I enjoy digging through period accountsof the early wagon industry. In thedusty and all-but-forgotten pages of so many early publications there is awealth of material covering the how, when, where, why, and who of thetrade. It’s a great resource for addingto our modern day knowledge and helps to bridge the gap when trying to put thepieces 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 NewYear, I thought I’d pass along a piece I ran across in the October 1908 issueof “The Hub.” It’s a short blurb ofeditorial originally submitted to promote a new line of modestly-pricedbusiness wagons from Studebaker. Detailsfrom the article not only share a window into yesterday but, have a way ofadding to our understanding of brand history as well as specific vehicleprovenance. In this case, the storyhelps us fix a beginning to Studebaker’s South Bend brand. Based on the details here, it’s clear thatthe earliest date of manufacture for any surviving ‘South Bend’ business wagonwill be 1908. (As a quick note... thisis not the “South Bend” brand of farm wagon as those were manufactured by adifferent firm)
With that as a bit of backdrop, here’sthe 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 buildingdelivery wagons of the very highest grade, but realizing that there is agrowing 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 thename of the “South Bend Line.” Thestyles are all up-to-date and the wagons are substantial and most attractive inappearance. Many of the wagons are builtwith knock-down tops so as to enable them to crate very close, therebyeffecting a large saving in the freight charges; in fact, most of these jobswill crate under thirty inches. Thestyles are all new and original and very pleasing in their details, and theStudebaker company has already booked a great many orders for this line, whichembodies 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 withConcord axles and double stay braces, with either three or full ellipticsprings, with low front wheels to turn under body or high wheels and short turnfifth wheel. Bodies are 42 in. and 45in. wide, 7 ft. 6 in. long, thus making a very roomy body; with or withoutwings, and with duck or panel top. Thewheel house wagons are among the most attractive in the line. Some very tasty wheel house designs areshown, 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 450lbs., 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 alight top or open delivery wagon at a medium price, have been carefullystudied, and the line will undoubtedly meet with the approval of those in needof delivery vehicles.
The new catalog for the “South Bend Line” will soonbe 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 for2015. It’s one more element of thisbrand’s history that can be shared with confidence and, hopefully, it's ofbenefit to someone seeking more information on a surviving business wagon.
Ultimately, these details are just asmall part of the history we’ve been able to uncover and collect thisyear. We have a number of speakingengagements coming up and look forward to sharing even more of ourfindings. In the meantime, we wish eachof 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.