THE AULTMAN & TAYLOR COMPANY

1 / 2
Part of the old paint shop of the once-great Aultman & Taylor firm.
2 / 2
The repair and parts department of Aultman & Taylor.

This issue of Steam Traction contains the 16th, and
final, installment of the late Dr. Bixler’s chronicle of the
Aultman & Taylor Company, as edited by Dr. Robert T. Rhode.
Chapters 1-13 appeared in Iron-Men Album. During his
lifetime, Dr. Bixler, a professor at Muskingum College in New
Concord, Ohio, published a few of his chapters as separate articles
in this magazine and others, but the bulk of his book remained
unpublished until now. Dr. Bixler’s manuscript offers rare
insights into a significant manufacturing firm and the people who
made it famous.

CHAPTER 16

One of the problems that plagued the thresher companies was the
collection of money that their customers owed on machinery, much of
which was bought and sold on time. It was common practice to
execute promissory notes covering the cost of machinery that were
made payable to the company. Frequently those notes extended over a
period of years. Following the close of the threshing season
representatives of the firm made their rounds to collect money. On
those trips it was not uncommon for them to encounter difficulties,
even to the extent of being threatened with bodily harm. Sometimes,
especially during a poor season, threshermen had trouble collecting
money from the farmers. Then there were always a few customers who
were negligent and did not meet their financial obligations. On
many occasions the company was compelled to institute foreclosure
proceedings that always entailed additional expenses. The
collection of money due involved such costs as salaries and travel
expenses for the collectors.1

The number of foreclosures for six years follows: 148 in 1897,
132 in 1898, 98 in 1899, 82 in 1900, 56 in 1901 and 84 in 1902, for
a total of 600 foreclosures.

During the same six years, the amount of money paid out for
collections was as follows: $19,690.83 for 1897, $20,463,93 for
1898, $22,183.44 for 1899, $23,012.53 for 1900, $11,208,90 for 1901
and $8,836.35 for 1902, for a total of $105,395.98. Discrepancies
with respect to the number of foreclosures compared to the expenses
involved may be attributable to the number of collectors employed
each year, as well as the fluctuation in the costs of travel,
meals, lodging, etc. Greater effort to collect outstanding debts
may have been exerted during some years than was true of others to
avoid as many foreclosures as possible.

The annual collections made for eight years for the Aultman
& Taylor Company follows: $81,832 in 1895, $116,263 in 1896,
$51,011.15 in 1897, $42,583.94 in 1898, $42,843.34 in 1899,
$27,872.96 in 1900, $22,453.69 in 1901 and $15,649.32 in 1902, for
a total of $400,509.40. The money for the liquidation of those
debts continued to dribble in for another eight to 10 years.

The amount of collections made for the eight years for the
Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company follows: $300,621.12 for
1895, $349,020.73 for 1896, $522,196.27 for 1897, $558,953.58 for
1898, $533,899.98 for 1899, $537,759.07 for 1900, $488,759.07 for
1901 and $511,311.94 for 1902, for a total of $3,802,521.76. The
total collections for the two companies during the eight years
amounted to $4,203,031.16.

The profit made by the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company
for each of the years for which figures are available was: $245,000
in 1892, $71,894 in 1894, $353,379 in 1896, $33,998.44 in 1897,
$122,574.50 in 1899, $167,805.56 in 1900, $68,603.62 in 1901,
$300,000 in 1903, $250,000 in 1913, $308,356 in 1915 and $214,000
in 1916. In the years for which figures are available, sales were
highest in 1903 and 1915, amounting to $2,300,000 and $2,139,060,
respectively.

Figures suggest that 1896 was a reasonably successful year. In
1909 the capital stock was reduced from $2,000,000 to $1,000,000,
and it should also be pointed out that the net income for 1906 was
$72,000; then in 1908 it was $37,100. Doubtless this was a
reflection of the business recession of 1907.

