‘The History Makers’

Monadnock Center Exhibit

  • Workers at the Monadnock Paper Mill, in an undated photo from the 1800s

    Workers at the Monadnock Paper Mill, in an undated photo from the 1800s

  • Workers at the Monadnock Paper Mill, in an undated photo from the 1800s

John Kaufhold runs a company that’s been in business since 1849. That alone is reason why Peterborough Marble and Granite belongs in the upcoming exhibit “The History Makers” at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture. But Kaufhold says longevity isn’t what he’s most proud of.

“I don’t really think we’re a history maker,” he says. “I think of us as a history recorder. We do bronze plaques and markers that are found all over. And we work on old memorials and restore them. We’re preservationists. ”

Peterborough Marble and Granite was founded by Irish immigrant Hubert Brennan in 1849. It was run by members of the Brennan family until 1958, when it was purchased by Hans Kaufhold, John’s father. Hans, who still works at the company during the summer months at the age of 87, had come to the United States from Germany in 1950.

“It’s amazing that we’ve had only five owners in more than 150 years,” Kaufhold says. “These days, businesses come and go, but we’re still around. I love doing this work. We’re making things that are going to last forever.”

“The History Makers,” which opens this week at the Monadnock Center, is a collection of stories, photographs and artifacts from dozens of businesses like Kaufhold’s. It’s intended to celebrate not just those companies that have been around the longest, but also recognize the people and industries that have shaped the region, including many that are no longer here.

“We got the idea when Ed Hampson, who is retired, stopped in with a package of clippings and information about his company, Electropac,” says Michelle Stahl, executive director of the Monadnock Center. “They are the company that built the manufacturing plant that is now South Meadow School. I didn’t know much about them, but he told me they had built components for the Apollo space missions. It got us thinking about all the hidden things that have been done in Peterborough and around the region and it made sense to do an exhibit.”

Once Stahl started investigating the history of the business community, the floodgates opened.

“Every time I talk to someone, they suggest someone else,” she says. “We’re still gathering material. Some of it will focus on individual businesses, some will be done as group stories. And we’ll tell about some of the companies that have managed to stay independent as their environment changed.”

One of those companies is Edmunds Hardware, founded in 1942 in Henniker by Clarence and Hattie Edmunds, the grandparents of current owner Rick Edmunds.

“We opened the Antrim store in 1962,” Edmunds says. “There had been a general store and hardware store in this building for 100 years.”

While the store is affiliated with Ace Hardware, which gives Edmunds buying power to compete with chains and big-box retailers, it remains independently owned, which Edmunds says give him flexibility.

“I think customer service is what sets us apart,” he says. “We’ll scramble to get customers exactly what they need.”

Another local company that’s evolved is Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington, one of the oldest continuously operating paper mills in the country. The company recently developed a new line of wood fiber based products, called Envi, that can serve as environmentally friendly alternatives to plastics and vinyl.

“We’ve been doing some pretty interesting things to remain relevant,” says Lisa Berghaus, the manager of marketing communications for the paper mill. “We’ve been here since 1819, and the company is always working to develop innovative products.”

Stahl says the exhibit will include samples of the Envi line, as well as photos from the early days of Electropac and Edmunds and sample monuments from the 19th century that were used by Kaufhold’s predecessors at Peterborough Marble and Granite. She’s also displaying a range of artifacts from area businesses — the first issue of BYTE magazine; copies of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the oldest continuously published periodical in the country; a poster from the Gem Theater in Peterborough; the Center’s collection of baskets from the Peterboro Basket Company,

And she thinks people will be intrigued to learn about Ring’s Vegetable Ambrosia.

“It was basically a hair dye,” Stahl says. “A man named E.M. Tubbs had a business making it on the site where the Peterborough library is now. In the 1860s, people first started buying by mail order, and the Peterborough post office was overrun with orders. He eventually had to move the business to Manchester.”

“The History Makers” opens on Friday, with a free exhibit party from 5 to 7 p.m. to which the public is invited. The exhibit will then be on view through May 10 during museum hours, Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Museum admission is $3, and Monadnock Center members and children under 12 may view the exhibit for free.

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