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JIM: Buchanan-Lyon comes to Columbia, 1917-1918. Episode II

JIM concludes another great work on extraordinary entrepreneurship of a century ago. Buchanan-Lyon figures heavily in the history of Adair and Taylor Counties. The story also represents's First Sunday History Serial, Complete in Two Parts on one Day. Episode II, "The Business Gets Going" is Posted here.
Click on headline for all of Episode II.
Click here for Episode I: JIM: Buchanan-Lyon comes to Columbia, 1917-1918. Episode I

The Business Gets Going (Early 1918)

December 1917 came and went without announcement of an opening, although a full page "how to buy a War Stamp" (these were the forerunners of War Bonds) announcement in the December 26, edition was sponsored by "The Buchanan Lyon Co., Incorporated, Columbia and Campbellsville, Wholesale and Redial Hardware, Vehicles and Implements/ Agents for the Ford Car, Adair and Taylor Counties." Buchanan-Lyon ads-first for Ford automobiles, then Racine brand tires-ran for the first several months of 1918.

However, two pieces, an article and an announcement, in the February 6, 1918 edition of the News heralded a radical change in the focus of the establishment (the added emphasis is mine):

"The Buchanan-Lyon Company at Columbia "The Buchanan-Lyon Co., will as soon as the weather permits, and after the finishing touches have been put to their new building in Columbia, open up what bids fair to be the biggest business enterprise that Columbia has ever enjoyed.

"Everybody in Columbia has been curious to know what good things of prosperity this new house that has been building all winter would bring to us. The secret is now out. In addition to their up-to-date garage and automotive supply house, they will carry a complete line of groceries, hardware, and farmers' supply for the wholesale trade of Adair and adjoining counties. In our conversation with members of the firm we learned that the business would be run for the wholesale trade only.

"The fact that the Lyon boys went from Columbia, and are now coming back to infuse new business life into their native city is sufficient to warrant a rosy outlook for not only their big enterprise but for the general prosperity of every business interest in Columbia."

The advertisement read thus:

"Before the Trees begin to Bud and the Apple Blossom Time, we will open in Columbia our building at the front door of your City by Uncle Sam's Post Office, where you turn the corner and get your first glimpse of Columbia's Stately Court House and Beautiful Public Square. Ford Universal Car Will Continue To Be Our Specialty. International Trucks, Automobile Accessories, Garage With Competent Workmen, Guaranteed Service to All.

"Our Business in Columbia will be strictly Wholesaling and Jobbing. We shall have a large and Complete line of Groceries, Buggies, Hardware, Implements, Etc. for the Wholesale Trade Only. We are native sons of Columbia and Adair County, and T.W. Buchanan is well known to every farmer and business man in this section of the Pennyrile."

(The inclusion of groceries is interesting in that the following week came the revelation Buchanan-Lyon had bought out the Wedekind & Co. wholesale grocery business, Louisville, some time around the first of February. (Actually, they had bought out just the Campbellsville branch of Wedekind, which was headquartered in Louisville.) Proclaimed the ever-optimistic News, "We predict [Buchanan-Lyon] will do an immense business in the wholesale grocery line throughout this part of Kentucky."

No formal announcement of the opening of the Columbia branch of Buchanan-Lyon has come to light, but a list of sponsors in a full page ad for Liberty Bonds in the April 24 edition included "Buchanan-Lyon Company, Retail and Wholesale, Campbellsville, Wholesale, Columbia."

Parting Thoughts

Buchanan-Lyon's plans to erect a new "large brick business house" on the livery lot never came to fruition. A number of factors may have contributed, possibly including the above-mentioned change from an exclusive automotive/garage focus to a general wholesale operation and thus less need for so much space; and the involvement of the United States in World War I. As is almost always the case with war, the military had first dibs on all goods, both raw and finished, making many items difficult if not impossible to obtail at the retail level. Additionally, the US rail system (then the primary means of transporting goods) was nationalized under the auspices of the U.S. Railroad Administration, thus giving troop transport and movement of war materiel first priorities.

Mr. William R. Lyon passed in 1926, his brother Robert in 1930, and Mr. T.W. Buchanan in 1940.

(My many thanks to Ann Heskamp Curtis and Mike Watson for their contributions to this article.-Jim.)

This story was posted on 2016-06-12 18:50:41
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