Images of strength, reliability and quality
"Here in our mills, the simplest details of our production work are vital. They must be vital, else they would be eliminated. They have to do with the paper, and carelessness in looking after them might seriously affect the quality and value of our product."
That philosophy -- which could be an excerpt from a recent speech or company publication -- was expressed in the late 1920s by Peter G. Thomson, founder of the Champion Coated Paper Company.
The statement is one of many recorded over the last century emphasizing that quality, value and customer service aren't new concepts for Champion. They have been goals -- and achievements -- throughout the history of the Hamilton mill.
For example, the company highlighted producing quality papers and providing service to customers in the late 1920s, a period of rapid sales increases, expansion of facilities and employment gains. "The paper and coating mills in Hamilton -- covering approximately 60 acres of operating floor space" have been "modernized during the past five years at a cost of more than $6 million," said a company advertisement. "In every detail of equipment and method this mill represents the highest development of the paper-making industry."
In addition to mill expansion in the 1920s, new chemical and office buildings were opened and research and advertising departments were established in Hamilton, that for more than a decade had been recognized as the world's largest coated-paper complex. Reuben B. Robertson Sr., Thomson's son-in-law, said "in 1926 the Hamilton mill, with 11 machines on line, was producing daily about 400 tons of book paper, board, coated stock and a variety of special orders. It was also in this year that Champion manufactured its first colored paper," said Robertson in his memoirs.
To assure customers that quality and service weren't compromised by expansion and size, the company launched a vigorous campaign enlisting the cooperation of Champion employees from management and production to maintenance and sales.
Hundreds of paper dealers, printers and buyers of printing were brought into the Hamilton mill to showoff the skills of employees and the modernized facilities. The routine was to transport regional groups of customers and potential buyers by railroad to Hamilton where they would be hosted by sales and management personnel. A tour of the mill -- highlighting workers and products -- was the focal point of each visit.
The groups varied in size, including, within a brief time, 21 people from the Boston and Providence area, 75 from the Pittsburgh region, and 125 from Philadelphia, Washington and Baltimore, the latter requiring a special train. One of the largest contingents, also on a special train, arrived from Chicago on seven Pullmans (sleeping cars) and three diners. Their train was brought directly to a mill siding along North B Street over the Belt Line Railroad.
Also transported to the mill in the same manner over the Belt Line Railroad were more than 125 members of the Indianapolis Club of Printing House Craftsmen. From their chartered train on a mill siding, they toured the plant June 13, 1936, under the guidance of E. Kenneth Hunt, manager of advertising and sales promotion.
That evening, after dinner at the Elks Country Club, a company of about 30 Champion employees and family members entertained the Hoosier guests. The performers, under the direction of Cal Skillman, included Gracie Anderson, Sue Lauderman, June Lauderman, Phyllis Kappel, Doris Ann McKasson, Betty Skillman, Patty Ann Scheben, Susanna Rolfe, the Jones Trio, all sons and daughters of mill employees. Also entertaining were Olive Swearingen, Bob Smith, Dorothy Miller, George Vassar, Rosemary Bisdorf, Roy Neal, Martha McDonald, Eloise Barrett, Rex Lamb, Bill Power,
Janet George, Marion Walsh, Edna Newman, Bud Newman, Wanda Lu Howell, Dorothy Eicher, Geneva Reynolds, Stella Lauderman and Evelyn Bennett, representing a variety of mill departments from the coating mill and the labs to plating, beaters, pipe shop, sorting, shipping and machine room.
A first was recorded June 15, 1928, when four printing executives from Louisville, Ky., arrived by airplane. Their single-engine plane landed at the Ford Airport, less than a mile northeast of the Hamilton mill. The airport, in use for about 10 years, was built after the Ford Motor Company opened its Hamilton plant in April 1920. "The trip from Louisville to Hamilton took one hour and the return trip was done in 50 minutes," observed The Champion News, in reporting on the first mill visitors to travel by plane.
