Our return home from a recent trip to Memphis included a stop at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center (www.westtnheritage.com) at Brownsville, TN. The museum features artifacts of the culture of West Tennessee.
The musical history of West Tennessee ranges from country to rhythm and blues to rockabilly. Those musical styles converged at Memphis, whose most famous citizen, Elvis, is prominently featured in the exhibits.
Also on display are show costumes worn by Tina Turner (from nearby Nutbush, TN). A letter is exhibited which was written by Sun Records owner Sam Phillips in response to someone claiming to own the rights to “Blue Suede Shoes,” popularized by West Tennessee native, Carl Perkins, and also by Elvis.
Several of the exhibits pay tribute to the agriculture of West TN. If you know your Tennessee geography, you know that the western region contains many large farms. The rich, alluvial soil supports cotton, soybeans, strawberries, and other crops. I like to work the word “alluvial” into sentences whenever possible, so watch for it.
While we were looking at the items related to farming, my wife said, “Hey, come over and see this. It was made in Chattanooga.” Yes, there at the museum was a pea huller with an inscription, “Chatta. Implement & Mfg. Co.” on its side.
If you’ve ever grown peas, or any other legume (I like “legume” equally well as “alluvial”), you’ll appreciate the time that the pea huller must have saved farmers. Let’s explore the history of the Chattanooga Implement and Manufacturing Company which made this labor-saving implement.
In a May 4, 1980 Chattanooga News-Free Press article by John Wilson, the biography of company founder Edward Hiram Sholar was told. He was born in Fayetteville, NC a few years after the end of the Civil War. He learned bookkeeping, and by age 17 was crunching numbers for a candy manufacturer.
Mr. Sholar learned of a trip that some businessmen from the Raleigh-Durham area were taking to Fort Payne, AL to check on some investments. An extra berth was available, so Ed Sholar accompanied the men.
A day-long stop in Chattanooga provided an opportunity for Mr. Sholar to tour the city. The sight of First Baptist Church, then an impressive sandstone sanctuary at Oak Street and Georgia Avenue, convinced him to make Chattanooga his home.
He initially worked for the DuPont Powder Company in Chattanooga, but had always wanted to start his own business. With $650, a third of which was borrowed, he started the Chattanooga Implement Works. The first listing of his enterprise is in the 1895 city directory.
In 1898, the name was changed to Chattanooga Implement and Manufacturing Company, a label that it would retain until becoming the Chattanooga Royal Company in 1957. The factory turned out pea hullers, hay presses, plows, and other agrarian tools.
Ed Sholar served as president of the Chattanooga Manufacturers Association, and was able to bring a convention of the National Association of Manufacturers to the city. Think of the impact that such a convention may have had to the local economy.
The March 1, 1925 Chattanooga Times announced that the East Chattanooga plant would be expanded through a $100,000 construction project. By then, Chattanooga Implement had become a global enterprise, shipping more than forty per cent of its products overseas.
The business diversified into the manufacturer of fireplace fixtures and gas heaters. The Chattanooga News-Free Press reported on August 15, 1950 that the factory was a major consumer of natural gas in the manufacturer of its Royal brand of heaters.
After being renamed Chattanooga Royal, the firm remained in business locally until 1993.
If you have memories of Chattanooga Implement or Chattanooga Royal, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.