Biography of Philip H. Baker
Cuyahoga County, OH Biographies

PHILIP HENRY BAKER. From farm boy to Cleveland man of business.. Written by a business associate who has for three years been in a position to appreciate his capacity for hard work and intelligence in its performance. Philip Henry Baker, better known as "Phil Baker," first saw the light of day, on April 7, 1885, at Stone Creek, Ohio, a village of less than 100 inhabitants. His father's home cornered up against the railroad station at the edge of the little village. The old saying that "the boy is the father of the man" was well born out in Phil's case, for he could scarcely walk when he fell in love with horses. He looked upon them as almost human, and to see one of them roughly handled cut his little heart to the very quick. As he grew older his chief delight was to organize his boy playmates into a trading community, and it was always observed that certain long sticks set by Phil at intervals along the fence were "horses," each with a name, and any of them for "sale if the boy buyers had the price." The first real rough and tumble fist fight he ever had was with a little village lad, and bigger than he, too, who made the mistake of declaring that those animals were not horses at all, but mere pieces of board from the Baker woodshed.

When little Philip was ten years old the Baker family moved from Stone Creek to a farm one mile and a half west of Tuscarawas, Ohio, in what is known as Sharon Valley, where the boy soon became very homesick for his former playmates in the village. He was a total stranger to the forty odd children in the country school he now attended, but being naturally of a friendly disposition he soon niade many chums among them, and further showed his best toward organization by inaugurating a "spelling bee," with added attractions in the way of recitations, songs, etc., such as he was used to in the village. A program was arranged, but when the night for the entertainment arrived and the teacher called upon the different children to recite, their nerve failed them. Little Phil Baker, with a courage that nothing could daunt, jumped into the breach, so to speak, and saved the entertainment by giving the audience three recitations and as many songs, which were not only loudly praised by the teacher but which made him the acknowledged leader of the school. Later he received a very good common school education there, but did not move on to high school, as he felt his father needed his service on the farm. He now says frankly that this was a mistake, and he always advises boys to get a thorough schooling, no matter at what cost.

At the age of fifteen Phil was the only one of the three brothers and one sister of the family Jeft at home, and as his father fell sick, all the work of the farm was done by Phil, with the help of a hired man and a hired maid. Two years later his father sold all the stock and implements of the farm and retired from work, an older brother moving his goods home and taking charge. That year, 1903, Philip worked for a River Valley farmer named John Wolf, whose farm was a large one, conducted very systematically, giving the boy a good insight into business methods as applied to agriculture. He constantly kept his eyes open for new ideas, and when in the following spring he decided to come to Cleveland he was well supplied with health and courage for taking on more responsible duties.

Thus in the spring of 1904 he began to work for the Telling Brothers Ice Cream Company, where for the better part of twelve years he toiled in various capacities, from doing common labor to handling deliveries and assisting in the sales.

The following incident, which had a good deal to do with his promotion, and which illustrates his natural faculty for "sticking" to any task assigned him, shows how he began to learn the streets of a big city. He had been placed on a retail delivery wagon taking in every street north ofEuclid Avenue and east of what is now known as East Fortieth Street, clear, out to the city limits. His first trip was on Thanksgiving day and his wagon, containing seventy private orders, he had loaded, without proper instructions, in a haphazard manner, instead of the load piled according to the streets and their numbers in succession. Here was Phil, knowing absolutely none of the streets to be traversed excepting Hough Avenue, Euclid, St. Clair and Superior avenues. It was a day full of trouble. He left the factory at 9:30 in the morning and should have had all the orders delivered by 1 o'clock in the afternoon. He actually did return at 5:30 and brought back five orders for houses he could not find. A good deal of his time had been spent consulting city directories in corner drug stores, you see. All along the way he had worried, and became thoroughly disheartened, but the good old Pennsylvania German in his blood made him stick it out. He sure had visions that raw cold day of losing his job, and probably returning to "the old home town" to get his second wind before tackling the big city again. Imagine then his surprise and relief when the foreman actually praised his work, saying he had done better than he expected, as the task was about the biggest even an experienced driver could ever tackle, and had been given Phil because they were desperately short of help.

So, while several more experienced men were laid off at the end of the busy season, Phil went along regularly with his wagon the entire winter. Soon he was promoted to a wholesale wagon delivering to stores, and three or four years later was made a route foreman. In speaking of his experience along about this time Phil recently said: "Most men promote themselves, by this I mean that when an employe goes out of his way, regardless of regular hours of work, to do things for the good of the concern he is working for, you can safely bet that it counts to his credit. I know it was so in my case. Instead of dodging when the wagons were fully equipped with drivers, I took many hours of such days to go out along the different routes and try for new customers, or devoted my time to working out new ideas for the betterment of the ice cream business; and I say it without wanting or meaning to boast, that every improvement upon cabinets and ice cream delivery wagons that was made by that company during the last seven or eight years I worked there was originated by me."

"When did you come into close touch with Mr. Tabor?" the writer asked.

"It was soon after I went on the delivery wagons. Mr. Tabor was general sales manager and secretary of the company, and naturally took an interest in the men responsible for delivering his products to the trade. He was quick to notice and compliment me upon my disposition to make friends for the company among the retail dealers. I also worked with him when he was establishing the Akron and Youngstown branches ; securing stores also in many other Northern Ohio towns. As a result when Mr. Tabor decided to orgamize a company of his own he asked me to join him, and I did so in spite of very flattering offers then made to me by the older company, which I had served twelve years. (In fact my former employers suddenly concluded my poor services were worth 50 per cent more than ever before.) I am a little proud of the fact that I was the first man on the job with the Tabor Ice Cream Company. I assisted Mr. Tabor in laying plans for the new business, buying equipment, etc., and was with him day and night in the strenuous battle for stores that was waged, and in fact is still going quite merrily and successfully on. Today we are operating sixteen auto trucks, wagons, and over 100 men are in the delivery and sales department under my immediate direction. I am personally acquainted with all but a very few of the store owners we serve, and know nearly every one we do not sell to. I know every street and avenue in Cleveland, and about every road and cross road in nearby towns, which naturally helps me in my delivery arrangement. I am particularly fortunate in having loyal and experienced men about me, many of them at one time working for the other company, and others who have been taken on since. Upon all young men I try to impress the fact that they can promote themselves, it all depends upon their loyal interest in the work and ability to forget the 'clock' when there are things to do that will advance the interests of the Tabor Ice Cream Company."

On March 15, 1919, after a large interest purchased the controlling interests of the Tabor Ice Cream Company, bringing in many new acquaintances into the forces, I could see no further future for myself, and on that day I resigned my position with the Tabor Ice Cream Company and formed a new company known as the Baker Ice Cream Company, located at 4605 Dennison Avenue, and having a large acquaintanceship among dealers. This company has made a great success from the start. After being in business three years, with a large volume of business, it consolidated with a Youngstown company operating factories in Youngstown, Wheeling and Huntington, West Virginia, and is now known as the Baker Evans Ice Cream Company, Mr. Evans being a former associate, with a well known reputation, which helps to strengthen the Baker forces. The Baker Evans Ice Cream Company employs more than 250 employes, and sales for 1924 will be approximately 1,500,000 gallons. Mr. Baker is president of the new corporation and supervises his own business, and keeps in close touch with all his employes, and his organization is made up of men of practical experience, trained under his supervision for a great many years. Many men have been with him as long as twenty years, and have gone with him in every change he has made.

A History of Cuyahoga County
and the City of Cleveland
By: William R. Coates
The American Historical Society
Chicago and New York, 1924

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