Farm Collector

The Aultman & Taylor Company

The 13th installment of Dr. Blxler’s history of the Aultman
& Taylor Company, as edited by Robert T. Rhode, appears in this
issue of the Iron-Men Album, which 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 to which
he had devoted considerable energy. Several manuscripts belonging
to Dr. Bixler are in the Sherman Room of the Mansfield/Richland
County Public Library in Mansfield, Ohio. This installment presents
detailed factual data, supplying a vital resource for
researchers.

CHAPTER 13

It will be recalled that the Aultman & Taylor Company began
building water tube boilers in 1895. That part of the firm’s
business required additional facilities. At the same time there was
a marked increase in the company’s threshing machine business,
including engines, separators, clover hullers, sawmills, water
tanks and all of the other appurtenances that belonged to that part
of their business. In fact their business outgrew the capacity of
the plant to meet the demands for their products. It was at once
apparent that there was only one way to solve the problem, and that
was to enlarge the plant by the erection of new buildings and the
addition of modern equipment.

At the board of directors meeting on Sept. 25, 1894, there was
common agreement that the outlook on the company’s boiler trade
necessitated an increase in the plant’s facilities. The
directors decided to build a new boiler shop and to equip it with
modern machinery. Bids were solicited for the foundation,
brickwork, iron structure and machinery. Upon its completion it was
one of the most modern boiler plants in the country. In 1896 the
plant was enlarged by the erection of a brick building west of Main
Street in Mansfield that was used exclusively for the building of
water tube boilers. The expenditure for the enlargement of the
boiler plant and installation of machinery amounted to $37,000.

The company’s efforts to meet the increased market for its
products are demonstrated by the following account. It will be
remembered that the company lost its huge warehouse in the fire of
1896. In February of 1897 the subject of replacing the old
warehouse came before the board of directors. Following a
discussion of how to acquire more storage space, the decision was
reached to build one-story sheds. These were erected immediately,
one on the west side of the creek and the other on the east side.
The erection of those two sheds required an outlay of $4,000.

On Jan. 18, 1900, it was reported that during the previous year
the company had contemplated the selling of their thresher
department. It was even thought that, within the six weeks
following the above date, their thresher department might be sold.
Since the sale of their thresher business did not materialize, the
company was unable to use those buildings or even to adapt them to
the firm’s boiler business.

Disturbing Conditions

The company was confronted with still other disturbing
circumstances. So long as the firm had two departments, the
officials of the company were of the opinion that they could get
along by buying a considerable amount of their castings from
outside foundries, but, if they had sold that part of the plant
east of Main Street, they would have had no foundry whatever
belonging to the plant. The firm had already contracted with
outside boiler shops for the year of 1900 to build all the
company’s firebox boilers for their engines. That must have
been an unusual situation into which the firm was forced, since it
was not the practice of the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company
to contract with outside companies to build boilers for the
firm’s engines.

It was during those years that the company became involved in
tax litigation with Richland County. President James E. Brown
stated that, while conditions in Mansfield were against further
investments on the part of the company, yet it was confronted with
the actuality that, in spite of unfavorable local conditions,
investment in the enlargement of the plant could no longer be
delayed, or the firm would lose an immense business and suffer a
heavy loss from damages for non-fulfillment of contracts with the
company’s customers and agents. Following the settlement of the
‘tax graft’ suits, the company gradually enlarged its
plant, so that it was able to increase its capacity for turning out
its products.

Meeting the Need

First of all the board of directors decided that a suitable
addition to the foundry should be built. That was done, and it was
equipped to provide an increased output. The addition to the
foundry was made at a cost of $6,000. At the same time an addition
was built to the carpenter shop for the purpose of storing
materials, and a new storage room for machinery was erected. With
the rapid increase in business, it became imperative to employ more
personnel for the office force. The office building had remained
unchanged for many years, and working conditions became such that
the efficiency of that area was greatly reduced. To relieve the
overcrowded conditions of the drafting and bookkeeping departments,
the board of directors decided on Jan. 1, 1901, to have a third
story added to the main office building. A bay window was included,
so as to provide more light for the close work that was done.

