Thursday, Jun 30, 2016
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Opinion

Late ad man a link to Toledo's glory years

Longtime Toledo advertising man Harold Tenney was one of the last links to a glorious era when Toledo was the headquarters city for a major automaker and home to one of the nation's largest advertising agencies.

Mr. Tenney, who died last month at 98, had a career that spanned seven decades.

But he, and many other advertising executives, got started with United States Advertising Corp., founded in 1921 by the late Ward M. Canaday, who had been ad manager for Toledo's Willys-Overland Co. when that firm was second only to Ford Motor Co. for car production.

In the 1990s, Mr. Tenney recalled for The Blade how tough things were in Toledo, and the entire country, when he joined U.S. Advertising in 1933.

"It was at the bottom of the Depression," he said. "The banks were closing. U.S. Advertising was releasing people. I worked for free for the first three months in 1933, so they couldn't fire me!"

By the late 1920s, U.S. Advertising was considered one of the nation's top 10 agencies, with blue-chip accounts like Owens-Illinois Glass Co., Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Co., Electric Auto-Lite Co., Fisk Tire & Rubber Co., Monroe Auto Equipment, Buckeye Beer, AP Parts Co., Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., Wilson Sporting Goods, La-Z-Boy Chair Co., and several automakers in addition to Willys-Overland, including Graham-Paige, Stearns-Knight, and Federal Truck Co.

Even during the early years of the Great Depression, U.S. Advertising remained one of the biggest agencies, thanks partly to a merger with Homer McKee Co. in New York and the Dyer-Enzinger Co. in Chicago.

The merged firm had offices in Toledo, New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Indianapolis, plus associate offices around the world.

By the time Mr. Tenney joined the firm, its biggest client, Willys-Overland, was in financial trouble, and the agency was suffering. Over time it underwent a series of reorganizations and name changes, eventually moving its headquarters to Chicago.

But U.S. Advertising nurtured many advertising executives who went on to start their own firms, including Mr. Tenney.

During his long career, Mr. Tenney left his mark in other ways. He was president of the Western Lawn Tennis Association in the early 1960s and created and published a national magazine, Tennis U.S.A., in the mid-1960s.

He also came up with the idea for what became the

Toledo Brewing Hall of Fame, in the Oliver House near downtown.

He donated much Buckeye Beer memorabilia that had been accumulated by his agencies, including dozens of original drawings by Walt Ditzen, who drew the "Fan Fare" sports cartoon from the 1940s into the 1970s.

Many of Mr. Ditzen's "Buck Up With Buckeye Beer" ads carry handwritten thank-yous to Toledo newspaper readers who contributed ideas for the cartoons.

Mr. Tenney's collection is now on display in three restaurants in the Oliver House: Rockwell's Steak House, Maumee Bay Brewing Co., and the Ottawa Street Fish House.

"What a guy," Patricia Appold, co-owner of the Oliver House, said of Mr. Tenney. "He really contributed to Toledo business, and life."

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