In 1868, Elizabeth became engaged to George DeWalt Harter, the son of well-established Canton banker Isaac Harter Senior, and a banker himself. George was also the first plant manager of Cornelius Aultman’s Mansfield factory. In March 1869, the two married and Elizabeth Aultman became Elizabeth Harter. In January 1870, the two had their first child, Eliza, named after Elizabeth’s mother. The newlywed couple was wrought with grief when their daughter passed away at only six months old. Over the next seventeen years, Elizabeth and George had five more children, consisting of four girls and one boy. Their only son, Cornelius Aultman Harter, passed when he was only four years old on May 17, 1880. On December 8, 1890, George Harter’s death made Elizabeth the sole parent of four daughters, aged 19, 12, 10, and 3. In addition to her professional responsibilities with inheriting her late husband’s business interests, Elizabeth now had to raise four young women on her own.
Elizabeth Aultman Harter’s involvement in her father Cornelius Aultman’s business was exceptional for a few reasons. First, it was rare for women to be involved in business operations, let alone at the level Elizabeth would reach in her lifetime. Secondly, Elizabeth was only nineteen in 1867 when she began serving on the board of directors for the farm equipment manufacturer Aultman & Taylor Company in Mansfield, Ohio. Despite the common attitude towards women working at this time, her father was incredibly proud and encouraging of his only child.
For over fifty-five years, from 1866 to 1924, Elizabeth was an integral part of the Aultman Taylor Company’s success in the farming machinery industry. Additionally, following the passing of her father and her husband, George DeWalt Harter, Elizabeth inherited their fortunes, along with their responsibilities. Because of this, Elizabeth took on leadership roles at various business and banking institutions.
A C. Aultman & Co. fashion trade card, one from a set of four. The front of these cards commemorated fashion throughout one hundred years prior and the backside advertised the company’s brand of Buckeye Harvesting Machines.
The Genealogy of the Essig Family. Pictured in the bottom left corner, a man uses a Buckeye Binder.
The heading on a piece of Aultman & Taylor Machinery Co. stationary. Mrs. Harter is identified as the vice president of the company in the top left corner of the paper. This heading also features the company’s logo of a starving chicken. It is accompanied by the slogan, “Fattened on an Aultman-Taylor straw stack.” This ironic comment is a reference to the fact that Aultman & Taylor machines leave behind no grain for chickens to feed on.
On May 14, 1847, Elizabeth Aultman Harter was born to Cornelius and Eliza Wise Aultman in Greentown, Ohio. Throughout her life, Elizabeth would leave a lasting legacy here in Stark County. She would serve on the board of directors for her father’s business, the Aultman Taylor Company, and bring great success to the corporation. She would provide the location for future President William McKinley’s front porch campaign and become the close friend of several other presidents. Along with her stepmother Katherine Barron Reybold Aultman, Elizabeth would create Stark County’s first hospital, which is still caring for hundreds of thousands of patients today. She would become the third president of Canton’s YWCA. Another thing that made Mrs. Harter so outstanding is that she, like her father Cornelius Aultman, was one of Cantons greatest ‘silent’ benefactors, putting many young men through college who otherwise would not have had the opportunity. She was also left a young widow and single mother to four children at the age of forty-three. She was a multifaceted woman who fulfilled numerous roles during her life, as well as overcame several devastating hardships. By the time of her passing on October 25, 1932, Elizabeth had reached various achievements throughout her lifetime, exceptional then, and still remarkable to this day.
Thanks to a recent donation of photographs, the stories of prominent Canton businessman Leo Abt and his store have been rediscovered. Included in the donation were photographs of Abt’s store, the clerks, portraits of the family, and more pictures whose backstories remain a mystery. The captions on the back of the photos were minimal, often providing only basic information. More research had to be done to uncover their stories. An article found by volunteer Sue Henry gave a valuable start to uncovering Abt’s story. This Canton Repository article, written by Gretchen Putnam in 1937, included a photograph of Abt’s clerks, matching a photo that came to the library in the donation. In her article, a part of the series Canton’s Family Album in the Canton Repository, Putnam identifies the clerks and gives an overview of Abt’s millinery. Using the clerk’s names and this new information, I began researching. Throughout my investigation, I discovered Abt’s personal life story, his professional accomplishments, and overall developed a picture of life in Canton in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Leo Abt was born on December 31, 1850 in Melzungen, Hesse Castle, Germany as the youngest of twelve children. At the age of sixteen, Abt immigrated to the United States. Abt later married fellow German immigrant Flora Ury in New York City on November 8, 1873. On November 22, 1875, the couple had their first son, Arthur Loeser Abt, in the town of Aurora, Indiana on the western border of Ohio. Later, the family moved to Circleville, Ohio, a city just south of Columbus. Here, Leo and Flora had two more sons. Edwin I. was born on March 19, 1878. Two years later on July 9, 1880, Oscar Moses Abt was born. The Abt family arrived in the city of Canton on April 1, 1888.
