Clare Manufacturing Co.
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The Clare Auto-Tour Camping Trailer was manufactured by the Clare Manufacturing Company located in Clare, Michigan. Ralph I. Hether, commonly referred to as R. I. Hether, was the founder of the company.
R. I. Hether was born on January 13, 1879 in Sanilac county Michigan. In 1903 he married Velma Taylor (born January 27, 1879). They made their home in Brown City, MI and gave birth to their one daughter, Helen D. Hether, on December 31, 1905. In mid 1914 R. I. Hether along with A. Tenniswood purchased the foundry and repair shop from J. J. McKnight. McKnight had been in business for over 30 years prior and was the primary Ford repair shop for the area. R. I. Hether expanded the operations and became the first Ford dealer in the area. The business was very successful and by late 1917 Charles Trumble of Brown City purchased R. I. Hether's interst in the business which included the Ford agency for the local area.
While the exact details are unclear it is known that R. I. Hether started another manufacturing firm specializing in auto bodies, axles and hauling trailers for farmers in Brown City. On September 20, 1920 a deal was struck where R. I. Hether purchased the Furnace building in Clare, MI. For a total price of $4000 of which R. I. Hether would pay $2500 and the Clare Chamber of Commerce would pay $1500 the building was purchased from Mr. Grimason with the clause in the deed providing the building must be used for manufacturing purposed for ten years. R. I. Hether set November 1, 1920 as the date to complete the transfer of his manufacturing machinery from Brown City to Clare and begin business. The business was renamed the Clare Manufacturing Company and it was at this time production was started on the Clare Auto-Tour Trailer. By early Spring 1921 advertisement for the trailer appears in many of the popular camping periodicals of the time. The Handy Farmers' Trailer was manufactured as well. No patent has been identified that is associated with the camping trailer.
The business continued to grow and expand. On December 21, 1922 a limited partnership was formed with two general partners, R. I. Hether and Orlando C. Somerville, and two special partners, William H. Bicknell and James S. Bicknell whom each contributed to the common stock $2000 and $1000 respectively. It was intended to greatly expand production and add a general manufacturing business as well. R. I. Hether remained as the general manager and the firm name remained the same. Business continued for the next four years until, for reasons unknown at the time of this writing, the partnership was disolved by mutual consent on December 26, 1926. R. I. Hether would continue the business under the same firm name and location.
1927 saw a big jump in sales. A total of 60 trailers were sold in 1926. By May 20, 1927 they had already sold 95 with 60 shipped and 35 awaiting shippent. The Dodge Motor Car Company out of Detroit requested 15 of these trailers. R. I. Hether had now made a name for himself in the city of Clare as a successful business man.
Capitalizing on this recent success R. I. Hether ran for Mayor of Clare in the 1928 election and won. He would go on to serve 4 consecutive terms as Mayor of Clare, serving from 1928-1932. While serving as Mayor he continued to operate the trailer business. The afternoon of December 2, 1929 a small fire broke out in the factory building while R. I. Hether was present. A quick response by the local fire department contained the fire and minimized the damage. All loss was covered by insurance.
While the exact date is still unknown at the time of this writing the Clare Manufacturing Company would shut down and stop manufacturing the Auto-Tour Camping Trailer sometime during 1931 or early 1932. It is known that manufacturuing operations continued through late 1930. Most likely the shut down can be attributed to the Great Depression that took root in mid to late 1930's for the United States. Most people don't realize that the economy and stock market continued to grow for the first part of 1930 after the stock market crash in October of 1929. By mid 1930 the US economy was in a downward spiral and consumer spending and investment depressed. It was announced on February 10, 1033 that the Clare Machine Company would locate its factory operations where the camping trailers were manufactured.
With his camping trailer company no longer in business R. I. Hether turned his full attention to politics. He would run for Sheriff in the 1932 election and eventually serve in several offices including the Justice of the Peace in 1948. His wife, Velma, passed away July 14, 1945. In 1946, following the end of WWII another Clare Manufacturing Company commenced operations in the city. The two companies were not tied in any way. R. I. Hether would live until February 27, 1968 passing away at the age of 89. He remained active until the end. Both R. I. Hether and his wife, Velma, were buried in Evergreen cemetery in Brown City, MI.
Ralph I. Hether
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