Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, July 24, 1994, pg. 7
Have you ever wondered who started the Albion Malleable Iron Company, now Harvard Industries? It was Warren Scott Kessler (1845-1933), an industrialist who made a prominent impact on our community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Mr. Kessler was born in Albion (of all places) NEW YORK and as a youth moved to Illinois with his family. He began his business career as a bookkeeper, and later worked as a railroad constractor.
Kessler became a salesman for several eastern iron mills in Chicago in 1881, and made numerous business associate acquaintances across the country. one of them was H. Kirke White, who had purchased the controlling interest in the Gale Manufacting Company here in Albion. The Gale was a major manufacturer of agricultural implements. White invited Kessler to Albion to attend the wedding of a daughter in the late 1880s.
During the social conversation at the wedding reception, Mr. White pointed out that as a result of the expansion of the Gale Manufacturing Company, it needed malelable iron castings for its implements whhich it was prepared to buy. Why not come to Albion and found a malleable iron castings plant in the old Gale headquarters on the corner of Cass and Superior Streets?
Mr. Kessler took Mr. White up on the suggestion, and founded the Albion Malleable Iron Company in 1888 with the help of 20 original stockholders. The firm so enlarged its business within ten years that it built a new and larger plant on N. Albion Street, where it remains today, and the rest is history. Kessler served as president of the Malleable for many years.
Kessler lived at 203 W. Ash St., and was active in community affairs. He was an alderman on the city countilin1897 and 1898. He also was one of the founders of the Albion State Bank, and served as its vice-president for many years. Kessler served on the board of directors of the First National Bank of Albion, in addition in the late 1890s.
Kessler’s step-son was Harry Parker (1871-1936), whom Kessler trained as his successor at the Malleable. Parker was married to Mary Theodosia Gardner (1873-1928), daughter of the Hon. Washington Gardner, who had invested in the Malleable in the 1890s. In 1900, Kessler and Parker erected the Parker-Kessler block on the site of the old Gale-Malleable building on the northwest corner of Superior and Cass Streets, which remains today and houses Albion Floor Covering and Knuth Furniture.
As a gift to the city of Albion, Kessler erected the City Comfort Station (that’s public bathrooms, folks) on the corner of Superior and W. Michigan, where the Molder Statue Park now stands. Kessler was an avid motorist, and knew that weary travelers on U.S. 12 through Albion would appreciate the “pit stop” there. This facility was used through the 1950s. Kessler would drive across the country in his luxury automobiles, one of them being a Cuningham. It had a phone to the chauffeur, and glass partitions between the front and rear seats. The price of the limousine at the factory was $8.700. He also owned a Franklin, and a Dusenburg Sedan. One of Kessler’s Chauffeurs was Harold Schumacher, who now lives in Lansing and related this information to this writer. [Internet update: Harold Schumacher passed away in 1999]
In his later years, Kessler spent his winter months at the Hotel Green in Pasadena, California, where he was part of the social order there, such as the Anandale Golf Club, and the California Yacht Club. He would come to Albion in the sumemr months only, and would stay at the home of his step-son, Harry Parker (501 East Michigan Avenue). That lovely Georgian house had been erected by Carl A. Schumacher, who subsequently took the job as superintendent at the Malleable. It was at this home that Warren S. Kessler died on July 23, 1933, two months after returning to Albion from Pasadena.
Funeral services were held at the thome, and Kessler was buried in Albion’s Riverside Cemetery. His monument is the tallest in the cemetery, and is an obelisk that states “KESSLER PARKER” around its base. Nearby are the graves of Washington Gardner, Thomas Lloyd, Carl A. Schumacher, [Internet update: and Harold Schumacher], and other Malleable executives, in addition to Harry Parker.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a rare photograph of Warren Scott Kessler, which is courtesy of Gardner Lloyd. Kessler is shown standing next to his step-son, Harry Parker, behind his residence at 501 E. Michigan Avenue [Internet version bonus: Also pictured is a professional photograph of Warren S. Kessler].
Warren Scott Kessler standing next to his step-son, Harry Parker
Warren S. Kessler
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic