Showers Brothers Furniture Company: The Shared Fortunes of a Family, a City, and a University

Showers Brothers Furniture Company: The Shared Fortunes of a Family, a City, and a University

Showers Brothers Furniture Company: The Shared Fortunes of a Family, a City, and a University

Showers Brothers Furniture Company: The Shared Fortunes of a Family, a City, and a University

Synopsis

When the Showers family arrived in Bloomington, Indiana, the railroad had only recently come to town and a modest university was struggling to survive. Having spent the prior 18 years moving from place to place, the family decided to settle down and invest its modest resources to start a furniture company. The business proved to be extremely profitable and a stroke of good fortune for the small community. The company's success strengthened Bloomington's infrastructure, helping to develop new neighborhoods, and the philanthropic acts of the Showers family supported the town's continued development. The family's contributions helped Indiana University through difficult times and paved the way to its becoming the largest university in the state. In this detailed history of Showers Brothers, Carrol Krause tells the story of a remarkably successful collaboration between business, town, and gown.

Excerpt

Jim Holland, a descendant of the Showers family of Bloomington, Indiana, carefully unrolled the old quilt and spread it flat across the tabletop. the quilt had been handed down by four successive generations of the family but had never been used. the Tumbling Block pattern featured more than three hundred multicolored squares only a few inches high, arranged diagonally across a white background. Above each block was the name of a person who had once been a citizen of Bloomington, neatly embroidered in a tiny chain stitch. the men, women, and children of many families were represented on the quilt: it was easy to spot the three Showers brothers and their wives; their in-laws the Smiths, the Hendrixes, the Hewsons, and the Sears; their friends and associates the McPheeters, the Grahams, and the Easts; and hundreds of others. in one corner the year 1884 was embroidered, and in the opposite corner a price: $57.00.

This may seem a meager price to pay for a quilt, but when adjusted for inflation the amount is equivalent to approximately $1,300 in today’s monetary values. This was no ordinary bedspread. Over the years the family, to its lasting regret, has forgotten the story that once went with the quilt; but the quilt was obviously made for a fundraiser, each person named on it having purchased a block. It could not have been a church project, since the people on it belonged to different denominations. We turn to the records to discover what event in 1884 in Bloomington would have required a fundraiser. That summer Showers Bros. (as it was then called), the furniture factory owned by the Showers family, suffered a devastating fire. the family turned to its friends in the . . .

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