Buckeyes and Grain Separators: Aultman Miller & Co. and Aultman & Taylor Machinery Co.

Let's Talk Rusty Iron: Sam Moore discusses the successes of the various Aultman & Taylor companies and the mowers, reapers and steam engines they produced.

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Aultman, Miller & Co, trying to rescue implements from the fire. 

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Editor's note: In this second of a three-part series, Sam Moore tells the story of the 19th-century Aultman companies. You can read part 1 here and part 3 here.

Aultman companies enjoy period of prosperity

C. Aultman & Co. of Canton, Ohio, had become highly successful, and its majority owners, Cornelius Aultman and Lewis Miller, comfortably wealthy by the beginning of the Civil War. The innovative engineering of Aultman and Miller with the Buckeye mowers and Sweepstakes threshers, which became industry standards, helped the company rise to prominence.

Increased demand on the railroads as a consequence of the war caused freight rates to soar, though, posing special problems with the company's lumber supply. Aultman bought most of its lumber from John Buchtel of Akron, Ohio, who convinced his customer that the Erie Railroad, which served Akron, would offer better rates and service than the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, & Chicago Railroad, which served Canton.

In 1863, with demand for implements already outstripping Aultman's Canton facilities, a new factory was built in Akron.

The new facility was named Aultman, Miller & Co., although the name on the main building said "Buckeye Mower and Reaper Works." Meanwhile, C. Aultman & Co. in Canton continued, and as projected, business flourished. In 1865, the two factories generated 8,000 Buckeyes and 500 Sweepstakes.

Henry H. Taylor had been a salesman for C. Aultman & Co. before going to work for Nichols & Shepard Co. in Battle Creek, Mich. At Nichols & Shepard, Taylor secured the Ohio rights to manufacture John Nichols' new vibrating-type separator and then returned to Mansfield, Ohio, where he apparently interested Aultman in his project. In 1865, Aultman moved to Mansfield and a year later he and Taylor formed Aultman, Taylor & Co. and started building Nichols' vibrating threshers, and later horse powers, steam engines, clover hullers and saw mills.

As of 1891, the company was called Aultman & Taylor Machinery Co., and its line of machinery was completely different from that of the other two Aultman companies; the only common denominator between the three firms seems to have been Cornelius Aultman.

In 1867, Aultman returned to Canton, leaving Taylor and Michael Harter in control of the Mansfield business. The Harter family had provided most of the financing and management for the new company, and George D. Harter was married to Aultman's daughter, Elizabeth. The Aultman & Taylor Machinery Co. went on to be extremely successful and was the longest-lasting of the three Aultman companies.

By the end of 1867, with the three factories all making a profit, Aultman built a mansion in Canton and Miller did the same in Akron; both men were pillars of their communities, involved in civic, church and charitable activities.

In 1870, Miller, who made the improvements on the original Buckeye mower, invented the famous Buckeye Table Rake reaper. At the time, reapers consisted of a mowing machine with a reel to sweep the grain onto a quadrant-shaped platform carried behind the cutter bar. Many schemes were devised to sweep the grain from the platform and place it on the ground, but the Buckeye Table Rake consisted of a quadrant platform that was swept by a fork on the end of a jointed arm. The arm, under control of a cam, entered the grain on the platform close to the inside shoe, then swept across the platform in a line parallel to the sickle, before compressing the grain against an upright board that encircled the round part of the platform.

The rake then turned and moved the grain around the quadrant before pushing it off the platform behind the mower and out of the way of the next round. Although self-rake reapers were built by many manufacturers, the Buckeye became quite popular with farmers.

About 1870, Aultman and Miller began to export machines to Europe, opening branch offices in Paris and London. Also during the early 1870s, they began some ownership changes within their firms. Aultman bought Taylor's interest in Aultman, Taylor and Co., and Lewis and Jacob Miller, Lewis' older brother, bought Aultman's interest in Aultman, Miller & Co.

Also, Aultman retired from C. Aultman & Co., selling most of his interest to the Millers, but he remained president of Aultman, Taylor and Co. Additionally, Jacob Miller became president of the Canton firm, and Lewis Miller's son, Robert A. Miller, became general manager.

Also about this time, problems began to arise at the Canton works, possibly due to conflicts between C. Aultman & Co. and Aultman, Miller & Co., which resulted in Miller paying more attention to the latter firm. Competition was brutal in those days, with companies fighting 'harvester wars,' as they vied for the same market niche. Also, the export trade proved less lucrative than expected, adding to the stress.

Business carried on, though. The Akron people bought the rights to an automatic wire-binding device developed by John H. Gordon, and Lewis Miller improved it, creating the new Buckeye wire-tie binder. That machine proved successful until farmers turned against wire binders in the early 1880s.

Lewis Miller's biographer, Ellwood Hendrick, reports that John F. Appleby, inventor of the twine knotter, also offered his invention to Miller, but the success of the wire binder seemed assured, so Miller turned the knotter down. Appleby's own account of those years doesn't mention this event.

Using a Minneapolis harvester, Appleby proved that his twine knotter worked, and William Deering bought rights to the device, which sold extremely well. Soon, Miller and all the other manufacturers were paying top dollar for their own manufacturing rights to Appleby's invention.

About 1885, the Buckeye twine binder, said to have been much-improved and simplified by Miller, was introduced with 'unqualified success.'

As threshing machine manufacturers improved engine capacity and added features to their separators, more and more power was required. Most, including the C. Aultman firm, began to build portable steam engines, and later, steam traction engines, to replace the limited horsepowers.

In 1876, Aultman introduced the Canton Monitor, which had a vertical boiler and engine. It was described in the 1893 catalog as the best for use in hilly country because sufficient water depth could be maintained over the crown-sheet – a problem with horizontal boilers when traveling down a steep grade.

Sometime between 1885 and 1900, the Phoenix return flue engine and the Star engine also appeared in the Aultman line-up. The Star was a conventional, horizontal boiler machine with a low gear for hills and hard pulls, and a high gear for faster, level running.

Somewhat later, the Mogul, a return flue engine similar to the Phoenix, came out. The Mogul was available in 20 and 25 hp, with choice of a single or a compound engine. It had the same two-speed gearing as the Star.

Meanwhile, Aultman, Taylor & Co. in Mansfield was building its own versions of the stronger engine: the Eureka Jr. 8 hp, the Eureka 12 hp and the Hercules 16 hp engines. The firm also sold Dixie and Columbia separators, Matchless clover hullers, sawmills and horsepowers.

Aultman died Dec. 26, 1884, after suffering a heart attack, and was buried in Canton. Long after the original Buckeye mower had become the standard of the industry, he and Lewis Miller enjoyed success with a conglomerate of companies, essentially based on their original business recipe.

By 1890, the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, and many tests of the Aultman firms were yet to come. FC 

Previously: Family-Made Implements: Cornelius Aultman and Lewis Miller
Next: Bankruptcy, labor strikes and perseverance.

Sam Moore became interested in agricultural machinery while growing up on a farm in western Pennsylvania. Now, he lives in Salem, Ohio, and collects antique tractors, implements and related items.