In his personal life, Abt was a deeply religious man who fostered Canton’s Jewish community from the ground up. In 1915, Abt, with committee of other devoted Jews, began working passionately to create a synagogue for their religious community. Today, this structure is the Canton Pentecostal Temple, located at 950 McKinley Ave Northwest. After Abt’s passing, he was described by Charles I. Cooper as the “father of Jewish communal life in Canton.” Further, he was the beloved president of the Canton Hebrew Congregation at the time of his death. The congregation recalled Abt’s memory as being the “most efficient and faithful member and worker” who “was especially fitted in every way for the position of president.” His congregation also described him as being a “friend to all, and really a father to many.” It is clear that Abt was greatly respected and treasured by his community in faith.
In addition to being a leading figure of the Jewish community, Abt was a prominent Canton businessman. For over thirty years from the time of his arrival in Canton until his passing, Abt was an industrious and hardworking merchant. In early May of 1888, Leo Abt’s New York Bazaar was announced to be opened in the Evening Repository, as the Canton Repository was known then. At the time of its opening, the bazaar was advertised as being located at 21 South Market Street. Today, this would be the lot at the corner of Market Avenue South and 2nd Street Southwest. Days after the opening was announced, on May 14and 16, the bazaar’s grand opening was declared a “great success” in the Evening Repository. The advertisement describes “throngs” of customers in attendance, and apologizes for not being able to help every patron due to the mass of shoppers. The millinery department was particularly popular. In 1937 in the Canton Repository, historian Gretchen Putnam described the busy workroom filled with young female employees, referred to as “trimmers.” These girls included Katie Mintzenburger, who was the head trimmer, Inez E. Allensworth, who later owned and operated her own millinery, sisters Olivia Fierstos and Rosia Victoria Halter, and many more.
Abt continued his business under several different names over the years, including Leo Abt & Sons, and the Leo Abt Company at the time of his passing. In several newspaper advertisements and the photographs of his storefront, the cursive logo from the Abt & Sons era can be seen. Abt’s resiliency as a businessman is demonstrated through his handling of various challenges. For example, in October of 1915, Leo Abt & Sons was declared bankrupt by the United States Bankruptcy Court and was immediately sold. Not even six months later, Abt announced the opening of his new store, the Leo Abt Company in March of 1916.
During my research, I found various newspaper articles that gave insight to what life was truly like for Abt and his employees, both the good times and bad. In June of 1897, Abt’s employees gathered for a pleasant evening of entertainment at the home of W. S. McClelland, just north of Canton. The Evening Repository gives a vivid image of the night: “The spacious lawn was elaborately decorated with Chinese lanterns, and admitted of many outdoor games and pastimes.” The contemporary article mentions the delicious dinner the guests enjoyed, and how the party continued until a late hour.
The newspaper also provides an image of hard times the employees endured. On November 20, 1899, the Repository reported the death of young trimmer Rosia Victoria Halter. This employee was only twenty-five years old when she developed appendicitis. She later passed due to the operation for her illness. The article describes Rosia as being popular with the other girls she worked with. She worked at Abt’s with her younger sister, Olivia, nicknamed Ollie, Fierstos.
Finally, the Evening Repository illustrates how the Abt family celebrated special occasions. On March 26, 1895, the Abt home hosted the wedding of Leo’s sister-in-law Clara Ury and Reverend David Klein. This article describes the beautiful event as “one of the most delightful weddings of the season.” The Abt family’s faith is also shown in the “impressive rituals of the Hebrew ceremony.” These photos and articles offer a brief peek at daily life for Abt and those close to him. They hold the hints left by those who came before us. Following the clues in these documents, you can uncover the most forgotten details to piece back together lost stories.
On January 2nd of this year a donor brought into our Library a large box of negatives from a photographer that operated in Canton, Ohio in the nineteen fifties. The donor told me his father was the photographer and the photography business was finished before he was born. Victory Chapman was a wedding photographer and we now have hundreds of negatives of weddings that happened in Stark County during the 1950’s. This week I decided to unpack the box and see what I really had in this archive.
One of the Kodak boxes was marked Middlebranch High School Majorettes taken October 13, 1956. Wanting to know more about these photographs from Plain Township I asked one of our volunteers in the library if he knew anything about them and he suggested I talk to another one of our volunteers who knows some history of Middlebranch High School. This volunteer suggested I speak to Connie Blinn and went on to say because of the time these photographs were taken Connie may even be one of the majorettes. Taking a closer look at the carefully packaged negatives of each group of photographs of majorettes I discovered Connie Pavey whose married name is Blinn.
Where do you go in Stark County to pose for pictures? The “Monument!” Connie graduated in 1957 making this photography session the fall of her senior year.
Connie Pavey October 13, 1956
Judy Pocock who volunteers in our library and is a longtime friend and was a year behind Connie at Middlebranch called her to let her know. Connie subsequently visited our library and viewed four photographs that Victory Chapman had taken of her at the McKinley National Memorial. She brought with her a framed photograph in color of one of the poses. Connie was thrilled with what we found in our archives and she told us how fun it was to come and see a bit of her history. Thank you Connie for making our work fun too.