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Ferdinand Kahler & Son; Kahler Company
New Albany Table Co., 1903-1905; Ferdinand Kahler & Son 1905-1907; Kahler Co. 1907-1947; New Albany, Indiana.
Associated Firms
Indiana Specialty Works, Ford Motor Co.

Ferdinand Nickolas 'Ferd' Kahler, Sr. (November 20, 1864 – November 14, 1927) is best-remembered today as one of New Albany, Indiana's leading employers. His firm, the Kahler Company, specialized in wood products, one of which was woodwork for automobile bodies, which they manufactured for close to 40 years.

Although most of Kahler's automobile body customers remain undiscovered, a majority of the firm's production from 1916 into 1921 was for the Ford Motor Co., supplying woodwork for the bodies used by Ford's Louisville assembly plant. Other customers included the American Automobile Mfg. Co. (made the short-lived Jonz), Maxwell-Briscoe (according to a Jan. 4, 1913 article they owed Kahler $15,951.14) and the Clark Motor Co. for whom they constructed 125 bodies in 1911 (according to a 1911 news article). Clark was also involved in a number of local automobile manufacturers, none of whom manufactured more than a few dozen automobiles.

Kahler was born in Hermsdorf, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) on November 20, 1864 to Anton (b. Dec. 1839) and Jennie (b. Feb 1843) Kahler. Siblings included Theresea (b. May 1867); Joseph (b. Mar. 1875); August (b. Dec. 1877); and Bertha (b. Oct. 1885) Kahler.

Kahler sailed from Bremen, Germany, arriving in the Port of New York on September 3, 1881. After brief stays in Reading, Pennsylvania and Louisville, Kentucky he moved to New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana in 1884 where he took a position as a carpenter with the Ohio Falls Car Manufacturing Co., in nearby Jeffersonville.

The Ohio Falls Car & Locomotive Company was founded at Jeffersonville, Indiana, 1 June 1864. Jeffersonville is immediately across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky, near what is known as the “Falls of the Ohio,” In 1876 the company was reorganized as the Ohio Falls Car Manufacturing Company. It built most types of railroad cars, including electric street cars, and passenger cars for the up-and-coming narrow gauge railroads. By 1888, Ohio Falls was one of the largest and most profitable of the car builders.  By 1892 it employed more than 2,300, and its sales soon reached $3 million worth of cars annually.

A nice collection of images of Ohio Falls cars can be found at the Railroad Picture Archives.

In 1899, the Ohio Falls Car Manufacturing Company was one of the 13 independent car builders that merged to form the American Car & foundry Company.

Ferdinand married Mary Matilda Leist (b.1864 – d. Sept. 9, 1932) on May 11, 1886 in Floyd County, Indiana. The union was blessed with the birth of a son, Ferdinand Nickolas Kahler Jr. on March 15, 1887.

According to the 1900 US Census, the rest of Kahler’s immediate family emigrated to the United States in 1888, joining him in New Albany where his father Anton got a job at the Car Works. The census notes that Ferdinand’s family (at 203 Shelby Pl.) lived just across the street from his parents (214 Shelby Pl.)

In late 1902 Kahler left the employ of the Car Company and helped organize the New Albany Table Company, a manufacturer of extension tables, folding tables, beds and sideboards, the New Indiana Corporations column of the January 19, 1903 issue of the Indianapolis News reporting:

“New Albany Table Company, New Albany; capital, $20,000, by W.A. McLean and others.”

The firm’s 1903 State of Indiana inspection lists the number of employees as 12, its main product, ‘extension-tables.’ McLean served as president and Kahler, secretary- treasurer. Its listing in the 1903 New Albany Directory under ‘carpenters and builders’ follows:

“New Albany Table Co., W.A. McLean, pres.; Fred N. Kahler, sec & treas; Fred T. Kahler, bkkpr; Oak nw cor Pearl.”

Kahler assumed contol of the firm in 1905 and reorganized it as Ferd. Kahler & Son, its listing in the 1905 New Albany Directory under 'Carpenters and Builders' follows:

“Ferdinand Kahler & Son, Oak nw cor Pearl.”

In August of 1907 the firm was reorganized as a stock company, the August 28, 1907 editiion of the Indianapolis Sun reporting:

“The following articles of incorporation were filed Wednesday at the office of the secretary of state:

“The Kahler company, New Albany, capital stock $6,000. The directors are Ferdinand Kahler, Joseph Kahler and August Kahler.”

