Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, August 10, 2014, Pg. 6
Over the past few years or so you’ve occasionally seen mentioned the Cook Manufacturing Company in our 100 years ago column. This was a turn-of-the-century industry that once existed at 417 E. Mulberry St. on the northwest corner of N. Huron and E. Mulberry Sts. along the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad tracks. The location had originally been the home of the Union Wind Mill & Manufacturing Company, which produced windmills beginning in the 1870s. Due to a reversal in business, the Union firm was about to fold in the late 1890s when it was acquired by the First National Bank of Albion as an investment. It was reorganized into the Albion Wind Mill & Improvement Company.
In 1902 stock was purchased and James H. Cook of Homer came with his patterns and machinery for the manufacture of gasoline engines. He became the superintendent and general manager. The company was renamed the Cook Manufacturing Company, and assumed the debts of its predecessor. The company continued producing windmills, but added gasoline engines during the time when that method of obtaining power was blossoming.
In a 1912 interview, the cashier of the bank, Henry Montgomery Dearing explained, "It was a losing venture from the very start. After a time it again became necessary to change the worthless assets for the company, which was on the rocks. About this time Mr. Cook came over from Homer with his engine patents and plans. He was a visionary fellow. The directors and interested parties then organized the Cook Manufacturing Company by allowing that the plans and patents of Cook were worth so much, and by figuring that the worthless assets of the old Albion Wind Mill & Improvement Company represented so much. They then capitalized at a little more than that, and gave out the stock without any one investing a dollar. The bank opened its treasury and started the thing going. All they had at the start was a place to work in and the bank furnished the capital."
After a few years, the company continued to lose money and Mr. Cook was let go. He then went back to Homer to open up "Cook Cutlery." Palmer Montgomery Dearing, son of the bank cashier, took Cook’s place. Eventually the cashier of the bank Henry M. Dearing and his son Palmer Dearing forged loan notes representing thousands of dollars to hide financial losses. This resulted in the downfall of the Albion National Bank in January 1912, and also the Cook Company. You can read about the scheme in my 1985 book "Albion’s Banks and Bankers."
After the bank failure, the business was purchased by the Kneeland Manufacturing Company of Battle Creek and became known as the Cook-Kneeland Company which operated for a few years before closing. A 1913 advertisement stated, "John A. Rathbone, vice-president and general manager, manufacturers of gas and gasoline engines, machinists and foundrymen, windmills, tanks, concrete mixers, grey iron castings."
Union Steel Products acquired the windmill portion of the business and continued making windmills for several years at a neighboring building. The Cook site then became the home of the Cement Casket Company in 1914, which operated into the 1920s. The old Cook building was eventually acquired by Union Steel Products and was used by that industry until it was demolished in December, 1956.
Our focus for this article however, is the Cook Manufacturing Company itself. Their heyday was the first decade of the 20th century. The Cook engines were popular locally. I remember seeing one in the garage of an old timer many years ago. From our Historical Notebook this week we present a brass identification plate which was attached to one of their engines. It measures 4 inches long by 2 ½ inches wide. The text states, "COOK GAS AND GASOLINE ENGINES. NUMBER__; SIZE___; COOK MFG. Co. ALBION< MICH U.S.A." How many of our readers have seen a Cook Manufacturing Company gasoline engine produced here in Albion?
Brass identification plate, 4 inches long by 2 ½ inches wide
Next: 1970s ALBION BOOKLET
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic