Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center

 

Eveready Company

 

LH-289


Introduction

Agency History

Scope and Content

Inventory

Introduction

The Eveready Battery Co., Inc., a division of the Ralston Purina Company, ceased production at its Fremont, Ohio plant in March of 1998. Located at the corner of Wilson and West State Street, the plant had been the site of production of carbons and batteries for 110 years. Although many of its records were destroyed through the years, Plant Manager Ken Crozier and remaining employees attempted to preserve miscellaneous business records related to the Fremont plant site, particularly those documenting employee activities. Because of its long history as a major employer of Sandusky County, Ohio residents, Eveready saw its history as being inextricably linked to that of the surrounding area. During the final weeks of production, Eveready donated its remaining records to the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center. The same individuals were also responsible for producing a final history of the plant.

Agency History

Battery manufacturing's connection with the city of Fremont, Ohio, began in August 1887, when officials of the Thomson-Houston Electrical Co. in Lynn, Massachusetts, acquired a 5-acre parcel of land along West State Street that had previously been the "Harvester Works." The plant was designed to produce six-inch "carbons" -- pencil-shaped rods that resembled graphite and were used to create arc lights. By the fall of 1887, Thomson-Houston's Fremont plant was producing 15,000 carbons a day.

In association with Myron T. Herrick, James Parmelee, W. H. Lawrence, Webb C. Hayes, son of Rutherford B. Hayes, organized the National Carbon Company at Cleveland, Ohio in 1886. In 1890, National Carbon merged with Thomson-Houston, Standard Carbon, and Faraday Carbon. As a result, the Fremont plant became part of the National Carbon Company. By 1908, Webb Hayes was serving as National Carbon's vice president. Gross income reached nearly a million dollars.

On November 24, 1891, a fire destroyed the Thomson-Houston works, temporarily putting 175 people out of work. Contemporary newspaper reports indicated that the fire originated in the plant's plating room shortly after the night watchman entered it. Apparently, the flame from the night watchman's lantern ignited natural gas or gas from the naphtha used in the room, causing an explosion. The night watchman, who was thrown 20 feet by the blast, sustained minor burns and bruises. The plants storage room, and about $40,000 worth of carbons in it, was saved. The fire also destroyed the former McLean spike works that was located nearby. Thomson-Houston's losses were estimated at $150,000. The city of Fremont agreed to establish a $28,000 bond to assist in rebuilding the plant; Thomson-Houston Carbon Co. actually received $25,000. The plant was back in operation by March 1892, and by November of that year, workers were producing 70,000 carbons a day.

Dry cell production began at the plant at the turn of the century. In 1904, the plant, now the Thomson-Houston Works of the National Carbon Co., began manufacturing dry cells for autos ignitions in the old factory while a new building was being planned. The plant produced 12,000 six-inch cells a day. The new building was erected in 1905 and production began there in on January 1, 1906. The plant continued to produce arc light carbons for a few years while dry cell manufacturing grew. Over the next 25 years, the plant produced six-, seven- and eight-inch dry cells and many shapes and sizes of flashlight cells. Two additions were made to the 1905 building in 1912 and work began on Leland signal cells (batteries to power railroad safety signals), layerbuilt dry cells and air cells. The Fremont plant received a patent for its Columbia High Voltage Signal Cell in 1918.

