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100 Years Ago

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Benjamin Slusser

The article in the "Shelby County Democrat" on the evening of September 15, 1899, began with the statement: "Benjamin Slusser dropped dead this morning. Such was the report that spread like wildfire over the city last Tuesday morning..." He fell at the southwest corner of Poplar Street and Ohio Avenue. Sidney lost one of its pioneer industrialists that day.  After sixteen uneventful years on a Franklin Township farm, young Mr. Slusser journeyed to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1844 to study applied mechanics. He returned to Sidney three years later and began a career as an inventor. Among his inventions were a reversible water wheel, a sulky plow, a self-loading excavator and a steel road scraper.

benjaminslusser.gif (27199 bytes)The sulky plow was a novel and successful invention. The plow was mounted on wheels which allowed the plow to create 30% less drag for a team of horses. It was sold in Sidney and elsewhere in the Midwest. The editor of the "Sidney Journal" on October 1, 1869, commented: "The invention is of such a character as to acquire a national reputation. It can not fail to be introduced into every county in every state in the Union."

The excavator and scraper were the genesis for a new Sidney industry. The self-loading excavator was capable of plowing, loading and unloading dirt in one motion, and was an immediate success in the market place. He founded the American Steel Scraper Company, sold it to W.H.C. Goode in 1880 and established the Slusser-McLean Scraper Company, entering into competition with him.

Soon after Mr. Slusser formed his new company, Mr. Goode claimed that Slusser was infringing upon the patents that Mr. Goode had purchased with the American Steel Scraper business. Goode filed suit in federal court, and the case continued for two years. The May 11, 1882, edition of the "Valley Sentinel" carried news of the decision: "The case of W.H.C. Goode v. Slusser-McLean was decided in favor of the latter firm. The parties to this suit are rival manufacturers in Sidney, Ohio. This case was one of great importance and has been pending for a long time...and was considered a test case. The decision is one of importance to railroad contractors and dealers in implements."

The decision in favor of Mr. Slusser opened the door for three scraper companies to make Sidney truly the steel road scraper capital of the world. He married twice, and had two daughters, neither of whom followed him into the business.

Industry segment written in January, 1998 by Rich Wallace


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