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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?

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.

A Little Lesson 1880 Style – Responsibilities of Ownership

White taught his sons that ownership comes with responsibilities
White taught his sons that ownership comes with responsibilities

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.

History Lessons – extended warranties & coping with downtimes 100 years ago

White Motor Cars offered an 100,000 Mile Warranty!
White Motor Cars offered an 100,000 Mile Warranty!

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.