EIDTOR’S NOTE — Students in Sara Olding’s Senior English classes at Sidney High School partnered with the Shelby County Historical Society to explore the stories of early residents and visionaries of Sidney, Ohio. Turning their research into writing, they spent time “Learning About Legacy.”
SIDNEY — Ambitious, dedicated, selfless, and straight forward -these are all traits that Wendell Whipp, former president of Monarch Machine Tool Company, possessed. Whipp started in 1912 as a regular employee with no prior experience with machinery. At that time the Monarch had only 15 employees who worked a 55 hour week for 5 cents an hour. I.H. Theidick was the company owner and because business was so slow in the beginning, he often had to make a personal loan to make payroll.
Eventually, Whipp was promoted to general manager and the company began to prosper. He was a persuasive salesman who was committed to his employees. Whipp instituted a profit sharing plan for his employees, a first for any business in the region. In 1917 he instituted the first ever group life insurance for his employees. In 1918 he instituted a program to help his employees secure loans to buy homes. This type of generosity was unheard of for employees during this time, but it was also indicative of how community minded Wendell Whipp was.
In 1931 Whipp became the president of the company and within a year the company had generated a good amount of profit. Whipp was able to donate to charities and continue to give his employees bonuses. Mindful of their importance and dedicated to creating a family atmosphere, Whipp often visited with his employees and reminded them of how he appreciated their work and how valuable they were to the company. He held company picnics and would even offer to pay his employees half a day’s wage for bringing their families along with them. Because of his dedication to building relationships with his employees, the Monarch continued to prosper without any labor problems. Monarch employees were deeply invested and loyal to the company.
Whipp steered the Monarch through the Great Depression. During the Great Depression wage cuts were necessary to keep the doors open, but as usual Whipp led by example. He took the biggest pay cut of all at 33 percent. Employee hours were reduced and eventually the workforce was reduced to only 16 employees. Always mindful of the future, Whipp was committed to product development. He knew that just keeping the doors open was not good enough so he used cash reserves to encourage employees to develop new products. The creation of the new “EE Lathe” during this time would change the future of the Monarch. In 1939 the lathe made its debut and the Monarch was back to 500 employees with international orders outweighing domestic orders for the first time in history.
The United States involvement in World War II and Roosevelt’s defense spending had a tremendous impact on the Monarch. In early 1940 as many young men and a good number of his employees were heading off to war, Whipp did the unthinkable. He hired and trained over 500 local women to do every aspect of factory work. Led by Monarch’s first female shop worker, Virginia Oldham, and with the eyes of a lot of other business owners on them, the females soon demonstrated that they could hold their own. By the end of 1942, the Monarch employed 2,700 people. Monarch’s payroll was three times that of any other business in Sidney. During this critical time, in an effort to meet the orders during wartime, employees got only a half day off every three weeks and no vacation. To put the growth of the company in perspective, in 1932 the Monarch product sales totaled $147,000. By the end of the 1945, Monarch product sales totaled $10,000,000!
The Shelby County Historical Society shares that “it would be impossible to overestimate the impact Monarch had on our community through the first half century of its existence. Jobs created, taxes paid, and charitable activities supported are but a few of the more tangible measures.” With the wealth acquired, Wendell Whipp, Fred Dull, and Jerome Raterman formed The Monarch Machine Tool Company Foundation in 1952. Over the years this foundation has donated millions of dollars to the community and supported almost every major community project including expansions at Wilson Memorial Hospital, the YMCA, Dorothy Love, Amos Memorial Library, Sidney City Schools, and Lehman Catholic High School.
Sadly in 1957, Whipp passed away due to a boating accident. Everyone connected with Monarch mourned his death. If he were alive today, he would want young people in Sidney to give more to their community. He would encourage us to work as a family to meet the needs others. He always dedicated his best to whatever he was doing and made sure the people working for him and with him knew they were appreciated. He knew the value of people and for that reason, people valued him. Community first – that is a great reminder for all of us.
The writer is the daughter of Amie Raines and the granddaughter of Annie Batty. A 2018 graduate of Sidney High School, she is a gifted artist and an apprentice in a tattoo shop.