George Yule & the Bain Wagon Company

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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I’ve spent close to three and a half decades in the world of advertising, marketing, and branding.  For many, that would be a long time.  For some, though, that kind of background is just a beginning.  Reinforcing that point, I recently ran across a story of an employee working for a company for almost three-quarters of a century!

Bain wagons often included maker logoson the front and rear axles.
The example I’m referring to is that ofGeorge Yule.  Prior to reading this blog,you may not have heard of Mr. Yule. However, if you’re a fan of the legendary ‘Bain’ wagon brand, you havethat same love-for-the-brand in common with him. In the August 1913 issue of “The Carriage Monthly,” Mr. Yule wascommended for an incredible seventy-one years with the firm!  That brief story (shown below) also includes someinteresting history of both the Bain and Mitchell wagon companies.  As such, and in light of the fact that 2017marks the 165th Anniversary of the launch of the Bain Wagon Company,I thought I’d pass along this part of our past...

“George Yule,president of the Bain Wagon Co., Kenosha, Wis., has what is probably the mostunique record of any man in a responsible position with any big manufacturingconcern in the United States. Recently Mr. Yule celebrated the seventy-firstanniversary of his connection with the Bain Wagon Co.

For seventy-oneyears he had just the one employer, and most of the time that he has beenconnected with the company his position has been one of great influence.  Mr. Yule was at his office on hisseventy-first anniversary just as early as any of the other employees of thecompany and, the fact that he was ready to start on a seventy-second year ofwork seemed to have no effect on him whatever.

Seventy-oneyears ago on July 1st Mr. Yule went to Kenosha from his father’sfarm in the town of Somers.  At that timethe Mitchell and Quarles Co. had only a few employees, but Mr. Mitchell decidedto put young Yule to work.  In a shorttime he had worked himself up to a place where he was considered one of thebest wagonmakers in the employ of the company, and when the late Edward Bainpurchased the Mitchell & Quarles interest in 1852 he made Mr. Yulesuperintendent of the plant. 

For thirty yearshe served in this capacity, and in 1882, when the company was incorporatedunder the name of the Bain Wagon Co., Mr. Yule was elected vice-president.  In 1890, there were other changes, and with arecord of fifty years of continued success, Mr. Yule was elected as presidentof the company.  Later on the heirs ofthe late Edward Bain retired from the management of the big plant and Mr. Yulebecome not only the president of the company, but the principal owner of thestock of the concern. 

When he went towork for the company, away back before the Civil War, all portions of thewagons were built by hand and the output was only a few wagons a year.  The plant now turns out thousands of wagonsyearly, and is one of the largest wagonmaking concerns in the country.”

This extremely rare reach plate willdate as early as the 1860’s or ‘70’s.  It’s housedin the Wheels That Won The West® Archives and is one of the oldest survivingpieces from Ed Bain’s wagon factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 
Historical records in the Wheels ThatWon The West® Archives point out that Mr. Yule came to America from Scotlandwhen he was sixteen.  Two years later, in1842, he was hired by Mitchell & Quarles to help build wagons in Kenosha (thenknown as Southport).  At the time, theMitchell & Quarles shops were only building about 10-15 wagons eachyear.  They also did repair work on plowsand implements for area farmers.  

Based on period details from abovearticle as well as our archives, Mr. Yule was not only an influential force inthe earliest days of Bain and Mitchell wagons but, he was there when the U.S.purchased California from Mexico, when gold was discovered in California, whenwestern territories became states, when legendary outlaws were makingheadlines, when the transcontinental railroad was built, and when so many other major events in the history of the West took place. He even lived to see the automobile and the new challenges oftransportation competition in the 20th century. Very few individuals will ever have a front-row-seat to the rise andfall of international commerce the size of America’s first transportationindustry.  Nonetheless, Mr. Yule not onlysaw these things but was instrumental in guiding one of the biggest brands toshape the American West. 

From its beginnings, Bain was never asmall endeavor.  The brand leapt from itsnewborn page of possibilities to near-instant national recognition as itcapitalized on the factory and distribution network left wholly in place byHenry Mitchell (Mitchell & Quarles). By the late 1860’s, the firm was producing several thousand wagons peryear and within another decade, annual production numbers were near tenthousand.  In 1911, the company waspurchased by George Yule and other family members for an estimated $1.5million.  Growth continued into themid-teens as the company touted 450 employees and a capacity of 18,000wagons.  After transferring his interestin the Kenosha factory to Edward Bain in 1852, Henry Mitchell moved on toRacine, Wisconsin, eventually restarting his empire and building the Mitchell wagon brandinto a powerhouse that would be purchased by John Deere in 1917.  

Today, the Mitchell and Bain brandscontinue to be extremely popular with collectors and enthusiasts; and for goodreason.  The quality, history,reputation, and wide range of designs created by both firms left a legacy thatmost makers had a tough time competing with. When looking at Bain, a big part of that reputation came fromtime-honored employees like George Yule who not only was an exceptional wagonmaker but possessed a steadfast loyalty that both grew and protected the brandfor generations.  Corporate America could still learn fromthese early business giants. 
This early promotional flyer for Bainwagons dates to the late 1860’s.  
Dating to the 1870’s, this Bain wagoncatalog may be the earliest surviving piece promoting the brand’s entireproduct line.
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, LLC
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