After World War II, some touring customers were transported on Champion-owned planes, including Time Inc. executives who visited Hamilton Aug. 11, 1947; Houston Aug. 12; and Canton, N. C., Aug. 13. The prestigious contingent included Henry R. Luce, editor-in-chief; his son, Pete Luce; Roy E. Larsen, president of Time; Maurice T. Moore, chairman; and D. W. Brumbaugh, vice president. Among Champion escorts on the Hamilton stop were Reuben B. Robertson Sr., president; Reuben B. Robertson Jr., executive vice president; Dwight J. Thomson, vice president; Charles W. Dabney, assistant secretary; and Leo Geiser, mill manager. Purpose of the Time visit, Geiser said, "was to become better acquainted with the processes and personnel involved in the manufacture of paper for their publications," which then included Time, Life, Fortune and Architectural Forum.
Some mill visitors later shared their impressions with Champion officials. A Pittsburgh guest in the mid-1920s said "before going to Hamilton, I do not believe that in my particular case, any direct mail campaign or any solicitation by salesmen would have really convinced me that the Champion Coated Paper Company was making paper of the high quality that they do. What I saw with my own eyes was really a revelation."
Another Pittsburgh printing executive said "a ton of Champion paper contains more than merely good materials and the affects of modernized equipment and skilled labor. It contains an intangible, though none the less real, spirit which plays its part as surely and as definitely as any of the physical ingredients you put into it. A spirit which reflects the contentment, happiness and love of your people for their work and for you, and your love and consideration for them. In such things inspiration is born."
"I expected to see a big paper mill, but I was wholly unprepared for the vastness of your marvelous mill," wrote a 1926 visitor from Cambridge, Mass., but "it isn't merely size that impresses the printer trying to do good work." Instead, he said "it was the intention of your company to make paper second to none which delighted me.
"You can well understand then, why the sorting room with its saw-toothed roof giving maximum light all over the room made one of the highlights in a series of unusual impressions," he noted. "The careful sorting was noted with great pleasure, for it is absolutely essential if a printer is to maintain his reputation.
"Another highlight," said the same visitor, "was your unequaled facilities for chemical research and the interesting description of how you constantly test ingredients to maintain uniform quality, but also seek ways to improve your papers. Such striving for improvement tells the story which may well cause you to rejoice."
Another followup letter noted "the immaculate cleanliness in all departments, the unusual fine personnel, the splendid spirit reflected in every face of every worker we saw," which, the writer said, "was all an explanation of the fine product you produce."
"We are having a great many visitors and they are coming from all parts of the country, from printing plants, from the offices of buyers of printing, and from the paper companies selling our products," noted Peter G. Thomson.
"In this way, the Champion mills are becoming known throughout the United States as the cleanest and best equipped paper mills in this country."
Thomson emphasized that "a reputation of this kind means more and more business for us, which in turn brings steady work for all of us, and is of direct credit to every one of us, for accepting the fullest responsibility of his individual job, eliminating mistakes and carelessness which sometimes are apt to creep into the best organizations."
In boosting the team approach, Peter G. Thomson reminded mill employees that "you are a link in the Champion chain, and the success of that chain depends on you -- just as surely as any chain ever depended upon a link."
"Your particular work affects every shipment of paper that goes out of the mills -- in some way," Thomson wrote in a company publication. "Your work will make that shipment better or worse. Your particular work in a measure determines how successfully Champion papers are going to compete with other papers on the market," said Thomson, expressing a business philosophy still relevant 100 years after he built the Hamilton mill.
Thirty-five years after Thomson's death, mill executives were still trumpeting the role of the employee in quality.
"We have always been known as a high quality mill, but in today's intensely competitive market, quality becomes a necessity if we are to build sales, profits and security," said Bill McKnight, manager of quality control, in proclaiming "1966 -- A Year of Quality." McKnight said "quality, like people, must be everywhere in the Ohio Division. We must lock quality into every operation we perform," he said, emphasizing that "people make quality."
"Would you be willing to personally deliver to the customer, each and every pound of paper you make, process or inspect?" asked R. O. Stephenson, vice president and division manager, in March 1967 in promoting "Quality Oriented Manufacturing" and "Zero Defects" programs throughout the Hamilton operation.
"If any one of us lets down his guard toward quality, the probability of defective paper leaving the mill increases," said Bill Larson, mill manager in 1984. "To do so is to jeopardize the future of the Hamilton mill," Larson warned.
"Customer Driven Quality" is the motto as the Hamilton mill completes its first century of production. "A Customer Driven Quality program, CDQ, has become an integral part of the premium papers business at Hamilton," wrote Berilyn W. Stanifer in the April 1993 issue of Premium News. "CDQ is simply a method of viewing quality through the customer's eyes." Stanifer, reflecting the durability of Thomson's vision, said "industry today is realizing that to win in the global marketplace, you must focus on quality and service."
