When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network.

Brief history of Miami Manufacturing and Cycle Co.

Most Recent BUY IT NOW Items Listed on eBay
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture


Wore out three sets of tires already!

A 1894 or 1895 a civic-minded group of Middletown men met under the guidance of Paul J. Sorg. Standing left to right are: William L. Dechant, Ed Sebald, John Boyd (cashier, later vice-president, Merchants' National Bank), John Oglesby, George Phipps (became vice-president of the Merchants' National Bank), Wm. K. Rhonemus (attorney), Gus Weisbrodt (druggist, became Rathman Drugs and later Lewis Drugs), Dan Bonnell (note his missing arm). Seated from left to right are: William Crane, Paul J. Sorg (Middletown industrist), A. H. Walburg (secretary and treasurer, Miami Cycle & Manufacturing Co. and manager of the Sorg Opera House), and George Shafor (manager of tobacco operations for Sorg and later the American Tobacco Company). Paul J. Sorg was Middletown's leading industrialst in the 1890s. He had interests in many undertakings including tobacco, paper, bicycles, banking, railroads, etc.

Paul J. Sorg brought the McSherry Manufacturing Company from Dayton and set them up in a building located on Grand Avenue at the railroad tracks. They manufactured farm machinery, one of which was this grain drill of about 1888. Featured in the company's advertising was the beauty and practicality of the design which was available with fertilizer attachment. A few bicycles were manufactured by the company, causing it to evolve into the Miami Cycle and Manufacturing Company.

1900 bicycle made by Miami Cycle and Mfg. Co.

Racycle was their most popular and widely advertised bicycle brand

Hoping to compete in the developing automobile market, the Miami Cycle and Manufacturing Company, a local manufacturer of bicycles, decided to build automobiles. It was named "Ramapaugh" for an old Indian chief who lived near Charles A. Ball in New York and who was the chief of the Ramapaugh Tribe. Ball bought the first of three vehicles that was under construction and is in the driver's seat in this photograph. The other people were company employees and city officials. This photograph was taken in back of the company's factory along Grand Avenue. The vehicle was steam-powered and was the only one completed.

The company's workers in 1906

The Miami Cycle and Manufacturing Company made several different brands of bicycles. Some of the different nameplates are seen here. On top from the left is the Racycle (1896-1924), Hudson (1896-1914), Racycle (Westfield, Mass.). Bottom row from the left is Miami (1896-1898) and Musselman (unknown dates).

Flying Merkel assembly room in 1912. "The Merkel" brand first appeared in Milwaukee Wisconsin in 1902 when Joseph Merkelstarted a workshop producing single cylinder motorcycles. Merkel was among the most innovative of the pioneer motorcycle companies. The Merkel acquisition gave Miami the high-end product that it needed to be regarded as a premiere manufacturer. The factory racing team by then expanded to include names such as LS Taylor, FE French, CF Pinneau, and W Wikel. In 1914 The flying Merkel won the National endurance run from Chicago to St Louis. Maldwyn Jones then broke a world's record on the Vanderbilt Course. When he returned to Middletown he was given a hero's welcome.

Mr. and Mrs. John Petrocy on a "Flying Merkel" motorcycle, the last one manufactured in Middletown. It was manufactured by the Miami Cycle and Manufacturing Company after World War I. The Petrocy's used it to tour the United States.

The Miami Cycle and Manufacturing Company letterhead. This document lists the officers on November 12, 1918.

Photos and information by courtesy of www.middletownlibrary


I live for the CABE
Here is some more information, early Miami research I've put together in my work with Freqman1 on the history of the Flying Merkel:


In the late-1880s the modern cigarette was born. The mechanical cigarette machine had been perfected in America by James Bonsack and the labor of hand-rollers could be successfully automated. With this invention and its gradual improvement the production and consequent sales of coffin-nails and tobacco skyrocketed.

