Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Moline Mandt Wagons

From old photos, catalogs, ledgers, and business correspondence to the vehicles, themselves, we’re always looking for rare survivors from America’s first transportation industry.  Several years ago, I ran across a near-mint-condition Moline Mandt wagon and feel fortunate to have been able to add it to our collection of wagons and western vehicles.  The beginning of the Mandt wagon brand dates back to 1865.  Whether you’re talking about early transportation, product ingenuity, or the growth of agriculture in the U.S., this vehicle brand is chock full of history.  Not long ago, I came across an article related to Mandt in the August 5, 1911 issue of “The Implement Age.”  After the company founder, T.G. Mandt passed away in 1902, the company assets were eventually sold to the Moline Plow Company in Moline, Illinois.  That firm immediately capitalized on the Mandt legacy by building the Moline Mandt wagon and other similarly constructed brands.  Below are a few segments from that August issue of “The Implement Age”...

As shown on this century-old wagon end gate, artistically-patterned logos often accompanied period brands.

The Moline Plow Works, known the world round by the sign of “The Flying Dutchman,” were launched in 1865 by Henry Candee and R.K. Swan, L.E. Hemmenway, J.B. Wyckoff and others being associated with them.  The plant of the Moline Plow Company, which eventually grew into an immense workshop employing hundreds of men, was originally a building of frame construction, located on the site of the present great factory.  At the time of its origin the company was engaged in the manufacture of fanning mills and hay racks.

In 1865 Andrew Friberg (former John Deere employee) became connected with the company, and the concern launched into the manufacture of plows.  The following year George Stephens became an equal partner in the business and a reorganization was effected.  Under the firm name of Candee, Swan & Co., Mr. Stephens had charge of the woodworking department, Mr. Friberg directed the blacksmith shop, Mr. Swan was the sales manager, and Mr. Candee had charge of the accounts.

The Moline Plow Company was incorporated in 1870 with an authorized capitalization of $400,000, of which $300,000 was paid up stock.  Among additional stockholders who became interested in the business at this time were Captain Good, his son, John W. (later vice-president of the Deere & Mansur Company, and who died last year in Bombay, India while on a world cruise), S.W. Wheelock, A.L. Carlson and A.R. Bryant...

The ‘Flying Dutchman’ was a distinctive trademark of the Moline Plow Company in Moline, Illinois.

...From its capitalization of $400,00 in 1870 the company has increased its volume of business steadily, gradually advancing till now the working capital is $9,000,000.  The business of the concern has grown space and today the product of the Moline Plow Company is known throughout the world.

One of the great factors in the growth of the company was the Flying Dutchman sulky plow, brought out by the company in 1884.  This plow was an instantaneous success and revolutionized the manufacture of sulky plows.  Up to this time, sulky plows had been of the two-wheeled variety.  Every three-wheeled plow manufactured today owes filial respect to the renowned Flying Dutchman.

Another factor in the development of the company was the patenting of the Moline Champion corn planter in 1886.  This implement caused a revolution almost equal to that occasioned by the Flying Dutchman plow, and soon the company was the leading manufacturer of corn planters in the country.  Other lines have been added from time to time, until now the company can boast of cultivators, harrows, disc harrows, stalk cutters, potato diggers, cotton planters, cane tools, sugar beet tools and other farm implements.

In 1906, the line was further augmented by the products of the Mandt Wagon Works, at Stoughton, Wis., and the Henney Buggy Company, of Freeport, Ill., which concerns were merged with the Moline Plow Company in that year.  Previous to their acquisition these concerns were controlled principally by Moline Plow Company stockholders...

This introduction page is from a 1901 T.G. Mandt catalog, possibly the last full-line book created before the death of the company founder the following year.  

...The business of the company at the present time is the largest in its history, and is growing rapidly.  About two hundred salesmen are employed in the United States by the Plow Company and its branch houses; the combined office force numbers nearly three hundred and, about twelve hundred men are constantly employed in the shops.  The Mandt Wagon Company employs about four hundred additional men, and the Henney Buggy Company and the Freeport Carriage Company about eight hundred more, making the total number of employees who win their bread through the operations of the Moline Plow Company approximately three thousand.”

I’ve seen the Moline-Mandt wagon confused with a Moline brand wagon.  The wagons were made in the same city (Moline, Illinois) but they are completely different brands and companies.

During the teens of the twentieth century, the legendary plow works dabbled with early tractors and even automobiles, introducing the ‘Stephens’ car, named after one of founding partners.  A few years later, Willys-Overland purchased a majority interest in the Plow Company.  Then, in the late 1920’s, the company merged again to form the Minneapolis-Moline Power Implement Company.  Around the same time period, industry directories ceased listing Moline Mandt wagons as an active brand.  Ultimately, it means that every surviving Moline Mandt wagon will be over or very near the century-mark in age.  Minneapolis-Moline sold in the early 1960’s to the White Motor Company.  About a decade later, the brand was discontinued. 

This Stephens-brand roadster was designed for two or three passengers.

Over the years, wagon and farm truck (wagon) brands either built or sold by the Moline Plow Company included the Genuine T.G. Mandt, Moline Mandt, Crescent, Sunny South, Badger, Wisconsin, Woodchuck, California, and Dixie monikers.  As with other makers, some of these names were not always exclusive to Mandt.  It’s a point of caution requiring greater examination to authoritatively confirm the maker of a particular set of wheels.  As a final bit of trivia related to the Moline Plow Company; the firm made a variety of horse-drawn vehicles including buggies and surreys, carts, bob sleds, Mountain wagons, farm wagons, farm trucks, dairy wagons, delivery wagons, low wheel ‘handy’ wagons, and spring wagons.

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