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February 4th, 1920, a century ago, Barberton lost its town founder, Ohio Columbus Barber at the age of 78. Born on April 20th, 1841 in Middlebury Village, now part of East Akron. Barber started his career selling matches door to door while rising up the corporate ladder. By the time he was 21 years old, he was General Manager of his father’s match company.
In 1881, the Barber Match Company merged with several other companies to form the Diamond match Company which would nearly hold a monopoly on the match industry generating 85% of match business in The United States. Always looking to expand, Barber purchased a large parcel of land in 1891 which he founded as the City of Barberton. In 1894, Barber moved the Diamond Match Company to Barberton. He then founded such businesses as Diamond Rubber, Barber Concrete, and Stirling Boiler. Stirling Boiler would later merge with Babcock and Wilcox which would produce 80% of the boilers used by the United States Navy.
In 1905, Barber would begin construction on the Anna Dean Farm. The Farm would consist of 35 buildings as well as his legendary Mansion. Unfortunately, the Mansion and most of the buildings have been demolished. However, those that remain give a historical look at the visionary that was O.C. Barber. Every May, the Barberton Historical Society gives tours of the Anna Dean Farm.
Barber not only founded Barberton and brought great success to the city, but he also had great success in Akron and in other states. some of his accomplishments in Akron included being President of the First National Bank, founding Akron City Hospital in 1904 and remains in operation to this day, and founding the Akron Chamber of Commerce. He expanded the Diamond Match Company to Chico California and founded Barber California which was eventually annexed by Chico. There was also the O.C. Barber Fertilizer Company of Barber, Virginia.
While Barber has been gone for a century, his legacy can still be seen. The City of Barberton itself as well as the few remaining buildings of the farm; Lake Anna which is named for his Daughter Anna; The Erie Depot; and the nickname “The Magic City” can be attributed to Barber. Ohio Columbus Barber was a visionary who was ahead of his time. It was his vision that propelled Barberton to great prosperity well after his death. While Barber is gone, his legacy will forever remain in The Magic City.