The Fall of the Cornelius Aultman Companies
Let's Talk Rusty Iron: Aultman firms fade into history in this third installment of Sam Moore's exploration of Cornelius Aultman and Lewis Miller's implement companies.
The original Buckeye Banner Binder had design flaws that damaged C. Aultman & Co.'s reputation with farmers in the 1880s.
Editor's note: This is the final article in Sam Moore's three-part series on the 19th-century Aultman companies of Ohio. Read part 1 here and part 2 here.
Cornelius Aultman firms fade into history
The1880s left C. Aultman & Co. of Canton, Ohio, reeling from the repercussions of an inadequate machinery design associated with the Buckeye Binder, and growing labor problems. During the same period, Aultman, Miller & Co. in Akron maintained a steady stream of business and Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company in Mansfield prospered even more vigorously. Both outlasted their Canton counterpart, but not by many years.
To meet the competition of the 1880s harvester wars, C. Aultman & Co. in Canton introduced the Buckeye Banner Binder, a low machine that eliminated elevating canvases. Unfortunately, the design had not been adequately tested before introduction and hundreds were judged defective by their purchasers and returned to the factory.
Also in the 1880s, the Canton company cut its workers' wages by 10 percent, claiming they were paid considerably more than competitors' employees. The firm also began closing down its factory from November to January each year, leaving workers unpaid for that period. Both actions placed a great hardship on the workers, their families and the city of Canton, where Cornelius Aultman was the largest employer.
In 1890, shortly after the binder fiasco, the manufacture of all mowers, reapers and binders was transferred from Canton to Aultman, Miller & Co. in Akron. The Canton company continued to build steam engines, threshers, horsepowers, straw stackers and saw mills.
In Akron, Aultman, Miller & Co. prospered in 1891 and 1892, offsetting some of the Canton losses, and prospects for 1893 were so promising that Lewis and Mary Miller set off on a second honeymoon, traveling into the South and West and stopping at the Chicago Exposition.
Unfortunately, the financial panic of 1893 struck while the Millers were in California, causing 15,000 business failures and throwing 4 million people out of work in the United States, and cutting the Millers' special trip short.
Farm Implement News wrote, "Business is so dead that the mourners have not even the heart to hold a wake." C. Aultman & Co. creditors called in their loans, most of which Miller personally had endorsed.
Upon his return home, Miller put all of his remaining stock into an escrow account and arranged a deal with his bankers for more time. The quick bar gain kept the Akron plant going but Canton could not be saved. In December 1893, C. Aultman & Co. declared bankruptcy and was placed under new management through 1894. In February 1895, the Canton plant and all its assets were sold at auction for $300,000 to W.W. Clark, representing the creditors.
Page: 1 | 2
| Next >>