Delco was the automotive electronics design and manufacturing subsidiary of General Motors. The company was founded in Dayton by Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) and Colonel Edward A. Deeds (1874-1960) in 1909 (originally with NCR, in 1915 Deeds left that company to devote himself fulltime to the new enterprise). Delco’s name was formed from the first letters of the longer name “Dayton Engineering Laboratories Co.” The Delco brand name was associated with numerous original products of the company, such as Delco Light, Delco Moraine, Delco Products, and others. Although Delco Electronics Corporation no longer exists as an operating company, GM still retains rights to the Delco name and uses it for some of its subsidiaries including the ACDelco parts division.
In 1915, Alfred Mellowes (of Fort Wayne, Indiana) engineered and made an electric refrigerating unit – it differed from other contemporary models because it was self-contained with the compressor located in the bottom of the cabinet. The Guardian Refrigerator Company was organized in 1916 to manufacture and sell Mellowes’s refrigerator. In 1918, W.C. Durant, then president of General Motors, privately purchased the company and a new name, Frigidaire, was coined. The General Motors acquisition of the company was a turning point; Durant applied the mass production techniques of the automobile industry to the building of refrigerators. The business was moved to Dayton in 1921 and was turned over to the Delco-Light Company, a GM subsidiary manufacturing individual electric generators for rural use. In 1926 Frigidaire Corporation became a new separate GM subsidiary and a huge new manufacturing plant was completed in Moraine. In January 1979 GM announced it had sold Frigidaire to White Consolidated Industries of Cleveland. The Frigidaire name, product line, and distribution system were to be continued, but the facilities at Dayton/Moraine were retained by GM and expanded into automotive operations.
The Mead Corporation was founded in 1846 by Colonel Daniel Mead and his partners. The company produced printing papers at a mill in Dayton. In 1881 Col. Mead bought out his remaining partner, establishing the Mead Paper Company in 1882. Mead upgraded the Dayton mill, and in 1890 he purchased a facility in Chillicothe, Ohio. By the time of Col. Mead’s death in 1891, the company was one of the largest paper producers in the United States. Unfortunately, by 1905 the company had fallen on hard times and was on the verge of collapse; that year George Houk Mead (d. 1961), Col. Mead’s grandson, took control of the operation, reorganizing it as the Mead Pulp and Paper Company. Now called MeadWestvaco, the company later left Dayton and is now based in Richmond, Virginia. It is interesting to note that Mead eventually entered the information technology sector – Mead Data Central launched the LEXIS legal research system in 1973. Mead would later sell the LexisNexis system to Reed Elsevier in December 1994.
NCR (National Cash Register Company)
John H. Patterson (1844-1922) and his brother Frank Jefferson Patterson bought the National Manufacturing Company of Dayton and its cash register patents in 1884 and the firm was renamed the National Cash Register Company. Under John Patterson’s leadership the company grew exponentially – by 1911 it had sold 1 million cash registers and had nearly 6,000 employees. After World War II NCR became a major force in developing new computing and communications technologies. In September 1991 NCR was acquired by AT&T, but re-emerged as a stand-alone company in January 1997. NCR relocated its corporate headquarters from Dayton to Duluth, Georgia in 2009. By this point Dayton had served as NCR’s headquarters for 125 years.
Reynolds & Reynolds
Now a provider of automotive dealer software and services, Reynolds & Reynolds was founded in 1866 in Dayton as Gardner & Reynolds by Lucius D. Reynolds and his brother-in-law, James R. Gardner. The small company was one of the first to print standardized business forms. The firm later became Reynolds & Reynolds when Gardner sold out to Ira Reynolds, Lucius Reynolds’s father. Reynolds created the first standardized accounting forms and a paper-based accounting system for Chevrolet and its retailers in 1927. From their early work with Chevrolet, Reynolds evolved to become a major business forms and systems provider to the automobile retailer market. In September 2006 Reynolds & Reynolds merged with Universal Computer Systems (Houston, Texas), becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of the company.
More commonly known as Rike’s, the Rike-Kumler Company was a major Dayton department store. Founded in 1853 by David L. Rike, in 1908 the business was reorganized as the Rike-Kumler Company, with Frederick H. Rike as president. Originally privately owned by the Rike family, Rike’s became part of Federated Department Stores in 1959 and was merged with Federated’s Cincinnati unit, Shillito’s, in order to form Shillito Rike’s (1982). Federated merged Shillito Rike’s into the Columbus-based Lazarus chain in 1986, this, in turn, was consolidated with most other Federated chains in 2005 under the Macy’s brand. The downtown Dayton store was closed in 1992 and stood empty until the complex was demolished by implosion in 1999.