Electric Wheel Co. Titans of the Steel Wheel Business

John Stillwell founded the Electric Wheel Co. in 1890, and the steel wheel business was never the same


| June 2003



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Sam Moore

The Electric Wheel Co. became a 'titan' among wheel makers

A growing number of antique tractors are sporting newly made, Titan-brand tires during the past few years, and some would assume the tires we: made in Yugoslavia, Mexico or some other country where labor is cheap. As it turns out, Titan has a long and interesting lineage that traces back to Quincy, Ill., before the turn of the 20th century.

About 1888, a young man named John A Stillwell left his family home in Hannibal, Mo., and traveled a short distance up the Mississippi River to Quincy, Ill. He met and married Elizabeth Newcomb, the oldest daughter of Richard Newcomb, one of the richest men in Quincy.

John Stillwell and his partners founded the Electric Wheel Co. at Quincy in 1890 to build wheels for farm implements, wagons and other equipment. Exactly why they chose the name 'Electric Wheel' is unclear, although they probably planned to use the electric welding process just invented by Elihu Thomson.

William Bettendorf invented built-up steel wheels in the 1880s, but virtually all farm wagon and equipment wheels still used hubs, spokes and rims made of wood, all held together by a steel 'tire.' While the Bettendorf Metal Wheel Co. - which later became the French & Hecht Co. - began steel wheel production two years earlier in 1888, the Electric Wheel Co. was certainly an early competitor in the newfangled steel wheel business.

In spite of the steel wheel's advantages, many farmers questioned its durability. An undated letter from an Alabama man to the Electric Wheel Co. demonstrates the opposition to steel wheels: 'Mr. Mason is a country raised mechanic and said the wide tire steel wheels would not suit this country; that they would crimp and bend between the spokes, and later after I bought my wheels and had used them he contended that the tire would soon wear out, etc. So two or three weeks ago we were hauling bridge iron from Watumpka to Irma and I put on 4,000 lbs, had four small mules to my wagon, came right on with it to the astonishment of all who saw my load and team. Messrs. Mason & Holley told my brother that I would never pull 4,000 lbs. with the team I had nor would the wagon bear it. So when I drove onto their (Mason & Holley's) scales, my gross load was 5,042 lbs.'

The Electric Wheel Co. subsequently built wheels for most types of wagons, farm machinery and construction equipment. It also built a variety of wagon running gear for both farm and city use, including gear for wagons used in orchards, oil fields, lumberyards, heavy log hauling, as well as cook houses, peddler wagons and heavy dump wagons for construction. Several models of complete wooden wagons with grain boxes were also offered.

jilljillharrison
11/27/2017 5:19:55 PM

Can anyone tell me what my waggon wherles are worth they are 10 spoke 44in and says EWC RS•72


jilljillharrison
11/27/2017 5:19:51 PM

Can anyone tell me what my waggon wherles are worth they are 10 spoke 44in and says EWC RS•72