Mansfield Machine Works

For many years the Mansfield Machine Works built portable
engines, sawmills and fire engines. In 1900 that company was placed
in the hands of a receiver, A. A. Peck. Soon thereafter overtures
were made by the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company for the
purchase of that company’s plant.

Since the trustees appointed by the stockholders of the
Mansfield Machine Works were desirous of selling their plant,
President Brown was authorized to bid a sum not to exceed $65,000
for the plant, real estate, machinery, patterns and stock of
merchandise on hand. Immediately after the meeting of the directors
on Nov. 12, 1901, the purchase of the Mansfield Machine Works was
completed.

At the next meeting of the board of directors on Dec. 24, 1901,
Brown was authorized to sell to the International Fire Engine
Company of New York City certain items that had been purchased from
Peck. Those items were of little use to the Aultman & Taylor
Machinery Company and included fire engines, drawings, patterns,
etc. Brown executed the bill of sale and also entered into an
agreement that the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company would not
compete with the International Fire Engine Company in the
manufacture and sale of steam fire engines.

Aultman & Taylor sold to the Century Manufacturing Company
all of the Mansfield Machine Works’ small tools, portable
engines, gas engines, patterns and all other materials accept those
items pertaining to sawmills for the sum of $13,000. At a
subsequent time Aultman & Taylor sold some machinery that was
not needed in the manufacture of threshers and portable engines for
the sum of $10,000. With the completion of those sales, the net
cost to the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company for the
Mansfield Machine Works was $51,000. It was further reported that
the fire engines, patterns, drawings and good will were sold to the
International Fire Engine Company for $60,000 in stock.

Other Extensions

At their meeting on March 4, 1901, the board of directors
engaged in a discussion of the inadequate facilities of their
thresher plant. The president was authorized to prepare plans for
an extension of the machine shop that was to be used as an engine
shop. The specifications for the buildings were for an engine shop
164-foot long by 40-foot, 8 inches wide, a warehouse 48-foot long
by 64-foot, 15 inches wide, an extension of the foundry 200-foot
long by 100-foot wide, a new test house 72-foot long by 50-foot
wide, and an extension of the Babcock and Wilcox shop 132-foot by
100-foot. All of those extensions were built on the east side of
the plant.1

On Jan. 21, 1904, G.W. Gans was instructed to acquire machines
that were deemed necessary to increase the company’s separator
and engine output.

Two additions were made during 1905. The company erected a
thresher warehouse designed by Mr. Redding, who was the firm’s
architect. The estimated cost of that building was $11,000. In
October of that year Gans called the attention of the board members
to the unsanitary conditions of the water closets that were located
between the Main Street foundry and the blacksmith shop. That
matter was referred to a special committee, and new water closets
were erected at the east end of the carpenter shop.

On Aug. 7, 1912, the officers of the company were authorized to
extend the foundry building 100 feet or 150 feet as might be
determined, to build a cleaning room and core oven in the foundry,
to install a crane, an air compressor and an air compressor motor,
to install an approximately 200 HP gas engine and generator, to
erect a building for housing the same at the Diamond Street plant,
to build an extension to the Diamond Street machine shop, to build
a new motor test house, to extend the paint shop and to install
sufficient machine tools to give full capacity per week of the four
steam engines and eight gas engines.2

It is evident that from 1894 to 1912 the company erected new
buildings and added equipment almost every year, so that the firm
could increase output.

Labor and Management Relations

Aultman & Taylor was relatively free of labor problems, due
in no small measure to the superb leadership of Michael D. Harter.
For the most part high morale prevailed among the employees.
Consequently most of the employees could see no advantage to be
derived from membership in a trade union, and they were
unilaterally opposed to strikes. Several attempts to organize a
union were met with dismal failure. Yet, a few minor difficulties
beset the firm.

During the early part of 1879 the company ordered a reduction in
wages for all of their employees. Two reasons were advanced for
that action: First, there had been an advance in the price of
materials used in the manufacture of machinery; second, the company
reduced the prices of its machinery to bring them more in line with
those of other companies Those and other reasons for the reduction
in wages of the employees seemed justified to the authorities, if
the company was to survive and make a profit. This information was
transmitted to the employees. Even though disappointed, most of
them viewed the action as reasonable, but there was a small
minority who were disgruntled. That group incited by outsiders
became a vocal minority, which in turn became anathema to the
majority of the employees.