The 1907-1909 New Albany Directories continued to list the firm under 'Carpenters and Builders' as follows:

“The Kahler Co. (Inc.), Ferdinand Kahler, pres; Ferdinand Kahler, Jr., sec and treas; August Kahler, mngr, wood-working specialties, Oak nw cor Pearl.”

The November 1907 issue of Wood Craft included a small mention of the firm's recent incorporation:

“The Kahler Co., New Albany, Ind., has been incorporated with a capital stock of $6,000 by Ferdinand Kahler Sr., Joseph Kahler and August Kahler to manufacture wood specialties. A letter received from the company states that it is doing a general jobbing business of store fixtures, saloon fixtures, special furniture and anything in the wood line that has to be made to order. The present plant consists of a machine room 40 by 120 feet, cabinet room 20 by 120 feet and varnish room 20 by 120 feet. A new factory will be erected in the near future.”

The August 19, 1908 issue of the New Albany Evening Tribune mentioned the firm had been awarded a contract to construct laboratory furniture for the Federal Government:

“LABORATORIES Equipped for Government by New Albany Company.

“Mr. Ferd. Kahler, of the Kahler Company, has returned from Pittsburg where he has been installing furniture made by his company for the government food inspection laboratory. He will leave next Saturday for Omaha where he will superintend the installation of furniture in the laboratory at that place.

“The Kahler Company was awarded the contracts by the government for making the furniture and fixtures for several laboratories throughout the country, the establishment of which was made necessary by the passage of the pure food laws The contracts were awarded several months ago and the company has been busily engaged in making the furniture as specified.”

The firm's first automobile body order was announced in the August 17, 1909 edition of the New Albany Public Press:

“The Kahler Company, an extensive wood-working concern, at Pearl and Oak streets, has received from an Eastern automobile concern an order for a large number of automobile beds, amounting in the aggregate to $30,000. The beds are to be shipped east as fast as they are completed, and the contract will keep the factory in operation at its fullest capacity for six or eight months.”

The December 31, 1909 edition of the New Albany Weekly Tribune mentions Ferdinand's brother August was organizing his own firm to construct automobile bodies:

“August Kahler, a member of the F. Kahler Company, which has moved into its new building on the Monon railroad, has retired from the company and will organize the Indiana Specialties Company which will occupy the factory building at Pearl and Oak streets.”

The January 14, 1910 issue of the New Albany Weekly Tribune announced the official incorporation of the Indiana Specialty Works:

“Indiana Specialty Works Files Articles.

“Articles of incorporation were filed Friday in the office of County Recorder Stoy by the Indiana Specialty Works, the incorporators being August Kahler, Anton Kahler and Margaret Kahler. The capital stock of the concern is to be $10,000, shares being $100 each, of which $6,000 is paid in. August Kahler, who holds fifty-eight shares, and Anton and Margaret Kahler, one share each, will be the board of the directors for the first year. The term of existence of the corporation is fifty years.

“The new industry will engage in the manufacture of automobile bodies, office and house furniture and interior and exterior house finishings. The factory building at Pearl and Oak streets has been been leased. August Kahler was formerly with the F. Kahler Company.”

The Pearl and Oak Street facility had recently been vacated by The Kahler Company, who had constructed an all-new factory on Vicennes St. which featured its own power plant which also generated its own electricity. The new facility was one of the first to feature direct geared electric motors at each work station instead of the complicated and dangerous overhead shaft- and belt- driven tools found in older woodshops. In addition to their own dry-kiln the Vicennes St plant had it's own railroad siding, which allowed freight to be loaded and unloaded from inside the factory. Kahler's listing in the 1911 New Albany Directory, under 'Carpenters' follows:

“The Kahler Co. (Inc.), Ferdinand Kahler, pres; Ferdinand Kahler, Jr., sec and treas; August Kahler, mngr, wood-working specialties and automobile bodies, ws Vincennes, n of Charlestown rd.”

In 1911, the Kahler Co. won a contract to build the frames and other wood components of the American Automobile Manufacturing Company automobile being assembled in New Albany, Indiana.

Founded in Kansas City, Missouri in 1908, the American Automobile Mfg. Co. acquired the Jonz Automobile Co. of Beatrice, Nebraska in 1910, relocating its offices to Louisville, Kentucky in December of 1910. The Jonz automobile was named after the patented ‘Jonz Tranquil Motor’ originally developed by Chester and Elsworth Jones. Manufacture of the Jonz was subsequently transferred to New Albany, Indiana in the former Woolen Mills factory which was located adjacent to the Kahler Company on Vincennes St.

