Published to the web on January 20, 2004

The Waddell Co., Inc.


Improved Coffee Mill Was Original Product of Greenfield's Second Oldest Industry, Founded in 1888 by John Waddell


The following article was published in The Greenfield Daily Times in 1940. The Waddell Company is still manufacturing show cases but is now owned by the Ghent Corporation. Click photo to enlarge.

The Waddell Co., Inc., Green-field's second oldest industry and operated now by members of the third and fourth generations of the Waddell family in Greenfield, is the modern counterpart of an enterprise founded in 1888 as a direct result of a homely domestic happenstance.

The family's history in Greenfield dates from the early 1850s when John Freshour Waddel came here from Chillicothe. Born near Bourneville on June 4, 1820, he married Hannah Jones in 1843 and established a retail grocery business in Chillicothe. He lost his business in the great fire which swept the Ancient Metropolis on April 1, 1852, and shortly thereafter, he loaded all of his possessions on a Cincinnati & Marietta flatcar and moved to Greenfield.

 Here he acquired extensive acreage just south of the railroad depot and built a long, low, rambling two-story home. In 1854 he incorporated, stock was sold, and built a large warehouse and elevator across Washington Street from the depot, and engaged in the buying and selling of grain. The original building is a part of the present main plant of The Waddell Co., Inc.

 Mr. Waddel later engaged in the hardware business in the present Jones Hardware Co. location. He retired in 1889.

 He always insisted on spelling the family name with only one "l", and made this request to his son, John M. Waddell, when the latter entered business for himself. And although John M. Waddell had reverted to the original "ll" spelling, he complied with his father's wish, and as long as John F. Waddel lived the family name in the firm's business title appeared as "Waddel."

 One morning in 1888 the cook in John M. Waddell's home failed to appear, so he volunteered to grind coffee for breakfast. He discovered that the old box coffee mill was difficult to hold between one's knees, and hit upon the idea of a handle for the contraption.

 He forthwith founded The John M. Waddell Manufacturing Co., and began manufacture of a new and improved coffee mill in the old elevator building, enlarging it and adding other buildings. The company also made a cash register called the "Simplex," on of which appeared in a setting of the epic motion picture, "Cimarron," in the early 1930s.

 Eventually the company was incorporated, stock was sold, and a board of directors elected. When a disagreement arose among them, Mr. Waddell withdrew, and the name was changed to The Sun Manufacturing Co., which operated in a building still standing at Fourth St. and the B&O, until it was sold in 1904.

 Meanwhile, Mr. Waddell organized The Waddell Wooden Ware Works, which manufactured Ki-O-Graph cash registers, Ideal coffee mills, Go Bang rat traps, Uwanta hammock swings, Nip & Tuck combination paper weights, and toys, games and novelties. The firm also made ink stands, folding clothes racks, bicycle rims and show cases which were turned in immense quantities.

 When Rural Free Delivery was established, Mr. Waddell obtained government orders for thousands of Post Office tables and cases.

 On November 30, 1901 the firm's No. 2 factory building was destroyed by fire, but was promptly replaced.

 Eventually, the company concentrated on the production of show cases and store fixtures, with an annual volume of between 18,000 and 30,000 pieces of furniture. Practically every city, town and hamlet in the United States has some Waddell products.

 Following the death of John M. Waddell in 1922, The Waddell Company became The Waddell Co., Inc. In 1936, Dean T. Waddell purchased the stock held by his brothers, Lew P. Waddell and Neal P. Waddell, and now has his associates in the management of the business along with his sons, George M. Waddell and Dean M. Waddell.

 The factory operates in 140,000 square feet of floor space, and has greatly increased its employees in recent years.

 The company manufactures chiefly show and premium cases which are distributed to 30 wholesale trades such as bakers, beauty shops, confectioners, druggists, grocers and jewelers in every state in the Union.

 The company uses its own original designs and construction which are protected by U.S. patents.

waddell coffee grinder 01-2004.jpg (30614 bytes)

This version of the Waddell coffee mill was recently acquired by George Foltz, president of the Greenfield Historical Society, and will be on display at the Traveler's Rest museum along with many other examples of Waddell's products. Click photo to enlarge.