That dispute was not confined to the officials and employees of
the company. Embittered by the attacks against the company and
Harter, those who were friendly to him launched a counterattack.
Articles were published in the Mansfield Herald, and it became a
newspaper fight. Soon citizens of Mansfield and surrounding
communities became aware of the labor controversy. Although it grew
out of labor problems, unfortunately it was not confined to those
difficulties. Personalities outside of the company became involved
in the wrangle resulting in slanderous accusations of the ugliest
kind.

During November of 1879 A. Wolf, the editor of the Courier, a
Mansfield newspaper, published several articles in which the
management of Aultman & Taylor was attacked. He criticized the
company’s labor practices and accused the management of
favoritism in its employment practices. Immediately the situation
developed into a fight involving the two local newspapers, a local
German newspaper, the Aultman & Taylor Company, its employees
and a Catholic priest. Following the appearance of Wolf’s
articles the company replied with articles published in the
Mansfield Herald.

One aspect of the dispute was concerned with the authorship of
the stories that appeared in the Courier. A Catholic priest, Father
Magehann, was accused of writing the articles, which fomented the
labor problems. Several of the writers claimed that only Catholics
had obtained employment in certain departments of the Aultman &
Taylor works but that a stop had been put to that practice. Prior
to the curtailment of that practice, it-was alleged, Father
Magehann wandered through the plant as if he owned it. Although not
stated directly, the implication was that, in return for securing
employment, the members of the church would then enrich its
coffers. According to various writers, after the curtailment of
unfair hiring practices the priest no longer made visits to the
plant. It was implied by some that Wolf was not competent to write
the articles attacking Aultman & Taylor’s labor practices
and that only the priest could have written them. To those
accusations the editor of the Courier replied in the following
vitriolic language: ‘For the articles concerning the labor
question no one is responsible but myself, and the man who
intimates that anybody else has anything to do with it is a skunk
and a man who would murder his mother.’

To that outburst a group of mechanics replied in the same
vernacular: ‘So says this cabbage head, Wolf of the Courier,
and further on he says that since the present proprietors have
bought the Courier there has not been a single line furnished by
the Rev. Father Magehann nor had the priest ever attempted to
influence them one way or another.

‘What a barefaced liar! He must have bought an
‘indulgence’ before he commenced penning the above knowing
it to be a lie. If he at all wrote it (for we hardly give him
credit of ever writing two lines in English or German without a
mistake; we now offer 100 cents if he will in the presence of the
editors and at their dictation perform this school boy feat) let us
nail the lie.

‘Has this stupid blockhead Wolf, whose seat of brain is
evidently in that portion of his body which the rest of mankind use
to sit on, forgotten the dirty class of literature that appeared in
his sheet about a year ago against a certain mechanic of the
Aultman & Taylor Company who had caused the wrath of this high
stepping Jesuit Priest to fall upon him because he was no longer
willing to dance to all the tunes this whimsical priest
whistled?’

The exchanges in the newspapers became acrimonious and biased
and degenerated into personal attacks termed ‘character
assassinations.’ While the dispute grew out of labor problems,
in the end they contributed little to their solution.

A remonstrance was prepared and signed by 61 workmen. There were
others who seized the cudgel on behalf of the company and presented
other aspects of the dispute. Readers of the newspapers were
invited to consider the sources of those articles, as well as the
motives that prompted their writing. The whole affair was condemned
in the bitterest terms, and indignation was expressed at so gross
an outrage on the employees of the Aultman & Taylor
Company.

Most of the men claimed the right of going elsewhere, if they
became dissatisfied with the wages they were receiving. They
assumed the attitude that there was no fence around the factory,
and, if there were those who were dissatisfied with their working
conditions and wages, there was nothing to prevent them from
seeking employment elsewhere.

As already observed, most of the men were content to leave the
question of wages in the hands of Harter, since they fully believed
on the basis of their experience and knowledge that his action
would be fair. Nevertheless, a few of the men were dissatisfied and
thought Harter had been in error in making a general cut in wages.
Day wages paid by the Aultman & Taylor Company at that time
were not above the average range of wages paid by other companies,
and for that reason, according to a small minority, should not have
been changed. A better plan, according to one mechanic, would have
been to have appointed several men to judge the worth of the work,
as well as the worth of the men involved. Competent mechanics were
called upon to work for less pay than those who called themselves
mechanics but could not sustain their calling for a single day.
However, most of the men believed that Harter would correct that
error, if the people would give him sufficient time and let him do
it.