Champion management's tradition of promoting quality and service after his death in 1931 would certainly please Peter G. Thomson, but the mill founder reminded his employees in 1929 that "tradition is nothing but experience. It is respected only so long as it leads," he said. "What we do here at the Champion mill is worthy of being continued only so long as it is the best."
To spread the word about Champion's quality products and its expanded capabilities, Peter G. Thomson established an advertising department in 1924 under the supervision of Alexander Thomson, his son and heir apparent.
Hired to manage the department was E. Kenneth Hunt, who was experienced in both paper sales and advertising. Hunt had worked for a Champion competitor in the East and for a Baltimore paper merchant who represented Champion before moving to Cincinnati to join Procter and Collier, described as "one of the largest advertising agencies and printers in this section of the country."
Hunt handled several responsibilities, including production of a monthly employee publication (The Champion News, which later was renamed Champion Activities). Hunt's major task was to bring Champion products, and examples of how they could be used, to the attention of advertising agencies and printers nation.
"Purchasers must see what can be done on paper before they buy it," said a 1936 article explaining "the rather complicated and intricate job" of Champion's advertising and sales promotion department, then housed on the second floor of the general office building. The article in Champion Activities -- probably written by Hunt -- said the advertising department "is really a display room with Champion papers shown in the various uses to which they are put by the printing industry." The article said "this not only means the samples as they are completed in the mill, but samples as they leave the hands of the printer with all of the color and all of the fineness which an expert job of printing carries."
In 1936, Hunt, assisted by Miss Elsa Wehr, directed a 13-person advertising staff in Hamilton. Hunt was listed as Champion's sales promotion advertising manager when he died at age 45 of a heart attack Oct. 28, 1937, while attending the convention of the Association of National Advertisers at the Homestead in Hot Springs, Va.
Images of strength, reliability and quality were key elements when Champion management decided the company needed a trademark in the mid 1920s. Soon after formation of the advertising department in Hamilton, E. Kenneth Hunt retained Charles B. Falls, a New York artist, to design a trademark that would suggest the company name and symbolize leadership, integrity, dignity and strength.
Falls created a mounted knight in full armor with a flowing robe and carrying a lance, first used in labeling Hamilton mill products Oct. 19, 1925. It was registered March 22, 1927, in the U. S. Patent Office.
In addition to the illustration of the medieval knight, the first Champion trademark featured a motto: "The Champion of organization, equipment and service -- the foundation of quality."
The knight represented stability and longevity, being a part of Europen history for more than 600 years. "Of all the many types of soldier that have appeared on the military stage in the course of history," said Francis Gies in The Knight in History, "none has had a longer career than the knight of the European Middle Ages, and none has had an equal impact on history, social and cultural as well as political." Gies said among several knightly traits were a striving for excellence, loyalty and "a strong sense of solidarity" -- doctrine stressed repeatedly by Champion's founder.
"It is your trademark -- for your reputation as a worker depends upon its success -- and its success depends upon your work! The Champion trademark is in reality no stronger than the least efficient worker in the Champion mills," said Peter G. Thomson in 1926 in explaining the symbol's relevance in an employee publication.
The trademark was prominent in 1927 in a series of 11 advertising booklets and brochures distributed to customers. The logo included a slogan, "The Mark of Value." The series -- entitled "Making Value Positive!" -- illustrated and explained the papermaking process, from trees to the finished product, as practiced by Champion in the 1920s.
One installment highlighted coating mixtures, noting that Champion has "built a large percentage of its chemical equipment in its own machine shop" to assure accuracy in the coating process. "The old-fashioned 'rule of thumb' has disappeared; mixing compounds 'by the bucket' has given place to scientifically controlled new ideas of equipment. In fact, today, after nearly 40 years of development, you see the great Champion mill operating on a basis of precision in mixing, handling and using every coating ingredient necessary in making coated papers," said the booklet. It boasted that Champion utilized "modern industrial chemistry at its best" to guarantee "the printability of the paper and its actual value to the printer."