Another Kahler client was the short-lived Clark Motor Car Co. of Shelbyville, Indiana, as evidenced by the following lawsuit included in the December 6, 1911 edition of the Shelbyville Democrat:

“Suit was filed in superior court this afternoon by the Kahler Company, of New Albany, against the Clark Motor Car Company, of this city, the demand being for damages of $6,600 because the defendant has failed and refused to live up to an alleged contract for the purchase from the defendant of 125 small bodies for automobiles and 150 large ones. The contract is said to have been made December 8, 1909, and it is stated in the complaint that the defendant has denied the existence of such a contract, though it has accepted and used the 125 small bodies. Attorneys for the plaintiff are J. O. Hall, of this city, and J. R. Duffin, of Louisville.”

The case was ultimately dismissed the following September.

Ferdinand N. Kahler Jr. married Maud Borwasser on Sept 29, 1912.

The Kahler Co. was highlighted in the March 1912 issue of the Carriage Monthly:

“A Successful Motor Body Business

“Almost six years ago the Kahler Company, New Albany, Ind., started in business, its product being store and office fixtures. Although fairly successful in this line the proprietors of the concern saw that the automobile body business offered better opportunities for them, and so in 1908 it was decided to take up the manufacture of bodies. Early in their experience an order for 6,000 bodies was secured, and so successfully was this order executed that little difficulty was had thereafter in securing many other orders of greater or less magnitude.

“Two years ago this company built a new factory, which is one of the most modern of its kind in the country, having its own electric power plant and all its machinery connected to individual motors by means of gears, which has proven very successful. By this application of power a great saving in belts is made, at the same time there is no lost power in slippage. By the use of electricity, a modern dry kiln, and a long siding with suitable arrangements for handling both in and out bound freight the company has its operating expense down to a point where it will be hard to improve upon it.

“Last year this company was forced to operate its plant double shift for some months and although they were turning out forty jobs per day, they did not fill the demand and were forced to turn down as much work as they had taken on. The present capacity of the plant will be doubled in the near future to take care of the business offered.

“Mr. Kahler comes from a different line than most men in the body building trade, as he has followed car building for a number of years. He worked up from a bench at the American Car and Foundry Co's plant, to its superintendent and also held high positions in the East. Mr. Kahler has a vast amount of experience in car construction, having built both railway and street cars and some double-deck cars for export shipment. He says body building comes right along these lines.

“The success of this firm is due to strict attention to looking after the details and small leaks which business and to taking care of the trade as it is established by turning out good work and making prompt deliveries. Mr. Kahler's policy is rather than disappoint a customer to turn the order down.”

The Jonz automobile was not a success and the June 27, 1912 issue of the Automobile reports that Kahler had purchased its New Albany assets from the receiver:

“Louisville, Ky., June 24 - After the sale had been approved by Judge W.C. Utz of the Circuit Court New Albany, Ind., it was announced today that the American Automobile Corporation, which last week purchased at a receiver's sale the plant of the American Automobile Manufacturing Company, would be reorganized with Ferdinand Kahler of New Albany, as president and general manager.”

The July 4, 1912 Iron Age states that Kahler's longtime friend and collaborator, Orlando E. South was also involved in the sale:

“The American Automobile Mfg. Corporation, which recently purchased at a receiver's sale the property of the American Automobile Mfg. Company, New Albany, lnd., is to operate the plant, it is announced. Ferdinand Kahler is to be president and general manager of the company, having acquired a majority interest, in company with E.O. South, Cincinnati. Mr. Kahler is at the head of the Kahler Company, New Albany, manufacturer of automobile bodies.”

In December, 1912, Kahler and South reorganized American Automobile Mfg. Co. as the Ohio Falls Motor Company, the January 25, 1913 issue of Automobile Topics reporting:

“Jonz Maker Changes Name

“The American Automobile Mfg. Co., of New Albany, Ind., maker of Jonz cars has changed its corporate name to Ohio Falls Motor Car Co. The change of name is accompanied by a reorganization, the officers of the new company being: Ferd. Kahler, president: O.E. South, treasurer, and A.C. Brock, secretary.”

The recently organized Ohio Falls Motor Company was soon declared bankrupt, the June 17, 1913 issue of the New Albany Tribune reporting:

“Receiver Appointed for Ohio Falls Motor Company.

