This Centennial is 2nd Some Firms Have Seen

 

 

This article appeared in the Bicentennial Issue – Dayton Daily News, Sun., July 4, 1976
 
This Centennial is 2nd some firms have seen
By Carl V. Roberts
 
            Daniel C. Cooper’s 1798 gristmill is long gone, along with his sawmill and distillery.  So are Dr. John Hole’s sawmills, and the Rev. William Robinson’s four mill, and Col. Robert Patterson’s many mills – for grinding corn, sawing logs and carding and spinning wool.
            None of those were around for the national’s Centennial, but some of those that were have also made to the Bicentennial.  Still operating today, as a matter of fact, and doing quite well, thank you, are a considerable number that started before 1876 and many more that came along within a few years.
            The foundations for that tall, new building at the southwest corner of Second and Main St., were laid 130 years ago.  The Mead Corp. built its first paper mill here in 1846 and grew fast in what was one of the Miami Valleys’ biggest early industries.
 
            AS EARLY AS 1848 the signs of changing technology were appearing as the Dayton Gas Light Co. was formed.  It wasn’t until 1881, two years after Thomas A. Edison invented the incandescent lamp, that Dayton got its first electric company.  There were two --  the Dayton Lighting Co. and the Dayton Citizen Electric Co. – when both, along with the gas company, became part of one firm in 1911, the Dayton Power & Light Co. The new building at Third and Ludlow Sts. is DP&L.
            Steam, which provided the first real tool for ending industry’s dependence on swift flowing water, had had some extremely limited useful purposes as early as 1698.  By the middle of the 19th century, developmental work by Thomas Newcomen, James Watt and others was really paying off.  Dayton had its own steam pump and boiler factory in 1855.  The successor to that and several other such factories that were here in 1876 is the Platt Corp., which was organized in 1877, and which specialized now in gray iron castings.
            Already in the iron foundry business, however, was the Dayton Malleable Iron Co., which started in 1866.  That is now the GHR division of the Dayton Malleable, Inc.
            The passing of Daniel Cooper, Robert Patterson and John Hole didn’t take Dayton and Montgomery County out of the sawmill business. It became more sophisticated, however, and a measure of that was added in 1860 with the founding of the F. A. Requarth Co.
            The paper mills gave rise to other industries and there were a considerable number and variety of these in 1876.  One of these, which was 10 years old at the time, is observing its 110th anniversary this year.  The Reynolds & Reynolds Co., which produces printed forms and other allied materials, has considerable more than the 75 or so “hands” it had in 1866.
            THERE WAS one line of work for which there was only one listing in 1876.  It’s the same solitary listing today.  The Dayton Stencil Works Co. has been hard at it since 1859.
            Dayton got its first paint and varnish manufacturer about that time and there were others of various sizes as time went on.  One name, which first appeared in 1870, can still be found in that line.  It is the Lowe Brothers Co.
            Area residents who were painting up and fixing up in those days knew about sealers, fillers and caulking compounds.  They had had DAP, Inc. since 1865.
            Another pre-Centennial industrial entry was the Joyce-Cridland Co. in 1874, manufacturer of jacks, hoists and the like.
            Many pioneer firms survived well into the 20th century with names tied to the original one.  Some disappeared and some lost their identity through absorption into other companies.
            One that survived for about 70 years then lost out to changing technology was the Barney & Smith Car Works, by far the biggest single employer here in 1876 and for many years afterward.
            IT WAS STARTED in 1849 by Ebenezer Thresher and E. J. Barney and if you’d like an example of industrial intestinal fortitude – that was almost two years before Dayton got its first railroad line.  The cars were pulled across town by horses to the nearest rail terminal, which was several miles south of the city.  They must have been good cars, for there was a strong enough demand to push employment at Barney & Smith (the name adopted in 1865) higher and higher and bring about collateral industry, the Dayton Manufacturing Co., make fittings for passenger and sleeping cars.
            By 1876, Barney & Smith railroad cars were seen all over the country and by 1890 it was our biggest industry, with upwards of 2,000 employes outfitting trains like the Empire State Express and ones with names like Lake Shore, Sunset and Pioneer Limited.
