May 24

The Nicest Bicycle Shop in Georgia

Posted on May 24, 2023 at 9:49 AM by Ken Kocher

As noted in an earlier blog post, the 100 block of E. Jefferson Street had been consumed by fire in 1873. The Greensboro Herald reported that “the buildings destroyed belonged to Col. Albert Foster and Mr. Lester Markham, and were all old wooden structures, of little value.” Markham’s building was the Post Office where he had been the Postmaster since 1865. Lester Markham chose not to rebuild though in 1888 he offered to donate the lot to entice the construction of a “mammoth hotel.” This did not occur, and development of the site fell to Markham’s son.1893 Chicago World's Fair Bicycle Exhibits

Despite appointment as Deputy Postmaster in 1879, C.B. Markham, known to most as Butler, was not to follow in his father’s footsteps. By 1894 Butler Markham was a clerk in S.W. Booth’s store and was selling bicycles there. In 1893, Messrs. D.P. Few, L.H. Foster, Wood Poullain, and Butler Markham had traveled to Chicago to see the World’s Fair. Could it be that Butler visited the bicycle exhibitions in the Transportation Building  and was so impressed as to make a career choice? Whether or not this was the influence or even an influence, Butler Markham became an integral part of the 1890s nationwide bicycle craze as expressed in Madison. The craze was precipitated by the invention of the “safety bicycle,” which was much easier and safer to ride for both men and women, as opposed to the old “penny-farthing bike.” Butler became known in Madison as “the bike man.”

sketch of building and 1909 map

According to a 1930 article in the Madisonian, Butler Markham “drew plans for his own [c. 1897] office building on the square, did most of the brick and woodwork with his own hands, and laid the flooring doing a fine job all round.” In the left half of this building, he sold Columbia, Hartford, and Clipper bicycles. Butler also repaired bicycles. The Madisonian declared his to be the nicest bicycle shop in Georgia. Butler Markham maintained the bicycle shop through the nineteen-aughts, though it may have been more of a hobby in the later years. He was a familiar figure on E. Jefferson sitting under the old mulberry tree in front of his building “reading the baseball dope.” By the 1910s C.B. Markham had turned to investment, especially real estate investment, as his livelihood.

C.B. Markham bicycle ad

During this period, Markham took to spending the winter months in Fort Meyers, Florida, where he had substantially invested in real estate. While the newspaper would joke that a Yankee widow had drawn him there and that he was serving as judge for the bathing beauty revue, Butler evidently spent his time fishing and conducting business. Butler Markham sold his building in 1919 to its next-door neighbor, the First National Bank of Madison, who planned to potentially expand – they never did. Meanwhile, Butler continued to split his time between Florida and Georgia eventually becoming a full-time resident of the Sunshine State. The year 1924 saw his office convert to a barbershop.

May 14

You Can Take That To The Bank

Posted on May 14, 2023 at 5:22 PM by Ken Kocher

The May 26, 1904, edition of Manufacturers’ Record reported that the First National Bank of Madison had purchased a site on which to erect a bank building. That site was adjacent to the C.B. Markham’s building on E. Jefferson Street, what is now #127. By December 1904, the bank reported its assets to the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency including a banking house, furniture, and fixtures valued at $3,308.38. The original façade of the bank had three arched openings with entrance at center. An advertisement seeking to gain customers during its first year noted the bank as having “an excellent fire-proof vault and a modern Manganese Steel burglar-proof safe in which to put your funds and papers.” This would be the home of the First National Bank of Madison for nearly sixty years.

First National Bank 1909First National Bank 1909

The stockholders elected W.P. Wallace as President of the Board of Directors and appointed Tilman M. Douglas as the cashier, the position charged with the day-to-day operations. Douglas had been clerk and “practically assistant cashier for several years at the Bank of Morgan County.” In addition to being run by trusted administrators, the bank had another thing going for it – being a National Bank. This moniker was more than branding, it was a legal designation with a precise meaning: a banking institution chartered and supervised by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, an agency in the U.S. Treasury Department, pursuant to the National Bank Act.

Additionally, National Banks could issue their own banknotes or currency. From 1863 to 1935, National Bank Notes were issued by banks throughout the country and in US territories. Banks with a federal charter would deposit bonds in the US Treasury. The banks then could issue banknotes worth up to 90 percent of the value of the bonds. The federal government would back the value of the notes—the issuance of which created a demand for the government bonds needed to back them. The program was a form of monetization of the Federal debt. In 1904, the bank issued its own denominations of Ten- and Twenty-dollar gold certificates. The money arrived from the Treasury Department in sheets of six bills and the money was cut in the Madisonian office.

First National Bank 1904 20 dollar bill1904 First National Bank of Madison $20 note

Trust in the institution led to its rapid growth. In the first year, deposits grew from $5,000 to $95,000 and a 3 percent dividend was paid to shareholders. The bank returned that trust through community support. In 1914 it deferred a loan payment from the Board of Education allowing teachers to be paid for “the fall teaching.” During WWI the institution was the local conduit for Liberty Bonds. In 1923 First National secured a train carload of calcium arsenate which they sold at cost to farmers to battle the boll weevil.

