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The Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois

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Wagons and Truck Bodies:

The History of the Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the July/August 1995 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

Restored Anthony wagon box on a home-made wagon gear ready to go to the field
The restored Anthony wagon box on a home-made gear is ready to go to the field.

Just as necessity is the mother of invention, so too necessity gives birth to a lot of restoration projects.  At the 1994 LeSueur Pioneer Power Show, my father Wayne Wells, brother Mark Wells, and I took on the assignment of operating the Paul Meyer/Wallace Bauleke 22″ McCormick-Deering thresher as a field demonstration on the Pioneer Power grounds near rural LeSueur, Minnesota.  (The Paul Meyer/Wallace Bauleke thresher was the subject of the story “History of a Thresher” contained in the May/June 1994 Belt Pulley, Vol. 7, No. 3, p. 19.)  Only my father had previous experience with setting up, leveling, belting and operating a thresher.  Nonetheless, with the help of other members of the Pioneer Power Association, including Doug Hager, Bill Radill, Jimmy Brandt and Dave Preuhs, we got the thresher correctly belted and running.  During the Show, the thresher proved to be a smooth-running and efficient thresher.

There was, however, one big problem we faced at the Show:  there was a definite shortage of grain wagons for all of the threshers that were running.  We could not use the modern-style gravity flow grain boxes because they were too tall to fit under the grain elevators of the old threshers.  Furthermore, the use of modern equipment around old threshers detracted from pictures that we all wanted to take during the Show.  The only answer was to find an old grain-box wagon and restore it for use at the Show during the field demonstrations.

Thus, in the late fall of 1994, Wayne Wells attended the Fahey Auction at Belle Plaine, Minnesota.  This auction, which is held several times a year, has become a regular event for old machinery buffs of the area.  At the auction, Wayne Wells found and purchased a nondescript, but heavy-duty, all-steel, flare-type wagon box without a running gear.

EPSON MFP image
The Anthony wagon box purchased by Wayne Wells is brought to the grounds of the Pioneer Power Association transported on a hay rack.

Closer inspection of the box revealed the name Anthony stamped into the rear panel of the wagon just above the tail gate.  Following the auction, Wayne Wells transported the Anthony wagon box to the grounds of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association aboard a hay rack.  On the grounds the Anthony wagon was stored under a shelter located on the grounds through the winter of 1994-1995.  Restoration of the Anthony wagon box began the following spring of 1995.

EPSON MFP image
Wayne A. Wells inspects the Anthony wagon box after its arrival on the grounds of the Pioneer Power Association in the winter of 1994-1995..

(An Anthony flare-type wagon box identical to the Wayne Wells wagon box is pictured in the beautiful cover photo of the March/April 1995 issue of Belt Pulley magazine being towed by an Oliver 77 and an Oliver Model 2 Corn Master corn picker.)  We knew very little about the Anthony wagon, and since we wanted to restore the wagon box and paint it the proper color, we had to do some research into the Anthony Company.

A 1949 Oliver Promotional Picture of the Field Research Crew picking corn with an Anthony wagon attached to the picker
A promotional photo showing the Oliver field research crew working with a Model 2 corn picker being powered by an Oliver Model 77 tractor, picking corn in the bumper crop of corn in the autumn of 1949. The wagon being towed by the corn picker is however, an Anthony wagon. The Oliver Company had yet to partner with the Electric Wheel Company of Quincy, Illinois, for the joint manufacture of the “Oliver-Electric” wheel gear and wagon boxes.

 

The Anthony Company was founded in 1917 by William Anthony, Paul Heflin and Mark Anthony, primarily for purposes of building truck bodies and hoists for trucks.  Initial capital for the Company was supplied by the founders and by means of a small loan from the Union National Bank of Streator, Illinois.  They began production of dump truck bodies at the factory of the L.P. Halladay Company located on Hickory Street in the city limits of Streator, Illinois.  Their product line positioned the Anthony Company to take full advantage of the strong demand for heavy equipment required for the building and repairing of roads and highways in the 1920s.  The Company grew rapidly and soon was serving markets in Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South America, the British Isles, and Australia.  The Anthony Company quickly outgrew its facility on Hickory Street, and in 1920 they moved their operations to another location on the north end of Baker Street.  This 12.2-acre complex on Baker Street was conveniently adjacent to the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad.

Inside the machine shop at the Anthony Company factory at Streator, Illinois
The roomy new machine shop at the Baker Street facility purchased by the Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois. This factory would later become known as rthe Anthony Company’s Plant #1.

