Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Man Who Sweetened and Enlightened the World

Recently, Abby and I traveled with other seniors from West Hill Baptist Church in a group known as “Caleb’s Kin” to visit Root Candles, a family-owned candle-making company in Medina, OH.  Root Candles was founded in 1869 by Amos Ives Root.  Now, after 145 years, Root Candles is under the management of the fifth generation of the Root family.  The company still produces industry-leading candles which testify to the values that marked its founder– a commitment to the virtues of honesty, integrity, and diligent craftsmanship.

Candle display at Root Candles store, Medina, OH
Upon entering the store, we were impressed with the beauty and variety of candles.  According to the company website, many contain the purest beeswax and elegantly designed essential oil fragrances…crafted with passion and perfection…consistently flawless, cleaner burning, [and] longer lasting….  The outstanding quality and consistency has made Root Candles a major supplier of liturgical candles as well as a favorite brand of candle-lovers worldwide.

As a farm boy in northern Ohio, Amos I. Root was an avid reader as well as a lover of God’s creation and the natural sciences.  He was fascinated with electricity and magnetism, and he soon began traveling to give lectures on these subjects.  As a young man, he became an accomplished and wealthy jewelry manufacturer. 

One day when Root was in his twenties, a swarm of bees stole his attention when it darkened his workplace, leading him to take up beekeeping.  Soon, Root’s curiosity and inventive spirit enabled him to develop the world’s first beehive from which honey could be extracted without destroying the hive.  Before long, Root was CEO of a large company in Medina, the A.I.Root Company, which was shipping as much as four railroad freight cars of beekeeping equipment each day.  Although the company eventually transitioned from manufacturing beekeeping equipment to manufacturing beeswax-containing candles, it has continued to publish Gleanings in Bee Culture since 1873.   Gleanings provided a vehicle in which Root shared not only practical suggestions to bee keepers, but also spiritual insights and applications based on his walk with God and his knowledge of the Scriptures.

According to “The Wright Stories” blog,

Religion was important facet of Root’s life. His employees were expected to attend daily prayer meetings on company time. He didn’t believe in drinking alcohol, smoking or working on Sunday. He believed that technological progress was a gift from God and would result in social betterment.

Because of his curious, inventive, and entrepreneurial spirit, A.I. Root, was invited by Wilbur and Orville Wright to observe their progress in development of a flying machine.  Root, at age 64, drove his 1903 Oldsmobile Runabout 200 miles on primitive roads from Medina to Huffman Prairie near Dayton, Ohio.  What would cause an elderly businessman to make such a trip?  The following quote from A.I. Root reveals how the Wright Brothers earned the respect of one they would learn to love and trust:

— These two, perhaps by accident, or maybe as a matter of taste, began studying the flights of birds and insects. From this they turned their attention to what has been done in the way of enabling men to fly. They not only studied nature, but they procured the best books, and I think I may say all the papers, the world contains on this subject.
Amos I. Root rides in the Wright Flyer
A man who had years before observed the working of bees and was inspired by his Creator God to launch both the honey industry and hobby beekeeping to new heights was now fascinated by the two brothers who were developing a flying machine based on their study of God’s amazing flying animals—birds and insects.

On September 20, 1904, Root was thrilled to observe the Wright Brothers’ first complete circle in an airplane.  His enthusiasm is evident in the following description:

When it first turned that circle, and came near the starting-point, I was right in front of it; and I said then, and believe still, it was one of the grandest sights, if not the grandest sight of my life. Imagine a locomotive that has left its track, and is climbing up in the air right toward you – a locomotive without any wheels, we will say, but with white wings instead, we will further say – a locomotive made of aluminum.

A.I. Root transformed his copious Huffman Field notes into a manuscript and the Wright brothers gave him permission to submit it for publication.  Root submitted the article to Scientific American but apparently the editor did not believe it was worthy of publication.  So, in 1905, an enthusiastic Root published what was to be the first account of the Wright brothers’ historic accomplishment in his own periodical, Gleanings in Bee Culture.  

Being a slow learner myself, I didn’t realize until after our trip to Root Candles and my additional reading on the life of A.I. Root just how appropriate it was for a group called “Caleb’s Kin” to become acquainted with this amazing man and his contributions to science, invention, business management, and aesthetic beauty.  Finally, like Caleb of the Old Testament Scriptures (e.g. Deuteronomy 1: 36), Amos I. Root was still ready for a new chapter of contribution when in his 60’s he was able to encourage the scientific efforts of the Wright brothers.

Amos I. Root with an inset photo of his plant in Medina, OH
The testimony of A.I. Root also speaks to what he and many other Christians have learned from Solomon, the great king and natural scientist, who wrote:  It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to discover and invent (Prov. 25:2).   Our great Creator has made us in His image.  As image bearers, we are each given various gifts and the opportunity to develop and exercise them with hard work, discipline, and a perspective of stewardship that helps us use the fruits of our creativity for the good of our neighbor.  It is the role of parents, church, communities, and government to nurture and encourage each person to exercise their particular gifts.  Thus, the light of a lovely Root Candle can be traced back to the loving nurture of young Amos Root by his parents on in a farm family in Ohio; and to a church and community that would further mark this man and his godly values. 

Root became a wealthy man but not at the expense of the prosperity of others.  Instead, his inventive and entrepreneurial spirit multiplied the wealth and prosperity of thousands associated with his science and invention.  Today, the light of Root candles gives testimony to the Light of God’s Truth that burned within Amos Root and kept him from hoarding his gains or abusing others.  Furthermore, his life reminds us that a person unburdened by unwise laws and taxation can prosper his community and world when he or she is disciplined by the law of love for God and neighbor within their heart.  May Root’s example remind us all that God and His Word is the essential source of our freedom and prosperity which in turn depend upon individual integrity, responsibility, and hard work.

But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you;
And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you.
Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you;
And let the fish of the sea declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
That the hand of the LORD has done this,
In whose hand is the life of every living thing,
And the breath of all mankind?
 -- Job 12: 7-10

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