The Foundry/Florence Stove and Manufacturing Company

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The Foundry/Florence Stove and Manufacturing Company




The Foundry/Florence Stove and Manufacturing Company played an important role in the history of the Sweetwater area of Florence, and as of today, the remnants of their factory still operates under a partnership of former employees as the Martin Stove and Range Company/Martin Industries, Inc. As of today, the factory is located on East Tennessee Street. When first established, the Foundry was located on Commerce Street in Sweetwater. The Foundry became the Florence Stove and Manufacturing Company when Henry H. Theole moved his company to Commerce Street in 1888 from Evansville, Indiana. An important businessman in Florence, Thomas Jefferson Phillips partnered with Theole. Phillips owned many entrepreneurial ventures in the Sweetwater area of Florence.

When the Florence Stove Company commenced manufacturing, the factory produced stoves, heaters, wash pots, skillets, “sad” irons for ironing, and “dog” irons for fireplaces in a 150,000 square foot warehouse facility. Theole specialized in machine and jobbing work for repairing brass and iron molding and pattern work. Theole would hire local former slaves who became well-known locally for casting. The artisan former slave Pompeii worked at the company and cast sets of dog irons which can be seen at the W.C. Handy Museum in Florence. Workers who worked at the Florence Stove Company lived in a group of red frame houses owned by the company due south of the foundry on “Theole Row”. Theole also employed convicts at the Florence Stove Company as operators and common workers in the foundry.

In 1918, the Florence Stove and Manufacturing Company was failing financially and two brothers, Charles and William Martin, Sr., partnered and purchased the company. The two brothers renamed the failing company Martin Stove and Range Company and within two financial quarters, the enterprise turned profits. During the 1970s, the Martin Stove and Range Company was reorganized into Martin Industries, Inc. And by 1987, Martin Industries, Inc., sold the families interest to a partnership of employees at the Florence facility who currently run the company on East Tennessee Street today. As of the late 1980s, the payroll was 1.5 million dollars with annual sells being five million dollars for more than 10,000 tons of gray iron casting.


M.C. Fesmire, University of North Alabama


Text Sources:

“Martin Industries, Inc. - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Martin Industries, Inc.” last modified 2015. Martin Industries, Inc. Forum.

McDonald, William Lindsey. "Remembering Sweetwater: The Mansions, The Mills, The People." photos by L.D. Staggs, Jr. Killen, Ala., Bluewater Publications, 2002.

McDonald, William Lindsey. "A Walk Through the Past: People and Places of Florence and Lauderdale County, Alabama." Killen, Ala., Bluewater Publications, 2003.

Picture Source:

UNA Archives & Special Collection. William L. McDonald Collection. “The Foundry/Florence Stove and Manufacturing Company.” Florence, Alabama, Box 12: Florence Industry, 12-31.


Alabama Cultural Resource Survey


Late Nineteenth Century-Present