Editor’s note: This is a reprint of a story that was originally printed in the Hannibal Courier-Post in 1938, in honor of the newspaper’s 100th anniversary.
This being a motor age, the appearance of a horse drawn buggy, surrey or even a farm wagon along Broadway is something of a rarity, but vehicles of this type were common place 25 years ago, and the manufacture of such vehicles along with farm implements of different type, was a flourishing business here for a number of years up until as late as the early Twenties.
In that the manufacture of these vehicles needed workmen of various trades, there was sometimes a force of six to 10 men employed by a manufacturer. Those skilled in the blacksmith trade being the most important in that much of the work had to do with the handling of heated iron and metal. In addition to blacksmiths, woodworkers, trimmers and painters were also involved in the work although the proprietor, or for that matter an employee could generally do any phase of the work.
As far back as 75 Years ago, there was a firm here that manufactured farm wagons and buggies of different types. It was managed by Peter Snyder and located on Third street between Broadway and Center streets, on the site now occupied by the Hopkins Motor company. (113-117 North Third street) Later this place was changed over to a livery stable.
Two other flourishing firms of this type were the S. F. Roderick firm, on North Main street, at the present site of the Cruikshank Lumber Company, (2001 Site of the Mark Twain Museum Annex) and the John Kaup firm, located on the southeast corner of Fourth and Center streets. Another such firm was managed by Henry Kahl in Oakwood.
John Kaup Headed Firm
John Kaup, 118 North 7th street, still remembers the days when the manufacture of buggies and wagons of different types was a flourishing business here. He operated such a firm at a site on the southeast corner of Fourth and Center streets. Such vehicles as buggies, spring wagons, delivery wagons, farm wagons. transfer wagons, and butcher carts were manufactured by Kaup’s firm and for years he supplied the city with delivery wagons for the local grocery stores.
When he started in business in 1887 there was not a paved street in Hannibal and he remembers many springs when the mud was two to three feet deep along Broadway for days at a time. He continued in business until 1922, the increase in automobiles lessening his business to the extent that he retired.
A blacksmith by trade, Kaup in addition to his work in his own firm did all the blacksmith work for the first street railway company here. A street railway had been contemplated here as early as 1868, but it was some years later before anything was done toward building it. On May 25, 1878 the Hannibal Street Railway company was incorporated with J. L. Van Every, Benton Coontz, E. B. Brewington, C. M. Armstrong, and William Van Every as incorporators. Within three days ground was broken and the project started, the first line running from Hill and Main streets to the junction of Broadway and Market streets. Mr. Kaup did the blacksmithing for this project.
In describing the manufacturing of buggies and wagons in his day, Mr Kaup remembers that there was no machinery. A saw and plane being the only tools the workmen had. With the exception of wheels purchased by his firm. the rest of his vehicles were built wholly by him and his helpers. Hickory and ash were used for the lumber, some of this being purchased here with some shipped from various other points. His list of employees included blacksmiths, woodworkers, painters and trimmers.
In the process of manufacture, the iron was molded into the correct shapes and proportions, the wood prepared also into the right sizes and shapes, after which the vehicle was assembled. painted and put on sale. Most of the sales were local, although some vehicles were shipped to other points, generally in cases of citizens who had once lived here and liked the type of work done by the Kaup firm.
S. F. Roderick was the other manufacturer of these vehicles and the cause for his entry into this business as related by Mr. Kaup, was what might be termed as “on the spur of the moment.” Roderick operated a grocery store on Broadway in the 300 block at the present site of Kline’s Department Store. (2001 Site of the Golden Ruler) According to Kaup’s story, a bill was presented to Roderick one day and among the items listed was a bolt at 10 cents. Roderick thought this an exorbitant price and said that if such prices could be charged for this sort of commodity he was going into the business, and knowing nothing about the blacksmith trade at the time. he started his firm, which grew to be a prosperous one in the following years.
The Roderick Firm
The Roderick firm was located on North Main street, at the present site of the Cruikshank Lumber Co. Among the vehicles manufactured by the Roderick Co., were farm wagons, spring wagons. buggies, surreys and a few delivery wagons. A flourishing blacksmith business was also carried on.
The proprietor bought the raw lumber, hickory and ash, and seasoned it himself. arranging it in piles with the date of arrival. None of this lumber was used until it had been seasoned for five years. As in Kaup’s firm, everything was made by hand, saws and planes being the only tools used. During the summer months the different smaller parts of vehicles were generally made and the different vehicles assembled during the winter months. At times a staff of 10 men was employed, including seven blacksmiths and three woodworkers. Fred Gwinner, proprietor of the Gwinner welding Shop, 216 North Third street, learned his trade with the Roderick firm, During the winter months as many as 100 wagons were assembled for spring sales.
Such parts as brakes for spring wagons, hubs and wheel spokes and axles were purchased. The axles were purchased in two pieces and welded together by the local firm in the desired lengths. The hubs and spokes, purchased for the wheels, were assembled by the local firm. At first, steel tires were put on the wheels, but later, rubber tires were used for the wheels of buggies and surreys.
In the matter of buggies and surreys, coal oil lights, the leather fenders, dashes and whip sockets of different styles were purchased. The Roderick firm also handled the Staver buggy which was made in Chicago.
The prices for farm wagons and buggies ranged from $50 to $60 while surreys ranged in price from $90 to $100. Some of these old time surreys were fancy vehicles in their day, with their rubber tires, coal oil lights, and fancy leather fenders, dashes and whip sockets. Some of the buggies had jump seats, a compartment much the same as the rumble seat on automobiles today. The jump seat could be folded up to make a plain back for the buggy, but when there were several passengers, it was folded back forming two additional seats for four people.
The Roderick firm, as that owned by Mr. Kaup, went out of business in the early 1920’s because of the increase in automobiles and decrease in demand for wagons and buggies.
The firm was incorporated as a stock company several years before it suspended business and was known in it’s later years as the “Roderick Buggy and Implement Co.”
Source: Hannibal Courier-Post, 1938