“Business boomed as the (Myers) company returned to peacetime production of pumps and farm equipment. The extension of electric service to remote rural areas had opened small communities and distant farmhouses to installation of electric-powered home and farm water systems.”
“The electrification of America’s farms had begun before the war under the Rural Electrification Act, and Myers salesmen often found themselves competing with washing machine peddlers and others selling new time-saving electric appliances to farm families. At one point, the company produced a Hollywood-style movie about the advantages of water systems and circulated the film among farm groups in the South and Midwest.”
-from Living The American Dream-The Myers and Miller Families of Ashland, Ohio
by Howard E. Covington Jr.
It goes without saying that most of us have roots in farming. Even for those who seem far away from it, often all we have to do is dig back in to our family history just a couple of generations to find those who toiled in the soil while raising the children that brought us where we are today.
Two brothers who left the family farm to make their way as rugged individualists put my home county of Ashland on the map back in the late 1800s, starting out by manufacturing haying tools, and building an empire with hard work and good business skills.
Frances Enoch Myers, born in 1847 on a small farm in Rowsburg, Ohio, was the oldest of nine children. His father, George, was a wagon maker and a farmer. Though F.E. really didn’t want to leave the home farm, his mother convinced him there wasn’t enough there to “keep” him, suggesting he hire out to a neighbor.
He went, instead, to the bigger town of Ashland and landed a job in a dry goods store for $2 a week. He felt he was still close enough to ride a horse out to help on the farm when the busy times came around.
During his first year in Ashland, he met the son of M.C. Goucher, whose company made farm equipment and had contracted work with the Ashland Machine Company to make cider presses. Myers was offered a job by Goucher’s son – he would be a salesman, with a starting pay of $65 a month. Out of that salary, he was to buy his own horse and rig.
After Myers bought a sorrel horse named Bill from a farmer who agreed to take part of the payment on credit, the elder Goucher fired Myers before he could even make his first sales call, saying he had no experience.
Something changed the boss’s mind, however, and he decided to give the young man a chance. He gave Myers the choice of either a 10 percent commission on sales or a salary. After putting in three weeks on the road, Myers told the boss he would work on commission.
Myers proved to be a savvy salesman. He’d grown up working on a farm so he knew what made machinery and people work. He knew when to make a call and when to leave the farmers alone to do their work. He had a keen eye for opportunity, and made an impressive first impression.
Those early years of working as a salesman, drawing on his own childhood experience in working the fields, would prove to be a firm foundation for success beyond measure.
(Next week: an industrial empire is born.)