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Category Archives: Cleveland History

Real Innovation Where Are You?

Windsor Thomas White
Windsor Thomas White

I think we all agree that real innovation and new technology will be the keys to building back up our faltering economy. How can this be done? Well, I believe we will find part of our answer in early Cleveland history, 1900, and in particular in the genius of the White brothers, Windsor, Rollin and Walter of the White Motor Company. (White Motors)

The Whites began the development at their company back in 1899. Father Thomas H. White of White Sewing Machine fame gave his boys an area in his plant to begin their venture, automobile production. Inventor of the group, brother Rollin developed one of the greatest steam cars ever in 1899; talk show host Jay Leno owns a White steamer. Rollin and brothers believed early on that the auto was going to be more than just a passing fancy and thus committed time and resources to building a great car.

Rollin Henry White
Rollin Henry White

The White’s were always conscious of building perfection into their product and built 5 original vehicles for testing. To insure perfection they tested these vehicles for 2 years before selling began. Talk about standing behind your product.

The real innovation here is somewhat surprising for the Whites built one of their 5 cars with a truck chassis, proof of their great wisdom and foresight. White vehicles were credited in large part to the winning of WWI. The Whites and in particular brother Walter soon began to develop a philosophy of how truck and rail should operate together to produce the more efficient results.

The Whites quickly built a three ton model trucks, a result of 10 years of study, did I say quick, and featured it at the New York Automobile Show in 1910. Leaving nothing to chance, they developed a ¾ ton and 5 ton truck.

Innovation based upon tremendous foresight and commitment to perfection at all costs, this is what made The White Motor Company a major player in the world of first class trucks.
Walter Charles White
Walter Charles White

One would do well to study the White model of doing things. Real lasting innovation is what we need more than ever. The great brothers in doing what they did and how they did it lead to a great Cleveland, Ohio, a city from which so much innovation came. Where are the next Windsor, Rollin and Walter White? Please come forward, we need you.

Many thanks for Henry Merkel, great grandson of Walter White, for some of our content as well as thanks to B.C. publishing Co. of New York for their great insight into the Whites whom they labeled as automotive giants in America.

Common Sense Always in Fashion: Cleveland History

Thomas White furnished son Walter with tools to build his boat
Thomas White furnished son Walter with tools to build his boat

One of the key players involved in the great success of White Motors of Cleveland, Ohio was Walter C. White, youngest brother to Windsor and Rollin White and the last White involved in running the White Motors Empire.

The man behind Walter’s success was his father Thomas White, a man of remarkable character who founded the White Manufacturing Company, makers of the White Sewing Machine.

Our story today revolves around how Thomas White raised his children to be totally self-reliant which eventually leads to their greatness. Thomas constantly taught his children to work things out for themselves. Self development was all important.

One day Walter, then age 7 watched his older brothers sailing their boats in a big pond behind their home. He desperately wanted a boat of his very own. Walter went to his father one night and eagerly asked for his boat. Somewhat surprised his father answered in the negative. In other words, no was the answer.

Walter was not one to give up and told his father that he would build his own boat. Low and behold his father, now pleased said, “In that case I will furnish you with a good set of tools.” Later Walter built his first engine getting his instruction from a book. The rest is history.

All history teaches, the lesson here is somewhat obvious and simple. The teaching of self reliance may not always lead to greatness like in Walter’s case but, it is still the best way to grow our children into useful, productive citizens. Walter’s story is embedded in common sense, an item in short supply today. Certain teachings have withstood the test of time and yet we too often try to invent a new way for no other reason other than it is new. If Thomas White were alive today I believe he would be in shock to see the lack of personal responsibility and lack of self reliance that exists in our great country. Sometimes old needs to be new. The Thomas White way of raising his children lead to our greatness as a country, lead to Cleveland, Ohio being at the center of the Industrial Revolution and its own greatness.

Cleveland, Ohio, a producer of the White brothers, can be proud of the role it played in this success story for the Whites along with so many other of our famous families. John D. Rockefeller called Cleveland home, loved Cleveland, stayed in Cleveland and promoted Cleveland as a wonderful place to do business and raise marvelous families.

Cleveland, Ohio. Francis Drury. Thank you for my outdoor grill!

The Drury Mansion--Drury manufactured the first kerosene stove that led to the propane grill we enjoy today!
The Drury Mansion--Drury manufactured the first kerosene stove that led to the propane grill we enjoy today!

Most people throughout the country and most in Cleveland, Ohio would not recognize the name, Francis Drury and his Perfection Stove Company founded around 1900. Francis Drury was the manufacturer of the first kerosene stove which eventually lead to the Coleman Stove and eventually to the propane grill which we all thoroughly enjoy.

Fate shinned nicely on Francis Drury for one day a man walked into his hardware store and showed him a stove which he made from sheet metal and used kerosene as it’s fuel. Keep in mind during this period in our history all were cooking with wood stoves. Francis knew he had something but needed help with the funding of a factory to build his perfection stoves, who might he talk to?

