History of Aultman & Taylor, Part III

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N.R. Darling of Fredericktown, Knox County, Ohio, and the Pioneer, an agitator type, the first thresher built by the Aultman & Taylor Manufacturing Company and sold to Darling in 1868; it was destroyed in the first of 1896.
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House in which N. R. Darling lived.
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Blacksmith shop of Aultman & Taylor thresher department.

In this issue of the Album appears the third installment of Dr. Bixler’s history of the Aultman & Taylor Company, as edited by Dr. Robert T. Rhode. The Album is serializing Dr. Bixler’s book. Dr. Bixler, a professor at Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio, passed away before he could publish the manuscript on which he had labored. His well-researched book affords rare glimpses into the lives of key figures who established Aultman & Taylor’s reputation for excellence. Manuscripts belonging to Dr. Bixler are in the Sherman Room of the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library in Mansfield, Ohio.

To read the first installment, click here.
To read the second installment, click here.


The Original Personnel and Organization of the Aultman & Taylor Company

The first board of directors of the [Aultman & Taylor Company, founded in 1867,] was composed of the following members: Cornelius Aultman, Canton, Ohio; Elizabeth Aultman Harter, Canton, Ohio; John Tonner, Canton, Ohio; Henry H. Taylor, Chicago, Illinois; H. Chatfield Taylor, Chicago, Illinois, and J. C. Wiggle, Mansfield, Ohio.

Three of the original directors came from Canton having been associated with Aultman in his enterprise in that city. John Tonner was the secretary of C. Aultman & Co. for a number of years and was a competent businessman. It should be observed that H. Chatfield Taylor was the son of Henry H. Taylor and one of the original directors. Elizabeth, the daughter of Cornelius Aultman, at the age of nineteen was also one of the original directors.

For a woman to have been a member of the board of directors in that day is particularly noteworthy. That was in 1867 and 1868, long before the day of [women’s suffrage] … Elizabeth Aultman Harter … grew up with the company. Moreover, she was the only member to serve in that capacity during the fifty-six years that the company was in business. Her leadership and influence [were] of great significance in the affairs of the company.

Subsequent to Taylor’s death, Aultman purchased his holdings in the company and thus acquired the controlling interest in the [firm], most of which was inherited by Mrs. Harter. Following the death of her father she became the largest stockholder in the company and held the controlling interest until its dissolution.

At the outset, the company’s organization consisted of the following personnel: Joseph Allonas, Superintendent; William Ackerman, Foreman, Thresher and Power Shop; Andrew Burneson, Foreman, [Wrought Iron and Blacksmith Department]; [Joseph Edwin Smith, Foreman, Paint Shop], [and] John A. Moore, Foreman, Machine Shop.1

All of [the] men had been employees of C. Aultman & Co. of Canton. It is probably fair to assume that Aultman selected [the] men to assist him in opening the new factory because he knew them personally and … was well acquainted [with] their talents, skills, or abilities essential [in] assuming the responsibilities to which he had called them. Many years of experience with C. Aultman & Co. placed them in good stead in the launching of the new venture. … [A]t the outset there was a tenuous link between the two companies … Even though [the] men had been the employees of the Canton firm, … the machinery that they built for the Aultman & Taylor Manufacturing Company was in all respects quite dissimilar to that built in Canton, and that continued to be true during the … life of the two companies.

The above point deserves more than passing attention … in view of the fact that articles have appeared. … containing statements that tend to leave readers [with] the impression that those two companies were under the same leadership and management or that there was only one company. Statements made to that effect are erroneous … Each company had its own [board of directors] and stockholders. It was about 1875 that Aultman sold his holdings in C. Aultman & Co., withdrew from active management, and soon thereafter severed all of his relationships with C. Aultman & Co. There was no crisscrossing of either directors or stockholders of [the] two companies. … Aultman took men from the Canton plant to assist him in the inauguration of the new enterprise in Mansfield, and that is … the extent of the relationship that obtained between the two companies. …

In 1865 Aultman went to Mansfield, where he resided for four years. His residence in that city was for the purpose of supervising the erection of the buildings, installing machinery, and placing the factory [in] operation. At the end of four years, having gotten the factory underway, he returned to Canton and lived there until his death in 1884.

