Jaeger is an old and well-established name in Columbus.
The name Jaeger means hunter in German, and it is fair to say that most of the Jaegers arriving in Columbus were hunting for success in their new homeland.
Some of the Jaegers found that success early.
Christian Jaeger was an Austrian army officer who arrived in Columbus by following the National Road west. When he got here, he discovered the road had not been completed beyond the city -- and there was cholera in that direction, too.
He decided to stay in Columbus and ended up owning more than 50 acres of what is now German Village. Jaeger Street is named for him and his family.
Jaeger is a relatively common name in German. Our story today is about another man named Jaeger who was not closely related to Christian Jaeger but who shared his desire for success.
Gebhard Jaeger was part of the great wave of immigration that engulfed the United States in the years after the American Civil War. By the end of World War I, more than 15 million new residents had arrived in one of the greatest mass migrations in history. Most of the newcomers were from eastern and southern Europe, but some, including Gebhard Jaeger, were from Germany and other western European countries.
Born in 1874, Gebhard Jaeger arrived in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1892. Within a year, America was engulfed in the "panic" or economic depression of 1893. With the advantage of better-than-average experience and technical skill, Jaeger worked his way through the hard times and married Paulina Miller along the way in 1897.
In 1900, the couple moved to Pittsburgh, where Jaeger took a job designing woven-wire fence machines for the Union Steel Co. But the young man was not satisfied with working in steel. He felt his future lay in a different place and with a different material.
The place he chose in 1902 was Columbus, and the material he chose was concrete.
In one form or another, concrete had been around as a building material for much of human history. But wood and brick were the common building materials in the early history of America. The forests of America were large, and bricks were easy to make in such places as Columbus, where clay was easy to find. Concrete had to be mixed correctly and used relatively quickly before it hardened.
Jaeger was convinced concrete had a future as a building material. He began to address the problem in 1902 with a design for a concrete-block machine. While the machine was successful, it was limited to the product produced: a concrete block.
Jaeger reasoned that his own success was not with a given product but with the process of concrete manufacturing. What he needed was a machine that could make small batches of concrete on a job site.
Beginning in 1906 with $12,000 in capital in a machine shop on West Broad Street, Jaeger produced the first reliably successful portable concrete-mixing machine. Concrete now became available to the small contractor working the smallest of jobs.
The machine was extraordinarily successful, and over the years the Jaeger Machine Co. prospered. The mixing machines came to be made in a variety of sizes and with many different features.
Persistent in his search for innovation, Jaeger concluded that although his business was successful, it relied on the contractor or tradesman to do all the work of mixing sand, aggregate and cement to make concrete. A business that could bring ready-to-pour concrete to a job site would be even more successful, he thought.
In 1928, Jaeger found further success with mixers of ready-to-pour concrete mounted on trucks that did just that.
A later history reported that Jaeger "acquired ownership of the oldest and most basic patents on truck mixers, which are coming into wide use in cities for the economical production and delivery of commercial concrete."
In 1929, Jaeger Machine acquired the Lakewood Engineering Co. of Cleveland. Lakewood at the time was a large manufacturer of road-building machinery.
The 1913 flood in Columbus virtually had destroyed the company's factory near the Rich Street bridge, and Jaeger Machine built a new factory along Dublin Road, near but not on the riverfront. It was at this factory, and at factories in other cities, that Jaeger Machine became internationally known as a manufacturer of concrete-mixing equipment.
By the time Gebhard Jaeger died in 1959, he had acquired the success he had sought when he came to America in 1892. He is buried in Amaranth Abbey in Union Cemetery.
The Jaeger Machine Co. continued in various forms until 1992. Much of the site of the Jaeger Machine factory is now part of the land proposed for the new stadium for the Columbus Crew.
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.