Early Sedalia boosters continually sought to bring new industries to Sedalia in order to increase the city’s tax revenues, create jobs, and increase the city’s population. The Sedalia Chamber of Commerce led these efforts.
In August 1920, the Sedalia Democrat reported on another attempt, this time to secure a foundry that could serve the needs of Sedalia, Pettis County, and the surrounding area. The foundry was to be connected to a factory that manufactured oil and gas stoves.
Mr. W.T. Van Brunt and Mr. J.H. Van Brunt had developed a process of using oil to make fuel gas and began making stoves, heaters, and other gas appliances using the gas. The Chamber of Commerce approached the men and encouraged them to consider Sedalia as a location for their manufacturing company, which would include a general foundry.
W.T. Van Brunt had worked in railroad operations and had managed public utilities for 30 years, and in connection with E.H. Harriman had worked in a variety of businesses. He had spent the last two years perfecting the oil-gas burner he proposed to manufacture in Sedalia.
J.H. Van Brunt had worked in banking in New York and later as the superintendent, general manager, and vice-president of the St. Joseph, Missouri, Street Railway and Lighting Company. He had recently resigned that position in order to concentrate on the new business.
The Democrat assured readers the Van Brunt brothers were “experienced and successful businessmen of large interests (and) were held in high esteem.” The newspaper further urged Sedalians to provide a “cordial welcome” and cooperation as the Van Brunt brothers opened their business.
Sedalians were eager to help. Numerous Sedalia businessmen, including restaurateur Peter Pehl, Charles Andrews, Water Department Director Louis Andrews, Dr. E.A. Wood, the Honorable John H. Bothwell, Dr. C. Bohling, George Sneed, Dr. J.E. Cannady, J.E. Brennaman, Dr. O.W. Claborg, J.W. Mellor, and M.V. Carroll, invested in the proposed factory and foundry.
By Sept. 1, the company had capital stock of $300,000; 100,000 shares were in the treasury and would be sold to start the company. The company had purchased the Old Brick Plant, a 10-acre plot of land with a building within the city limits of Sedalia. Only a small amount of money would be needed to make the building suitable for the production of the Hydro-Gas Appliances, whose company offices were located in Kansas City, Missouri.
The Sedalia factory and foundry would have an exclusive contract to produce Hydro-Gas Appliances to be distributed in Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas. The Sedalia firm would also make parts to be used at other assembly plants making the appliances, including a plant in Memphis, Tennessee.
Local offices were located at 101 E. Second St. at the back of the American Exchange Bank. This office would also be the headquarters of the Pettis County agent for the Hydro-Gas Appliances, F.L. Bearce. The company planned to establish territories and hire “competent and responsible men” to work as sales agents its products.
The Hydro-Gas Appliance Company exhibited its products at the 1920 Missouri State Fair. Next week’s column describes their exhibit.
Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.