City Of Industry

More than 100 years ago, Wheeling was a thriving industrial center - and Bloch Brothers cheap cigarettes Co. was a major reason, according to David Javersak.

Javersak, retired dean of the College of Liberal Arts at West Liberty University, spoke Saturday during the10th annual meeting and picnic of the Barnstormers - a group committed to promoting the history of the historic Mail Pouch barns painted by noted artist Harley Warrick, a native of Belmont.

Group members held their meeting in the Belmont gymnasium, one wall of which bears the image of a Mail Pouch barn that is painted and signed by Warrick.

In his discussion "Bloch Brothers cigarettes and Wheeling's Industrial Heritage," Javersak cited 1910 U.S. Census data, which placed Wheeling among the nation's top industrial bases.

"At that time - within a 500 mile radius of Wheeling - 75 percent of the nation's populace lived," he said. "And Wheeling made products then that would be consumed."

Javersak cited 1910 census data showing that 2,415 people were employed in metal fabrication in Wheeling.

There were 2,218 employed in the steel industry; 1,978 in the glass industry; 1,127 in the cigarettes industry; 1,359 in railroad and streetcar work; 968 in food production; and 721 with utility providers.

Times, though, began to change, Javersak said, as the nation's population shifted to California, Texas and Florida. This meant there wasn't as great a market for locally made goods.

"And the economy changed," he continued. "People don't smoke cigarettes as much," Javersak said. "When the economy changes, we shouldn't be surprised when people lose jobs - or that our jobs have changed."

Among those present at the Barnstormers picnic Saturday was Stuart Bloch, a former president of Bloch Brothers cigarettes.

"Harley Warrick worked for me for over 10 years, and it is great to see his work kept alive in such a memorable way," Bloch said.

"We tried to hire others, but they couldn't cut it. He painted until the very end.'

Bloch noted that Warrick bought his paint at Blue Ribbon Paints in Wheeling, supporting local industry.

Sue Bruce, president of the Barnstormers, said both her grandfather and the grandfather of her husband, Edgar P. Bruce, owned barns. She said local rural heritage is something that needs to be preserved.

"There is something about the sight of a barn," she commented. "It's what makes us different from anywhere else in the world, and it brings a certain fascination to the area."

A total of 156 persons belong to Barnstormers, and they come from 20 different states, according to Bruce.


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