I have come across several references in the form of telegraphs and letters which describe the business travel conducted by the company. For the most part, these were trips to arrange for the manufacture of machine parts, as well as sales and marketing trips.
In 1916, during World War I, machine sales to the American Red Cross were a major focus for the company. Records indicate that Joseph and Emory were on the road quite a bit. Emory kept a letter dated March 23, 1916, in which John relays information to him from Clearfield, Pennsylvania, in order to schedule a trip to New York City, to meet with Mrs. Maultre of the Vacation War Relief Committee, and to Boston, to meet with the Serbian Distress Fund, and possibly to Providence if it could be arranged.
These two relief organization figure prominently in the increase of machine sales during World War I. I am just now researching the archives of the New York Times, and have found several key articles relating these organizations to the Gearhart Knitting Machine Company. I hope to publish my findings as more facts emerge.
Anyway, the letter goes on to advise Emory to hop on a boat for New York as soon as possible, and John encloses $50.00 spending money for Emory and Joseph, their father. “Father” has been traveling on this trip also, first to St. Petersburg, Florida, and then at least as far as Jacksonville, Florida, so it must be one of the bigger trips taken in 1916. The nice thing about this letter, other than its upbeat tone, are the references to efforts at selling machines, having Emory give demonstrations of the machine, and insights into what must have been a very productive and busy time for the company. We also see the courteous business relationship between John, the older brother, and Emory, the younger brother. It is interesting to note that this letter is addressed to Emory, not Joseph, even though Joseph was with him. Emory had been given operational control (but not ownership) of the company in 1913, so by 1916 he had obviously demonstrated the proficiency necessary to earn the respect and trust of his brothers and father.
The letter, as well as a follow-up letter, are shown below. I’m not sure if you can read it, so if the image is too small then let me know so I can try some better ways to post things. John calls Emory “Em” for short. I didn’t know that. I always called him granddad. In the letter, I especially like the fishing story:
Papa sent a few pictures. I see by one of them that you gathered up all the fish you could find around St. Petersburg and had your picture taken with them. Since writing the last sentence, I showed the picture to Scott Adams. He said you would come back with some of the greatest fish stories ever told. He had a card in his pocket just gotten from you.
The letterhead is very interesting. I have not seen this illustration before or since.
It also contains a reference to 100,000 machines sold. Since total sales over the life of the company exceeded 200,000 machines, this means that 100,000 machines were sold between 1888 and 1916, and another 100,000 machines were sold between 1917 and 1925. Therefore, in the last eight years of the company, 12,500 machines were sold on average each year. At about $70 per machine, this would produce $875,000 income each year. Adjusted for inflation, this would be $8,750,000 per year in today’s dollars. More on this later. In fact, I have an entire file filled with financial data waiting to be analyzed.