“On petition of the Kahler Company Joseph Bruns was today appointed in the Floyd circuit court as receiver of the Ohio Falls Motor Company, which has been operating the automobile plant on Vincennes street. Ferd. Kahler, president of the automobile company, also is president of the petitioning company.

“It is alleged in the suit for a receiver that the motor company is indebted to the Kahler Company in the sum of $3,102 evidenced by its note of $2,886 given April 14,1913, which it is averred remains unpaid. The petition asked that the property be sold and receipts from the sale distributed among the creditors and that the receiver be empowered to continue the business until the plant is sold and disposed of with approval of the court.

“Joseph Bruns, who was appointed receiver, will take immediate charge of the plant and it is understood the company will be reorganized with a number of new local stockholders after the sale of the property.”

Within the month Kahler and South reorganized Ohio Falls Motor Co. as the Falls Cities Motor Co., the July 24, 1913 issue of Motor Age reporting:

“Purchase Ohio Falls Plant — The Falls Cities Motor Co., organized to take over the plant of the Ohio Falls Motor Co., manufacturer of motor cars in New Albany, Ind., has filed articles of incorporation. The capital stock of the company is $50,000 and the incorporators are Ferdinand Kahler, Orlando E. South, Archie C. Brock and George R. Elder. The plant of the Ohio Falls Motor Co. was disposed of at receiver's sale last week. The plant was bid in by Mr. South. It is understood the new concern will continue the operation of the plant in Vincennes street.”

The January 15, 1914 issue of the Automobile announced that Kahler had purchased the plant of the Ohio Falls Motor Co. from its receiver, the property not having been included when he purchased the other assets of the bankrupt firm in July of 1913:

“Purchase Ohio Falls Plant - Ferdinand Kahler and his associates in the Ohio Falls M.C. Co. have purchased from Joseph Bruns, receiver of the company, the factory plant on Vincennes street, New Albany, Ind., which failed to sell receiver's sale in November. The price paid was $26,500, the purchasers $1,500 and assuming liens aggregating $25,000. It is understood while workmen have turned out a small number of machines which were unfinished at the time of the receivership, the factory will not be operated as an automobile manufacturing plant.”

During 1913 and 1914 Kahler turned out small numbers of the hand-assembled Ohio Falls (1913-1914) and Pilgrim (1913-1914) automobiles, both of which were advertised at $1,800 f.o.b.  Both vehicles retained the unique hexagonal hood and radiator design of the Jonz, and the combined production of both marques is beleived to have been less than 20 cars. The Falls Cities Motor Co.  went bankrupt in early 1914, and Kahler sold the firm's Vicennes St. plant to the Crown Motor Car Co., of Louisville, Kentucky (later renamed the Hercules Motor Car Company), the March 14, 1914 issue of  The Automobile reporting:

“Crown Company Buys Ohio’s Louisville Plant - Deliveries Are Planned to Start April 15 on Output of 10,000 Cars Before September 1.

“Louisville, Ky., March 14 - The Crown Motor Car Co. which several months ago contemplated moving to Hamilton, O., has changed its plans, and this afternoon purchased from Ferdinand Kahler the big automobile factory on Vincennes street, New Albany, Ind., formerly occupied by the Ohio Falls Motor Car Co. The price paid was $50,000, it was announced. The plant, which has been idle for about 3 months, includes six buildings, two and three stories in height. It is situated on a 6 acre tract of land.

“A representative of the company stated today that the concern would employ 600 men and 10,000 machines would be manufactured between now and September 1. Deliveries will start April 15. While the factory is already equipped to build motor cars, additional automatic machinery of the most approved type will be installed. The plant has a capacity of 150,000 cars a year. Four hundred dealers have been secured on a co-operative plan.

“The removal of the equipment of the factory at 121 North Third street in Louisville, where the concern has been located for the past year, will be made the first part of next week. The concern has a capital stock of $500,000. Officers of the Crown Motor Car Co are: B.F. Lambert, head of the Buckeye Manufacturing Co., Elkhart., Ind., and the Ellwood Iron Works, Ellwood, Ind., president; A.B. Lambert, vice-president and C.H. Lambert, secretary and treasurer. The Crown is made in three models: The Crown Pilgrim roadster, $395; the Crown Pilgrim touring car, four passenger, $475; the Crown Pilgrim 800 pound delivery car, $450.”

