The circa 1937 “Then” photo (#A1964) is of the United Paperboard Co. Note the 1937 Ford automobile in the foreground. The Ohio Strawboard Co. was established in 1895 (Urbana and Champaign County Illustrated – Supplement to the Urbana Daily Citizen, Oct. 10, 1911). The facility was apparently heavily damaged by a tornado circa 1900 (#A2069). At that time straw was a primary ingredient in the finished product – boxboard.
Based upon Sanborn Fire Insurance maps in 1910, the plant was listed as the United Boxboard Company and by 1911 it had approximately 50 employees. It became known as the United Paperboard Co. in September 1924. Straw was no longer a component, although older workers continued to refer to the plant as “The Strawboard.”
Sometime later it became one of three American companies operating under the name United Board & Carton Co. The product was primarily “kraft,“ which was manufactured in a variety of sizes and colors. A specialty item was “cakebox,” which was coated with white Alabama clay. Employees worked “swing shifts” alternating weekly from days (7 a.m.-3 p.m.) to 2nd (3-11 p.m.) to “graveyard” (11 p.m.-7 a.m.). Workers were given little notice when the plant shut down around 1972.
The 2019 “Now” photo is of Orbis Manufacturing, currently doing business in the same location, 200 Elm St.
Submitted by the Champaign County Historical Museum, a not-for-profit organization that depends upon donations and dues to preserve, protect, archive and display the artifacts that tell the Champaign County story. The free public museum located at 809 East Lawn Ave., Urbana, is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays.