History of Connersville Indiana
Beginning of Connersville
A man named John Conner who made his living by trading with the Indians decided to move his trading post to a place where the Indians had a right to come. Conner followed the trails the Indians had made when they were going through this part of the country to get to their hunting grounds. This trail led him to the west fork of the Whitewater Valley River. When John Conner made his camp near the banks of the Whitewater River, he was the first white man to settle in what is now the city of Connersville. This was around the year 1808. Conner laid out the town of Connersville in 1813.
Beginning of Fayette County
A law was passed in 1818, which set up the boundary lines for a new county in Indiana. This county was named Fayette County. Connersville was chosen as the county seat. The first courthouse was started in 1819 and finished in 1822. It was forty square feet and two stories high. It cost $1,262. It was on the same ground as our present courthouse, which was built in 1890. Except for the two rooms that have been added on the west side, and for the fact that some of the trimming has been taken off, it is the same courthouse.
The White Water Canal
Once upon a time some people came all the way from Europe to Connersville by boat. Fairy tales begin, "Once upon a time--". But this is a true story. To understand how this could be true we need to know that there was once a canal in Connersville boats could travel on.
The Whitewater Canal was started in 1836; it helped Connersville prosper because it provided a way of shipping products quickly. Soon, Connersville became an important and vital stop along the Whitewater Canal. Mules or horses walked along the bank of the canal on a path that was called the towpath. They pulled, or towed, the boats along with ropes fastened to the boats. Some of the products carried on canal boats were: flour, eggs, apples, bacon, cracklings, lard, and hog bristles.
Eventually railroads began spreading across these parts of the country. In 1863 a railroad company bought the canal company and tracks were laid along the towpath.
The Growth Begins
Connersville grew to be very large. Since our state capital at Indianapolis was not as old as Connersville, the sheriff of Indianapolis used the jail here until their jail was built. Couples wanting to get married had to come to get their marriage licenses at our courthouse because they did not have a courthouse in Indianapolis.
Connersville became known as a "furniture and buggy town" because there were several factories making these products. As the automobile or horseless carriage appeared on the scene, the buggy and wagon were pushed aside. Several different lines of automobiles were made here, such as: the Central, the Ansted, the Lexington, the McFarlan, the Cord, the Auburn, and the Empire.
For many of the more than 200 automobiles built in Indiana, Connersville was an important parts supplier. Auto pioneers from all over the Mid-West visited Connersville's Auto Industrial Park. There they could purchase bodies, springs, tops, enclosures, lamps, interior upholstery and leather trim, engine castings and many small parts.
The first car to be built in Connersville was the Central, built in the Central Manufacturing Plant on West Seventh Street. Unfortunately, the car was lost when the plant burned in 1905. The Kelsey Cycle Car, the Howard and the Ansted were produced in Connersville for a very short period of time.
The Lexington Motor Company moved to Connersville from Lexington, Kentucky, and manufactured automobiles until 1928. The company was also active in automobile racing and in 1919 and 1924, won the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, bringing home the beautiful Penrose Trophy, which is kept at the local Fayette County Historical Museum.
The McFarlan was the outgrowth of the MCFarlan Carriage Company, which turned to automobile manufacturing in 1909. The company turned out very fine automobiles for the next 18 years. The company was active in automobile racing as well as building fire engines, hook and ladder machines, ambulances, police cars and hearses. In 1922 the company built a special #154 Town Car for a man in Chicago; it was gold plated and cost $25,000.
In 1927 and 1928, Errett Lobban Cord purchased the Ansted Engine Company, the Lexington Motor Car Company and the Central Manufacturing Company. The Central was already manufacturing bodies for his Auburns, and in 1929 he began to move part of his production line to Connersville. By March 1932, the factory had 2500 employees and was turning out 222 Auburns a day. All final production was centered in Connersville by 1934. Known as "The Birthplace of the Cord" the first Cord rolled off the line and out 18th Street for a test drive up Western Avenue in the fall of 1936, the first of 3000 Cords built in Connersville until production ceased in August 1937.
Nearly all the parts needed to make an automobile were made right here in Connersville. That distinction earned the town the title of "Little Detroit". The following details the various companies that made Connersville a thriving industrial town.
The Historical Industrial Companies
The Connersville Furniture Company
The Connersville Furniture Company was organized in 1882, at Illinois and Mount Street in a 6 story building. Their first president was Francis M. Roots, one of the first blower company founders. The product at first consisted of black walnut bedroom suites. A good portion of the factory’s first power was taken from the Whitewater canal on the bank of which the building was located. The building across Illinois Avenue was built in 1892.
Their "Life-Long Furniture" was shipped to all parts of the Unites States, Canada, and Mexico and they maintained sample rooms in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the furniture market of the world.
Edward V. Hawkins was president for many years. He also spent many years on the local school board, serving as it’s president for a time. He and his wife presented to the city the 31/2 acre Hawkins Playground at Eighteenth and Eastern now the site of the Maplewood grade school.
The Connersville Furniture Company built furniture for John Wannamaker and Marshal Field for many years then during 1925 had contracts for radio cabinets from 12 distributing firms. April 6, 1927 Raymond S. Springer was named receiver for the Connersville Furniture Company.
January 3, 1929 McQuay Norris bought the west building and from June 20, 1928 until August 5, 1931 the east, or original building, housed the Connersville Cabinet Company. November 30, 1932 the Connersville Casket Company started on the second floor of the east building. December 30, 1933 McQuay Norris bought the east building and used it for over 25 years selling it to Roots Connersville Blower several years ago to house their pattern shop.
Munk and Roberts Furniture Company
The Valley Furniture Association was founded by Newkirk and Munk. In1874 James Roberts purchased Mr. Newkirk’s interest. Their five-story building was erected at 1500 Western Avenue in 1883. The next building, a four story, was erected just north of the first in 1878. The Rex buggy Company purchased the 15th and Western buildings in 1898. Mr. Roberts is well known to Connersville residents for his gift of Roberts Park to the City.
Western Hosiery Mills
The Western Hosiery Mills was established in 1873 on south Eastern Avenue. Their building became the site of Connersville Ice Company and today is a part of the Louis Joseph Risch Company.
Indiana Furniture Company
William Newkirk formed the Indiana Furniture Company at South first and Eastern Avenue in 1874, where he built sideboards and chiffoniers exclusively. The building went to the Krell Auto Grand Piano Company in 1908.
The Connersville Buggy Company
The Connersville Buggy Company was organized at Eastern and Charles Streets in 1883. Buggies were their chief product through 1912. As the horseless carriage began to challenge the buggy business during this time, the firm began to look for automotive contracts.
The years of 1913 and 1914 saw a cycle car craze much like the compact craze of today. These cars were small narrow tread, usually seating not more than two people. Such a car was tried out by the Automotive Division of the Connersville Buggy Company under contract of the Kelsey Cycle Car Company. By the time the car was ready for manufacturing, the fad had run its cycle and was abandoned.
The next venture of their Automotive Division was contracts with the Van Auken Electric Car Company of Chicago to build Electrical Trucks for U.S. Parcel Post Delivery. Electric vehicles of 1914 were not the most practical things and the contracts ended with that year. The Automobile Manufactures Association list this vehicle as the Connersville Electric 1914. The Dan Patch Novelty Company organized in 1912 in the McFarlan Carriage Company plant at Mount and Columbia Avenues moved to the Connersville Buggy Company building during World War I. The firm built novelty vehicles for children including "Dandy Dan" a child’s sulky with an automatic moving horse, Joy Ponies, Rock-away Ponies, Safety Coasters, the Dan Patch Racing Automobile, Blue Bird Racer, and Midget Auto. On May 17, 1926, the firm moved to Columbia, Indiana to the Noblett Sparks Company that today is Arvin Industries. The buildings were then sold to the Connersville Iron & Metal Company. The frame building on the corner lot was torn down in 1932. The remaining block building on the south side today is CarQuest at 810 Eastern Avenue.
Triumph Lock and Safe Company
The Triumph Safe and Lock company built safes at the southeast corner of 18th and Columbia from 1905 until 1913. During 1913 through 1915, the company was known as the Connersville Fireproof Safe Company. In 1915, the Hoosier foundry took over the buildings.
