COPING WITH THE DEPRESSION
Good things can come out of difficulties
1929 – 1942
- Article Written by David Armour - Arthur's oldest son.
From 1929 to World War II the United States suffered through what became known as the “Great Depression.” Millions were unemployed; many people lost their savings and their homes. Our parents, Marian Bowie Armour (1906-1984) and Arthur Smith Armour (1908-1998) struggled through the difficult times, yet by frugality and hard work were able to not only survive but to build a solid legacy for their children.
Marian Bowie, born on July 1, 1906 in Bowie, PA was orphaned at a very young age and was passed around from relative to relative. In 1921 her grandmother Bowie brought her to Grove City and placed her with Dr. Harry S. Slough, on Hillcrest Circle, to work as a maid for her board and room. Grandma Janette Bowie, with mother’s younger brother James, lived only a few blocks away on McConnel Street but appears to have had limited contact with Marian who greatly resented being placed at the Slough home. Marian attended Grove City High School and graduated in 1925.
Following High School, Marian attended Grove City College for two years and graduated with a Secretarial Degree in 1927. She paid for her own education and had a passion for earning a college degree. Upon graduation, she obtained a job working as a personal secretary for Attorney Milford L. McBride who had an office with Attorney Wherry on the second floor of the First National Bank on Broad Street in Grove City. She also became a notary, and attorney Mc Bride let her keep the 50 cents fee which she diligently saved. Marian rented a room in the house of Charles H. Welch at 312 West Main Street. She saved her money but regularly had her hair dressed and purchased a few good clothes because it was very important to her that she always had a good appearance in public. Her savings which grew steadily gave her a sense of security and independence. During the late 1920’s Marian became engaged to William John McDowell whom she had met at College. Their engagement ended about 1929.
Only a block away at 328 College Avenue, Arthur Armour lived with his parents Thomas Frederick (T.F.) and Anna Armour and his elder sister Winifred. The Armours had moved to Grove City in 1922 from Greenville so that T.F. could manage a grocery store on Broad Street. Arthur attended Grove City High School and graduated in 1925 the same year as Marian. Though they attended school together, I don’t believe that they were close friends. They also attended Grove City College at the same time 1925-27 but were probably not particularly close. Arthur pursued art courses in training for a career as an architect. In 1927 he transferred to Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh where he completed his architectural degree in 1931. In order to finance his education, Arthur owned a number of saddle horses which were rented out on the east side of Conneaut Lake to visitors at the resort community. During the winter the horses were cared for by his uncle Walter Armour on the family farm a few miles north of Sheakleyville in Crawford County.
Nineteen Thirty One was not a good year for a graduate from an architectural school to find a job. Thirteen million Americans 25% of the workforce, were unemployed including a million in Pennsylvania. Many of the unemployed were college graduates. The country was in a deep depression and no one was hiring. Arthur secured an unpaid internship with the W.G. Eccles Co. Architects in New Castle but after a year decided to return home to Grove City to live with his parents and in October 1932 found work as a designer at the new company of Wendell August Aluminum for $25.00 a week. The firm had come to Grove City in 1932 and among other items made hand hammered aluminum giftware which had a market among those Americans who still had jobs and money. Aluminum was a popular metal, which some considered a “poor man’s silver” and was sold in jewelry stores and upscale department stores. Arthur designed a number of architectural and gift items but after about 6 months was laid off.
During his six months at Wendell August, Arthur who had an enquiring mind and good hand skills had learned the rather basic processes for making aluminum giftware including cutting dies, hammering the designs into metal, shaping, finishing the items and smoking “coloring” the items in a coal fire. He also learned that there was a market for aluminum giftware even in difficult economic times.
Out of a job Arthur decided to start his own business. Borrowing $300.00 (probably $3,000 in today’s dollars) from his mother (the only money he ever borrowed) he purchased tools, a block of steel to cut a die and aluminum to fabricate some sample trays. He cut the die and made the trays on the back porch of his parents’ home at 328 College Avenue. Arthur’s father T.F. had an entrepreneurial spirit and at this time was no longer managing a grocery store but owned his own business delivering coal and ice which he harvested in the winter from nearby Barmore Lake (Grove City County Club).
