Swift Hardware celebrates 150th

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Shown is the ribbon cutting from Friday’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of the opening of Swift Hardware.

HOUGHTON — Swift Hardware is 150 years old this year, and celebrated Friday with a ribbon cutting, free Vollwerth hot dogs, bratwurst, birthday cake inside the store, along with prizes, kids’ games, and even a prize wheel. People registered to win a free lawnmower, a $150 gift certificate, and other prizes were also part of the celebration, and the Clown Band played local favorite tunes on the in front of the store.

“It’s kind of crazy,” said Marilyn Swift, fourth generation family owner of the business, “because of what was going on 150 years ago. I mean, Canada was two years old, the Trans-Continental Railroad just got finished, the Eiffel Tower was not even born yet.”

The business began as a supply house for the mining industry in Ishpeming in 1869, and in the 1880s, opened a store in Houghton. Since the birth of the company in 1869, I.E. Swift & Company has witnessed the height of the American Industrial Revolution, the transition from steam to diesel and electric locomotives and mine hoists, two world wars, the Great Depression, the rise and decline of iron and copper mining in the Upper Peninsula, and through it all, has become a cornerstone of Copper Country hardware.

“We’ve been through so much,” said Swift, “but business just keeps going. My great grandfather, William Swift, he was a senator and he came here and said: ‘We’re going to need milling and mining operations for sales up in the Copper Country.'”

William F. Swift was indeed a senator, serving his constituents in Lansing at the same time as Jay A. Hubbell.

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette From left, Robert McGowan, Marilyn Swift and John Sullivan pose with a cake just prior to cutting Friday.

In discussing the local history, Marily remarked on the number of people who came to the region for employment and better life. William F. Smith was among them. Swift was a native of Connecticut, born in Sharon, Litchfield County, on July 10, 1848.

He studied law and was admitted to the Bar in New Haven, before coming to the Upper Peninsula, where he opened a law office in Ishpeming before starting the mining supply business. He was elected to the state Senate in 1880, and had also held the office of Mayor, along with other local offices. In June, 1875, he was married to Miss Ida Euphoria Bundy of Columbia County, Wisconsin, for whom he named the business, I.E. Swift.

Since the store opened in Houghton, it has greatly expanded, from mining supplies to hardware, housewares and garden supplies, and even equipment for making maple syrup.

When asked what she envisions for the company in the future, Swift said the ribbon cutting was not for the past 150 years, but for the company’s next 150 years.