On December 26, 1884, millionaire Cornelius Aultman died suddenly. His widow Katherine Barron Reybold Aultman wanted to create Stark County’s first hospital in memory of her late husband, as it was an unfilled aspiration of his.
From left to right: Cornelius Aultman, Katherine Barron Reybold Aultman, and Elizabeth Harter.
She proposed the idea to his daughter, Elizabeth Aultman Harter. Elizabeth agreed to help her step-mother fulfill this plan in honor of her father. In 1891, the two women provided funding and 4.5 acres of land for the medical center.
Once it was complete, the hospital could accommodate up to 70 patients, larger than any other hospital in a city of Canton’s size at this time. Sitting at its current location of 2600 6th Street Southwest, the Aultman Memorial Hospital opened on January 17, 1892. However, the hospital did not receive its first patient until February 5 of that year. Aultman Hospital is still serving Stark County to this day. According to their most recent annual report available, the hospital cared for over 650,000 patients in 2018 alone.
Designed and built by Cornelius Aultman in 1869, sold to George D. Harter, and later passed onto Elizabeth Harter in 1885, the Aultman-Harter Mansion was a social hub of Canton, Ohio.
From left to right: Elizabeth Harter, Cornelius Aultman, and George DeWalt Harter.
In her adult life, Elizabeth was fondly thought of as the unofficial hostess of Canton. Located at 933 North Market Avenue, this mansion would be the site of many gatherings and social events. While Cornelius was still living, he hosted several presidents and important political figures at the mansion, including Rutherford B. Hayes, Ulysses S. Grant, James A. Garfield, and good family friend William McKinley.
Elizabeth would continue her father’s trend after the assassination of President McKinley. For the two days after McKinley’s death, Elizabeth’s home became the temporary residence and office of President Theodore Roosevelt.
The Harter family’s home, located at 723 North Market Avenue, would eventually be the site of William McKinley’s famous “Front Porch Campaign.” Before McKinley campaigned here, and before the Harters lived here, Elizabeth’s father Cornelius Aultman and step-mother Katherine Barron Reybold Aultman resided at 723 North Market for three years, from 1868 to 1871. The couple lived here while they waited for the completion of the Aultman mansion.
From left to right: Elizabeth Aultman Harter, the Harter home during William McKinley’s front porch campaign, and Cornelius Aultman.
In 1871, The Aultman couple moved out of the house and future president William McKinley rented the home for over two years. From 1873 to 1899, Elizabeth and husband George DeWalt Harter, owned the home. The Harter family resided here for twelve of the twenty-six years they owned it, until 1885 when they moved to the Aultman-Harter Mansion. Finally, in 1896 presidential candidate William McKinley rented the Harter home for his “Front Porch Campaign.” During this campaign, citizens would gather on the front yard of the Harter home to hear William McKinley perform his speeches literally from the front porch.
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.
My name is Hamed Alwusaydi. I was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I am in the final semester to graduate from my BA at Walsh University in Communications. I have always wanted to be a part of the President McKinley Museum family because of my passion for learning about the history, interest in it and its care. I am currently working as a volunteer and seeking to learn and train and listen to the advice and guidance of Mr. Mark Holland, who has always made me feel his desire to train and mentor me. I am currently working on developing the visual aspect of the Walk with the President program, and I am working on adding some important pictures to present to those looking to understand the past and those interested in it.
Grace Doringo is an intern at the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum for the 2020-2021 school year. She is currently a junior at Walsh University majoring in Museum Studies and History with a minor in Art History. At Walsh, Grace is a participant in the honors program, student government, the Museum Engagement Team, and choir. Grace is looking forward to gaining experience working in the McKinley Museum’s library and archives so she can one day be prepared to work as a museum professional.
Recently the library received a request from a member of the Deuble family who wanted to know about some of her relatives, specifically Martin Deuble. She wanted a picture of Martin to complete a Deuble Family Genealogy that she is writing. The Deuble family was synonymous with high quality jewelry, watches, dishes, and glassware. Deuble Jewelers is one of Canton’s oldest merchants beginning in the 1830’s. The requester also wanted to find a picture of Norman Deuble, Martin’s son. It seems Norman was an active High Wheeler as far back as 1886 and an early member of the Canton Bicycle Club. Norman was participating in a bicycle race in 1892 when he got in an accident. He fell off his bicycle, and was rushed to the newly built Aultman Hospital with a brain injury. This is what is believed to be the first operation ever performed by hospital physicians at Aultman. Unfortunately, Norman did not survive. The requester knew of a studio photograph portraying the Canton Bicycle Club that included Norman. in 1886, at the age of twenty-one. Our archives have a newspaper quality image that fits this description. Enter the phrase that we use in the library every day: “If it is meant to be it will find its way to you.
Our current intern, from Walsh University, Alyssandra Howe is researching the time in Canton’s history known as “Little Chicago.” One of the major sources for her project is a master’s thesis from a student at Ohio State University who authored Saxton Street: The Reconstruction of a Red Light District. In the course of her study she read about the 1937 bullet proof Studebaker the Canton Police Department commissioned, which now lives at the Canton Classic Car Museum. Volunteer, Tom Haas, and I took Alyssandra to meet Char Lautzenheiser, the director of the museum. Char gave Alyssandra a lot of rich history of “Little Chicago”, as well as a tour of the museum including the 1937 bullet proof Studebaker.
While Char and Alyssandra were playing around the cars, the photographs hanging on the wall drew my interest. What did I find hanging on the wall in the shadow of the bullet proof car? The very photograph of the Canton Bicycle Club in 1886 with Norman Deuble and other Canton “Movers & Shakers”.