Center for Archival Collections

Archival Chronicle

March 2012: Volume 31, Number 1

Ohio at Work | Archival Chronicle Index | CAC Homepage

Local Industry in Northwest Ohio Before 1950: Drawing on Natural Resources

Serving Local Residents

The pattern of development from frontier society to sophisticated industry was followed all over northwest Ohio.  Bowling Green was typical in this way.  Founded in 1835 as a trading center for local farmers, the city was competing with Perrysburg to be the county seat by the late 1860s. The Sentinel described the business district as it looked on October 25, 1867:

6 dry goods stores
1 drug store
5 grocery stores
1 saddle and harness manufacturing establishment
3 millinery stores
1 large hardware, tin and stove store
2 shoe shops
1 barrel and tub factory
2 wagon and carriage shops
2 blacksmith shops
2 furniture rooms
2 cabinet shops
1 billiard saloon

2 oyster and drinking saloons
1 photograph room
1 livery stable
2 hotels
1 clothing store
1 watch and clock repairing establishment
2 brick yards
1 large sash, door, blind, and planning factory
3 lumber yards
1 tin shop
1 butcher shop
1 large ashery
1 printing office

Under construction:

2 large brick blocks [business buildings]
   --1 to be occupied as a dry goods store
   --1 to be filled by a drug and book store and a banking house, 2d floor: 2 law offices and large public hall 
--flouring mill

These were the businesses of a prosperous and growing town in northwest Ohio just after the Civil War.  The businesses in this photo essay show them as they were in their heyday, whether they served the farming community or provided employment to other workers.

Look Left Cutting Ice at Port Clinton, ca. 1900

Harvesting the ice from frozen ponds provided work for a crew of men and teams of horses through the coldest winter months.  The ice was then stored in special insulated sheds, and delivered on a weekly basis to customers for their "ice boxes."  Summer ice delivery services switched to delivering coal in the winter.

Source: CAC General Photograph Collection

Harness shop, ca. 1920

The Taggert Harness and Carriage Shop was located on East Court Street in Bowling Green when this photograph was taken in 1920.  By this time, it was clear that the automobile was replacing the horse, but the selection of horse collars shows that many farmers continued to use these reliable animals for field work well into the 20th century.

Source:  CAC General Photograph Collection (for Bowling Green Sesquicentennial Celebration)


Blacksmith Shop interior

The blacksmith shop provided farmers and townspeople alike with skilled metalworking and mechanical repairs.  E. C. Click began business as a blacksmith and machinist in Haviland, Ohio before 1903 when the photograph at left was taken. By 1920, the date of the photograph at right, much of his work was devoted to automobile mechanics.  Seen in the 1920 photo are Joe Armstrong, Frank Sheer and E. C. Click.

Source: O. B. Workman Collection (MS 19)


Hardware Store, Broughton, Oho, ca. 1890s

Hardware stores in the 1890s were a long way from today's "big box" stores, but they were important in supplying their customers on and off the farm with paint, nails, fencing, and tools of all kinds.  The sign above the door identifies this shop as the local dealer for Milwaukee Harvesting Machinery.  Mechanization had reached agriculture generations before.

Source: O. B. Workman Collection (MS 19)

General Store, Paulding, Ohio, ca. 1920s

Like today's department or variety stores, the general store served virtually every shopping need. The candy counter is seen at right, with tobacco products advertised on the wall behind. The shelves at left include pickles, Jello, and Dutch Cleanser.

Source: O. B. Workman Collection (MS 19)

Employment off the Farm

Look Left Tile Factory, Broughton, Ohio, 1904 

Workmen pose in the yard in front of the tile factory in Brought.  Firewood for the drying ovens is stacked at left.  The workmen at right are seated on the drainage pipes they have manufactured.  The man at left with the oilcan and wrench shows that he is responsible for maintaining mechanical tools.

Source:  O. B. Workman Collection (MS 19)

Power Shovel and Dump Truck, U. S. Gypsum Company, Genoa, Ohio Look Right

Thanks to large engines, heavy equipment  vastly increased the quantity of work that could be accomplished.  This site is now owned by Graymont Dolime.  Minerals found at the site include pyrite, dolomite, fluorite, and calcite.

Source:  Kirk F. Hise


Basket Factory, Genoa, Ohio, ca. 1880s  

While today we think of basket-making as an individual craft, these workmen turned out their product on a large scale. This factory employed over twenty workers to mass produce baskets and wicker goods for regional sales.  Wicker furniture and baby carriages were popular at the time. Baskets are still a good universal transport and storage system in the home.

Source:  CAC General Photograph Collection

Clothing manufacturing in northwest Ohio

Women also worked outside the home.  The view at left shows the Pandora Overall Factory, founded in March 1901.  A new building was constructed following a 1902 fire.  By 1915, the company was the largest manufacturer in Putnam County.  The second building burned in October 1916 and was not rebuilt.

Source: Swiss Community Historical Society, Bluffton

At right is the workroom of the Boss Manufacturing Company of Defiance in 1920, where gloves are being produced.  The cloth scraps visible on the floor show why fire was such an ever-present danger.  The women line supervisors stand at the back of each photograph and the male owners or investors are seated in the rear.

Source:  Mary Bennett

THE PHOTOGRAPHS IN THIS ISSUE are a small sample of those illustrating light industry in northwest Ohio.