Visitors to Ravenna may notice many of the downtown historic buildings display a plaque with the name "Riddle". Indeed, one of the more prominent families in Ravenna history is the Riddle family. If you look closely, at the northeast corner of Main and Prospect in downtown Ravenna, you will notice the faded remnants of a painted log on the side of the brick building located there. This was once the site of the Riddle Coach and Hearse Company.
The Riddle Coach and Hearse Company has a long history dating back to 1831 when it first began under the name of the Clark Carriage Company, owned by N.D. Clark. In 1861 Clark sold the company to his brothers-in-law Charles Merts and then 22 year old Henry W. Riddle and the Merts and Riddle Coach and Hearse Company was born. Charles, who had a background in fine tool making and wood working, supervised the factory while Henry acted as the salesman for the company. Henry would take a number of vehicles and would remain on the road until they were all sold.
Merts and Riddle sought to produce high-end hearses and they brought in artisans from all over the world to do fine wood carving, trimming and decoration on their sought after vehicles. Everything was done by hand and everything was of the highest quality and workmanship. In 1891, Charles Merts decided to sell his share of the business to Henry and the name again changed to the Riddle Coach and Hearse Company. Years later, when the company started producing motorized vehicles, the name again changed to the Riddle Manufacturing Company, but most still remembered and referred to the company as Riddle Coach and Hearse.
Riddle hearses were world renowned for their fine quality and workmanship. Presidents Willian McKinley and Warren Harding were both carried to their graves in Riddle hearses. As recently as 1998 a restored Riddle hearse was used, this time in the funeral for Roy Rogers.
Of course times change and beginning in around 1911 motorized hearses and ambulances were being manufactured at the factory. By the mid 1920's the factory, facing increased competition in the motorized hearse and vehicle industries, was faced with the prospect of foregoing it's proud tradition of hand-crafted vehicles and migrating to the new and emerging assembly line methods of the day. After much debate and some family in-fighting the change was determined to be too costly and in 1926 the Riddle factory closed.
To learn more about the Riddle Coach and Hearse Company please visit www.thomasriddle.net/cah/ This is a very informative and interesting site maintained by Henry W. Riddle's great-grandson, Tom Riddle.