Wood-Metal Industries

History of Wood-Metal

Wood-Metal Industries, Inc. was founded in 1942 by four men who had been salesmen for Whitehead Monel Kitchens Co., a division of International Nickel Co. that was selling white metal kitchen cabinets that were popular throughout the 1930s. The four—Ted Gronlund and Dick Nellis, Sr., of New York City and Charles Wall, Sr., and Caswell Holloway of Philadelphia—realized that, with the imminent involvement of the United States in World War II, the production of steel would be shifted to the war effort. The four founded Wood-Metal Industries, Inc. in 1942 in a small lumber-planing mill in Kreamer, Pennsylvania.

Wood-Metal’s initial client was Uncle Sam, seeking production of military needs such as cook’s tables, carrier pigeon coops, ammunition cases, and Signal Corps cases. The government set precise specifications for these products, especially with regard to the finishes applied to the Signal Corps cases. These cases, earmarked for use in the South Pacific, had to be sealed to inhibit fungus growth and waterproofed by varnish that sometimes required as many as 11 coats. The company’s experience in meticulous wood finishing during this period would prove invaluable in the development of its cabinetry finishes.

As World War II neared its end, military contracts began to decline, and Wood-Metal turned its attention to making cabinets. The company met its difficulty in buying top-grade lumber by purchasing timber rights on a tract of land in the Beaver Springs, Pennsylvania in 1943 and built a sawmill to provide the raw material.

By 1945 Wood-Metal was producing enameled finishes for a very fashionable lipped contemporary cabinet-door style which surprisingly maintained its popularity as the door of choice for many school and institutional science labs today. During the late 1940s, the company continued designing and manufacturing cabinets and casework for schools, hospitals, and other institutional customers. By the mid-1950s, the institutional line offered three wood species with six natural and 12 enameled finishes.

Never having made a metal cabinet at the Kreamer location, they acquired a manufacturing plant in Beech Bottom, West Virginia, to make such cabinets once steel became available after the war. This operation was moved in the 1950s to McClure, Pennsylvania, where it began making and marketing a line of institutional and residential cabinets. Shortly after, Wood-Metal decided to launch a modest advertising and promotional program to support its sales representatives and dealers. Its first advertisement in a national consumer magazine appeared in January 1954. The number of sales representatives reached 21 by the end of 1955. Advertisements were placed in magazines like House and Garden and Good Housekeeping (the latter in conjunction with the famous seal of approval).

The name of the company’s residential line of cabinets was changed to Wood-Mode Kitchens in 1956 because wood, rather than metal, cabinets were growing in popularity, reaching 70 percent of the total installed that year. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that Wood-Metal moved the institutional line to its present location in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. It is in Selinsgrove where Wood-Metal Industries continues to provide the best quality cabinetry to fit specific institutional casework needs.