Net sales in years for which figures are available follow:
$674,400 in 1890, $1,017,800 in 1892, $924,800 in 1893, $654,400 in
1894, $875,700 in 1896, $1,256,100 in 1908, $1,307,200 in 1909,
$3,312,700 in 1912, $3,032,800 in 1913, $1,964,300 in 1922 and
$1,889,400 in 1923.

The net sales for 1916 amounted to $1,970,591 as compared to
$2,139,060 in 1915, a difference of about $170,000.2 Due to
unfavorable crop conditions during 1915 the company was compelled
to carry over an unusually high number of completed separators. In
addition they had on hand sufficient materials from which to build
considerably more, which they were obliged to eliminate from their
building schedule.

Moreover, the inventory in 1917 was $300,000 higher than it was
at the same time during the previous year. The contingency of World
War I was upon the company, and it was confronted with a critical
financial situation. Yet, the firm paid a dividend on the preferred
stock.

From 1912 through 1919 an earnest effort was made to increase
the cash receipts from the company’s sales. In 1919 the company
made a gain of 15 percent over the previous year.

Yet, even with the improved collections, there still remained on
the firm’s books in 1916 33 percent of sales due to the
company. The payment of those obligations extended over several
years. In view of the stringent financial situation that the
company encountered, it was most unfortunate to have been forced to
carry such a sizable amount of unpaid obligations. Had those funds
been collected, they might have enabled the company to tide over
the crisis with which it was confronted, and perhaps the firm could
have survived.

The company made no profits in 1921 and 1922 but instead
suffered a loss of $180,000 in 1922 and $215,000 for 1923, making
the total loss for those two years $395,000. Under those conditions
no dividends were declared.

Some additional light may be shed upon the financial condition
of the company by an examination of its output. The production for
1916 was approximately the same as it was for the previous year,
except that the company built 64 more gas engines in 1916 than in
1915 and 99 fewer steam engines. Again, the estimated output for
1917 was about the same as it was for 1916. At their meeting in
January of 1917 the directors authorized the manufacture and
selling of the following quantities of machinery: 800 separators,
300 gas engines, 175 steam engines, 125 hullers, 25 bean machines
and 50 sawmills.

The Record Book of the company constitutes an invaluable source
of information, yet the record keeping of those who were charged
with that responsibility leaves much to be desired. If it be true
that the kind of records that a business keeps is in some measure
indicative of the acuity of that company, then, aside from faulty
judgment that entered into decision-making, there was a tragic lack
of valid bookkeeping upon which firm decisions could have been
made.

Notwithstanding the lack of certain information, perhaps enough
has been presented to portray the increasingly untenable position
in which the company found itself. Many of the facts were ominous,
presaging the disaster that was soon to befall the company. The
next, and final, section will be devoted to a detailed recital of
the unfortunate events that culminated in the demise of the old
company.

LIQUIDATION

A final event in which the company was involved is worthy of
mention, especially since no one outside of the management was
aware of the impending events that brought the old company to its
tragic end. What turned out to be the last advertisement of the
firm’s machinery at a fair appeared in the Mansfield
News on Sept. 26, 1923, barely a month prior to the beginning of
the liquidation of the company. It invited the public to attend the
Richland County Fair and stated that Aultman & Taylor built
‘America’s foremost tractors and threshers,’ and, as
usual, the advertisement carried a picture of the starved rooster.
Those attending the fair were urged to visit the company’s
exhibit and make it their headquarters. They were invited to meet
Mr. Hawkins, the company’s representative, who might have
something interesting to tell the visitor.3

It was during the latter part of 1920 that the signs of a
business recession became apparent. Restriction of credit,
deflation of values and a readjustment of commodity prices to a
lower level characterized the financial conditions of the country
at that time. The trend, which began in 1920, continued and
resulted in a severe business recession in 1921. Prices dropped
sharply, and there was a general deflation.