McCombs and Sons
George McCombs, and his son Cecil, started McCombs and Son in 1906 across the street from their present location at 210 West 6th Street. Their original product was metal parts for Rex Buggy Company. Their product today is sheet metal parts for industrial plants and assembly lines.
Krell Auto Grand Piano Company
Pianos were built in the old Indian Furniture Company Buildings from 1908 until 1915. On October 16,1919, Rex took over the buildings as the Fayette Paint and Trim, also using the buildings to house their trailer assembly and later air conditioner and refrigerator assembly.
Auburn Automobile Company- American Kitchens Division
Founded in Auburn, Indiana, in 1874, as the Eckhart Carriage Company, the Auburn Automobile Company was established by the Eckharts in 1900 with a capital of $2,500. Their single cylinder model first appeared in a national way at the Chicago Auto Show in 1903.
In June, 1919, Morris Eckhart, who had control of the company at the time, sold his interest to a group of Chicago bankers. On August, 1924, Errett Lobban Cord was asked to leave John Quinlan’s Chicago Moon Auto Agency and become vice president and general manager. Later he purchased control of the company from Chicago owners. Cord introduced a new line of straight eight cylinder cars and came to Connersville to have the Central Manufacturing Company build his closed car bodies. Production during 1924 totaled 2, 600 units with company assets at $1,000.000.
During the next five years cord increased Auburn sales 1,300%. In 1925 he became President and doubled sales. During 1926 Auburn sold 8,500 units and bought Duesenberg Motors. In 1927 Cord had a net profit of $1,300,00 from 14,000 cars and he bought Lycoming Engine Company. In an 18-month period, during this time E.L. Cord gained control of Connersville’s idle Anstead Engine Company, Lexington Motor Company, and with his purchase of the Central Company in May of 1928 he owned 82 acres of Fayette County real estate.
During 1928, 6 models of Auburn automobiles made a profit of $1,500,000. The first Auburn, a 6-80 sedan came off a Connersville assembly line on January 15, 1929. The Connersville plant, after a Cord rebuilding program costing $2,000,000, had 20 modern buildings arranged so that all materials went through the entire factory in a regular forward movement with almost 1,500,00 square feet of floor space, available for production of 400 bodies and 250 completed cars a day. 1,500 people worked in the local division at that time. On January 28, 1929, the Auburn Company bought 140 acres just north of Connersville along Milton Pike. On June 14, 1929, E.L. Cord formed the Cord Corporation, the units bein: Auburn Auto, Lycoming Engine, Duesenberg Motors, Central Manufacturing., Limousine Body, Saf-T-Cab, Expando, Spencer Heater. The Corporation profits this year were $ 3,600,000. On June 16, 1929, Cord announced that Connersville was to get a new Aircraft plant and it was not announced until October 22, 1929, that the 140 acre plot north of the city was to be the site of the 200' x 400' Corman Aircraft Company. Black Friday, a few days later, put an end to this venture. During the first week in August of 1929 the Auburn, Indiana plant started production on the new Cord L-29 car with the bodies coming from Connersville’s Central Division.
In 1930 profits dropped and Cord diversified, buying Columbia Axle, Aviation Manufacturing Company, Airplane Development Company, Auto Aircraft Accounting Company, Checker Cab, New York Ship Building, and Stinson Aircraft. On December 15, 1930, Auburn Auto Company placed orders for $9,000,000 worth of materials for their new 1931 Auburn car. Production of the 1930 model had been 11,154 units.
1931 saw 1,800 new Auburn dealers added, and profits were $14,401,840. By January 26, 1931, the Connersville plant was building 225 cars a day, working 6 days a week and the Central had a night shift. The first week of February, the final line was working 11 hours and employment had reached 1, 870 people, but by the 20th of the month, Auburn had 7,000 unfilled orders and the local payroll had 2, 349 names. March started out with the first weeks of Connersville production total 1,108 completed cars. The middle of March saw 2,500 names on the payroll where the final assembly reached 222 Auburn’s a day, the Auburn Indiana plant was building 60 Auburns and 20 Cords a day and all of the closed car bodies came from Connersville’s Central Division at this time. Total March production reached 5,649 units and 3 month figure totaled 11,718 finished cars, 564 more cars than they had shipped during the entire 1930 model year. April shipments totaled 6,003 cars and by August 4, 193,1 the July 2,580 figure gave them a 7 month total of 30,240 Auburns and Cords shipped to dealers.