Arthur was confident that he could make aluminum giftware but he also realized that he did not have the skills to market it. Consequently in the spring of 1933 he took his samples on a train to Chicago, Illinois to attend the large Chicago Gift Show at the Palmer House Hotel. There his trays were well received and he contracted with A. Stanley Brussel from New York City to add Arthur Armour Aluminum items to his gift line. They managed to secure some orders so that Arthur had work to do when he returned to Grove City. Brussel’s commission for selling the items was 20% of the wholesale price. For example if Arthur made an item for $4.00 and sold it wholesale for $5.00 Brussel received $1.00 commission. The store then marked the item up 100% to $10.00 which was the retail price. It was upon this cost ratio that the business was built. Arthur at some point in time also decided to sell items at his shop at a 40% discount from the retail price. This was his most profitable way to sell items because he did not have to pay commission or shipping. Thus he received $6.00 for a $10.00 item instead of $4.00.
When Arthur returned to Grove City with orders in hand he needed a place to fabricate his gift wares. Across the alley to the south of his backyard was a vacant two story cement block building which had formerly been a bottling plant for Nehmo beverages. Arthur was able to rent the building for $90.00 a year and move in his tools and supplies. This building called “The Shop” was the base for his new business. Because the building was rented, Arthur spent very little over the years to improve it. He brought in a few tools such as a large foot operated cutter to cut up the large sheets of aluminum into manageable sizes. Initially he made the items himself but as orders flowed in he needed additional help. There was no difficulty in finding eager workers. He paid about $35.00 per week which came to about $1,750.00 for 50 weeks of work. Arthur did not pay any vacation or sick leave nor anything towards a person’s retirement. Men were eager to work and he had no difficulty hiring as many men as he needed.
Arthur did encounter problems with Federal Government regulations which created the 40 hour work week. Overtime pay had to be compensated at time and a half. Arthur’s workmen wanted to work additional hours and there was plenty of work to do. They agreed as a group to work additional hours for regular pay. After considerable time, one of Arthur’s workers complained to authorities and investigators checked the payroll records. As a result, Arthur had to pay the back overtime which the men had earned. Marian was furious but she had to pay. The workmen were upset when their work week was reduced to 40 hours.
Paper work was another matter. Any business generates paper work, from ordering and paying for materials, paying the workers, billing the customers and banking the receipts. At some time Marian Bowie began to help with these tasks. She and Arthur both attended First Presbyterian Church, were active in the youth group and had mutual friends. Marian had a steady job with Attorney McBride but had time to help Arthur with his new business which was located only a block away from where she lived.
Financial records for 1933 do not exist but we know that both Arthur and Marian lived frugally, saved their money, worked very hard and had no car to drain their finances. For 1934 and following, we do have the annual income tax returns which shed light on Arthur’s growing business. The 1934 return is prepared in Marian Bowie’s handwriting so we know they were working together by that time. In that year his gross income was $11,637.57. His workers were paid $4,386.55, materials cost $2,903.06 and he paid $90.00 rent for the shop and $172.50 for a showroom in New York City. Salesman A. Stanley Brussel was paid approximately $2,300.00 and perhaps Arthur paid a small amount to Marian for her work. Bankrupt customers failed to pay $28.88. Wendell August, upset by Arthur’s growing business sued Arthur for infringement of trade secrets and Arthur paid legal fees of $150.00 to get the suit dismissed. When all was said and done Arthur earned $877.76 for his work. Because this was under the $1,000.00 deduction, he owed no federal income tax.
In 1935 Arthur’s gross income more than doubled to $28,346.00. Business was growing and in the first half of the year he took in $10,866.00 and $17,379.00 for the last half. Perhaps this is not surprising since many of his items were purchased for Christmas gifts, thus the latter part of the year was the busiest.
Also Arthur continued to design new products, cut new dies and expand his line. His staff wages more than doubled to $12,052.00 and his material cost rose to $6,010.00. A Stanley Brussel was pleased because his commission increased to $6,000.61. Marian Bowie, Notary, who prepared the form was probably paid $990.00 for her help with the paperwork. For all his hard work Arthur earned $1.035.40 from his business. Because he contributed $100.00 to First Presbyterian Church in Grove City, Arthur’s tax liability was reduced below the $1,000.00 exemption and he owed no federal income tax.
