In 1891 Clyde E. Ward and his brother in law, Ed
Stilson, paid four New London gentlemen $138 for their lodge rosette business. Shortly after this they receIved an order from the Odd Fellows Lodge for 600 bullion collars and the Ward-Stilson Company was on it's way!
Mr. Ward had a gentleman from Columbus come up and show the two women on a treadle sewing machine how to do the bullion work since this was all new to them. They later added caps, robes, swords and other lodge paraphernalia.
About 1905 Ed Stilson paid C.E. Ward for his half of the business and set out on his own. He had a large order from the Masonic Lodge that helped his business after splitting from C.E. Ward. About 1913 Ed took his business to Anderson, Indiana, where it prospered for many years afterwards.
By 1910 the Ward Co. Regalia business had expanded so that it included costumes, swords, with inland hilts, bugles, horns, harps, jewels and hand-painted scenery . Later they added lanterns and electric arc lights. Mr. Ward had adapted a yellow envelope with his photo in the left hand corner that was soon known around the country. They made it back to New London even if they were addressed wrong. The company built a new factory building on the corner of James and Williams Streets in 1910. Even with this the business expanded so fast that they rented part of the old St. James Hotel building and used it for sewing and stock rooms. A two story brick addition was added to the Williams Street side in 1911 to relieve the situation. A new wood working plant was opened on North Main Street between the Big Four and Norhern Ohio tracks to build shipping crates and other wooden items needed for the business. They paid a 5% bonus to all employees in 1919. In 1920 they were looking for more help from either new full time or part time employees.
In 1923 the C.E. Ward Co. asked the railroad to move the present stock yards as they wanted to build a new building near there for expanding business and to everyone's surprise the Railroad did move the stock yards to the East end of town near Hiles Tower .
A new 42 x 84 foot "Metal Plant" building was added on Railroad Street in the summer of 1924 and a sprinkler system was added to their factory building. They again rented part of the old St. James Hotel for storage space. In 1927 they had an order for new band uniforms for Norwalk High School and soon they were getting band uniform orders from all over the country. In 1936 they bought the former National Bank building on the southwest corner of the square downtown and turned it into their office building. In September 1938 they received an order from the I.O.O.f. Lodge in the Dutch East Indies. In 1939 they made new band uniforms for the Warren, Pennsylvania V.F.W., a national award winning show band.
In 1940 they purchased the old post office building on the corner of East Main and Railroad Avenue and installed new sewing machines and a new sprinkler system for fire protection. A small fire in the main factory building during the night had been extinguished by the system and proved their worth. Clyde E. Ward died in 1943 and his son, Sterling, became president of the Company. Sterling died in 1946 and another son, Rodney, took over the business. Rodney was hit and killed by a train in 1968. Later that year the C.E. Ward Co. was sold to the Crowell Collier Co. of New York and several years later they sold the Company to the Oak Hill Camp and Gown Co. of Salem, Va. Oak Hill moved the operations to Salem and the C.E. Ward Company was then just a part of New London's history!