The Story of My Ancestors
About the Book
Though unintentional during its writing, Fortitude could be perceived as an antecedent to J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy about poor whites fifty to seventy-five years ago migrating from southeastern Kentucky to southwestern Ohio to find work. This is the story of a German immigrant orphaned at age twelve—my grandfather, George Adam Rentschler who created an industrial empire in Hamilton, Ohio, that employed thousands including hundreds of hillbillies. And it’s the story of three of his sons, who went on to run Fortune 500/ New York Stock Exchange-listed companies, to our knowledge, the only time this has happened to three brothers. It is a story of the fortitude of these four men. Who are the heroes? Read on!
About the Author
Born in 1939, Charles E. Mitchell (“Charlie”) Rentschler grew up in Cincinnati and attended Princeton University, where he majored in liberal arts and was managing editor of The Daily Princetonian. He served in the US Marine Corps (the proudest moment of his life was receiving a PFC stripe after boot camp at Parris Island), and attended Harvard Business School. After two years of investment research at Wertheim & Co. and two more of management consulting at McKinsey & Co., he spent five years in manufacturing management at a couple of midsized companies. He then joined Cummins Engine Co., in the production arena, as close a fit as he could find to his father’s business, Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton, by then liquidated (in truth, he’d wanted to work at Cummins since a summer job in Lima, Ohio, when he’d seen their diesel engines fitted into his dad’s power shovels). Responding to a strong ancestral tug, when the sole surviving business begun by his paternal grandfather, the Hamilton Foundry & Machine Co., filed for bankruptcy protection in 1985, Charlie left Cummins after seven years to resuscitate Hamilton, by then relocated to Harrison, Ohio. And, for a dozen years, he made generally consistent headway, producing annual profits, tripling revenues, buying three more foundries and digesting the unavoidable annual pay increases of the unionized employees at his two legacy plants when offsetting price increases were not possible because of ever-growing competition from China and Mexico. He got crushed, though, by his own mismanagement of a huge capital project that sucked his company back into bankruptcy in 1997. Near sixty, Charlie returned to Wall Street to write research on capital goods companies (usually his former foundry customers) before retiring at seventy to write a biography of J. Irwin Miller, long-time chairman and CEO of Cummins, The Cathedral Builder, and, now, Fortitude, a biography of his ancestors. Charlie and Suzie, his wife of nearly fifty years, have three children whose happy marriages have produced six grandchildren.