60 bonsack.jpg

Bonsack’s “Infernal Machine”

This was the birth of Big Tobacco during the height of “The Trusts” - the gathering together of the great monopolies of the Robber Barons, under the guidance of the powerful capital managers. New York millionaire Colonel Frank H. Ray was one of these men.

Frank H Ray sm.jpg

Throughout his life, Colonel Ray would build railroads, finance the construction of dams, originate and manage large mining operations, and develop early electrical power operations in the Pacific northwest. He would invest in business ventures and the production and distribution of raw materials throughout the United States and the world. But he had gotten rich investing in tobacco stocks, and in 1894 was attempting to finance the consolidation of the American mid-western non-Trust tobacco companies into organized cooperation with the east coast monopoly, The American Tobacco Company.

A hub for independent tobacco production in the midwest was in Middletown, Ohio. It was there that the Colonel would have to cut a deal with Paul J. Sorg.

Paul_J._Sorg_-_History_of_Ohio sm.jpg

Paul J. Sorg (b. 1840) was, in the 1880s, the civic soul and face of Middletown and indeed, of Butler County. He and his partner John Auer had been producing and selling tobacco for pipe and plug since the 1870s, when the tobacco leaf started to look like big money in Ohio. Through his business acumen, The P.J. Sorg Tobacco Company became a success, and he became the first millionaire industrialist in Middletown, a powerful and respected figure, and a member of the U.S. Congress.

In 1894, Mr. Sorg was among many of the independent tobacco producers and sellers who had stood against the trust of the American Tobacco Company. But that was to change, as Frank H. Ray was appointed Vice President of Sorg Tobacco.

sorg tobacco factory.jpg

“THE HOME OF HONEST SCRAP” sign at the P.J. Sorg Tobacco Company factory in Middletown

The corporate consolidations and factory automation of the tobacco industry in the 1890s had resulted in an extremely inexpensive retail product, the nickel pack of cigarettes. The American Tobacco Company operated at a low margin of net profit in order to force other producers to join The Trust. Competition during these Tobacco Wars was bitter and hard fought. Cigarettes had become so inexpensive and yet popular that to compete in the market - and to addict your customers - tobacco sellers gave away premiums, items of value or coupons towards an item of value that would be offered by the retailer via a catalog supplied by the tobacco companies.

2 American tobacco premiums.jpg

“For the return of the required number of these certificate we will deliver free of charge … any of the valuable articles described in our catalogue.”

In 1895, among the various items and “valuable articles” in the premium catalogs for both the P.J. Sorg Tobacco Company and for the American Tobacco company were, naturally, bicycles. At hotly contested meetings of these tobacco men, an idea must have taken shape between them.

1 MIami tobacco.jpg

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, 1895

These “plug tobacco men”, in the midst of fighting over territorial and market control of their industry looked at each other’s marketing materials and realized that a fortune was to be had in producing bicycles. They must have known that the materials and labor to produce such a thing was cheap and plentiful in the Miami River Valley and Middletown, home to a thriving buggy industry. They saw that the logistics of tobacco processing and transport, and the techniques of the automation and machining could be used to build bicycles since the steel and the rivers were nearby. They were caught up in the heady days of the bicycle boom, and knew the machining to produce shoe drills in Sorg’s factory was nearly identical to that needed to produce quality wheels.

Miami 1895.jpg

The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, 1895

By October of 1895 Sorg and Ray had made a deal, and by early the next year the third floor of Sorg’s McSherry Drill Company factory was being entirely dedicated to bicycle manufacturing. In August of 1896, Sorg declined to run again for the U.S. Congress after two terms representing Ohio’s third district, and Sorg and Ray went together by ship to Europe. Together they would eventually go on to a variety of joint ventures, including running the Cincinnati and Middletown Railway Company.

sorg ray europe.jpg

By the end of 1896, over 3500 Racycles had been produced, with many more bicycles to come in the next 28 years. And The Colonel had decided to buy himself a fine third home in Middletown.

