The Cyclopædia of American Biography/Barber, Ohio Columbus

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The Cyclopædia of American Biography  (1918) 
James E. Homans, editor
Barber, Ohio Columbus

BARBER, Ohio Columbus, manufacturer, man of affairs, b. at Middlebury, now a part of Akron, Ohio, 20 April, 1841, son of George and Eliza (Smith) Barber. He was named after his native state and its capital and few of her sons have contributed more to her manufacturing fame. The family is of English origin and was founded in America in the seventeenth century by five brothers. A well-authenticated tradition, which is commonly accepted as a genealogical fact, is that one of his forbears, Anna Bacon, was a full cousin to Francis Bacon, the great English statesman and philosopher. His mother was of Holland stock. Her mother was born in America when Washington was President, and lived within the lifetime of every President down to President Wilson. At the time of her death, she was within eighteen months of the ripe age of 100 years. His father, George Barber, was a native of Hartford, Conn., who was brought by his parents to Onondaga County, New York, as a child. Here he grew to manhood, learning the trade of a cooper. Moving westward to Ohio, he established himself as a cooper at Middlebury and so continuing until 1847, when he developed an initiative which culminated in a great industry, by embarking on a small scale in the making of matches. The “Lucifer,” or sulphur match, was then almost unknown in the West, and a scarce article outside of the larger cities everywhere. This enterprise proved to be far-seeing and successful, finally developing into the largest manufactory of its kind in the world. He died 12 April, 1879, in his seventy-seventh year. Ohio C. Barber, his son, destined to become the head of this great industry, received a common-school education and began work for his father when he was fifteen years old. He developed in his youth an aptitude for affairs of which the chronicle is little short of marvelous. At the age of twenty he became a partner in the match manufacturing business, and at the age of twenty-one, its general manager. The growth of the business was rapid, and in 1868 it was incorporated as the Barber Match Company with his father, George Barber, as president, himself as secretary, treasurer and general manager. Shortly before his father's death, in 1879, he became the president of the company. Two years later (1881), with that far-seeing genius for organization which has distinguished all the great captains of industry, he began the consolidation which resulted in the formation of the Diamond Match Company, which has become one of the largest industries in the world. Originally, Mr. Barber was vice-president of the company but became president in 1888, and continued for twenty-five years. His influence and methods dominated the manufacture of matches to a great degree throughout the world for a quarter of a century. The system worked out in the research department of the Diamond Match Company, has been extended to every quarter of the globe. Machinery for making matches — manufactured at Barberton, a city of 20,000 population, founded by and named after Mr. Barber, the headquarters of this American industry — can be found all over Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. The sun never sets on factories in active operation making matches by the method and machinery developed by the genius and initiative, and the unflagging enterprise of Ohio C. Barber. Not long after its inception, a branch of the Diamond Match Company was established in London, in association with the well-known firm of Bryant and May, under which name the business was conducted. The factory for this enterprise was built in Liverpool and was the largest plant devoted to the making of matches in all the Eastern Hemisphere. From this plant matches were exported to all parts of the world. It was the greatest stimulus the business had known abroad since the first match was made, three-quarters of a century before. Later, plants were established in Germany and Switzerland; still later, the May Company was organized to consolidate the business of South Africa, where the manual process was performed by native Africans. Another development of world-embracing value of the research department of the Diamond Match Company was the manufacture of potash for commercial uses. It is said that no other concern has ever made a commercial success in the extraction of potash from kelp. The chemical process was discovered and worked out to perfection by W. A. Fairburn, a chemist long connected with the Barber interests, and is one of the notable practical achievements in the science of chemistry of the past century. Owing to this discovery the price of matches has not been raised since the European War shut off the old sources of potash supply. Mr. Fairburn is now president of the Diamond Match Company. Naturally, as the president of a great corporation, Mr. Fairburn originates and develops numerous improvements in methods of manufacture and for the extension of the company's business, but he is also big enough to accept