The Brush Shop
A Film by Stan Sherer
64 minutes | color and black & white
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Coolidge Museum, Forbes Library, 20 West Street, Northampton, MA 01060
The sprawling brick complex in Northampton, Massachusetts called “Brushworks Arts and Industry” hosts the studios of a hundred artists and craftspeople. But the brush in “Brushworks” isn't a paintbrush, it's a toothbrush.
The building had been the home of the Pro Corporation, a late incarnation of the first mass-market producer of toothbrushes in America. Under different names and ownerships, the company spanned the manufacturing life of this lively city on the Connecticut River, beginning in 1854 as the A. P. Critchlow & Company (soon the Florence Manufacturing Company) making buttons, daguerreotype cases, and hairbrushes. As the Pro-phy-lac-tic Brush Company, it became the world's largest producer of toothbrushes and then plastic cases for radios, telephones, television sets, and, by the 1980s, computers. The Pro Corporation closed in 2007.
In its heyday, “The Brush Shop,” as locals called it, grew in tandem with growing national concern for oral hygiene to become one of the city's largest employers. Many families had several members working there, and often more than one generation. Through interviews with former Pro Brush people, archival photographs from the collection of Historic Northampton, and commercials and advertisements from different periods, this film tells the story of a vital Northampton industrial history.
Featured in the film:
Mary Toohey, secretary from 1943 to 1989
Dorrie Alderman Blakney, public relations from 1990 to 1997
Frank Bradley, machine operator from 1953 to 1983
Patrick McGrath, quality assurance from 1977 to 1989
Terry Minnick, president, owner from 1986 to 1997
Colleen Basile, office work, machine operator, product packaging, data processing, manager from 1968 to 1986
John Singler (and his wife Rita), electrical specialist from 1959 to 1989
Alice Toohey, office worker from 1945 to 1997
Tom Gagnon, finishing department, relief operator, machine operator, adjustor, supervisor, shipping & receiving, inventory from 1967 to 2007
Stan Sherer has published five books of photographs, including Long Life to Your Children! A Portrait of High Albania and Founding Farms. He was a Fulbright Scholar to Albania, a recipient of two Mass Foundation grants, and numerous other grants and awards. Exhibits/USA toured his exhibition On the Land: Three Centuries of American Farmlife throughout the country for ten years. Sherer has worked as a photojournalist and documentary photographer in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, the Caribbean, and in Asia. He has a strong interest in local history and is the Vice President of the Board of Trustees of Historic Northampton. He holds a B.A. from the City University of New York and an M.F.A. from the University of Massachusetts.