Nineteen Thirty Six was a major turning point in the lives of Arthur and Marian. They were married by Rev. Robert Atwell on Saturday evening, June 6, 1936 in a modest ceremony at the home of Marian’s bridesmaid Carolyn Armstrong on Harvard Street. That night they moved with Marian’s dalmatian dog Dinah into their newly purchased home on 427 East Washington Blvd. Marian had purchased the home for $5,500.00 cash using money she had saved. The home had originally been built in the 1920’s for $15,000.00 by the Lincoln Land Company that developed the Washington Boulevard sub-division. They had gone bankrupt due to the Depression and Marian purchased the house that had been constructed for the developer. Adjacent to the property were two vacant lots on the inside of the boulevard circle. These lots had reverted to the Borough of Grove City for non-payment of taxes and Marian later was able to acquire them by paying the taxes due of approximately $300.00 per lot.
Business was good and increased to $43,832.00. Of this $40,820.00 were general sales, with a special order of $1,774.00 to Hulbert Oil and Grease. In the upstairs show, packing and shipping room $1,236.00 had been sold by Arthur’s father T.F. who was paid $1,000.00. T.F.’s ice business was declining as people replaced their “ice-boxes” with electric refrigerators so he welcomed the extra income. Marian was paid $900.00 for her book work while A. Stanley Brussel’s commission increased to $9,809.00.
To produce the increased volume of sales, Arthur hired additional staff and paid $17,854.00 in wages and used $9,125.00 in materials. Arthur Armour aluminum not only provided Arthur an income of $2,954.53 but provided jobs for nearly 20 men in the community. Despite his significant increase in income, Arthur paid no income tax because as a married man he now had a $2,500.00 personal exemption, had a $268.45 earned income credit and had made a contribution of $250.00 to the new Presbyterian Church of America in Grove City. This church had been formed in 1936 by conservative members of the First Presbyterian Church who were concerned about the theological modernism in the U.S.A. Presbyterian denomination. They were influenced by the writings of conservative J. Gresham Machen who was expelled from the U.S.A. Presbyterian Church in 1936. Many of Arthur and Marian’s friends, including Rev. Robert Atwell joined the group as did Arthur’s parents and his sister Winifred whose husband Rev. John Clelland was a minister in the new denomination.
The next year 1937 was the busiest and most profitable year in the history of Arthur Armour Aluminum even though the bottom dropped out of the American economy. Arthur and Marian sold $67,167.12 in aluminum giftware and derived an income of $6,230.60. On March 1 they purchased their first car – a Ford Coupe for $840.00. Previously Arthur had owned a Dodge pick-up truck which he used in his business. Again A. Stanley Brussel was pleased with his commission of $12,556.00, double the amount Arthur earned from the business. He successfully marketed Arthur’s aluminum as “The Aristocrat of the Metal Lines: Famed for Beauty and Detail of Decoration and for Weight, Balance and Life Time Finish.” T.F. Armour earned $1,420.00 for his work in the shop. Marian was paid $990.00 for her office work and an office was set up in one of the four bedrooms in their home. Another of the rooms was occupied by their new son David Arthur Armour who was born on July 12.
When items needed to be wrapped and packed, Marian would sometimes take the infant David to the shop at night in a clothes basket so she could watch him while she worked.
Workers wages rose to $24,930.48. Due to new federal regulations, Marian had to report the wages of workers’ earnings more than $1,000.00 a year. There were 12 men in the category with James Vincent DePonceau the highest paid at $1,842.16. Besides those listed (which totaled $17,449.05) $7,481.00 was paid to men who earned less than $1,000.00 per year. As many as 26 men worked full or part time for Arthur Armour Aluminum. In order to provide working space for his expanded staff, Arthur rented two other buildings. For the first time since his business began, Arthur paid income tax which was $95.36 or 4% on his income after his exemptions and contributions were deducted. Besides small gifts to the Red Cross and Salvation Army, supported by Marian, a donation of $175.00 was given to Westminster Presbyterian Church in Grove City and $175.00 to Faith Presbyterian Church in Harrisville. The conservative group in Grove City had divided. T.F. Armour and wife Anna remained with the Grove City group which became a Bible Presbyterian Church. The first pastor of the Bible Presbyterian group was Rev. Francis Schaeffer who later became well known for his work and writings at L’Abri, Switzerland. Arthur and Marian transferred their membership to Faith Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Harrisville where their friend Rev. Robert L. Atwell was pastor. There their new son David was baptized.
