History of Aultman & Taylor, Part IV

Continuing the story Aultman & Taylor, focusing on biographical narratives of important people in the company

Elizabeth Aultman Harter

Elizabeth Aultman Harter, the only woman who served as a member of the board of directors and a stockholder in Aultman & Taylor; also, the only member who served during the entire existence of the company.

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This issue of the Album presents the fourth installment of the late Dr. Bixler's history of the Aultman & Taylor Company. The Album is serializing Dr. Bixler's book. Upon his death, Dr. Bixler, a professor at Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio, left his major work unpublished. The manuscript found its way to the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library. George W. Richey of Norwich, Ohio, alerted Dr. Robert T. Rhode to the book's whereabouts. Dr. Rhode edited the manuscript and prepared it for publication in the Album. Now, Dr. Bixler's painstaking research and lively writing are being shared with Album readers. In this installment, Dr. Bixler begins a series of biographical narratives depicting the people who helped to make the Aultman & Taylor Company one of the foremost manufacturers of agricultural equipment in the United States.

Click here for part I of the history of Aultman & Taylor.
Click here for part II of the history of Aultman & Taylor.
Click here for part III of the history of Aultman & Taylor
 

CHAPTER 4

The Harter Family

To convey a true and altogether accurate portrait of the Aultman & Taylor Company requires ... due recognition ... to the Harters, since their participation and influence were preeminent in the affairs of the [firm]. In many respects it was truly a notable family imbued with those attributes of character and personality that make for greatness. Six members of that distinguished family were active in the business ... All of the family presented here at one time or another held official positions in the company ... [I]f all of their years of association with the [firm] were combined, [they would] total ... approximately 165 years. ... Biographical sketches are presented in the chronological order in which each became affiliated with the [company].

Elizabeth Aultman Harter

Elizabeth Aultman was born on May 14, 1847, in Greentown, Ohio, where her father began his business of manufacturing water wheels and harvesting machinery. Her education was acquired in the public schools of Canton.

She was united in marriage to George D. Harter on March 3, 1869, when the family was residing in Mansfield. Immediately following their marriage, they went to Canton and [lived] on South Cleveland Avenue near where the Canton Public Library is now located. After living [there] for several years, they moved to the home that was later ... occupied by President McKinley. Following [Cornelius] Aultman's death in 1884 they moved into the mansion that he had built. There they lived for the remainder of their lives, and this dwelling became familiarly known as the George D. Harter residence.1 

None of [Elizabeth's] business interests did she regard more highly than that of the Aultman & Taylor [Company]. She became a stock holder and a director in [Aultman & Taylor] at the age of nineteen, when it was founded.2 As pointed out earlier, [it] was almost unheard of in that day for ... a person so young and a woman at that [to] become connected with a business enterprise. Moreover, she held the distinction of being the only stockholder and director who was with the [firm] during the fifty-six years that [it was] in business. The minutes of the directors and stockholders indicate that she was regular in her attendance at ... meetings and was an influential participant. Her advice ... was always sought, when action of any significance was about to be taken. Following the death of her father she became the largest stockholder in the company, and so her votes in large part determined the policies and course of the company. Whenever it was impossible for her to attend meetings, she usually appointed as her proxy Henry W. Harter and occasionally Isaac Harter, Jr. ... [F]rom 1908 to 1923, [Elizabeth] served as Vice-President without salary.3 

[Elizabeth] ... maintained ... concern [for the] employees. This ... is well illustrated by the following incident related to the author by one of the employees of the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company.

During ... 1921 the plant ceased operations for a period of time, and many of the workmen were laid off. One of the men who had been an employee for many years was Billy Emmons, and he was one of the men ... discharged. One day ... Mrs. Harter made a tour through the plant, as was her practice. ... [S]he discovered that Billy Emmons ... was not in the plant, whereupon she inquired, "Where is my Billy?" ... Upon being informed that he, along with others, had been laid off, she said to her informant, "Get him back! As long as I have a dollar left, he'll be employed." And so Billy Emmons was reemployed.4 

... [Elizabeth's attitude] of deep concern for all who were connected with the [firm] accounted in a significant way for the high morale that in large measure characterized the employees for most of the years that the [company was] in existence. Even today one hears from old employees only praise and an expression of appreciation for Mrs. Harter, as well as a sense of pride that they were once [employees] of the old company. ...

Mrs. Harter was a great benefactor, and with her financial resources gave aid to thousands of young people. Through her generosity many of them were able to secure a college education. ... [S]he provided assistance [to] a number of young men who completed their medical education.

She was one of the largest donors to the Trinity Lutheran Church in Canton, when the present edifice was erected. ...

Her gifts to the Y.M.C.A. and the Y.W.C.A. were generous, and she was the founder of the Associated Charities of Canton. She contributed to the Canton's Women's Club at its inception and was its only honorary member. She and her stepmother endowed Aultman Hospital in honor of her father. To these and other charities she gave at least [a million dollars].... The bulk of her donations came from current income rather than from capital investments.