In due time the wages were restored and grievances ameliorated.
In fact the episode was soon forgotten, and once again normal
conditions prevailed at the Aultman & Taylor Company’s
plant.3

On Oct. 13, 1900, an awkward incident occurred that involved the
company and its employees in a difficult situation. During the
afternoon of that day a parade was staged in Mansfield in honor of
William Jennings Bryan, who was a visitor to the city. Bryan was
the Democrat candidate for President of the United States in what
became known as the Bryan-McKinley campaign. That day was
designated by the city leaders as ‘Bryan Day,’ and in the
afternoon the parade was held.

When the men who were employed in the boiler shop arrived that
morning, they found posters located at various places in the shop.
They stated that every man would be expected to work throughout the
entire day. The men were struck with consternation and
disappointment. A newspaper account stated ‘immediately 162
free American citizens who did not propose being coerced picked up
their dinner pails and started home. Only three men remained and
consequently the intended work was declared off and all of the
patriotic workers in the department lined up to see the great
parade and hear the great champion of liberty this
afternoon.’

On Nov. 1, 1900, Brown replied to the newspaper item. He stated
that the men were asked to work, since that was what they had been
doing for some time. They had been working through Saturday for a
number of weeks to fill large and important orders. The company had
contracted to ship those orders on an agreed-upon date. If they
were not filled as per contract, the company would lose that
business. Brown stated that the contract would not be filled, if
the output for a single day were lost.

The confusion of the situation was compounded when on Wednesday
morning of Nov. 1, 1900, the men in the boiler shop were notified
that they could have a half-day off if they so desired, and at
three o’clock that afternoon the shop was closed down.
Apparently there was a Republican demonstration in Mansfield that
afternoon. One newspaper account stated that the crowd was to be
addressed by a man who was the greatest political enemy of John
Sherman. The newspaper was unable to understand why they did not
close because of a ‘rush of orders’ when a Presidential
candidate came to town, yet, when a man addressed a Republican
demonstration, the shops were closed. Apparently Brown did not
reply to that inquiry.4

On Saturday morning, March 13, 1911, there were 150 skilled
workers at the North Diamond Street plant who quit work. The
trouble originated when one of the men was discharged. In addition
there was some dispute over the matter of working time. Immediately
after quitting work the men held a meeting at Traders’ Council
Hall. A committee was appointed to hold a conference with the
officials of the company that afternoon

On that same morning the company issued the following statement:
‘On account of the demand for our machinery, we have been
compelled for some time past to run our shops to their full
capacity, but in some departments to operate on Saturday. This
extra time is not from choice upon our part, and we have been
making every effort for some time past to limit the hours to 10,
except in emergencies. Some of our men laid down their tools and
walked out without giving us notice and without definitely
presenting their complaints.’5

It should be noted that the 10-hour day was the most common
practice in industry at that time. This was a decade prior to the
adoption of the eight-hour day, which came into being only after a
prolonged and bitter struggle. Long before the eight-hour day was
adopted there were complaints with the 10-hour day. It appears that
this was part of the trouble in this particular case. It is fair to
assume that the trouble was adjusted, since there was no
appreciable cessation of the building of machinery.

During the week of June 13, 1913, the boilermakers at the
Diamond Street plant went on strike for one day. Following that
strike there was a temporary adjustment of the difficulty, and the
men returned to work with the understanding that, unless there were
a satisfactory agreement reached, a general strike would be
called.

The employees of the various departments of the Diamond Street
plant were organized, and a committee was selected which met with
the officials of the company. That committee made a demand for
settlement of the machinists’ and boilermakers’ strike. The
issue about which the contention arose was the ‘Premium
System.’ The employees demanded that it be abolished.

