History of Aultman & Taylor, Part I

The beginning of Dr. Lorin Bixler's in-depth history of Aultman & Taylor company

Cornelius Aultman

Cornelius Aultman

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Introduction by Dr. Robert T. Rhode

For years, I'd heard about Dr. Lorin Bixler's book on the history of the C. Aultman Company. It was published by the Stemgas Publishing Company in 1967. Long out of print, the book had all but vanished. Linda Weidman, managing editor of The Iron-Men Album Magazine, kindly provided a photocopy for me from her files. I was struck by Professor Bixler's conscientious research and his ability to tell a story. I also envied his having lived at a time when he could interview many people having firsthand knowledge of now distant events. The book with the ungainly title Cornelius Aultman, C. Aultman & Co., and the Aultman Co. adroitly portrayed an old-time manufacturer of farm engines. I could see why Dr. Bixler's book on C. Aultman prompted Elmer L. Ritzman, founding editor of the Album, to write, "We are quite proud of this book and recommend it very highly to you" (Album for July/August 1967, page 27). 

I'd also heard rumors about a second Bixler manuscript, the history of the Aultman & Taylor Company. Some said Dr. Bixler had planned to write the book but quit midway in his research. Others claimed he had begun composing the manuscript but hadn't finished it. I asked many steam hobbyists if they knew anything about the manuscript. No one did. No one, that is, until George W. Richey of Norwich, Ohio, wrote to me out of the blue: "I saw your request in the IMA for the history of Cornelius Aultman written by Lorin Bixler.... I would make you a copy at cost. 'Bix,' as we all called him, had quite a time with that old 16 HP Russell engine. It was in bad state when he purchased it. He was no mechanic, and I think every one in our club...sometime or other worked on that engine. After his death it was sold to somebody in western Pennsylvania. I have since lost knowledge of it. What most people do not know is that 'Bix' had searched and traveled extensively compiling a history of the Aultman Taylor company. He was ready to publish, but his health failed and it was never completed. I was told by his son that the manuscripts were given to the Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, Ohio. I never checked it out for certain ... I personally would like to see it published. He worked long and hard on documenting material." 

This was exciting news! At my earliest opportunity, I drove to Mansfield. Boyd Addlesperger, Reference Librarian, and Karen Furlong, Sherman Room Assistant, welcomed me to the special collections area of the library. Waiting for me on a table were four large three-ring binders. To a steam enthusiast, paging through Dr. Bixler's manuscript was like discovering a lost city of gold. 

In 1911, Dr. Bixler completed his manuscript. Twenty-three years later, it was time to publish it. I called Linda and asked her permission to serialize Dr. Bixler's work in The Iron-Men Album Magazine. She enthusiastically supported the idea. 

With this issue, then, the Album begins the project of publishing bimonthly installments of Dr. Bixler's book on the Aultman & Taylor Company. One of Dr. Bixler's strengths was his ability to put a face on a factory. When you've finished reading his book, you'll feel well acquainted with Aultman & Taylor. Even though Dr. Bixler had printed excerpts of one or two of the chapters in magazines, most of his book will be new to readers and there are plenty of surprises along the way! 

Lorin Bixler was born in Louisville, Ohio, on October 2, 1892. In 1921, he graduated from Mount Union College. He received his master's degree from Columbia University and his PhD degree from The Ohio State University, where he served as an instructor. He taught briefly in the Ohio public schools. In 1929 he was appointed to the faculty of Muskingum College, eventually to be astronaut John Glenn's alma mater, located in New Concord, Ohio. It takes most faculty members a minimum of fourteen years to rise to the rank of full professor. Dr. Bixler accomplished that feat in three years. From 1948 to 1962, he chaired the Department of Education at Muskingum. He also directed the college's placement bureau and summer school. In 1961, he accepted the invitation to serve on the Ohio State Board of Education. Dr. Bixler passed away on August 22, 1987. 

Dr. Bixler published numerous articles on education, but I suspect that he derived his greatest pleasure from researching and writing about the manufacturers of agricultural steam engines. His history of the Aultman & Taylor Company was his magnum opushis great work. 

