Tuesday, November 12, 2013

From Milwaukee to New Orleans

The 1884-1885 World Cotton Exposition in New Orleans introduced new household and building products to fair visitors. Various companies, including those represented by local agents, advertised their wares in such publications as The Industries of New Orleans: Exposition Year (1885).

German immigrant carpenter William Willer was an enterprising Wisconsinite whose sash, door and blind company introduced a number of patents in the late nineteenth century. All were developed by William's son Henry E. Willer, whose first patent, for an interior wooden sliding blind, became immensely popular (US patents 312,051; 312,052; and 312,053). At the peak of the family's operations in the first decade of the twentieth century, the company employed over 200 people. 

The Willer Manufacturing Company was represented in New Orleans by architect-brothers William C. and C. Milo Williams. The latter employed Willer's sliding blinds in his design for a residence located at 1406 General Taylor Street, a structure no longer standing. The blinds can be seen through the second-story windows in the photograph below.

The sliding blinds were classed by cost, with "Class A" being the most expensive, because it included a window frame made with a receptacle at the top, in which the blind could be entirely hidden from view. "Class B" (shown below) sliding blinds had no such concealment, and, as such, windows would always be partially obfuscated by a section or sections of the sliding blind.

Photographic image above is from the Williams Family Office Records.

Prints are from Willer's patent inside sliding blinds: manufactured under 10 letters patent granted to Henry E. Willer: other applications pending. Milwaukee, WI: William Willer, 1885. Trade Catalogs Collection.

An additional Willer catalog may be accessed via the Building Technology Heritage Library.

Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this informative posting (as well as for the rest of the blog, which is great).

The landmarked Martin Schnitzius cottage in Chicago (1891) features a variation of the Willer blinds prominently in its formal spaces. I have had the good fortune of working with the current owners to secure landmark status for the house, as well as to prepare preservation-oriented plans for an addition and future upgrades.

We know that the blinds in the house are authentic Willer units because the original, hand-written Specifications for the house miraculously survive. The home may therefore be a good resource for anyone looking to compare their blinds to see if there are similarities, etc.

The City's designation report can be viewed online by searching for the name referenced above.

+Grahm Balkany, AIA, NCARB
Architect, Chicago

Keli Rylance said...

Thanks much for the info!

Anonymous said...

Our house museum has cherrywood and oak blinds that I suspect were made by the Willer Blind Company. The four-story oak staircase and panelling was made by the A.H. Andrews Company of Chicago.

Bruce Davies