Even as the railroad companies were placing rails down on the towpaths of the Old Canal, Fort Wayne was transforming from a rural farm town to a great center of industry. The Summit City had grown tremendiously during the Canal Era. Great warehouses were built to house textiles, building products, produce, and other supplies. The Walbash-Erie Canal had laid the foundations for greater growth in and around Fort Wayne. With the intensity of what was to follow, one could only imagine how the city would have prospered without such a great waterway. Maybe by fate or by deliberate direction many peoples from all around the world came to Fort Wayne in search of opportunity. In the late nineteenth the Canal was gone, but a great new age was emerging; an age of great discovery; an age of great social change; an age of prosperity unmatched in Fort Wayne to this day.
Fort Wayne is heralded for being a city of great inventions. Many of the products we use today found their beginnings in the small shops, and factories of this city. Many of these inventions were discovered before the turn of the century.
One of the most profound "firsts" in Fort Wayne was the invention of baking powder. Immediately following the Civil War two brothers by the name of Joseph and Cornelius Hoagland owned and operated a small pharmacy on the corner of Calhoun and Columbia Streets. With the help of a fellow employee, the Hoaglands developed a powder that revolutionized baking. The world renowned formula became known as Royal Baking Powder. The small company eventually moved to New York in the 1890's, and became the largest manufacturer of baking powder.
Many companies got their start in Fort Wayne at this time. The Horton Washing Machine Company massed produced the first self contained washing machine eliminating wash boards as the sole means of cleaning clothes. Founders, Henry C. Paul and John C. Peters invented the prototype for many of the washing machines in existence today.
Isaac T. Packard, founder of the Packard organs and pianos, came to Fort Wayne by fate. After losing his business in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Packard boarded a train headed east. His only instructions to the conductor was to let him off when his money ran out. Packard's money ran out as he arrived in Fort Wayne, and fate was about to lead to major industry. The Packard Company became one of the largest known instrument companies in the United States, and employed over 400 workers.
Around this same time a French immigrant by the name of Louis Centlivre pioneered one of the largest breweries in the midwest. The Centlivre Brewery became one of the focal points in Fort Wayne. The Brewery operated a large park nearby where families could enjoy boatrides (on the feeder canal),horse racing, trolley rides, and of course buy an endless supply of beer. The brewery operated near the current location of Spyrun Ave and State Street. The Feeder Canal ran behind the present-day location of Burger King (follow the power lines).
Another great "first" developed in Fort Wayne was the "Bowser Pump" developed by Silvanus Bowser. This pump would become the blueprint for every gaspump acrooss the nation. It was first developed out of an act of desperation. Bowser, as a farm boy was tired of having to extract freezing water out of a deep well every morning before work. It was from this problem that he developed a basic mechcanism for extracting liquids from a tank. Bowser was first to develop a way to measure oil and kerosene coming through one of his pumps. His company grew at an astounding rate during the latter part of the century. His greatest success came after the invention of the Automobile and the need for selling gas to run them. It was at this time that Bowser was joined by the Wayne Pump Company, and Fort Wayne to become the World leader in pump production. Pumps with readable dials that could automatically compute the amount of gas purchased gave Wayne Pumps the advantage.
It is fitting that Thomas Edison spent close to a year of his life in Fort Wayne in the late 1800's. It was at this time the city of Fort Wayne became one of the World leaders in electrical "arc light" development. Around the same time Thomas Edison developed the incandescent light bulb, a man by the name of James Jenny had perfected a similar "arc light" design in Fort Wayne. While first seen as an impractical invention, Jenny's light soon gained favor in the eyes of public officals who witnessed its awesome glow firsthand. The design was rather simple;Jenny's light, when used with a powerful generator, produced an extremely bright,artifical lighting source. Light was achieve by an arc of electricity jumping between two carbon poles inside a glass globe. The first demonstration of this light was in a warehouse at the corner of Berry and Clinton Streets. The city council was witness to one of the most breathtaking sites they had ever seen. Light as bright as daylight inside an otherwise dimly candle-lit warehouse. The demonstration set the stage for what was to come. The Jenny Electric Company was rewarded it's first contract by the City of Wabash in 1881. The city of Fort Wayne purchased the Jenny Arc Lights used in the first professional night baseball game in 1883. The crowd was so amazed at the artificial lighting that the game itself paled in comparison. In 1884 the company had grown substantially, and was given the lighting contract for the New Orleans World's Fair. The success of Jenny Electric attracted many other prominent inventors of the time including Marcellus Slattery, master of the electric generator, and James Woods, who designed the lighting system for the Statue of Liberty and held scores of valuable patents. In 1890, the Jenny Electric Company became known as the Fort Wayne Electric Company. The financial depression of 1893 nearly ruined the company, but fate stepped in when the newly formed General Electric Company purchased the remaining assests to set up a manufacturing facility in Fort Wayne. General Electric provides electric motors and transfomers for various businesses around the world, and still have a major presence in Fort Wayne to this day.
Organized labor became a national trend, and Fort Wayne was once again in the forefront. Workers fed up with conditions while owners made millions was a big push in the late 1800's. The first strike in Fort Wayne came with the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. The strike began in the east, but soon reached the workers of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago in Fort Wayne. The tensions seemed to boil when Mayor Charles Zollinger and Railroad managers told the workers to end their protests. The rioters proceeded to take a locomotive and attach it to a caboose the strike leaders were using as a headquaters. The Railroad along with police took the locomotive back and locked it up in a roundhouse until the strike was resolved. It was this group of Railroad strikers that formed the first Union in Fort Wayne, the Brotherhood of the Rootboard chartered in 1863. This was followed by the Typographical Union in 1864 and the Cigarmakers Trade Union in 1866. At the turn of the century, Fort Wayne had over 25 unions in existence. These Unions consolidated into the American Federation of Labor. (AFL) It was not until 1938 that Fort Wayne would be chartered into the Congress of Industrial Organizations. (CIO)
The planning of Fort Wayne's centennial celebration was in full swing long before the 1894 event. Committees and volunteers were lined up for the celebration of the century. The event was right on course with the mayor appointing a Centennial Commission to over see all areas of the event. However, many months of planning came to a halt when the City Council refused to appropriate the required funds. Many of the committee members resigned and most of the volunteers quit. The glamour of 100 years of prosperity was shattered by the reality of no funding. October 22, 1894 came and went with no mention of the celebration.
In early 1895, a prominent attorney by the name of Perry A. Randall came forward to initiate plans for a grand celebration of Fort Wayne's 101st birthday. New committees were formed and the necessary funds were raised. The 100th birthday celebration, a year late, was becoming a reality. The event was kicked off by a 100 cannon salute by the Charles Zollinger Battery. The festivities centered around a five mile parade route with grand arches commemorating General Wayne and Little Turtle. Electric lights were strung all through the parade route lighting the night sky in a new way. Speeches were given on the history of Fort Wayne to that time. Military drills and mock battles between Indians and the U.S. Army entertained bystanders in Forest Park. Crowds also enjoyed an exhibition baseball game between the Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Chicago White Stockings. Finally a grand finale fireworks display ended the weeks festivities. One of Fort Wayne's greatest snafu's ended up being one of it's greatest successes. While the city was enjoying a century of progress, it had to live up to it's growth by managing its future. This management of progress would include many new organizations to help Fort Wayne shape its growth.