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Syracuse Ornamental Company (Syroco) Collection

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Title: Syracuse Ornamental Company (Syroco) Collection
Inclusive Dates: 1908-2005
Quantity: 0.75 linear ft.
Abstract: Syracuse Ornamental Company (Syroco) American manufacturing company, founded in 1890 and based in Syracuse, New York, was best known for molded wood-pulp interior decorations and gift and novelty items that resembled hand-carving. Later they integrated polymers into their molding process and then moved entirely into plastics production. Collection contains illustrated sales catalogues spanning most of the company’s existence and annual reports from the later period after it was sold to non-Syracuse corporations.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010
http://scrc.syr.edu

Biographical History

The Syracuse Ornamental Company, known as Syroco, was an American manufacturing company based in Syracuse, New York. They were best known for their molded wood-pulp products that resembled hand-carving.

Founded in Syracuse, New York in 1890 by immigrant Adolph Holstein, the Syracuse Ornamental Company (Syroco) specialized in decorative wood carving, especially for the local residential market. Products included fireplace mantelpieces and other types of interior decoration popular in late Victorian homes. To meet increasing market demand and sales opportunities Holstein developed a material looked and felt like wood but that which could be shaped, allowing multiple pieces to be produced through a molding process. The new product, which combined wood pulp brought from the Adirondacks with flour as a binder and other materials to give it strength, was extruded and then cut to fit compression molds, which had were made from original carvings in real wood.

The process favored shallow molds with little undercutting, and this served well for the creation of a wide variety of "carved" relief work to be applied to different sorts of flat surfaces such as walls, furniture and caskets. Production of this new molded product, known as SyrocoWood, was the mainstay of the company's production through the 1940s. The finished material could be smoothed and varnished to look like wood, or it could be painted. Sales catalogues from the early 1900s through the 1920s offer hundreds of varieties of moldings, capitals, brackets, volutes, and reliefs of vases, garlands, cartouches, scrollwork, and other details in a variety of styles.

Syroco operated from a large factory complex on 581 South Clinton Street in Syracuse acquired from Smith Corona Typewriter Company. The company remained in the hands of the Holstein family for three generations, with some of Adolph's children and grandchildren taking over management and sales positions. At its peak, about 400 workers were employed at the plant.

By the 1930s the company had also developed an extensive line of gift and novelty items made of "SyrocoWood" and also "Woodite," a combination of wood flour and polymer. In the 1960s the company began to use injection molding for some of its products, but did not entirely abandon its old processes.

Syroco added more lines of injection molded plastics when a new plant was opened in nearby Baldwinsville in 1963 which was entirely geared to plastics production, especially PVCs and polystyrene. The company began to use plastic in new "modern" designs and new forms for clocks, mirrors, tables and a range of household items. In 1968-1969 the company launched its "Lady Syroco" home products. Beginning in 1986 Syroco produced a popular line of lawn furniture.

In 1965 the company was bought by Rexall Drug and Chemical Company (which soon changed its name to Dart Industries). Dart owned Tupperware, from which Syroco gained more knowledge of injection molding. Syroco was purchased by the Syratech Corporation of Boston in 1986 which expanded its patio furniture production. In 1995 Syratech sold Syroco to Marley PLC of Sevenoaks, England, and in 2004 Syroco was purchased by Vassallo Industries of Puerto Rico which closed the plant in 2007. In April 2010 Tessy Plastics purchased the 270,000 square foot Syroco plant to be used for storage and distribution.

Sources:

"Corkscrews of the Syracuse Ornamental Company," online at vintagecorkscrews.com

Hannagan, Charley. "Syroco plant closes," Syracuse Post-Standard, June 18, 2007.

Alexander Holstein, interviewed by Sam Gruber, Syracuse, New York, Nov. 8, 2010.

Sorcher, Jamie. "Brits in deal for Syroco," HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network, April 3, 1995.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Syracuse Ornamental Company (Syroco) Collection contains material relating to the Syracuse manufacturing company. At present the collection consists of annual reports and product catalogs.

Annual Reports date from the period after the company was sold to Rexall Drug and Chemical Company (later Dart Industries), Syratech Corporation and Vassallo industries.

Product catalogs span almost a century of the company's existence. Products represented include architectural features (moldings, capitals, brackets, volutes, and reliefs) in a variety of styles, home accessories (sconces, clocks, mirrors, tables, etc.), bathroom products such as brush and comb sets, devotional items, and more.

