|Photo Courtesy of Bill Flood|
Middletown's history and the history of that remarkable historical asset on Johnson street is not about typewriters. It's about 19th century industrial innovation in America. Specifically, it's all about the pioneering efforts that forever changed the nation's transportation history. No exaggeration. Middletown owns that distinction and should celebrate it. With some creative thinking and planning (what Keating would have called "Yankee Ingenuity"), that distinction might also be branded to attract interests (and dollars) towards historic preservation, tourism and economic development.
Keating's 1901 motorcycle puttered down Main Street in Middletown the same time that Oscar Hedstrom was working out the kinks of his own machine -- the prototype that would become the Indian [motorcycle]. At the time, Middletown was the undisputed Motor City when it came to the American motorcycle. Keating's machine went to market months before Hedstrom's prototype and became popular enough to force Hedstrom and George Hendee of Indian fame to "borrow" key features to make their product competitive. As Gary noted, Harley and Davidson would later borrow the same components.
Keating was also one of the nation's earliest commercial automobile manufacturers -- both electric and gasoline powered. The historic parade that celebrated Middletown's 250th birthday, held in October of 1900, included four Keating Company vehicles -- including a motorized runabout. It would be another year before Henry Ford started building his historic machines. (R.M.Keating family lore has it that Keating spent some time with Ford, helping him with factory design and assembly line production such as that already occurring in Middletown.) The factory then went on to host the Eisenhuth Compound automobile, one of the most innovative machines of the "brass era." Indeed, Middletown was one of the few American cities in the nation that was actively engaged in building automobiles. In CT, Middletown was second only to Hartford's Pope Company which was arguably the biggest in the nation at the time.
Readers, what do you think? Do you agree that the name Keating should be reflected in the building name? Please submit a comment!
Beth Emery wrote about the name of this building nearly four years ago in this Eye commentary:
The Keating Wheel Company - where is it now?