            The switch from wood to steel early in this century made it logical to find manufacturers springing up in places where steel was being produced, as in Pittsburgh, a fact that doomed Barney & Smith.
            With five General Motors Corp. divisions here and one of the Chrysler Corp. divisions, the Dayton area is pretty solidly into a number of phases of the automotive industry. But this might have become the world’s auto capital.
            THERE WAS NO demand to automobiles in 1869 – and a good think, because there were no automobiles – but there was a demand for horse-drawn hay rakes.  That’s when John Dodds and J. W. Stoddard started manufacturing them. 
            In 1903, after several company name changes, the first started making auto and the next year was incorporated as the Dayton Motor Car Co.  The Stoddard-Dayton was a really hot car.  There were about a dozen models, including racy-looking roadsters, and the engineering was said to be outstanding.
            By 1909, when a Stoddard-Dayton won the first even in three days of racing at the opening of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Dayton Motor Car Co. was selling them as fast as they could make them.  That first event, incidentally, was a five-mile race, won in four minutes and 39 seconds.  The two Stoddard-Dayton’s in the 1909 main event, a 250-mile race finished well back in the field of nine cars.
            But the Dayton Motor Car Co. did a $4 million business that year, and that wasn’t hay rake money in those days.
            The Speedwell, which finished third in a 100-mile race on the speedway’s 1910, two-day card, was a Dayton made auto, too.  The Speedwell Motor Car Co. wasn’t started until 1907 and although it thrived for about five years, it came on the scene at a bad time.  Its production of 100 cars in 1908 compared with Henry Ford’s 10,000 as his mass production technique started working.
            The Courier Car Co., incorporated in 1909, walked smack into unbeatable competition and died quickly.
            The most successful of the Dayton automobiles, the Stoddard-Dayton, went down with the ship of the United States Motor Car Co. Formed in 1912 to complete with Ford and the youthful General Motors Corp., it absorbed the Dayton firm and several others.  It went bankrupt in 1913 and left one surviving division, the Maxwell Motor Car Co.  Components for the Maxwell and the Chalmers, brainchild of former National Cash Register Co. executive Hugh Chalmers, were made in the old Dayton Motor Car Co. plant on E. Third St.  The plant was taken over by the Chrysler Corp. when it was organized in 1925 which dates that firm’s entry into Dayton.
            THE GENEALOGY OF Dayton’s oldest lost industry goes back to 1829 and a firm that made Dayton another kind of capital, as least of the New World, for awhile.  It started out as the Dayton Last Works, with Archibald and Ziba Crawford, fresh from New York state, making wooden shoe lasts by hand.  It wasn’t long before their outstanding workmanship created a demand from the shoe industry that was too heavy to be met with the “four or five hand” they employed and inside “the strongly conservative lines” that a 1909 historian said they laid down for themselves.
            The Crawford brothers’ ingenuity matched their craftsmanship, however, and they developed a lathe that would turn the blocks of wood into the irregular shape of the shoe lasts.
            There had been some changes in the 80 years before 1909 and the historian duly recorded many of the.  John McGregor had joined the firm in 1874 and Edward Canby and come in in 1886.  The firm name had become Crawford, McGregor & Canby in 1896 and although the original McGregor was still on hand, it was a new general of Crawfords and Canbys by 1909
            By that time, too, what the historian called ‘the largest and greatest institution of its kind in the world” had 100 employees working 12 months a year here and another 150 o 200 doing the same thing in Gaylord, Mich., where the company had established a block plant “a few years ago.”
            WHAT THE HISTORIAN did not record was that for more than 10 years Crawford, McGregor & Canby had been making another product, which that writer may have considered too frivolous for a company operating on those strongly conservative lines, even though its leadership in that new field may have contributed to the largest and greatest rating he gave the firm.
            Another historian wrote, after a 1929 community observance of the firm’s centennial, that in 1897 Crawford, McGregor & Canby had become the first American manufacturer of golf clubs.  Henry P. Cowen of Cincinnati, executive vice president of the company in the 1930s and 1940s and later president of the successor firm, says that is debatable, that although they both started the same year, the A. G. Spalding Co. probably was first by about six months.