Mrs. Harter was the mother of six children. A son, Cornelius, died at the age of five, and a daughter, Eliza, died in infancy. At ... her death she was survived by four daughters: Mrs. E. E. Esselburne and Mrs. James Fogle, both residents of Canton, Mrs. Henry Alexander of Cleveland, and Miss Elizabeth Harter, who resides near Hartville, Ohio. She was also survived by twelve grandchildren.

Mrs. Harter's death occurred on October 25, 1932, at the age of eighty-five, having survived her husband by forty-two years. Her death [followed an] illness ... of five years. . . . Funeral services . . . were held in the home and at Trinity Lutheran Church ... in Canton.... [I]nterment was made in the Aultman-Miller plot in Westlawn Cemetery in Canton.

Michael Daniel Harter

Michael D. Harter was born in Canton ... on April 6, 1846. In 1869 he was united in marriage to Mary L. Brown of Massillon, Ohio. To that union was born one daughter, Mrs. J. E. Vaughn, Jr., [and] four sons, H. H. Harter, Robert Harter, Isaac Harter, Jr., and Huntington Harter.

... [H]is father was identified with the business interests of Canton as a merchant and banker. [Michael] acquired his education in the public schools of Canton and was graduated from Canton High School. He did not attend college but continued his education by studying and devoting his attention to the problems and methods of his father's business. ... In 1866 he established a bank in Canton ...

Throughout his life he was ... characterized as ... endowed with a brilliant and logical mind. ... [H]e was a great and forceful thinker, a wise and constructive statesman, as well as a patriotic citizen. ... [H]e was a warm and generous person ... and ... an entertaining conversationalist.

That he was deeply patriotic ... is evidenced by a gift that he made to the city of Mansfield. This was a soldier's monument that stands [in] the public square ... On June 2, 1881, a program was presented in connection with the decoration of the soldiers' graves in the Mansfield Cemetery. On that occasion the following letter written by Michael D. Harter was read to the assembled crowd. ...

"I feel that Richland County has already waited too long for the erection of a monument which will keep alive ..." the remembrance of the patriotic sacrifices of the dead.

"Therefore, if it will be acceptable to the Memorial Association, I will give to this community a soldiers' monument which shall be a duplicate of the monument which stands opposite Congress Springs at Saratoga."

"The figure which is of iron (bronzed) is that of an infantry soldier and is seven feet in height. It was designed and executed under the personal supervision of the Seventy-Seventh New York ..." and is as nearly a perfect representation of the American soldier as I have ever seen.

"The expense of a foundation and everything connected with the proper setting will be paid by me ..."5 

... [H]e was a member of St. Luke's [Lutheran] Church in Mansfield. ... On February 27, 1887, the congregation decided to erect a church building. Harter donated ... the triangular piece of ground at the intersection of Park Avenue West and Marion Avenue on which the church edifice was erected. ... [H]e gave a lot located at the rear of the building to be used for a parsonage. The church ... was completed and dedicated on November 22, 1891.

The Harter home was located on Park Avenue West in Mansfield and surrounded by a large lawn. It was opposite the residence of Senator John Sherman. Some years ago the dwelling was razed to provide room for ... a [business] building.

Reference has already been made to the appointment of Harter as ... Manager of the Aultman & Taylor Manufacturing Company. During 1869, the [firm] being in need of a manager, Cornelius Aultman persuaded Harter to assume the responsibilities of that position. Aultman had known Harter from childhood . ... At that time Harter was twenty-three years of age, and that was no minor responsibility to be assumed . ... Harter's association with Aultman was ... close. ... No doubt Aultman perceived in the young man innate talents and possibilities for great leadership based upon his zeal and eagerness to learn.

... [Harter] was conservative in the office and aggressive in the factory. During his life he held more ... official positions than any other person connected with the [firm], serving at one time or another as manager, treasurer, vice-president, and president.

The [company] enjoyed a profit during all of the years that he served.

... Almost unprecedented is the fact that [the firm] did not suffer a loss from 1867 until 1890. While complete records are not at hand, yet the records that are available indicate that the [annual] net income ... ranged between $90,000 and $100,000, an outstanding achievement for those unsettled years.

[Harter] was involved in other business enterprises in addition to [Aultman & Taylor]. He was one of the founders and incorporators of the Mowry Brick Company. ... Mr. Mowry ... patented a brick-making machine, [and the firm] was organized for the purpose of manufacturing and selling the machine. ... [I]t proved to be a successful [venture]. Harter was also instrumental in establishing the Savings Bank in Mansfield and served as a director.

... [H]e was also identified with the Western Straw Board at St. Mary's, Ohio, ... the Brooklyn Biscuit Company at Brooklyn, New York, and the Electric, Light, and Power Company. He established the Isaac Harter & Sons Milling Company at Fostoria, Ohio, which was one of the largest producers of flour in the state of Ohio. He was President of that company, and A. Mennel was Vice-President and General Manager. Mennel was also ... a member of the board of directors of the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company. Harter was the confidential friend and advisor of many of Mansfield's businessmen. He was loved by the employees of [Aultman & Taylor], since in him they had a trusted friend who was always ready to lend a listening ear to their problems and [do] whatever he could to alleviate their [suffering].

