Harry Posner’s Paper Box Empire
In the early 20th C the factory buildings of the New England-Anderson Brick Works (which had seen various tenants in the meantime), were taken over by the Worcester Paper Box Company. This company produced paper packaging for a wide range of household products including sugar, tea, coffee, and shoes. Founded in 1914 by Harry Posner, the company had been located in Worcester before its move to Medford. Posner (1881-1962) was born in Mohilev, Russia and emigrated to the United States in 1900, fleeing the pogroms. He first moved to New York, and then to Worcester, where a friend loaned him money to start a company making shoeboxes. After moving his business to Medford in 1927, Posner and his wife Hannah lived at 104 Traincroft Road, off High Street.
Posner was honored in 1938 by President Franklin Roosevelt for his “enlightened labor policy.” Posner’s paper box company helped to finance workers’ homes and their children’s educations, among other employee benefits. In the 1940s, Posner founded Medford’s Combined Jewish Appeal, which he chaired for over two decades. In 1953 Posner made international news with a $1 million donation, earmarked for medical education, to Tufts University, one of the largest donations that university had ever received. He explained then that the gift was “part payment of the blessings we enjoy in this land of freedom an opportunity.” By 1958 his company employed over 300 people at the Medford plant, and later that year Posner bought the buildings of the New England Bedding Company, next door.
The buildings of the New England Bedding Company formerly housed the Glenwood Dye Works, a second turn of the century factory still standing today on the site of the planned 970 Fellsway redevelopment.
Tufts President Nils Y. Wessell,displays a model for the Posner Hall dormitory at the Tufts Medical School, for Harry and Hannah Posner, c. 1954
The additional 130,000 square feet of the former Glenwood Dye Works allowed the company to remain in Medford during a period of expansion and transition. In March of 1961 Posner’s company was acquired by the Federal Paper Board Company and once merged, Federal Paper Board called the Medford plant one of their “most efficient and well organized units, serving some of our finest and largest customers.” Federal Paper Board, founded in New Jersey in 1916, had aggressively expanded throughout the twentieth century by buying numerous mills and factories. The company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1953 and growth continued apace. The Medford facility was one of several purchased in 1961; in addition Federal Paper Board constructed the world’s largest paperboard mill in Sprague, Connecticut that same year.
The Federal Paper Board Company’s earnings were seriously affected by the 1970s oil embargo. This combined, in 1977, with poor weather conditions and a drop in wood pulp prices. That year the company shuttered two of its carton plants – the Medford, Massachusetts plant and one in Pennsylvania. Around 500 people lost their jobs between the two closures. After Federal Paper Board’s departure, the complex was converted for use by numerous smaller businesses and is still in use today.