Thursday, December 30, 1999

'Made in Cincinnati'

City's products tell its story

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Murals at the airport, formerly at Union Terminal, depict Cincinnatians at work.
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        Through Prohibition and the Great Depression, through wars and floods, the staples of Greater Cincinnati have survived.

        Soap? Made famous at Procter & Gamble Co.

        Grocery stores? Barney Kroger revolutionized the industry here.

        Heavy machinery? The name “Cincinnati” is dis played on machines around the world from the former Cincinnati Milling Machine.

        Some businesses didn't make it. Henry Ford's automobile killed healthy harness and carriage industries here, and the invention of electricity helped take P&G out of the candle business.

Buddy LaRosa started making pizzas in 1954.
(Saed Hindash photo)
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        “The companies that really got to be great were those that adapted to the times and made the changes,” said Compton Allyn, professor emeritus of management at Northern Kentucky University.

        Greater Cincinnati's early heyday was the steamboat era of the mid-19th century. With pigs roaming the city's streets, and slaughterhouses flourishing, that era also spawned the moniker “Porkopolis.”

        When the railroad came and the country started moving west, Cincinnatians continued to create and grow industries: Powel Crosley Jr. and the radio, Jacob Schmidlapp and Fifth Third Bank, Andrew Jergens and hand lotion, Christian Moerlein and beer.

'Ribs King' Ted Gregory strikes his trademark pose.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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        And in 1869, the Cincinnati Redlegs started playing baseball.

        Through it all, one theme has emerged: consistency.

        "We're known for this continuity,” said Jim Geier, former chairman of Cincinnati Milacron. “Year after year, those companies plod along and do great things.”

        Here's a comprehensive look at Cincinnati products, from beer to yeast:


        Cincinnati's first brewery started at the base of Race Street in 1809, and before Prohibition the industry here grew to 24 local plants producing 1.5 million barrels a year.

        One of the more famous brewers was Christian Moerlein, known to this day as the namesake of the premium beer produced by Cincinnati's Hudepohl Brewing Co.

        He and a partner opened a brewery here in 1853, and by the turn of the century, it was producing half a million barrels a year. Mr. Moerlein starting producing a lighter beer that laid claim to be the world's first lager.

        Out of the dozens of breweries operating here, one of only a few to survive was Hudepohl Brewing Co., which stayed alive by selling soft drinks and other products. The company revived after World War II and eventually brought back the Christian Moerlein name on one of its premium brews.

        Other brewing names that still survive come from the Schoenling Brewing & Ice Co., the Wiedemann Brewing Co. and the Heidelberg Brewing Co.

        • CHILI

        From neighborhood chili parlors to companies with locations around the region, Cincinnati has been home to a wealth of chili history.

        Empress Chili was founded in 1922 by Tom and John Kiradjief, Bulgarians who came to Cincinnati from Macedonia in Greece.

        In 1929 the Sarakatsannis family started serving chili at their Dixie Chili restaurant in Covington, and in 1940 Steve Anden opened Camp Washington Chili.

        Skyline Chili started in 1949 when Greek immigrant Nicholas Lambrinides opened his first restaurant in Price Hill, named for the view of downtown Cincinnati.

        To this day, natives of the city revel in the unique — and secret — concoction that makes the product, served over spaghetti with cheese or onions. Visitors try it, and those who don't like it keep it to themselves.

        The Lambrinides family held control of that recipe and of Skyline until 1998, when they sold a controlling interest in the company to a New England investment firm.


        For native Cincinnatians, the names and memories roll off the tongue. Mabley & Carew. H&S Pogue Co. Alms & Doepke. Rollman's. McAlpin Co. Shillito's. The city once boasted a handful of home-grown department stores.

        While several of the names survive — both the Carew Tower and the Alms & Doepke building get their names from the old stores — only Lazarus, the descendant of Shillito's, continues to operate.

        • DOORBELLS

        NuTone Inc., a pioneer in the door chime business, was sold last year to Nortek Inc. But the company started by Cincinnati's J. Ralph Corbett in 1936 has long since given its lasting contribution to Cincinnati.

        Mr. Corbett and his wife, Patricia, plowed about $16 million from NuTone's profits in the mid-1950s into the Corbett Foundation, which has supported numerous community projects in the arts, science and medicine.

        • DRANO, WINDEX, ETC.

        Pharmacist Phillip Drackett and his wife Sallie started brokering bulk chemicals — including soda ash and chlorinated lime — in 1910. Five years later, the family founded F.W. Drackett & Sons, which started with Epsom salts and moved to Drano, Windex and a series of well-known household cleaning products.

        Drackett went public in 1944 and started its Weight Watchers line in the mid-1960s.

        • FENCES

        Since its founding by brothers R.C. and Wallace Stewart in 1886, Stewart Iron Works has spread its work around the globe. The Covington company made the railroad entrance gates to the Panama Canal and cell bars used in Sing Sing and Alcatraz prisons.

        It also made the iron fence at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington and ornamental iron furnishings for Louisville's Churchill Downs. The company's specialty is the iron fences now trendy in the residential market.

        • ICE CREAM

        A milk-shake stand in the Court Street Market led to the first Graeter's store on Gilbert Avenue in 1870, both producing the French-Pot masterpiece that has attracted Greater Cincinnati residents for generations.

        Ice cream also was the start of the business empire for Cincinnati's Lindner family, through its United Dairy Farmers chain.

        • INSURANCE

        The oldest operating insurance company in Ohio, Cincinnati Equitable Fire Insurance Co., was founded here in 1826. It occupied offices in the Dixie Terminal building on Fourth Street.

        Soapmakers William Procter and James Gamble were among the first investors in a new insurance company founded by John Pascel Peck in Cincinnati in 1867. Union Central Life became the country's first life insurance company outside the eastern seaboard. The annual report in 1868 reported that it held 791 policies with assets of about $160,000.

        Two decades later, William and Charles Williams incorporated Western and Southern Life Insurance Co. in a three-room suite on Main Street.

        More recently, Jack Schiff and two partners started Cincinnati Insurance Co. 1950, setting the stage for the concern that became Cincinnati Financial Corp.

        • JET ENGINES

        A plant used during World War II to make military engines, the sprawling facility in Evendale was taken over by General Electric Co. by 1950, eventually becoming the hub of its aircraft-engine business.

        Gerhard Neumann, pioneering GE engineering genius, led development of GE's J79 engine, the first to fly at twice the speed of sound, in Evendale in the 1950s. A decade later he oversaw development of the world's first high-bypass engine, the TF-39.

        The more efficient engine, which became GE's CF6 family of engines, helped revolutionize commercial jet flight and position GEAE as the world's largest jet-engine maker.

        At one point, the plant employed about 20,000, but a series of layoffs in the 1990s reduced employment there by more than half.

        • LEATHER

        Another prominent industry here was saddle harnesses. Just before the turn of the century, there were about 90 companies. The largest was Graf, Morsbach & Co., which also made harnesses used by the French army in World War I.

        Some of the plants made as many as 50,000 sets of harnesses annually. But when cars started to appear, modernization took its toll on this business as well, and by the 1930s only a few small companies were left.

        • LOTION

        Andrew Jergens, a German immigrant, was only 28 when he invested in a Cincinnati soap company in 1880. He also devised a hand lotion, which soon gained national recognition.

        • MACHINES

        In factories around the world, look around the shop floor and one word should be prominent: “Cincinnati.”

        Those machine tools — machines that make machines — were exported from Cincinnati Milling Machine. Its predecessor originally carried the moniker Cincinnati Screw and Tap Co.

        A bank executive and graduate of Woodward High School, Frederick Geier returned to Cincinnati from Kansas in 1887, and joined the Cincinnati Screw and Tap Co. as a partner.

        Two years later, Geier and his two partners decided to concentrate on the machine business and formed Cincinnati Milling Machine Co. He became president in 1905 and headed the company for nearly three decades.

        In 1970, the company took the name Cincinnati Milacron Inc. James A.D. Geier, Frederick Geier's grandson, retired from Milacron in 1990, ending the family's stewardship there. And the company sold the machine-tool business to a California company in 1998 and was renamed Milacron Inc.

        Milling machine was joined by other prominent companies here, including LeBlond Machine Tool Co., which was started in 1887. The industry reached its peak in the late 1920s, with about 14,000 employees in Cincinnati mills.

        • NEWS

        It was April 10, 1841 when printers John and Charles Brough printed the first edition of The Cincinnati Enquirer. It has published a Sunday edition longer than any newspaper in the world.

        Starting in 1907, The Union became an influential voice in the city's black community for more than four decades, driven by Wendell Phillips Dabney, who served as publisher, editor and reporter.

        It was 1883 when Illinois farmer E.W. Scripps bought the Penny Post, and seven years later when he renamed it The Cincinnati Post. That grew into Scripps-Howard Newspapers, which today is a diversified media company based in an office tower on Third Street bearing Scripps' name.

        Locally, E.W. Scripps Co. owns The Cincinnati Post, the Kentucky Post and WCPO-TV.

        • PHONES

        The rate was $300 a year for a line up to 1 mile long when the City and Suburban Telegraph Co. opened in 1873. That provided the first direct communication between homes and businesses in Cincinnati. Telephone service came to the area five years later, and Bell Telephonic Exchange became the 10th exchange in the country.

        In 1904, the company introduced coin-operated telephones; in 1928, it laid a cable to Covington on the bottom of the Ohio River; and in 1952, it completed the conversion to dial service for all area telephones.

        Earlier this year, Cincinnati Bell Inc. changed its name to BroadWing Inc. after a major acquisition that could speed its transition to a national provider of telecommunications services.

        • PIZZA

Buddy LaRosa opened a pizzeria on Boudinot Avenue on the west side in 1954, starting a huge local chain that has made Cincinnati a uniquely tough market for national pizza chains. There are now more than 50 LaRosa's restaurants. Several years ago, the company remodeled the original unit and the Italian market that went with it.



