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JJ Reich.jpeg

When E.A. Reich, the founder of Reich-Huntington Iron Works, retired, his son J.J. Reich (pictured here) succeeded him as the company’s president.

Editor’s Note: This is the 363rd in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.

HUNTINGTON — Born in Czechoslovakia in 1867, Emanuel A. Reich came to this country about 1884, settling first in Zanesville, Ohio, where he worked as a peddler. He later operated a general store in New Martinsville, W.Va. He became a U.S. citizen in 1891. In 1902, he moved to Wheeling and entered the iron and steel fabricating business.

Attracted by the city’s economic and shipping advantages, he moved his company to Huntington in 1916, establishing what became the Reich-Huntington Iron Works, which manufactured steel that went into constructing a number of downtown Huntington buildings and later specialized in components for industrial smokestacks. The company’s first plant was a small building at 21st Street and 2nd Avenue. In 1947, the company relocated to larger quarters at West 15th Street and Virginia Avenue.

When E.A. Reich retired, his son, J. Jerome (Jerry) Reich, succeeded him as the company’s president.

The chief product manufactured at the company’s plant was corsets for the tall stacks that tower over industrial plants. “Corset” is a word generally associated with women’s apparel but, as J.J. Reich explained in a 1956 interview with the Huntington Advertiser, the corsets his company produced were installed in giant industrial stacks that could tower 500, 600 or even 700 feet in the air.

The chimney a passerby sees is only the outside shell, he said. Inside is the stack that carries the smoke, fumes and gases from the furnace at its base. To make sure that the stresses created in such a lofty structure are properly distributed and confined, the inside lining of the chimney needs bands of iron or steel over its outer circumference. These are the corsets the Reich plant produced.

E. A. Reich died in 1965, and his son J.J. Reich died in 1968. According to records in the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office, Reich-Huntington Iron Works went out of business in 1971.

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