Story by: Huffy
Ohio’s Cradle of Innovation is truly multi-generational. Thankfully, the innovation pioneers of Dayton, Ohio, tended to reside in Dayton for most, if not all of their lives.
One of the ‘Gen 3’ innovators of Dayton was none other than Horace Huffman Jr., son of Horace Huffman Sr., and grandson of George Huffman. George Huffman purchased the Davis Sewing Machine company in 1888 in Watertown, New York, and moved the company to his hometown of Dayton in 1889.
Not many years after moving the Davis Sewing Machine company to Dayton, Ohio, George Huffman, saw an opportunity for manufacturing bicycles, a product growing in popularity.
In 1925, George’s son, Horace Huffman, Sr., formed the Huffman Manufacturing Company, leading the company until his death in 1945. During his tenure, he hired his son Horace Jr. in sales and service. It was Horace Jr. who later became a works manager, converting the production process to a straight-line conveyorized assembly line, allowing Huffman Manufacturing to meet production demand and drive sales of nearly $1.5 million. Known as “Huff” to his friends and family, Horace Jr. was named President and CEO in 1945 following his father’s passing.
Horace Jr.’s leadership was immediately tested by limited supplies in the years following World War II, but he successfully addressed the crisis by implementing the “Work Simplification” procedure he learned at a seminar. Horace Jr. also guided the company through the postwar recession with the help of two innovations: the Huffy Convertible, the first bike with training wheels launched in 1949 (making Huffy a household name) and lawnmowers, a product that could be produced in the winter months. Under Horace Jr., Huffman Manufacturing became the largest bike manufacturer in the United States.
While Horace Huffman Jr.’s impact on the company is evident, his true passion was for bicycles and bicycling, a love that served a practical purpose as he would regularly bike to work (to his father’s bicycle factory – Huffman) in the 1930s. In fact, Horace is known as a visionary for bicycling in Dayton, Ohio, and the “man behind the bikeway.” His passion for bicycling and “building things with people” was on display as co-founder and first president of the Dayton Cycling Club and through the formation of the Greater Dayton Bikeway Committee (later known as the Miami Valley Regional Bicycle Council). The Huffman-led committee drafted one of the nation’s first regional bikeway plans that was adopted in 1973. Learning from another municipality’s struggles (Sacramento, CA), Horace Jr. knew land acquisition for the bikeway was vital to success. Thankfully, locating the trail along the Great Miami River would favor progress as the land along the river was owned by the Miami Conservancy District.
Horace Jr.’s vision would be realized when the initial 8.2-mile bikeway was built by the Conservancy District and dedicated in 1976. Now the Horace M. Huffman Jr. Great Miami River Trail has grown into a major regional trail, one of more than a dozen in the Greater Miami Valley, and the nation’s largest paved trail network. The network, more than 330 miles of paved recreational trails, stretches across county lines and connects parks, historic landmarks, attractions, and even schools.
Horace M. Huffman Jr., was a true innovator that left an unmatched imprint the manufacturing and use of a product that he cherished his entire life. "It's a marvelous product," he said at age 82. “It gets people where they want to go without being dependent on streetcars or taxi cars or anything else. You just get on and go. I've often felt that the bicycle was the child's first declaration of independence."