The year following the founding of the company marked a period of transition. While Taylor was the treasurer and continued to hold his interest in the company until his death, yet at no time during those years was he active in the management of the company. … Wiggle was the first secretary, who served in that capacity for two years and withdrew from the company at the close of 1869. Under these circumstances the company found itself without a competent person in charge of the management.

Confronted with the need amounting to a precarious situation. … Aultman turned to Michael D. Harter and persuaded him to become manager of the company. That his choice was a prudent one is evidenced by the company’s record during the ensuring years. Harter grew in stature, and the notable success that the company achieved was due in large measure to his sagacious leadership. …

William Ackerman

William Ackerman was born in Esslingham, Germany. When quite [a] young man, he came to New York City and there obtained a good practical education by attending night school. He came to Ohio in 1857 and located in Canton, where he was employed by the Ball Machinery Company with which Aultman had been associated. Upon Aultman’s invitation he went to Mansfield in 1861 and lived there during the remainder of his life. He was one of the first men to go to Mansfield to prepare for the opening of the new factory. … [T]he first buildings were under construction, and he helped to install the machinery for the [manufacture] of the new separators and horse powers. He was a foreman for twenty-six years, retiring in 1897 because of ill health. His co-workers knew him as a man of integrity and honor. …

Ackerman was once involved in a serious accident that almost cost his life. He was caught in a fifteen-foot flywheel that was revolving at the rate of thirty-five miles per hour. It made two revolutions before he was released. For nine days he was under the care of three physicians. At the end of five weeks he was able to move around …

Ackerman was responsible for an exhibit of the Aultman & Taylor machinery that was held at the World’s Fair during 1893 in the city of Chicago. Ackerman also designed and built the threshing machine that won the prize at the Nebraska State Fair held in Omaha during 1893. Aultman & Taylor was popular in that state. … [Ackerman] was married to Mary Bank off, who was born in Switzerland and died in Canton, Ohio. Five children were born to that union.2

Joseph Allonas

Joseph Allonas was born in Alsace, Prussia, and at an early age came to America with his parents. They located near New Berlin in Stark County, which is now the city of North Canton having changed its name during the fanaticism of Word War One. During many years it has been the home of the Hoover sweeper company. It was in the village of New Berlin where Allonas grew to manhood and followed the trade of a machinist in Nodel’s shop, which was a jobbing, blacksmithing, and repair shop. … Subsequently he went to Canton during the early years of C. Aultman & Co. and … was one of the leading mechanics of that firm.

… [H]e [was not only] a skilled person in the management of the plant, as well as a competent mechanic, but … also a fertile and successful inventor. He had to his credit patents on several attachments [to] machines manufactured by the company. …

In the community he was highly esteemed by all who knew him, being an important and respected citizen. He died on May 8, 1879, at fifty years of age. He was a member of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Mansfield. … Interment was … in the Catholic cemetery on North Market Street in Canton … about two miles north of the old C. Aultman & Co. plant. …

A large contingent of the employees of … Aultman & Taylor … accompanied the body to the city of Canton. It is interesting to observe that the railroad company provided special round-trip tickets to all of those who made the journey to Canton.

A prominent representative of C. Aultman & Co. at the … funeral remarked … , “He was to Aultman, Taylor & Company and to Mansfield’s manufacturing interests what the late George Cook was to C. Aultman & Company and to the city of Canton.”3

… A modest tombstone marks his grave …

Andrew Burneson

Andrew Burneson was born in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, … and was educated in his native county. During 1835 he went to Wellsville, Ohio, where he learned the machinist trade from P. E. Guice, who was a steam engine builder. Following that experience he worked as a steamboat builder and helped to [construct] the New Brighton car factory, in which he owned stock.