In 1898 The P.J. Sorg Tobacco Company was absorbed by The ATC Trust. That same year, Colonel Frank Ray was appointed a director of the American Tobacco Company with an office on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Eventually, after the Trust Breakers had their way and parted out the ATC, the Sorg company would become part of Lorillard Tobacco, and go on to produce Newport cigarettes, Old Gold, Kent, and True.

PJ SORG tobacco.jpg

The above song is based on an American Tobacco Company (ATC) radio ad jingle of the 1930s for Lucky Strike cigarettes featuring a tobacco auctioneer chant delivered by North Carolina tobacco auctioneer Lee Aubrey "Speed" Riggs which ended with the phrase, "Sold, American!", stressing that American only purchased the highest quality tobacco for its cigarettes.

Selected sources:
Last edited:


Riding a '38 Autocycle Deluxe
In Memoriam
It is interesting that McSherry Manufacturing Company was so intertwined with the Sorg family and the Miami Cycle Company. The Sorg Mansion cannot go without mention.


Miller: Sorg Mansion key historical monument in Middletown

The July 28, 1896, issue of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported on Paul J. Sorg’s home with the statement: “The main hall of Mrs. Paul J. Sorg’s palatial home, at Middletown, Ohio, is in every respect an ideal hall.” In many ways it was a palace. The Sorg Mansion came to be the focal point of the very fashionable South Main Street.

When Paul J. Sorg and S. Jennie Gruver were married they went into housekeeping at 1112 Girard Ave. Sorg was on his way to becoming a multi-millionaire tobacco king and industrial leader of Middletown. It was not long before he was able to build their large home.

The Sorg House, as it was then known, was built during 1887-88 in the Romanesque Style. There have been questions raised as to what kind of stone was used in the building and where it came from. One time professor of geology at Miami University and past president of the Middletown Historical Society, Kenneth Shafor made a professional analysis of the stone and reported that “it is built of the finest red sandstone you’ll find anywhere in the world.” It is variegated sandstone, with an “earth-yellow” tinge found only in a few places.

In an interview in 1969, Marie M. Augspurger explained where the sandstone came from. She stated, “Every stone in the Sorg Mansion was carved in a quarry in Italy.” According to blueprints, each stone was numbered and identified before being shipped. Once they arrived in Middletown, they were delivered to the site and assembled by local masons following those blueprints. Her father, Rudolph Augspurger, worked for James Edward Baker, who ran a sand and gravel company and operated a construction business employing the area’s best stone masons. Augspurger worked on the construction of the building. There is no record of a general contractor for the job, but Ed Baker served as a subcontractor.

Sorg always hired the best and did things right. Samuel Hannaford and Sons of Cincinnati, then the area’s most prestigious architectural firm, designed the original part of the Sorg Mansion. An addition and remodeling was done in 1902 by the Dayton architectural firm of Pretzinger and Musselman.


At a cost of approximately $200,000, the 1902 addition included the north wing, turrets and present front porch. The north wing was built of matching stone to house the spacious ballroom. A carriage house and a stone wall topped by a wrought iron fence were added. After the remodeling and additions were finished the mansion had 27 rooms. While work was going on, the Sorgs lived in a large brick house that was at the corner of today’s Main and Second streets. This was moved to the rear of the lot and remodeled into a 12-room structure for Sorg’s servants.


Since Paul J. Sorg passed away in 1902, he was not able to enjoy his remodeled mansion, but his wife had already made it the center of Middletown’s elite social set. Her elaborate parties dominated the social scene. She hired bands and caterers from Dayton and Cincinnati, entertaining the rich and the famous. At times Mrs. Sorg had the servants roll out a red carpet from the front entrance to the walk as guests walked from their carriages.


Robert Dickey Oglesby was born at 313 S. Main St. in 1905. One time he recorded some childhood memories of the Sorg Mansion. He recalled attending several birthday parties, some given in honor of a visiting granddaughter, Jane Drouillard of Nashville, Tenn.

