Throughout the late 1800’s and early1900’s, wagon makers used a number of methods to successfully promote thedesirability of their products. Flashyprinted materials, household trinkets, custom dealer signage, and extraordinaryclaims were sometimes joined with larger-than-life product demonstrations.
One such example occurred when theMoline Wagon Company used imagery of a huge circus elephant riding in one oftheir wagons (as did the Jackson Wagon Company) to showcase the strength andlight draft of their vehicles. Insimilar fashion, legendary St. Louis maker, Luedinghaus, resorted to a massive tower of wagons to reinforce their superior craftsmanship during the 1904 World’sFair. Likewise, the Moline Wagon Companyalso used another large, visual metaphor for strength… a colossal double-sizedwagon unveiled during the same event.
From April 30th through December 1st of1904, the Moline Wagon Company leveraged their heritage for impressive qualityand performance by displaying this gigantic vehicle at the Louisiana PurchaseExposition (World’s Fair) in St. Louis. The primary purpose of the exhibit was to stop folks in their trackswhile creating a lasting, positive impression of the brand. Today, that same principle for successfulmarketing still guides the most sophisticated and aggressive advertisers.Weighing close to 5 tons, thisdominating force of wood and steel measured 42 feet in length (including thetongue), 12 feet in overall width, and had 9 foot rear wheels. So impressive was this piece that the impactmade well over a century ago still has enthusiasts talking about it today. For generations, one of the most commonquestions has been, “What happened to that set of wheels?” It’s a query we don’t have conclusive answersfor but we can supply some new information about the vehicle. A few months ago, we uncovered a rare andpreviously unknown photo showing the same Moline being shown at a fair inMinneapolis, Minnesota. It appears thatthe St. Louis World’s Fair was just the first stop in a series of promotionalvenues for this piece. It’s an importantpart of the puzzle as the promotional tour may have ultimately left the vehicle farbeyond its original home in Illinois.
Next week, we’ll take a brief look atanother oversized vehicle we originally published in Volume One of our “Borrowed Time” book series.