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Massillon History: Croxton-Keeton and MCA Sign Company

The Forest City Motor Car Company


The birth of the modern automobile is considered to be the year 1886. Many companies dabbled in design and function. By the 1900s, automobiles were seen as a viable form of transportation, and companies across the United States began manufacturing them. In 1905, attorney W.E.N. Hemperly purchased the Forest City Motor Car Company (later the Croxton-Keeton Company), hoping to make Massillon a major automobile production city. They began production on the “Jewell” automobile, originally sold to customers for $400. Their production facility was located on the first floor of the MCA Sign Company. The Croxton-Keeton taxi model was reportedly the first taxi used in New York City.

MCA 94.6.6, Jewel advertisement
Jewel Automobile advertisement, 1907
Collection of the Massillon Museum
Museum Purchase (94.6.6)


By 1908 Henry Ford was producing cars quickly and affordably because of his assembly line method. Because of this competition, by 1910 production ceased in Massillon, and the company folded by 1914. While several Jewell and Jewel motorcars are extant today (such as the one in the Museum’s collection), there are no known surviving Croxton-Keeton or Keeton motorcars.

MCA Jewel

The Jewel Automobile, Model "E" Stanhope is on display at the Massillon Museum on the second floor.

The Massillon-Cleveland-Akron (MCA) Sign Company

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Original staff members of the MCA Sign Company, 1908
Founders Nicholas Mollet, Samuel Mollet, and unidentified woman
Collection of the Massillon Museum
Gift of Myron Bowling Auctioneers

Samuel Mollet came to Massillon in 1905 to join with the Massillon Sign and Show Print Company (1904). This business consolidated with the Cleveland-Akron Sign Company, making it the Massillon-Cleveland-Akron Sign Company. The business remained in the Mollet family until its closing. The company was known for cloth banners, signs on silk and tin, full-color photographs printed on plastic, masonite, steel and aluminum, and more. The artwork for each piece was made through one of three processes: lithography, flexography, or screen printing. Big companies such as Coca-Cola, Miller Brewing Company, Pixar, Mobil, Shell, Amoco, Texaco, Sohio, and others were clients for several decades. The company ran quantities as low as 100 or as many as 250,000.

Donation to the Massillon Museum Archives

MCA_SortingArchives

Julie Payne of Myron Bowling Auctioneers showing Museum staff the MCA archives
2014
Photo by Mandy Altimus Pond

The Massillon-Cleveland-Akron (MCA) Sign Company closed in April 2014. Items from the business, including photographs, signs, and equipment which were auctioned on August 19, 2014. Special thanks to Julie Payne of Myron Bowling Auctioneers to assisting the Museum staff to document the building and the MCA Sign Company's history. Julie was kind enough to give a tour of the facility to Museum staff and interns, pointing out where the Croxton-Keeton Company operated, and the room in which the 1907 Jewel Automobile was built.

MCA_Employees3
MCA Sign Company Employees Sewing Signs
c.1950
Collection of the Massillon Museum
Gift of Myron Bowling Auctioneers

Myron Bowling Auctioneers donated dozens of photographs and slides that show MCA Sign Company employees working and examples of their signs. Massillon Museum Registration Assistant Jessica Shoemaker will take each item and assign and accession number to it. This unique ID will be used to record important information about each photograph, such as who donated it, what year it was taken, and sometimes identifications of the people pictured.

MCA_Donation1

Massillon Museum Registration Assistant Jessica Shoemaker sorts slides from the MCA Sign Company.
August 2014
Photo by Mandy Altimus Pond

MCA_CroxtonKeetonFrench35

Croxton Keeton French 35 car in the Forest City Motor Car Company factory
c.1909
Collection of the Massillon Museum
Gift of David Schultz

MCA2014c

MCA Sign Company room where the Croxton Keeton automobiles were built
July 2014
Photo by Mandy Altimus Pond

MCA_GasStation

MCA Signs at a Local Gas Station
c.1945
Collection of the Massillon Museum
Gift of Myron Bowling Auctioneers

MCA_Employees1

MCA Sign Company Employee printing
c.1950

Collection of the Massillon Museum
Gift of Myron Bowling Auctioneers

Below are views from the tour of the MCA Sign Company building before the auction, July 2014:
(photos by Mandy Altimus Pond)

MCA2014b MCA_LastJob MCA2014a

MCA2014d_MassMuStaff

Staff of the Museum on the roof of the MCA Sign Company building
July 2014
Left to right: Cristina Savu, Scot Phillips, Margy Vogt, Mandy Pond
Photo by Julie Payne

 
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