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Arrangement of the Collection

Within each series items are arranged chronologically.

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Restrictions

Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions on this material.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Related Material

Twenty Syroco objects are part of the Plastic Artifacts Collection. Special Collections Research Center also houses numerous holdings in the areas of plastics and industrial design. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

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Subject Headings

Corporate Bodies

Dart Industries.
Rexall Drug and Chemical Company.
Syracuse Ornamental Company (Syroco)

Subjects

Molding (Plastics)
Moldings -- Catalogs.
Plastic novelties.
Plastics in interior decoration.
Plastics industry and trade.
Wooden novelties.

Genres and Forms

Annual reports.
Catalogs.
Promotional materials.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Syracuse Ornamental Company (Syroco) Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Initial collection of annual reports and catalogs, gift of Alexander Holstein, 2011

Finding Aid Information

Created by: SG
Date: 10 Feb 2011
Revision history:

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Inventory

Annual reports
Box 1 Rexall Drug and Chemical Company 1965
Box 1 Syratech Corporation 1994
Catalogs
Box 1 1908
"Syracuse Ornamental Company, Manufacturers of Cloth Covered Casket Decorations, Corners, Ornaments, Mouldings, Panels, etc. in Broadcloth, Plush and Satin, Furniture Ornaments" (1908), 62 pp
Box 1 1918
Period Carvings Catalog "K" (1918)
Box 1 1923
The Syroco Line of Fibre Wood Carvings and Mouldings: Period Carvings (1923), 432 plates
Box 1 1930s
Syroco Wood Products (undated)
Box 1 1940s
SyrocoWood: Creations by Master Craftsmen (undated, circa 1940s?), 18 pp., Catalog No. 4 (includes some items in Plastics Artifacts Collection);
SyrocoWood: Art Products, Creations by Master Craftsmen (undated, circa 1940s?), 14 pp.;
SyrocoWood Devotional items (undated, circa 1940s?), Catalog No. 8, 8 ½" x 11 , 6 panel gate fold;
Syroco Wood Gifts and Decorative Accessories (1940), 6 pp. (photocopy), Catalog No. 9;
Syroco Wood Decorative Accessories (1947) (photocopy selected pages), Catalog No. 12
Box 1 1950s
Syroco Wood: How to Use Decorative Accessories to Beautify Your Home (undated circa 1950s?), 26 pp.;
Syroco Catalog No. 53 (1953), 48 pp;
Syroco Catalog No 54 (1954), 40
Box 1 1960s
Syroco Decorative Wall Accessories (1962), includes Danish Modern Collection, Early American Collection;
Carvings by Syroco (1963), 67 pp;
Syroco Wall to Wall Decorating;
New...Decorative Floral-Mates by Syroco, 4 pp;
Syroco Decorative Accessories 1967-'68, 63 pp;
Syroco Decorative Accessories 1968-'69, 48 pp;
Discover the colorful world of...Lady Syroco Accessories for Bath & Boudoir (undated circa 1968-1969)
Box 2 1970-1974
Syroco Decorative Accessories 1970, 48 pp;
Retail Pricelist 1970, includes "the Syroco Story";
Syroco Art (1970), folder with inserted sales materials;
Syroco Art (undated, circa 1970), 28 color print cards and pricelist bound in clear acetate cover folder;
"For Today and Tomorrow..." Syroco presents "Chrome and Chroma: Collection";
"Out of the past..." Syroco presents "The Pre-Columbian Collection";
"In the Beginning..." Syroco presents "Genesis";
"Table Manners..." Syroco presents: Parsons Tables for Every Manner of Home, Color Scheme and Use"
Box 2 1975-1979
Metal Wall Sculpture by Syroco (1975), 18 pp;
Life Style by Syroco (1976);
folder with 1976 Decorative Accessories Catalog and price list;
Syroco Decorative Accessories Catalog: 1977 (folder with catalog, price list and promotional sheets on furniture lines)
Box 2 1980s
Syroco Decorative Accessories Catalog: 1983 (includes Syroco housewares);
Syroco Decorative Accessories (1984)
Box 2 2000s
Syroco Home Accents Collection (circa 2005), 14 pp;
Syroco Home & Garden Collection, 10 pp

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