VIDEO: Historical Society receives donation of large Carrom collection

November 17, 2023

Ben Nelson of Scottville, left, with donor Tom Hearn

VIDEO: Historical Society receives donation of large Carrom collection

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

LUDINGTON — The Mason County Historical Society received a major donation today of a collection of over 50 Carrom boards. The donation was made by Tom Hearn of North Carolina. Hearn started collecting Carrom boards in 2000. Through the years, he said he believes he has collected all the boards that were manufactured by the Carrom Company in Ludington.

Hearn presented his donation today, Nov. 17, 2023, at the historical society’s Mason County Research Center in downtown Ludington. He was accompanied by his son, Patrick, along with Ben Nelson of Scottville, who is an avid Carrom collector and considered an expert on the game and its history.

The manufacturing of Carrom boards started in 1889 by the Ludington Novelty Company, which was owned by Henry L. Haskell, who in 1883, at the age of 20, had started a basket factory in Ludington. While Haskell did not invent the game — it was invented in India sometime in the 18th century — he received a patent for the game in 1892.

At one time, the company employed over 200 people. It purchased Archarena Manufacturing Co. of Illinois in 1902 and became Carrom-Archarena.

Ludington lumber baron and entrepreneur Justus Stearns purchased an interest in the company in the 1910s and became its president. Haskell continued as secretary. In 1914, the company named changed again and became Carrom Company. Two years later it moved into the building at 801 N. Rowe Street. With sales expanding into Europe and Asia it was one of the Ludington’s largest manufacturers.

Carrom Company expanded its products by manufacturing furniture in 1937. Following Haskell’s death in 1940, the company, now known as Carrom Industries, was purchased by Will Ross, Inc. of Milwaukee and then by Shampaine Industries of St. Louis, Mo. in 1951.

In 1960, three Carrom Industries employees left the company and formed Merdel Manufacturing, which began competing against Carrom Industries. Merdel used one “r” in its games calling them Carom boards, as a result of law suits. Both companies were in Ludington.

In 1967, Shampaine Industries is purchased by Affiliated Hospital Products, Inc. and moves Carrom Games Division to Red Lion, Penn. in 1968 then, in 1972, it moves to Saris, Miss. Merdel Manufacturing then purchased the assets of the defunct Carrom Games Division, allowing it to use the double “r” again and moving all Carrom production back to Ludington.

In 1981, the Lightning Group of Duncannon, Penn., purchased Merdel Manufacturing and moved the company out of town.

In 1992, Carrom Company purchased Drueke Company, now owner of the game, and moved its manufacturing from Grand Rapids back to Ludington. For many years, the company was again called Merdel. In 2022, it announced it would stop manufacturing Carrom boards, after 133 years in production.

Some of the boards that Hearn donated to the Mason County Historical Society are over 120 years old. Many of them are the rare baseball game boards that were first manufactured in 1937.

Hearn said he has known Ben Nelson of Scottville for 15 to 20 years and often consulted with Nelson about various boards. Nelson said he often consulted Merdel on the history of many of its boards and, in the 1990s, wrote the “Scottville rules” that are published in the Carrom board rule book. Nelson had suggested to Hearn that he donate his collection to the historical society.

Hearn said bringing the collection to Ludington was like bringing it home.

“This collection is an absolute treasure,” said Rebecca Berringer, executive director of the Mason County Historical Society. “When Mr. Hearn contacted the society, our collections committee immediately knew that he was offering us an extremely important part of Mason County history.”

Berringer said the society plans to hold a Carrom board exhibition sometime in the future to celebrate the donation. She said many of the boards will go on display at the Mason County Research Center, 130 E. Ludington Ave., and Historic White Pine Village in Pere Marquette Township.



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