During the first world war and for about a year thereafter there
had been a shortage of raw materials essential to the building of
machinery. That shortage was created largely by the diverting of
raw materials into the manufacture of munitions for the war. To
protect themselves, companies in almost every industry bought all
of the raw materials that were obtainable. As a result of the
hoarding of materials prices skyrocketed. The Aultman & Taylor
Company had been involved in that rush for raw materials. In the
midst of the 1921 recession the company had on hand an overpriced
inventory. A forced adjustment to a lower market value for the
firm’s inventory led to a loss in excess of a million dollars.
The acuteness of the situation that confronted the company was
compounded by the fact that at no time did it have substantial cash
resources. The firm’s inventory expansions had been financed
almost entirely by bank loans and sale receivables, which made the
company’s financial situation untenable.

Matters were brought to a head in the fall of 1923, when the
bankers realized that the company had no future and decided to call
their loans immediately while the security was still unimpaired. It
is the judgment of Quintin Alexander that, if the liquidation had
been conducted over a longer period of time, the deficit probably
would have been much smaller, but the banks were unwilling to wait
any longer for their money. Mrs. Harter was unwilling to assume the
loans herself, and so without further consideration the company was
forced into liquidation proceedings.

At the time of liquidation, the amount to be realized on the
company’s assets was $2,805,000. The debts and expenses,
including a liquidation cost of $100,000, amounted to $2,390,000.
The balance was $415,000. While the liquidation proceeding got
underway, some of the figures were calculated differently, with the
amount to be realized on the company’s assets scaled down to
$1,766,000. The debts and expenses, including the same liquidation
cost, were reevaluated upward to $2,648,000, thereby leaving a
deficit of $982,000.

In the final transactions of the liquidation inventories,
receivables and other assets with a book value of $2,700,000 were
disposed of for only $1,000,000. This was due partially ‘to an
incorrect valuation of machines and supplies, as well as poor
quality of assets and notes receivable. However, the chief reason
for the discrepancy between book and sale values was the haste with
which the liquidation was accomplished.’4

The net loss to Mrs. Harter in the liquidation due to note
endorsements amounted to about $1,000,000. This did not include the
former value of her holdings of stock in the company. That
constituted a substantial increase in her loss. This must have been
a staggering blow not only to Mrs. Harter but also to her family,
as well as to others who were closely associated with her.
Ultimately, the ‘inventory, accounts and notes payable and good
will were sold to the Advance-Rumely Company at La Porte, Ind., for
about $1,000,000 cash. The machinery was sold to various purchasers
for about $1,000,000, and a part of the land was sold to the Ohio
Brass Company for $150,000.’5

The Advance-Rumely Company moved the machinery and other items
that it had purchased. That sale included the raw materials,
finished products on hand, accounts receivable, all of the patterns
which were destroyed patent rights, and a portion of the plant
equipment.

The remainder of the assets, which included a part of the plant
in Mansfield and a warehouse in Kansas City, were incorporated in
the Harter Real Estate Company, which then became a part of the
Harter Estate. Those assets including the remainder of the plant
were sold to various purchasers. The building in which the
separators were built is now in the possession of the Ohio Highway
Department.

One can easily understand that the conditions described in the
preceding pages gave little encouragement for the continuation of
the company. There were unmistakable forebodings of the calamity
that were tantamount to a danger signal, but the leadership, as
well as a number of the employees, had become blase.

Morale among the employees had reached a low ebb. There was
widespread lack of concern and urgency. A complacent attitude was
rampant throughout the plant. When an effort was made to modernize
and bring order as well as efficiency into the parts department, a
number of the employees refused to cooperate. A system of
standardization was inaugurated, so that each part would carry a
fixed price, rather than determining the price upon the whim of a
given employee. Once, when a customer requested a pinion for his
traction engine, an employee led him into the yards and, after
kicking around in the grass, found the desired pinion, whereupon
inquiry was made as to its price. After lifting up the pinion the
employee stated that it weighed about three pounds and was worth
around S3. Interviews with a number of the old employees yielded
testimony that leaves little doubt that this was not an isolated
incident.

