The John E. Mitchell Company’s WWII Munitions Work (Part 1)
by Paula Bosse
by Paula Bosse
The John E. Mitchell Company arrived in Dallas in 1928 to join the other nearby manufacturers of cotton gins and other agricultural equipment. They built their factory at 3800 Commerce, between Benson and Willow Streets, in the area now commonly referred to as Exposition Park, a few blocks from Fair Park. (The building still stands and has been converted into lofts. More on the building itself in Part 3.)
In 1942, during World War II, the large cotton machinery factory gradually transformed itself into one wholly concerned with war production, primarily manufacturing munitions for the Navy, but also producing ordnance parts for the Army.
Below are a series of postcards, produced by the Mitchell Company, touting their contribution to the war effort and acknowledging their workers. The second half of these cards will be contained in the next post. (Most of the cards are larger when clicked.)
The top card shows part of the plant’s inspection department:
TO GO OR NOT TO GO — THAT IS THE QUESTION
Every item of war production turned out at the Mitchell plant, to be acceptable to the Army and Navy, must be held within rigid tolerance of accuracy. Over fifty women do nothing but gage and inspect the various products before shipment. This picture shows a portion of the Mitchell Company’s inspection department.
DALLAS FIRM AWARDED FIFTH ARMY-NAVY “E”
The John E Mitchell Company of Dallas Texas announced receipt of its fourth renewal of the Army-Navy E award, the fifth presentation, counting the original flag.
John E Mitchell, Jr., president, said so far as he knew the firm was the first in this section of the country to have received five awards, each representing six months of continued production excellence. The award came from Adm. C. C. Bloch, chairman of the navy board of production awards in Washington.
Employees of the Mitchell company have a record of 100 per cent participation in weekly purchases of war bonds, and the average for all employees is above 12 per cent. Absentees, excluding authorized absences, run less than 1 per cent.
From the Daily Times Herald, Tuesday, March 20, 1945
KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY
There are not many families in the country making as much of a contribution to the war effort on the production front as are the Gardners. Here they are, eight of them, all engaged in vital war work in the Mitchell plant.
Left to right: Ernest, Nettie, Fred, Ida, Raymond, Pearl, Herbert, and Maxine.
A NOSEY DEPARTMENT
This title has nothing to do with the feminine curiosity of the women in this picture. However, the title is appropriate; because every day for the past year, between 8,000 and 10,000 explosive noses for incendiary bombs have passed down this table.
This view, taken inside the Mitchell factory, shows a portion of our lathe department. Most of these lathes operate 24 hours a day, and most of them are now turning out Navy items for the Pacific War against Japan.
When this picture was taken, our president, John Mitchell, had evidently pulled off some sort of wisecrack which everyone seemed to enjoy, especially Mr. Mitchell himself.
The scene: one of the Mitchell Company’s regular Monday assembly meetings. The honored guests: Barney Kidd and Raleigh Smith, former Mitchell employees, now representing their company in both branches of the armed services.
MEET OUR INDUSTRIAL CHAPLAIN
Let us introduce you to Art Isbell, the Mitchell Company’s industrial chaplain, shown here consulting with receptionist Doris Aday.
One of the first concerns in the nation to retain a full time industrial chaplain, the Mitchell Company has already discovered how important his services can be. Handling funeral arrangements, visiting the sick, helping with personnel problems, rendering spiritual guidance, Art Isbell has made himself invaluable to Mitchell men and women and has already endeared himself to the hearts of many through his patient understanding and never-failing cooperation.
This committee keeps 1,000 post cards like this one going out to our men in the armed forces each week. In addition, it also has charge of the Mitchell Company’s war posters.
Every month, a new display of posters is prepared, honoring some one of the hundred ex-Mitchell employees now in uniform. The original is presented to the boy’s parents, a small-sized copy is sent overseas to the boy himself, and the posters themselves are displayed in the plant.
To date, four of the posters honor men who have given their lives for their country.
Sources & Notes
Postcards found on eBay last year. I was a little surprised to find that most of them are still available for purchase, here.
For more on the Mitchell Company’s early days as a munitions plant, see the Dallas Morning News article “E Award Given Plant Doing Munitions Job” (DMN, Dec. 29, 1942).
The Mitchell Lofts building is a long way from being war-time production plant. Here is what it looks like today.
Google Maps (click for larger image)
Another Flashback Dallas post on a local munitions plant (this one downtown) — “2222 Ross Avenue: From Packard Dealership to ‘War School’ to Landmark Skyscraper” — is here.
Part 2 features more of these postcards of the Mitchell Company’s war work, here.
Part 3 will focus on the building itself.
Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.
Cool but a bit depressing that a building that once housed machines that made things is now just used to house people.
The John Mitchell shown in the postcard and written about in the DMN article is the son of the man who started the company in 1928. From this DMN obituary – http://goo.gl/IBGYCf – John Mitchell Sr. appears to have been an interesting man.
Google tells me that the Mitchell company really branched out after the war and made the Mark IV aftermarket auto A/C unit, ICEE frozen carbonated beverage dispensers, MagiVac cleaning systems, Handy-Mart large commercial refrigerator units and Handy-Wash car washing units.
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[…] machinery and began producing munitions and materiel for the Navy and Army. (Part 1 can be found here.) The cards in a landscape format are larger when […]
[…] Dallas posts on the John E. Mitchell Company’s time as a munitions factory can be found here and […]
“Cool but a bit depressing that a building that once housed machines that made things is now just used to house people.”
well, I for one feel grateful this building was saved, and not turned into yet another parking lot, or unused business office building. Dallas is too well known for “paving paradise and putting up parking lots”.
mark 4 auto airconditoning company
Can you tell me if the John E Mitchell Company was sold? If so, when and to whom?
My Dad used to go to Board Meetings and my aunt has a stock certificate but we have no record of what happened to the company.
I worked for the company part-time as a student during the mid-70s. It’d successfully transitioned from making cotton machinery to air conditioning after WWII, but failed to respond to the market changes when car A/Cs went from a luxury item in cars to something more standard. The time came when they filled a warehouse with them but so few sold the pallets were stacked three and four high in their warehouse. Deep in debt, they were bought out by a company that killed the company and sold off what was of value. I was sad to see it go but consoled by the fact that the administrative building became a condo. At least it is still around.
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my father, my uncles, my grandmother and grandfather all worked at John E Mitchell Company and of those dome like buildings is still there down by the fair. My Dad brought home an icee machine one time in a company van and we got to have an icee. We also attended the picnics at Six Flags b=put on by Mitchell’s. My dad worked on the Mark IV air conditioner ….
My father, my uncles, my grandmother and grandfather all worked at John E Mitchell Company and of those dome like buildings is still down there by the fair. My Dad brought home an icee machine one time in a company van and we got to have an icee. We also attended the picnics at Six Flags put on by Mitchell’s. My dad worked on the Mark IV air conditioner ….***Correcting***