Mill celebrates a century of papermaking

Courtesy photo The paper mill in Escanaba is shown circa 1920 in a historical photo provided by Verso Corporation. As of today, the mill has been making paper for exactly 100 years.

ESCANABA — The Verso Corporation Escanaba Mill is celebrating a milestone in 2020. As of Friday, Jan. 17, the mill has been making paper for 100 years.

According to a press release issued by Verso Wednesday, the mill was in use well before paper production began there.

“The Escanaba Mill began operating in 1891 as the Escanaba Electric Street Railway Company before the Escanaba Paper Company was organized,” Verso Operations Group Vice President Mike Laverdiere was quoted as saying in the press release.

The mill was primarily built to help investors attract new customers for the hydroelectric generation capacity created by dams on the Escanaba River. Pulp production began at the mill on July 5, 1912.

The mill’s No. 1 paper machine officially started producing newsprint on Jan. 17, 1920; that June, the mill’s No. 2 paper machine began operating. About 100 people worked on the machines, and roughly 300 tons of newsprint were produced at the mill daily.

Courtesy photo In a historical photo provided by Verso Corporation, the woodyard at the paper mill in Escanaba is shown.

The Mead Corporation bought the mill in 1942, and the Escanaba Paper Company became a Mead subsidiary. Five years later, the company expanded the No. 1 paper machine system with the installation of two coaters, supercalenders and rewinders, allowing the mill to make coated printing papers. The mill discontinued newsprint production after 36 years.

Mead continued to expand the mill over the next four decades, and was involved in several multimillion-dollar expansion projects there. Among these projects were the installation of the No. 3 paper machine, kraft pulp mill, No. 7 and No. 8 turbine generators and No. 9 bark power boiler in 1972 and the installation of the No. 4 paper machine, pulp mill, No. 9 turbine generator and No. 11 power boiler in 1980.

“The mill’s 100-year history of making investments to enhance, expand and evolve its product portfolio, paired with hardworking, committed people, has contributed to its longevity and success,” Laverdiere said.

Today, the mill employs roughly 890 people and is capable of producing about 730,000 tons of paper per year. It makes graphic and specialty paper, which is used in products such as magazines, books, direct mail and labels.

Laverdiere expressed his appreciation for Verso employees in the Escanaba area for the role they have played in the mill’s century-long history of paper production.

Jordan Beck | Daily Press In this recent photo, the Verso Corporation Escanaba Mill is shown. The mill has been making paper for 100 years.

“I want to thank all of our Escanaba team members for their dedication to the mill, our customers and our communities. Here’s to another 100 years,” he said.