Greene County inventors and their inventions


Last week, I shared the story of Orville and Wilbur Wright who invented the first practical airplane which they developed in Greene County. There have been many other inventors in the county, some of which I have shared in the past so these stories will be brief.

William Ruthrauff was an executive with Hooven and Allison Rope Manufacturing Company. One would think in this profession, rope was his main interest; however while living on King Street in Xenia he invented a tooth paste which became popular throughout the country.

He tried experiments with flavorings and would often invite his guests to sample the product. Finally, he got the perfect combination of paste and taste and so Pepsodent toothpaste came into being.

He began to market his product with a large advertisement in the 1917 Saturday Evening Post Magazine.

In time, the business became very successful and so he went to Chicago to sell his interest to Lever Brothers, He received a large settlement and bought a Packard which was one of the finest cars available at the time. He arrived in Xenia showing off his new car and expensive clothing and then decided Xenia was much too small for him. He left his job at H&A and moved to Chicago where he could learn the social graces of dancing and skating.

John Glossinger loved to say that he “invented” the candy bar. His career spanned many years, largely in advertising and sales. He retired more than once, only to be invited by another company to help that company “get out of the red”. Such was the case with the Wilmette Candy Company of Chicago. The company was in financial trouble and needed some expert advice. He took on the volunteer job of bringing the company out of near-bankruptcy.

Candy was sold in bulk or boxes at that time, and so he devised making candy into a bar with an attractive wrapping. He marketed the new product in Cleveland by taking samples to the various stores and asking the owners to distribute the bars to customers at no charge. He also put up signs all over town saying “O Henry”. This made people curious and with the free samples given, he soon had a large number of people interested in the new product. In just a matter of days, a full train car load of the new candy bars was sold, and the candy bar became popular.

Both Pepsodent and O’Henry candy bars are still available.

If you like horse racing, you might want to know that the first practical starting gate was designed and made by Greene County native Steve Phillips. He grew up around horse racing and became one of the leading race starters. His job was to see that the horses were properly lined up at the beginning of the race and none would “jump start” the race. This was often quite a challenge and so he designed a starting gate which would move down the track as the race started, then drive away from the track, leaving the horses running on the track.

The first device constructed in 1910 was rather crude, mounted on the back of a Cadillac convertible. He continued to work with his model improving the mechanism which pulled the gate closed after the race had begun. By 1930 the prototype was working fairly well, but not totally to his liking. Finally, in 1940 he perfected his invention. With a 70 foot wide extension on the car he was able to start over 1,000 races. His career spanned more than 50 years.

Xenia brothers Jake and Fred Baldner wanted to get into the business of making automobiles. At the time, this was a very new product. There were no assembly lines and so vehicles were made one at a time. The brothers succeeded in making a very nice automobile. Of course, if you manufacture a car, you have to have a buyer. They invited someone to test drive the car in hopes of selling it. The prospective owner drove the car around the block, waved at Jake who waved back. Around the block again and again the driver waved and the wave was returned. Finally, the driver yelled at Jake “How do I stop it?” “Keep going it will run out of gas” was the response. The brothers also worked on perfecting the Xenia Cycle Car.

Not every invention makes it to the top. Larry Nchols graduated in 1954 from Xenia High School, went on to get a PhD in chemistry and worked in New England for many years. Among the things he invented was the bag designed to collect blood for transfer. He had a hobby of inventing puzzle-type toys. He designed a unique cube with several colors which could be twisted this way and that. He submitted his idea to the Ideal Toy Company, but was turned down. Not long after this, Rubik’s Cube came onto the market. Larry realized that others could have come up with the same concept, but he had presented it to Ideal some years prior to the new cube coming on the market. Ideal Toys acknowledged that perhaps there had been a mistake and he received a substantial settlement for his claim. He continued to invent puzzle games, several of which are on the market today.

Lincoln Brown, whose grandfather was a slave who worked to purchase freedom for himself and his family, was born in the Brown Settlement in Caesarcreek Township in 1866. He graduated from school at the age of 15 then moved to San Francisco where he learned the trade of a carpenter. He returned to Greene County in 1844, and soon thereafter received a patent for his invention the “Bridle Bite,” used when riding a horse. He attended Middle Run Baptist church and wrote an inspirational pamphlet titled “The True Way or the Way of Truth.”

There are many more inventors and inventions credited to this county. This is just a quick look.

By Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.

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