I've edited and prepared Dr. Bixler's manuscript for publication in the Album. I condensed it to make it more readable. While doing so, I tried to stay true to the spirit of Dr. Bixler's prose. 

I combined chapters to create installments of the right length for serializing. When I cut words or passages from the manuscript, I used an ellipsis (...). Periodically I inserted capital letters in brackets [ ] to show where new sentences begin. When I needed to add words or phrases for clarification, I enclosed them in brackets. At one point in its history, the original Aultman & Taylor company evolved into a different firm, and Dr. Bixler referred to the Aultman & Taylor "companies" to emphasize this fact. Finding the repeated use of the plural noun confusing, I changed it to the singular "company." Any major factual discrepancies that I could not remedy I acknowledged in the notes. Dr. Bixler's citations to sources were not always as complete or as understandable as I might wish, but I did my best to present them accurately. While I'm certain that several errors have escaped me, I'm equally confident that my edited version has fewer mistakes than the original manuscript. 

When Dr. Bixler was writing the final chapter of his book, the present time was 1977; he alluded to facts that were true in the 1970s that are no longer true today. Preferring to retain as much of Dr. Bixler's perception as possible, I made no effort to update such statements. 

Seldom is it possible to present an industrial history as complete as Dr. Bixler's treatment of the Aultman & Taylor Company. Readers of the Album are indebted to Linda Weidman for her willingness to make this book available. I want to thank Karen Furlong and Boyd Addlesperger of the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library for answering my frequent questions and for granting ready access to so many one-of-a-kind documents. I also want to express my appreciation to Kerry S. Stahovec, Benefits Manager at Muskingum College, for providing biographical information on Dr. Bixler. 

By serializing this manuscript, the Album not only pays tribute to America's agricultural legacy but also posthumously honors the book's author. Dr. Robert T. Rhode June 28, 2000  

Dr. Bixler's Preface

On numerous occasions this writer wandered over the old plant [of the Aultman & Taylor Company] and lingered awhile to view the old buildings still remaining on the grounds ... as well as to meditate upon the events that transpired on those premises. One evening when the twilight dimmed and the busy streets became hushed, there was created an atmosphere or mood that cast an aura of sublimity upon the environs. Immediately there came to mind the ancient admonition to Moses: "Put off your shoes from your feet for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Perhaps it is not inappropriate to suggest that the men who toiled in that place made it hallowed ground ... [O]ne may envision those who labored there and earned their daily bread by the sweat of their brows. They wrought well-built machinery that was superb and used in many parts of the world.

It is a truism that institutions are but the lengthened shadows of men. This statement is amply illustrated by the history of the Aultman & Taylor Company. In fact they are so intertwined with the lives of people that it would be a disservice to them and the total image presented would be grossly incomplete if brief biographical sketches were omitted. From time to time then material ... is included portraying the lives of certain individuals [and] pointing out the contributions that they made to the ongoing business of the Company....[I]t must be recognized that the leadership [ran] from good to excellent, yet even so it left much to be desired.

A previous publication is devoted in part to the biography of Cornelius Aultman so reference will be made to him only in passing, when facts or information are pertinent to the discussion at hand. For more complete information concerning Cornelius Aultman the reader is referred to [Lorin E. Bixler's Cornelius Aultman, C. Aultman & Co. and The Aultman Co., published by Stemgas in 1967, now out of print].

... There are a goodly number of people today who either worked at the Aultman & Taylor plant or who had relatives employed by the company. The information provided and the experiences related to the author by these people have been of incalculable value in the preparation of this chronicle....

