I continue to write about the family White of Cleveland, Ohio the family behind the famous White sewing machine and later a giant in the transportation industry, White Motors. The time frame today is around 1880 when father Tom had to address his young sons request to own their own horse to ride while living on that famous street in Cleveland, Millionaires Row, Euclid Avenue. Father Tom had a very definitive philosophy about responsibility and perfection and used his sons request to teach a valuable life lesson.
The life lesson important to Tom was simple and straight forward. He would purchase the horse but with expectations. His sons had to care for the animal. His sons had to show respect for the animal and most importantly his sons were to never forget that with ownership comes responsibilities. Not very complex, is it? The point here is that Tom’s sons Windsor, Rollin and Walter the founders of White Motors carried over this lesson to everything they did in later life. When they could afford hundreds of horses on each of their country estates each animal was treated with the best of care and managed by the best people money could buy. I am told by Great Grandson, Henry Merkel that long after Tom’s death his boys always were driven by the fact that if they were not completely responsible they would lose their beloved animals.
Nothing extraordinary here I suppose except that a valuable life lesson taught early on can last a life time. I suppose the sidebar to this establishes the importance of father and family. And, oh yeah the value of personal responsibility and that without it there will be consequences. How refreshing. Tom’s sons became giants in the Auto industry early on rivaling Henry Ford and then later on becoming one of the largest truck manufacturers in the world, White Motors.
Historically White Motors can be credited to playing a major role in winning World War I. Every White vehicle was the best and the U.S. Army knew it. So much so that son Walter was appointed director for the whole European Theater.
Valuable life lesson, no questions. Can we learn from history? No questions. Are certain standards for human conduct timeless? No question. Can we do with a large dose of personal responsibility today? I will let you, my reader, decide.
All too often, we neglect the important lessons of history as it applies to the solving of some of today’s problems. For example; I have been writing about the extremely successful White Motor Company of Cleveland, Ohio, examining their early history and how they solved problems of the time, 1900 to 1929 in a totally upstart industry.
During these years, car manufacturing was in its infantsy and thus all items giving into a car trial and error. In spite of this, the brothers White, Windsor, Rollin and Walter insisted on perfection. They expected each of their vehicles perform well for a minimum of 100,000 miles back in 1915. General Motors did a whole ad campaign touting their 100,000 mile guarantee as a dramatic break through. How could the Whites be almost 100 years ahead of General Motors?
To get top quality the Whites believed in a labor force of impeccable dedication and work ethic. It was not unusual to have up to 4 generations of one family work at White, non union. This allowed the White employee to pass down father to son work ethic based upon family pride and excellence. The Whites for their part participated by systematically rotating a new employee until the job fit the employee both from an aptitude and what the employee took satisfaction in. The Whites felt that their best advertisement was their customer and his satisfaction with the product. Building with a highly skilled and motivated work force, taking pride in all aspects of their work assured the owner of a White that they received maximum value for every dollar spent. Jay Leno, Talk show host, has a White in his famous collection and often times speaks about this tremendous vehicle.
GM and the entire auto industry today could learn from the White Motors way of doing business. The Whites were also very conservative as businesses, and felt strongly about having large cash reserves in case of a long down time. What a novel idea here.
Today it seems we are faced with an extreme urgency to downsize, make lighter and environment friendlier autos, side bar, unintended result less is less safe. Now, like most of us, I want to save the planet but I still need room and most importantly my families’ safety is not negotiable. I believe many of us feel the same way when it comes to family safety. Thus, faced with the dilemma of sorts I thought to become proactive on this issue. My starting point, history; Wow what I found.
Being from Cleveland, Ohio and having some knowledge of the White Motor Car Company of Cleveland, Ohio I began reading about how the Whites in 1904 might address today’s problem. What I found was simply amazing. The genius inventor behind White Motors Rollin White along with brothers Windsor and Walter, father Tom of the White Sewing Machine, invented a combination steam and gas car called the Whistling Willie, for obvious reasons. The genius of Rollin was inventing a compound engine which used steam twice before leaving the engine. It did this by first using a small high pressure cylinder which exhausts into a significantly larger second cylinder which spreads the lower pressure steam over a larger surface area to yield the same amount of work as the first, this according to Henry Merkel, great grandson. Together they delivered a balanced output. Now I know for most of us this is more tech than one is comfortable with so let me apply this to today’s dilemma.
Rollin White and his car was much greener in 1905 that all of his competition. Water to steam was the ultimate renewable. But here is the real point. Rollin White made a car large in stature, and heavy but used 1/3 the horsepower of all competitors of his day, 20 to 25 to 60 to 65 for the total gas powered competition. And yet the White car was capable of speeds up to 70 miles per hour. Now if this were not enough, The White Steamer was also more powerful then all other cars of the day leading to the statement from Barny Oldfield, the Jeff Gordon of his day to lament, “It was the White Steamer that did me in.” The Steamer oftentimes finished as much as 10 seconds ahead of Barry leading to his quote. Now let us see, The White Steamer of 1905 used less horsepower, polluted less, had more power and tork than all others of the day and sold thousands of vehicles. You know Jay leno talk show host has a White vehicle in his collection. Why are you concluding what history here has shown?
Are we out of geniuses in the car industry? Will the White magic never happen again? Somewhere they must exist and engineer that will design and build what the public wants and what times dictate. If only I could sit down with Rollin, Windsor and Walter and have a little talk. I truly believe if this were possible, within a year, problem solved.
Today, all of us seemingly have been indoctrinated as to the new definition of Green. One cannot turn anywhere but to run into a new green institute, a new green product which will save the planet, think green, be green, do green. A new idea right? I don’t think so.
Many years ago–1920 to be exact–there was a family in Cleveland, Ohio, who believed in green before today’s definition of green was ever invented. This famous family was the Walter White family of White Sewing Machine and White Motors fame.
They believed in planting thousands of trees (it was called tree farming) throughout their fabulous country estates so that future generations could truly enjoy them for years to come. Regular farming and tree farming were done jointly on the same properties. Mrs. Walter White actually received an award from her home state of South Carolina for planting more trees in that state than anyone before her. Knowing today that trees remove CO2 from the air in large quantities probably was a science unknown to the Whites, but no matter they already had a steady eye out for future generations.
I currently live on part of the old Walter White estate and own some 300 of these grand 60′ pines planted by the Whites. My enjoyment today truly understands their grand vision of the future.