The Challenger

| August 2001

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    Springfield placed in its wagons
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    A display in a 1915 Springfield catalog
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    Springfield Wagon Company Catalog

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The Springfield Wagon Company could be called the company that didn't blink. Through nearly 80 years of business, it took on many bigger companies head on, challenging them on their own terms. Now, the Springfield Wagon Company could be called the company that wouldn't die.

About 200 people recently gathered at Founder's Park in Springfield, Mo. to attend a public forum in order to share their common interest in an early-day vehicle. They collected memorablia, one-of-a-kind photographs, and videotaped interviews. They also celebrated the return of a company that closed fifty years ago.

The original Springfield Wagon Company, which operated near the scene of the collectors' meet, sold many thousands of wagons from 1872 until 1941, when the factory relocated to Fayetteville, Ark. 'Farm and road' type wagons were made there near the Ozark hardwood forests until 1951. The wagon was one of the last high-wheeled vehicles in production.

Springfield wagons were made from the best materials. The yellow poplar box was finished in green with yellow striping, and the brand name was printed in white-painted block type. Its oak or hickory running gear, including spoked (12 in front and 14 in the taller rear) wheels were orange, trimmed in black. This combination of distinct colors would remain trademarks of the well-known wagon for 80 years.

When Springfield entered the market for wagons, it was a little fish in a big pond. Three major wagon manufacturers looked down their proverbial noses at the fledgling company. Studebaker had one of the longest pedigrees and was probably the most successful wagon at the time, followed closely by the Bain and Schuttler wagon companies. These companies were not alone. Birch, Wilson, John Deere and others had begun to establish footholds in the market.

When it went out of business in 1951, though, Springfield was the largest (and practically the last) producer of wagons in the country. Studebaker made the transition early to producing 'gas buggies' and put Old Dobbin out to pasture. John Deere and International had bought up several patents to stay in the 'road and farm' wagon market until the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Bain and Peter Schuttler companies were absorbed into the Springfield firm, which continued to place the former maker's brand names on sideboards to appease loyal farmers.


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