Another publication in the series said "from the very beginning, Champion had not been satisfied with coating equipment. Too much depended upon the skill of the operator, adjustments were too difficult, speed was not permissible, smoothness had been almost entirely overlooked.
"In the modern machines developed by Champion," the booklet said, "there is greater dependability. The operator finds his machine obedient, enabling him to do his work according to the best of his ability and experience. He does not 'fight' his machine to get good results.
"Twenty-eight coating machines, operating 24 hours a day, with features designed and patented by Champion, are today meeting printing requirements -- and giving to printers a greater value in coated papers, a value that is always in evidence in the finished piece of printing," customers were told in 1927.
A booklet featuring inspection declared that "those who inspect Champion paper have nothing to do with making it." It said they "are in reality your buyers, watching your interests and proving that the quality you require is in the paper. Their findings have been, and are, watched carefully by the executive department.
"Acting on such definite information, the executive department maintains a research group of more than 30 skilled scientists, who must solve the problems that arise in making the product conform to the necessary standards."
Still another booklet explained that Champion operated several laboratories in its mills, calling them "a network of scientific supervision over the important details of operation." It said "the knowledge and skill of experienced craftsmen, when augmented by scientific control, make quality possible in large volume" and emphasized that "there can be no guesswork, no doubt, no dependency on mere hope under chemical laboratory supervision."
In reference to teamwork -- a concept revitalized in recent years -- the series said "you will find several hundred skilled workers in the Champion mills who seem to be occupied with tasks far removed from the business of making paper. They comprise the mechanical and electrical engineering department -- and their function is to keep machines running, also to make every possible improvement in the machines."
Kenneth Faist, the mill safety director in 1931, incorporated the knight into his program. "Fear was not in their makeup," he wrote in 1931 in Champion News. "And yet safety was one of the first principles taught the young knight."
"He was taught to ride first, then came the art of defense with sword and spear," said Faist. "An armor was made and fitted to his body for protection. His head and eyes were guarded, strong shoes covering the feet, leg protection, even gauntlets protected the hands. After careful training, he was ready to go forth to do battle for his king and his family. Champion employees are trained just as carefully. They enter our most modern mills with all the resources which have been previously mentioned. All modern machinery is well guarded, safety equipment is provided for the workman as well as was provided for the knight. The foreman and co-workers instruct as to the safe procedure in this and that particular phase of the job." Faist said "Champion employees are soon making a mark for themselves in doing a job and doing it well. They are the knights of the 20th Century."
The knight continued to represent the combined company when the Champion Coated Paper Company of Hamilton and the Champion Fibre Company of Canton, N. C., became the Champion Paper and Fiber Company in 1935.
In July 1961 the Champion Paper and Fibre Company was renamed Champion Papers Inc., and the knight was redesigned and reduced to co-star status. A new Champion symbol, a stylized CP, was described as evolving from "the continuous web flow of the paper-making process." The explanation said the modernized knight "eliminates detail lines while retaining the familiar outline." Both symbols were produced by the studio of Noel Martin, then Champion's principal design consultant.
Mergers later necessitated additional trademark changes and the knight was gradually retired.
The knight last appeared on the masthead of CHIPS, the mill employee publication, in the May 23, 1974, edition.
But the image and spirit that proud figure was designed to represent were still reflected in 1994 in the focus on teamwork at the Hamilton premium papers mill and the renewed determination to produce quality products and provide customer service.
He personified company philosophy
Dr. Louis Frechtling: 'His Word was Law'
Dr. Louis H. Frechtling cared for more than aches and pains during his 41-year association with the Hamilton mill. He personified a company philosophy, that, as stated in 1936, said a "fundamental of Champion business is that the employer should use his utmost efforts to provide continual employment for all on its payroll; and that the employee, in return, should render the best service that he is physically and mentally capable of doing."
Dr. Frechtling, who started as a part-time mill doctor in 1916, initiated education programs in safety, health and sanitation when he began full-time employment at Champion in July 1919. The pioneer in industrial medicine developed a wide range of mill training programs, that were supplemented by teachers from the Ohio State University Extension Service.
He also helped establish the industrial relations department responsible for a variety of employee programs. "His word was law," explained Ed Bauer, a mill employee from 1928 until retirement in 1971. "He was practically the personnel man and he settled any personnel problems." Bauer said "anytime a big problem came up, Dr. Frechtling would settle it."