Testimony of several of the men who were prominent in the
management of the company also provides considerable evidence that
presaged the end of the firm. Marvin Lutz was for a number of years
a director and occupied official positions in the company. He was
on the inside and in a position to have firsthand knowledge of the
affairs of the company. He was aware of the decisions that had been
made and the mismanagement that had occurred, all of which he
deplored. When the company was liquidated in 1923, he observed to
his friends, ‘ This was to be expected, since it was rotten on
the inside.’ He must have considered the management of the
company to have been woefully derelict in the discharge of its
responsibilities.6

Still another example was shared with the author by Herbert
Rupp, the chief testing engineer. His description of some of the
deplorable conditions contained an almost endless list of
malpractices. It was the opinion of Rupp that the man who was the
company’s sales manager was a ‘flop’ and a totally
irresponsible individual. On one occasion the company shipped
several carloads of separators to Amarillo, Texas. The firm did not
even have a down payment on those separators, and in the end that
shipment was a total loss to the company.7

One would be hard pressed to envisage any situation that would
be more the antithesis of good business practice than that which
characterized the final years of the Aultman & Taylor Machinery
Company.

A company that ceases to experiment or explore new frontiers
sounds its own death knell. One of the most unusual opportunities
that the officials of the company bungled was a proposal presented
by Curtis C. Baldwin of Nickerson, Kan., during the years between
1919 and 1922. For a few years prior to 1911 Baldwin labored on a
machine that would harvest and thresh the grain in one operation.
After working for a period of years he invented the ‘Standing
Harvester.’ An application for a patent was filed on Aug. 23,
1910, and the patent was granted on Sept. 26, 1911. A second
application was filed on Feb. 17, 1917, and the patent was granted
on Jan. 7, 1919. The second patent contained improvements made over
the previous one.

Baldwin’s machine was to be a combined harvester, thresher
and separator mounted on an ordinary carriage. The grain was cut in
the same manner as was done with the binder or header and thrown
rearward onto a canvas provided with slats. The canvas ran over
drums or rollers.

Baldwin stated in the description of his patented machine,
‘The object of this invention is to combine the operations of
harvesting and threshing small grain from the standing stalks, thus
avoiding the useless labor of handling the straw a number of times
and diminishing the losses incident to the present methods of
treatment, such as the fermentation in the shock or stack.’

The name which Baldwin gave to his machine was the
‘Gleaner.’ It was a forerunner of the present-day combine.
Baldwin attempted to persuade the officials of the Aultman &
Taylor Machinery Company to manufacture his machine, but he was
unsuccessful. Rupp asserted that the officials were unable to
comprehend the invention’s significance or to foresee that,
within a few years, the combine would take over the harvesting and
threshing of grain and relegate the threshing machine to
obsolescence.

Undaunted by the temporary setback, Baldwin built his first
Gleaner while living in Wichita, Kan. It was demonstrated during
1923 in Oklahoma and Kansas and proved to be an outstanding
success. A number of retail orders were taken. The first Gleaner
patent was filed on Feb. 19, 1919, and granted to Baldwin on Dec.
3, 1924.

During 1924 Baldwin’s company moved its manufacturing
facilities to Independence, Missouri, and in that year
approximately 500 Gleaners were built. The company was incorporated
under the name of ‘The Gleaner Harvesting Corporation’ in
1925, at which location Allis-Chalmers continues to manufacture the
famous Gleaner combine.

The Aultman & Taylor officials failed to recognize the
golden opportunity that had been placed in their hands when Baldwin
first approached the firm with his invention. Others whose minds
were more attuned to the changing conditions of the time were able
to seize that opportunity. One may well agree with the biblical
injunction that ‘where there is no vision the people
perish.’8

Competition with other companies became a problem for the firm.
While most of the Aultman & Taylor tractors were well built and
performed well in doing the work for which they were designed, such
as operating threshing machines and sawmills and for doing road
work, yet they were cumbersome and ill adapted for much of the work
required on the farms.

