The Early History of Weber Wagon Company

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
Published on:
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
Share This Blog:
One of America’s most discussed andcollected horse drawn wagon brands is Weber. Like many other prominent early vehicle builders, the look of Weber’s productschanged over time.  That said, mostsurviving Webers with sufficient paint have at least one part of their outwardappearance in common.  Positioned withinthe logo is the date of the firm’s beginnings – 1845.  That’s about as much nineteenth centurycompany history as many sources ever share. With that in mind, we decided to open up a few of the primary sourcematerials in our collection and pass along an overview of what was happening withthe business during some of the most exciting days of the American West.  As always, all of our images, text, and worksare protected by copyright and cannot be reproduced without prior writtenapproval from the Wheels That Won The West® Archives. 
This well-worn logo from a twentieth-century-built Weber includes an IHC symbol (International Harvester Corporation) and the 1845 date at the top of the design.
Born in 1822, Henry Weber set out forAmerica when he was eighteen.  It was asailing voyage that lasted just over a month. (And I thought my last cross-countrytrip was long!) He apprenticed as a wagon maker for three years in New Yorkbefore heading west to Detroit, Michigan. The future ‘Motor City’ capital couldn’t hold him, though, and he soonset his eyes on Chicago.  Arriving theremidway through 1844, he immediately found work in an established wagon shop.  By the following year, Weber was working onplans for his own vehicle business.  Witha $250 investment, he and partner, Jacob Gauch, hung out their shingle as wagonmakers in 1845.  The slow but steadybusiness was not enough to hold Mr. Gauch. With news of California’s gold strikes, wagon work seemed a slow way tomake a living.  Determined to make hisfortune farther west, in 1849, he sold his share to Henry and providence beganto take root for Mr. Weber. 

In less than a decade, Weber hadoutgrown his humble beginnings and began to expand his operations.  By the spring of 1871, the company wasexpanding again.  This time to a large4-story brick building.  It was one ofthe few structures to survive the Great Chicago Fire in October of the sameyear.  Escaping one inferno, though, wasno guarantee of future getaways.  Luckran out for Weber in August of 1887 when a fire ravaged everything but hisstock of lumber.  
Marking the year of its incorporation, this original 1883 catalog is a rare survivor.  It’s filled with details of Weber’s early farm, freight, ranch, businesses, and personal vehicle offerings.
After thirty-eight years in business, thecompany finally incorporated in 1883. With $150,000 of fresh capital to work with, they had traveled far fromthe first day with just $250 and a dream. 

By the mid-1890’s, the Weber WagonCompany is reported to have been producing 16,000 wagons and bobsledsannually.   With a strong distributionsystem, they were recognized throughout the U.S. as a quality and highlydesirable brand. Such was the growth that it attracted considerable attentionfrom buyers who wanted to purchase the entire company.  In a move to compete more effectively in thelucrative wagon market, International Harvester Corporation purchased Weber in1904. 

If you’re aWeber fan, you can find more details on the company’s history with InternationalHarvester by contacting the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.  
Go Top