First National Bank 1920First National Bank 1920

The First National of Madison faced the specter of a loss in confidence in early 1933 as banks across the country collapsed, governors began declaring “bank holidays” shutting down the financial institutions to prevent “bank runs.” These runs consisted of depositors withdrawing their funds in fear of losing the money in a bank failure often precipitating an actual bank failure. Georgia Governor Talmage followed suit closing banks from March 3-6, though his executive secretary said he did not regard the proclamation mandatory. This was superseded by President Roosevelt’s declaration of a national bank holiday beginning at 1:00 a.m. March 6, 1933, less than 48 hours after his inauguration.

During the Bank Holiday the Emergency Banking Act was passed on March 9, 1933, whereby the administration assured the public that their deposits would be secure. The Madisonian sought to reassure its readers in the March 10, 1933, edition stating, “So if you have any money in banks there’s no use to worry. You are going to get your money, and Uncle Sam is going to treat all alike – big depositors as well as little ones.” The clincher was Roosevelt’s first Fireside Chat where he told folks, “I can assure you that it is safer to keep your money in a reopened bank than under the mattress.” When the banks reopened, depositors stood in line to return their hoarded cash. This was no different in Madison. The Madisonian reported that both the First National Bank and the Bank of Madison showed a gain in deposits of around $9,000 on March 15, 1933, reopening day.

The bank would participate in other Depression Era programs to the benefit of its customers and the community. We will pick-up that thread in a future blog.

May 11

Perkins Place

Posted on May 11, 2023 at 10:22 AM by Ken Kocher

I1941 Sanborn mapn our earlier blog, Fill ‘er Up, we followed the evolution of gasoline sales in Madison from the turn-of-the-20th century to the 1920s. Curbside pumps were certainly an improvement over the early days practice of dipping gas from an open barrel. Nonetheless, gassing-up autos parked at the side of the street could be at best a nuisance and at worst a hazard. The 1920s would change all that with a transition to drive-in stations generally dedicated to a specific oil company.

Madison’s early forays into drive-in stations maintained a traditional view of where business should occur – downtown. Corner properties on Main Street drew the most interest due to their dual access and high traffic. Of course, these properties were already built out, so to accommodate pumps and auto lanes, some demolition would need to occur. Madison’s first drive-thru gas station would be on the corner of Main and Washington, the location of the Broughton Building, which was a two-story building. Although later on Americans were willing to sacrifice substantial buildings to the automobile, the owner of this property, who was leasing the property for a gas station, was not willing to entertain complete demolition. The solution? Remove most of the first floor.

1920s Gulf LogoThe June 29, 1923, issue of the Madisonian reported that W.D. Cavin had secured the contract to tear away the lower floor of the corner store recently vacated by W.E. Shepherd. W.A. Perkins (Ab), who ran a tire and battery business in the adjoining building, was having the work done. The result, which included a ladies’ restroom on the second floor (the plumbing done by Charles Cavin), was “a modern and up to date station in every respect.” He named it Perkins Place and sold “that Good Gulf Gas.” Perkins painted the first floor yellow, and it was referred to in ads and articles as “the Yellow Front” or “the Yellow Corner.” This color choice may seem odd to those of us who remember the primarily orange Gulf Logo, however the 1920s logo, while still orange, was much lighter and would have worked well with a yellow.

 Ab and his wife took an apartment over the filling station in January of 1924 putting him “in a position to provide quick, efficient, and continual service.” The station became “one of the most popular resorts in town for the radio fans” when Perkins purchased a $300 radio through an Atlanta concern, supposedly the first to be shipped to that city. It was fully described in the Madisonian, “A loop antenna takes the place of the aerial, and the instrument is a six-tube supper-heterodyne, made by the Radio Corporation of America. It is equipped with a second harmonic and radiola loud speaker. Such distant points as Portland, San Francisco, points in Canada and Cuba, can be heard distinctly.”Perkins Place gas station c.1926

Ab Perkins appeared to thrive on the extremely competitive nature of the gasoline business. He placed a newspaper ad in September 1924 to correct the report that he was interested in the Texas Filling Station. “I am running my own business and am not trying to buy any place that will cut competition.” The Madisonian noted, “Ab’s the cat’s derby when it comes to telling the public what’s what and why.” Perkin’s called out the newspaper in 1926 for “giving him a black eye” by incorrectly reporting that no local dealer had met the last cut in gas made by Pan-Am Oil Co. The paper admitted that it had failed by being misinformed by a presumed reliable source.

Pan-American Oil Co. and Perkins Place were again mentioned in the same article six months later when Pan-Am purchased the lease of the building from Ab. Consequently, this came to be known as the Pan-Am corner in the ensuing years. W. A. Perkins was not out of the gas game though. He had already built a new station at the intersection of Augusta and Athens roads (441 & 278) where he continued to sell Gulf gasoline. Those locating gas stations had already begun to think outside the downtown box.

 We’ll continue with the history of the Pan-Am corner in a future blog.