The Foster Munger Company, Chicago

Considering this was a large and important Chicago company, there doesn't appear to be a lot of information about them. What little I have is included here and so, this page may get updates as we find more to report.

It seems Harry Bray Munger, b. May 4th, 1863 (photo left) started as a bookeeper in a foundry at Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1880- 1881 and therafter joined O.D. Peck and Son,an established sash and door company. In 1882 he was employed in the offices of a lumber company, Carlton Foster & Co. Through 1886 he acted as a manager of that same company in Chicago. In 1886 through 1892, in conjunction with other stockholders, Munger formed The Foster Munger Company, and later, Munger assumed the position of President after Carlton Foster died. Their main office was at 20th Street and Sangamon. Harry Munger worked at Foster Munger for the remainder of his life, he died in May of 1922 at the age of 59.

Harry appears to have had an older brother, John Elijah Munger who also worked as bookeeper at Pecks. John eventually became a travelling saleman for them and then onto Foster Munger where he became Vice President and Director. John died in Chicago during March of 1911 at the age of just 53.

Additional research into Carlton Foster, and this will be added as soon as available.

The Foster Munger Company were primarily component suppliers to the building trade, providing many essential building products like sash windows, doors, moldings and many other related items. By 1910, they had expanded and produced a large range of stained glass windows in direct competition with many other companies in the Chicago area at the time. They priced their stained glass at very competitive prices and had large order books.

The 1910 catalog showed that they had been producing a huge variety of stained glass windows for some time. The range appealed to domestic and religious customers. It appeared that price was a key to their continued growth, such that they were able to redeploy idle stained glass workers during slack periods to work on other glass products such as lamps. The ability to offer products at drastically lower prices than the competition was explained in the 1910 catalog as:

"We call particular attention to the variety of high grade church window designs shown at prices very much lower then usually charged for inferior windows by our competitors. Now there is a reason for it. To begin with we do not have to depend on our Church Window Department to make our business pay. The making of church windows is a most important branch of our business, but not our sole business. Any firms devoting themselves exclusively to making church windows have to pay high salied artists when business is slack, and then make it up in their prices for work they do. Our emplyees have all they can do all the time; if not on church windows on similar equally high grade art glass work."

So, like some other window companies of the period, Foster Munger were producing complementary lighting products in addition to their core business. The 1910 catalog does show a handful of basic designs which are included on this page.

The catalog was in color and produced most likely by American Colortype Company of Chicago. There are reports that the color engravings alone for this catalog cost $5000 which was an extraordinary sum in 1910. So far, this 1910 catalog appears to be the first where lamps are included, previous catalogs covering their timber products.

Having seen this catalog, samples below, it would seem likely that American Colortype also produced the 1906 Suess catalog, strikingly similar presentation, fonts, design etc. and the printed colors are also the same.

Many thanks to friend Joe Mazza for the use of the catalog and permission to include some of the images.

Like most business producing glass windows and lighting fixtures, pictures of their operating conditions are quite rare.

This one is from the 1910 Foster Munger catalog. Workers, almost exclusively male, attired in white shirts and bow ties. Premises are typically quite dark which must have been less than ideal for a product that draws much from being in natural light. Glass racks on the left side. Work in progress on the benches.

Just 3 outside windows at the rear of this room with craftsmen fabricating windows.

An undated postcard for the company, but probably early given the motive power of this delivery vehicle.

Photo Credit for this postcard is the Newberry Library.