In 1914, National Carbon Co. bought the American Eveready Co. During that year, men's standard work week totaled 60 hours at a wage of 17.5 cents an hour; women worked an average of 54 hours a week at 11 cents an hour. In 1924, both men and women worked 49.7 hours a week with men making 33 to 35 cents an hour and women earning 22 cents an hour. With the growth of organized labor in the 1930's, wages increased as the length of the work week declined. As World War II approached, employees committed to six-day work weeks and the freezing of wages and salaries. During the war, the plant produced materials for the U. S. Armed Forces. After World War II, the battery business boomed. Employment at the Fremont plant doubled. In 1948, the plant began a six-year run of producing hearing aid batteries and from 1953 to 1955 was involved in a Navy Department project for coating zinc. In 1960, the Eveready Battery Co. plant in Fremont began producing "C" and "D" carbon zinc flashlight batteries. The plant ended its signal cell production unit in 1971, after nearly 70 years. Air cell battery production began in 1933 and ended in 1975. In 1972, the Fremont plant became the Battery Products Division and began manufacturing "C" and "D" zinc chloride batteries. The following year, a 24,000-square-foot warehouse and new shipping and receiving docks were added. In 1979, a major renovation project was completed, with 120,000 square feet of old buildings demolished and 148,000 square feet of new construction added. Also during that year, the plant ended the manufacture of six-inch dry cells. The plant had produced six-inch dry cells continuously for 75 years.

A methyl isocyanate gas leak in an underground tank in Bhopal, India, sparked what would be the downfall of the Union Carbide and Carbon Co. and Eveready Battery Co. The leak killed 2,000 and injured 20,000. The financial impact lead to the sale of the battery division of Union Carbide to Ralston Purina Co. in 1986. Declining consumer demand for carbon zinc batteries in the late 1980's put the Fremont plant in jeopardy. Three other Eveready plants closed by the time the Fremont plant's closing was announced on June 3, 1997. The Fremont site was the last of Eveready's carbon zinc battery plants when it ceased production in March 1998.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of business records (correspondence, product information, personnel records), manufacturing data, employee newsletters, social activity programs and photographs of batteries, machinery, social activities and Fremont city scenes. The collection spans the entire history of the battery plant's years in the city -- 1887-1998 -- with the bulk of business and production materials covering 1900-1928 and social activities materials covering 1945-1979. There are approximately 360 photographs in the collection ranging from 1905 to 1986.

Despite the lack of board minutes and financial records, the Eveready Co. records provide some insights into the labor force, production, marketing, and distribution of carbons and batteries, particularly from 1900 to 1928. Many of the business records were transferred or destroyed during changes in company ownership. The bulk of the records that survived are related to employee social activities (plant newsletters and photographs) for the thirty-five-year period from the end of WWII to around 1980. Many were preserved by office employees at the Fremont site. Through the years, the company produced a number of histories that reflect the changing business practices during the twentieth century that affected both labor and management.

Inventory

Ac. 5446

10 linear ft.

 

Box 1

Folder:

1. Business correspondence, 1902-1904
2. Business correspondence, May 1-November 17, 1905
3. Inter-plant correspondence, 1909-1915
4. Personnel, pay rates, and production and shipping standards, 1919-1924
5. Battery data, 1908-1912
6. National Carbon battery brands and grades, 1905-1914
7. Thomson-Houston battery costs, October 13, 1911
8. Statistics, 1907-1928
9. Production schedules, 1916-1920
10. Battery specifications (photocopies), 1909-1912
11. Production data (photocopies), 1913-1924
12. Ordinances for rebuilding Thomson-Houston Carbon Co., 1892
13. Property purchases, 1900-1973
14. Products, offices and services list, 1975
15. Capital budget proposal, 1979
16. Facility renovation, 1979
17. C3 Lab instructions, July 1914-December 1915
18. C3 Lab instructions, 1916
19. Signal cell test data, October 1920
20. Sto. voltage daily test data, January 5-May 25, 1938
21. Temperature data, November 10, 1944-December 11, 1945
22. "C" size cell manufacturing relocation study, November 4, 1964
23. Photocopy of 1918 electric battery patent
24. National Carbon Co. Factory H building and floor plan, 1920
25. Employee handbook and identification photo button, 1929
26. Company histories, 1887-1997
27. Company stationary, circa 1890-1920

Box 2

Folder:

1. Manufacturing notes, 1913-1927
2. Manufacturing notes (photocopies), 1913-1927
3. Manufacturing notes, 1914-1918
4. Manufacturing notes (photocopies), 1914-1918
5. Manufacturing notes, 1917-1920
6. Manufacturing notes (photocopies), 1917-1920
7. Manufacturing notes, 1917
8. Manufacturing notes (photocopies), 1917
9. Manufacturing notes, Government Plant (World War I), 1918
10. Manufacturing notes, Government Plant (World War I) (photocopies), 1918

