The J. Dornette & Brother Company
The J. Dornette & Brother Company are pioneers and have attained a position of leadership in the
field of desk and office furniture manufactory in the Ohio valley and their output goes to all parts
of the world, thus constituting a factor in bringing Cincinnati into close trade relations with the
east and west, the north and south. The personnel of the house has heen one of the chief features
of its success. The founder of the business was John Dornette, Sr., who was born in Lemke, Germany,
and there pursued his education and learned the cabinet-maker's trade. He had had thorough training
in that business when in 1863 he came to the United States, making his way to Cincinnati, where he
was employed as a cabinet maker in various furniture factories of the city. He also worked for a
time in a furniture factory at Cheboygan, Michigan, about 1870 but returned to this city and again
sought and secured employment, his association with different factories making him well known to the
John Dornette, Sr., has been identified with the manufacturing end of the business since 1877. He took this step owing to the failure of a furniture manufactory in which he and his brother Henry were employed. The proprietor, not having sufficient funds to pay the balance of wages due, offered them a pile of lumber in the yard. This they accepted in compensation for their previous service, renting a shop and began the manufacture of desks at the corner of Sixth and Stone streets in an old building which is still standing. It is a two-story brick house, of which they occupied the second floor, the first floor being occupied by a lawyer, who was the owner of the building. They had devoted about two months to the manufacture of desks and tables there when they were notified that they must vacate because of the noise made by a homemade rip-saw. Thereupon they rented an abandoned sugar refinery at No. 332 West Pearl street, where they carried on their business for several years with increasing success. The excellence and finish of their work won for them favor with the purchasing public and the demand for their output steadily increased. Their success at length suggested to them the advisability of owning their own factory and in 1882 they began the search for a site, which they selected at what was then known as "Goose Town" in Mill creek bottoms, where the Ohio river constantly menaced the land each spring. They were able to buy ground here at a low figure and erected the first factory in that section—a part of the city which is now covered by immense plants of all kinds. The Dornette factory, however, remains still one of the principal features of this locality and to the firm is due the fact that this tract has become so immensely valuable, for they showed that the hands and brains of men could circumvent the strength of the river and create a great factory where other men feared to build.
To their undertaking they brought but small capital yet possessed in large measure the substantial qualities for which the German race have ever been noted, including thoroughness and system, Henry Dornette, who was associated with his brother John in the establishment and conduct of the business, had come to Cincinnati from Germany in 1866. He had learned the trade of cap maker but on arriving in this city could obtain no employment at that trade and his brother John took him into the furniture factories with him and he thus mastered the cabinet-maker's trade. The interests of the two brothers have been inseparably associated since their arrival in this country. They have worked together in the utmost harmony and their social as well as their business interests have been almost identical. Soon after the establishment of their factory they found that there was going to be a big need for desks and kindred goods and concentrated their energies upon their building, specializing at all times in the manufacture of Dornette desks and sectional goods. Today they have upon the market some of the most attractive furniture of this character to be found in the entire country. Good workmanship has always been a foundation feature of their success and they have introduced many improvements which have kept their output fully abreast with the times. The brothers, John and Henry Dornette, still remain factory men and all the work is personally supervised by them. They have always made it a point to give the most careful attention to the construction and finish of their work, taking great pride in the workmanship of their product. They would rather lose money than turn out an article not worthy of the name and yet their business management has enabled them to win success. In 1901 they produced a typewriter desk of their own invention which is today considered a standard of excellence. The table is so built that the machine does not need to be fastened in its place, as the platform does not tip on being lowered or raised. They have also a sliding top attachment and an improved knee-hole, which enables the operator to sit close to the machine at all times. They have made application for a patent upon this desk, which promises to he a good seller. About 1909 they began the manufacture of library cases on the unit principle, with which any number of combinations may be made to suit the room in which the library is located. They have an additional feature of sliding glass doors, which may be removed by pushing a small metal slide, so that both sides of the glass may be readily cleaned by the housekeeper. These cases are known as the Dornette sliding door sectional bookcases. They are high grade library furniture and built with the same careful attention to details that has made the Dornette desks famous. An expert lumber inspector is employed to carefully select all lumber used by the company and it is thoroughly air-dried and afterward kiln-dried on the premises.
From the outset the business has enjoyed a steady growth and as time has passed the two brothers have called their sons to their assistance. They married sisters in Cincinnati and have always resided near each other. John Dornette wedded Barbara Scherzer and Mary Scherzer became the wife of Henry Dornette. To the first couple have been born fifteen children, of whom fourteen are living, while Mr. and Mrs. Henry Dornette have become parents of eleven children, eight of whom survive. Ed Dornette, one of the sons of John Dornette, is a prominent architect who for several years has been employed professionally in connection with the public schools, among which are some of the finest examples of school architecture in the world, most important of which is the Avondale school. Another son, John Dornette, Jr., is the secretary and treasurer of the company and as such is the general manager of the concern. In this he is associated with his brother, Paul Dornette, and with John L. Dornette, a son of Henry Dornette. The family are members of the German Presbyterian church, of which the two brothers, John and Henry Dornette, have long been devout members. They have taken active part in its work as officials of the church and have been most generous in their contributions to its support. The senior brother is now a member of the Ohio synod of the Presbyterian church and was the founder of the church society which now owns and conducts the German Deaconess Hospital in Clifton and the Ohio Maternity Hospital in the east end. He is a member of the governing board and is the executive head of these hospitals. The Dornettes also were the founders of the West Cincinnati Business Association, to which may be attributable the greater part of the improvements in the western section of the city. Through this association have been built great sewer systems, the Harrison Avenue viaduct and many miles of streets. John Dornette, Jr., is the president of the association and John Dornette, Sr., is an active member of the board of directors. The former was also for four years in the public service department of the city in charge of Cincinnati streets and sewer repair. He has been prominently mentioned in connection with the mayoralty, is a member of the Blaine Club and is a republican in politics. He has attained high rank in Masonry, being now a member of the Mystic Shrine, is also an Elk, holds membership in the Business Men's Club, the Commercial Association, the Queen City Furniture Club and the Cincinnati Furniture Exchange, being thus identified with organizations formed for promoting the trade relations of the city, and in a number of benevolent and social organizations he is likewise active. It is well known that the support of the family can always be counted upon to further progressive public movements. They maintain the same attitude toward public affairs that they do toward their business, seeking ever for success and advancement along legitimate and commendable lines.
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