January 9, 1932, the company announced the 1932 line of Auburns would include a 12-cylinder with dual ratio. The New York Auto Show, the following week, produced 250 car orders in one day. On August 16, 1932, a 12-cylinder Auburn broke all stock records at Muroc Dry Lake, California. By the middle of November, Cord solicited a proxy in the Aviation Corporation (later AVCO) as he then owned 34% of their stock, and by March 15, 1933, he had won a victory in the Aviation Corporation battle. On January 17,1933, Auburn announced 3 lines of 8-cylinder cars and the 12-cylinder in August of that year. In line with other industries during 1933 Auburn announced on May 9, 1933, that a 5% wage increase would take effect. During December of 1933 the Limousine Body Division which had built Auburn and Cord open car bodies in Kalamazoo, Michigan plant joined the Connersville Manufacturing Division and all of the company's bodies were built here to the end of the summer of 1937.
Several Duesenberg bodies were built here with the company’s famous boat tail rear end, but that is all. As that car was built in Indianapolis and almost all of the bodies were special built in many special body shops throughout this country. On January 22,1934, the company announced their 1934 Auburn prices, they were $695 for the 6-cylinder and $945 for the 8-cylinder. All final production was centered in the large Connersville plant. On February 2, 1934, they announced orders for materials for the next year would be more than $5,500,000 as they had 3,000 unfilled orders, the largest since 1931 model year.
The Cord Model L-29 was in production 3 years (1930- 1932) when nearly 4,500 units were built. After this time there was a hole in the corporation line of cars and a new car was being designed , first as a baby Duesenberg, then shelved for a while. This design was filed on May 17,1934. Roy Faulkner returned as the president of the Auburn Automobile Company on August 24, 1934, and hundreds of Auburn Dealers visited Connersville to view the companies 1935 line of cars.
During this time the company started a line of sinks and kitchen cabinets and contract work in several sheet metal fabrication projects. On August 5, 1935, Gordon M. Buehrig filed his second design for an automobile with the United States Patent Office. The Auburn pattern and tool departments were to have some time to work out problems on the radical design. Lead time was often 18 to 36 months on a project of this kind. E.L. Cord decided over night that the car would be built and the entire company must have 100 show cars ready for the November Automobile Shows. This Cord model car could never be made in mass production as the body parts were made in sections soldered together. The 1000 show cars had their cowls bolted to the rear to keep the door alignment straight. The new V-8 engine built at the Cord Corp. Lycoming Division was set in reverse where the short drive shaft drove the front wheel drive unit. The transmissions did not arrive in time for the show so the cars were pushed to trucks then pushed to the exhibit halls on arrival in Chicago and other cities. On November 22, 1934, the Cord Car was the center of interest at Auto shows and orders poured in from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Buffalo, Toronto, and other big cities. By December 9, 1935 the Auburn Auto Company had received 7,639 request by mail for information on this new Cord car. It had become an over night sensation.
During the early months of 1936 the accounting, sales, and almost all of the Auburn Automobile Companies force moved to Connersville for the last year of production on Auburns and Cords. The firm announced on October 28, 1936, that Auburn would have a new car for 1937 but all effort was put in the 1937 Cord model 812 with the addition of superchargers and side pipes in that model year. Nearly 3,000 Cord cars were built in Connersville from the show cars in the fall of 1935 till the end of August of 1937 of which nearly 2/3 of them are today in 1963 restored by car buffs throughout the world. The original convertible show cars were returned to Connersville stripped to the bare metal then torched to remove the solder as they contained as much as 300 lbs of solder. The remains o f these bodies are now a part of flood control project at the rear of Connersville’s Roberts park.
