Edwin Lewis Griffin, 1908-1955
From "Washington: Northwest Frontier - Volume IV", published by Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., New York 1957; pages 552-554:
EDWIN LEWIS GRIFFIN -- Member of a family long known for its business leadership in Tacoma, the late Edwin Lewis Griffin played his individual part in building up the fuel oil industry. He had the foresight to realize the growing importance of petroleum as a fuel for domestic heating, and directed the course of the long-established firm which his father had founded in the direction of satisfying this demand. He built up the Griffin Fuel Company to its present proportions during the quarter-century prior to his death, and brought the same organizational abilities and leadership into a number of local and regional groups of which he was a member.
He was born at Tacoma on July 27, 1908 younger son of Fred L. and Ada (Parks) Griffin. In 1889, the year Washington became a state, Fred Griffin started his own business enterprise with a wagon and a team of horses, and one man on his payroll who was employed in felling trees. He cut considerable timber, much of it within the present limits of the city of Tacoma, and established a small wood yard at 15th and Dock streets. He also contracted his equipment for various types of hauling, and within a short time, had to acquire ore teams and wagons to take care of the increased business. With the acquisition of a storage yard, he was able to add coal -- mined in nearby strip mines - to his stock in trade. By 1903 a thriving business was in existence, known as Griffin Transfer Company, of which he was sole owner and manager. He was also reputed to be his own hardest-working employee, often working with saw and axe at the yards after those on his payroll had completed their twelve-hour day. As the coal business became more important, the firm was renamed Griffin Fuel and Transfer Company. Wood and coal were sold in the winter, and ice in the summer; and the growing number of Griffin teams and wagons were always at the disposal of homeowners or commercial customers for moving jobs. Fred Griffin later added a feed business to his operations. With the growth of the city and the increased need for fuel, however, he gradually relinquished the feed, transfer and ice operations and concentrated on sale of coal and wood. He also pioneered in a regional experiment in the use of sawdust as a fuel.
The year 1919 marked a milestone in the history of the Griffin Fuel Company, with a much larger yard on Commerce Street functioning as an efficient fuel-handling operation. Wood, no longer plentiful in the city, was brought in on flat cars and automatically unloaded into modern storage bins. Coal was transported direct from the mines and unloaded by a modern gravity system into bunkers then said to be the best in the Northwest. Also by that year, Fred Griffin had four motor trucks, but automotive power could not yet replace horse-drawn vehicles in the hilly residential areas of town. The highlight of that year was a banquet given by the company to its thirty-one employees. Two of them whose service exceeded twenty years were pensioned; and eight years' service was the average among all employees present, attesting to a high standard of labor-management relationships which has prevailed to the present time. At the time of Fred Griffin's death in 1931, Edwin L. took over the management of the company. At this time Ed changed the company's name to the Griffin Fuel Company. It has been a consistent company policy to give such equipment the best of care and maintenance, ever since horse-and-wagon days. Griffin pioneered in the oil treating of stoker coal, a method by which jets of volatile oil are mixed with low-grade stoker coal to produce an inexpensive but efficient fuel for industrial use. Also, more particularly under the direction of Edwin L. Griffin, who succeeded his father in 1931, the company took the lead in the trend toward distributing fuel oil. It was the first, and for some time the only, firm to offer day-or-night delivery service. Also among local companies, it inaugurated a degree-day system of taking care of a consumer's fuel supply for him so that he need never worry about an empty tank and a cold house. In 1955, at the time of Ed Griffin's death there were over a hundred pieces of equipment.
After attending Lowell Grade School in Tacoma and graduating from Stadium High School, Edwin L. Griffin graduated from the University of Washington, and concluded his studies at Harvard University's School of Business Administration. His father died in 1931, and Edwin took over after his father's death. The young man's high spirits and confidence brought new life into the business. Seeing the importance of conversion to oil, he built up the largest business of its kind in Tacoma, and one of the largest anywhere in the Northwest.
A member of the Oil Heating Institute of Washington, he served on its board of directors, and in his home city he was a member of the Chamber of Commerce, Tacoma Club, University Union Club, Rotary Club, and Tacoma Golf and Country Club. He was also a member of The Rainier Club of Seattle and the Spokane Club. He attended the First Congregational Church. He was the owner of a large and unusual collection of old automobiles, and was a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers and most of the national car clubs in the United States. He was also an avid collector of old fire-engines.
An outstanding trait of his character was his fondness for the bizarre and the unusual; and ordinary accomplishments and possessions bored him.
His unremitting endeavor to exceed his own best work and push on to higher standard of achievement contributed much to his business success, and was also the characteristic expression of a dynamic personality.
Mr. Griffin's death occurred at Tacoma, Washington, on March 9, 1955.