The Kentucky Studebaker
(Page 2 of 4)
Back home in my own element, I was confident I could find some answers. I dug through a number of Studebaker catalogs, flyers, trade cards, print ads and associated correspondence and found nothing. I talked to wagon collectors and traders and even re-read some early Studebaker articles and book chapters without luck. Despite my best efforts, that Studebaker stumped me.
A month passed and, as fortune would have it, I happened across an old dealer price list from the Kentucky Wagon Co. of Louisville, Ky. The flyer included prices and specifications on several wagon brands and gears that Kentucky made. One of the brands featured was - you guessed it - the Studebaker Model. I'd found my first piece of the puzzle, which turned out to be a very important piece.
I knew that Kentucky had purchased construction patterns and some parts from Studebaker after the wagon and automobile maker officially closed its wagon business in 1920. But that's all I'd ever seen written about their business relationship. The mystery wagon made me wonder: Did Kentucky have an agreement allowing them to use the Studebaker name?
To find out, I wrote the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Ind., and asked for help. According to the museum's archivist, this facet of Studebaker's history had never been explored in detail. With a little searching, however, the museum staff uncovered exactly what I was looking for: evidence of an old contract between the Studebaker Corporation and Kentucky Wagon Co.
In the minutes of an 83-year-old set of executive meeting notes, Studebaker not only resolved to sell the remaining wagons, wagon parts, patterns, blueprints, business records and advertising materials to the Louisville firm, but also licensed Kentucky to use the Studebaker name on wagons built from the authentic Studebaker patterns.
The resolution was dated January 5, 1921, and it authorized Kentucky to use the Studebaker name until June 30, 1923. Even though the Studebaker Co. had ended its wagon production, it seems there was still a great deal of life, as well as some profit, in the name recognition that came with the Studebaker identity.
The Studebaker model
Kentucky's agreement with Studebaker came none too soon. By 1920, the automobile industry had staked its claim on the transportation market and was running with a strong head of competitive steam. For wagon and carriage makers, that era brought a business environment that required a serious reconsideration of company strategies and goals, and Kentucky was no different.