A Short History of the Jeffrey Mining Corporate Center
The Lechner Mining Machine Co. was incorporated to build coal mining machinery. At that time, the slowest part of the mining cycle was the under-cutting, which required a miner to lie on his side for hours at a time, digging out a six inch thick cut, 4 feet deep, across a 10 to 20 foot wide face. Francis M. Lechner designed a chain driven, air-powered machine that could under-cut coal mechanically. He made a model of the machine in 1876 and displayed it in a store front on High Street, hoping to attract a backer to finance the construction of a prototype to test his idea.
Joseph Andrew Jeffrey saw the model and convinced the president of the Commercial Bank where he worked and several associates of the merits of Lechner's invention and the Lechner Mining Machine Co. was born.
The first machine was sent for trials to the Central Mining Co. in New Straitsville, Ohio. All did not go well. They persevered and developed a viable machine, though the hard going in the early years discouraged the first president of the company who resigned in 1880. Jeffrey succeeded him as president. The company leased its first factory on State Street near the river. In 1882 Lechner resigned as general manager. By 1885 the company was in financial difficulties, with all of its machinery and tools being mortgaged to the bank.
Business had improved. Jeffrey bought out several of the minority shareholders, including Lechner, and changed the company name to the Jeffrey Manufacturing Company.
The company moved to four acres on First Avenue, manufacturing motor driven coal cutters, underground electric locomotives, and elevators & conveyors. The first electrically driven coal cutter was shipped in 1888, as was the first underground electric locomotive, which soon became Jeffrey's second largest product line.
The Company displayed equipment at an exhibition in England and cutting machines and locomotives were sold to mines in South Africa and Australia.
The Jeffrey Manufacturing Co. acquired the Ohio Malleable Iron Company to obtain an assured source of malleable iron castings which were used in chain. By 1908, Jeffrey sales had risen to $3.9 million with 30% coming from the chain and materials handling divisions.
The Jeffrey Manufacturing Co. occupied 48 acres and employed more than 4,500 people. The company was the largest producer of coal cutters, mining and industrial locomotives in the world.
The company had its own transportation system with electric trucks; a private telephone system of about 200 phones, and its own water works. It also had a cooperative store that stocked groceries, provisions and clothing and one of the first industrial infirmaries in the country with a doctor and nurses. A mutual aid association was established for the benefit of employees in case of sickness or accident. A building and loan association helped employees to buy their own homes.
Troop B of the Ohio National Guard, which consisted largely of men from the Jeffrey Mining Co., was mobilized to go to Mexico to fight Pancho Villa.
Two of Joseph A. Jeffrey's sons organized an artillery battery, Battery B of the 37th Division, consisting of several hundred men from the Jeffrey Mining Co. which distinguished itself in France during World War I.
From 1908 to 1925 the company's net worth increased from $3.7 million to $10.6 million. The record year for sales was $15 million in 1920, which produced a net income of $1.8 million. Sales in the final quarter of 1925 were only $8 million and net income had dropped to $52,000.
In 1926 the company acquired The Diamond Coal Cutter Company Limited of Wakefield, England. In 1929 The Galion Iron Works and Manufacturing Company, a small manufacturer of road rollers and graders was acquired for nearly $2 million.
Between 1932 and 1934, the company lost over $1.2 million, exclusive of its subsidiaries. Sales in 1932 were barely $2 million. In spite of the fact that the company became profitable again in 1934, its net worth at the end of 1939 was less than it had been in 1929 due to the 1931-33 losses.
In 1936, Jeffrey introduced the first so-called universal cutting machine, the 29U, which would become the coal industry's mainstay for the next twelve years.
Most of the company's products were considered vital to the war effort, and favorable quotas and priorities for materials were obtained. Worldwide, the Jeffrey Manufacturing Company, counting its subsidiaries, employed approximately 7,500 people. The Jeffrey British Jeffrey-Diamond made radar equipment for detecting German bombers. Jeffrey Manufacturing won five Navy Es (for excellence) for supplying the chain for the ammunition hoists on a majority of American destroyers and cruisers built after 1942 and a new building was constructed for this purpose. (This building is now a part of the State Library facility.)
In 1946, the sales of the company's subsidiaries represented 38% of the total and a corresponding amount of the profits. The company structure was reorganized and the original company name was changed to the Jeffrey Company.
1950s - 1960s
While the company's performance was sliding and losses were incurred in all but one year from 1958 to 1962, British Jeffrey Diamond (BJ-D) and Galion were doing well. From 1951 through 1962, the Company's total net income was $52 million, of which 80% was supplied by Galion and BJ-D.
In 1966, sales had improved to $137 million.
In 1974, Jeffrey Mining Products was sold to Dresser Industries, Inc. of Dallas.
Thirty two Jeffrey plant buildings south of East 1st Ave. and east of 4th Street are razed.
Jeffrey Mining Products is purchased by a Cleveland investment group.
In March, the mining equipment business is sold to a competitor located in Virginia. Business had not been good. Before the sale was announced, the company employed 30 people, compared to 7,500 in its heyday. In April, Preferred Real Estate Advisors, a Philadelphia company specializing in converting abandoned industrial and warehouse buildings into office space, purchased the 11.5 acre site. The site had been listed for $3.5 million.
At the February 2000 meeting, the State Controlling Board approved a lease that will allow the State Library of Ohio to move into the former Jeffrey Corporate Mining Center.
The current State Library facility is actually several buildings, built over time and then connected. The east side of the Library (Ohioana, the Rare Book Room and the east stacks) was built in 1904. The high bay area, where most of the collection is housed, was built in the 1906. The area housing the compact shelving was built in 1930. A narrow bay, between the high bay area and the Circulation Desk, was built in 1936. The Navy Bay, which houses the Administration, Technical Services, Talking Books areas, was built in 1941 for the construction of materials for World War II.
Resources for this short history are:
A Short History of the Jeffrey Company, Robert H. Jeffrey II, April 1975
Jeffrey Service, Special Millennium Edition; June, 2000
Michael Hayes, Facilities Manager, Jeffrey Corporate Mining Center