Sligh family

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The Sligh family of Grand Rapids, Michigan have been prominent businessmen and furniture makers for over one hundred years. The first generation of Slighs to come to western Michigan was James W. Sligh (1821-1963) who was a clothier and not a furniture maker. Immigrating from Scotland to Canada in 1833, and from there to Rochester, New York, in 1838, James W. Sligh finally settled in Grand Rapids in 1848. When civil war broke out, he entered service as captain with Company F, 1st Michigan Engineers and Mechanics. He died November 15, 1863, from injuries received from a train derailed by Confederate guerrillas.

Though still a boy at the time of his father's death, Charles R. Sligh (1850-1927) worked to help support his family. Following a series of odd jobs, Sligh was apprenticed for four years to a local tinsmith. He clerked for one year at the Foster and Stevens Hardware Store, and then in 1875, he went to work in the finishing room of Berkey and Gay, Grand Rapids furniture manufacturers. He was soon promoted to foreman of the finishing department and then became one of the salesmen for the company. Sligh was probably the first furniture salesman to make extensive use of photographs in his sales presentations. Up until that time, salesmen usually followed carloads of their companies' furniture into various cities along the train route. From the railroad yards, they would call the local dealers down to examine their wares, and sales would be made directly from the train. Using photographs enabled Sligh to open up new markets without being tied to the railroad.

On February 24, 1880, Sligh and his brother-in-law, Lewis Hawkins organized the Sligh Furniture Company. With Sligh as president and chief salesman, the company prospered and grew. In the 1890s, with bicycling a new and popular fad, Sligh attempted to diversify his company to include the manufacture of bicycle wheels. This venture proved a failure, and thereafter, Sligh devoted most of his business energies to furniture manufacturing in general and the Sligh Company in particular. He developed new sources for the mahogany needed in his production by organizing a company which cut lumber in Honduras and then transported it to Grand Rapids. He established an agency in England for the sale of his furniture. He was president of the National Furniture Manufacturers Association (1888-1892), and was for many years president of the Grand Rapids Furniture Manufacturers Association . And in 1900, when his supply of mirror glass was restricted by a cartel of French, German, and Belgian manufacturers, Sligh traveled to Europe and sought out a supply of glass from a number of small, independent Belgian manufacturers.

With his company well established, Sligh began to devote more of his time and effort to politics and public service. He was a member of the Grand Rapids Board of Education in 1882 and 1883, and was active in local Republican politics. In 1895, Sligh split with his party over the question of bimetallism. He advocated free silver and was one of the organizers of the Silver Republican Party in Michigan . In 1896, he was nominated by the Free Silver Republicans, the Democrats, and the Populists to be the fusion candidate for governor. He was defeated in this election by Hazen Pingree. In 1906, Sligh ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Grand Rapids. In 1912, Governor Chase S. Osborn appointed him to the state's Workmen's Compensation Commission; and in 1915, he was made a member of the Grand Rapids Charter Commission which drafted that city's charter. Sligh was elected state senator for his district in 1922, and in 1924, he ran unsuccessfully in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

Sligh was also involved in local philanthropic pursuits, including the Boy Scouts, the YMCA, and the planning for a proposed (but never completed) Sligh Memorial Hospital for Children. Among other business interests, Sligh was president of the Santiam Land and Timber Co., president of the Clark-Sligh Timber Co., and secretary-treasurer of the Clark Iron Co., which had large holdings of mineral lands in the Mesabi Range. Sligh died September 15, 1927.

With his death and worsening business conditions in the furniture industry, the Sligh Furniture Company floundered and failed. Its assets were liquidated in 1932. Charles R. Sligh, Jr. (1906- ) who had gained experience in his father's business, was forced to begin anew a business which would have the family name. In 1933, this Sligh together with O.W. Lowry, who had been the company's superintendent, pooled their resources to purchase an idle furniture factory in Holland, Michigan. The Charles R. Sligh Company gradually grew. In 1940, the two men opened another plant (the Sligh-Lowry Company) in Zeeland, Michigan. This was followed in 1945 by a third company, the Grand Rapids Chair Company, then by a fourth, the Sligh Furniture Showrooms in New York City.

Charles R. Sligh, Jr., like his father, was concerned with national economic issues. As a skilled debater, he became a spokesman first for the furniture industry and then for all of American business through his work with the NAM, the National Association of Manufacturers . Sligh was chairman of the NAM's taxation committee, and in 1952 was vice president of the NAM's Michigan-Ohio region. He was elected president of the NAM in December 1952, and after his term expired in December 1953, he was elected chairman of the NAM Executive Board. In April 1957, he was elected chief administrative officer and executive vice president of the organization. While with NAM, Sligh gained fame as spokesman for the business point of view in a series of debates with labor leaders, notably George Meany and Walter Reuther .

