Wheels That Won The West Articles - The Making Of The Newton Wagon Company
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No matter the fortitude and desires of man, working long hours each day, six days a week will eventually wear on even the most valiant. In 1893, at 61 years of age, Capt. Newton succumbed to complications of diabetes, just weeks before his 40th wedding anniversary. At that time, H.K. Wolcott, Levi Newton’s son-in-law, took over as president. His knowledge of the business was also extensive since his tenure at the company dated back a quarter century to 1868. Wolcott continued the high standards associated with the Newton brand by replacing much of the time-consuming handwork in the factory with hydraulics and additional power machinery. These changes allowed the company to be even more efficient and price competitive while reinforcing the quality and overall value of the brand.

At the turn of the century and shortly thereafter, a strategic marketing phenomenon was taking place in the U.S. agricultural business world. The largest implement companies were jockeying for increased market share and many of them lacked the centerpiece of all farm equipment – the wagon. As a result, firms like International Harvester, John Deere, Moline Plow Company, Rock Island, Emerson-Brantingham (E-B) and others began looking for wagon companies to buy while also developing their own farm vehicle brands. By 1912, the popularity and success of the Newton Wagon Company had attracted the attention of Emerson-Brantingham in Rockford, Illinois. E-B purchased the company in the fall of that same year. With the acquisition, Emerson-Brantingham introduced Newton to an even stronger national dealer network enabling the brand to grow its presence with farmers, ranchers, and businesses. Over time, the more elaborate paint designs on the box were simplified while the extra coats of paint each wagon received were widely touted. Highly identifiable by the dropped front hound of later models, Newton offered more than 100 different styles built for various uses and sections of the country. Hauling capacities ranged from 1,500 to 10,000 pounds and options included a variety of brake configurations and seat styles as well as a footboard, folding endgate and different tongue styles.

E-B continued to build Newton wagons until the difficulties of the Great Depression began to hit the company hard. So hard that, in February 1931, the wagon division was separated as an individual entity and given the name, Batavia Body Company. The upshot amounted to a very quick end to Newton’s horse drawn wagon history. In fact, other than building a few horse-drawn business wagons during World War 2, the transition was so significant and complete that by the very early 1940’s, period directories indicate there was no longer any source available to even service Newton wagons with original parts.

By some accounts, Newton is credited with building as many as 7 – 8,000 wagons a year while employing a top number of around 150 men. Today, Newton wagons with original paint and accessories have significantly increased in value. While a turn-of-the-century double box farm wagon could have been bought for around $100, the increasing popularity of these vehicles has driven prices of some of the best preserved examples well into the four and even five digit range.

With a story harkening back to the days well before the California gold rush, the Newton wagon brand is forever tied to the American West. It’s a legacy that continues to grow, drawing the attention of collectors, museums, ranches and others looking for quality examples of a near-forgotten, but absolutely essential vehicle industry. Ultimately, Newton was a workhorse brand tempered by fire and tested by time. It was styled in the old-fashioned school of long hours, hard work, and handcrafted quality and from the first shaved spoke to the last riveted cleat, it was way of life destined to never sit silent in the shadows of history.


See more Newton wagons at www.hansenwheel.com

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