Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Vanished Makes: Hawkeye and the Burlington Basket Company, Burlington, Iowa


Above, from an old hamper in our house. The Burlington Basket Company was founded in 1888.  Iowa is known as the "Hawkeye State", hence the brand name.


The original factory burned down in 1928, in what was considered one of the city's worst fires.  The company moved to another location on the Mississipi River, but flooding of the first floor was a constant problem.  

Two factory photos above from The Hawk Eye, November 27, 2011.
The old looms were disposed of in the late 1950's, and curiously the company soldiered on for several decades without them.  However, in 1982 they bought 12 looms from a North Carolina firm.  Plastic was introduced into hampers in the early 1970's, but not in the bassinets until the 1990's.  They had supplied merchandise to Walmart as early as 1965, when that chain was still very small.  In 1983, Sam Walton decided that he wanted a wicker hamper to retail for $10, and Burlington Basket was given the contract for 6500 hampers a month.  The company also sold these items to Target and Kmart.  In the mid 1990's, at their peak, 220 people were employed in the Burlington factory.  However, conditions began to decline after this with competition from China, whose hampers were being sold for less than they could be made in the U.S.  So, the company decided to focus on the "juvenile" market, specializing in bassinets. The recession further bit into sales, and then came a 2010 recall of bassinets because they could collapse if not assembled properly. Rather than take the bassinets back, the company offered free repair kits to consumers.  This didn't go over well, and Walmart dropped the product.  So, 123 years after its founding, the company declared bankruptcy in 2011.  At this point in time, most of its products were being made in China and only 15 employees were working in the Burlington plant.  The factory has since been demolished.

1906

12 comments:

Steve said...

Re: The 1906 Refrigerator Basket ad -
"Between the rattan and the inside lining is a layer of asbestos packing and a layer of felt"
As the Franks RedHot sauce lady says "I put that S*** in everything!" LOL

The Duke said...

Asbestos was used in a lot of products back in the day. See my earlier post: http://progress-is-fine.blogspot.ca/2012/06/caution-use-asbestos.html

Dale Topham said...

Thank you for the very interesting overview of the Burlington Basket Company! I own a "Hawkeye Quality Baskenette" manufactured by the Burlington Basket Co., circa 1920s. My father's aunt bought it and used it for her babies. Nine decades later, I am using it for mine.

Hope for congenital diaphragmatic hernia said...

I used to work for the Burlington Basket Company in 1998. (Burlington, Iowa) Very hot job in the Summer and very cold in the Winter. I stopped working there due to the paint fumes as I was pregnant with my first daughter. Thanks for this article. Interesting read.

Anonymous said...

Today,at a Goodwill store, I purchased an old Hawkeye pinic basket. It's such a charming & well made basket. Baskets are part of American history.
Your article comfirmed that I made a good choice picking this basket up for $4.00.

Unknown said...

I just found one today at good will for 6.00. Are they safe to use? I saw something about asbestos. Was that just for the refrigerated baskets?

Mister G said...

I really can't help you with that information. Perhaps a reader can confirm or deny?

Unknown said...

IMG_1493.JPG I guess the picture is not going to show up. I have a Hawkeye Quality Baskenette by Burlington Basket Company. My mom used it with me in 1950. I thought I was the 1st baby in family to use it, but now I am wondering if passed down from another family member. 5 other siblings used it along with nephews & my daughter. Now getting it ready to be used by my grandaughter this coming July. It doesn't look very pretty, but it is functional. and lots of sentimental attachment to it./Users/H/Desktop/IMG_1493.JPG

Mister G said...

If you send a image to gerald@vanwyngaarden.ca I'll add it to the post! Thanks!

Unknown said...

What were the baby bassinet made out of

Unknown said...

Found this at a florist. Is it a Burlington Basket?

https://plasticpendulum.com/products/hawkeye-woven-wicker-cooler-basket-with-tin-liner-and-ice-storage?variant=36311516643477

Unknown said...

My parents received a Hawkeye laundry hamper as a wedding gift in 1947. We inherited it and still use it.