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Blake Pontchartrain: Kenner's match factory

Five decades of making millions of matchsticks on River Road

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Hey Blake,

One of my fondest memories as a kid was to sit with my grandfather on his backyard swing and watch him light his cigars with wooden matches. I seem to recall the boxes said the matches were made in New Orleans. Did the city ever have a wooden match manufacturing company?

David

Dear David,

  In the 1950s, the Delta Match Company, a subsidiary of the internationally known Swedish Match company, spent $2 million to build a wooden match factory on 35 acres of land on River Road near the Jefferson-St. Charles Parish line. The match company, based in Sweden, welcomed the Swedish ambassador to the United States to its local factory for a dedication ceremony in December 1952.

  The factory, the first large wooden match manufacturing plant in the South, produced 1.6 million boxes of matches daily, according to a 1952 story in The New Orleans Item. By the time of a June 1972 story in The Times-Picayune, the match company had changed its name to Trans-Match Inc. and was said to be the second largest wooden match factory in the U.S., producing 60 million matches a day. "One might say the match business in Kenner has caught fire," reporter Merikaye Presley wrote. The factory used wood from cottonwood trees grown in Louisiana to make its matches, which were marketed under many different names.

  Swedish Match bought Universal Match Corp. in 1981, and the factory continued to operate locally under that name until it closed in 1991. The general manager told the media that the popularity of the disposable cigarette lighter and a growing anti-smoking movement both cut the demand for matches and affected profits.

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