He moved to Canton during 1859 where he was employed by C. Aultman & Co. in the building of threshers, mowers, and reapers. After working for that company seven years he devoted two years to the commission business in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1866 he went to Mansfield, where he engaged in merchandising for a brief period of time but soon sold out his stock. On January 12, 1867, he was employed by the Aultman & Taylor Manufacturing Company as their first foreman in their wrought-iron and blacksmith department. He held that position for twenty-two years. …

At that time he and William Ackerman, along with others, organized the Ohio Thresher and Engine company, which was located in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. They erected a plant and built threshing machines and engines … during 1889 and 1890 employing about forty men. Burneson was Vice-President and Ackerman was … Superintendent.

In 1893 they sold their interest in the company and returned to Mansfield. Burneson then became engaged in the real estate business and erected seventeen buildings, including residence and business blocks …4

He was a man of considerable ability. While he was with the Aultman & Taylor Company he made many improvements in their wrought-iron department … , [increasing] the speed and accuracy in the manufacturing process.

He began life as a poor man but, being ambitious and industrious, prospered throughout his life. …

Joseph Edwin Smith

Another member of the original shop organization was Joseph Edwin Smith, who was born in Canton in 1846. His father [was] a native of Alsace, Germany. In 1868 Mr. Smith moved to Bucyrus, Ohio, and during the following year became associated with the Aultman & Taylor Manufacturing Company. He was made Foreman of the Paint Shop, which position he held for thirty years. During the latter years of his employment he had thirty men under his supervision. He was a most dependable workman and … was absent from work only one week due to illness.

In 1874 he was married to [Mansfield resident] Minnie R. Allonas who was born in his native city of Canton. They were the parents of four children.

Smith was … an active, intelligent citizen interested in public affairs. … He died January 19, 1924, at the age of seventy-eight.5

Factory [Operations]

Each of the [Aultman & Taylor Manufacturing] Company’s catalogs states the number of years for each current year that the factory [has] been in operation beginning with 1865; thus, 1904 [is] their thirty-ninth year, 1916 their fifty-first year, etc. When those dates are compared [to] the date of incorporation, there appears to be an inconsistency, but that would be an unwarranted conclusion. Was 1865 indeed the year when operations began?

It all depends upon what is meant by “beginning operations.” If this [phrase] alludes to the beginning of the manufacturing of machinery, the answer is “no,” but, on the other hand, if it refers to the construction of buildings and the installation of machinery, then the answer is “yes.” It may be recalled that Aultman went to Mansfield in 1865 for the … purpose of overseeing and assisting in the installation of the machinery, as well as placing the factory in operation. There were numerous tasks in such an undertaking that had to be performed. … [I]nstalling the machinery and placing it [in] operation were foremost, yet in addition to those responsibilities was the procurement and stockpiling of raw materials. In other words it was essential that inventories be built.

… [T]he factory came into operation gradually. … While … the company was incorporated in November of 1867, yet operations were underway prior to that time.

Because of the essential preliminary work … manufacturing did not [begin] until the fall [of] 1868. At that time, [when the firm’s] first separator was sold, other machines were in the process of manufacture, some nearing completion and a number … ready for sale. …

During 1869 there were employed in the factory between 150 and 200 men. [In] that year they built 400 threshing machines and horse powers. There are those who would maintain that this was not a large output nor an auspicious beginning. Nonetheless, it did indeed mark the [advent] of a notable industrial firm that existed for a span of 56 years and developed a reputation for building excellent machinery. …

[The firm’s] first separator was … sold … to [Nicholas] R. Darling of Fredericktown, Knox County, Ohio. Attention is called to the picture of that separator along with Darling which was taken in 1879 by J. A. Watkins of Mansfield. The following [testimonial letter dated June 20, 1876,] was written in response to an inquiry from the company concerning the merits of their first machine:

