Owners and Presidents
James Monroe, started in 1846
Sold to James Finch and Fred Sheldon
Sold to Charles Lane and Fred Ensign
Fred Ensign sold his interest to Mr. Potter
O.C. Gale, Horatio Gale, Augustus Gale, and E.W. Hollingsworth purchased in 1861
Gale’s sold to investors in 1887, including Henry Kirke White Sr. of Detroit
Henry Kirke White, Sr., President, 1887-1916
Burnett J. Abbott, President 1935-1953
Robert Abbott, President 1853-1968
In 1846 this company was started by James Monroe who later sold it to James Finch and Fred Sheldon. These men shortly sold to Charles Lane and Fred Ensign and Mr. Ensign sold his interest to a Mr. Potter. The above is the only record prior to 1861 when O.C. Gale, Horatio Gale, Augustus Gale, and E.W. Hollingsworth purchased the interest of Lane and Potter and organized the Gale Manufacturing Company. The above four men together with S.P. Brockway composed the first Board of Directors of the company. The organization was first incorporated in 1873 and reincorporated in 1903.
The various men that have been identified with the Company and have acted on the Board of Directors since organization are as follows: J.W. Sheldon, J.J. Alley, W.O. Donaghen, C.C. Lane, C.H. Mann, F.A. Alsdorf, J.M. Jamison, E.C. Lester, H. Kirke White, H.R. Stoepel, A.E.F. White, C.D. Wislogel, H.K White, Jr., M.T. Conklin, L.E. White, A.J. Brosseau, Ralph Stone,George W. Bortles, H.L. Stanton, C.W. Albert, S.C. Griswold, E.R.Loud, Charles E. Hilton, R.C. Neal, J.L. Hindelang, K.H. Miller, W.A. Comstock, and H.E. Jackson.
The company was originally organized and operated to manufacture farm implements and from 1863 to 1888 this was done in buildings located on land now bounded by Superior St., W. Cass St, Clinton St., and the Kalamazoo River. In 1888 the growth of the business necessitated large quarters, so the land of the present location was purchased, and the nucleus of the present plant erected. From that time until 1918 production was concentrated upon the manufacture of farm implements which were recognized as being of the highest quality built at that time. They were sold in all parts of the United States and many shipped to foreign countries. Among the products made were plows of various kinds, disc harrows, stalk cutters, listers, drills, planters, cultivators, and wagon loaders. The company had about 30 men traveling and transfer warehouses in nearly every state.
Local historian Frank Passic provides another view on Gale’s move in 1888. “The Gale Manufacturing Company, a major Albion employer which produced farm implements, had operated in cramped quarters on the northwest corner of Cass and Superior Streets. In March 1888, the firm applied to several towns for inducement for a new location. Greatly alarmed of the prospect of losing the Gale, local citizens held mass meetings, and the city bonded itself for $30,000 with which seventeen acres of land was purchased on the western side of the city. The new Gale plant was located on N. Albion Street in the Wright addition, which had been platted in 1872, and which had subdivided the property in the area bounded by the Kalamazoo River, Ann, Erie, and Albion Streets. Work days were ten to twelve hours long, and workers did not desire to have to walk across town after a long day’s labor. Workers at the Gale soon desired housing near the plant, and thus a need arose for financing new homes in the vicinity. In those days, financing of homes was secured through banks and financiers, at prices our of the range of most factory workers. (Passic, 4) Homestead Savings and Loan was organized to help provide financing for workers who wished to build homes.
In 1918, owing to war conditions and sharp competition in the industry, it was decided to discontinue and liquidate the implement business. This was done very successfully and all of the rights of manufacturing the various implements were disposed of to other implement manufacturers. All machinery for making implements was also sold.
For a number of years prior to that time the company had been doing some outside work in the foundry and due to the demand which was apparent for this work, it was decided to enter the foundry business and specialize on a high quality of small and medium sized gray iron castings in production quantities. This business was started in the part of the plant formerly used to furnish castings for implements and from this small beginning has grown until now practically the entire plant is remodeled for use in the foundry business and in addition to that four additions have been added which have increased the floor space by about 30,000 square feet. This was necessary in order to equalize the capacity of the various departments and in the prosperous years of 1928 and 1929 the whole plant was operating at capacity. From a small start of only a few tons monthly and but a very few customers this business as grown to a point where in 1929 there was shipped an average of over 900 tons monthly to customers that are spread over five states; Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin.Branch offices were maintained and salesman operated from Detroit and Chicago and at the peak employment was furnished over 500 people.
Source: By R.C. Neal in Miriam Krenerick. Albion’s Milestones and Memories. Albion, MI: Art Craft Press. 1932.