Once inside the house, the young guests walked on freshly polished parquet floors, saw chandeliers glittering with crystal pendants, paneled walls, carved woodwork, paintings and pictures, statuary and recessed seats under windows with stained glass on the top. The wide entrance hall had a fireplace on the right, midway between openings to two of the north rooms. The hall extended back to a broad stairway leading to the upper floors. The furnishings were massive in order to fit the large rooms. The yard was beautifully landscaped, and was filled with lovely trees.

A glasshouse or greenhouse for displaying plants, known as a conservatory, was part of the house. It is gone, but Oglesby described the room in these words: “It was a good sized circular chamber, or room, perhaps 25 or 30 feet in diameter, attached to and entered from the southwest corner of the house.” Its base supported a glass dome with many individual panes of glass that could be opened and closed as needed. Mrs. Sorg took great pleasure in showing her many flowers, ferns, small shrubs and plants.

The Sorg Mansion recalls a period of Middletown history of wealth and elaborate entertaining. It stands as a symbol of the past for the present generation. It is the city’s best-known landmark.

Roger L. Miller is a Middletown resident.

Last edited:


Riding a '38 Autocycle Deluxe
In Memoriam
Good picture of P J Sorg..... also note that the Miami Cycle Company was a big Contractor for the War in its infancy.


Born September 23, 1840 Wheeling, Virginia (1840-09-23)
Children Paul Arthur Sorg, Ada Gruver Sorg
Died May 28, 1902, Middletown, Ohio, United States
Paul John Sorg (September 23, 1840 – May 28, 1902) was a businessman and member of the United States House of Representatives from Ohio.

He was born in Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia) on September 23, 1840. He attended public school. He was the youngest son of Henry and Elizabeth Sorg, immigrants from Hesse-Darmstadt (or Hesse-Kassel or Hesse-Cassel), Germany. Paul Sorg moved with his parents and siblings to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1852 where he was apprenticed as an iron molder. He attended night school in Cincinnati.

He served in the Union Army during the Civil War.

In 1864 Paul J. Sorg met John Auer, a German-born tobacco roller in Cincinnati. Auer could make tobacco, but he couldn't keep books; for his part, Sorg knew nothing about tobacco, but he was a good bookkeeper. These two men organized a firm for the manufacture of tobaccos, starting a plant in Cincinnati. In 1869 they partnered with another tobacco firm in Cincinnati. One of the new partners lived in Middletown, Ohio and urged the newly formed company, Wilson, Sorg and Company, to relocate there and a new plant was constructed.

Sorg and Auer soon sold their share of the business and immediately formed another company, P. J. Sorg Tobacco Co., to manufacture cut filler and plug tobacco. One of their brand names was "Biggest and Best." This new firm they built up to become one of the largest of its type in the world and Sorg became Middletown’s first multi-millionaire.

On July 20, 1876, he married Susan Jennie Gruver (1854–1930) in Middletown; they had two children, Paul Arthur Sorg (1878–1913) and Ada Gruver Sorg (1882–1956). In 1888, he completed a $1 million, 35-room stone Romanesque mansion that still stands in Middletown, converted to apartments at one time the mansion is currently under restoration by Mark and Traci Barnett and being converted back to a single family residence. Being a public-spirited man, he made many civic and charitable contributions to build up the city of his adoption, including the 1891 Sorg Opera House (designed by Samuel Hannaford) that is the performance center of Middletown’s Sorg Opera.

At a special election held in May 1894 to fill the vacancy caused by the death of George W. Houk, Paul Sorg was elected as a Democrat to the Fifty-third congress from Ohio’s Third district. He declined at first to accept renomination in 1894, in pique that a friend had not been appointed Consul to Berlin by President Grover Cleveland, to whose campaign Sorg had contributed generously. However, he relented and was narrowly re-elected to the Fifty-fourth in 1894 when the Republicans swept all but two seats of the Ohio delegation and two-thirds of Congress partly as a result of the Panic of 1893. He was the ranking member on the Committee on Labor. He declined a third election in 1896. James M. Cox, a Butler county native working as assistant telegraph and railroad editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, went with Sorg to Washington as his executive secretary. A few years later, Cox held the same seat in Congress.