In January of 1915 Kahler organized The Electric Popcorn Company, an Indianapolis, Indiana firm that proposed leasing popcorn makers to movie theaters. The scheme was apparently unsuccessful and Kahler reorganized the firm as the Electric Machine Co., theSeptember 24, 1914 issue of Iron Age reporting:

“The Electric Machine Company, New Albany, Ind., has been incorporated with $6,000 capital stock to manufacture electric vending machines. The directors are Ferdinand Kahler, Sr., H. Lobach and Ferdinand Kahler, Jr.”

The February 25, 1915 issue of the New Albany Tribune indicates the firm's main product at the time was kitchen cabinetry:

“Behind In Its Orders

“Kahler Company Busy Turning Out Kitchen Cabinets at its East End Factory

“The kitchen cabinet, a convenience to the woman in any household, is another article in the house furnishing line that promises to put New Albany more prominently on the map as a furniture manufacturing center.

“The Kahler Company, of which Ferd Kahler is president and general manager, is devoting its attention to the making and output of this article, which has become almost indispensable in the modern day of comforts and conveniences for the housewife.

“Nearly fifty men are now employed in the factory on North Vincennes street. One or two men have been added to the working force from time to time as business picked up in the past few weeks and the number will be increased as the state of trade warrants.

“A short time ago the company had a large supply of the cabinets on hand but orders have cleared them out and Mr, Kahler said today that at the present time the company was several hundred behind in its orders. The plant is in operation every week day.

“Mr. Kahler said that business conditions appeared to be improving, as was indicated by the more cheerful tone of letters received from dealers in all parts of the country. Correspondence with concerns which furnish material to the Kahler Company also presaged the passing of the depression as they were asking for more time in which to fill orders.

“The Kahler Company has one of the model wood working plants of the city, the factory building being of concrete construction. It is conveniently located along side the Monon railroad, which affords good shipping facilities.”

The Kahler Co.'s listing in the October 1915 issue of Chilton’s Automotive Directory follows:

“The Kahler Co., N. Vincennes St. & Monon R.R., New Albany, In. (Wood, metal bound, veneered & solid in the white and finished.)”

As early as 1913 Ford began assembling Model T's in a small facility located at 931 South Third St., Louisville, Kentucky.  Business increased to where an all-new 4-story assembly plant was constructed at the intersection of Third St and Eastern Parkway in 1915.

Kahler was awarded the contract to supply the new factory with the numerous wooden components required in assembling the Model T automobile starting in 1916. In addition to battery boxes, seat frames and floor boards, Kahler also supplied the wooden components needed to assemble the framework for the Model T's composite wood and steel automobile bodies. A serial number preceded by the the letters "KA" stamped on a Ford Model T's frame member indicates the woodwork was manufactured at Kahler's New Albany factory.

Most likley Kahler supplied Ford with bodies *in-the-white, as did Ford's other suppliers, although they may have simply supplied the wooden framework - sans metal paneling, which could have been added at Ford's Louisville factory.

(*While a couple of Ford’s body suppliers furnished them completed bodies, that is, bodies ready to be mated with finished chassis on the assembly line, a large percentage of them furnished Ford with bodies in-the-white, composite bodies delivered without trim, paint, varnish and hardware. Ford’s bodies in-the-white were typically finished by American Auto Trimming, Windsor, Ontario based firm with a large satellite plant in Detroit.)

Initially most of the Model T’s bodies were supplied by Ford's existing auto body suppliers C.R. Wilson (1903) and Everitt Brothers (1908). O.J. Beaudette (1910), Kelsey-Herbert Co. (1910), American Body Co. (1911), Hayes Mfg. Co.(1911) Milburn Wagon Co. (1911) and Fisher Body Co.(1912), and the Kahler Co. (1915). Wm. Gray & Sons supplied Henry Ford’s Windsor assembly plant with automobile bodies from 1906-1912. Regardless of their origin, all of the Model T’s bodies were interchangeable, however the individual parts in a body would not necessarily fit a similar-looking body if it was made by a different manufacturer. Ford even built their own body plant in the mid-teens to help keep up with demand.

Typically Ford‘s body suppliers did not supply the Model T’s fenders, with the exception of the Hayes Mfg. Co., who had supplied them with fenders from day one. As Ford’s needs increased, additional Hayes-owned plants supplied additional fenders as required. The J.W. Murray Mfg. Co. of Detroit and Ecorse, Michigan also supplied Ford with Model T fenders and other stamped-metal products such as hoods and frames.