Though a Republican like his father, Charles Sligh Jr. never ran for high public office, preferring instead to express his political views through his NAM activities. He did serve as chairman of the Kent County Republican Party in 1952 and was an acquaintance of many national Republican leaders.

From the guide to the Sligh Family Papers, 1842-1967, (Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan)

Archival Resources
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creatorOf Sligh Family Papers, 1842-1967 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
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Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Aaron T. Bliss person
associatedWith Abbott, Sidney D., b. 1826 person
associatedWith Albert Wells person
associatedWith Alexander C. Sly person
associatedWith Al Friendly person
associatedWith Alger, R. A. (Russell Alexander), 1836-1907 person
associatedWith Allen B. Morse person
associatedWith American Federation of Labor. corporateBody
associatedWith Andrew Tully person
associatedWith Arthur H. Summerfield person
associatedWith Arthur H. Vandenberg person
associatedWith Baker, Frederick A., b. 1846 person
associatedWith Bernard Kilgore person
associatedWith Bill Shannon person
associatedWith Bliss, Aaron Thomas, 1837-1906 person
associatedWith Brucker, Wilber Marion, 1894-1968 person
associatedWith Bryan, William Jennings, 1860-1925 person
associatedWith Burrows, Julius C. (Julius Caesar), 1837-1915 person
associatedWith Burton, Marion Le Roy, 1874-1925 person
associatedWith California Land and Water Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Cavanaugh, Martin J., 1866- person
associatedWith Charles A. Towne person
associatedWith Charles Cudney person
associatedWith Charles R. Sligh Co. corporateBody
associatedWith Charles W. Watkins person
associatedWith Clark-Sligh Timber Co. corporateBody
associatedWith Clark-Sligh Timber Company corporateBody
associatedWith Clement Miller person
associatedWith Clyde H. Geerlings person
associatedWith Congress of Industrial Organizations (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Cudney, Charles H., 1828-1904 person
associatedWith Curtis, William Eleroy, 1850-1911 person
associatedWith Cutcheon, Byron M., 1836-1908 person
associatedWith Cyrus G. Luce person
associatedWith D. A. Reynolds person
associatedWith David Jewell person
associatedWith Democratic Party (Mich.) corporateBody
associatedWith Don Lighthall person
associatedWith Drake, Richard L. person
associatedWith Edson Gifford person
associatedWith Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969 person
associatedWith Eliza Wilson Sligh person
associatedWith Emery, John Garfield, 1881- person
associatedWith Enos Hopkins person
associatedWith Erwin C. Watkins person
associatedWith Ferris, Woodbridge person
associatedWith Ferris, Woodbridge N., 1853-1928 person
associatedWith Ferry, Thomas White, 1827-1896 person
associatedWith Foote, Mark person
associatedWith Foote, Mark, 1882-1957 person
associatedWith Ford, Henry, 1863-1947 person
associatedWith Ford Motor Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Francis B. Stockbridge person
associatedWith Frank Blair person
associatedWith Fred A. Baker person
associatedWith Geerlings, Clyde H., 1904- person
associatedWith George F. Richardson person
correspondedWith George Meany person
associatedWith George Walker person
associatedWith George White person
associatedWith Gifford, Edson P., b. 1832 person
associatedWith Goodspeed, Richard D. person
associatedWith Grand Army of the Republic. corporateBody
associatedWith Grand Rapids Timber Co. corporateBody
associatedWith Groesbeck, Alexander J., 1873-1953 person
associatedWith Hannah, John A., 1902- person
associatedWith Henry Morgenthau, Sr. person
associatedWith Holden, Ebenezer person
associatedWith Holden, Ebenezer G. D., 1845-1912 person
associatedWith Hopkins, Enos, 1821-1896 person
associatedWith Hopkins, Samuel W., b. 1845 person
associatedWith Innes, William Powers, 1826-1893 person
associatedWith International Union, United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers of America. corporateBody
associatedWith James M. Sligh person
associatedWith James M. Turner person
associatedWith Jewell, David A., b. 1828 person
associatedWith John A. Hannah person
associatedWith John F. Kennedy person
associatedWith John G. Emery. person
associatedWith John McGrath person
associatedWith Julius C. Burrows person
associatedWith Justin R. Whiting person
associatedWith Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963 person
associatedWith Knox, Frank person
