Clement O. Miniger
Clement Orville Miniger was born at northeast, Pennsylvania, on November 11, 1874 son of Samuel and Clementine Miniger. He attended grammar school in that area before moving to Ohio with his family. After graduating from Fostoria High School Miniger attended a pharmacy college in Chicago. After graduating in 1891, he returned to Toledo to start his career as a representative for the pioneer drug company of Walding, Kinnan, and Marvin. For the next ten years Miniger traveled as a salesman throughout northwest Ohio. He gained a reputation for reliability and was known for traveling through snowdrifts during the winter to reach his customers.
In 1902 Miniger acquired properties in Cambridge, Ohio, but maintained his headquarters in Toledo where he preferred to live. His foray into the coal enterprises proved to be successful and so did a paper box factory that he started in the city. But these were trivial accomplishments in relation to his eventual contributions to the automobile boom and the subsequent boost in the city economy.
In 1911, Miniger organized the Electric Auto-Lite Company and became secretary and treasurer. The company manufactured automobile lighting and ignition equipment, and later added battery and farm lighting divisions. After acquisition of the company by John Willys in 1914, Willys made Miniger president and general manager of Electric Auto-Lite. Miniger stayed in this position for several years until failing health forced him to reduce his authority and Royce G. Martin placed him. Electric Auto-Lite expanded to twenty-two plants nationwide by 1944.
Miniger helped add executive, production and sales strength to the Willys-Overland Company. He took charge of production for sixteen months and organized the conversion to help during World War I. In June of 1929, Miniger and some of his associates purchased over 800,000 shares of the Willys-Overland. Auto-Lite quickly affiliated itself with the larger company. Miniger also created one of the first companies to provide electricity and lights for farmers.(Toledo Biography Scrapbook, Local History Collection, Toledo Lucas County Public Library).
Miniger's other business pursuits included serving as president for the United States Light and Heat Corporation, as a director for the Morris Plan Bank, the Commerce Guardian Trust & Savings Bank, and the Air-Way Electrical Appliance Company.[John M. Killits, ed., Toledo and Lucas County, Ohio 1623-1923, vol. 3 (Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1923), p.167]. He was also an active philanthropist who concerned himself with civic affairs and the beautification of the city. Miniger donated $300,000 for the YMCA to construct a new building. During the Depression, he contributed $85,000 to clear the debts of the financially troubled Women's and Children's Hospital. He also gave money to the Toledo Newsboys' Association and the Toledo Zoological Society.
Socially, Miniger participated in the Masons, Knights Templar, Zenobia Shrine, Toledo Country Club, Toledo and Inverness Club, and the Toledo and Maumee River Yacht Clubs. In 1932, he became Commodore of the Interlake Yachting Association, the highest honor bestowed by the lake yachtsmen. Miniger was an honorary member of the Rotary, the Detroit Athletic Club, and the Question Club of New York. He maintained a long time membership in the Order of United Commercial Travelers.
In 1904, Miniger married Eleanor Couldwell, the daughter of undertaker A.B. Couldwell. The couple had one child, Eleanor Clara. Eleanor Couldwell Miniger actively worked in local charities and headed various women's groups in the city. She died in 1931. Miniger remarried Edna DeVilbiss, widow of famous Toledo industrialist Thomas DeVilbiss, in 1933.
Miniger suffered failing health for some time before he died on April 23, 1944 aged 69 years old. Thousands of people attended his funeral to honor this prominent Toledoan.(Toledo Biography Scrapbook).
The Miniger family mausoleum
(Photography of Woodlawn Cemetery by Josef Schneider.)