Let’s travel back in time and look at some of my history by exploring John W Benninghofen US family Patriarch. In this case it’s history about his family as in was in 1848. The history connects me to my family, at least at one level because of my strong interest in business. It also reminds me of our humble beginnings which had begun in eastern Europe.
It Started Long Ago…
The Benninghofen Legacy began in 1400’s in Europe. Our great uncle Paul Benninghofen commissioned a family history research project in the 1920’s where a diagram was created which showed the family beginnings, in color and German. The mailer tube which contained the diagram, still has the stamps used to ship the diagram from Germany, circa 1920.
(Special Note) I had one of my high-school best friend’s mother interpret the diagram because she was a German teacher. And also, in 2000, our cousin in Joan Zellner and my older brother Chris Benninghofen organized a family reunion in Hamilton, Ohio. They copied the historical diagram and provided these to about 100 descendent’s across three different Benninghofen families distributing the materials at a family luncheon.
It was the last time the 5 remaining Benninghofen men from our parents would be together: Mark Benninghofen deceased, Jack Benninghofen deceased, Bill Benninghofen, Chris and me. In addition, we were given a copy of the local Hamilton telephone book: the front cover contained a photograph of our great Uncle Paul’s home where we used to attend an annual Christmas Eve gathering , family dinner and presents opening. I actually was allowed to play Santa Claus in my senior year of high school.
But, let’s pick-up with the US family patriarch in John W Benninghofen who brought his family to America in 1848 traveling from Wuelfrath, Prussia.
He entered the country via the southern route into New Orleans, traveling first to Cincinnati, then finally landing in Hamilton, Ohio.
Why might this be important to anyone?
History is Important For Many Reasons
In this very personal context, history is important because answering questions about our family’s journey can help with our own journey. Also, I have learned that defining a purposeful destination for oneself (i.e. this came from doing this with customers and clients) can help in making sure that our compass is leading us correctly – some call this moving toward our north star (i.e. thank you Caitlin Miller for helping me understand this).
It does help us to know:
- Where we came from,
- What we are made of,
- The people in our past, and
- This sometimes helps to guide us in where we are going, especially when the road gets lumpy and bumpy.
As time goes forward, I will write more about my exposure to leadership ideas and foundation principles gained from our family, both men and women.
- So, I invite you to stay tuned because I will likely publish the personal experiences at our learning how to be different site (i.e. this link connects to a piece on being believable with your word).
I was interested in connecting my own current business experiences and interests to my family history because we have a deep business background. On the way toward understanding my past, I have included some specific references to our family businesses along with those companies that the family invested; accompanying links to their recorded memories are present where available too
Here is a short list of the companies …
- The First National Bank of Ohio – original investors & leadership participants
- Ohio Casualty Life Insurance Company – original investors – my god-father was the CEO, then the Chairman of the board before his retirement.
- Shuler and Benninghofen (SAB) – manufactured felts for paper-making and woolen blankets. My great uncle had been the CEO, but my uncle took the reigns during my childhood.
- Krauth and Benninghofen (KAB)- manufactured musical instrument stands. A family member from my great uncle’s daughter was the CEO.
- The Hamilton Autographic Register (THAR) – printer manufacturer of retail sales register machines and receipt forms: typical handwritten receipts which were given to the buyer. This business was established by John W. Benninghofen in 1887, later to be run by his sons Christian Benninghofen, president and Peter Benninghofen, secretary. Fast forward to the 1900’s when our father Robert Powell Benninghofen was the president/CEO until it’s sale to Acme Datagraphic Business Systems in New Jersey in 1969.
- C. Benninghofen & Sons (CBS) – provided machinery design, implementation and repairs top all manufacturing equipment across the Benninghofen businesses.
(Special Notation) The Shuler & Benninghofen (SAB) mill and The Hamilton Autographic Register (THAR) buildings were constructed in the late 1800’s. SAB celebrated a hundredth anniversary in the 1958 before closing their doors in 1967. The “Wollen Mill” of SAB took an entire block and still stands today.
Trek into the Past with a Building Tour
Our older brother Chris Benninghofen arranged a tour of THAR building in 2004 with the current owner, John Smith, one of the founders of J & J Tire, my middle brother Bill and me. John purchased the property and had become a history buff on all the particulars of the complex and its uses: a very gracious man.
- We had taken photographs of this walk-though tour, but we are still in the process of recovering them from a crashed 250GB external backup drive: someday when we get to it…
What we found during the tour was amazing:
- timbers in the basement craved with the date of 1860 something;
- a view at our great uncle Paul’s executive office, private-bathroom, a cot for afternoon naps, secretary office, et al;
- a still-working elevator of more than 100 years old – amazing engineering;
- a sub-office-floor individual subway roller car to address below floor cables and wiring (created pre-1940’s – more amazing stuff from CBS);
- three safe-vaults, which still contained records, reports and really meticulously prepared employee time-cards from the 1860’s – civil war stuff: clear-as-a-bell script!!!;
- boilers which provided hot water for the facility – you could literally climb into for cleaning;
- a bell ringing system which called for the fork-lift operator to delivery new paper rolls to the printing presses: like Pavlov’s dog I began to salivate when I heard this – it was one of my summer jobs for me;
- the composing-room where rubber printing press plates were created/inspected for the continuous printing applications. I worked in this Ohio summer high-heat-humidity with baking ovens that brought the temperature over 100 degrees here too. This job of course was immediately after I crashed a five-high-paper-roll-stack in the warehouse, where i had used my new found fork-lifting-bending-crashing skills on my way to a major inventory-loss-write-off. Siberia might have been better but I doubt it – consequences – oh boy.
Our great aunt Pauline Benninghofen, daughter of our great uncle Paul Benninghofen, donated her home in 1947, now referred to as the Benninghofen House, to The Butler County Historical Society (BCHS). The Benninghofen House has been registered on the National Registry of Historical Places.
(Sidebar) As a grade school student with Fairfield Elementary School, I can still recall when our class visited my ancestors home: I was able to walk in front of our classmates with the docent and our teacher: that moment in time was somehow unusually embarrassing for me. But fairly enlightening about the times – man did they have stuff – all manually oriented …