During the summer of 1936 Ab Jenkins set 144 speed and endurance records on the salt flats of Utah. On January 8, 1937, he announced that work had started at the local Auburn plant to build a new car to be known as Mormon Meteor II. The new 200" wheel base racer had two 1800 horsepower engines. He said that Augie Duesenberg, Russell Howe, and Jim Robinson would help in building this new car. Ab Jenkins lived in Connersville during the 7 months that this new car was taking shape here and on May 15, 1937, gave a program at the Connersville High School auditorium where he praised the 1937 Cord car. On July 10, 1937, his new Mormon Meteor II left the local plant on a truck for the salt flats of Utah.
On April 22, 1937, cowboy movie star idol, Tom Mix, visited Connersville Auburn plant to have a talk with Auburn President, Roy Faulkner and was driving his 1937 Cord car but, Tony, his wonder horse, was not with him this trip. On August 6, 1937 came the sad news for the Cord Corporation. Their holdings were sold to Emanuel & Company (AVCO) and Schroder Rockefeller and Company of New York City and during the next two weeks they planned the fate of Connersville Cord plants. The local plant then had to depend on it’s sink, kitchen cabinet, and refrigerator parts fabrication contracts for a time.
During the first week of January 1938 the Auburn Auto Connersville plants were ordered to retain the properties and to reorganize under section 77 B of the Federal Bankruptcy Act.
On August 25, 1938, the PAC-AGE-CAR Corporation of Connersville was formed as wholly owned subsidiary of Auburn. The Stutz Motor Car Company of Indianapolis sold the tools, dies, fixtures and design of their milk and bakery goods delivery trucks to the local firm. Diamond T trucks of Chicago sold many of these Connersville built trucks during the next several years. February 8, 1939, the Hupp Motor Car Company of Detroit filed a $900, 000 mortgage to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation at the Fayette County courthouse and received the tools, dies, jigs, and fixtures of the 1937 Cord car. They built, in Detroit, their own Huppmobile Skylark, rear drive automobile for the 1939-1940 model year then Graham Paige Motors of Detroit brought out the Graham- Hollywood rear drive car for 1940-1941 both using the Cord body dies.
During 1939 Howard Darrin, who later designed Kaiser and Frazer cars, had a contract with the Packard Motor Company of Detroit to build special convertible bodies known as the Packard Darrin. The Packard chassis were driven to Connersville where Darrin set up the body shop and built his special body and the Packard Darrin of that period was then sent to Packard dealers. The war put an end to this project.
April 20, 1940, the federal courts approved the reorganization of Auburn under Federal bankruptcy section 77B. More than 57% of it’s 3,500 stockholders had joined in the reorganization agreement and on May 14, 1940, Auburn Central Manufacturing Corporation had filed articles of incorporation and received authority to issue 25,000 shares of preferred stock at $50.00 a share and 5, 000 common at no par value. Stockholders received one new share of common stock for each 10 of old common stock. On December 23, 1940, Auburn Central planned an Aircraft parts unit as Harry Woodhead, chairman of Vultee Aircraft and President of Aviation Manufacturig became the new president of Auburn Central local plant, with 7,000 square feet of manufacturing space. The new president predicted plant expansion on January and by February 21,1941, Auburn Central received a large airplane parts order from Vultee Aircraft for wings for military aircraft and announced that 1,500 to 2,000 more men would be hired soon.
March 10, 1941, Willys Overland Motors of Toledo Ohio awarded Auburn Central the contract to build 1,600 Jeep bodies and this was the first contract of many that lasted through 1948 for Willys and Ford. Just 41 days after receiving the first contract a complete Jeep body was loaded in a box car and shipped to the Willys Toledo, Ohio plant.
On June 23, 1941, Gaunders P. Jones became the new Auburn Central president and set up a new product development for post war products as Connersville became a Defense Area. August 4, 1941, Auburn Central received a $95,000 contract from Willys Overland for 16,000 Jeep bodies and by Nov.14,1941, the contracts totaled 27,000 units as Auburn Central gave Connersville people a demonstration of this new small army vehicle just west of the plant along Eighteenth Street. On January 12, 1942, Auburn Central declared their first dividend and on March 30, 1942, the company name was changed to American Central. On August 17,1942, a Vultee Vengeance dive bomber thrilled the crowd at the American Central Bond and Flag Ceremonies. The wings for this bomber were built at the local plant.
June 30,1943, American Central produced it’s 150,000th Jeep body and by July 22,1943, received an Army A Award. On Sept. 28,1943, Jeep body production was doubled with the Ford Motor Company joining Willys Overland in the production of military jeeps. The local plant at this time was also building Bantam trailer bodies and exhaust manifolds, turret decks, over wings and bombay doors for Consolidated Vultee E-24 liberator bombers.
July 22, 1944, American Central received the Army Navy 'E’ Award as the 325,000th Jeep body produced since March 10, 1941, was assembled on a chassis sent from the Willys Overland plant in Toledo Ohio. The Award was given at the shipping dock where the bodies were loaded to be sent to Toledo, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan and it was announced that the local plant had built 200,000 trailer bodies, several hundred red wing sections for the Vultee Vengeance dive bomber, and for the B-24 Liberator, large wing sections, collector rings, and carburetor air ducts.
August 23, 1944, Willys Overland announce a contract with American Central to build 25,000 post war Jeep bodies when civilian materials were available and the firm was to build these through 1948. The addition of 45,000 War Jeeps in a contract on Dec.14,1948, would bring the total over the 45-month period to 445,000 Military Jeep bodies.
January 16,1945, American Central was awarded their seconded Army Navy "E" and on February 27,1945, they bought the 12-acre Steel Kitchens Corporation plant next door, adding 70,000 square feet. of manufacturing area to their plant. June 7,1945, they got the go ahead to set up assembly of Admiral 7 and 9 foot refrigerators, both standard and dual temp for the Admiral Corporation of Chicago. The equipment for this project cost $700,000 as the original Anstead Engine plant housed a new porcelain enamel system.
On October 23, 1945, the first Admiral refrigerator built at the American Central plant was given to Indiana Governor, Ralph Gates in ceremonies at the end of the assembly line. It was then taken to Indianapolis to be used in a State building. By early1936, kitchen cabinet and sink lines were turning out white goods and on November 20,1946, the firm became an operating division of Aviation Corporation later known as AVCO. American Kitchens was 50 years old on April 7, 1948, having started as the Central Manufacturing Company. During that year they had an open house and announced that, in addition to the many peace time Jeep bodies for Willys Overland and Admiral Refrigerators, their domestic kitchen equipment was marketed by 81 wholesale distributors and more than 5,000 retailers over the United States. A new product was ready for the Fifties, developed in Connersville and it made this city one of the largest dishwasher producers in the country. The Korean War (1950-1953) brought several government contracts that were completed during this time. AVCO during 1945 purchased the Crosley appliance name and set up in the early fifties a line of Crosley Kitchens built along side American Kitchens in the Connersville plant. National Homes of Lafayette, Indiana were using Crosley Kitchens in early 1953 and the kitchen business was really good during this time.
At the end of 1958 AVCO decided to sell their Connersville property and on January 1, 1959, Design and Manufacturing Corporation bought the original Central Lamp Company, and Anstead Engine plants on the east side. Architectural Products Division, H. H.Robertson Company purchased on February 8, 1960, the original Lexington Motor Car Company or west side.
Connersville Casket Company
Ray Lamberson started the Connersville Casket Company on November 30,1932, on the second floor of the East Connersville Furniture Company building and during the next year occupied the ground, second and third floors. The company bought the Carter Leather factory at Sixteenth and Kentucky Avenue on May 25, 1934, and through the years the firm has made several additions to the plant. The firms caskets are distributed throughout the United States and Canada.
National Metal Products Company
Ben Johnson opened shop at 419 East 10th Street on December 27, 1933. Several additions were made to this plant during the mid Thirties. Their products through the years has been casket hardware with national distribution. In 1959 they expanded to the old Lexington Service building at Tenth and Eastern Avenue. During 1962 they built a new plant just west of the original at Tenth and Fayette Street.
Steel Kitchen Corporation
The Steel Kitchens Corporation started in Waukegan, Illinois in 1928 and after several years out grew the Illinois plant. The firm, headed by Sam and Ira Block, purchased the Indiana Lamp Company building at 2000 Illinois Avenue on September 18, 1933. Steel Kitchen Cabinets built by this company were sold throughout hardware and furniture stores. On July 1, 1942, the firm announced a new SKC Aircraft Division and had contracts for Aircraft War planes . By October 5, 1943, the were making parts for a new Navy Scout observation plane and on November 26, 1943, received an Army "A" Force Award with the addition of orders for Cargo planes parts.
M4 tank parts were also built at the plant at this time. February 27, 1945, the American Central Manufacturing Company announced that they had purchased the 12-acre plant adding 70,000 more square feet of manufacturing space to their plant.
Mac Machine and Metals
Paul McCombs and Eugene Krepp started Mac Machine on January 31, 1951 at 128 Nickel Avenue. They make tools dies, jigs, and fixtures and are still in business.
Design and Manufacturing Corporation
D & M, headed by Sam Regenstrief, bought from AVCO on January 1, 1959, their dishwasher, sink and cabinet business. Their office at 2600 Illinois was in the Indiana Lamp building with a stamping and assembly in the Central Manufacturing building. The old Anstead Engineering building was the scene of their enameling process. Among the firms for whom D & M built products were Sears, Kelvinator, Preway, Modern Maid, Gaffers and Sattler, Frigidaire and Welbuilt.
Connersville Mirror Works
The Connersville Mirror Works was organized by J.L. Heineman in 1894, at 1008 Grand Avenue and moved to the Charles Street buildings in 1907. Today the plant is on East 9th Street and sells and replaces auto glass and building glass.
Information listed above is from the findings written in 1964 by; Henry Blommel, a Connersville Native who was raised in his father’s Model T rebuilding business. Because of his love for the history of the automobile industry and those who helped build it, Henry compiled this plethora of information regarding Connersville/Fayette County’s early manufacturing days. Some updates have been added to his findings
ROOTS Blower Company
Roots Blowers & Compressors, Dresser, Inc. is the longest continuously run manufacture of rotary positive displacement blowers in the United States. In 1854, Francis and Philander Roots, woolen mill owners in Connersville stumbled upon the principles that drive rotary positive displacement concept.
Francis and Philander, attempts to improve efficiency in their mill's power system failed as the wood lobe impellers water wheel warped and jammed when put to use. In the course of investigating the problem on dry land, one of the brothers turned a shaft and rotated the pair of impellers. The impellers produced a large wind force blowing off his brother's hat. At that point the brothers decided that they had a better blower than water wheel. Thus, the ROOTS blower concept and ROOTS Blower Company was created.
The rotary positive blower, invented around the same time as the telegraph and steam engine has withstood the test of time as the other inventions have fallen along the wayside. During the early years, the units provided reliable low-pressure air sources for anything from blacksmith forges, to mine ventilation, to the first New York City subway.
In 1893, an engineer broke from the ROOTS Blower Company and started the Connersville Blower Company. These two competitors continued in Connersville until 1931. At that time, the International Derrick and Equipment Company (IDECO) purchased both firms and created the ROOTS-Connersville Blower Company.
During 1931, ROOTS began to produce centrifugal compressors. Today, ROOTS manufactures integral-geared and pedestal mounted, overhung, single-stage centrifugal compressors as well as horizontally split multi-stage centrifugal compressors.
During WWII ROOTS supplied, Navy submarines and large surface craft with a special compressor used for ballast blowing.
In 1944, Dresser Industries, Inc. acquired ROOTS to expand its range of services for the gas and oil industries. During 1998, Dresser Industries merged with the Halliburton company. In 1999 the ROOTS and DMD Division of Dresser Equipment Group Inc. combined and in 2000 joined with the Instrument Division to form Dresser Measurement. During 2001, Dresser Equipment Group Inc. separated from Halliburton through management buy-out to form Dresser, Inc.
The Many Firsts of Connersville
Connersville has probably grown because of wide-awake men. A sample of this is the first free fair in the state, which was held in Connersville in September 1852. Also, Connersville is the home of the first high school band and the first industrial park in the nation.