Special recognition is due to persons whose help was particularly notable: to Walter L. Blakely, who used Aultman & Taylor machinery for more than forty years, for sharing with the author his knowledge and experience with the company as well as providing catalogs, pictures, and other materials; to Samuel Yater for loaning the record book of the company that contains the minutes of the meetings of the directors and stockholders; to Argile Treisch for loaning copies of The Rooster, an employee publication; to Virgil Stanfield of the Mansfield News Journal for publishing articles seeking the assistance of Mansfield citizens; to A. T. Dickson, Jr., Librarian of the Mansfield Public Library and members of his staff including Miss Maribelle Brehman, Miss Stella Reed, Mrs. Helen Hayes, and Mrs. MayLou Altvater for their... help; to Marian Bates, Assistant Librarian of the Ohio Historical Society, and Mrs. John Armstrong, Assistant Librarian, Muskingum College, for their help; to Quintin Alexander, a grandson of Mr. and Mrs. George D. Harter and a great-grandson of Cornelius Aultman, for permission to draw heavily from his thesis written at the University of Pennsylvania; to Miss Elizabeth Fogle, a granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. George D. Harter and a great-granddaughter of Cornelius Aultman, whose father was the last president of the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company, for contributions drawn from her superior knowledge of family relations that have been of inestimable value particularly with reference to the roles of the members of the Harter family in the affairs of the companies. The writer is especially grateful for her abiding interest, patience, and help.

Altogether then, friends have given the author such generous assistance that he is reminded of Lincoln's words, "The better part of life consists of one's friends."

CHAPTER 1

Henry Hobart Taylor

Next to Cornelius Aultman the most important personage in the founding of the Aultman & Taylor Manufacturing Company, located in Mansfield, Ohio, was Henry Hobart Taylor... [H]e is usually recognized as having been an agent for C. Aultman & Company and [the Nichols & Shepard Company]. While this is [a] fact...he was involved in numerous other areas of business and industry. Little has been written about him, and unfortunately much of it is erroneous... [F]or this reason he is not as well known as is Aultman and many of the other men who were engaged in the manufacture and sale of threshing machinery. Consequently it is all the more important...that a more accurate and complete biographical sketch of this illustrious man ... be presented.

Henry Hobart Taylor was born in Durhamsville near Oneida Creek, New York, in the year of 1835. His father and family moved to Chicago in 1845 and engaged in merchandising. Henry ... entered the public schools of that city. However, at an early age he became a clerk in his father's store where [he] received a business education and was initiated into the mercantile experience of the growing ... city of Chicago.

In 1854 the family moved to Free-port, Illinois. At that time Taylor was eighteen years of age and launched out for himself. He began his self support, although he had only one dollar in his pocket. He journeyed to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was employed by a druggist for the purpose of learning pharmacy ... Taylor spent two years...to become a pharmacist and mastered the art but made no further use of his knowledge of pharmacy during the remainder of his life.

In 1856 he returned to Freeport, Illinois, and at that time took out an agency for C. Aultman & Co. of Canton, Ohio. Thus ... began an association with Aultman that endured for a period of nineteen years. This could well be termed the turning point in his career for, with the cultivation of the prairies, his business increased rapidly.

In 1864 he became associated with Nichols, Shepard and Company of Battlecreek, Michigan, and also became a stockholder in that company. To handle the increase in his business he established an agency in Chicago for the distribution of machinery manufactured by C. Aultman & Company and Nichols, Shepard and Company. His business was extended throughout the northwestern states as well as the Pacific coast and grew to large proportions.

He was a remarkable businessman being active in several ... enterprises in Chicago and its environs. Typical of this interest was his affiliation with the Elgin National Watch Company of Elgin, Illinois. He was one of the founders of that company and was a member of the board of directors from 1867 until his death on November 8, 1875. It was he who placed the Elgin watch on the London market within one month's time.

... In this connection an interesting sidelight is provided in a personal letter written by one of the present officials of the Elgin Watch Company. This official states that, during the early years, the Elgin Company manufactured models that were given the name of "Taylor." It was a practice in those days to name watches in honor of important people who were associated with the company. This official is of the opinion that those early models were named in honor of Taylor, who was at that time a member of the board of directors.