and put into active operation the suggestions of the man who first created and developed this great industry. While relieved of the burden of responsibility, Mr. Barber, as a sort of president emeritus, co-operates with the active president in solving the various perplexing problems which are encountered in the constant expansion of the company's business. Thus Mr. Barber and Mr. Fairburn perfected the modern process of match-making in which the “occupational disease,” due to poisoning with phosphorus, was finally eliminated. This discovery was made public, in the interest of humanity, thus removing an aggravated cause of suffering among workers. Also, Mr. Fairburn has worked out and applied the altruistic views of Mr. Barber in the treatment of employees and the promotion of their welfare. In the words of Mr. Fairburn: “The rule in handling the workers in all the Barber concerns is that of co-operation, good-fellowship, and the development of an esprit de corps, rather than the method of ‘scientific welfare work,’ in which employees are treated rather as automatons and machines than as intelligent entities. The watchword is, therefore, ‘good-fellowship,’ which is realized when there is an opportunity for unfettered development, and it is often expressed in a positive, reasoning, and harmonious co-operation with others. If the creed of the good-fellowship worker could find expression, I think it might run something like this: ‘I believe in myself, my work and my fellows. I am a part of the company, and the company is mine. I am in part responsible for its progress and its standing; it is worthy of my best thought and loyalty. My work is my channel of development, therefore the better service rendered the company, the greater my growth.’ ” It is interesting to note, in this connection, that, while the company heads have encouraged organization among its workers, there has never been a strike among them, and that, even when excellent offers have been made to many of them by large manufacturers of munitions, etc., there have been no cases of defection. The leading feature in this enlightened policy is ready recognition and reward of exceptional effort, ability, and fidelity. Thus, each worker is encouraged to do his or her best, and to gain other advantages than a mere money bonus in the development of innate powers and abilities. With the successful development of the manufacture of matches on a scale hitherto unknown, Mr. Barber turned his attention to other lines of industry. Like so many other great men of affairs, he seemed to find his recreation in the pursuit of new enterprises. Thus, in 1889, he founded and organized the American Straw Board Company, of which he is still president. He is recognized as the potent spirit of this industry the world over. He was one of the early manufacturers of rubber products, which, as an industry, has developed to such mammoth proportions. Mr. Barber organized and managed the Diamond Rubber Company up to the time of its acquirement by the B. F. Goodrich Company. The sewer-pipe and steel-tube industry next engaged his attention, and he became a western pioneer in this line of endeavor. He founded the Sterling Company which was merged a few years ago with the Babcock and Wilcox Boiler Manufacturing Company of Barberton and Bayonne, N. J., the concern thus becoming the largest manufacturer of steel boilers in the world, working as they did under the most improved patents. For a number of years they constructed four-fifths of the product used by the United States navy. One of the biggest achievements of Mr. Barber's career, particularly from the humanitarian and economical standpoints, was the establishment, with Frederick Grinnell and others, of the General Fire Extinguisher Company. No other of the several concerns in this field of industry has equaled the results of this one. Mr. Barber is the founder and sole owner of the O. C. Barber Concrete Company, whose plant at Barberton is said to be the largest of its kind in the world. It also makes art works in concrete. Another large enterprise originated by himself is the O. C. Barber Fertilizer Company, of Barber, Va. He has also undertaken the development of large tracts of land in and about the city of Canton, Ohio, in connection with which he has organized and is operating a large plant under the name of the O. C. Barber Allied Industries Company. Some of these lands contain valuable coal, lime, and clay properties. He is the original genius and guiding spirit of the great centralization transportation system, known as the Barber Subways, at Cleveland. This is a plan which calls for the building of an underground system of subways connecting every railroad entering Cleveland, at the Lake Front, thus facilitating the handling of freight, and the establishment of the great warehouse system on the Lake Shore, where he owns large frontages. He has been the leading spirit in affairs in his own home town, Akron, for many years. He was, for many years, president of the First National Bank of Akron, and when it was consolidated with the Second National Bank under the name of the First-Second National Bank he was unanimously elected