H. Kaiser Buggy Co.

Compiled by the Kenton Democrat - Kenton, Ohio 1898

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Centennial History – Harden County, Ohio

By Herbert T. O. Blue

Hardin County History of Carriage & Wagon Factories:

Pool Brothers: In 1845, Harris Pool started a small shop on the corner of Franklin & Cherry Streets, which he ran until 1849, at which time he went to California and his brother, William, succeeded him in the business, another brother, John, subsequently becoming a partner. In 1858, they erected a new building on the southwest corner of Franklin & Wayne Streets, which they operated under the name of Pool Brothers for many years.

Day Pugh: About 1848 or 1849 Day Pugh started a blacksmith shop on the south side of Columbus Street, between Detroit and Market, and soon afterward, Francis Meyer erected a two-storied frame building adjoining for a wagon shop. In a short time Pugh bought the factory of Meyers, and for about four years continued the manufacturing of carriages and wagons, then abandoned the business, and C.C. Drake carried it on for a short time in this shop.

Henry Kaiser: One of the earliest carriage manufacturers in Kenton, began business is 1864 on North Main Street, but in 1873 moved his business to the northeast corner of Columbus and Wayne Streets, where he engaged in the manufacturer of buggies and light carriages, until the advent of the automobile. He was a native of Hesse, Germany, where he was born in 1840. He located in Kenton in 1859. His carriage business is still carried on by his sons under the firm name of Kaiser Motor Company (this was in 1933)

This Kaiser Buggy is owned by BSDC member Gary Gillfillian.  (click pictures to view)

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Before Restoration                         Gary's Kaiser Buggy after restoration   (see safe storm front)

Gary's buggy is unique because of its flip-down windshield with a mica window, rain apron which wraps around the passengers' legs, and the unique body style.   The safe storm front is superior to all others, it avoids the danger of being cooped up in case of an accident.  It will permit you to put your top down in a second. 

It can be kept on the buggy the whole year without inconvenience.   Furnishes you a rain apron and dust hood as well as a storm front.  It also permits you to carry a whip the usual way.

          

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PHOTO CAPTION Mary Louise Kaaiser-Mullins of Kenton remembers the past as she sits in a Kaiser buggy owned by Gary and Connie Gillfillian of rural Kenton. Mullins is the granddaughter of Henry Kaiser who began the H. Kaiser Kenton Carriage Works in Kenton in 1864. The carriage was found in a barn in the Forest area and was restored in 1992 by the Gillfillians with the help of the Amish in Mt Hope.                Article by Rhonda Pees, Times staff writer

Mary Louise Kaiser-Mullins remembers the days of the horse and buggy very well.

Sitting in her Resch Street home in Kenton, Mullins talked about her childhood and the days she spent in the factory, the H. Kaiser Kenton Carriage Works, which her grandfather, Henry Kaiser, began in Kenton in 1864 on North Main Street.

Her father, George, was the youngest son of Henry who owned the buggy company. He learned the buggy making trade in Germany and emigrated to the United States in 1859 with a sister and came to Kenton after living in Cincinnati. He began his buggy business in 1864.

After the original facility burned, the company moved in 1885 to the corner of Wayne and Columbus Streets where the Kenton Times is now located.

Mullins’ father was one of six boys. Not all of them continued in the business with their father. They all started but they didn’t all stay," said Mullins. It was Albert, Will, John and her father who remained in the business the longest, she said.

Mullins can remember visiting the buggy factory often beginning when she was about six years old. Her two younger sisters, Carolyn and Margaret who are both now deceased, didn’t share her interest in the factory, said Mullins.

Her father did all the trim work and upholstering on the buggies which were considered the finest and were made of the best materials, " I used to watch him," said Mullins. In the upholstering shop which was located in the upstairs of the building, Mullins watched him sew the fabric with a foot operated sewing machine.

She said she also remembers her father using his mouth to hold the tacks he used in upholstering. He told her to stand away from him while he worked. "One of them might fly in your eye," he would say to her, she said.

Instead, it was her father who was struck in the eye with a tack. His eye was removed and he wore a glass eye after that, said Mullins.

"I used to stand in the alley and watch the blacksmith" which was Ben Horn who built the framework for the buggies, said Mullins. She was particularly fond of him because he had a tremendous ability to spit tobacco juice. "I’d always get such a kick out of that," she said. He could consistently spit several feet and hit the fire across the room. "He was Good" she said.

"You wanna try it" he asked her one day. She decided instead of actually chewing the tobacco she would just try spitting. "I spit and it all went down the front of me," she said as she laughed.

The workers were used to seeing Mullins in the factory but she could not go anywhere she pleased at anytime. "I had to tell them where I was going," she said. Like any curious child, she asked the workers a lot of questions about what they were doing. "Sometimes they answered me, sometimes they didn’t," she said.

She remembers how the factory was organized. One room was where all metal forming was done. Nest to it in a room which was toward Wayne Street was where the buggy bodies of wood were made. Upstairs was the trim and upholstery room and the paint room, she said.

According to local history books, the buggy company made $10,000 in annual sales from selling and repairing carriages, phaetons and buggies. In 1899 a new road wagon made by the company sold for $50. The best buggy sold for approximately $100.

With approximately 10-14 employees the factory turned out 60-75 carriages per year. "They always said the Kaiser buggies were the best" she said.

I learned to drive before the buggy business went out," said Mullions. Life for the Kaisers changed when cars were invented. "The automobile stopped the buggies," said Mullions.

For a time the business went from making buggies to selling such cars as the Tucker before finally selling the business altogether, she said.

 

Peter Houser (Another Carriage Maker)

Peter Houser: He began the manufacturing of buggies and all classes of wagons in a large frame structure on South Main Street in 1877. He continued the business until his death.

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