            In any event, the move into a new product wasn’t just a matter of the new industrial generation’s idea of diversification.  It was recognition that the odd-shape capability of the lathe developed by Ziba and Archibald Crawford was just the thing for shaping blocks of wood into drivers, brassies and spoons.  And, in a town where precision metalworking was already a tradition, the forging of heads for the irons were have been no problem.
            Later on, in 1917, Crawford, McGregor & Canby built its own “test track” the nine-hole golf course which is new the Dayton Power and Light Co. employee’s facility.
            The MacGregor name – note the spelling – still is a big one in the golf equipment field, although no longer known as a Dayton product.
            THE FIRM WAS sold to P. Goldsmith & Sons of Cincinnati in 1936.  In 1937 the same year the company course was sold to DP&L, the city directory listed is – Crawford, Macgregor 7 Canby Co., 705 Albany St.
            In 1941, about five years before all operations were moved to Cincinnati, the listing was Crawford, MacGregor & Canby, with the “G” capitalized.
            SUBSEQUENT NAME changes were to MacGregor-Goldsmith, then MacGregor Sporting Goods Co.  It is now part of the Brunswick Corp. of Chicago.
            Thus, there may be more survivors, here and elsewhere, from among those “392 manufactories” credited to Dayton and Montgomery County in 1876, lost or submerged in changed ownership, merger or reorganizations.
            Even though each year saw some disappearances from the list, it grew each year.  Traceable ones added before the decade ended, with their names as now listed in the state’s Directory of Ohio Manufacturers are the previously mentioned Platt Manufacturing Co. and the Glawe Manufacturing Co. the year after the nations’ Centennial.
            The 1880s brought the Hewitt Soap Co., Kuhns Brothers Co. and the Herb Medicine Co.
            By the time of Dayton’s own Centennial in 1896 things had really perked up with these additions:  Lorenz Industries; Sinclair-Valentine Division of Wheelabrator-Frye; Monarch Marking Systems, Inc.; Wiedeke Plant Elliott Co.; SCM Allied Egry Business Systems; Merkle Monuments; Buckeye Boiler Co.; Andrew Plocher Sons Co.; J. W. Devers & Sons, Inc.’ National Tag Co., Kimberly-Clark Corp. and West Carrollton Parchment Co.
            Those joining the list before the turn of the century were Hobart Corp., J. Friesinger & Son, Gem City Elevator Co., Dayton Specialty Machine Co. and Ohio Printing Co.
            WHAT HAS HAPPENED since 1876, particularly in this century, is a double barreled thing – growth and variety.  The reasons are more complex or, perhaps, simple.
            There was a time when industrial growth leaned heavily on population growth and variety on the inventor’s lonely figure.  Then came the many-peopled corporate research and development to do, to a degree. both jobs.
            Out of that has come inventions, certainly, but one major hey has been the development of more applications of existing inventions, finding more uses for a device or an adaption of it and, not to be overlooked making existing things better and more useful in the basic state.
            Not to be ignored either was what might be considered making things wanted – salesmanship, advertising.  No better example exists than the cash register. It was invented to fill a specific need and may be one of the few things that got its start that way.  Yet, until John H. Patterson undertook to convince those needing it that it was the answer to their cash shortage problems, the device languished, died twice and was ready for burial again when the pallbearers got Patterson angry enough to fight for its life.
            No one knew an airplane was needed on the other hand.  Orville and Wilbur Wright started aviation on its upward course in the lonely inventor contest as an answer to a challenge that had intrigued man from the beginning of recorded history.
            IT WOULD BE hard to find a better example of the “more applications” angle of industrial growth than the uses to which electricity has been put – from lighting, as in the beginning, to escalators to sweepers to refrigerators to the electric toothbrush.
            Ranking pretty high, though, would be the internal combustion engine, which took us from the horse and buggy era to the automotive and air ages almost before we got used to the advantages of the steam engine.
            You win some and you lose some, as the saying goes, and for many reasons.  So we don’t make buggy whips or water wheels anymore, or railroad cars, automobiles or shoe lasts and golf clubs.  But when there are enough new ones to go with almost a dozen left from 1876 to bring the total to upwards of three times the number of industries we had in the Centennial year, its hard to knock the won-lost percentage.