About this time a businessman approached Arthur and suggested that Arthur could expand his business by moving to another city. Arthur was not interested in expanding his business beyond what he had achieved. He was comfortable managing and working in his modest sized enterprise where he knew all his workmen personally. Arthur liked to work with his hands and went to work every day in work clothes. He dressed up in a suit and tie for Sundays or other formal occasions but he felt more comfortable in work clothes and was not afraid to get his hands dirty.
Business continued strong in 1938 though not quite as robust as the previous year.
The gross income in 1938 was $58,700.91 with $1,854.69 in merchandize sold directly in the shop to people who walked up the rickety stairway located in the back of the building. They had to walk through the workshop where hammers clanged as aluminum was pounded into steel dies. At the head of the stairs they passed workmen sanding and polishing items and perhaps saw the small forge where finished items were briefly smoked over a coal fire to add a thin coat of coal tar which would then be partially rubbed off. The jovial white haired T.F. Armour looked up from packing and welcomed them into the room where they could purchase items at a 40% discount off retail price. Shopping at the “Shop” was an adventure as well as a good deal and many local residents stopped in to purchase presents for weddings, birthdays, Christmas or for their own use. This discount was never advertized but became known by word of mouth. People who discovered this opportunity often came from Pittsburgh and other communities in search of bargains. T.F. Armour, who enjoyed his work, earned $1870.00 for his selling and shipping.
Stanley Brussel earned $11,597.33 in commission and workers were paid $21,709.70. Marian handled the book work and was paid $990.00 but when she became pregnant again they hired Isabell Bowser for $562.00 to assist in the office. She also worked at the office in the house on Washington Blvd. Only $45.44 was owed as income tax on the $4,891.81 that Arthur earned because their family was expanded on November 26th, 1938 by the birth of daughter Nancy Louise. Contributions were made to the Salvation Army, Red Cross and the American Sunday School Union, an organization in which T.F. Armour was actively involved. They also donated $500.00 to Faith O.P. Church in Harrisville.
Though the business paid only limited Income Tax, additional new payments were paid to the government. Old Age Benefits (Social Security) was paid $330.00 and Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation received $682.33. Marian resented paying these new charges and having to process the additional paperwork. Both Arthur and Marian hated these New Deal programs and the Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt. They never received any benefits from New Deal Programs and always voted Republican. Arthur’s father T.F. Armour consistently voted the strait Prohibition Party ticket which never won any office.
Arthur and Marian did not focus all their energies on their work and church. Marian loved the outdoors and was very concerned about the environment. She was “Green” before her time. She had spent some of her growing up years with Grandfather Shannon in his log cabin and farm in Springfield Township west of Grove City. Arthur and Marian drove around the countryside looking for a parcel of land where they could construct a small cabin as a retreat for their growing family. Following up on the advice of their friend Ed Atwell, father of their pastor, they found a beautiful 35 acre parcel in the hemlock covered valley of Donaldson Run. A spectacular cabin site was purchased beside a waterfall and pool. The land which was only 12 miles east of Grove City near Clintonville, was purchased from two land owners for $35.00 an acre.
Arthur was thrilled to utilize his architectural skill to design a cozy cabin. Workmen to construct the one room cabin were hired to frame the cabin with the sandstone quarried out of the hillside. The exterior of the cabin was laid up in carefully selected stones and a large stone fireplace was constructed in one end of the room. Plans were drawn up for a small addition which would include a bedroom with a circular fireplace, a galley kitchen and a small storeroom. The cabin had no electricity, or running water. Water was hauled in buckets from a spring located on the opposite side of the creek. An outhouse was built outside the cabin and chamber pots were used at night. There was no trash pit. Everything brought down to the cabin had to be carried back out to be
disposed of. Marian enjoyed the rustic cabin and wanted the cabin to reflect the way she grew up when heating and cooking were done on a fireplace and lighting was provided by candles and kerosene lamps. Though Arthur and Marian were making a good living from their business they did not spend their money freely. They always believed in acquiring quality items but felt it was better to have a few excellent things than many mediocre objects. They were not influenced by current fashions or customs and were not afraid to behave contrary to popular opinion. They believed that there was a lot of ugliness in the world and that the worst reason for doing something was because “everybody is doing it.” Sometimes they referred to themselves as “Bohemian” which had a hippy connotation.