“Gentlemen: In answer to your wish to know how I like my machine and what I think of its durability, I am happy to say, I bought the first Aultman & Taylor thresher ever built; I bought it in 1868, and this will be the ninth season; I have run it each season, doing a very large business in wheat, oats, barley, flax, and timothy, and, while worn a good deal, I believe it will last a number of years yet. I can’t answer you how long it will last, but I believe it will be running when all the endless-apron Pitts threshers sold this year will have broken down, worn out, and played out. Not a single endless apron sold in my section the year I got my Aultman & Taylor or the year after … is now of any account, all of them worn out altogether, or so much racked that they can’t do any fair amount of work. Our machine saves the farmers’ grain so well, and cleans it so nice, that I have every season had from one-third to one-half more, and sometimes double the work for my old machine than any endless apron could get. So, you see, an Aultman & Taylor thresher, if you count the number of bushels threshed, will outlast three or four endless-apron or Pitts threshers. I am well acquainted with the R, S, F, and C threshers and do not hesitate to say that I think my old Aultman & Taylor has more life left in it yet than a new machine … of these makes.

“I don’t think that any of the machines just named, or any other endless-apron machine, will be sold here this season, for all our best farmers say they waste such a terrible amount of grain that they will not have any of them do a bushel’s threshing, if they can help it; and I don’t think anybody down this way is fool enough now to buy a new one, for so many farmers get mad when a man says endless apron thresher to them, that they get only a small amount of work, and that the poorest pay, generally; besides this the repairs of their machines is an awful big item. When I first got my machine from you, the farmers wouldn’t believe how much I could save them; if I want to make any of them swear, I can do it by saying that I intend threshing with an endless apron machine next year. If you want more information about my thresher, let me know. Considering the time I have run my machine, and the amount of grain I have threshed, I don’t think it cost me more than one-half for repairs as other kinds, perhaps not over one-third as much.”6

Three years after this letter was written, Darling reiterated his sentiments about the Aultman & Taylor machinery. In the meantime he purchased an Allonas clover-huller attachment, an engine, and other improvements. In his second letter he states that he was well pleased with all of his purchases. …7

Darling used that separator for eleven seasons. At the end of that time it was bought by the Aultman & Taylor Company and returned to the factory. It was stored on the top floor of their warehouse already described and used for exhibition purposes. In May of 1896 a fire … completely destroyed the warehouse, and the separator was lost in that conflagration. A full account of that disastrous fire is presented in Chapter 6 of this treatise.

Nicholas R. Darling

On Friday morning, August 23, 1969, the author met and visited with a good and genial friend, Lewis Hyatt, to whom he is indebted for firsthand information concerning N. R. Darling, who was born in 1830 and died May 25, 1908.8 He was survived by his wife and one adopted, son. Hyatt is one of the very few men living today who knew Darling and whose memory of him is most vivid. The farm that Hyatt possesses and on which he resides adjoins the one owned by Darling, so they were close neighbors. Then, too, Darling was an uncle of Hyatt’s. Those farms are located about two miles south of Fredericktown … in a rich agricultural region.

It was a … perfect August morning with a clear azure sky … that contributed to a never-to-be-forgotten experience as the writer and Hyatt stood on a high plateau on his farm overlooking the old Darling homestead and the valley below. As far as the eye could see … loomed … acres and acres of … corn in tassel. The scene was … one of unsurpassing beauty. …

Here it was, in this, one of the rich agricultural valleys of Ohio, that Darling moved among his neighbors and threshed their grain with that first separator, the “Pioneer,” built by the Aultman & Taylor Manufacturing Company. …

The old [Darling] house, built in 1875, still stands … and is in excellent condition. The barn was struck by lightning twenty years ago and burned to the ground; … all that remains of it are the walls. The water from the spring still flows to the old stone watering trough and to the spring house. …

What manner of man was Darling? Facts concerning his early life are few. … [A] brief presentation of informational and anecdotal material may suffice to give a … glimpse of his personality. Pertinent information comes from his peers, who were well acquainted with him and knew his admirable characteristics, as well as his eccentricities. … [S]ome of the tales associated with him are unprintable, so they must forever remain within the confidence of his friends and neighbors. …

Darling … displayed a type of wit seldom encountered. … Apparently he was one of strong beliefs, as well as firm opinions, and was uninhibited in giving expression to them. … While he was not a heavy drinker, yet on occasion he did imbibe somewhat freely.

