Remembering the Tennessee Red Cedar and Novelty Company

Wednesday, April 8, 2015 - by Harmon Jolley

Cedar chests were once popular graduation or wedding gifts, and have been handed down through generations.   The oils in the cedar wood were said to repel moths, though some scientists say that this is overrated.   However, if the claims are true, then there once must have been very few moths flying around East Fourteenth Street where the Tennessee Red Cedar and Novelty Company once made furniture.

Chattanooga city directories listed the cedar chest manufacturer in the 1921 through 1952 editions.

  The company’s address was East Fourteenth Street at the Belt Railway that connected many of the city’s factories.

In addition to cedar chests, the workers at the factory crafted chifforobes and wardrobes.  Those two items of furniture were frequently used in houses which lacked closets. 

The founder of the furniture maker was Thomas C. Betterton, who also was connected to the Tennessee Coffin and Casket Company.  Mr. Betterton was born at Falling Mills, Virginia in 1867 and moved as a young boy with his family to Chattanooga.  His father became a leading distiller.

 In addition to his business pursuits, Thomas Betterton was active in the movement that led to Chattanooga’s change from an alderman to a commission form of government in 1910.  He served as fire and police commissioner for eight years beginning in 1911.

Other members of the Betterton family helped in the management of the company, both before and after Thomas Betterton’s passing in 1930.  E.R. Betterton, brother of the founder, was listed as company president in the 1940 city directory.  Like his brother, he served as fire and police commissioner.

If you have additional memories of the Tennessee Red Cedar and Novelty Company, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.  Thanks to one of our readers for submitting the photo that mentioned chifforobes.  


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