Fifth Ward Councilman: 1883, 1884
Born in Kolmar in the Prussian territory of Posen (now Chodzież, Poland) in 1843, Elias Haiman was the son of Hirsch and Theresa (_____) Haiman. He immigrated with his family in 1856 and settled in Columbus, Georgia, where the 1860 U.S. federal census found him employed as a tinner.
When the War began, Elias went into business with his older brother, Louis, in the firm “Louis Haiman & Bro.” They ran the “largest sword factory in the Confederacy,” “which they opened in 1861 [and which] covered a city square the next year. The output was 100 swords a week, to which they later added revolvers, leather equipment, and cooking utensils until they were operating a plant which was employing over 500 men.” When Columbus fell to the Federals in April 1865, Louis Haiman
went to General Wilson, and asked him to save his factory. General Wilson consented provided he would take the oath of allegiance to the United States Government, and also swear he would make no more goods for the Confederacy. Mr. Haiman spurned the offer, and his splendid establishment was burned to the ground.
After the War, the brothers transitioned to the business of the production of plows and other farming implements, teaming up with Joseph G. Blount under the name “Blount & Haiman.” After Blount and Louis Haiman died in the 1870s, Elias founded the Southern Agricultural Works to manufacture and sell a universal plow.
His Columbus-based factory burned in 1876 and Elias came to Atlanta to purchase land “between Marietta street and the Western & Atlantic Railroad near Jones Avenue,” and built a plow-manufacturing plant (the plant is visible on this 1892 map). By 1877 Haiman “employ[ed] between fifty and sixty hands,” and the plows were “gradually taking the place of all others, as the plow of the South.” The 1880 U.S. federal census found Elias living with his deceased brother’s wife and children and several other relatives at 16 East Cain Street.
The Constitution profiled the Southern Agricultural Works in September 1880:
The works are located on Marietta street and the Western and Atlantic railroad. A side track runs along the entire length of the factory, and the raw material is carried direct from the cars to the shops, and the finished plows are loaded from the warehouse into the cars ready for shipment.
The buildings, which cover nearly three acres of ground, are substantially built of brick and filled with the very best and latest improved machinery for turning out first-class work. The capacity is about one thousand stock plows and five thousand plow blades per day. These goods are sold all over the southern states.
A successful and prominent businessman, Elias ran for and won a seat on city council in September 1882. He served as Fifth Ward Councilman in 1883 and 1884.
By March 1885, the Southern Agricultural Works hit hard times when “the fall in iron and steel caught the company with heavy stocks that had to be sold, and at heavy loss. . . . As money became very scarce with the panic of 1884, the effort on the part of the officers of the corporation to sustain the enterprise grew more and more severe.” Represented by Hoke Smith and with $300,000 in assets and nearly $200,000 in liabilities, Elias assigned the company to a third party, assuring “no stoppage of the works, the only effect of the assignment being that the property is operated in trust.” The Southern Agricultural Works evidently was on its way to recovery by October 1886 when the Constitution noted that the firm sold plows “from the City of Mexico to Baltimore,” and fully recovered by March 1887 when that same newspaper declared, “Haiman’s plow works are running full force. Mr. Haiman has cleared his debt and is out of his embarrassments, and is prospering.”
Elias married Frances Loewenthal in Savannah, Georgia in November 1887, the Rabbi Isaac Mendes of Mickve Israel performing the service. Frances was the daughter of Magnus Loewenthal, a German immigrant and Savannah city treasurer who “likened the Confederate cause in America to ‘democratic’ forces in Germany’s 1848–49 revolution.”
Elias and Frances returned to Atlanta, where they lived at 402 Peachtree Street, in “a handsome 2-story brick [house], with every convenience.” (Located at D8 on this 1904 map; now a large parking lot across from Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church.) In 1892, Elias’s “health ha[d] been bad, and as it did not improve he determined to sell out and go to Europe.” He sold his interest in the Southern Agricultural Works to his business partners and sold his house.
He had returned to the States by 1895 when an Ohio newspaper noted that Elias had “purchased an interest in the Empire Plough Works, and with his family will make [Cleveland] his future home.” Both the 1900 and 1910 federal censuses found the family living in Cleveland. Elias returned to Europe and died at Berlin in June 1914. Frances survived him by over forty years, dying in Cleveland in September 1955. Their burial locations are unknown.
Elias and Frances were the parents of two children: Helen Haiman (1888–1978), the “grandmother of American puppetry” and wife of Ernest Joseph; and Henry Elias Haiman (1890–1959), an attorney and insurance executive.
American Israelite (Cincinnati, OH). “Cleveland, O.” October 31, 1895.
Atlanta Constitution. “Southern Agricultural Works.” September 22, 1880.
———. “The Southern Agricultural Works.” October 21, 1883.
———. “Elias Haiman Assigns.” March 14, 1885.
———. “The Haiman Plow Works.” October 23, 1886.
———. “Miles & Horn.” March 13, 1887.
———. “Haiman—Loewenthal.” November 20, 1887.
———. “It’s a Big Trade.” April 6, 1892.
———. “A Magnificent Peachtree Street Residence Will be Sold by A.J. West & Co.” April 11, 1892.
———. “Elias Haiman Is Dead.” June 6, 1914.
———. “Mrs. Haiman, 91, Dies; Daughter of Ga. Gray Hero.” September 6, 1955.
Columbus (GA) Enquirer. “Haiman’s Plow Manufactory.” January 16, 1876.
Cooper, Walter G. Official History of Fulton County. Atlanta, GA: Walter W. Brown Pub. Co., 1934.
Garrett, Franklin M. Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events, 1880s–1930s. Vol. 2 of Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events. Athens, GA: Univ. of Georgia Press, 1969.
Greenberg, Mark I. Becoming Southern: The Jews of Savannah, Georgia, 1830–70. 1998.
Lonn, Ella. Foreigners in the Confederacy. Chapel Hill, NC: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1940.
Rosen, Robert N. The Jewish Confederates. Columbia, SC: Univ. of South Carolina Press, 2021.
Southern Confederacy (Atlanta, GA). “Swords! Swords!” November 21, 1861.
Specifications and Drawings of Patents Issued from the United States Patent Office for February, 1876. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1876.
Sunny South (Atlanta, GA). “Southern Agricultural Works.” September 8, 1877.