associatedWith Knox, Frank, 1874-1944 person
associatedWith Lakeview Oil Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Lighthall, Dow L., b. 1809 person
associatedWith Luce, Cyrus Gray, 1824-1905 person
associatedWith Mantle, Lee, 1851-1934 person
associatedWith Martin J. Cavanaugh person
associatedWith Mary Stowell Sligh person
associatedWith McGill, Charles William, 1865- person
associatedWith McGrath, John W., b. 1837 person
associatedWith McMillan, James person
associatedWith McMillan, James, 1838-1902 person
associatedWith Meany, George, 1894- person
associatedWith Michigan. Constitutional Convention, 1907-1908 corporateBody
associatedWith Michigan. Legislature. Senate. corporateBody
associatedWith Michigan School of Religion. corporateBody
associatedWith Michigan Society for Crippled Children. corporateBody
associatedWith Michigan. State Highway Dept. corporateBody
associatedWith Michigan State Senate corporateBody
associatedWith Michigan State University. corporateBody
associatedWith Miller, Clement F., b. 1830 person
associatedWith Morgenthau, Henry, 1856-1946 person
associatedWith Morse, Allen Benton, 1839-1921 person
associatedWith Musgrave, Richard Abel, 1910- person
associatedWith National Association of Manufacturers (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith National Security League. corporateBody
associatedWith Nevins, William S., b. 1829 person
associatedWith Osborn, Chase S. (Chase Salmon), b. 1860 person
associatedWith O. W. Lowry person
associatedWith Patton, John, 1850-1907 person
associatedWith Pingree, Hazen S., 1840-1901 person
associatedWith President Eisenhower person
associatedWith Republican Party (Mich.) corporateBody
associatedWith Reuther, Walter, 1907-1970 person
associatedWith Richard C. Mosher person
associatedWith Richardson, George person
associatedWith Richardson, George F., 1850-1923 person
associatedWith Rich, John Treadway, 1841-1926 person
associatedWith Robert Burns Sligh person
associatedWith Ron Cochran person
associatedWith Russell A. Alger person
associatedWith Santiam Timber Corporation corporateBody
associatedWith Senator O'Mahoney person
associatedWith Sidney Abbot person
associatedWith Singer Sewing Machine Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Sligh, Charles Robert, 1850-1927 person
associatedWith Sligh, Charles Robert, 1906- person
associatedWith Sligh, Edith Clark person
associatedWith Sligh, Eliza Wilson person
associatedWith Sligh Furniture Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Sligh, Gertrude C. person
associatedWith Sligh, James May, 1844-1921 person
associatedWith Sligh, James Wilson person
associatedWith Sligh, James Wilson, 1821-1863 person
associatedWith Sligh Lowry Furniture Company) corporateBody
associatedWith Sligh, Mary Stowell Conger person
associatedWith Sligh, Mary Stowell Conger, 1854-1903 person
associatedWith Sligh, Robert person
associatedWith Sligh, Robert Burns, 1856-1879 person
associatedWith Sly, Alexander C., 1863- person
associatedWith Smith, William Alden, 1859-1932 person
associatedWith Spencer Allen person
associatedWith Squier, George Owen, 1865-1934 person
associatedWith Stockbridge, Mr. (Francis Brown), 1826-1894 person
associatedWith Summerfield, Arthur Ellsworth, 1899-1972 person
associatedWith Ted Granik person
associatedWith Turner, James Munroe, 1850-1896 person
associatedWith United States. Army. Michigan Engineers and Mechanics Regiment, 1st, 1861-1865. Company F. corporateBody
associatedWith Vandenberg, Arthur H. (Arthur Hendrick), 1884-1951 person
associatedWith Walder Warner person
associatedWith Walker, George D., 1820-1863 person
associatedWith Walter P. Reuther person
correspondedWith Walter Reuther person
associatedWith Warner, Fred person
associatedWith Warner, Frederick Maltby, 1865-1923 person
associatedWith Warner, Walter, b. 1816 person
associatedWith Watkins, Charles W., b. 1844 person
associatedWith Watkins, Erwin C., b. 1839 person
associatedWith Wells, Albert, b. 1835 person
associatedWith Wheeler, Frederick person
associatedWith Wheeler, Frederick, 1862- person
associatedWith White, George W., b. 1828 person
associatedWith Whiting, Justin Rice, 1847-1903 person
associatedWith Wilbur M. Brucker person
associatedWith William E. Curtis person
associatedWith William Innes person
associatedWith William Nevins person
associatedWith William P. Belden person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Philippines
Business enterprises
Michigan
Grand River (Mich.)
United States
Grand Rapids (Mich.)
Subject
Corporations
Occupation
Function

Family

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