When a 300-seat cafeteria opened Jan. 27, 1926, Dr. Frechtling assured it had healthful food and sanitary conditions. It served 2,851 customers in its first week and grossed $703.22, or an average of 24 cents a meal. In its first two years the cafeteria -- which was regarded as Hamilton's biggest restaurant in size and volume -- recorded 451,408 sales.
Hamilton's first industrial physician also wrote articles for company publications on diverse health and safety topics, ranging from safety shoes, the problems of aging and the urgency of diphtheria immunization for the children of employees to diet suggestions and cooking tips. In June 1931, for example, Dr. Frechtling wrote about sauerkraut. "Neither the taste nor the digestibility of cabbage have made it an over popular food," he noted. The doctor said "only when cabbage, by a process, is converted into sauerkraut does it become a useful vegetable."
His varied duties didn't limit his attention to employee illnesses and injuries, said Ed Bauer. "If you were home and got a sore throat, you'd just run down to the mill and see him. The reason they had a doctor, was because they didn't want you taking off for any reason," explained Bauer, who observed two examples of Frechtling fulfilling that policy.
"About 1932 or 1933, I was working on a machine and I happened to get two fingers caught between two rollers, and it crushed the fingers," said Bauer. "Dr. Frechtling put dressings on them and said go back to work. I said 'wait a minute, I can't work with this hand.' He said 'tell them to give you something you can do, even if it's with a broom.' For about four weeks, I pushed a broom with one hand," he said.
"We had a young fellow start at the mill in about 1929 or 1930, at the start of the Depression, and a few weeks later he had some pains and he went to the doctor. Dr. Frechtling doctor told him that he had appendicitis, and you're going to have to be operated on," said Bauer.
"The kid said I don't have any money, not a penny until payday tomorrow. The doctor said if you don't get the operation, you're going to die. Dr. Frechtling said you get paid tomorrow, that's Thursday. I want you to meet me Friday morning at Mercy Hospital, and bring $10 out of that pay check. That morning, he had the man pay the $3 or $3.50 a day hospital room charge, and then operated on the man. Three days later he dismissed him. He didn't charge him anything for his services," said Bauer.
In 1919 the medical department -- staffed by the doctor, a nurse and a secretary-receptionist who was shared with the employment office -- operated from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with Dr. Frechtling on call for emergencies It soon expanded to 24-hour, seven-day service with five nurses. By the mid 1930s, the department's annual service exceeded 18,500 illness and injury cases.
Sept. 1, 1949, Dr. Frechtling was appointed coordinator of medical services and Dr. Kenneth E. Higgins joined Champion as medical director at the Hamilton mill.
Dr. Frechtling -- who continued to work for the company until his death Dec. 10, 1957 -- was described by the Journal-News as "one of the most active individuals from the standpoint of civic, professional and fraternal endeavors in the City of Hamilton."
The Hamilton native was graduated from Hamilton High School in 1899 and from the University of Illinois in 1903. He trained at St. Elizabeth Hospital and St. Anne's Tuberculosis Sanitarium, both in Chicago, before returning to Hamilton to begin private practice in 1906.
He was an examining physician for the draft board during World War I, helped open the first tuberculosis clinic in Butler County, served on a school board in Hanover Township, and was a member of Hamilton's first planning commission.
"One of Dr. Frechtling's first loves was the Hamilton YMCA, where he served on the board of trustees for 51 years until the time of his death," noted the Journal-News. He was recording secretary of the local board and served on regional and national YMCA committees. He also was involved in the direct work of the YMCA, including supervision of a group for boys in the early 1920s.
Dr. Frechtling also contributed his leadership skills to the Hamilton Community Chest (now United Way); the Hamilton Bureau of Social Work; the Workmen's Compensation Committee of the Ohio Manufacturer's Association; Family Service of Hamilton; the Hamilton Area Chamber of Commerce; the Butler County Health and Tuberculosis Association; the Farm Bureau; the Farm Service Cooperative; the Citizens Unemployment Committee; the Butler County Historical Society; and the Butler County Republican Central Committee.
He found time to collect Early American items, study sociology and economics, write articles and children's stories for newspapers, and serve as associate editor of the Bulletin of the American Rock Garden Society. Besides the American Rose, the American Iris and the American Rock Garden societies, Dr. Frechtling also was active in Masonic organizations.