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Republic Motor Car Company

Republic Motor Car Company. "Hamilton to have $500,000 automobile factory -- incorporated today," said a local newspaper July 20, 1909. The announcement said "the company will manufacture a high-grade, medium-priced automobile of standard design." It was the birth of the Republic Motor Car Company, founded by George Adam Rentschler. From 1909 until about 1914, the company turned out cars comparable to the more enduring Packard. Because records are believed to have been destroyed, there is no documentation of its production. Estimates range from 400 to 1,200 Hamilton-built Republics in about five years. The new corporation bought eight acres from Peter Schwab and converted the former Fair Grove Paper Mill into a car factory.

In 1911 it erected a new plant on the site. That building -- occupied for several decades by the W. H. Kiefaber Company -- was at 1900 Fairgrove Avenue (Ohio 4), opposite the Butler County Fairgrounds. The July 1909 Journal article identified George A. Rentschler, Charles U. Carpenter and George H. Helvey as "the promoters of the enterprise," which also involved Frederick B. Rentschler and Stanley Helvey. A Dec. 20, 1911, article in the Journal listed officers as George A. Rentschler, president; C. U. Carpenter (formerly the president of the Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe Company), vice president; Gordon S. Rentschler, general manager; F. B. Rentschler, secretary and treasurer; C. F. Cousins, superintendent; and C. H. Knowles, engineer. The cars sold for $2,000 to about $2,400 at the Hamilton factory, which included a showroom. The "Republic was a rather sturdy powerful touring car with an attractive hood line somewhat resembling the Packard of its day," wrote the late John Slade in an article for the Butler County Historical Society. "To many admirers, it was somewhat better looking than the Packard," recalled Slade, a founder of the Antique and Classic Car Club of Butler County and an organizer of the annual Hamilton Antique and Classic Car Parade. "The Republic was a partially assembled automobile -- the engine, body panels, fenders, radiator and ignition system were supplied by leading manufacturers, such as Wisconsin Engine Company and Harrison Radiator Company," Slade explained. "The Republic plant manufactured and assembled all the chassis and iron work, installed the upholstery and painted and tested the automobiles." Slade said "the Republic automobile was at first powered by a four cylinder engine, hand cranked, but with a compressed air starter offered as an extra.

"The Republic adopted a powerful six cylinder Wisconsin engine about 1911 and shortly thereafter came equipped with a Delco starting and lighting system," Slade said. Why the company closed is a mystery. Some speculate the impact of the March 1913 flood on the local economy may have been a factor, but the Fairgrove plant escaped devastation. The nearby levee of the Miami-Erie Canal protected it from the rampaging Great Miami River. Problems in obtaining critical parts and increasing competition possibly were other factors. A Hamilton-built Republic lost a race Thursday, Sept. 22, 1910, but not to another automobile. The opponent in the mismatch was "the Wright aeroplane in one of the most beautiful flights ever attempted by an aviator," noted the awed Dayton correspondent of the Hamilton Journal. Orville Wright piloted the primitive craft over Dayton and vicinity, covering about 22 miles in 25 minutes. Orville and his brother, Wilbur Wright, had pioneered powered flight Dec. 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. In the fall of 1910, both the airplane and the car were still novelties. The outcome of the Republic-Wright race was in doubt as the contest began that clean September day. The newspaper said Wright "looked down on the 60-horsepower Republic going as fast as it could and kept about even with it until it was necessary to go ahead; then he let the wings of his air bird flap a little faster and he went by the Republic like a shot." Wright won by about a mile, the newspaper said, as "the whistles of the city blew and the thousands cheered."


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