The article in the
"Shelby County Democrat" on the evening of September 15, 1899, began with the
statement: "Benjamin Slusser dropped dead this morning. Such was the report that
spread like wildfire over the city last Tuesday morning..." He fell at the
southwest corner of Poplar Street and Ohio Avenue. Sidney lost one of its pioneer
industrialists that day. After sixteen uneventful years on a Franklin Township farm,
young Mr. Slusser journeyed to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1844 to study applied
mechanics. He returned to Sidney three years later and began a career as an inventor.
Among his inventions were a reversible water wheel, a sulky plow, a self-loading excavator
and a steel road scraper.
The sulky plow was a novel and
successful invention. The plow was mounted on wheels which allowed the plow to create 30%
less drag for a team of horses. It was sold in Sidney and elsewhere in the Midwest. The
editor of the "Sidney Journal" on October 1, 1869, commented: "The
invention is of such a character as to acquire a national reputation. It can not fail to
be introduced into every county in every state in the Union."
The excavator and
scraper were the genesis for a new Sidney industry. The self-loading excavator was capable
of plowing, loading and unloading dirt in one motion, and was an immediate success in the
market place. He founded the American Steel Scraper Company, sold it to W.H.C. Goode in 1880 and established the Slusser-McLean Scraper
Company, entering into competition with him.
Soon after Mr. Slusser formed his new company, Mr. Goode claimed that Slusser was
infringing upon the patents that Mr. Goode had purchased with the American Steel Scraper
business. Goode filed suit in federal court, and the case continued for two years. The May
11, 1882, edition of the "Valley Sentinel" carried news of the decision: "The
case of W.H.C. Goode v. Slusser-McLean was decided in favor of the latter firm. The
parties to this suit are rival manufacturers in Sidney, Ohio. This case was one of great
importance and has been pending for a long time...and was considered a test case. The
decision is one of importance to railroad contractors and dealers in implements."
The decision in favor of Mr. Slusser opened the door for three scraper companies to
make Sidney truly the steel road scraper capital of the world. He married twice, and had
two daughters, neither of whom followed him into the business.
written in January, 1998 by Rich Wallace