Micajah C. Henley
The Henley Roller Skate Works could turn out 2,000 pairs of roller skates in one day. He was granted at least two (2 of several held by Henley & Company) U.S. Patents for improvements to the Roller Skate in 1880 and 1881. Henley's Roller Skates were perhaps the best selling Roller Skates of the late 1890s.
His original goal was to increase sales at his parent's lumber and millwork yard. Plimpton's 1863 patent on skates with 4 wheels was expiring, and Henley, ever the promoter, picked up his father's challenge to "sell more wood". The first skates were all wood, had wooden wheels, and canvas straps. By 1878, Henley had his initial operation running in his father's stable at 309 N 14th Street. His 5 sisters were taught to run his lathe, and were kept busy making wheels. Henley was fascinated with speed, and supported teams of bicycle racers, and also owned race horses. He conceived the idea of wooden floors in every town where local teams could compete in roller skate racing, and several of his patents were aimed at improving cornering. He built the first roller skate rink at the corner of North 7th and "B" Streets in Richmond, Indiana, and named it "The Coliseum". When cleaning trash under spectator benches became a nuisance, he patented the "Coliseum Chair" with a seat that lifts up to make cleaning the floor easier.
He published a book of rules for roller skate Polo, as well as 16 rules for skating with your sweetheart. With a high quality product and great promotions, the space in the stable was extended 5 times. In 1880 he purchased the house at 201 N 14th Street, and doubled his shop space by including the carriage house there. His nephew suggested using ball bearings in the wheels which they patented in 1884. Product demand went wild; so he built a large two story factory on N 16th Street, which occupied most of a city block, and the Henley Bicycle Works was born. All three buildings are still standing in 2017.
Under the leadership of Henley, the workers at Henley Bicycle Works manufactured bicycles; roller skates; scooters; lawn furniture and lawn swings; iron working machinery; tools; boring, milling and screw driving machines used in wood manufacturing; gas meters; fence machines and lawn mowers. The company also provided nickel plating services.
Henley lived at 201 N. 14th Street in Richmond. The Wright Brothers lived at 211 N. 14th Street, two houses away, for a time. Henley sold Wilbur his first bicycle for $10, which Wilbur borrowed from his brother Orville, and repaid 50 cents per week. Thus the Wright brothers migrated from an interest in kites (which they were manufacturing in their father's carriage house) to bicycles.
In 1904, Henley expanded his business to include the automotive industry. He built an auto agency and service garage on Main Street where he commenced selling and servicing vehicles. In 1906, he sold the business (the Auto Inn) and leased the real estate to a firm named of Draper & Whitsell.
M.C. Henley grew his business operation from a small outbuilding at the rear of his parent's home at 309 N 14th Street, to a large modern factory which he built on North 16th Street, employing over 300 people. Always a competitor, he sponsored many local teams for racing and polo on skates, bicycles, horses, and later automobiles.
Micajah C. Henley and his wife, Addie W. (1856-1943) are buried at Earlham Cemetery in Richmond, Indiana.
M.C. Henley held several U.S. Patents, a partial list is included below, along with reference numbers.
- 234,404 - 11-16-1880
- 245,950 - 8-23-1881
- 285,484 - 9-25-1883
- 320,392 - 6-16-1885
- 446,448 - 2-17-1891
- 518,995 - 5-1-1894
- 755,133 - 3-22-1904
- Norma Carnes Schroeder. "Micajah C. Henley". WayNet. Retrieved 2011-06-05.
Ready for Parade at the Henley Bicycle Works
- U.S. Patent Office Archives
- Brief Sketch of Micajah C. Henley by Dan Tate; October 15, 2009
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