 

The new location allowed the Company to grow and to become a leader in the nation in the production of truck bodies.  The Anthony Company was fortunate in having an extremely talented and dedicated work force.  Ralph Burt, Cecil Worrels, Gene Dapogny and Carl Bole all served as sales managers over the years.  Mark Anthony, son of company founder William Anthony, served as head of the export department.  Over the years Joseph Barrett served as general manager, John Lyons served as treasurer of the Company, and Ned Whitson and later Robert Hamilton served as plant managers.  Richard Fuller was superintendent of commercial products, James Wallif was superintendent of military products, and Ronald Durham headed the print department.  Herbert Dakin and later Lyle Mustered served as head of the Engineering Department.  Patrick McClernon was contract administrator, William Borglin was manager of the costs department, Carl Tapley was purchasing agent, Leroy Whyowski was director of quality control, and Larry Torres was production control manager.  Later, William Hall served as the head of a ten-person computer department at the company.  An article in the June 24, 1968, Streator Times-Press reported that in 1968, 81-year-old Paul Heflin was still reporting to work at the Anthony Company to perform his duties as secretary of the corporation.

Inside the main part of the Anthony Company factory at Streator, Illinois in 1947
The Anthony Company depended on the population for Streator, Illinois, for a loyal, steady, reliable and talented work force.

 

Herbert Dakin was another long-term employee of the Anthony Company.  Working as the head designer for the engineering department, he designed the famous telescoping-style of hydraulic hoists for dump trucks.  Development of the telescoping hoist effected a revolution in the trucking business.  (Although Herbert Dakin died in 1975 at the age of 86, his granddaughter, Leslie Poldek, continues to keep memories of the Anthony Company alive as librarian of the Streator Public Library.)  In the early 1940s, Frank Novotney, sales manager for the Anthony Company, designed the first hydraulic lift gate.  Lift gates were folding platforms which fitted to the rear ends of trucks.  These platforms would hydraulically raise and lower from street level to the level of the bed on the truck.  This would allow the driver of the truck, unassisted, to load and unload very heavy equipment.  The lift gate became one of the Company’s most popular products.

Anthony Company Plant in Streeter Illinois
The Anthony Company Plant located in Streator, Illinois in 1963.

Like other companies during World War II, the Anthony Company was restricted to the manufacture of only those products which were needed for the war effort.  The United States Government, however, contracted with the Anthony Company for the production of all kinds of truck bodies for the United States Armed Forces.  One of their largest contracts called for them to produce dump truck bodies for the building of the Alaskan Highway project.  During this contract, the work force broke all known production records for the manufacture of the largest single fleet of heavy duty dump truck bodies.  The Company and its work force was awarded the Army-Navy “E” (Excellence) award for the manufacture of wartime materials.

The Anthony Company of Streator Illinois faced layoffs and cut backs until the Marshall Plan was announced in June of 1947
As the Second World War ended the Anthony Company faced layoffs and cutbacks as they faced the sudden end of military war contracts and a difficult transition to a peacetime economy.

In 1945, just as the Second World War was ending, amid rejoicing that the “boys would soon be coming home,” there was a feeling of uncertainty about the future.  This feeling was based on clear memories of the end of the First World War which had caused a sudden 15% inflationary spike in prices followed by a recession in the spring of 1920.  (Grieder, William, Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country [Simon and Schuster: New York, NY, 1987], pp. 289-290.)  Typically, at the conclusion of a war, businesses were forced to find other markets for their goods or to re-tool for the manufacture of new products more fitted to peacetime economy.  All too often businesses could not adjust to the new economic conditions, thus throwing their workers into unemployment.

In 1945, this fear was a sour note sounded amidst the celebration!  Several small companies, which had been forced by the War Production Board to produce only products for the war effort, now found their situation desperate as they scrambled to find a niche in the civilian peacetime economy.  One of those companies was the Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois.  Indeed, the atmosphere at the Anthony Company was gloomy as they faced the return to peacetime economy.  There was no current large peacetime demand for truck bodies, nor was there any foreseeable circumstances that offered any hope of a large demand for truck bodies in the future.

The post-war era caused some anxiety among the workforce of the Anthony Company until the Marshakll Plan was announced in ajune of 1947
Fear of the post-war economy and the suden loss of government contracts created anxiety among the workforce of the Anthony Company in 1946.

 

However, on June 5, 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall gave the commencement address at Harvard University.  The speech was used as an opportunity to announce a new Truman Administration proposal for United States aid to be sent to Europe to assist post-war recovery.  (David McCullough, Truman, [Simon and Schuster: New York, NY 1992], pp. 562-563.)  This program, eventually to be called the Marshall Plan, envisioned a mobilization of the whole productive capacity of United States agriculture to fend off starvation in Europe and to help get the European economy moving again. Continue reading The Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois