Florence, Alabama boasts a vibrant past that extends beyond its river heritage and even its musical...
The Life of R.W. Drane
PART 3 of 3 in a special series about the life and business of R.W. Drane
Robert Wesley Drane was born on October 25, 1886, in Lauderdale County, Alabama. He is best known for the Drane-Young Tragedy, in which he was charged with the murder of G.W. Young. On May 31, 1912, Drane shot Young down on the street, and on July 19, 1912, he was charged with murder. The trial, known as "The Drane Trial," began on July 26, 1912. The jury found Drane not guilty by reason of temporary insanity.
READ MORE ABOUT THE DETAILS OF THIS MURDER IN PART 2
Drane Cigar Company
After the trial, Drane went on to establish a successful retail cigar business. In March 1914, he and his company, R.W. Drane & Co., started a new wholesale cigar factory in the second story of the Perlitius building on Tennessee Street, in Florence, Alabama. By 1917, his company's estimated annual production was 56,000 cigars. Drane was considered one of the most enterprising and energetic business men in Florence.
READ MORE ABOUT DRANE CIGAR COMPANY IN PART 1
Drane Realty Company and McFarland Bottoms Development
Aside from his cigar business, Drane also had a keen interest in real estate. In 1923, he established the R.W. Drane Realty Company, which was involved in the development of the Florence waterfront known as McFarland Bottoms, which is now McFarland Park. In August 1924, he spent $150,000 (equal to nearly $3million today) on this property to develop the Florence waterfront. It was the largest single real estate transaction to have taken place in the Muscle Shoals district at the time. Drane had McFarland Bottoms laid out for business and manufacturing property exclusively and was considered ideal for an industrial center utilizing cheap power from Wilson Dam.
R.W. Drane Served Various Civic Roles
Drane was a prominent member of the community and served in various roles. He was the president of the Alabama Association of Real Estate Boards in 1930 and the president of the Florence Chamber of Commerce in 1932. In January 1933, he was appointed to the joint committee to handle the details of the reception and entertainment of President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt during his inspection of Muscle Shoals.
Drane died on August 25, 1942, in Nashville, Tennessee. He was survived by his wife, Kate Harsson Drane, who died on August 31, 1953. At the time of his death, Drane was involved in the wholesale distribution of oil and gasoline.
Son Continues Fathers Leadership Through Toy Wheels
R.W. Drane’s son, Bob Drane, Jr. continued his dad’s passion for civil leadership through a heavy involvement with the local Kiwanis Club in Florence. He was also a very prominent businessman just like his father.
Having studied the latest methods in the tire industry in both Ohio and Florida, Drane, Jr. was an expert in the tire and rubber industry when he took over for D.P. (Pops) Sloan at Goodrich Silvertown located at the corner of Court and Tuscaloosa streets.
Taking his knowledge of rubber tires and wheels, R.W. (Bob) Drane, Jr. founded the Drane Manufacturing Company in May of 1947. The company produced wheels for tricycles and toys such as doll baby buggies and scooters. Drane and his fifteen employees produced up to 2,000 wheels per day at their factory on Terrace Street in East Florence.
Map showing that McFarland Bottom was already planned out. It is now McFarland Park.