Box 3

Folder:

1. Manufacturing notes, 1918
2. Manufacturing notes (photocopies), 1918
3. Manufacturing notes, 1919
4. Manufacturing notes (photocopies), 1919
5. Manufacturing notes, 1920
6. Manufacturing notes (photocopies), 1920
7. Manufacturing notes, 1922
8. Manufacturing notes (photocopies), 1922
9. Manufacturing notes, 1923
10. Manufacturing notes (photocopies), 1923

Box 4

Folder:

1. Standard Safety Practices on Mechanical Safety and Fire Protection, Sets 1 & 2, February 1932
2. Insurance survey, 1942
3. Union Carbide & Carbon Corp. Activities and Products, 1924
4. The Ralston Chronicle, 1894-1994 (published 1994)
5. Energizer World, December 1997
6. Funeral Fund records, 1904-1914; annual report, 1929
7. Safety award, service, and retirement dinner programs; funeral cards, 1923-1973
8. Retirement dinner programs, March 14, 1998
9. Carbon News (incomplete), 1915-1918
10. Carbon News (incomplete) (photocopies), 1915-1918
11. Amperage (incomplete), 1920-1923
12. Amperage (incomplete) (photocopies), 1920-1923
13. National Carbon News Bulletin, August and December 1937
14. NCC News (World War II newsletter), August 1944-February 1946
15. Tattletales (The Foremen's Club), 1951-1955
16. Fremont Foremen's Club correspondence, 1958
17. Fremont Retirees' Newsletter, 1964-1972
18. Newspaper clippings: Business stories, activities, retirements, anniversaries, weddings, obituaries,
      1953-1957
19. Newspaper clippings: Business stories, activities, retirements, anniversaries, weddings, obituaries,
      1958-1963
20. Newspaper clippings: Business stories, activities, retirements, anniversaries, weddings, obituaries,
      1963-1968
21. Newspaper clippings: Business stories, activities, retirements, anniversaries, weddings, obituaries,
      1968-1979
22. Sandusky County promotional publication, circa 1978

Box 5

Folder:

1. Christmas party programs (incomplete), 1929-1956
2. Christmas party programs, 1957-1966
3. Christmas party programs (incomplete), 1967-1985
4. Christmas party programs, 1986-1997
5. Photographs: 1905 expansion
6. Photographs: Plant exteriors, 1887-1970
7. Photographs: Plant exteriors, 1970-1986
8. Photographs: Scrapbook, batteries and machinery, 1907-1912
9. Photographs: Batteries and machinery, 1906-1915
10. Photographs: Machinery, circa 1950-1968
11. Photographs: Batteries, 1904-1997
12. Photographs: Operating committee factory tours, 1963 and 1965
13. Photographs: Factory workers, circa 1906-1970
14. Photographs: Groups, circa 1890-1965
15. Photographs: Advertising, circa 1900-1920
16. Photographs: Plant picnics, 1961-1962
17. Photographs: Plant Christmas parties, 1949-1961
18. Photographs: Retirement parties, 1963
19. Photographs: Activities and parties, 1925-1961
20. Photographs: Plant sports teams and outings, 1916-1971
21. Photographs: Fremont city scenes, 1945
22. Photographs: Rodger Young Park dedication, 1945
23. Photographs: Sandusky County Fair, 1945
24. Photographs: Fremont Ross sports, 1944-1945

Box 6

Payroll Book, January-October 1890

Payroll Book, October 1890-June 1891

Photograph of artist's depiction of proposed addition, 1981

Oversize

National Carbon Co. Inc. Factory H building and floor plan, 1920 (originals and smaller photographs in Box 1, Folder 24)

Product samples and memorabilia were transferred to the Museum

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