        Dwight Hamilton Baldwin, a music teacher, opened his piano and organ shop here in 1862, invested his life savings into what eventually became Baldwin Piano & Organ Co. The first plant opened in 1890 on Gilbert Avenue.

        After the spectacular flame-out of Baldwin-United Corp. in 1983, a group of managers bought the piano business and set up shop as Baldwin Piano & Organ in Loveland.



        Roaming the streets of 19th century Cincinnati, the animals quite literally drove the city's commerce for years. In 1810, butcher Richard Fosdick started the first slaughterhouse on Deer Creek, now Eggleston Avenue.

        By 1840, a visitor described Cincinnati as “a city of pigs — a monster piggery.” By 1850, more than 320,000 hogs were packed in Cincinnati plants annually (a number that would more than triple by 1929) helping the city earn one of the nicknames that would survive for generations: “Porkopolis.”

        The packing season was at its height from November to March. The production of pork, ham, bacon and lard spurred the founding of businesses from slaughterhouses to candle shops to sausage makers.

        German immigrant Elias Kahn opened his meat market on Central Avenue in 1882, and Kahn's moved into its Spring Grove Avenue plant in 1928. That operation continued even after Consolidated Foods Corp. of Chicago bought the company in 1966.

        • POTTERY

An amateur potter, Maria Longworth Nichols Storer founded Rookwood Pottery in 1880 in an abandoned schoolhouse on Eastern Avenue. The company was named after the family's estate in East Walnut Hills.

        In 1890, Rookwood bought property in Mount Adams for new offices. But mass production, the Great Depression and World War II soon cut into the company's business. Under a succession of owners, Rookwood's operations moved to Mississippi in 1959, and the company went out of business in 1967.

        Ms. Storer also contributed heavily to development of Cincinnati's cultural reputation, serving as the inspirational force behind the first May Festival in 1872.

        • PRINTING

        Strobridge Lithography was among those companies that made Cincinnati a hub for the printing industry nationwide. Strobridge was the the first in the industry here, starting in 1854 in Norwood. It printed posters advertising the likes of Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey circus.

        The paper-making business here started in the late 1700s, with the Phoenix Paper Mill and the Cincinnati Steam Paper Mill among the first. In 1895, Champion Paper & Fibre Co. started in Hamilton and eventually became the largest Ohio mill.

        • RAILROAD

        The city of Cincinnati formed Cincinnati Southern Railroad in 1869, the only municipally owned railroad in the country.

        • RIBS

       The “Ribs King” was created in 1951, when Ted Gregory bought McCabe's Inn on Montgomery Road. He showcased his freinds in the entertainment business and covered the walls with sports memorablia, eventually expanding into the Boathouse downtown. That location ebcame on e of the most profitable restaurants in the country.

        • SAKRETE

        Arthur Avril already had one company operating in Cincinnati when he developed the first packaged cement mix using a unique drying process, an invention that millions of homeowners know simply as Sakrete.

        Mr. Avril founded Sakrete Inc. in 1936, and the company eventually grew to more than 80 plants. The Hughes High School and Ohio State University graduate died in 1996 at age 95.

        • SHOES

        Cincinnati's Red Cross shoes was one of the predecessors to U.S. Shoe Corp., formed in a 1931 merger of two Cincinnati shoe-makers.

        Red Cross Shoes proved its mettle during the Great Depression by cutting its prices nearly in half to $6 per pair, a move that helped ensure that no employee there lost a day's work.

        The company went public in 1946 and started buying shoe brands. It eventually spread its wings with the purchase of Casual Corner and the LensCrafters line of optical stores.

        But U.S. Shoe met its demise in 1995, when an Italian firm bought the LensCrafters chain and Nine West Group bought the footwear operations.

        • SOAP

        Some of Procter & Gamble Co.'s signature products came from a surprise discoveries.

        The company's candle-making origins paid dividends nearly from its founding. The process produced a red oil that made a superior laundry soap.

        In 1879, a vat of white soap left mixing too long caused the soap to float, according to P&G lore. P&G took advantage of the product, finding that it was “literally 99 and 44/100ths percent pure,” and marketing the new Ivory soap with that slogan.

        But soap and laundry detergent are only two of the many products P&G has put on store shelves and inside homes around the world. They include Crest toothpaste, Pampers diapers, Pringles potato chips and Folgers coffee.

        • WHISKEY

        Started by farmers as a side business, distilling quickly became one of the biggest industries in Cincinnati. By the 1820s, nine distilleries were operating here, and store owners often kept a barrel on hand so customers could get a free drink while shopping.

        In 1880, the 10 leading distilleries here produced more than 1.8 million gallons of whiskey.

        Starting in 1919, Prohibition forced several of the distilleries to close, but some re-opened more than a decade later.

        In 1937, the industry employed about 2,200 workers in Cincinnati. The largest whiskey company here was the Carthage Distillery on Anthony Wayne Avenue, which opened in 1893.

        • YEAST

        Cincinnati became the center of this industry starting in 1868, when Maximilian and Charles Fleischmann arrived in Cincinnati and set up the first factory to make compressed yeast, a by-product of their distilling operations. In 1929, the family sold the company to Standard Brands Inc.


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