During 1939 the world slid into war when Germany invaded Poland. France and Great Britain responded by declaring war on Germany. The United States officially stayed neutral, while increasing its defensive capabilities and unofficially helping Great Britain and the Allies. Arthur Armour’s business remained strong with a gross income of $57,656.19 of which $210.68 was interest from his growing bank accounts. He paid his workers $20,979.72 a bit less than the previous year but used $12,149.79 in materials, a slight increase. The primary salesman Mr. Brussel earned $10,850.25 and Fred Simon earned $418.92. Brussel was very pleased with Arthur’s successful business and hosted Arthur and Marian at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
Marian continued to manage the bookwork for which she was paid $900.00 while Isabelle Bowser earned $634.00 as Marian’s assistant and also caretaker for young David and Nancy. T.F. Armour handled the shop sales and processed the shipping for a salary of $1,509.60. The shop and other buildings were rented because Arthur preferred to rent instead of owning in case he had to close his business due to a downturn in the economy. Arthur travelled occasionally and $300.00 was spent on the expenses plus $180.00 on the New York City showroom.
To cover the new government programs, $261.23 was paid into the Old Age Benefits (Social Security) account and $664.56 to fund Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation. After all the business expenses were deducted, Arthur Armour Aluminum netted $5,270.32. Tax liabilities were reduced by $2,500.00 personal exemption and $800.00 for dependents David and Nancy. Also contributions were made in the amount of $388.00 to Faith O.P. Church in Harrisville and $112.00 to missions. Red Cross received $10.00, Salvation Army $5.00 and American Sunday School Union $5.00. These deductions reduced their Federal Income tax to $54.03 (4% of liability).
Some of his workmen ran short of cash and a total of $230.00 was loaned to six employees. Arthur and Marian deposited a total of $57,656.19 in several banks and earned $210.68 in interest. Bank accounts were set up for both David and Nancy. Marian was passionate about education and opened savings accounts for each child so they would have monies available when they reached college age. There was never a question about if they were going to go to college. They were. The only question was what College they would attend. Marian had worked so hard to earn enough to put herself through high school and college and she wanted to insure that her children would receive the education which she valued to highly.
Arthur and Marian also enjoyed their “Hemlock Valley” property and the “Cabin” they were constructing. During the year they spent at least $363.56 on the project. Marian loved to transplant plants she liked and she dug up rhododendrons from the hillside along the Allegheny River at Kennerdell and replanted the young plants around the cabin. She also brought plants to her Grove City home.
During 1940 the war in Europe intensified. Hitler invaded France, Belgium and the Netherlands and pushed the British army off the continent at Dunkirk. London was bombed and German submarines sank many ships carrying supplies to Great Britain. Russia invaded Finland which resisted strenuously. Marian and Arthur followed these events through the photos in Life magazine to which they subscribed. The U.S. tried to stay out of the spreading conflict but was actively rearming and Arthur registered for the draft in Mercer and was classified 3A because of his dependent wife and 2 children. Additional federal monies were needed for these defense efforts. The 1940 tax return was labeled “Individual Income and Defense Tax Return” and included a 10% Defense Tax surtax on the ordinary income tax.
Despite the international crisis the gross income of Arthur Armour Aluminum only decreased slightly to $49,476.75. Interest income however grew to $317.26, reflecting Marian’s frugality and her goal to continue increasing their monies set aside in interest bearing saving accounts. She viewed interest income as similar to having an additional job because it provided extra income.
Expenses for rent remained the same while wages for workers declined a bit to $19,912.39 and materials cost $10,286.66. Old Age benefits at $269.60 and Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation at $639.11 remained roughly the same.
