The Great Depression

During this period, JB married Augusta Lines and they had two children, John B., Jr., born in 1926 and Ann, born in 1928. DD married Eddy Crane and had two children, Bette, born in 1925 and Daniel Crane, born in 1927. Kate and Art Estep never had children. JB build and lived in a house east of the mansion and DD and the Esteps lived near each other on Ridgeview, a road between Canton and Waynesburg.

On “Black Tuesday,” October 24, 1929, the stock market crashed. The Great Depression started. Before the 1932 presidential election 15 million people, or 25 percent of the American work force, were unemployed. Eleven million banks had failed, with $2 billion worth of deposits wiped out. Fortunes were wiped out and death by suicide was common.

The fireproofing tile business was ended for good, although few realized it at the time. When large building construction began again 10 years later, there would be a cement plant located about every 200 miles and poured reinforced concrete would be the material of choice for buildings. Business stopped abruptly for the Whitacre-Greer Fireproofing Co. Substantial bank debt remained from the prior factory expansions. With the bleak outlook, JJ arranged for the sale of the Chicago plant to the National Fireproofing Company, a Pittsburgh-based corporation with 18 factories, including ones in Waynesburg and Magnolia. JB opposed the sale. Board minutes read, “Due to the action of JB, JJ changed his vote.” WG did not sell.

The Chicago Heights plant was then sold to CC Whitacre for his stock and enough cash to pay off the bank debt. CC’s wife, Sybil, had other income from Oklahoma oil interests that helped buy the plant and provide working capital for their new company. A few years later, she saw the futility of continuing to finance the venture that then went bankrupt. CC’s son Elson was electrocuted at the auction of the Chicago factory. Another of CC’s sons, Corwin, was a contemporary of DD Whitacre and also graduated from Case School of Applied Science. Corwin was a successful owner and manager of a plastics business in Chicago.