Images of America: Hamilton’s Industrial Heritage, a new book by Butler County Historical Society board member Richard N. Piland, pays tribute to Hamilton’s industrial history.
Since its founding in 1791, Hamilton has nearly always been an important center of activity in the region. After Ohio became a state in 1803, the city became an agricultural hub and county seat. The town’s location on the Great Miami River attracted a variety of millers who powered their businesses with the river’s current and by the late 1830s, dozens of mills dotted the landscape.
Things picked up in 1845, when the Hamilton and Rossville Hydraulic Company diverted the river’s flow through town and developed a system that supplied cheap water power to area mills. The hydraulic generated enough horsepower to attract mills that produced paper, flour, cotton, wool, and machine shops. Other early businesses included sawmills that cut lumber for constructing homes and businesses, planning mills that made flooring and weather boards, cotton mills that made yarn and fabrics, grinding mills that broke stone, and foundries that melted iron for castings.
By the 1860s, Hamilton was a leading producer of farm implements such as reapers, hay rakes, harvesters, and plows. The advent of steam engines brought a shift in production, and the population of skilled artisans and workingmen in the community brought new factories to the city. By 1900, Hamilton was “the greatest manufacturing city of its size in the world” and produced a staggering variety and diversity of products for the world’s markets.
Hamilton’s factories became the preeminent leaders in their business segments and the standard by which their competitors were judged. In the 1940s, Hamilton was home to several of the world’s largest industries. The Champion Paper Company was the world’s largest coated paper mill. More than half of the world’s safes and vaults were made by the Mosler and Herring-Hall-Marvin safe companies, giving the city its reputation as the “Safe Capital of the World.” Niles Tool Works was one of the largest machine tool manufacturers, Hooven-Owens-Rentschler was one of the largest Corliss engine builders, and Estate Stove was one of the largest stove makers in the world.
Images of America: Hamilton’s Industrial Heritage, Piland’s fourth book for Arcadia Publishing, is scheduled to be released May 4, includes more than 200 vintage photographs and highlights many of the companies that manufactured paper, safes and vaults, engines and vehicles, machine tools, foundries and many other products.
Piland will have a book signing from noon to 4:00 pm on Saturday, May 9, at the Butler County Historical Society, 327 North 2nd Street, Hamilton, 45011.
He is a 35-year resident of the Hamilton area and former college professor and owner of a local community survey research firm.