Administration & Community Development
The following is an excerpt from the 1978 Mercer County Ohio History Book
Mr. J.B. Mersman founded Mersman Tables one of the country’s oldest furniture manufacturers, around 1876, in Ottoville, Ohio, when J.B. produced his first piece of furniture, a table. Prior to that time J. B. was a sawmill operator. He operated sawmills in Kendallville and Angola, Indiana, and later moved to Ottoville.
When lumber began to get scarce, Mr. Mersman decided rather than sell rough lumber, it would be better to switch to a finished product, and he started producing the headboards, footboards and slats for beds. He had an ideal location midway between Toledo and Cincinnati on the Miami-Erie Canal. J.B. was doing well in his new venture, selling his bed for $1.50, until other profit minded manufacturers came up with a wrought iron bed for $1.00.
At the turn of the century the city of Celina asked Mr. Mersman to set up a furniture factory there. He would receive $7500 with the understanding he must employ 25 people six months of the year for two years. This he did, and in 1900 the business was established. He began manufacturing beds, library tables, and dining room tables, of which the latter became the specialty.
Shortly after establishing the company, J.B. Mersman found there was considerably more detail and exactness involved in the manufacturing of tables than he liked, so he borrowed what he could on the business, handed the notes and the factory over to his two eldest sons, Edward H. and Walter I Mersman, along with Henry Lenartz, a local banker, for the price of $500.
The deal was completed with the understanding that Albert Mersman, the youngest son would be taken into the firm when he became of age. J.B. Mersman then left for Arkansas where he reentered his first love, the sawmill business. Shortly thereafter he contracted malaria and returned to Celina where he passed away in 1904 or 1905.
The company was then known as "Lenartz and Mersman Brothers", and they continued the manufacturing of dining room and library tables.
On May 18, 1906, the Mersman brothers along with Edmund Brandts, a Prussian-German immigrant who came to America in 1904, bought Henry Lenartz’ interest in the firm, and business became known as "Mersman Brothers and Brandts Company".
On August 29, 1906 the business was incorporated under Ohio law, Mersman Brothers Brandts Company employed 125 men in the factory year round, along with ten traveling salesman. Shipments of medium and high-grade dining tables were made to nearly every state and Canada.
On October 24, 1927, Walter Mersman, the president of the company, requested an amendment to the company charter, and the company became known as "Mersman Brothers Corporation.
During the depression of the early 1930’s, Mersman Brothers became involved in the manufacture of bedroom suites and dining room tables and later went on to Radio Cabinets.
When WWII came along, the company went into war work as far as possible. They were limited because the number of wood items used was quite limited. Mersman Brothers manufactured desks for the Treasury Department, mess tables and benches for the Navy, mobile repair units for the Air Force and plywood for the Lend Lease program. Shortly before the end of the war, Mersmans got into its present line, living room tables.
In 1963, Mersman was acquired by Congoleum Industries, and was a member of the corporation’s home furnishings group until October of 1977. At that time it was purchased by the Somers Corporation, a group of private investors, headed by Mr. Will Somers and headquartered in Highlands, New Jersey. Mr. Somers is currently the president of what is now known as Mersman Tables. The company’s Vice President and General Manager is Don Vander Horst, who has been with Mersman since his first days as a sales trainee in 1950.
Mersman Tables is currently manufacturing occasional tables along with correlated wall units and curios, in three separate facilities. The main plant in Celina houses the main offices and factory in an area of nearly 500,000 square feet where it employs over 570 people. A smaller facility, also in Celina, handles specialty items and employs about 20 people. The company also operates a southern plant in Eupora, Mississippi, which allows Mersman to better serve customers in that region. The plant covers 200,000 square feet and employs 180 workers.
To date, Mersman has manufactured close to 30 million tables for the world’s homes and has always enjoyed a fine reputation of quality. Reasons for this are that each individual part of a table is inspected before it leaves its department, and is inspected again upon completion.
The factory’s ideal Midwest location allows good shipping service to all of the Continental United States. To further insure good service, Mersman started a fleet of company trucks in 1965. This aids the retail dealers with moderate freight rates and fewer damage and claim problems. Rail and public truck carriers also make a sizeable percentage of Mersman’s shipments from each shipping point.
Mersman Tables overall plan for the upcoming years is to reaffirm its position as the leading manufacturer of occasional tables in the country. The Somers Corporation has vowed to once again make Mersman a household word. The Company’s experienced manufacturing and sales people are dedicated to continuing the high standard of quality and service it has given throughout the years.
* Note: Mersman Tables Company ceased production in 1995.
There have been many inquiries into the history of the Mersman Table Company. More research is being done at this time in hopes to supply more information to those who are curious. Thank you for your patience.
Background Drawing of Celina's Lighthouse by Shirley Delaet Yantis