After leaving Congress, he allowed his name to be put in nomination for Governor of Ohio at the July 1897 Democratic convention, but withdrew his name during the second ballot. He allowed efforts toward nomination again for the 1899 election, but these came to nothing when he became ill.

Sorg resumed his former tobacco business activities in Middletown, forming a Tobacco Trust with Lorillard and Liggett until he sold the business to Continental Tobacco Company for $4.5 million in 1898. With the proceeds, he purchased in 1899 a paper company that had been the first paper mill in Middletown but had subsequently gone through several hands. He renamed the company, the Paul A. Sorg Paper Co., for his son who became president of the firm. Paul J. Sorg continued his business career as president of a bank in which he had invested in 1891. He also had real estate and railroad interests.


His saw a future for the bicycle industry in its earliest beginnings, and he may have even foreseen the great war of the nations which was to come only a few years after his death, for his development of the Miami Cycle Company included, first, the introduction of its wheeled productions into every market, and second, the manufacture of shells and shrapnel which were immediately in demand by the United States government.

Both articles 1898

June7 1898 Miamicycleco copy.png
Jul19 1898 copy.png

Fully realizing the vital necessity of railroads to the growth of a western community, he was the chief instrument in securing for Middletown a branch of the great Panhandle System, known as the M. and C. Railroad. He was the good genius of Middleton at critical periods. When the Merchants' National Bank stood on the verge of failure, he purchased a controlling interest in its stocks and set the wheels in motion again, saving many depositors among his fellow townsmen from serious loss. He took charge of the affairs of the Middletown Gas Company at a critical period due to poor management, and brought it back to prosperity.


He was appointed by Governor Asa S. Bushnell, a leader in trust-busting, to be a delegate to a national Conference on Trusts in 1899. The topic of discussion was to be "Trusts and Combinations, their uses and abuses—Railway, labor, industrial and commercial," a subject on which Sorg could be said to be an expert.

Paul John Sorg died in Middletown, Ohio, where he was interred in Woodside Cemetery.
Last edited:


Riding a '38 Autocycle Deluxe
In Memoriam
The railroad that built a cycle empire.... ( from the middletown historical society )


The Middletown & Cincinnati Railroad came about because Paul J. Sorg and other Middletown business leaders felt they were being cheated by the railroads. It was formed in 1880 as an alternate and competitive route into Middletown. It was built southeast of Middletown and reached the Cincinnati, Lebanon & Northern Railroad at Hageman Junction in 1881. It then ran to its connection with the Little Miami Railroad at Middletown Junction. The line provided the Pennsylvania Railroad's entry into Middletown. Much of it is still being used. It has been part of the Pennsylvania, the Penn-Central, Conrail, Indiana & Ohio lines. Today it is used by Norfolk Southern Railroad. George Crout used this slide, No. 68 of 80, in a slide program titled "Middletown Story Pt. 1." They can be found by using exact phrase search; " Slide File 17 (1-80)." The text reads: To connect Middletown with the Pennsylvania Railroad, thus saving on shipping costs, Sorg built the Middletown-Cincinnati line in 1891.

Date c. 1885


View attachment 460337


Riding a '38 Autocycle Deluxe
In Memoriam

One of the most common smoking and chewing tobacco brands in the United States was Polar Bear, manufactured in Middletown by the Paul J. Sorg Company and later the P. Lorillard Company. For years Polar Bear was painted on the corner of the plant that covered a full city block and employed 1800 workers. Prospective laborers bound for the plant climbed off the train when the conductor yelled "Polar Bear" making the call of Middletown unnecessary, c. 1900.