to the presidency of the combined institutions. He built the City Hospital of Akron at a cost of a quarter of a million dollars and presented it to the corporation. He has contributed generously to other important movements for the welfare of the community. In 1891 he founded and began the development of the city of Barberton, Ohio, which, under his guiding hand, has grown into an important industrial center with a population of over 20,000. Of all Mr. Barber's numerous enterprises none has come quite so near to his heart as the ideal country estate known as the “Anna Dean Farm,” not far from Barberton, which he has developed not only into what is undoubtedly the model farm of the United States, but also, with his usual genius for the practical, into what promises to be a great utilitarian industry. This farm contains 3,500 acres, or nearly six square miles, in one of the most charming locations in the state. One of the natural features is a chain of beautiful lakes. Its topographical features are ideal, both for practical and recreative purposes. On the improvement of this beautiful tract, Mr. Barber has spent millions of dollars, constantly adding to it year by year, and all this wealth of natural and developed usefulness and beauty is to be left for the benefit of the general public at the owner's death. It is unquestionably the largest and most ideal venture in progressive agriculture and horticulture in the world to-day. It is Mr. Barber's purpose that it become a head center of special instruction of the highest type in these arts. Several colleges are now collaborating with Mr. Barber to combine and found on this beautiful estate a training-school in all the branches of the allied arts of agriculture and horticulture, recognizing that opportunities are here offered for instruction and practical experimentation which can be found nowhere else. The school will be a residential institution, governed by the broadest policy of improvement and opportunity for making good, and will be open to both sexes. Nearly 1,000 head of cattle, horses, and other livestock are maintained constantly on the farm, in a series of model barns and pastures. Every modern method for the improvement of breeds and rearing of stock is in operation, on a scale scarcely ever attempted before, and with results that interest even experts. There is also an extensive poultry farm, squabbery, dairy, cannery, a slaughtering house and packing department, a mill for the grinding of meals, feeds, and flour, extensive silos, and all other equipment of the most up-to-date establishments. Every by-product is also utilized in a most intelligent and systematic manner. For example, animal by-products are utilized as fertilizer, which, together with large acreage of green vegetable manuring crops, are annually plowed under, making a combination of elements that cannot be equaled in any other way, and which is producing results that are attracting the attention of experts throughout the world. The great advantage of the system thus in operation is, that it is equally adaptable to the limited means of the ordinary farmer. Several of the cows on the farm have held, or now hold, the world's record for milk production, and, as is claimed with evident truth, no herd in the world to-day can equal that of the Anna Dean Farm in production, individuality, show animals, prominence of breeding, and general values. Among the large herd of horses, most of which are bred for heavy drafting, is the great Belgian sire “Jupiter Chief,” now (1917) about six years old, who, like many of his colts, has won numerous prizes and medals throughout the United States. A force of 300 men is kept constantly at work in all departments of the Anna Dean Farm. As a man of large affairs, all his life, Mr. Barber has of late years become a thinker for the people at large, and his recent pamphlets on various public questions have attracted national attention. Always fearless in his convictions, he has not hesitated to use strong words in his criticisms of public men and measures, and yet always there biats the sound heart of a true patriot and broad-minded friend of humanity. Shortly after the outbreak of the European War, he issued a carefully prepared personal document entitled, “Rational Preparedness,” which exhibited wide and accurate knowledge of national aflairs, and while sounding a true note of warning, took up, one by one, the problems of defense involved by land and sea, and pointed their solution with rare sagacity and knowledge. With a record of achievements which can modestly be called great, Mr. Barber, now in his seventy-seventh year, is still a man of large affairs — an organizer, builder, and doer of large things. His physical strength is equal to his courage, and both to his ambition, and it is the beautiful wish of a very large and united community that his long, useful, and unselfish life may be prolonged to see the fullest realization of his splendid vision. Mr. Barber has married twice; first in 1866, Laura L. Brown, of Akron (deceased), by whom he had one daughter, who is Mrs. Arthur Dean Bevan, of Chicago, and second Mary Orr, daughter of R. W. Orr, of Akron.