Production Capacities of Wagon Builders

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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A little over 110 yearsago, “The Carriage Monthly” published an article more or less describing thestate of business affairs with a number of wagon and carriage makers.  At the time, the Louisiana PurchaseExposition – 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 marketdomination by large agricultural firms, the competitive landscape was quicklychanging. 
In spite of theshifting sands, the heydays of wagon making still had a couple more decades leftbefore things would radically change.  Assuch, I thought I’d pass along some of the capacity details the article sharedfor a few of the better known brands at the time.  While ‘capacity’ didn’t always translate intosales, it does give us a fair idea of how the competition stacked up.  Enjoy!

Austin, Tomlinson, & Webster, Jackson MI

Jackson wagons – With acapacity of 10,000 vehicles annually, the company reported that 100% ofproduction was focused on wagons.  Thislegendary brand had started in 1837 but was close to the end of its run at thistime. 

Brown Mfg. Co. – Zanesville, Ohio

Brown wagons – Thecompany didn’t list their yearly capacity in this article but reported thebreakdown of their output in 1904 as 55% for implements and 45% for farmwagons.  Brown was a huge producer ofplows.  I was able to conclusivelyidentify one of these wagons in Wyoming some time back.  It’s doubtful that this particular companywas shipping wagons that far west but, in today’s world, collectors andenthusiasts are increasingly widening the territory where particular brands canbe found.  As a result, today’sidentification and authentication processes require an open mind and highdegree of brand familiarity.

Troy Wagon Works – Troy, Ohio

Troy wagons – Thefactory boasted a capacity of 10,000 vehicles annually.  Their output in 1904 was devoted exclusivelyto wagons. 

Fish Bros. – Clinton, Iowa

Fish Bros. wagons – Youmay be looking at this and saying, “I thought Fish Bros. was in Racine,Wisconsin.”  You’d be right.  These folks in Clinton represent several ofthe Fish family members who had previously been directing the factory inRacine.  With the onset of somedisagreements with the company’s board of directors, a significant portion ofthe founding family established a separate Fish Bros. firm and eventually setup shop in Clinton, Iowa.  Theduplication of the name caused quite a stir with a long line of legal wranglingbetween both sides.  Nonetheless, in1904, the Clinton, Iowa factory claimed a capacity for 20,000 wagonsannually. 
Olds Wagon Works – Ft. Wayne, Indiana

Olds wagons – For thecurious, there is no known connection between the wagon maker and theautomobile brand.  Olds was reported tohave a capacity of 10,000 farm wagons per year during the early 1900’s.
Linstroth Wagon Co. – St. Louis, MO

Linstroth wagons – Atthe 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 solelydevoted to the production of farm wagons.

The Mitchell & Lewis Co., Ltd. – Racine, WI

Mitchell wagons – Oneof the oldest and more legendary wagon brands, the company listed its capacityin 1904 as being 28,000 vehicles annually. Of that total, spring wagons were said to make up 10% and farm wagonsthe remaining 90% of production.

Harrison Wagon Company – Grand Rapids, MI

Harrison wagons – Thiscompany was over a half century in age in 1904. Their production capacity that year was recorded as 15,000 farm wagonsannually.
Tiffin Wagon Company – Tiffin, Ohio

Tiffin wagons – Astrong promoter and competitor in the Ohio regions, the company listed its 1904production capacity as 20,000 farm wagons. That number potentially qualifies the firm as one of the top producersfor the year.

Farmer’s Handy Wagon – Saginaw, Michigan

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

A.A. Cooper Wagon & Buggy Co. – Dubuque, Iowa

Cooper wagonsproclaimed a capacity of 20,000 vehicles in 1904.  Of that total, farm wagons were said toamount to 60% of production while lighter carriages and other wagons made up40%.  Original Cooper vehicles continueto be among the more difficult to locate today.

Stoughton Wagon Company – Stoughton, Wisconsin

Stoughton wagons – Thecapacity for the factory is listed as 19,000 vehicles annually.  Farm wagons apparently made up 65% of theproduction 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 vehiclesannually.  60% of their total productionwas devoted to carriages.  20% wasreserved for farm wagons and another 20% was filled by other wagon styles.

Winona Wagon Company – Winona, Minnesota

Winona wagons werepopular throughout the West.  Theircapacity 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 alsobuilding sheep camp wagons, mountain wagons, stake rack bed wagons, fruitwagons, potato bed wagons, one horse wagons, and more.

Studebaker Bros. Manufacturing Co. – South Bend, Indiana

Studebaker Bros. – Thismanufacturing giant was clearly the production capacity winner with a claim of100,000 vehicles annually.  At the time,these numbers were purported to be made up of carriages, light wagons, and farmwagons.  No autos are listed even thoughthey were in production at the time. 

Milburn Wagon Company – Toledo, Ohio

Milburn – Here’sanother giant in the early vehicle industry and one with close ties toStudebaker.  1904 marked the company’s 70thbirthday and, no doubt, they celebrated their capacity for building 50,000vehicles annually.  The productionbreakdown was listed as 26% for carriages, 67% for farm wagons, and 7% forother wagon types. 

Ionia Wagon Company – Ionia, Michigan

The Ionia Wagon Companyproduced several different brands.  1904marked the quarter century mark for the company.  Their production capacity at the time waslisted at 12,000 vehicles annually.  Ofthat, spring wagons and drays represent 10% and farm wagons equalled 90%.

Moline Wagon Company – Moline, Illinois

The company was a 50year old legend by the time this article was published in 1904.  They listed their yearly capacity at 30,000farm wagons.  They were largely soldthrough 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 torepresent 30% of the total while farm wagons amounted to 70% of the company’syearly output.

Flint Wagon Works – Flint, Michigan

Flint wagons – Thecompany didn’t list their total capacity but did break down the productionvariables a bit.  Farm wagons were saidto equal 25% of the production while other wagon styles filled out theremaining 75%.  An interesting note aboutFlint wagons is that the directors of the company had purchased the fledglingBuick Motor Company in the fall of 1903. By the time of this article, they were just a couple months from rollingout the first of many Buick automobiles from their factory in Flint.

Columbia Wagon Co., Columbia PAColumbia – This easternfirm was only 15 years old in 1904 but touted an annual production capacity of7,000 wagons.  Not bad considering theage, experience, and dominant distribution of many larger competitors.

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