In the scrapbooks of Mary W Riddle we found this undated and unattributed typed history of the factory. It appears to have been written in about 1922. The writer mentions the Merts and Riddle velocipede . The only two other references we have to the velocipede come from an early letterhead of Merts and Riddle and a brief menton in a 1938 article in the local paper. Both of these are below.
If you were to go to Ravenna, Ohio and ask a member of the Riddle family whether they have been established long, you would hear them answer with great pride, that they had been established in the vehicle business on the present site since the year 1830.
The one of the clan best known to hundreds of undertakers and vehicle men throughout these United States was Henry Warner Riddle, only recently deceased, his leadership having begun in 1861.
The factory has always been on its present site, having been established there in 1830 by N.D. and miletus (sp) Clark for the making of buggies.
Mr. Riddle was born in Allegheny, PA, learning the trade of carriage building there during his late teens. Work at the bench was too slow for him and he took up the selling of buggies through Kentucky, taking a long string of buggies out through the country roads and peddling them from farm to farm.
At this time Mr. Riddle's brother-in-law, Mr. Charles Merts, of the latter firm of Merts & Riddle, was working for the Clark's in Ravenna. He sent for Mr. Riddle, who came north and together they leased the building and took over the business. From then on to his death in December, 1920, Mr. Riddle was a part and witnessed all the great changes that have taken place in road travel conveniences, up to our present time of motor driven vehicles.
A tireless workman, always up to date, Mr. Riddle took up each new style in mode of travel as fast as they developed. At first it was buggies, then the sleigh and at the time he was married in 1966 he was just beginning the making of the old high wheel sulky. Mr. Riddle began a sulky at the time of his marriage and finished it on his return home, this being the last work he ever did at the bench, from then on devoting all his time to the management and selling of the product of his factory.
Among the interesting things that Mr. Riddle helped develop was the two wheel velocipede, making the first in this part of the country.
Mr. Riddle never could ride one but Mr. Merts rode the first one in this part of the country, attracting more attention at near-by Fairs than an aeroplane would now. It was hard to see how Mr. Merts would keep it upright.
In the early seventies they were making circus wagons for Sells, Forepaugh, Wallace and others and it was fun to hear Mr. Riddle tell how he had to travel from town to town with the circus through many cold, rainy spring days, waiting for the circus to have a few good crowds so he could get his money.
In was in the late seventies when they made their first step from light into heavy work. At this time they began the building of coaches and hearses for the liveryman and undertaker and this is where they got their real stride, the business having continued steadily ever since, until today when the Riddle Manufacturing Co. is building not coaches and hearses, but motor driven limousines, sedans and motor funeral cars.
As in the early days when they built the body, gear and wheels, everything, but the horse, today it is the body, chassis and even the horse power, that is completely built in this modern factory.
It is also a source of some pride to these old timers that they have successfully weathered three disasters and many panics. On the 11th day of August, 1871 they burned to the ground and again on June 28, 1903 fire wiped them out. The third disaster to the horse drawn, business was the coming of the motor, which Mr. Riddle said looked almost insurmountable to him and his customers, who must sacrifice so much. Both found a way, Mr. Riddle prospered and so have his customers
Webmaster's note: at the bottom of the typed page is a handwritten note in pencil:
Business closed in Dec. 1925
Saturday, Nov 19, 1938
The Good Old Days in Portage County
by E. Y. Lacy
45 YEARS AGO
"Manufactured in 1868 by Merts and Riddle, of Ravenna, O., was the inscription attached to a bicycle exhibited in the show window Of an Alliance store in April 1894.
The weight of the machine was 68 pounds and the cost $150. Many people at that time remembered when this widely known company was making the wheels and recalled that the late Charles Mertz was the first to master the fine art of writing the "pesky thing."