From Ohio History Central
Located in Dayton, Ohio, Barney & Smith Car Company built railroad cars. In the second half of the nineteenth century, railroads were constructed at a rapid rate. Barney & Smith capitalized on this growth and became one of the largest car manufacturers in the United States. Unfortunately, this dominance would not last long. The Pullman Company began constructing cars near Chicago in 1881 and soon surpassed Barney & Smith.
Throughout the 1870s and 1880s, Barney & Smith was very successful. In 1880, the company employed more than 1,500 workers, and that number grew to two thousand by 1890. In the 1890s, Barney & Smith expanded its operations to produce cars for electric railroad systems as well.
Although on the surface Barney & Smith seemed to prosper during this era, the company was not involved in innovations in the field. Unlike companies such as Pullman, which worked to obtain new patents, Barney & Smith was content with the status quo. As a result, the company began to stagnate by the early twentieth century. In addition, by 1892 the company was no longer privately owned.
The Panic of 1893 had a major impact on the future of Barney & Smith. Unfortunately, many railroads suffered financial setbacks or went bankrupt as a result of the nation's economic problems. These companies could not afford to buy new railroad cars, which meant that manufacturers like Barney & Smith faced serious financial difficulties. Unlike some of its competitors, Barney & Smith was able to survive the Panic of 1893.
After the Panic of 1893, the company's management decided to change its focus for the future. Barney & Smith began to manufacturer cars for electric street railways and interurban railroads. The company also began to think about manufacturing its cars out of steel, although it would take almost ten years for its implementation. Once again, Barney & Smith was behind when it came to innovations in the industry.
As automobiles became more common, the electric railways became less popular. Orders began to decline, and Barney & Smith struggled to survive. The company faced yet another blow when the Flood of 1913 damaged its factory. At this point, Barney & Smith was forced into receivership. Although the company came out of receivership, it never regained its former level of success. Ultimately, Smith & Barney closed its doors permanently in 1921.