The Premium System was a plan that provided a wage bonus for a
worker who completed a certain amount of work in less time than the
standard amount of time allowed for it. In addition the system
provided for premium pay for overtime work in excess of the
standard number of hours required in a day or week. It also
included premium pay for work at night or on Sundays and holidays.
It was also called the ‘Gain Saving’ plan and was designed
as an incentive to increase production. The system was first
adapted to specific industries by T.A. Halsey. The system was in
vogue in many industries during the early years of the 20th
century. It was not in use in most of the industries engaged in
manufacturing similar to that of the Aultman & Taylor Machinery
Company, but the system was not unusual for that time. As a matter
of fact it was generally accepted by industries with few or no
complaints.

The committee representing the employees informed the officials
of the company that, unless a satisfactory answer to their
grievances was forthcoming by 11 o’clock on Friday morning,
June 28, 1913, the machinists and boilermakers would go on strike
again. After considering the proposition presented by the
employees, the officials of the company requested that the time be
extended. On Saturday morning, June 29, the committee from the
machinists and other departments that were involved in the strike
were called to the company’s offices. Failing to receive a
favorable answer the employees decided to call a general strike at
the Diamond Street plant. A majority of the employees joined in the
strike, but a small number of the men continued to work. They
included a few painters and others not affiliated with the labor
organization.

The strike continued until July 21. By the end of that time a
satisfactory adjustment of the demands of the boilermakers and
their helpers was achieved, and they returned to work.

The company did not reemploy the men as a body or a group. The
wage question was considered with each man at the time he made his
application for work. An agreement was reached with the molders,
and they returned to work. The last group to hold out were the men
in the machine shop. That department did not operate until a few
weeks later. The details and exact terms of the agreement that was
reached are unknown but apparently were sufficiently satisfactory
so that the men returned to work. That was one of the most serious
problems the company confronted.

The years between 1916 and 1919 were crucial and brought another
critical labor problem to the company. Those were the years the
first world war was fought. The high wages paid during that war
drew many of the men away to more lucrative jobs in the munitions
factories. To keep its labor force intact, the firm was obliged to
increase wages. The company handled that acute situation as best it
could; nevertheless, the plant lost many competent men. Those
circumstances made it necessary for the company to employ new men,
most of whom were inexperienced. Obviously that was not a desirable
practice, nor was it profitable to the company. The labor problems
became increasingly difficult.

The stockholders were informed that their problems would be
intensified with the approach of warm weather in the spring of
1917, when outdoor work would be available and plentiful. To cope
with the labor situation, the company offered employees a bonus,
which was to be paid at periods during the year, rather than giving
the workmen a general increase in wages. So during the year of 1917
the firm paid each of the employees at the quarterly periods of
April, July, October and January a bonus beginning with the first
quarter.

The stockholders were hopeful that the proposed plan would tend
to ameliorate their problems and enable them to hold their men.
Brown advised the stockholders that the proposed bonus would cost
the company an annual sum of $30,000, but it was his judgment that
such an inducement would result in keeping their labor force
together. If the expenditure of that sum of money accomplished
their goal, it would be well worth all of that cost to the
company.6

At the same time that the company was forced to increase wages,
there was also an increase in the cost of the raw materials
essential to the manufacturing of the firm’s machinery. Because
of the increased cost of labor and materials, the company was
compelled to increase the cost of its products. It marked the
beginning of the end of the company. The heyday of the steam engine
was forever gone. The company’s tractors were too large to meet
the growing demands of the small farmer. Furthermore, other
manufacturers were building and placing on the market smaller
tractors that met the demand of the farmers. The company was caught
in a squeeze from which it was never able to extract itself.

The officials of the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company
lacked the foresight to comprehend the devastating effects of their
labor problems, as well as the prevailing economic conditions of a
nation at war. Moreover, they were unable to cope with the rapidly
changing conditions of the time or to extricate themselves from the
complicated situation with which they were confronted.

Notes

1. The Mansfield News, Nov. 22, 1901. Record Book, minutes of
the meetings of the stockholders and directors of the Aultman &
Taylor Machinery Company.
2. Ibid.
3. The Mansfield Herald, Nov. 20, 1897; Nov. 27, 1879; and Dec. 4,
1879.
4. Mansfield Daily Shield, Nov. 1, 1900 and Oct. 13, 1900.
5. Mansfield Daily Shield, March 13, 1911.
6. Record Book, minutes of the meetings of the stockholders and
directors of the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company.

  • Published on Nov 1, 2002
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