Birge Family, Buffalo, NY - Table of Contents

Birge Wallpaper Company
Buffalo, New York

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Birge Wallpaper Company
By Martin Wachadlo

Martin H. Birge (1806-1900), who came to Buffalo during the 1830s and opened a dry goods store. His focus eventually shifted to selling wallpaper, and finally to manufacturing it. Martin Birge took in Henry and his brother George as partners in the 1870s (after both had graduated from Harvard), the firm becoming M. H. Birge & Sons, and they built a new plant at Niagara and Maryland Streets on Buffalo's lower west side.

The company grew to become one of the largest wallpaper concerns in the nation, internationally known for quality, and eventually opened offices in Europe. The firm became a branch of the National Wall Paper Co. in 1890, with the brothers becoming managers at the Buffalo plant, but returned to Birge family control in 1900. (M. H. Birge & Sons prospered through most of the twentieth century, under the control of George and his descendants, but eventually fell victim to changing fashion.

The firm moved out of the plant at 390 Niagara Street in 1976, which was subsequently demolished, and went out of business in 1982.)

Reprinted from The Buffalo Evening News, February 5, 1947
G. K. Birge and a Family Tradition
By Roy Rutherford

The Birge wallpaper company has been dealers in and makers of fine wallpaper since 1834. Martin H. Birge, the great-grand-father of President George Birge came to Buffalo via the Erie Canal in that year and opened a retail wallpaper establishment on lower Main St. In 1860 a plant was built at the foot of Perry St.; in 1880 a move was made to the present location, 390 Niagara.

Later this building was rebuilt after being partly destroyed by fire. A new office building was completed in 1923. This always has been a family-owned company.

(Grandfather George Kingsley Birge was also president of the Pierce Arrow Motor Car Company, selling his interest in 1917.)

From the beginning the business had been concerned in catering to the top-price brackets - handmade papers and expensive designs - but in order to increase volume and level off the seasonal slumps, Mr. Birge introduced a line of intermediate-priced papers.

This is one of the few wallpaper companies to maintain a research laboratory.

Some reproduce originals from historic Mount Vernon, Livinston Manor, Jumel Mansion and many other incomparable colonial and European patterns.

When an idea for design is born it is turned over to the colorist; swatches of different color combinations then are made, a sample is run and the experts decide which color is best.


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