Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Production Capacities of Wagon Builders

A little over 110 years ago, “The Carriage Monthly” published an article more or less describing the state of business affairs with a number of wagon and carriage makers.  At the time, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition – otherwise known as the 1904 World’s Fair – was just about to open in St. Louis, Missouri.  For many wagon makers, the days were proving to be more than just the beginning of another century; from the advent of the automobile to the increasing consolidation and market domination by large agricultural firms, the competitive landscape was quickly changing. 

In spite of the shifting sands, the heydays of wagon making still had a couple more decades left before things would radically change.  As such, I thought I’d pass along some of the capacity details the article shared for a few of the better known brands at the time.  While ‘capacity’ didn’t always translate into sales, it does give us a fair idea of how the competition stacked up.  Enjoy!

Austin, Tomlinson, & Webster, Jackson MI
Jackson wagons – With a capacity of 10,000 vehicles annually, the company reported that 100% of production was focused on wagons.  This legendary brand had started in 1837 but was close to the end of its run at this time.

Brown Mfg. Co. – Zanesville, Ohio
Brown wagons – The company didn’t list their yearly capacity in this article but reported the breakdown of their output in 1904 as 55% for implements and 45% for farm wagons.  Brown was a huge producer of plows.  I was able to conclusively identify one of these wagons in Wyoming some time back.  It’s doubtful that this particular company was shipping wagons that far west but, in today’s world, collectors and enthusiasts are increasingly widening the territory where particular brands can be found.  As a result, today’s identification and authentication processes require an open mind and high degree of brand familiarity.

Troy Wagon Works – Troy, Ohio
Troy wagons – The factory boasted a capacity of 10,000 vehicles annually.  Their output in 1904 was devoted exclusively to wagons. 

Fish Bros. – Clinton, Iowa
Fish Bros. wagons – You may be looking at this and saying, “I thought Fish Bros. was in Racine, Wisconsin.”  You’d be right.  These folks in Clinton represent several of the Fish family members who had previously been directing the factory in Racine.  With the onset of some disagreements with the company’s board of directors, a significant portion of the founding family established a separate Fish Bros. firm and eventually set up shop in Clinton, Iowa.  The duplication of the name caused quite a stir with a long line of legal wrangling between both sides.  Nonetheless, in 1904, the Clinton, Iowa factory claimed a capacity for 20,000 wagons annually. 

Olds Wagon Works – Ft. Wayne, Indiana
Olds wagons – For the curious, there is no known connection between the wagon maker and the automobile brand.  Olds was reported to have a capacity of 10,000 farm wagons per year during the early 1900’s.

Linstroth Wagon Co. – St. Louis, MO
Linstroth wagons – At the time of the original printing of this article in “The Carriage Monthy,” Linstroth had been in business 55 years.  They listed a capacity of 8,000 vehicles annually and were solely devoted to the production of farm wagons.

The Mitchell & Lewis Co., Ltd. – Racine, WI
Mitchell wagons – One of the oldest and more legendary wagon brands, the company listed its capacity in 1904 as being 28,000 vehicles annually.  Of that total, spring wagons were said to make up 10% and farm wagons the remaining 90% of production.

Harrison Wagon Company – Grand Rapids, MI
Harrison wagons – This company was over a half century in age in 1904.  Their production capacity that year was recorded as 15,000 farm wagons annually.

Tiffin Wagon Company – Tiffin, Ohio
Tiffin wagons – A strong promoter and competitor in the Ohio regions, the company listed its 1904 production capacity as 20,000 farm wagons.  That number potentially qualifies the firm as one of the top producers for the year.

Farmer’s Handy Wagon – Saginaw, Michigan
The Farmer’s Handy wagon was a lower-wheeled farm wagon; typically steel-wheeled.  Capacity of the factory was listed as 15,000 wagons annually.

A.A. Cooper Wagon & Buggy Co. – Dubuque, Iowa
Cooper wagons proclaimed a capacity of 20,000 vehicles in 1904.  Of that total, farm wagons were said to amount to 60% of production while lighter carriages and other wagons made up 40%.  Original Cooper vehicles continue to be among the more difficult to locate today.

Stoughton Wagon Company – Stoughton, Wisconsin
Stoughton wagons – The capacity for the factory is listed as 19,000 vehicles annually.  Farm wagons apparently made up 65% of the production while other wagons and bob sleds accounted for 35%.

The Racine-Sattley Co. – Racine, Wisconsin
Racine-Sattley wagons – By 1904, the company was a little over a quarter century in age.  Their capacity was shown as 50,000 vehicles annually.  60% of their total production was devoted to carriages.  20% was reserved for farm wagons and another 20% was filled by other wagon styles.

Winona Wagon Company – Winona, Minnesota
Winona wagons were popular throughout the West.  Their capacity in 1904 was listed as 10,000 farm wagons.  It should be noted here that ‘farm wagons’ can carry numerous connotations within these descriptions.  During the early 1900’s, Winona was also building sheep camp wagons, mountain wagons, stake rack bed wagons, fruit wagons, potato bed wagons, one horse wagons, and more.

Studebaker Bros. Manufacturing Co. – South Bend, Indiana
Studebaker Bros. – This manufacturing giant was clearly the production capacity winner with a claim of 100,000 vehicles annually.  At the time, these numbers were purported to be made up of carriages, light wagons, and farm wagons.  No autos are listed even though they were in production at the time.

Milburn Wagon Company – Toledo, Ohio
Milburn – Here’s another giant in the early vehicle industry and one with close ties to Studebaker.  1904 marked the company’s 70th birthday and, no doubt, they celebrated their capacity for building 50,000 vehicles annually.  The production breakdown was listed as 26% for carriages, 67% for farm wagons, and 7% for other wagon types.

Ionia Wagon Company – Ionia, Michigan
The Ionia Wagon Company produced several different brands.  1904 marked the quarter century mark for the company.  Their production capacity at the time was listed at 12,000 vehicles annually.  Of that, spring wagons and drays represent 10% and farm wagons equalled 90%.

Moline Wagon Company – Moline, Illinois
The company was a 50 year old legend by the time this article was published in 1904.  They listed their yearly capacity at 30,000 farm wagons.  They were largely sold through John Deere-affiliated agencies at the time.

Lansing Wagon Works – Lansing, Michigan
Lansing wagons – Production capacity in 1904 was listed as 8,000 vehicles annually.  Lighter carriages and wagons were said to represent 30% of the total while farm wagons amounted to 70% of the company’s yearly output.

Flint Wagon Works – Flint, Michigan
Flint wagons – The company didn’t list their total capacity but did break down the production variables a bit.  Farm wagons were said to equal 25% of the production while other wagon styles filled out the remaining 75%.  An interesting note about Flint wagons is that the directors of the company had purchased the fledgling Buick Motor Company in the fall of 1903.  By the time of this article, they were just a couple months from rolling out the first of many Buick automobiles from their factory in Flint.

Columbia Wagon Co., Columbia PA
Columbia – This eastern firm was only 15 years old in 1904 but touted an annual production capacity of 7,000 wagons.  Not bad considering the age, experience, and dominant distribution of many larger competitors.