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Celebrating all things paper: The wonder and the legacy, continued

Ladies and gentlemen, the first class of inductees to the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame in Appleton, Wisconsin was inducted more than two decades ago in 1995, and today, more than 130 papermaking innovators and legends have been enshrined. This month, we profile the late Lewis Miller Alexander, president of Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company (Nepco), who was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017.

Alexander was born on July 12, 1856 in Osage, Iowa, on a farm into a family of 11 children. After completing a four-year course at Cedar Valley Seminary in Osage, he started working with the Osage National Bank, eventually organizing and leading many other banks and other companies in his career.

In 1905, he teamed with John Edwards to manage John Edwards Manufacturing Company in Port Edwards and soon became its President. In 1893, Alexander with Tom E. Nash, and others, organized the Nekoosa Paper Company. In 1896, he built the John Edwards Paper Mill in Port Edwards for producing newsprint. In 1908, four companies combined to create the Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company in Port Edwards; in 1911 Alexander was named President, a role he filled ably until his death in 1934. Under his leadership, the valuation of the company grew by a factor of 50.

In 1925, Alexander established a reforestation program on an unproductive land near the Wisconsin River. This became one of the first industrial tree nurseries in the country. Alexander was also concerned with hydro-electric power. He brought other paper companies and power generators together to help regulate the flow of the Wisconsin River.

Alexander also built a man-made lake, Nepco Lake, to better provide process water for the manufacture of high-grade printing paper. Nepco Lake still thrives today as a popular recreational area.

Alexander passionately supported local education in Port Edwards and Nekoosa. He served as a trustee of Lawrence College, Appleton, Wisconsin for more than 30 years and, in 1929, was a founding trustee of the Institute of Paper Chemistry (IPC) on the campus of Lawrence College. He also served as president of the Lawrence College Board of Trustees for many years and was the major donor for building of Alexander Gymnasium.

Alexander received a silver platter showing his affiliation with various paper mills that made up Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Co. He was also included in the Wisconsin Industrial Hall of Fame. Alexander married Lida Edwards of Port Edwards, and they had two children: a daughter, Pauline, and a son, John. Lewis Alexander died in Port Edwards, Wisconsin, on Aug. 7, 1934.

Steve Roush is Vice President, Publisher and Editor and in charge of the International Desk at Paperitalo Publications. He can be reached by email at steve.roush@taii.com. Many thanks go to the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame, Inc., for biographical information on Hall of Fame inductees.

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