Although it didn't mention automobile bodies, the October 15, 1915 issue of the New Albany Weekly Tribune announced that Kahler had broken ground for an addition to its Vicennes St. factory:

“The Kahler Company, manufacturers of kitchen cabinets, have broken ground tor an addition to their plant on North Vincennes street and the Monon railroad which will double their present capacity.”

The September 2, 1916 issue of Automobile Topics mentions that the Kahlers were also involved in Louisville's retail automobile trade:

“The Broadway Motor Sales Co., Louisville, Ky. To deal in automobiles, motor trucks, buggies and vehicles generally. Capital $3,000. Incorporators: George A. Skilton: Walter C. Smith, and Ferdinand Kahler Sr.”

The 1917 New Albany Directory continued to list the firm under "Carpenters":

“The Kahler Co. (Inc.), Ferdinand Kahler, pres; Ferdinand Kahler, Jr., sec and treas; August Kahler, mngr, auto bodies, ss Grant Line Rd. e of Vincennes.”

The January 10, 1917 issue of the Salem Democrat (Salem, Indiana) anounced that the Kahler plant had received a large order for Ford coachwork:

“Big Thing for New Albany

“The Kahler Company, located on the Y in New Albany, Indiana, has recently been engaged by Henry Ford to manufacture Ford automobile bodies. This is reputed to be the largest manufacturing order ever received by a New Albany concern and will require an out-put of 200 cars daily, as soon as details of equipment can be completed. Already $7,500 have been expended for the new machinery installed. The plant was formerly engaged in the exclusive manufacture of kitchen cabinets.”

Shortly after the Kahler factory had ramped up to meet the required output, its factory, located on the corner of Grant Line Road and Vincennes Street in New Albany, was destroyed by a tornado at 3:08 PM on the afternoon of March 23, 1917. The firm's buildings were reduced to a mass of twisted wreckage and left almost level with the street. Six employees were killed and 15 were injured - the property loss estimated at $75,000.

Hearing the factory had been destroyed, Michigan cities petitioned Kahler to relocate near Detroit. Kahler decided to remain in New Albany and in May 1917 started building a new, spacious manufacturing plant just north of the Monon Railroad "Y". The new plant had 100,000 square feet of floor space, employed as many as three hundred men, and used lumber brought in from Kentucky and Tennessee in amounts up to a million board feet per month.

The status of the Kahler plant's reconstruction was covered in the July 17, 1917 issue of the New Albany Public Press:

“The work of installing machinery in the plant of the Kahler Company, on the Grant Line road, west of Vincennes street, which was demolished by the tornado of March 13, when several men in the plant were killed and a number of workman injured, is nearing completion.

“New buildings have been erected from the ground up and the machinery is all new. Before the tornado the company furnished employment to 100 men and work will be resumed with a similar force. The company is engaged in the manufacture of automobile bodies for factories in Detroit.”

In 1918 Ferdinand Kahler Sr. took over the management of a Bay City, Michigan woodworking plant that was producing airplane parts for the Army Air Coprs, the July 10, 1918 issue of Hardwood Record reporting:

“Ferdinand Kahler, Sr., president of the Kahler Manufacturing Company of New Albany, Ind., has gone to Bay City, Mich. to take charge of a woodworking plant which is manufacturing Aeroplane parts, which are shipped to other points for assembling. His son, Ferdinand Kahler, Jr., is actively in charge of the New Albany plant.”

The 1919-1921 New Albany Directories listed Kahler under "Automobile Bodies" as follows:

“The Kahler Co. (Inc.), Ferdinand Kahler, pres; Ferdinand Kahler, Jr., sec and treas; August Kahler, mngr, auto bodies, ss Grant Line Rd. w of Vincennes.”

A strike by railroad yardmen in Indianapolis forced a temporary halt in the firm’s operations according to the April 17, 1920 Indianapolis News:

“New Albany, Ind., April 17. – The plant of the Kahler Company, manufacturer of automobile bodies, was closed down Friday night because of the freight embargo. More than 20 men are temporarily thrown out of employment.”

