I enjoy digging through period accounts of the early wagon industry. In the dusty and all-but-forgotten pages of so many early publications there is a wealth of material covering the how, when, where, why, and who of the trade. It’s a great resource for adding to our modern day knowledge and helps to bridge the gap when trying to put the pieces of history together.
Among the Studebaker catalogs in the Wheels That Won The West® Archives is this inaugural book for the ‘South Bend’ vehicle brand.
So, as we prepare to welcome in a New Year, I thought I’d pass along a piece I ran across in the October 1908 issue of “The Hub.” It’s a short blurb of editorial originally submitted to promote a new line of modestly-priced business wagons from Studebaker. Details from the article not only share a window into yesterday but, have a way of adding to our understanding of brand history as well as specific vehicle provenance. In this case, the story helps us fix a beginning to Studebaker’s South Bend brand. Based on the details here, it’s clear that the earliest date of manufacture for any surviving ‘South Bend’ business wagon will be 1908. (As a quick note... this is not the “South Bend” brand of farm wagon as those were manufactured by a different firm)
With that as a bit of backdrop, here’s the text from the 1908 article...
Within the last few weeks Studebaker Bros. Mfg. Co., South Bend, Ind., has completed an entirely new line of business wagons, embracing some sixty-five different styles.
For many years, this company has been building delivery wagons of the very highest grade, but realizing that there is a growing demand for a medium grade of delivery wagons, selling at a popular price, they decided to put a line of this kind of vehicles on the market under the name of the “South Bend Line.” The styles are all up-to-date and the wagons are substantial and most attractive in appearance. Many of the wagons are built with knock-down tops so as to enable them to crate very close, thereby effecting a large saving in the freight charges; in fact, most of these jobs will crate under thirty inches. The styles are all new and original and very pleasing in their details, and the Studebaker company has already booked a great many orders for this line, which embodies wagons suitable to nearly every kind of business.
The gears range from 1 1-16 in. to 1 3-8 in. inclusive. All jobs are equipped with Concord axles and double stay braces, with either three or full elliptic springs, with low front wheels to turn under body or high wheels and short turn fifth wheel. Bodies are 42 in. and 45 in. wide, 7 ft. 6 in. long, thus making a very roomy body; with or without wings, and with duck or panel top. The wheel house wagons are among the most attractive in the line. Some very tasty wheel house designs are shown, especially for the laundry and department store trade. The accompanying plate, from their catalog, is one of the lightest wood panel top wagons on the market, weighing only 450 lbs., and especially suitable for small horse or pony.
In designing this line, the needs of grocers, butchers, dairymen, bakers, furniture dealers, and all those who have use for a light top or open delivery wagon at a medium price, have been carefully studied, and the line will undoubtedly meet with the approval of those in need of delivery vehicles.
The new catalog for the “South Bend Line” will soon be ready for delivery and will be gladly mailed to anyone interested.
Weighing just 450 pounds, Studebaker claimed that this particular 'South Bend' vehicle design was “the lightest wood panel top delivery wagon on the market.”
I hope you enjoyed this final blog for 2015. It’s one more element of this brand’s history that can be shared with confidence and, hopefully, it's of benefit to someone seeking more information on a surviving business wagon.
Ultimately, these details are just a small part of the history we’ve been able to uncover and collect this year. We have a number of speaking engagements coming up and look forward to sharing even more of our findings. In the meantime, we wish each of you safe, prosperous, and Happy New Year!
Please Note: As with each of our blog writings, all imagery and text is copyrighted with All Rights Reserved. The material may not be broadcast, published, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written permission from David E. Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives.