Edward Huber To Be Honored At Steam Show in Marion

S. G. Baxter
June/July 1995

Edward Huber.
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From earliest Colonial times, searching for more progressive approaches to the business of farming practices has concerned our leaders as well as the common farmer. Ben Franklin, as early as 1743, and his fellow members of the American Philosophical Society discussed ways to improve agriculture and animal husbandry for the betterment of this country. George Washington, at Mount Vernon, employed such farming techniques as diversification of crops and soil conservation practices and he made use of new farming tools as they were introduced. Thomas Jefferson, designer of the mould board plow, built a seed drill and improved on an early threshing machine.

The tools of cultivation used by the earliest of Colonial America's farmers were axes, hoes, spades and grubbing hooks. Those used in harvest were the sickle, scythe, cradle and flail. All required the physical strength of man to operate, and put severe restraints upon the size of a crop a man could plant, cultivate and reap.

As settlers spread across the country, discovering the vast fertile plains, unimpeded by trees, which were ready and awaiting their pleasure, farmers began to realize how limited they were with only crude hand tools and horse-drawn plows unsuited for this sod. America's farmers wanted better tools.

With the development of special plows, tilling and seed drilling equipment the work of horses and oxen replaced that of man as a major source of power on American farms, enabling farmers to produce more and to more easily feed the growing population of the country. Finally, instead of the farmer carrying his crude tools to the fields, he himself was hauled there sitting upon his tools, his 'modern farming equipment,' and for the first time some farming operations could be accomplished while the farmer sat down. Many tried to invent equipment for every aspect of farming life. Few succeeded. One of these successful innovators was Edward Huber. Born in 1837, he died in 1904, a span of only 67 years. Yet during that short time he made a profound difference on the American farm scene. He was a blacksmith living in Indiana when he devised a revolving hay rake. This rake, made of wood, was drawn by horses across a field of cut hay and would gather the hay into the revolving mechanism until it was full, then the hay was dumped into a pile. Later these piles would be pitched onto a hay wagon. Mr. Huber, at the age of 26, was granted a patent for this machine in 1863. This was his first. In his lifetime he was granted over one hundred patents for his inventions.

He found that ash and hickory were the best woods to use in the manufacture of his hay rake. John Hammerle, his wife Elizabeth's brother, told him that these trees grew in abundance in and around the little town of Marion, Ohio, so he moved his operations there in 1865, the year that marked the end of the Civil War.

With borrowed tools Huber rented space at the corner of State and Mill Streets and the Hammerle, Monday and Huber Company was formed, with Huber acting as superintendent. He soon invented a machine which would bore and mortise the rake heads and insert the teeth automatically which increased production. This is the present site of the Huber Museum.

Huber so impressed local financiers with the success of his fledgling business that he had no trouble obtaining backing for expansion. In 1875 Huber incorporated his own company, the Huber Manufacturing Company, with a capital stock of $75,000, and he was able to continue designing patentable mechanical devices, among them steam farm engines, grain separators and grain threshers.

In 1876 Huber's road scraper took first place at the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia, and in 1893 the Huber Manufacturing Company won four awards for their engines exhibited at the World's Fair at Chicago. At this time the Huber Company began to sell internationally to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Russia and West Indies. At one point in the history of the company, Huber became America's largest manufacturer and exporter of farm machinery.

He always used high quality materials, good workmanship in manufacturing his equipment, and he maintained integrity and honesty in his business dealings. He had a special affection for his workers. Knowing that his employees needed homes but could not have them without a money source, he founded Marion's first Building and Loan Company. He held a picnic each year for the enjoyment of his employees and their families, a tradition which continues during the Marion County Fair each year. He was so well liked that at his death 5,000 people attended his funeral. This was about a third of Marion's population at the time.

Sawmill in operation at a past Marion Co. show. Don Bradon, formerly in the engineering department of the Huber Manufacturing Company, having purchased all rights and parts from that former company from Figgie International, has formed a new company, ENFAB, in Galion, Ohio, and will produce a 'new' Huber maintainer in the near future. We hope to have an example of this new equipment at the 1995 show in June.

Edward Huber was a man with a generous nature and he supported financially many of the progressive ventures in Marion, leading the city into the industrial revolution. He was instrumental in the building of the Marion Electric Company, the Marion Street Railway, the Marion Oil Company, the Marion Tool Works and the Prendergast Lumber Company. As stated earlier he founded the Marion Building and Loan Company and the Marion Malleable Iron Company. He was president of the National Bank and of the Marion Implement Company. He founded Marion's first public lending library and established Marion's Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). Of all of these accomplishments, he is probably the most famous for incorporating the Marion Steam Shovel Company in 1884 which manufactured the steam shovels that made the building of the Panama Canal possible.

The Marion Steam Shovel Company continued to produce power shovels through the age of steam into the modern age of gasoline and diesel fuels. Some of these power shovels were so large that several dump trucks or a hundred men or more could be placed within their shovels. These were often used in strip mining and other large earth moving operations.

For his life's work, dedicated to the betterment of farming, Edward Huber was admitted to the Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1990. Prior to this he was admitted to Senior Citizens Hall of Fame in 1987.

In spite of all his accomplishments Edward Huber seems hidden behind the image of President Harding, another famous Marion resident. It is time this great man is recognized for his vision and industry and his unique ability to see a mechanical need and meet it with the invention of the proper machine.

A group of people in Marion fully appreciate Edward Huber and keep his memory alive through the Edward Huber Memorial Association. Though fund raising has been difficult, the Association members are hoping to dedicate a new museum in his honor at the 18th annual Marion County Steam and Gas Engine Society Show to be held on the Marion County Fairgrounds, Marion, Ohio, June 15-18 (Father's Day weekend). At this show many examples of Huber's machinery and memorabilia will be on display.

One piece of memorabilia offered by the Association is a pamphlet called Tractor in the Making, available for a donation of $1 and a self-addressed stamped business envelope. Send to the Edward Huber Memorial Association, Anna May Schwaderer, 649 Columbus-Sandusky Road South, Marion, Ohio 43302. This pamphlet contains information suitable for school projects and reports. If you wish to make a donation to the Museum Fund send it to the address listed above or call (614) 389-1098. All donations are greatly appreciated.

Ask the gate personnel about handicapped parking and for any assistance you need. Representatives of the press and media are admitted free. Arrange bus tours of Marion's historical points of interest and our show through the Marion Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau (614) 383-1666. For show information send a self-addressed stamped business envelope to Marion Ohio Show, Stanley Winck, President, 585 Cleveland Ave., Marion, OH 43302, or call (614) 383-4871.


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