Industrialist and philanthropist Joe Werthan entered the modest family business, Werthan and Company, in 1908. It dealt in scrap metal and the accumulation, reconditioning, and distribution of burlap bags to grain elevators and feed mills. In 1911 Werthan married Sadie Mai Bogatsky and their only child, Howard, was born in 1913.
Joe Werthan and his older brother Morris became the principals in Werthan Bag Company and after the death of their father engaged primarily in the production and distribution of new burlap and cotton bags. After 1918 the Werthans purchased the defunct Marathon Motor Works and converted this facility to a bag factory. In 1928 they acquired the textile bag plant, cotton mill, bleachery, and finishing plant of the Morgan & Hamilton Company.
Werthan also entered the local real estate business, acquiring residential and commercial properties. He established Warioto Farms in Williamson County for breeding, raising, and training three- and five-gaited show horses. This property still remains in the family.
Werthan acquired two colonial mansions and a frame cottage on Elliston Place, which he converted to The Joe Werthan Service Center, a 250-bed facility for servicemen passing through Nashville during World War II. Funded entirely by Werthan, the facility provided beds, meals, and recreation to many of an estimated one million servicemen undergoing training in Middle Tennessee. Many friends and associates provided volunteer support. – From the Tennessee Historical Society, Nashville, Tennesseee.
The Nashville Marathon car building remained opened, with a skeleton crew producing parts until 1918. The building sat vacant until 1922, when it was purchased by Werthan Bag Company, and subsequently filled with machinery for cotton bag manufacturing.
Werthan made sandbags during World War II.
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Werthan Cotton Mill around 1900
Photo Courtesy Julie Steele
This family owned firm established its niche in bag-making and printing of textile bags. By 1913 the business had grown to the extent that it was able to venture forth into the manufacture of new textile bags, made of cotton fabric as well as burlap. An opportunity arose in 1928 when Werthan Bag Company merged with Morgan and Hamilton Company located on Eighth Avenue in Nashville, Tennessee. This merger eventually resulted in Werthan Bag Company operating an integrated process in which bales of raw cotton were received by the mill, spun into yarn, and woven into cloth or twisted into sewing thread. Much of the cloth was then bleached in an on-site bleachery and then sent to the textile bag mill where it was printed, cut and sewn into bags.
As years progressed it became evident that paper bags would be the package of choice for many industries and in 1952 Werthan constructed a multiwall plant on the Fifth Avenue side of the property. Today this site is the current home for all the converting machines for the company.