Future Finance Solutions

“America’s Match King:” Ohio Columbus Barber

May 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

By Samuel Phineas Upham

Ohio Columbus Barber became “America’s Match King,” but was a fairly well-known businessman and philanthropist for his time. He was born in April of 1841, and it would take 40 years for his to own a controlling interest in the Diamond Match Company.

Barber worked for his father, who sold handmade matches. Ohio’s older brother, George, had died of dysentery during the way and the company was finding it hard to sell its product when no one had money. After the war, prosperity returned and the company eventually became the largest match producer in Ohio. By that time, Barber owned 81% market share and a lack of regulation was making it difficult for him to manage everything. Finally, he merged with 11 other companies to create the Diamond Match Company, which rose to hold 85% of the market share.

Barber was a local legend of sorts. He returned to Akron and opened the First National Bank there, a bank he was president of. He also founded the city of Barberton from a plot of land he’d purchased from the Norton Township. Like other entrepreneurs and industrialists of his time, Barber also had aspirations of making the model working village.

His ideas brought expanded manufacturing, and improved residential development. For a time, they worked well. So well that his development earned the nickname “Magic City” because of its ability to attract new talent and provide well-paying jobs.

Barber was also a fairly well-known humanitarian, and he developed the General Fire Extinguisher Company as part of a larger effort to preach fire safety. Barber died in 1920, and he willed his farm to Case Western University, with intentions of it serving as the basisfor an agricultural college. Unfortunately, the financing for the college was never complete and the University sold his property.

About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Facebook.