Portland Star Match Factory

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Portland Star Match Factory

65-89 West Commercial Street

This was the site of the Portland Star Match Factory from 1870 to 1908. Thirty-nine women, including 28 Irish-Americans, in 1888 worked in the packing room, separating finished matches into packets and wrapping them for sale and shipping. They were paid by the piece and averaged $5 a week. The women were subject to phosphorus poisoning, which could not only damage teeth but produce "phossy jaw," the destruction of the jawbone. Each woman was equipped with a basin holding a wet sponge to put out fires when the matches accidentally ignited. Many women were aged 15 or under in 1907, when 70 women worked in the match factory. Diamond Match Company bought the factory around 1908 and eventually moved its operations out of the city. The large complex of connected buildings now houses a variety of businesses and offices.


Historic photo courtesey of Library of Congress, LC-DIG-pga-04222.