Besides managing the manufacturing operation in Grove City and designing new products, Arthur travelled to Pittsburgh 8 times, to Philadelphia 3 times and to New York City one time. There he met with his salesman A. Stanley Brussels to whom he paid $8,554.61. This amount was more than twice as much as the $4,045.48 which Arthur netted from his business. Marian was paid $795.00 and T.F. Armour earned $1,520.00 for his work in the upstairs of the shop. Isabelle continued to help Marian at the East Washington Boulevard office. Marian and Arthur followed the war in Europe and contributed $5.00 to Finnish Relief. They also supported Faith O.P. Church ($440.00) as well as the Red Cross, America Sunday School Union, Grove City Hospital and National Civic League. With their personal and dependent exemption they only owed $12.34 in income tax which included the 10% Defense Tax surcharge. During 1940 Marian and Arthur had $49,476.75 in various bank accounts including $511.55 for David and Nancy.
Late in 1941 the world of Arthur and Marian turned upside down. On Sunday afternoon, December 7 while sitting in an armchair inside their cabin, Arthur turned on his battery powered radio to listen to the news. The shocking account of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor filled the airwaves and Arthur realized that the United States was at war. Four year old David, playing noisily in the cabin would not be quiet. After several warnings, he received one of the hardest spankings of his young life which he still remembers six-eight years later.
By December 1941 the U.S. was already placing itself on a wartime footing. The first peacetime draft had been instituted and industries were converting over to military productions. The Arthur Armour Aluminum business income had declined to $46,311.50 which was less than 10%. Wages to workers had increased slightly to $20,102.42 while materials dropped to $8,219.94. Shop and showroom expenses remained constant as did Old Age Benefits and Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation. Salesman Brussel’s commission dropped slightly to $8,152.25 and T.F. Armour earned $1,520.00. Marian apparently did not draw a salary but Isabelle continued to handle the book work. Arthur’s income dropped dramatically to $2,493.35 but due to personal and dependent exemptions plus donations he owed no taxes. Faith church at $450.00 was his primary contribution.
Arthur received a shock on Sunday afternoon June 15, 1941 when he went to visit his parents after morning church service. A stranger drove up with T.F. in the car and they carried out Arthur’s mother Anna who had died while on a drive. Anna had suffered for several years from Parkinson’s disease and had been lovingly cared for by T.F. Marian was not with Arthur that day because she had stayed home to care for their newly born son.
During the year Marian was pregnant with their new son Thomas Frederick Armour II (born June 2, 1941). Their three young growing children took a lot of Marian’s time. The family also needed a larger car and on February 26 they purchased a Ford Super Tudor car for $893.50 cash. Their bank accounts totaled $46,311.50 which included a new account of $362.57 for Tommy to begin his college account. Marian always felt that each of their children should be treated equally and made sure that each child had a college account, which over the years grow to $3,000.00 each. This amount would have paid for four years of college at the time it was placed in the account. However, due to rising costs of college, by the time it was spent it purchased considerably less. For David and Nancy $3,000.00 provided funds for two years of college. For Tom it paid for somewhat less and for their fourth child Mary Ann (born August 19, 1946) after W.W. II the funds were sufficient for only one year.
In 1942 Arthur Armour Aluminum collapsed. As the United States mobilized for war the military desperately needed aluminum to build airplanes. The government confiscated Arthur’s stock of aluminum paying only scrap price for the metal. It was impossible to purchase additional aluminum so Arthur had to close the business and lay off his employees. However, he continued to rent the “Shop” building.
During the first months of the year, workers were paid $4,530.39 using the last remaining $2,665.54 of materials. The giftware made was sold for $16,101.94. Arthur only netted $1,415.23 as income from the business.
Arthur’s Farther T.F. also lost his job. However, he decided to purchase an apple orchard a few miles west of Mercer. Arthur and Marian loaned him the $10,000.00 to acquire the old orchard. The orchard was overgrown with suckers on the trees and poison ivy on the ground. Arthur helped his father clean up the orchard but found out he was very allergic to poison ivy.
