Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Marking Time

Anniversaries, no matter the subject, are often celebrated in five year increments.  This year marked 170 years since the founding of the Peter Schuttler Wagon Company.  Likewise, legendary stagecoach maker, Abbot-Downing, would have been 200 years old this year.  Surviving vehicles from these notable builders carry more than quaint memories of what is sometimes misconstrued as a “simpler” time; they embody the very essence of freedom, opportunity, and the spirit that built America. 

Looking down the road a bit, 2014 will mark 150 years since the Fish Bros. Wagon Company began building vehicles.  While Fish family members eventually split from the Racine firm to create another Fish Bros. company in Clinton, Iowa, both brands can claim roots to 1864.  Other prominent early wagon makers with anniversaries in 2014 include Kentucky Wagon Company (135 years), Winona Wagon Company (135 years), Troy Wagon Company (125 years), Florence Wagon Company (125 years), and the Pekin Wagon Company (165 years).
One of the earliest vehicle manufactories west of the Mississippi, the Mitchell Wagon Company, also celebrates a milestone in 2014.  Established in 1834 by Henry Mitchell, the firm enjoyed a lengthy run well into the 20th century with automobiles being a part of their offerings for over two decades.   Their line of horse drawn vehicles included dozens of wagon styles ranging from farm, freight, ranch, business and log wagons.  They also built stage wagons, spring wagons, carriages, phaetons, buggies, buckboards, and express wagons.  In its heyday, production capacity equaled as much as 40,000 vehicles per year.

With next year marking 180 years since the founding of the firm, Mitchell brand vehicles continue to be extremely popular with collectors and enthusiasts. Just as the vivid paint and artistically-applied logos once represented a product highly desired for freighting, staging, cattle drives, and emigrant travels, that same legacy of leadership survives today; marking a time when good people plus good ideas, long hours, and lots of hard work had a way of opening doors of opportunity.  Thankfully, some things never change.