Companies sensitive to the needs of the farmer began building
tractors more adaptable to the work on the average farm. Within a
few years small tractors flooded the market. They were less
expensive than the Aultman & Taylor tractors and could be
afforded by a large number of users. At last becoming aware of the
demand for a more versatile tractor, Aultman & Taylor began
building the 15-30 tractor in 1917, but, as was shown in a previous
chapter, a year and more was lost in experimentation and testing.
According to Rupp, it did not meet with immediate success, since
other tractors on the market were in many respects superior to it.
At length the market for Aultman & Taylor tractors
disappeared.

Aultman & Taylor reached a pinnacle of success under
inspired leadership and then gradually came to an end due to human
frailties and errors. The officials were unable to cope with the
problems that confronted them with sufficient alacrity, so the
company succumbed to the rapidly changing agricultural and
industrial conditions of the times. No longer was it able to build
machinery that met the needs of its customers, so it gave way to
other more dynamic companies that were in harmony with the
times.

It may be recalled that, upon the death of Aultman, Michael D.
Harter became the leader of the firm. Under his inspired leadership
the company prospered. When Harter relinquished his
responsibilities in 1890, James E. Brown became president. This has
been considered by some to have been the turning point in the
affairs of the company. The firm did not go into immediate decline
– in fact, it lasted for 27 more years. But the spark of genius
that had placed and held it in its favored position was lost
forever.

A recapitulation of the events of paramount importance in the
decline and termination of the company is now in place. The
disposal of the water-tube boiler business was a colossal blunder.
The minutes of the directors and stockholders show that there was a
rather unusual amount of haggling over the contracts and salaries
of salesmen and agents for the water-tube boilers. It is difficult
to escape the conclusion that unnecessarily high salaries and
commissions were paid to their agents and salesmen. Moreover, the
final transaction that led to the disposal of the business was
little less than a travesty. A high commission was paid to an agent
to sell the business, yet the Stirling Company was anxious to
acquire the business, so that the services of an agent were not
needed. At the time of the sale of the water-tube boiler business,
it was claimed that additional space was needed for the manufacture
of threshing machinery. In retrospect this does not appear to have
been a valid reason for eliminating that part of the business,
since it certainly would have been possible to have secured
additional land for the expansion of the plant, had there been a
justifiable need for it. In any case alert management in other
companies was already sensing the far-reaching changes that were
imminent in the processes of harvesting and threshing of grain. Had
the company retained its water-tube boiler business, accompanied
with the decline in the demand for threshing machinery, there is
the real possibility that the water-tube boiler business would have
increased. Thus, its retention could well have constituted a
bulwark against the unfortunate circumstances that came to a head
in the fall of 1923.

A second factor forcing the company into liquidation was the
building of a huge inventory at high prices largely on borrowed
money.

The historical record leaves little doubt that Aultman &
Taylor machinery was often of the highest quality. It is generally
agreed among experienced threshermen that the New Century was one
of the best and most efficient separators ever built. Even though
Aultman & Taylor machinery met the needs of the threshermen
during a given period of time, yet, because of the rapid changes
and improvements that came about in the manufacture of agricultural
machinery, the firm’s products became outmoded. During the
company’s latter years it is clear that its management was
content to rest on past achievements.

The leadership of the company was impotent and unable to
extricate itself from the tangled web in which it was caught. Soon
after the middle of December of 1923 it was known by those in
positions of leadership that the end of the company was near at
hand, but it was not until Dec. 30, 1923, that the general public
was made aware of the passing of the old factory. On that day an
announcement revealing its passing appeared in the Mansfield
News
. It contained a brief history of the company and also
stated that the firm was sold to the Advance-Rumely
Company.9