The post-war recession caused the Kahler plant to shut down from December of 1920 , the March 30, 1921 issue of the New Albany Daily Ledger reporting:

“Kahler Company To Open Plant

“The Kahler Company on the Grant Line road near Vincennes street, will resume operation Thursday morning after being closed down since the beginning of the holidays, the last work being turned out about fourteen weeks ago. Ferd. Kahler,,Sr., president of the company, said yesterday that the plant would resume with 180 operatives, practically the complete force that was employed when the plant closed down on account of the industrial depression last fall.”

The April 7, 1921 issue of Motor Age announced the reopening of the plant to the trade:

“Body Plant at New Albany Open After Three Month Shut Down.

“Resumes Work With 280 Daily Production and Full Force of Operatives Employed

“Louisville, Ky., April 1 — The Kahler Co., New Albany, resumed operations yesterday after being closed down since the beginning of the holidays, the last work being turned out about fourteen weeks ago. The plant has been engaged exclusively in the manufacture of bodies for Ford cars.

“Ferd Kahler, Sr., president of the company, says that the plant resumed with 180 operatives, practically the complete force that was employed when the plant closed down on account of the industrial depression last fall. Mr. Kahler stated he expected to resume operations with an output of 280 bodies per day, the capacity of the plant being about 300 bodies.

“Though the business being done by the local branch of the Ford Motor Co. is improving, and enough orders now are being received to justify starting up its assembling plant in Louisville again, no instructions have been received from Detroit to recommence assembling here and it is practically certain that assembling locally will not be started April 1. This information was supplied by officials of the local branch In reply to inquiries made with a view of determining present conditions of employment in Louisville.”

By 1921, The Kahler Co. boasted that it had an annual production capacity of 93,000 autombile bodies, most of which were shipped across the Ohio River to the Ford Assembly Plant at Third and Eastern Parkway, Louisville.

In 1921, Kahler helped organized the National Ice and Products Co. and in 1922, established the Auto Acceptance Corporation of Louisville, Kentucky, the April 20, 1922 edition of the Richmond Daily Register reporting:

“Auto Acceptance Corporation. Louisville, capital $20,000: incorporators Ferdinand Kahler, Sr., New Albany, Ind.: R. J. Haurey and E. Pulford, of Louisville.”

Kahler continued to be listed under 'Automobile Bodies' in the 1927 New Albany Directory:

“The Kahler Co. (Inc.), Ferdinand Kahler, pres; Ferdinand Kahler, Jr., sec, auto bodies, ss Grant Line Rd. w of Vincennes.”

The senior Kahler passed away on November 14, 1927, the Associated Press Newswire reporting:

“New Albany, Ind., November 15 – (AP) – Ferdinand Kahler, Sr., age sixty-two, head of the Kahler Company, manufacturer of automobile bodies, and one of the most important industries in this city, died last night.”

Kahler continued to supply the automobile industry with various wooden components and compostie automobile bodies into the Second World War, and they continued to be listed under autombile bodies in the 1929-1939 New Albany Directories as follows:

“The Kahler Co. (Inc.), Ferdinand N. Kahler, pres; auto bodies, ss Grant Line Rd. w of Vincennes.”

The November 12, 1937 issue of the New Albany Daily Tribune annoucned tha Kahler's employees had aligned themselves with the United Auto Workers Union:

“Kahler Signs Up With Auto Union In Long Parley

“James R. Poland, Evansville, an organizer for the United Auto Workers of America, a C.I.O. affiliate, announced Friday that a contract had been signed between members of the organization’s local, No. 411, and Ferd N. Kahler, president of the Kahler Company, manufacturers of automobile bodies. Negotiations have been going on for more than three months.

“The contract, which carries an expiration date effective August 1, 1938, includes clauses dealing with union recognition, a ten per cent wage increase and wage stability, seniority, representation, hiring and re-hiring, layoffs, and rights of collective bargaining.

“Mr. Boland said that approximately 98 per cent of the company’s 200 employees have signed with the U.A.W. At the present time 140 have employment.

“According to Mr. Poland the contract carries no minimum hourly wage stipulation as the plant is operated on a piece-work basis.

“Forrest Bean blossom,, president of the New Albany local, served as the chairman of the employee’s negotiating committee, which also included Morton Livingston, Arthur Hoover, Chalres Miller and Millar Arnold.

“A telephone call by the Tribune to the Kahler Company for a statement regarding the contract brought the reply ‘Mr. Kahler is out of town and no one else has authority to make a statement.’

“The plant has been in operation throughout the negotiations.”