... In 1860 [Chicago] was ... growing more rapidly than it could care for its needs. It became known as the city of enterprise and already had become [a] great railroad center of the country. The northwest was opening up, and thousands of immigrants were moving in to claim the land. Hogs, cattle, corn, and wheat [began] pouring into the city ... Steamboats on the lakes and freight cars standing on the rails were filled to overflowing with products from the farms and ranches. Chicago shipped 31,108,769 bushels of grain in 1860. Due in part to the War Between the States prices [became] greatly inflated....In brief, Chicago was in the midst of unprecedented phenomenal, and rapid growth. ...

Possessed as he was with unusual business acumen and foresight ... [Taylor] made investments in real estate at comparatively low prices. With the rapid growth of the city already depicted real estate prices skyrocketed, and Taylor was able to realize enormous profits from those investments, which in the end brought him a fortune. One must remember, too, that the period under discussion was long before the day of income and inheritance taxes so that his fortune was not thereby reduced.

... With the augmentation of his financial resources he joined in the establishment of the Commercial National Bank of which he was a director for many years. He was also one of the directors of the American Insurance company with offices in the city of Chicago. Small wonder, then, that his total accumulated assets [were] excelled by few men of his day.6

In at least one respect he was unlike Aultman, Nichols, Shepard, and others who were associated with him. While those men were knowledgeable in the affairs of business ... at the same time they were competent mechanics and inventors ... Taylor was primarily an astute, shrewd, and competent businessman who was able to make important decisions at opportune times. He was uncanny in his sensitiveness to the appropriateness of a product for a given time. Thus he was interested in the vibrator separator not primarily as an inventor but rather as a significant business opportunity ... to be [a] successful businessman and salesman required a thorough understanding and knowledge of the machines that were manufactured. To this end he devoted his energies with great zeal and devotion.

Even though it is true that he was a most successful salesman, which enabled him to accumulate ... capital, yet it is a fact that this fortune was not acquired primarily as an agent for C. Aultman & Company and Nichols, Shepard and Company nor as the co-founder of the Aultman & Taylor Manufacturing Company but rather as a result of wise investments in real estate in the city of Chicago of which he was able to dispose at an opportune time. Upon his death he left to his only son, [Hobart Chatfield] Taylor, an inheritance of approximately two million dollars.

In 1864, Taylor was married to Adelaide Chatfield ... a native of Oriskany, New York. To that union was born [the] son who became a well-known literateur in ... Chicago. [Henry Hobart] did not enjoy the advantages of higher education, but he was a great reader of books and became a most versatile person in the several fields of literature. [He] also became knowledgeable in the various areas of science of that day. Through diligent study he acquired great precision in the use of language and was extremely refined in the use of words. He was particular and meticulous in his demeanor and in every respect a modest and unassuming person. All in all he was a learned, cultured, and refined gentleman ...

[Taylor] maintained numerous interests outside of the area of business. He was a Republican ... although he was not a narrow partisan. He was a member of the Masonic fraternity and had attained the rank of Knight Templar. He made several trips to Europe doubtless for business purposes as well as for social and cultural pursuits. He was generous in his gifts to charitable organizations, and his contributions were made without regard to creed. His gifts went to the Bethel Home, Chicago Relief Society, Old Ladies Home, and other similar charities. His contributions were always large but were never made with ostentation, and he never permitted his name to go before the public as a giver....

According to the Chicago directories of 1872 and 1873 the family residence was located at 226 W. Washington Street ... The address today is 800 Washington Boulevard. The directories list Taylor's occupation as "Agricultural Machinery."

For three years prior to his death Taylor suffered from a complication of diseases and during the last month of his life became totally blind ... with indomitable courage and energy he attended to his business until the day of his death. The cause ... was ... kidney [failure] and Bright's disease. Interment was made in the Graceland Cemetery in Chicago. As already mentioned Taylor's death occurred on November 9, 1875. He was forty years of age, and his death preceded that of Aultman by nine years, he having died at the age of fifty-seven. So both were relatively young men when compared with today's lengthened span of life ...

