Midwestern Industry in Marion

The American Midwest, including Marion, Ohio, proved to be fertile ground for industry in the 1800s. Marion started as a small village to support a farming community. But proximity to rail transport helped turn a village into a major industrial base.

Five railroads passed through Marion: the New York, Pennsylvania & Ohio Railroad; the Chicago & Erie; the C.C.C.& St. Louis; the C.S.&H.; and the C.H.U.&T. The Erie line even established a central office, round house repair and switching yard in Marion.

Marion’s industrial base is described in the 1895 Marion Daily Star supplement owned, published and edited by Warren G. Harding, later elected president of the U.S. That issue includes descriptions of Marion industries, banks, businesses, churches, attorneys and short biographies of notable individuals.

In addition to Huber Mfg. Co. and Marion Mfg. Co., Marion Steam Shovel Co., manufacturer of dipper and dragline shovels, was also featured. Marion shovels were used to help build the Panama Canal, Hoover Dam and the New York City subway system.

The Marion Malleable Iron Foundry made castings for Huber and Marion Steam Shovel, as well as lifting jacks, Sprague hoists, hay carriers and carriage hardware. Oborn Bros. produced hay-making tools such as the famous Oborn hay carrier (trolley), hay forks and slings, and carriage hardware. The Austin Automatic Boiler & Feeder Co. produced equipment for steam-powered devices, especially steam boilers and furnaces.

Marion Implement Co. turned out Huber’s wood revolving hay rakes, wood sweep rakes, wood buck rakes, Junkins hay stackers and Rayl wood-beam spike-tooth harrows. The company also produced doors, sashes, blinds and other goods. Marion Tool Co. was noted for its special hand tools, such as shingling hatchets, claw hatchets, axes, adzes, nail hammers, tack hammers and tinners’ snips.

Strobel Perfect Washing Machine Co. was owned by Frederick Strobel, who worked with Huber to produce an early grain separator, and who would later be a major player in the development and manufacture of the Leader separator line. This company produced the Perfect washing machine and the Marion wringer.

Marion Ice & Cold Storage Co. manufactured distilled water ice that was supplied to local establishments and various railroads to keep produce cold during cross-country transport.

Horse-drawn equipment was needed in 1895 and Marion had its share of those manufacturers, too. William Cull produced carriages, buggies and surreys. Stauffer, Wehr & Hays built carriages and heavy wagons. McMurray & Fisher Sulky Co. manufactured sulkies and skeleton wagons. The National Mfg. Co. built parcel and general delivery wagons and undertaker wagons.

And let us not forget the automobile. Schuyler, Zent & Co. manufactured gasoline engines. The Dec. 7, 1900, issue of the Marion Star includes a short note about a new automobile designed by the Zent company for Mr. E. Huber. The Compete Encyclopedia of Motorcars, 1885 to Present contains entries for Zent Automobile Mfg. Co., Bellefontaine, Ohio, 1902-07, and for Bellefontaine (Ohio) Automobile Co., 1908. So, it seems Marion’s Zent and Huber were involved in producing an automobile. It appears, however, that before Zent actually put his automobile into production, the operation was purchased by the Bellefontaine company and the Zent automobile was forever lost to Marion. – James Boblenz

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