The firm's listing in the 1941-1943 New Albany Directories under 'Automobile Bodies' follows:

“The Kahler Co. (Inc.), F.N. Kahler, pres; R.W. Allen, vice pres-sec., auto bodies, ss Grant Line Rd. w of Vincennes.”

On May 16, 1947 the United Press Newswire recorded that Cooley Ellis, The Kahler Co.’s president, had filed a notice of dissolution and put the firm’s plant up for sale:

“Struck Auto Supplier Puts Plant Up For Sale

“New Albany, Ind., May 16 – (UP) – The Kahler Company, manufacturers of wood automobile body parts, today hoisted a ‘For Sale’ sign after a seven-week strike.

“Some 200 employees struck to force reinstatement of two discharged workers, one of whom was Roy Pocker, president of a local CIO United Automobile Workers Union.

“Officials said it was the second strike this year on the same issue.

“The union demand was refused and Company president Cooley Ellis, Toledo, Ohio, filed a notice for dissolution and offered the plant for sale.”

The July 23, 1958 issue of Southern Lumberman announced theat the disused Kahler plant had been purchased by the National Homes Corp., a manufacturer of trailer homes:

“Louisville, Ky., July 23 - At New Albany, Ind., the old Kahler Company woodworking plant, long idle, is being purchased by National Homes Corporation, one of the country’s largest manufacturers of pre-fab homes, as a unit to produce doors and cabinets, for National Homes other pre-fab plants at the Layfayette, Ind., headquarters. Tyler, Tex. and Elmira, N.Y.

“The New Albany plant, of 110,000 square feet of floor space, will employ about 150 workers at the start and merely turn out cabinets and doors. Other items will be added later, that will perhaps result in 300 workers, and perhaps 500 a year from now. Machinery and equipment is now being moved in. No additional construction is planned for now.

“The old Kahler Co. operated years ago by the late Fred Kahler and the late Bob Green, produced chiefly auto parts, floor boards, battery boxes, etc., in the days of wooden autos. The plant sold for a reported $225,000, was built in 1918, and until the sale was owned by Cooley Ellis, of Toledo, O. At one time it also produced radio and television cabinets.”

Ferdinand N. Kahler Jr. took his own life on January 29, 1959, the January 30, 1959 issue of the New Albany Tribune reporting:

“Retired Millionaire Kahler Kills Self With Revolver; Wife Witnesses Shooting. Floyd Coroner Cannon Undecided If Death Was Accident Or Suicide.

By Helen Reynolds.

“Retired millionaire industrialist, Ferdinand N. Kahler, killed himself with a revolver in his Crestview home, in the presence of his wife, at 11:20 last night, according to county coroner Dr. Daniel Cannon. Dr. Cannon said today he had reached no decision as yet as to whether the shooting was an accident or suicide. Mrs. Kahler is extremely upset, of course, today. She said her husband had been playing around with the gun, a .38 caliber police revolver, and he may have believed it was loaded with blanks. The coroner said he will investigate the shooting further and will probably make a report 'in a day or two.'

“Kahler, 71, whose wife Maud is the sister of County Clerk Carl Bornwasser, is believed to have been drinking heavily during the week before the shooting. He formerly operated the Kahler Manufacturing Co., which was founded by his father. During the 1920s the company specialized in woodworking and made auto bodies for large automobile manufacturers such as Ford Motor Co. Kahler sold the plant last year to National Homes Corp. of Lafayette. 'The fatal bullet entered from a distance of three or four inches, judging by the powder marks,' Coroner Cannon said. 'He probably never knew what hit him. It entered the skull through the upper portion of the right ear. I don't know whether they call the room where the shooting occurred the living room or drawing room.'

“Kahler's relatives said today he had appeared despondent during the past week. His family life, they said, appeared to be congenial, however. Kahler and his wife celebrated their forty-fifth wedding anniversary in September. Kahler, a member of St. Mark's Evangelical and Reformed Church, donated his former home at Shelby and Vincennes Sts. to the church seven years ago for use as a parsonage. The Rev. William Koshewa, new St. Mark's minister, arrived from Chicago Wednesday and just completed his move into the 10-room brick home.

“Kahler had only one daughter, Mrs. Mary Martha Ashler Davis. Mrs. Davis has two children. Kahler was a New Albany native. His mother, a Leist, was also from a prominent city family. The body is at the Dieckmann Funeral Home. Home officials said the funeral would be private. Entombment will be in a family mausoleum at the Fairview Cemetery.”

© 2014 Mark Theobald for







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