From THE GRAND RAPIDS HERALD, Grand Rapids, Mich., Wed., March 23, 1927, Pg. 1, Cols. 6&7 and Pg. 2, Col. 4 Obituary
Death yesterday afternoon claimed CHARLES H. LEONARD, pioneer refrigerator manufacturer at his home 455 Morris Ave., SE. He had been in failing health several months and was unconscious for several hours preceding the end.
Funeral services will be held from the residence Thursday at 2 p.m. with Rev. A. W. Wishart, pastor of Fountain Street Baptist church officiating. Burial will be in Fulton st. cemetery.
CHARLES HEMAN LEONARD (1848-1927) was born in Grand Rapids, MI, the son of HEMAN LEONARD (1812-1884) and JANE GOODRICH (1823-1862).
Charles married EMMA JANE CARR (1851-1925) on 15 October 1873. Emma was born in Plainfield, Will Co., IL, the daughter of JAMES WEBSTER CARR (1824-1875) and DOROTHY JANE GOODHUE (1828-1891). Charles and Emma are both buried in FULTON STREET CEMETERY in Grand Rapids, Kent Co., MI.
Born in Grand Rapids Jan. 15, 1848, Mr. Leonard was a son of MR. AND MRS. HERMAN [HEMAN] LEONARD, who came here from Parma, N.Y. in 1842, traveling most of the way by stage coach.
Following his graduation from the Grand Rapids high school in 1866 with the fourth class to receive diplomas, Mr. Leonard was employed in his father’s grocery store, which was located on the site of the present Houseman & Jones establishment. Later he was taken into partnership, the concern becoming H. LEONARD & SONS and including the late Fred H. and Frank E. LEONARD.
The present building of the firm was erected in 1883, occupying the site of the Leonard homestead. The stock of the store, which had changed from groceries to crockery and house fittings, included refrigerators. Charles Leonard had one of these, a device made in Indiana, sent to his home soon after his marriage.
After a time, Mrs. Leonard was informed by her servant that its cleansing represented a problem too difficult for her, and Mr. Leonard always of an inventive turn, set about to produce a refrigerator not only easy to keep clean, but to save ice. He devised a dry air, self-circulating interior ventilation refrigerator and in 1880 took out a patent on it.
The new type of refrigerator was manufactured for two years at the William A. Berkey factory under contract and then a factory was established on the old gas works property extending from Ottawa ave. to Market ave. When this plant was outgrown by the expansion of the business a new location of 26 acres on Clyde Park ave. was purchased and one of the largest refrigerator factories in the world was established there. The old plant was converted into an industrial building.
PURCHASED BY CORPORATION
In 1926 the GRAND RAPIDS REFRIGERATOR COMPANY was purchased by the Electric Refrigerator corporation as its third unit, the others being the Nizer and Kelvinator corporations, Detroit.
Charles H. Leonard headed the Grand Rapids Refrigerator company when the crockery and refrigerator departments of H. Leonard & Son were separated in 1893, but interests of the brothers were not divided. With the purchase of the property by the Electric Refrigerator corporation Mr. Leonard became a member of the board of directors of the new management.
H. Leonard and Sons – Copy print of two drawings of the H. Leonard and Sons Buildings, one on Monroe Street and the other on Fulton and Spring Streets from The Grand Rapids Library Photographs Collection
One of the original members of the Grand Rapids Board of Trade, which later was reorganized as the Grand Rapids Association of Commerce, Mr. Leonard was active in civic matters and especially in Grand river improvement. He was one of the largest contributors to the capital invested in river shipping. When pure water was a civic issue, he advocated sand filtration. Having visited the St. Louis world’s fair, where he saw a modern filtration plant in operation, he made an 8-foot model of the plant, which aroused much interest in the local water campaign.
MEMBER OF SCHOOL BOARD
Mr. Leonard was a member of the board of education in 1911-12. He advocated daylight saving more than 20 years before it was adopted and was instrumental in bringing about establishment of retail markets for the city. He was the first to use the electric arc light in Grand Rapids, employing this while construction was being rushed on the new crockery and grocery store on Monroe ave. Mr. Leonard also was an early advocate of manual training in the city schools and for many years before its adoption had favored prohibition from an economic standpoint.
Mr. Leonard served for a time as chairman of the board of trustees of Fountain Street Baptist church. He was granted patents on many inventions, some of which were used in the refrigerator business, while others were never utilized. At one time he manufactured a portable galvanized voting booth with two doors, such as were required by law at the time. These were purchased from him by the city.
He was a member of Sons of the American Revolution and a staunch Republican.
He often recalled incidents of the Lincoln presidential campaign in which he took an active part locally. He related several times how the Democrats raised a hickory tree as an emblem of their political faith, on the lot which is now occupied by Hotel Morton and how during the heat of the campaign, local Democrats awoke one morning to see the tree bending and groaning under the weight of several steel rails tied to its branches by himself and other young Republican boosters for “Abe.”
All photos from The Grand Rapids Library Photographs Collection