One November evening when it was raining, snowing, and sleeting, a miserable evening, he and his hired men were leading the horses to the watering trough. … They had to make five trips with the teams. … [F]inally Darling brought the bull to the trough, but he would not drink. All he would do was to sniff at the water, while his master stood in the cold. Being somewhat inebriated, wobbling back and forth, he … admonished the bull. . . : “D__ n it to h__l, I brought you out here to drink, and now you keep me standing here in the snow just because it’s raining.”

Darling was not affiliated with any church, but he had certain ethical standards to which he adhered. When someone inquired as to which church he belonged [to], his reply was, “I belong to the ‘Do Right Church.'” His [dedication] to [doing right] is illustrated in the following incident.

[Darling’s wife] was a loyal member of the Baptist Church and was pleased that the man who tended their orchard was also a member of that denomination. … [T]he conversation at the dinner table on a particular occasion drifted … to … the topic of wheat. In that day wheat was usually taken to the mill in two-bushel sacks. Darling stated that the miller would inquire as to the number of sacks in the load, and the weigh slip would show a few pounds over the average of two bushels per sack. This prompted one of the group to wonder if the weighing [were] absolutely on the level. The orchard man suggested that he would give the miller a number that would be a few more than the true number of sacks so as to test the miller’s honesty. To this suggestion, Darling replied, “Perhaps you would, but in our church we would not do such a thing” meaning … the “Do Right Church.”9

Horse Powers

Prior to 1869, the horse powers were unmounted. To move them required the expenditure of much time and labor. They were also difficult to maintain in good running order. After building them for a brief period … the company became convinced that improvements were imperative.

[T]he Aultman & Taylor Manufacturing Company bought or leased all of the valid patents in existence at that time and began building horse powers on an extensive scale. The first powers of this type … were the “Climax” triple gear and the “Woodbury” double gear. The latter became a popular horse power, and it was claimed that [Aultman & Taylor was] the first company to build a comparatively large number [of them].

After … much … experimentation and invention they developed a horse power of their own that apparently satisfied the needs of the threshermen … It was named the Aultman & Taylor double-gear horse power, and reference was sometimes made to it as “the horse power of the century.” From all accounts it was an excellent horse power and became a favorite among the threshermen. … It was advertised as having three necessary qualities: … strength, light draft, and durability. … Despite the fact that by 1890 the steam traction engine was in general use, yet … figures … show that [the firm] built … horse powers during those … years. It is not unreasonable to assume that [the company manufactured] between 1400 and 1600 horse powers.

At least two factors in part accounted for the continued demand for horse powers until the turn of the century. First, there were those conservative threshermen who, having used horse powers for many years, were unwilling to try a new source of power. Their attitudes were often supported by what appeared to them plausible reasons. One common reason given for their reluctance to use steam engines was … the … danger of explosions and fire. Whatever merit there may have been in this reason, enough examples … were to be found in the newspapers and farm journals to give … credence to their fears.

A second factor was perhaps of even greater significance. There were conditions of terrain, such as hilly country and swamp lands, which limited the use of traction and portable engines. Under [these] circumstances the horse powers were more useful than was the traction engine of 1890. Eventually, however, with improvement of country roads and bridges, portable and traction engines gradually replaced the horse powers even in the most [forbidding] terrain.

Continue reading the History of Aultman & Taylor, Part IV by clicking here.


1. Brown, James E. “The History of This Company and Its Predecessors.” The Rooster, April 1920. 3, 8.

2. Mansfield Shield, October 25, 1909. Baughman, A. J., ed. Centennial Biographical History of Richland County, Ohio. Chicago: Lewis Publishing, 1901. 609.

3. The Canton Repository, May 10, 1879. Mansfield Shield, May 15, 1879.

4. Baughman. 472.

5. Baughman. 374.

6. Graham, Albert Alexander. History of Richland county, Ohio. Chicago: A.A. Graham, 1880.

7. Ibid.

8. Records of the Forest Cemetery, Fredericktown, Ohio. Knox County Republican News (Mount Vernon, Ohio), Tuesday, May 26, 1908. The Democratic Banner (Mount Vernon, Ohio), May 26, 1908.

9. Interview with Lewis Hyatt, August 23, 1969.

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