to drive their machines.
In 1905, Nathan purchased the holdings of the Bozrahville Manufacturing Company. These early years were marked by countless calamities. The first was the loss of his brother and business partner, followed by two fires. The second fire completely ravaged his mill, and Nathan was badly burned trying to save what so many had labored for. Faced with a long hospitalization and what appeared to be economic failure, Nathan was driven by his unflinching desire to see his mill a success. With the help of his loving wife, friends, and business associates, a new mill rose from the ashes. It stands today as a symbol of good will, friendship, and Nathan’s courage and test of will.
By the 1920’s, the mill’s production demands began to tax the available water resources. Mother Nature could no longer be relied upon, particularly in the summer months, and the mill was often shut down for lack of sufficient water. Nathan’s focus turned to seeking a new form of power to keep his machines humming…. Electricity.
Unable to get the neighboring utility, Eastern Connecticut Power Company, to extend electricity lines to such a “remote” part of the state, in 1921, he enlisted the help of two friends and neighbors active in state politics. Together they saw a bill through the state legislature and signed by the Governor granting a charter for the Bozrah Electric Company to sell electricity in Bozrah and Lebanon. Ambivalent partners, unsure of this new venture, bailed out and Nathan was left to go it alone. With the help of the City of Norwich and employees from the factory, 6 miles of electrical lines were eventually erected, and service began in 1926.
The Bozrah Light & Power Company, as it was later named, was nurtured along by its largest customer and at the same time provided Nathan with a reliable source of power. The utility continues to source the Bozrah / Lebanon communities, although in 1995 the Gilman family relinquished ownership.
In the 1940’s, experimentation lead to new ways to use cotton batting, and high speed multiple stitching machines were installed to produce comforters. By the end of W.W.II, the plant had produced nearly three-quarters of a million comforters for the U.S. Army. Hoping to maintain some of the momentum into the post war years, they surged ahead in developing asphalt paper backed, flameproof cotton insulation. The product was readily accepted by the building field and the company had to equip another plant in Stafford Springs to meet the orders.
By 1950, things had begun to change. Government price supports for cotton ceased and eventually made this commodity too high priced for an increasingly competitive market. A search began for an entirely new product to diversify the manufacturing operation. In a bold move, the plant was eventually retooled to produce something completely different… Plastic. Nathan’s sons Lawrence, Charles, and Seymour realized the vast potential the field of plastics offered, and they learned the business from the ground up.
The first product produced was a rigid high-impact polystyrene sheet. It was further processed by either vacuum or thermo forming to produce toys and packaging products. Around the same time, the Company began looking at other forms of styrene plastic to be used in the building insulation market. Molds to produce expanded polystyrene foam blocks or billets were purchased. The blocks were cut by hot wire or saws and sold as insulation, ceiling tiles, packaging material, and flotation.
The 1960's -- Essentially, as the Company entered the 1960’s, the major product continued to be the rigid plastic sheet, and sales of this product lead to an addition to the mill in 1963. Successful experimentation in the late 60’s prompted the company to purchase a coating machine and enter the flocking business. Coating a rigid plastic sheet with a coating of fiber to produce a uniform velvet-like surface was an industry first. Stylor® was a revolutionary product in the packaging industry and was ideal for such things as perfume, jewelry, and cosmetics. The flocked sheet could now be vacuum formed to the shape of the desired insert for a perfect fit. Determination to become a more “vertically integrated company” by producing their own fiber for flocking lead to the construction of a spinning plant for polyester fiber.
In the early 70’s, a 60,000 square foot addition was built to house new machinery to speed up production of their flocked product. Since the Company was already in the polyester spinning business, another move was contemplated… into fabric, and a state-of-the-art machine was installed.
Fabric was getting so big at this time that the company saw no end to the volume it could produce. Unfortunately, the reality of the time’s hit the “high flying” company head on as it did for economics around the world. Caught in the middle of an economic recession and the rising cost of petrochemicals, the lifeblood of the plastics industry, the Company was led to divest itself of its flocking and rigid sheet divisions in 1982. With characteristic optimism, the Gilman brothers began to look at a product that had been pushed to the “back burners” with the success of the rigid sheet division… expanded polystyrene foam.
The foam products division was revitalized as the three brothers collaborated on designing and building a new production line. The new line would produce a paper-foam-paper laminate. They did not know it at the time, but the line rivaled the competitors’ line, which had speed limitations. It enabled The Gilman Brothers Company to come from virtual obscurity in this industry and become a leading manufacturer of foamboard.
100th Anniversary and New Logo
In celebration of The Gilman Brothers Company One Hundredth Anniversary, a new logo was created in 1997. Just as a fingerprint reveals a unique identity, so does the logo we have designed for the company.
Borrowing elements from the old logo, the new "centennial logo" was created to convey this unique story. In a sense a riddle, for within the words, colors, and symbols of the logo are the clues needed to answer three questions. Who are these people? Where are they? What are they doing?
The answer to the first question reveals who these people are. The lion, the symbolic representation of the Gilman family, is seen turned to the right, healthy, robust, and "armed" with claws ready to shape its own destiny. Although appearing strong and healthy, it has been tested. Introduction of crimson to the lion symbolizes the trials and tribulations that have faced the family over its long history of ownership. It wears these scars proudly and is ready to meet present and future challenges. The color gold was selected for the lion to "reflect" this gleaming spirit of optimism!
The second clue the logo seeks to convey is the sense of place, revealing where these people are located. The use of the state shield reflects their location in a general sense. The appearance of the name Gilman over the shield reveals the specific.
With the incorporation of the establishment date of 1897, the idea of a thing or enterprise arises, and with it the answer to the final question. What are these people doing in this place? They are here to pursue the thing that allows one to provide for oneself, family, and ultimately community… namely opportunity through the creation of industry, in this case manufacturing.
The flowing blue ribbon in the logo symbolizes the river (progression and continuance), and that which ties all the elements together. Although it is no longer a factor, it was the river that brought the people to this place which resulted in the establishment of a community, built around this thing called industry. Just like the river that once powered its machines, this enterprise called The Gilman Brothers Company follows a dynamic, ever-changing and non-ceasing course!
Finally, four stars were added to the shield. Three to represent the generational span of family ownership and participation, and a fourth placed for the other dedicated employees past and present who have contributed and are continuing to make this endeavor possible.
Click to view the Gilman Brothers 100th Anniversary Logo Document
Today the company is headed by Nathan’s grandson Evan Gilman. In all, eight members of the Gilman family are active participants in the company, serving as board members and in all phases of the manufacturing process.
As one of the originators and innovators of foamboard manufacturing, we continue to improve upon quality and provide for the market needs for this versatile product. Our full line of foam boards is utilized by graphic arts professionals looking to create a variety of finished art, advertisement and merchandising signage, photo mounted and screen-printed art, as well as displays, props, and exhibits.
All progress requires change, and it has been these changes brought on by innovative people with creative new ideas that have propelled the company through time. Our history is, in fact, a celebration of progress and a testament to the hard work and dedication of the employees who have made this progress possible.
As we view the “wide horizon”, our philosophy remains clear: To recognize and encourage the individual and their abilities to contribute to the endeavor; provide a favorable work environment in order to conduct the business of manufacturing; and to produce and sell quality products at competitive prices, backed by excellent customer service and good will.
Proudly Family Owned and Operated... for 125 years!