Stunning photos from inside a North Country paper mill


North Country At Work recently made a trip down to Cranberry Lake, to meet with the Town of Clifton’s historian and director of the Clifton Museum, Mark Friden. He graciously shared the museum’s digitized and un-digitized photos of work, and there were more than a few gems. But one series of photos practically flew off the page: professional photographs taken inside the Newton Falls Paper Mill, which was a huge employer during the 20th century for area residents. It opened in 1894, saw its peak in the 1970s, and then went through a series of opens and shutdowns by different corporations until it closed for good in 2011.

These publicity stills taken inside the mill offer up a rare and intimate look at the paper-making industry. The photos were saved by two happy coincidences. The first was during a shut-down in the 1970s when Ernie Bognar, a Newton Falls Paper Mill employee, took these photos home, fearing it was a permanent closure and they would be lost. A few decades later and Ernie had passed away and his house in Newton Falls sold “as is – contents included”. The house was purchased by Randy Clarke, who just happened to me a friend of Mark Friden. While Randy was cleaning out the house, Mark ran into him and was told, “Come and take whatever you want for the Museum – if is still here in three days, it all goes to the dump.” He immediately went to the old Bognar house, and was rewarded when he found the photographs.

Go here for more North Country At Work blog posts, and here for all North Country At Work Radio Stories. Check out the project and upcoming photo sessions here.

These photos come from the Clifton Museum as part of the Ernie Bognar Collection, furnished through the courtesy of Randy Clark. 

Exterior view of Newton Falls Paper Mill in the 1920s

Exterior view of Newton Falls Paper Mill in the 1920s.


Man stirring pulp beater, from in-house publication called “The Beater.”

Lee Townes operating gages for beater machine, which mixed chemicals.

Lee Townes operating guages for beater machine, which mixed chemicals.

Under the Hydro Pumper.

Under the hydropulper, which makes a slurry of fiber and water at the beginning of the papermaking process.

Man working the rollers shirtless.

Papermaking can be a hot, humid business. This man works shirtless.

Two women and a man cutting paper at the "Cutting Machine".

Two women and a man cutting paper from a roll for sale as sheet paper.

The Calendar Machines, circa 1945

Calender machines apply the surface finish to paper, circa 1945

The "Super Calendar" Machine.

The supercalender machine puts a higher finish on some papers.

Operating paper roll machinery.

Finished paper is measured off into rolls for bulk sale.

Operating paper roll machinery.

Operating paper roll machinery.

The Wrapping Room, on the left is Ernie Trembley, on the right is  Hillary Hooper

The wrapping room where paper is prepared for transport and sale. On the left is Ernie Trembley, on the right is Hillary Hooper

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2 Comments on “Stunning photos from inside a North Country paper mill”

  1. Lisa Lindsey says:

    Thank you for sharing these. My grandmother (Cora McBroome) and my uncle (Tom Watson) both worked at the paper mill. Thank you for letting me see where my uncle went every night.

  2. Amy Feiereisel says:

    I’m so glad they helped you gain some insight on your relatives, Lisa!

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