Cleveland Storyteller logo

Tag Archives: Cleveland Industrial History

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.

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.