LIMA — Emma Rehn survived her husband by slightly more than two years and so the sad task of selling those things with which he’d worked for a lifetime fell to her.
“Due to the death of my husband,” Mrs. Rehn’s ad in the Nov. 17, 1963, edition of The Lima News read, “I will sell his garage tools and equipment at public auction …”
The tools didn’t belong to just any automobile mechanic. Edward H. Rehn was working on automobiles when there weren’t many automobiles to work on. When he celebrated his 80th birthday in January 1958, the News described him as “the oldest garageman in the Lima area.”
Rehn also was a tinkerer and inventor. As a traveling mechanic for a farm implement company at the turn of the century, Rehn, according to a Jan. 21, 1941, story in the News, “detested attempting to repair” the company’s corn shockers, so he set about inventing an improved one, a labor of more than three decades.
He was born Jan. 17, 1878, near New Bremen, the son of Friedrich and Wilhelmina Schoenfeldt Rehn. In 1904, he married Emma Bredemeyer, a union that would last nearly 60 years and produce three children, daughters Charlene and Erma and son Leelan.
“Shortly after the turn of the century, in 1902 and 1903, to be exact,” the News noted in the 1940 story, “Young Edward H. Rehn got himself a job as a traveling mechanic for the Deering Harvester Co. Experienced mechanics in those days were few and far between. Automotive and farm machinery firms found it necessary to hire traveling mechanics who went from one sales agency to the next, assembling and repairing machinery.
“Although Edward Rehn was a natural mechanic and dearly loved the work,” the story continued, “he detested attempting to repair one of the old Deering Harvester corn shockers. He just couldn’t get one of them to behave the way he thought it should.” Rehn eventually left the Deering company but couldn’t seem to leave the idea of improving the corn shocker.
Around 1904, he quit his job as a traveling mechanic and took a job as a patternmaker at the Klein Manufacturing plant in Wapakoneta. Then, according to the News, “Rehn started his garage career in Wapakoneta on Nov. 20, 1909, when that community had only three automobiles … . In 1911, he became wholesaler, distributor and serviceman for the Wheeler-Schebler Carburetor Co., and through the years he became regarded as a specialist in carburetors and motor tune-ups. From 1914 to 1916 he had a Buick agency in Wapakoneta.”
In 1916, Rehn, “deciding to establish himself in a larger town,” sold his Wapakoneta shop and, on March 11, 1917, opened a shop at 1071 W. Spring St., where he would remain the rest of his life.
In an ad in the Aug. 22, 1918, edition of the Lima Times-Democrat, Rehn offered work at “the pre-war price of 75 cents an hour.” In another ad, this one from the July 24, 1921, News, Rehn advises, “We cannot overhaul your machine for $10 or $15, neither can anyone else and give you good workmanship, but for a few additional dollars, we’ll give your car an A-1 overhauling.”
All the time, Rehn still was tinkering with ideas for overhauling that pesky corn shocker. In 1931, he got serious. “In August 1931,” according to the News, “he found one of the old corn shockers — the kind Deering used to make which he contended were improperly designed — reposing in the barn of a farmer near Moulton, in Auglaize County. It took a little persuasion, but Rehn bought the tin contraption for $10” and began working on it.
“After 32 years of diligent effort, E.H. Rehn, 1071 W. Spring St., Saturday announced perfection of a new farm implement device to be used in shocking corn,” the News reported Sept. 6, 1936. “The new invention was first placed on display the past week at the Auglaize County Fair at Wapakoneta and was the center of attraction.
“The implement is designed to follow a corn binder,” the News explained. “As the bundles of corn come from the binder they are elevated by means of a conveyor and then deposited on a half drum, open at both ends, which serves as a cradle for the accumulated bundles until enough have been collected to make a shock which are automatically built.” Rehn said his theory was the cut corn should be handled “laying down not standing up.” Rehn received a patent on the implement in 1940.
“Farmers tell me they hate shocking corn worse than any job on the farm,” Rehn told the News. “I can see no reason why my machine won’t sell in abundancy.” Unfortunately for Rehn, combines soon made it unnecessary to place corn stalks in shocks for drying, although he continued to work on his invention.
“Rehn has been in the business of tuning motors and repairing carburation for 35 years,” the News reported Aug. 27, 1945. “He manufactures the corn shocker in the garage at home. He has not formulated definite plans for putting the implement into production.” In September 1948, Rehn was demonstrating the corn shocker on the Herman Miller farm near Columbus Grove. “The Lima man has been working on the implement for 13 years,” the News noted. “He has three patents on it and a fourth is pending in Washington, he explained.”
Rehn soon had turned his attention to making a better snow shovel. “The gadget, known as the ‘Rehn Snow Remover,’ consists of a scoop-type blade (in sizes from 26 to 30 inches) mounted in front of what resembles a hand lawnmower, minus the cutter,” the News wrote Oct. 17, 1954. “A chain or cord connected to the top of the scoop enables the operator to adjust the blade when working over crevices in the sidewalk.”
The device, the newspaper explained, could be converted to perform a number of jobs. “Without using a wrench it can be transformed into a golf caddy-cart, grocery cart, garbage can hauler and, by attaching a box or sack, can be used for hauling leaves. A simple attachment makes it ideal for carrying an outboard motor.” Rehn, the News noted, had manufactured and sold 27 of the devices.
Rehn died May 11, 1962. His wife, Emma, died June 11, 1964. They are buried in New Bremen’s Willow Grove Cemetery.
Reach Greg Hoersten at TLNinfo@civitasmedia.com.