In 1890 he was elected to Congress from his home district. He was a member of the Democratic Party a Jeffersonian Democrat a "Free-Trader" and believed in the axiom ... "That government is best which governs least." He was a ... champion of ... free trade and Civil Service Reform. The tariff question and sound money [policy] were ... burning political issues during the early part of the 1890s, but even in his own political party ... only a minority ... agreed with him. ... [N]o one doubted his courage and honesty. The titles of the pamphlets and circulars that carried his addresses are indicative of the various phases of the issues that were discussed during his campaigns. ... One of his ambitions was to modify the McKinley Tariff Law. He supported the Wilson Act, which became law and established the gold standard. Much of his effort was directed against the Bland Act. He was also opposed to the Free Silver Movement.

... Upon his election to Congress ... Harter withdrew from active participation in the affairs of [Aultman & Taylor] so that he could devote his full time to his duties in Congress. Then, in 1891, upon his recommendation and insistence, a new company was organized, a complete treatment of which will be presented in a later chapter. Suffice it to state at this point that, beginning [in] 1891 and [continuing] until his death, he served as president of the Aultman & Taylor Company and vice-president of the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company. ...

A number of his friends cherished the ambition that ... he would become a United States Senator and eventually President of the United States, but that dream perished ....

The newspapers of the period ... reveal that ... [Harter] was subjected to all of the vituperation that unfortunately often characterizes ... political life. ... He had his ... enemies, some of whom went to great lengths in an attempt to bring discredit upon him. In a conversation with Virgil Cline of Cleveland in the halls of Congress ... a year and a half before he retired, [Harter] stated that he intended to retire to private life, adding that he was disgusted with the falseness and show of public life ...

... [U]pon completion of two terms in Congress he declined another nomination by his party and returned home, never again to participate in the business or political worlds. His political activities left him a discouraged and ... exhausted man. ...

Harter arrived in Fostoria on Wednesday, February 20, 1896, for the purpose of looking after ... the Isaac Harter & Sons Milling Company. ... [H]e went to the house that he and Mrs. Harter had furnished for their son Robert. The house was in charge of Mr. and Mrs. S. M. Knapp, who had gone there from Massillon. Harter attended a supper at the Presbyterian Church in that city on Friday evening and apparently was in good health and spirits.

At the time of his retirement on Friday night ... he requested Mrs. Knapp not to call him for breakfast, and she followed his instructions. However, when a late hour arrived and he did not arise, she became concerned about him. ... [H]e was found lying on the bed in his night robes with a 32-caliber revolver clenched in his right hand. A bullet wound was in his right temple, and the bullet had passed through his head. A letter was left ... addressed to Mrs. Harter, the contents of which have not been revealed to the public. What motivated ... Harter to take his life will probably never be known except within the confines of the immediate family.

A brief funeral service was held at Fostoria, after which the body was taken to Mansfield, where another brief service was conducted by ... the pastor ... of the Lutheran Church of which Harter was a member. ... [I]nterment was made in the Mansfield Cemetery.6 

Following the publication of a sensational charge of graft on the part of the Richland County Treasurer and upon the request of a group of citizens, the State Auditor made an examination of the records of the County Treasurer. This examination revealed that there were a number of irregularities in the conduct of that office. These were brought into the open as a result of a suit ... against the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company and the M. D. Harter Estate for lack of payment of back, or delinquent, taxes in the amount of $228,000.00. An extensive and complete report on the condition of the Treasurer's Office was published in the newspapers. Within the State Auditor's report is a statement of the appraisal of the M. D. Harter Estate as submitted by George Brinkhoffer, who was the administrator of the estate. ... The total appraised value of the [Estate was] $523,643.74.7 

... [Harter's] most notable contributions were made in the arena of business and in particular as a leader of [Aultman & Taylor]. ... Being a modest and generous person, his giving was done without ostentation. Twelve years after his death his family was still being informed [about his charitable gifts]. Many were known only to him and to those whom he benefited. ... For one so gifted and talented his years came to a close all too soon. ... Perhaps one may well conclude that the noted manufacturer and industrial leader in some measure achieved greatness.

Notes

1. Bixler, Lorin E. Cornelius Aultman, C. Aultman & Co., and the Aultman Company. Enola, Pennsylvania: STEMGAS Publishing, 1967. 23, 27, 77.2. Ibid. 84. Alexander, Quintin. Unpublished thesis, U of Pennsylvania.
3. Canton Repository, November 25, 1932.4. Interview with Earl Schuler.
5. Mansfield Shield, June 2, 1881.6. Baughman, A. J., ed. Centennial Biographical History of Rich-land County, Ohio. Chicago: Lewis Publishing, 1901. 170. Mansfield Daily Shield, May 10, 1894, and February 23-26, 1896.7. "Estate of Michael D. Harter," Mansfield News, October 9, 1901. 

Click here to continue to part V of the history of Aultman-Taylor.