In 1901 the Luhrman and Wilbern Tobacco Company of Cincinnati was moved into part of the Sorg Tobacco Company's plant by The American Tobacco Company. It was the manufacturer of what came to be called "Polar Bear Chewing and Smoking Tobacco." By 1909 the Middletown Branch of The American Tobacco Company employed 1700 people, with a payroll of over $15,000 per week, and a daily capacity of 150,000 pounds of manufactured product.
Date c. 1910


This is a picture of the P. J. Sorg Tobacco Company, a division of the American Tobacco Company. A sign on the building reads "Home of Spear Head Plug Tobacco." Around 1870, Captain Robert Wilson, George Jacoby, John Auer, and Paul J. Sorg founded the first tobacco factory along the Miami and Erie Canal. In 1877, Sorg withdrew from the firm and founded the P.J. Sorg Tobacco Company. His factory grew until it covered a city block with buildings three and five stories high. The factory was equipped with presses, packers, and other tobacco-processing equipment. By 1888, the factory employed 700 people. In 1888, Sorg sold the factory to the Continental Tobacco Company, later known as the American Tobacco Company, which controlled many of the tobacco factories in the United States. After an anti-trust lawsuit by the federal government, the company was ordered to break up. In 1912, the Middletown factory became part of the P. Lorillard Company. The plant was located on the east side of Middletown on Charles Street at the railroad tracks. This photograph was taken after the concern was sold by Sorg to the American Tobacco Company. It has often been identified as the Wilson-McCallay Tobacco Company's plant, which was a separate concern at a different location.
Date c. 1900


Paul J. Sorg purchased his first paper mill, the Jacob Paper Company, in 1898. Over the next few years, additional mills were added. His son, Paul A. Sorg, continued to obtain mills, including the W.B. Oglesby Paper Company in 1917. In 1931, these mills plus the Frank Smith Paper Company were combined as the Sorg Paper Company. Sorg became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Mosinee Paper Company in 1983. This is a hand-colored postcard by Feicke-Desch, while John T. Fay used a view of this photograph in his "A Photographic View of Middletown, Ohio."
Publisher Fay, John T., druggest, Middletown; The Feicke-Desch Printing Company, Cincinnati.

Date c. 1915

Last edited:


Riding a '38 Autocycle Deluxe
In Memoriam
This is repeated information from Wcben and Barracuda.....just direct from the historical society in Middletown. Hand tinted version from above.

Photo Courtesy of Cam Petrocy Hammond

My grandmother & grandfather...Mr. and Mrs. John Petrocy on a "Flying Merkel" motorcycle, the last one manufactured in Middletown. It was manufactured by the Miami Cycle and Manufacturing Company after World War I. The Petrocy's used it to tour the United States. A large light was installed on the handlebars. It used a gas generator to produce the light, c. 1920.
Date c. 1920



Last edited:


Riding a '38 Autocycle Deluxe
In Memoriam

From the Middletown Library.....

This photograph shows the P.J. Sorg Tobacco Company, a division of the American Tobacco Company in Middletown, Ohio. A sign on the building reads "Home of Spear Head PlugTobacco." The photograph measures 6.75" x 4.75" (17.15 x 12.07 cm). Around 1870 Captain Robert Wilson, George Jacoby, John Auer, and Paul J. Sorg founded the first tobacco factoryalong the Miami and Erie Canal in Middletown, Ohio. In 1877 Sorg withdrew from the firm and founded the P. J. Sorg Tobacco Company. His factory grew until it covered a city block with buildings three to five stories high. The factory was equipped with presses, packers, and other tobacco-processing equipment. By 1888 the factory employed 700 people. In 1888 Sorgsold the factory to the Continental Tobacco Company, later known as the American Tobacco Company, which controlled many of the tobacco factories in the United States. After an anti-trust lawsuit by the federal government, the company was ordered to break up. In 1912 the Middletown factory became part of the P. Lorillard Tobacco Company.

Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 16.03.12.png

Sorg Tobacco Co
Sorg Tobacco Co. -- also known as the Paul J. Sorg Tobacco Co. and the P. J. Sorg Tobacco Co. The most comprehensive work on the Sorg company, the production of tobacco in the Miami Valley and the tobacco processing industry in Middletown is by George Crout, a Middletown historian. Crout's history. written in 1948, is available on the Internet, thanks to the Middletown Historical Society. Bracketed [ ] material has been added for clarity, or to denote information from other sources. "In the Miami Valley the tobacco industry is localized at Dayton and Middletown," Crout wrote in 1948. "The, industry got its start in the last century [1800s], when this valley was an important leaf production center, specializing in the production of cigar-filler tobacco. "The growing of tobacco gradually spread westward from Virginia, and as early as 1839 Ohio ranked seventh in the production of this crop, by 1889 it had jumped to third place," Crout said. "While from 1889 to 1919 the state fell from thirdSouth Hamilton was a proposed residential area once outside Hamilton. Its boundaries were south from South Avenue (now Knightsbridge Drive) to Woodlawn Avenue, and east from the Great Miami River to the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad. The area -- which was annexed to Hamilton in 1908 -- also was known as Sloptown because of slop from a distillery in the area. It also included the areas known as Peck's Addition and South Hamilton Crossing.
to sixth place in production, the number of pounds produced jumped from 38 million to 64 million pounds. In 1932 there were 30,000 acres in South Hamiltontobacco in the Miami Valley. The cigar-filler producing area centers are in Darke, Montgomery, Preble and Miami counties, with outliers in Warren, Butler, Shelby and Greene." Crout continued: "In 1838 seedleaf tobacco was introduced into this region , and in 1851 its production was begun in the Dick's Creek valley, four miles south of Middletown. Since this Miami Valley region had heavy clay soils in some parts, this particular variety of tobacco did very well, particularly in the lowlands. The Spanish Simmer variety was introduced in 1869 and became a popular variety for growth on the uplands. This region gradually increased its annual yield of tobacco until 1909. "When men turned to smoking cigarettes during the first World War," Crout explained, "the demand for cigars slowly declined. and with it the market for cigar-filler tobaccos. This meant the decline in tobacco production and in manufacturing. Since this valley was not suited to the growth of other varieties, as used in cigarettes, the importance of the tobacco industry declined."

Crout said "when the Miami Valley became the center of the tobacco industry in the last century, Middletown became the center of important processing plants. John G. Clark and J. B. Cecil entered in to the manufacture of tobacco in 1859, but due to the Civil War, which caused a depression in the tobacco industry, this first business failed. "In 1864 John Auer, a tobacco roller in Cincinnati, met Paul J. Sorg, a foreman in a foundry. Mr. Auer could make tobacco, but he couldn't keep books, and while Sorg knew nothing about tobacco, he was a good bookkeeper," Crout wrote. "These two men organized a firm for the manufacture of tobaccos, starting a plant in Cincinnati with $6,000 and 28 workers." [Elsewhere, Crout wrote "the business was begun in an attic on Pearl Street in Cincinnati" with "two or three second-hand tobacco machines."]

"In 1869 this firm was consolidated with that of Wilson & Jacoby [Robert Wilson and George Jacoby], who also had a plant at Cincinnati. Jacoby lived in Middletown, and induced the newly formed company to move to Middletown. So Wilson, Sorg & Co. began construction of a tobacco plant here [in 1869]. This company soon sold out, and Sorg and Auer again began their own business. "The new Sorg & Auer plant was built on East Central Avenue across from the Big Four railroad line. The first building was built in 1879 and was 140 by 100 feet. The business grew so rapidly that additions were soon added. In 1881 the company manufactured 1.6 million pounds of tobacco and employed 300 men. The output of this factory increased so rapidly that by the 1890s," Crout said, "Middletown was the third city in the United States in the output of plug tobacco." [Auer is reported to have retired from the business in 1884.] "During, this same period the Wilson & McCallay plant, the company which had been brought from Cincinnati, was also doing a good business. In the '90s this company was manufacturing 8 million pounds of tobacco a year and employing 500 men." Crout said "in 1898 the Continental Tobacco Co. was looking forward to expansion and entered into negotiations with P. J. Sorg, who sold.