At age 34 Arthur was out of a job and needed to find other employment. With three young children he did not wish to join the military and he was on the upper limits of the draft age. Putting his architectural training to good use, Arthur applied for and received a job with the Mellon Stuart Company, an architectural firm. They were constructing the Shanango Personnel Replacement Depot of the United States Army called Camp Reynolds located at Transfer, Pennsylvania, halfway between Sharon and Greenville. Arthur obtained a rather dull desk job shuffling paperwork related to the construction of the camp. He also had a forty mile drive each way to work instead of the mile and a half drive between East Washington Blvd. and the shop in Grove City. However he had Saturdays and Sundays off and Marian was pleased to have her husband working a regular schedule. When Arthur was his own boss he worked five full days a week plus two hours each night (except Wednesdays when he attended prayer meetings) from 8:00 – 10:00pm and Saturday mornings. Now he only worked 40 hours a week. Arthur’s salary for Mellon Stuart Company was $72.00 a week and he earned a total of $1,320.10. Added to that $1,415.22 he earned from his business, Arthur earned $2,735.32 in 1942.
Despite their drop in income, Arthur and Marian continued to donate $420.00 to their little church in Harrisville as well as supporting the USO, Red Cross, Christian Education, American Sunday School Union, Grove City Hospital and the Boy and Girl Scouts of America. Due to their drop in income, they owned no federal income tax despite the government lowering the personal exemptions to $1,200.00.
World War II with millions of men called up for service and millions of dollars spent by the U.S. government for the war effort brought an end to the Depression. Though many Americans suffered deep economic hardships from 1929 – 1942 Marian Bowie Armour and Arthur Smith Armour actually prospered. By hard work, talent, frugality and opportunity they were able to become successful, property owning, middle class business people. They had taken long term views of their lives by securing educations which provided the underpinnings of their futures. Marian’s professional secretary training provided her with steady employment throughout the Depression. Arthur enhanced his design skills and utilized the entrepreneurial skills which he had learned from his parents and observed at Wendell August Forge. Arthur recognized an opportunity to design and sell “Smartly designed and well made” aluminum giftware which happened to be in fashion and for which there was a market in the gift and jewelry trade. The Depression created a large supply of workmen eager to do the skilled handwork required in hand hammered aluminum giftware. The depressed wage scale made it profitable to operate a hand craft business. Arthur was very fortunate to find an excellent salesman to represent him and to sell his aluminum in a national market. When Marian and Arthur combined their skills and hard work as co-workers and later as husband and wife, they made an excellent team. Arthur managed the design, production and sales and Marian handled all the paper work and as time went on their investments. From the years 1934 – 1942 during the Depression, Arthur earned a total net income from his business of $29,214.48. He paid only $207.17 in Federal Income Tax on his earnings.
The drastic drop in real estate prices made possible the acquisition of their home at 427 East Washington Blvd., Grove City, PA., 2 city lots and also the 35 acres of forest in Clinton Township, Venango County. Their frugality and the necessity to save for their old age impelled them to aggressively save their monies for themselves and for their four children’s education. Besides providing for themselves Arthur and Marian also created jobs for over twenty men, many of whom were married in the Grove City area. Thus they directly helped these families cope with the Depression and their spending filtered throughout the region’s economy.
Good things can come out of difficulties, particularly when we look to God for guidance and help. Both Marian and Arthur walked closely with the Lord Jesus and devoted themselves to serving His Kingdom while at the same time working hard to take care of themselves, their children and others.
Dr. David A. Armour
David Arthur Armour (1937 - 2010)
Marian Bowie Armour (1906 – 1984)
James Bowie (1877 – 1911)
John Bowie (1853 – 1911)
James Bowie (1816 – 1876)
Alexander ? Bowie (c. 1791 – 1841)
David Arthur Armour (1937 - 2010)
Arthur Smith Armour (1908 – 1998)
Thomas Frederick Armour (1876 – 1965)
James Armour (1843 – 1906)
James Armour (1804 – 1881)
James Hamilton Armour (c. 1768 – 1834)
Robert Armour (c. 1740 – 1780)
Robert A. Armour (1704 – 1784)
John Armour (c. 1680 – 1742)
Robert Armour (c. 1669 - )