Albert Henley has been a resident of Lawrence for thirty-nine years. In all that time he had been actively and conspicuously identified with the material growth and commercial development of the state.
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Mr. Henley was a pioneer manufacturer of barbed wire in Kansas. Barbed wire is now accepted as a commonplace product of American industry. Only the old timers recall with what prejudice this wire was introduced into general use and also the crude forms in which it was at first manufactured.
Mr. Henley’s early attempts at the manufacture were on a very small scale. He began at Lawrence under the name The Consolidated Barbed Wire Company. From a small beginning this grew to a large institution, supplying its product over practically all the prairie counties of Kansas. His first equipment consisted of four machines, which were brought to Lawrence in a small tin trunk. At first the barbs were made by hand in the old Kimball factory, and from there were carried in a tin bucket to the wire factory at the foot of Massachusetts Street. The bars were put on by hand. Gradually improvements and extensions were made and automatic machinery was introduced, most of it invented by Mr. Henley himself. In the end the factory employed between 100 and 150 hands, and the business was one of the chief industrial assets of Lawrence. There was also a branch establishment at Joliet, Illinois. This business was continued by Henley until about 1899 when the factory was absorbed by the present United States Steel and Wire Company. At that date Mr. Henley’s connection with the business ceased.
For some time prior to this Mr. W. R. Stubbs, who later became governor of Kansas, had an office at Lawrence. Mr. Stubbs was engaged in the manufacture of plaster at Mulvane, Kansas. He finally sold a half interest in his plant to Albert and John A. Henley, brothers. In a short time the gypsum at Mulvane was exhausted. Prior to that Mr. Stubbs had sold all of his interests to the Henley brothers, who then moved the plant to Watonga in Blaine County, Oklahoma. They supplied capital and enterprise sufficient to make the business a large and flourishing one. They bought the plant at Salina, Kansas, operating both mills. The Salina plant also included a large mill at Acme, Texas, and one at Long Ford, Kansas. These four plants were all operated at one time by the Henley brothers. At the present time they have seven plants under different names and located at Grand Rapids, Michigan, Fort Dodge, Iowa, Toledo, Ohio, two at Blue Rapids, Kansas, one at Akron, New York, and one at Acme, Texas. The forerunner of this industry was the American Cement and Plaster Company, which had been founded by W. R. Stubbs. The main office of the business is maintained at Lawrence, Kansas. The seven plants furnish employment to over 700 persons, and the output had acquired a large diversity of form and usage. They not only make plaster but also hollow building blocks, plaster boards, and thousands of tons of their products enter into building construction every year.
Mr. Albert Henley came to Kansas from Marshalltown, Iowa. At Marshalltown he was connected with a foundry and machine shop, and while there he made the four machines for the manufacture of barbed wire which he brought with him to Kansas. Mr. Henley was born in Henry County, Indiana, in 1845, spent his youth there, and had an education supplied by the public schools. While he never learned a trade, he had a natural genius for mechanics, and that had been the central feature of his business success and constitutes a vital interest with him even at the present time.
In Indiana Mr. Henley married Miss Eleanor D. Coffin. They are the parents of three sons: Walter, deceased; Roy and Warren. Mr. Henley is an active republican in politics. He served two terms in the lower house of the Kansas State Legislature and one term in the Kansas Senate. While in the Legislature he tried to secure the passage of a law abolishing railway passes, and also another measure providing for the employment of convicts in public road work. Neither of these wholesome measures were enacted while he was in the Legislature. Mr. Henley had also served as mayor of Lawrence. He is a Knight Templar Mason.