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Feature Article on I.H. Thedieck. Topic: PEOPLE & INDUSTRY
Written by Rich Wallace in March, 1996

A MERCHANT WHO HELPED SHAPE SIDNEY'S INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT

The date was January 22, 1926. The Sidney Daily News carried the somber news. "Sidney Plunged Into Deep Mourning Over The Death of I.H. Thedieck." The lead article declared that "Probably no man had a larger personal acquaintanceship among the citizens of this community.... or has ever been held in such high esteem." Who was this man and what role did he play in Sidney's history? This is his story.

Born in Germany to merchant parents in 1855, Thedieck moved to America with his family when he was just 16. After attending public school in Dayton, he moved to Sidney when he was 20 years old. Taking after his father, Thedieck started in the dry goods business in 1875. His first partner was Philip Raterman.

After Raterman retired just three years later, I.H. Thedieck entered into partnership with his brother, Joseph. Thedieck Bros. was born. At the same time, I.H. made one of his best decisions. On October 16, 1878, he married Ida Wagner, daughter of Mathias Wagner, the most influential man in town. ihthedieck.gif (24897 bytes)

Thedieck Bros. was destined to last only four years. In 1882, with the help of his father in law, Thedieck struck out on his own. Wagner purchased the lot to the north of the court house on Poplar Street to build the most modern shopping facility in town. Young Thedieck rented half the space, with W.H. Wagner, one of Matthias' sons, occupying the other half.  By employing hard work and novel marketing efforts, Thedieck built a thriving business.

In 1884, he advertised in the Shelby County Democrat that "A Crash Is Coming!" and promised to slash prices on goods he had imported from New York by 25 to 50 percent. It wasn't long before his business, now called the Thedieck Department Store, expanded to occupy the entire structure.

By 1900, Thedieck had become well-known throughout the Midwest as a master merchandiser. He was now a wealthy man. However, his greatest contributions to his hometown were yet to come. Thedieck always placed the welfare of Sidney first. As the Daily News would note later at the time of his death: "Few names will ever be as intimately connected with the development and industrial expansion of Sidney as that of I.H. Thedieck." He personally brought several new businesses to Sidney to increase the economic well being of the town, including the Sidney Machine Tool Company. Thedieck shared his vast business experience with numerous businesses, including Whipp Machine Tool Company, Anderson Body Company, and the First National Exchange Bank.

Thedieck was the driving force behind the founding of the Sidney Telephone Company. None of these, however, was his most significant contribution. In 1909, he became convinced that Sidney needed another source of employment. Thedieck single-handedly raised funds in the community by reportedly driving a wagon around the courtsquare. The money he raised, together with his own substantial investment, allowed him to purchase the assets of Monarch Machine Tool Company and moved them from Detroit to Sidney.

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This advertisement appeared in the January 3, 1902 issue of The Sidney Journal.

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An illustration of I.H. Thedieck’s retail building in downtown Sidney. Located on the north side of the downtown square, this site has a long tradition of retail use, once serving as home to Uhlman’s Department Store and now Furniture Express.

Thedieck became the first president of Monarch, and launched the company on a series of business ventures that transformed Sidney as has no other business.

As his activities in his various businesses slowed, his involvement in civic affairs increased. He was an active member of Holy Angels Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus. Thedieck was also president of the Sidney Commercial Club. The Democrat once commented: "He was in the forefront of every movement that had for its end the advancement of this community. His material support of every enterprise that touched his imagination was liberal and unstinted."

His death in 1926 in many ways marked the end of an era. General Amos, proprietor of the Democrat, realized that fact. He penned a special tribute to Thedieck that was printed the day after his death. "He highly graced and honored this community," Amos wrote. "Through his activities he did more in a sound, creative way than any other man to here build an industrial community, which, without his efforts, would not have existed."

In his farewell comment, General Amos summed up eloquently how the community felt about I.H. Thedieck: "The work a good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green. By that will this man be remembered."

ihthedieckatdinneratmonarch.gif (54759 bytes)

A banquet was served in Monarch Machine’s new machine room on August 2, 1915.
I.H. Thedieck is shown in the foreground, second from right.

 

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