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100 Years Ago


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Transportation

The principle mode of transportation in the 1800s was the horse and buggy. From its earliest years, Sidney, Ohio, was an important center for this fledgling transportation industry. Sidney was home to several wagon builders. Piper Wagon Works was formed in 1847 and its location was 824 West Court Street. The Rupert Wagon Shop was in competition on West Popular Street three years later. (Sidney’s plat initially named the street Popular rather than Poplar as it is known today) This business lasted only four years. The location was taken over by the Miller and Smith firm for the manufacture of carriages.

In mid-1854, Lorenzo Bimel of St. Marys moved to Sidney to open a buggy manufacturing business known as the Bimel Buggy Company. He built a plant at 218 South Ohio Ave, and produced a fine quality buggy. The company made various types of buggies, carriages and runabouts with either steel or rubber tires. Each year, the company made hundreds of ‘Storm King’ buggies for the winter season. After his business began to deteriorate, Mr. Bimel returned to St. Marys in 1860.

After learning that Mr. Bimel had left Sidney, James Crozier of Piqua decided that Sidney presented more opportunity for him than his home town. He moved his buggy business here, and, in 1860, occupied the former Bimel plant. The business became ‘Crozier and Son’ with the addition of his son some years later. Mr. Crozier was featured in the April 4, 1914, edition of the "Sidney Daily News" for completing 54 years in the carriage business. In addition to overseeing his business, James Crozier served over 50 consecutive years as trustee of the Methodist Church, and was mayor of the town for several terms. He died in 1919.

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Underwood Whip Company

Lorenzo Bimel's son, William, was induced by Sidney’s Board of Improvement to return in 1897 to build a new plant for the production of buggies on Miami Avenue just south of the canal feeder. The business failed after seven years. The structure was last occupied by the Hawthorn-Seving Company. Fire destroyed the building in 1980. Buggies were also made in Sidney by C. F. Yager who conducted business at 708 West Avenue.

Each new industry in those early days created trailing businesses to supply needed parts. Jonathan Dann established a spoke and wheel business in 1870. It was located on the north side of the canal on Ohio Avenue.

A large parts plant was established in 1881 by Enoch Anderson, Cyrus Frazier and J. N. Anderson. The company made wooden wheels and wheel parts. The Anderson-Frazier Wheel Works was situated north of the original Big Four Railroad tracks, between Miami and Main Avenues, where Bimel and Hawthorne-Seving would later be located. In the 1890s, a major fire swept the structure and water from the nearby canal was pumped in to fight the blaze.

Owners of buggies and wagons needed whips to motivate the occasionally stubborn horse. Sidney, Ohio, acquired a major whip manufacturer in 1891, when the Underwood Whip Company, (pictured above), a division of U. S. Whip Company, moved to Sidney from Wooster, Ohio. This was one of the businesses that local leaders recruited to move to the area. In the late 1890s, Underwood Whip was the largest whip manufacturer west of Massachusetts. The plant had doubled its capacity by 1903. It was located on the northwest corner of North Street and Highland Ave. (An apartment complex stands on the site today which is located across the street from the empty Sidney Machine Tool Company building owed by Stolle.)

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The opportunities presented by the development of the automobile industry nationally were not lost on Sidney entrepreneurs. W.H.C. Goode gathered a group of investors together in 1915, bought the assets of the defunct Bimel buggy business, and formed the Bimel Spoke and Auto Works to manufacture auto parts. With T. M. Miller, formerly a manufacturer in the buggy business as general manager/treasurer and A.C. Noble as president, the company opened for business in February of 1915. It was located at the old Bimel Buggy site on Miami Avenue across from (west of) Clinton Street, just south of the canal.

It was these two men who decided to manufacture an automobile later that year when the Elco Four model became available. Originally, this car was to have been built in Elwood, Indiana, by the Elwood Iron Works. The company went bankrupt before getting its product to market. The Elco was a four-cylinder, 30 horse-power gasoline car selling for $585. Initially, the cars continued to be marketed under the Elco name, (Elco 30) but ads in "The Sidney Daily News" promoted the roadster and touring models to Shelby County, Ohio, residents as a ‘Bimel F’. It is believed that the Bimel F and the Elco 30 were the same car, with the Bimel name emphasized in this case for ‘home town’ use. By July of the first year, management announced that the plant was producing four Elco 30 vehicles a day!

In April, 1916, the Bimel Automobile Company was incorporated with a capital stock of $500,000. The success of the company was short-lived, however. The firm survived a year and went into a receivership by early 1917. The American Motor Parts Company of Indianapolis bought the assets of the company in May of that year. A few finished cars remained on hand, and these were also sold under the Bimel name.

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Ethel Littleton prepares to board a Beck Bus in this promotional picture snapped near the Big Four Bridge.

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Fred D. Clark of Sidney was a financial backer of the new Bremac Motor Car Corporation in 1932. The project was a radical new idea in automobile construction. The Bremac had no chassis frame and, as described by the company, seating in the five-passenger sedan was the reverse of the usual, three passengers in front, two in the rear. In mid-October, 1932, Bremac announced that its first prototype was under construction in Sidney — and that the company expected to complete three cars of different body model design for exhibition at the New York Automobile Show the following month. It never made it to show.

Another vehicle manufacturer was the C. D. Beck Company. It made large vehicles - primarily busses and motor homes. The company was located on the corner of Russell Road and Main Avenue. The structure now houses LeRoi International.

Numerous parts for automobiles were produced in Sidney, Ohio. When the Anderson-Frazier Wheel partnership dissolved, James Anderson purchased the assets, and subsequently formed the Anderson Body Company. The firm made wooden steering wheels, automobile bodies, and associated parts for autos. It occupied the former Maxwell Mill site west of the Miami River, where Shelby Manufacturing now stands on Adams Street. The Tucker Woodworking Company’s wood products were used for invalid chairs, punching bag rims, bicycle wheels and automobile steering wheels. The company produced 75,000 car steering wheels in 1915. The Stolle Corporation manufactured fenders, radiator shells and other automobile parts.

The Sidney Manufacturing Company was formed in 1907 with capital stock of $75,000 by leading industrialists Thedieck, Studevant, E.J. Griffis and attorney J. Hess, among others. It made metal seats and bodies for buggies, automobiles and trucks. Production output capacity was from 80,000 to 100,000 seats annually. The organization took possession of the old Maxwell Mill, which was purchased by Thedieck for $17,000. As with the Anderson Body Company, it was located where Shelby Manufacturing now stands on Adams Street.

Industry segment written in January, 1998 by Rich Wallace

 

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