1994 Town of Knox Comprehensive Plan: Pill Box Manufacturing

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Pill Box Manufacturing

The most important industry for Knox was the manufacture of wooden pill boxes. In 1806 Nathan Crary invented and organized this industry and for almost 100 years Knox and pill boxes were synonymous. Tenney and Howell state that "Many of the citizens of Knoxville and vicinity find employment in the industry."

Landmarks of Albany County declares "Nathan Crary began the manufacture of wooden pill boxes and supplied some of the largest pill makers in the country. At the p resent time John M. Quay and Sanford Quay are conducting the business". The late Millard Quay was a nephew of Sanford Quay and his wife, Loretta, reports that "Millard cut down numerous basswood trees, cut them up to make winding and stamp shavings for th e many ladies to make into pill boxes. Sanford stamped the bottom and tops of the boxes by the keg - full and Millard cut winding shavings and got them ready to be made into boxes."

There were at least six factories in the Town, with many homes carrying on phases of pill box making. One factory, thought to be the first, is located in the back of the Little League baseball field in the Crary dwelling, which remains in its original state(20). Another factory was located at the old Chesebro place(21), and anot her on the Crary property(22). Several other homes were pillbox manufacturing sites(23, 24, 25).

Arthur Quay stated in an paper written for the Albany Institute of History and Art (and later featured in the Knox Sesquicentennial Booklet) that the "inventi on of machinery to turn out glass vials and tin boxes and the scarcity of basswood trees were the chief causes for the end of the industry".