Autolite: (15) Clement O. Miniger Founder of Auto-Lite Company

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“As I was copying Mr. Duane Richardson’s Book about the beginnings of the Autolite Spark Plug Plant in Fostoria, Ohio. It occured to me it would also be interesting to know more about the Auto-Lite Company founder, What follows was taken from the Toledo Blade, April 24,1944. And the Fostoria Times the same date. I think you will find it interesting as I did.”

In 1911, Mr. C. O. Mininger purchased the patent rights to an electric auto-headlight invented by two men in Indiana. He then formed the Auto-liter Company, now called Autolite, and it has expanded to 22 plants in the United States and Canada. Successful in everything which he injected his personality, wisdom and vitality, the Electric Autolite stands as a monument to his organizing genius and capacity for developing ideas.

Mr. Miniger, known familiarly to his associates as “C. O.” was born in North East Pa. Nov. 11, 1874, the son of Mr. and Mrs Samuel O. Miniger. When he was a child the family moved to Arcadia, Handcock County, O., where Mr. Miniger’s father owned a handle factory.

Later the family went to Fostoria O., where the father conducted first a livery stable and later a roller-skating rink.

Educated in Fostoria

Mr. Miniger’s grade school education was obtained in Fostoria. But he did not complete his high school education, leaving in 1890 to become a pharmacy student in Chicago.

After remaining in school two years, he passed up an opportunity of becoming a drug clerk in Chicago and came to Toledo, where he entered the employ of Walding, Kinnan & Marvin, wholesale drug house, as a salesman.

It was while he was with this company that he first demonstrated his great ability as a salesman-a-talent that was to pay huge dividends in the future years.

For 10 years Mr. Miniger’s territory was northwest Ohio. In the summer he used a horse and buggy in the winter a horse and cutter. But no matter what the weather was Mr Miniger made his rounds. Even heavy snow drifts did not deter him and older merchants liked to recall that it was “that young Miniger” who would be the first to break through the blocked roads and reach his customers.

Even in his younger days, Mr. Miniger was farseeing and ambitious, believing that he was stymied in opportunity with the drug company, in 1902 he became a coal producer. He took over mines in Cambridge O., and established offices in Toledo.

Three years later he also became a paper manufacturer.

Then in 1911, believing in the automobile, then in its infancy, and its possibilities plus knowledge of an electric light, invented by two Indiana men, which he was sure would replace the gas light on automobilies. Mr. Miniger organized the Auto-liter Company. This was an instant success an employed nearly 1000 people in Toledo. Soon the company started expanding with the development of the electric starters, ignition equipment, later adding an extensive battery farm lighting division. After that many more automotive related companies were added to the Autolite family. A total of 22 at this time (1944)

At one time Mr.Miniger was an official or director in Toledo’s most prominent industries. Also among the many fine buildings he built or owned at one time in Toledo are the Hillcrest, the Bell building, and the B.R. Baker building, along with many other properties in downtown Toledo. His building managers always were under instructions to make improvements that would aid to the beauty of Toledo, and the comfort and convenience of the citizens.

He gave unstintingly of his wealth, that his fellow citizens might enjoy life a bit more fully, and one of his outstanding munificences was in presenting $300,000 to the building fund of the new Central Y.M.C.A. Almost every charitable organization in the city counted Mr. Miniger among its most magnanimous friends and patrons.

Mr. Miniger was not a sportsman in the accepted sense, but he was an ardent yachtsman He once owned the yacht called the Helene. (Purchased 1929)

Mr. Miniger died April 23, 1944 at the age of 69

(He had a brother Charles, and a sister, Mrs. James Sellers living in Fostoria at this time)


Former Fostorian bequests $1 million to charity, family
(Published in R/t June 1944)

Charles L. Mininger, Mrs. Anna Sellers and Robert Sellers, Fostoria, the Fostoria YMCA and the First Presbyterian Church of Fostoria will receive bequest from the estate of the late Clement O. Mininger, Toledo industrialist and former Fostorian, whose will was filed for probate on Tuesday. The will, made August 6, 1942 provides bequests of almost $1,000,000.
The former head of the Electric Auto-Lite company, who died April 23, 1944 at the age of 69, designated $95,000 for charity $822,000 for relatives and friends and $5,000 each for the YMCA and the church.
Total bequests were $927,500 and are to be paid as soon as possible by the executor, Frank H. Landwehr. Landwehr was also given $40,000 as a gift and will receive $25,000 for services.
Mr. Mininger made his daughter, Mrs. Eleanor Jones, the main recipient of his estate. Her bequest is $300,000. She was named a co-executrix and is to act alone in case of any disagreement with Mr. Landwehr.
Mininger's wife Edna, will receive $200,000. The will said she was not named in the first three provisions of the will because of a pre-nuptial agreement.
Other bequests to $20,000 to a brother, Charles, of Fostoria. $25,000 to a sister, Mrs. Anna Sellers of Fostoria: $20,000 to George M. Jones Jr., husband of his daughter: $40,000 to a nephew, Robert Sellers of Fostoria; $40,000 to a nephew, Richard Eaton. $20,000 each to nieces, Naoma Whelan and Ruth Kehoe; $10,000 to Howard DeVilbiss and Mrs. Fred Gordon Jr., children of his wife.
In Addition to the local endowments, other charitable bequests include; Boys' Club of Toledo; $10,000 Toledo YMCA $10,000; Toledo Society of Crippled Children, $10,000; St. Vincent's hospital, $10.000; Lucila Cummings Home, as a memorial to his late wife, Eleanor, $25,000 and Trinity Episcopal church, Toledo, $10,000