Continuing with our series about the Gale Manufacturing Company, we all know that the firm was first owned by members of the Gale family who brought their farm implement company to Albion during the Civil War. Another family however played a prominent part in this historic Albion industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.In 1887 the Gales sold their entire company stock to Henry Kirke White, Sr. (1839-1916)of Detroit and a group of lesser investors which also included some Gale family members. The senior White was a heavy investor in the Acme White Lead & Color(Paint) Works, and served as its vice-president from 1889 to 1913. He also was an investor in the Dexter M. Ferry Seed Company of Detroit, serving as its secretary beginning in 1879, and as its vice-president beginning in 1905. Kirke was on the board of directors of several banks and was vice-president of Grace Hospital. His home was in Detroit.
Kirke Sr. became president of the Gale Manufacturing Company in 1887. With the new ownership, many capital improvements were made at the Gale, including: moving the company to N. Albion St. in 1888, erecting several new buildings, installing up-to-date equipment, and increasing output and employment. The ownership by the White family resulted in increased employment of Albionites and provided stability to the company for many years. The White family is of English heritage, and their roots trace back to Connecticut during the Colonial era.
Concurrently, Kirke’s brother Albert E.F. White (1844-1915) was also an investor. He entered the seed firm in 1872, and became its auditor in 1879. He also was treasurer of the pain company. Albert E.F. White lived in Detroit but maintained an Albion address during the 1890s. He served as vice-president of the Gale from 1892 to 1897. Albert was an original investor in Henry Ford’s Detroit Automotive Company (1898). He also owned considerable stock in the Cadillac Motor Company, which he sold in 1909. When H. Kirke White Sr. died in Detroit in 1916 after being Gale president for 29 years,he was survived by his wife Cholistique/Catherine (Fortier), sons Henry Kirke White, Jr.(1867-1937), Louis Eugene White (1869-1927), George Theodore White (1873-1940),and daughter Mary Josephine (White) Morrison (1882-1955), wife of U.S. Army Captain George L. Morrison. All either owned or inherited sizable portions of Gale Company stock.
Two of H. Kirke White Srs. sons were involved in various positions in the Gale company through the years. H. Kirke White, Jr. (1862-1937) came to work in the Gale office in July, 1892. He was appointed secretary in 1895, a position which he retained until he moved back to Detroit in January, 1902. At that time he became president of the Kemiweld Can Company in Detroit, a position he retained until 1910. He later went into the securities investment business.Louis E. White (1869-1927) worked in the office during the early 1890s, and became auditor of the Gale in 1896. He later served as vice-president and secretary of the company in the early 20th century. Louis also wrote a history of the Gale Manufacturing Company which appears on pages 447-450 of Washington Gardner’s History of Calhoun County, published in 1913.
The Whites all lived next door to each other on the south side of Irwin Avenue in elegant Victorian homes which are still standing today. According to the 1894-95 Albion City Directory, Louis E. White lived at 105 Irwin, uncle Albert E.F. White at 109 Irwin, and H. Kirke White, Jr. at 113 Irwin Avenue (Note: some numbers are different today).Beginning in 1926 until his death in 1949, vice-president of the Gale was William A.Comstock (1877-1949) who served as Governor of Michigan 1933-34. Comstock, a real estate broker and industrialist investor, married Kirke White Srs.’ daughter Josephine in 1919. She owned considerable company stock.
Josephine’s son Kirke White Morrison-Comstock (son of Josephine and her first husband, Army captain George L. Morrison. Kirke was adopted by W.A. Comstock) (1905-1947) came to work in the Gale office beginning in 1929. He lived at 618 E.Michigan Avenue, later moving to 602 Manor Drive. A native of Fort Apache Arizona Territory, Kirke was a world traveler and an expert model railroad hobbyist. He was president of the National Model Railroad Association in 1940. In 1938 the position of treasurer was added to his duties, and in 1940 he became its purchasing agent as well. Kirke was killed in an auto accident on U.S.-12 three miles east of Albion in Parma township in 1947. He was buried in Riverside Cemetery.
Governor Comstock’s 1933-34 Secretary of the State Administrative Board and Michigan Budget Director Burnett J. Abbott (1894-1953) became president and general manager of the Gale in 1935. Burnett was succeeded by his son Robert Abbott after his death in 1953, who operated the company until it closed in 1968.
Source: Frank Passic, “White’s Prominent in Gale Company,” Morning Star, March 29, 1998
Gale headquarters on N. Albion St. from 1888 until its closure in 1968.
A dust explosion occurred during the late 1880’s at the Gale plant, knocking out a huge portion of the south wall. Notice the third story addition which was built on the original structure during the 1880’s.
The photo shows what the plant looked like in 1883.
The Gale Manufacturing Company produced agricultural implements, such as the Gale Chilled Plow illustrated on the right, until World War I. The firm then switched to automotive parts, and closed in February, 1968.
Source: Frank Passic. Homestead Savings and Loan and the Builders of Albion: One Hundred Years of Service, 1889-1989. Albion, MI: Homestead Savings and Loan Association. 1988.