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Combination of Greatness – White & Kundtz

White Sewing Machine in Cabinet by Theodor Kundtz. The cabinet doubled as a writing desk.
White Sewing Machine in Cabinet by Theodor Kundtz. The cabinet doubled as a writing desk.

I continue to write about our great city of Cleveland 1875-1929 when Cleveland contained one half of all millionaires in the world. Among these were two great men namely, Thomas H. White and Theodor Kundtz.

Thomas H. White produced the White Sewing Machine which revolutionized the way family clothing was made. Thomas, in his pursuit of perfection, felt that a White Sewing Machine should be housed in more than just an ordinary wood cabinet. Enter Theodor Kundtz, a man from Hungary who had learned the cabinet business while working in Cleveland, Ohio.

Theodor Kundtz had the desire to form his own company and so he did, The Theodor Kundtz Cabinet Work. Theodor’s vision grew to having over 1 million square feet of factory before 1900. He built the finest cabinets in the world and Thomas H. White wanted the finest.

The end result was the sale of millions of cabinets, each valued not only because they were incredibly functional, but also as a beautiful piece of furniture. The White and Kundtz factories were located very close to each other making the supply chain very effective.

Theodor Kundtz Company buildings in the Cleveland Flats circa 1920
Theodor Kundtz Company buildings in the Cleveland Flats circa 1920

Today the product so proudly built by Theodor Kundtz and Thomas H. White is displayed in New York’s Smithsonian Museum for all to see. Pioneers with a philosophy of perfection, these men became part of our great Cleveland history. These men changed society for the better with their hard work and innovation.

New technology which benefits the masses, this is what will again produce a great Cleveland. One would do no better than to study the model of Thomas H. White and his friend Theodor Kundtz.

White Motor Company’s Way of Doing Business

Walter Charles White
Walter Charles White

The White Motor Company of Cleveland, Ohio, the major truck and bus builder in the world, may have had a better way of doing business. In studying the Whites of White Motors it became obvious to me that the good old days, approximately 1900-1929, may very well have been the better old days as far as doing business was concerned.

Walter White, president of White Motors at this time, 1922, felt that trust was the key component in any business deal. To quote Walter, “Why is it that investments in White trucks exceed $200,000.000 and that individual investments run as high as $3,000,000 or $4,000,000? If you want a man to have faith in you”, said Walter “you must not betray his trust. When a man gets a good White truck it is not by accident. They are built neither by guess nor by luck, but by mathematics, science, and a system of testing which has no superior in the automobile field. When a White truck leaves the plant it carries with it the honor of the Whites.”

Now this is how business should be. Walter and his philosophy were a major force in the making of a great Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland’s roots were planted in great soil and remain intact to grow again. Our Cleveland and our country would do well to return to those better old days to study and learn. Trust and respect were givens, not the exception in business. Say what you mean, mean what you say, no matter what the circumstance. Honor, pride and trust, these principles need to be the foundation in returning Cleveland, Ohio to its former greatness.

The White Workers – Greatest Asset Recognized

Thomas Howard White
Thomas Howard White

I have been writing about Cleveland, Ohio and its great period 1875-1929 when Cleveland by all accounts was one of the greatest cities in the world. I write because often times the path to a return to greatness can be clearly defined by understanding the cause of former greatness.

Cleveland became a great city and world force in the past because of great families doing great things. Example, John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil fame and the White’s of truck giant, White Motors. Both Rockefeller and the Whites knew all too well how to treat their workforce. The Whites in particular created a family atmosphere among employees, thus their turnover rate was exceptionally small. Employees were treated as a major asset of the company.

A family approach, what was this? The brothers, Windsor, Rollin and Walter, founders of White Motors were schooled well by their father, Thomas H. White who founded The White Sewing Machine Company. Father Thomas insisted that while growing up his sons work side by side with the men who ran the production equipment: an experience his sons used to guide their treatment of their future employees – over 4000.

The White brothers now in charge of their own company added to their fathers’ philosophy. The Whites promoted employee orchestras which played at lunch time. Even the grave yard shift had its own band. Company sports teams, baseball in particular, were used to build company pride. The company operated its own small hospital and its own night school offering classes of all types. Employees could pay utility bills and even their taxes through the company cashier. Their industrial service department helped employees fill out forms when needed.

All of the above and more served notice that the Whites valued and respected their work force. All three brothers spend several hours a day in the plant getting to know the names of all employees. Lunch on many occasions found the Whites in the employee cafeteria, not the executive dining room.

When an employee of Walter White fell sick and could no longer work in the plant, Walter transferred him to his Circle W. Farm, a healthier environment for this worker. Common sense, productivity matters, productive workers matter, turnover is no good. The Whites applied common sense to human nature to achieve great results. The White model holds the partial key to a return to greatness not only for Cleveland, but for our entire country.

The absence of common sense today is historical.

Many thanks for Charles D. Weller Esq. and The Cleveland Plain Dealer for some of our content.

 

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.