A fellow by the name of John D. Rockefeller of Cleveland just happened to be in the kerosene business and per chance took an extreme liking to Drury’s dream. Rockefeller being the genius that he was not only helped in getting Francis Drury into production; but also opened up Standard Oils Customer Base to Drury. At the time Standard Oil was delivering kerosene to homes and businesses for use in kerosene lamps. Rockefeller knew that with use of the Drury Stove the demand for this kerosene would increase substantially and it did.

In my writing to date I have talked about the White Family of White Motors and their impact on Cleveland and the world. The Whites knew Francis Drury all too well for they were neighbors having their huge estates in the same community of Gates Mills, Ohio. Francis in building his estate from 1922-1924, actually wanted to out do all of his neighbors. His goal for this Cedar Hill Farm was to build the grandest estate in Ohio. Francis accomplished his dream. Spending 2 million dollars on his home (estate) Drury still had over 50 million left and thus died in 1932 an extremely wealthy man.

Francis Drury was a major factor in the grand old days of Cleveland, 1875-1929. The largest manufacturer of kerosene stoves in the world Francis became so successful that he was quoted saying that “the money was coming in faster than water gushing out of his water tower.” Drury for most of his life lived in and loved Cleveland. His innovation like so many others at the time made Cleveland great creating thousands of good manufacturing jobs during this fabulous period. Could it be that Francis Drury and history hold the key to a great Cleveland again?

Cleveland – The Heart of the Industrial Revolution

White Manufacturing Workers
White Manufacturing Workers

I believe it safe to say that most of us love a good story. Stories can entertain, as well as inform, enlighten and, in some cases, motivate people to an action.

Knowing the power of a good story, I have decided to embark on a mission: the telling of the great story of Cleveland, Ohio from 1875-1929.

Cleveland was considered by many to be the wealthiest city in the world – home to John D. Rockefeller and the grand Euclid Avenue, “Millionaires Row.”

If our reader knows Cleveland only through nationally-used, uncomplimentary stereotypes, our story will be particularly enlightening and fascinating.

Most important to our story is the examination of what led to this great success, and our answer will be found in the not so obvious: the grand families of Cleveland and the philosophies they held, which together made Cleveland the heart of the Industrial Revolution.

Many families made Cleveland’s heyday happen.

One of the most prominent of the time was the White family of White Sewing Machine fame and who eventually built the vast White Motors Empire, rival to Henry Ford. (Talk show host Jay Leno owns a White Steamer as part of his vast auto collection).

I chose the White family for a reason: they embodied characteristics that are universal in achieving success. Their philosophy and their work ethic, if duplicated, remain keys to success, regardless of where we are in history.

The Whites loved Cleveland and worked hard to make it the great city of their time. The story of the White family is one of those gems we sometimes find in the past – a gem because the reader will find contemporary application in many of the things the Whites did and believed in. They were an example of what made America great.

Our story, I believe, will unlock keys to success and, hopefully, move our reader to look at Cleveland, Ohio in a somewhat different light.

We invite our readers to respond and share with us their reactions as our story unfolds over time.

Consistent throughout our tale will be a common thread that ran throughout America during this period, Individuals of great talent going into business and creating thousands of manufacturing jobs that made Cleveland the center of the industrial revolution.

It was a time when risks were taken and job creators took personal responsibility for their actions, when customer was king and quality was sacred. How refreshing!

Could it be the Whites and their contemporaries knew something we have worked hard to forget? We will let our reader be the judge.

Preserving History – Who is Doing it Right Today?

Mooreland Mansion at Lakeland Community College
Mooreland Mansion at Lakeland Community College

Cleveland in 1885 was one of the most innovative and wealthiest cities in the world.

Euclid Avenue, dubbed “millionaires’ row” and by many accounts one of the most prestigious avenues in the world, was home to John D. Rockefeller and some 500 mansions, each more outstanding than the last.

Looking at this time in depth, we begin to see a pattern for success. Examination of one Cleveland family in particular, with its White Motor empire, further refines why Cleveland was so successful during this time period.

That being said, we need to on occasion address a current entity that we feel exhibits the qualities of the White family. We have found one in Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, Ohio.

The college is located just 25 minutes east of Cleveland on land formerly owned by Edward Moore. This location, encompassing nearly 3,000 acres, was his country estate in the early 1900s. Edward knew the Whites, for they rode and hunted, socialized and did business together.

Edward Moore was a dreamer with credentials; he, with partners, developed an inter-urban electric rail system which connected Cleveland and the surrounding farms. Moore and his partners had recognized the need for such a state-of-the-art transportation system.

Edward Moore was rewarded for his vision, for he lived in a fabulous home now located on the Lakeland campus. This beautiful piece of history could easily have been demolished to make room for the new construction.

Instead, Lakeland recognized the value of preserving the history and went about the work of restoring this magnificent structure. Thousands of folks now enjoy Mooreland Mansion, taking in a grand patron of Cleveland’s past.

Lakeland Community College, a junior college, appreciates the role history can play in the development of its students. The college set an example by preserving Moore’s home, showing its philosophy that we in this country are too quick to destroy that which can never again be duplicated. Lakeland teaches by setting the example –  not by expanding a philosophy of “Do as I say, not as I do.” How refreshing in this day and age.

Through innovation, filling today’s need and living by example, Lakeland is doing it right – and will play a major role in returning Cleveland to greatness.