The general public was informed that, within a short time, an
announcement would be made with respect to the holdings of the
company. One of them was made on Feb. 5, 1924, which stated that
the Ohio Brass Company had come into possession of five acres of
ground with a number of buildings located north of the Erie tracks.
At that time the company still owned the Diamond Street side of the
factory, as well as the land west of Main Street on which was
located the old Cahall, Babcock and Wilcox boiler
shops.10

Even though the citizens of Mansfield were informed concerning
the sale of the old factory, yet there was, whether intentional or
not, one glaring omission in the announcements. That was the fact
that the transaction was indeed a liquidation of the company, so
that the public was unaware of the real reason for the sale of the
company until later. Only those who were officers and connected
with the management had firsthand knowledge of the momentous events
that consummated in the demise of the old company.

At the time of its liquidation the following persons were its
officers: J.E. Brown, chairman of the board of directors; J.U.
Fogle, president; E.A. Harter, first vice-president, G.C. Heck,
second vice-president, B. Hurxthal, secretary and cashier; C.E.
Shiplet, works manager and W.W. Worthington, chief
engineer.11

News concerning the sale of the company and that the old plant
would be closed did not come as a surprise to the citizens of
Mansfield. In fact it was something of an anti-climax. Layoffs by
the company were, by early 1923, becoming rather frequent.
Mansfield had by that time new industries that were able to absorb
most of the workers.12

Alexander puts the situation succinctly with refreshing candor
when he states, ‘In short the later history of the Aultman
& Taylor Company is a chronicle of mediocre management. Never
brilliant, it managed to sail along satisfactorily, with the
exception of two gigantic blunders. The first, the Cahall boiler
affair, dealt the company a blow from which it was unable to
recover. The second, unwise investment in inventory with borrowed
funds, finished it before its time.’13

The time is now at hand when we approach the end of this book.
There is little more that can be told. We can only reflect on how
the Aultman & Taylor

Company fell upon evil days and was unable to cope with internal
problems and the changing conditions of the times. It had outlived
its usefulness. It gave way to other companies more youthful in
spirit and imagination.

So there comes a sense of poignancy as we contemplate the
unfortunate events that culminated in the demise of the old firm.
As this history of the Aultman & Taylor Company is brought to
an end, whatever profit may result from a study of this narrative
or whatever conclusions may emerge, they are now within the
province of those who may read this chronicle. Finally, as the
author sends forth this book, it is accompanied with his best
wishes that it may contribute to the enlightenment, as well as the
pleasure, of all who may ponder its significance.

NOTES:

1.  Wik, Reynold M. Steam Power on the American
Farm.
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, Pa., 1953.
135-77.
2. A basic source of information for this chapter has been a
thesis written by Quintin Alexander while he was a student at the
University of Pennsylvania. Alexander is a grandson of Elizabeth
Aultman Harter and a great grandson of Cornelius Aultman. His
thesis covered the Harter Estate, which included the assets in the
Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company. The authenticity of his
thesis is enhanced by the fact that he had access to the private
papers, letters, old documents, etc., of Mrs. Harter that she had
collected during her lifetime. The writer is profoundly grateful to
Alexander for permission to use this valuable information. A second
source of information from which the writer has drawn heavily for
data is the Record Book, containing the minutes of the meetings of
the stockholders and directors of the Aultman & Taylor
Machinery Company from 1890 to 1917 inclusive. This book also
includes the annual reports made by the president of the company.
The Record Book is the most valuable single source concerning the
Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company extant today.
3. Mansfield News, Sept. 26, 1923.
4.    Alexander, Quintin. Unpublished thesis. University
of Pennsylvania.
5. Ibid.
6.  From conversations with Walter L. Blakely, who was a
close personal friend of Marvin Lutz.
7. Interview with Herbert C. Rupp during October of
1968.
8. Proverbs 29:18.
9. Mansfield News, Dec. 30, 1923.
10. Mansfield News, Feb. 5, 1924
11. Ibid.
12.   Standfield, Virgil. News Journal.
Mansfield, Ohio. Oct. 25, 1970.
13. Alexander.

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