Francis John Plym (1869-1940), Architect & Inventor

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Lincoln, Nebraska, 1900-1903

Lincoln, 1900-1903; Kansas City, Missouri, 1903-1907; Niles, Michigan, 1907-1940

Francis John Plym was born in Sweden in 1869. His father Osley Plym, a cabinetmaker, brought the family to America when Francis was an infant and settled in Aledo, Illinois.[1] Plym earned a bachelor of science in architecture from the University of Illinois College of Engineering in 1897.[2] He began practicing as an architect with Marcus Leach in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1900 as Leach & Plym. Early in 1903, Plym announced his departure for Kansas City, with the intention of opening an associated office there, but the partnership with Leach apparently ended at that time.[3][4][5][b] Plym married Jennie M. Barber of Lincoln in 1903 and they had a daughter Florence who died in infancy and a son Lawrence. In 1906 Plym patented a system of metal framing for plate glass storefronts and founded the very successful Kawneer Manufacturing Company to produce storefronts and other metalwork.[6] He moved the company to Niles, Michigan in 1907 and later established additional large factories in Berkeley, California and elsewhere. Kawneer still exists as a division of Alcoa (2018).

This page is a contribution to the publication, Place Makers of Nebraska: The Architects. See the format and contents page for more information on the compilation and page organization.

Compiled Nebraska Directory Listings

Lincoln, Nebraska, 1900-1903

Educational & Professional Associations

1897: earned bachelor of science degree in architecture, University of Illinois College of Engineering[2][f]

1900-1903: architect in partnership as Leach & Plym, Lincoln, Nebraska

1901-1902: post-graduate work at Columbia University, New York City[7][a]

1903-1906: architect, Kansas City, Missouri[8]

1906-1940: president, Kawneer Manufacturing Company, Kansas City, Kansas (from 1906); Niles, Michigan (from 1908)

1907: Board of Examiners for Plumbing Licenses, Kansas City, Missouri[8]

Buildings & Projects

1900-1903 (Lincoln, Nebraska)

See Leach & Plym, Architects for the partnership's Nebraska projects.

Baptist Church (1903), Lexington, Missouri.[9][c]

First installation of Plym's storefront window system, F. Johnson Building (1905), Holdrege, Nebraska.[10][d]

First State Bank (1905), Bertrand, Nebraska.[][e]


a. Nebraska State Journal reported on December 15, 1901 "Architect Francis J. Plym will go to New York City in a few days where he expects to take post graduate work in architecture at Columbia university this winter, returning to Lincoln about March 1."[7]

b. Plym's imminent relocation from Lincoln to Kansas City was announced the Nebraska State Journal on February 1, 1903. It was said "He will still retain his connection with the Lincoln firm [Leach & Plym] and will come here from time to time as the work demands. The idea in branching out in this way is to come in contact with the highest class of work done in the west, as Kansas City is becoming more and more recognized as the metropolis of this entire region. Mr. Plym said yesterday that he hoped this change would react upon the work he does in Lincoln and make it better."[5]

c. A Lexington, Missouri newspaper reported in 1903: "Francis J. Plym of Kansas City, was here Monday conferring with the building committee of the Baptist church. He will proceed at once to draw up plans and specifications. It will take two weeks to do this. Then the contract will be let and the interior work will be be [sic] begun as soon as possible."[9]

d. Reportedly, Plym's first installation of his "resilient metal frames" for storefront plate glass windows occurred at the F. Johnson mercantile building in Holdrege, Nebraska in 1905.[6][10]

e. Improvement Bulletin reported in 1905: "Bertrand, Neb.--J. F. Plym [sic], Kansas City, Mo., has plans for a 1-story bank and store, 75x100, for the First State Bank and others. Brick."[11]

f. Among Plym's classmates receiving Bachelor of Architecture degrees from the University of Illinois College of Engineering in 1897 were Eugene Hermann Brandt, later an architect in Lincoln, and Meldora Ice, first female graduate of that College.[2]


1. Francis John Plym passport application, April 1, 1921, on-line by U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925, s.v. "Francis John Plym [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2007.

2. "Ninety-One in Class--Commencement Exercises at the University of Illinois," The Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois) (June 10, 1897), 10.

3. Lincoln Trade Review 1:36 (Feb 7, 1903), 3. (Architects prepare to open Kansas City office to be under charge of Francis Plym. Lincoln office run by Marcus Leach.)

4. Lincoln Trade Review 1:50 (1903), 8. (re: Kansas City.)

5. "People You Know," (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (February 1, 1903), 6.

6. Thomas Stritch, The Kawneer Story (Niles, Michigan: Kawneer Company, 1956).

7. "People You Know," (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (December 1, 1901), 8.

8. Kansas City, Missouri city directories, 1903-1907.

9. "Local Briefs," Lexington (Missouri) Intelligencer (October 3, 1903), p. 3.

10. "F. Johnson Building, Holdrege, Nebraska: Heritage," accessed October 11, 2018 on-line at

11. "Business Buildings," Improvement Bulletin (July 8, 1905), 20.

Page Citation

E. Zimmer, “Francis John Plym (1869-1940), Architect & Inventor,” in David Murphy, Edward F. Zimmer, and Lynn Meyer, comps. Place Makers of Nebraska: The Architects. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, October 12, 2018. Accessed, August 11, 2022.

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