Sunday, January 29, 2017

Free Grease: Arbuckle-Ryan Company

Free Grease:  Arbuckle-Ryan Company                                                    by Alan Borer

            On September 29, 2005, an old warehouse at the corner of Ontario and Monroe was destroyed by fire.  Believed to be the work of an arsonist, the building was empty and facing foreclosure.  The building had housed among other things, a paint store and Ohio Unemployment offices.  But for many years, the building was the headquarters of a farm machine and implement dealer, Arbuckle-Ryan Company.
Arbuckle-Ryan had a long history in Toledo.  The company was founded in 1871 by John M. Arbuckle and Charles Ryan.  At first it sold mainly general hardware and garden seeds.    Gradually, the company grew into an agricultural equipment dealer, specializing in kerosene-fueled threshing machines and farm implements.  At its height, Arbuckle-Ryan was a notable supplier of power sources.  The company’s “automatic department” built “complete power plants” for large customers such as the Owens Bottle Machine Company.

The company built the aforementioned four story warehouse in 1887.  Arbuckle-Ryan did not manufacture farm equipment; they were a distributor, of in the business lingo of the time, a “jobber.”  They participated frequently in trade shows and salesmanship.  For example, in 1916 the company “were exhibitors at the big tractor demonstration at the Bannister farm a mile and a half northeast of Wauseon, O.” [Farm Power, June 27, 1916]  In 1922, at the National Farmer’s Exposition, held in Toledo, a company representative was in charge of the division which showcased threshing equipment [Farm Implement News, November 9, 1922]  Another ad from 1922 listed some of the equipment offered by Arbuckle-Ryan:  “…tractors, steam engines, threshers, silo presses, potato diggers, and boilers.” [Agrimotor, July 15, 1922]

            Arbuckle-Ryan had branch offices in Hillsdale, Michigan, and Goshen, Indiana.  Traveling salesmen were used to expand the company’s reach.  The company was well thought of by customers.  In 1906, a Michigan reader of the trade journal American Thresherman wrote:  “We buy our machinery of Arbuckle Ryan & Co., of Toledo, Ohio, who are gentlemen to deal with.”  [American Thresherman, October 1906]   
            The company also tried promotions.  One offered ten pounds of “cup grease” (!)  free to any customer ordering “oils and supplies.”  If you truly needed grease, you could qualify for”Fill in the card below; send in with supply order and we will include a sample 1 lb tin of Arno Graphite Grease Free.” 
Arbuckle- Ryan was in business until 1928.  By then the company had moved to 1152 E. Broadway.  It was a difficult time to be in the farm supply business.  The Great Depression started in 1929 in the cities, but earlier on the farm.  Changing technology on the farm and a drop in on-farm population also helped bring an end to Arbuckle-Ryan.

Sawhorses in Cleveland and the Land of Oz

[Upper: L. Frank Baum's Sawhorse / Lower: Sturtevant Sawhorse]

 Sawhorses in Cleveland and the Land of Oz

“This thing resembles a real horse more than I imagined,” said Tip, trying to explain.  “But a real horse is alive, and trots and prances and eats oats, while this is nothing more than a dead horse, made of woods, and used to saw logs upon.”

“If it were alive, wouldn’t it trot, and prance, and eat oats?” inquired the Pumpkinhead.

“It would trot and prance, perhaps; but it wouldn’t eat oats,” replied the boy, laughing at the idea.  And of course it can’t ever be alive, because it is made of wood.”  [L. Frank Baum, The Marvelous Land of Oz (Chicago, 1904), p. 36.]

I do not know if children still read the books that followed L. Frank Baum’s 1900 masterpiece The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  Growing up in the early 1970s, I considered it quite a news flash that the story did not end where the 1939 movie did.  When I finally got my hands on the sequel one of the many oddball characters it contained was a live, talking Sawhorse [Figure 1].  Almost fifty years later, I cherish the memories of Baum’s Oz.  So when I saw a cover [Figure 2] with a company logo consisting of a man riding a live sawhorse, I could not help but purchase it.

Advertising The Sturtevant Lumber Company, the cover is addressed to Chagrin Falls.  For some background on the company , the following quotes should help:

Isaac Sturtevant (1816-1876) moved to Cleveland from Vermont. He married fellow New England native Harriet Bell in Cuyahoga County in 1840. After Harriet's 1855 death, Isaac married Amarilla M. Moffitt (also on some records as Amanda M. Moffet) in Trumbull County, Ohio, in 1856. Isaac married a third time in 1862 to Hortense L. Kent, who survived him; they married in Geauga County, Ohio. Harriet and Hortense are also buried at Lake View, but Amarilla's burial location remains unknown to date.

Isaac started out working as a joiner and then builder, then going into business with Cyril Sturtevant as Sturtevant Brothers, a planing company. In 1857 Cyril retired from the business, dissolving the partnership, and Isaac continued it as Sturtevant & Son Planing Company, where his son Carlos also worked. They sold lumber and items made from lumber (such as doors) to businesses and people in the Cleveland area, and they were very successful. By the time Isaac died, the company was known as Sturtevant & Co. and Isaac's son-in-law Charles Burnett worked there as well. 

At the time the cover was used, the company was run by one Charles C. Burnett (1843-1898).  [Figure 3]“In the spring of 1869 he came to Cleveland, and engaged in the lumber business . . . The company of which he is now president is one of the largest of its kind in the State, employing three hundred men. . . . The name given to the company was in honor of Isaac Sturtevant, the pioneer lumberman of Cleveland, who started in Cleveland in 1846, and whose estimable daughter Adelia M., was married to Mr. Burnett, February 14, 1867.”  [The Biographical Cyclop√¶dia and Portrait Gallery with an Historical Sketch of the State of Ohio (Cincinnati, 1887), p. 642.]

The 1876 Cleveland city directory listed the business as “I. Sturtevant & Co.” and gave a complicated address:  “Central War, cor[ner] of Stone’s Levee, and planning mill, Michigan, sw. cor. Seneca.”
I am not sure how long the company used the sawhorse logo.  A quick search on Google reveled a few bits and pieces, including a paperweight and a photograph[Figure 4];
For your consideration is this early paperweight advertising The Sturtevant Lumber Company, Cleveland, O.  There is a comical image of a man riding a horse made of various pieces of lumber.  One end is marked Established 1852, the other end is marked Incorporated 1882. “

Likely here is more information on Sturdevant Lumber in various Cleveland are collections and institutions.  As a final note, I see that my sawhorse cover is addressed to member of the Burnett family.  The cover might have contained correspondence from Charles C. Burnett himself.  That, however, we can only dream of, just as we can dream of riding live sawhorses.