Two writers have described the grief of the citizens of Chicago ... "He had only reached the age of forty years when men are usually at the meridian of their powers. Why men so gifted with such natural endowments, and possessing so many accomplishments fitting them for years of usefulness and honor, should be cut off in their early prime is one of the inscrutable mysteries of life! It is certain that in the early death of Mr. Taylor Chicago lost a most worthy and estimable citizen who contributed not a little to her growth."9

... This then is a sketch of the life of Henry Hobart Taylor. Viewed in retrospect it was all too brief, yet his accomplishments as well as his contributions were many ...

Taylor's will provided that his son was to receive $50,000.00, and the remainder of his estate was to go to charities. However, the son was not satisfied with his father's will and so in the quietest and most gentlemanly manner possible importuned the other legatees [to view] this father's disposition of his wealth [as unfair] ... without a lawsuit or even a vigorous protest they acceded to his request and permitted Hobart to take the entire estate.

... His uncle Wayne [Chatfield's] will provided that Hobart ... receive his fortune of [$2,500,000.00] with the proviso that he would take his uncle's name. This he did, and his name became Hobart Chatfield-Taylor. He was one of the first Americans to acquire a hyphenated name. At that time he was twenty-eight ... He graduated from Cornell University in 1886 and later married the youngest daughter of ex-Senator and millionaire Charles B. Farwell. The two fortunes that he inherited amounted to around four and a half million dollars ... exclusive of his wife's inheritance ...

In addition to being a well-known literateur ... he was for several years the Spanish consul ... The Chicago Herald described his specialty as follows: "Consul Chatfield-Taylor's strongest point is his strict observance of the proprieties. He would sooner die than be seen in a costume not in consonance with the time of day or the event then transpiring. Since he has been his own master there has not been a day when mortal man has seen him in other than evening dress after 6 o'clock p.m ... So keen is his sense of [the] fitness of things that he has his own coach fitted up as a dressing room, and there he keeps several suits of clothes, cuffs and collars and other articles of apparel. Under one seat is a wash-bowl, with a water can nearby. In case he is out calling in the afternoon and has not time to get home in season to dress at 6 o'clock he simply lets down the curtains of his carriage, disrobes ... and, arraying himself in evening dress, is ready when the bells chime 6 to sit down to dinner."

By the sheer fortuitous circumstance of birth those huge fortunes were lavished upon one individual who made no contribution whatsoever to their accumulation. While Henry H. Taylor did not acquire the bulk of his fortune through the sale of threshing machinery, yet in truth it was the beginning and one source of his wealth. Here is a case...where one individual...was the beneficiary of the toil of thousands of thresher-men, farmers, as well as those who labored in the factories, which ... made possible the accumulation of that huge fortune.

Following the death of Taylor, Aultman purchased his holdings in the company. That transaction gave to Aultman the controlling interest in the [firm]. Then when he died his daughter Elizabeth inherited the bulk of her father's interest in the company, which made her the largest stockholder and gave her the controlling interest in the [firm]. She held that interest in the company until it was liquidated in 1923.

For the second installment of the history of Aultman & Taylor, click here. 

Notes 

1.  Moses, John, and Joseph Kirk-land. The History of Illinois. 1895. 651-52.
2.  Ibid.
3. The Watch-Word. Elgin, Illinois: 1921.
4.  Letter to the author, March 11, 1968, by D. W. Leverez, Director Technical Trade Relations, Elgin National Watch Co., Elgin, Illinois.
5.  Lewis, Lloyd, and Henry Justin Smith. Chicago: The History of Its Reputation. Part I. New York: Blue Ribbon Books. 79.
6.  The Chicago Tribune, November 11, 1875.
7.  Baughman, A. J., ed. Centennial Biographical History of Rich-land County, Ohio. Chicago: Lewis Publishing, 1901. 609.
8. Report of Death. County Clerk's Office, Vital Statistics Dept., 130 North Wells St., Chicago, Edward J. Barrett, County Clerk. October 22, 1968.
9.  The Chicago Tribune, November 11, 1875.
10. The Sunday Shield, Mansfield, Ohio, July 2, 1893.
11. Alexander, Quintin. Unpublished thesis. University of Pennsylvania.