Studebaker wagons pave way for buggies & cars
Getting back to the Studebaker family story and their vehicle-building business, we take up right after the Civil War.
The brothers were aggressive in promoting their products. They advertised in newspapers, mailed out catalogs and exhibited at fairs and farm shows. They donated a wagon to the state agricultural school at Columbia, Mo., - and made sure all the papers heard about it.
Local hauling contests always made news, and the Studebakers tried to ensure their wagons were represented as often as possible. Once, in a Kokomo, Ind., weight contest, a Studebaker and a Webster wagon were loaded with progressively heavier loads of wheat. At 14,320 pounds, a spoke on the Studebaker cracked, and the Webster dealer thought he'd won.
They kept going, though, and at 19,260 pounds, the Webster's front axle cracked. More wheat was brought, and both wagons limped 82 more feet with 20,665 pounds aboard. The Studebaker dealer threw on six more bushels and moved another 20 feet. The Webster dealer gave up at that point but claimed victory because none of his spokes had cracked. The Studebaker man was just as sure he was the victor because his axles held up and he moved the load the furthest of the two.
Disastrous fires hit the South Bend, Ind., Studebaker factory in 1872 and 1874, but in 1875, the firm still advertised itself as 'The Largest Vehicle House in the World.' It reported $1 million worth of business.
Studebaker built more than wagons, too. The company's carriages came in every style, from sulky carts to luxurious five-window landaus, and after Clement Studebaker himself traveled to Europe to open up the market there, and President Hayes and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant began using Studebaker landaus in this country, orders poured in from all over the world for both wagons and carriages.
In 1915, a Mrs. Smith from Natron, Ore., wrote the company: 'In the fall of 1878, we needed a wagon to haul our wheat. Mr. Smith arose early one morning and riding one horse and leading another, he went to Eugene, Ore., and bought a Studebaker wagon from an agent there. I well remember him getting home at midnight, for I sat up and kept his supper warm for him. My oldest child, born in June, was three months old. My baby is now 35 years old. The old Studebaker wagon is still our favorite wagon, and it is still in good condition.'
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