[A report Dec. 14, 1898, in the Hamilton Republican-News said Sorg received $4.5 million in cash in the sale to the American Tobacco Co. The same article said "the employees are regretful that as many years' relation is to be severed, because in the history of the company there has not been a strike or the presentation of a grievance." Other reports said it operated as the P. J. Sorg & Co., a branch of the American Tobacco Co.]

[Other sources identify the Continental Tobacco Co., organized in 1886 by James B. Duke, as a trust to control the plug tobacco industry in the U. S.

Duke and Continental won the "Great Plug War, acquiring the biggest plug producers, Liggett & Myers, St. Louis; Drummond, St. Louis; P. J. Sorg, Middletown; and P. Lorillard & Co., New York.] [In 1890 the American Tobacco Co. was formed to acquire and control the smoking tobacco business. The American Snuff Co. and the American Cigar Co. were formed to gain control of the trade in other tobacco sectors.] [In 1901 Duke combined his Continental Tobacco Co. and his American Tobacco Co. into the Consolidated Tobacco. Co. In 1904, Duke's combine became known as the American Tobacco Co. By 1911, Duke's American Tobacco Co. controlled 92 percent of the world's tobacco business.] [May 29, 1911, federal trustbusters, in a decision by the U. S. Supreme Court, succeeded in dissolving Duke tobacco monopoly. The court ruled the American Tobacco Co. had violated the 1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act. P. Lorillard was one of the new companies formed by the federal action.] Crout said "in 1901 the same company obtained control of the Wilson & McCallay factory, which they moved and consolidated with the Sorg plant on Central Avenue. The whole tobacco business of Middletown was now under one roof. In 1903 the tobacco business in Middletown employed 1,000 men, paid $9,000 in wages each week and shipped 17 million pounds of tobacco that year. The Cullum Brothers and American Cigar Co. maintained warehouses in Middletown, buying 14.5 million pounds of cigar leaf in 1903." "At Middletown [in 1948] is located a branch of the P. Lorillard Tobacco Co., which has several plants scattered throughout the United States. The P. Lorillard Co. is a national concern with the main office in New York City," Crout said. "This company manufactures all types of tobacco products -- cigarettes, cigars, pipe, and chewing tobaccos. The Middletown branch specializes in the production of chewing and pipe tobaccos. 'Union Leader,' 'Friends,' and 'Briggs' are the well known pipe tobaccos, while 'Bag Pipe' and 'Havana Blossom' are the chewing brands which are best known. Several other brands are produced along with the old-fashioned plugs which are slowly leaving the market. "At Middletown today [1948] Lorillard is the only tobacco company," Crout said. "But there are still the two phases of the tobacco industry carried on here under this one firm. One phase is the storing and curing, and the other is the manufacturing which consists of blending, cutting and packing. Curing tobacco requires much space for it is often in storage for two or three years. The Lorillard Co. has warehouses in the southern and northern end of the town," Crout wrote in 1948, three years before Middletown's tobacco era ended. [Lorilland officially closed its Middletown plant Oct. 12, 1951. About six months earlier, when the closing was announced, 600 people were employed at the 350,00 square foot plant bounded by Grimes and Charles streets and Central and Manchester avenues.] [Sunday afternoon, Feb. 22, 2004, fire destroyed Recker Custom Woodworking at 1210 Girard Avenue, described as 40,000 square feet over four stories. The Middletown Journal reported Feb. 24, 2004 that "the building's roots go back to Paul Sorg's American Tobacco Co." (Also see Polar Bear.)



A great old cast iron Tobacco Cutter by P.J. Sorg with a patent date of Dec. 11, 1883.

On cutter handle it reads "SPEAR HEAD" on one side and "SAW LOG" on the other.

Cutter blade is in excellent condition with some very small knicks. Gear works just great.

Some discoloration on the cast iron where the black paint has come off.

With a little sharpening this cutter and blade could be in operation quickly.

The patent was granted to Thomas Casad, of Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Last edited: