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.

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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.

An Aerial view of the Anthony Company factory in Streator, Illinois taken inb the 1940s. This shows the railroad connection with the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad.

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.

William Anthony, the founder of the Anthony Company in Streater, Illinois.

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.

Dump truck bodies were a second early success for the Anthony Company in the post-war era.

The significance of the plan was not lost on the nation’s farmers.  Although the plan had yet to receive the approval of Congress, the effect on the farm economy was immediate.  There was a rise in the price of farm products which resulted in a strong demand for new and improved farm machinery.  For the agricultural sector of the United States economy, the post-war slump was over.

The Anthony Company saw new possibilities in the domestic farm equipment market, and struck upon the possibility of selling farm equipment abroad under the Marshall Plan as well as capturing a piece of the domestic market for new farm machinery here in the United States.  It was determined that the Company could transfer their expertise in the production of truck bodies to the production of farm wagons.  The design for the all-steel, welded uni-body, flare-type wagon box betrayed its heritage and ancestry from the heavy-duty truck bodies.

The Anthony Company workers assemble truck beds and wagon boxes in 1947
Workers at the Anthony Plant #1 building truck bodies during the Second World War.

 

A new farm equipment division was initiated under the corporate umbrella of the Anthony Company, and the old ABC washing machine factory on Broadway Street in the city of Streator was purchased.  This facility became know as Anthony Company’s Plant No. 2.  Production of Anthony all-steel, flare-type grain wagons for farm use was begun.  Each box was identified by the name “Anthony” pressed into the rear panel.  The wagon boxes were then painted with the Company’s characteristic “Chinese Red” paint.  (Hardware Hank stores carry “Chinese Red” as Valspar 1610 in an aerosol spray can.  The matching paint in a gallon or half-gallon can is “Ming Red” or Valspar 7010.)

Inside the paint shop applying the chinese red paint to wagon boxes at the Anthony Company factory at Streator, Illinois
Inside the paint shop at the Anthony Company factory in Streator, Illinois, the “Chinese red” paint was added to the wagon boxes and truck bodies manufactured at the factory.

 

The Anthony Company used a lot of heavy-gauge steel in the production of their wagon box and wagon gear, resulting in a very strong and durable wagon.  Consequently, the Anthony Company became a large consumer of steel, and contracted with Inland Steel Company and U.S. Steel Company to meet their requirements.  At peak production, those requirements were for 28 to 30 tons of steel per day!

The Anthony lift gate was an early successful product manufactured by the Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois in the post-World War II era.

 

Sales of the Anthony wagon box flourished, and Plant No. 2 on Broadway Street was kept humming with activity.  Although Plant No. 2 was located next to the Santa Fe Railroad, which ran east to Chicago and west to Kansas City, Missouri (Robert P. Howard, Illinois: A History of the Prairie State, William B. Eerdmanns Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, Michigan [1972], p. 396), most shipments of wagons for the domestic farm market left the Broadway Street plant by means of truck rather than by rail.

Mark Anthony, now of Oakland, California, remembers that the Company, over the course of its history, had developed a close-working relationship with the Caterpillar Company and Fruehauf trailer Corporation, and shared dealerships and distributors with these two companies.  This relationship grew naturally out of Anthony’s association with the trucking and road-building industries.  Anthony truck bodies tended to compliment the line of trucking and road-building equipment offered by Caterpillar and Fruehauf.  This corporate networking, however,  did nothing to help Anthony’s farm equipment division reach the domestic farm market.  Instead, a whole new network of distributors had to be established and the Anthony wagons boxes and rubber-tired running gear were marketed domestically as a short line of farm equipment, both through individual contracts with wholesalers and with farm equipment dealers.  One of these small independent dealerships was Becker and Pruehs located at 107 Main Street in LeSueur, Minnesota, from 1947 through 1949. According to founder Wilfred Preuhs, Becker and Preuhs sold a variety of “short line” farm products, including the Anthony rubber-tired running gears.  They did not, however, sell Anthony wagon boxes.

An advertisement of the Anthony Company dump truck bodies.

 

Indeed, there was no consistent chain of dealerships which sold Anthony farm wagon boxes throughout the nation.  Although an Anthony wagon is pictured in the 1950-51 Oliver promotional photo from the Charles City archives which is on the cover of the March/April 1995 issue of Belt Pulley magazine, there is no evidence that Anthony wagons were ever sold by Oliver dealers.  The Oliver Company had their own arrangement with the Electric Wheel Company to sell Oliver-Electric wagon boxes and running gears at Oliver dealerships.

The Anthony Company’s farm equipment division also tried to boost sales by exhibiting their wagons at the Iowa and Minnesota State Fairs.  The farm equipment division was also a regular exhibitor at the very popular Clay County Fair in Spencer, Iowa.  The advertising of the wagon was successful.  Farmers were impressed with the heavy-duty, all-steel construction of the Anthony wagon box, and sales of the wagon grain boxes mushroomed.

The Anthony family sold their interest in the Company in the 1950s to a group of Chicago investors, including B.G. Kaplan, Milton Morris and J. Davidson.  The Anthony Company continued to produce farm wagons for some time after the departure of the Anthony family; however, in the following years, much of the farm equipment division was sold to DMI Company which is headquartered in Goodfield, Illinois, and the truck bodies division was sold to Midwest Bodys Company of Paris, Illinois.  Today, the only portion of the Anthony Company which still retains its facilities in Streator is known as the Anthony Lift-Gate Company which is headquartered in Pontiac, Illinois.

img347
The Anthony wagon box purchased by the late Wayne A. Wells is ready for use in the spring of 1995. Appropriately, the 1945 Farmall Model B, a common small second tractor on many family farms of the 1940s and 50s is hitched and ready to take the wagon to the field.

Restoration of the Anthony grain box owned by the Wayne Wells began in late April of 1995.  Because the grain box was without an accompanying wagon gear, we first searched for an appropriate Anthony wagon gear.  Being unsuccessful, we settled on a rubber-tired wagon gear which was “shop-built” in the late 1940s by Ralph Nash, mechanic at the Ray Christian John Deere dealership in LeSueur, Minnesota. Ralph Nash was somewhat crippled and had a hard time walking, but he was known in the LeSueur community as an engineering master and a  genius mechanic and welder, who could create just about anything in the shop of the Ray Christian dealership.  This particular wagon gear was constructed by welding the front wheels, axle and steering assembly from a Reo truck to another set of front wheels and axle from a Ford truck.  This particular construction by Ralph Nash allowed for the Anthony wagon box to have an especially “low profile” when mounted on this wagon gear.  The “low profile” allows the wagon to be parked in low sheds with low hanging doors and under low-hanging lean-to style structures found on many small farms.

The wagon was made for Clarence Preuhs, father of current Belt Pulley subscriber, Dave Preuhs.  The wagon gear bore a wooden flare box and served as one of the grain wagons on the Preuhs farm for many years.  The rims of the wagon gear had been painted John Deere yellow, which made a nice contrast to the “Ming red” paint of the wagon box when the repainted box was mounted on the gear.

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The restored Anthony wagon is employed as a grain wagon for the first time at the 1995 Le Sueur County Pioneer Power Show.  This picture shows the “low profile” of the Anthony wagon when mounted on the wagon gear made by Ralph Nash,.

The restored wagon is now ready to serve many more years as a grain wagon at the LeSueur Pioneer Power Threshing Show.   It is also sure to be used by members in the off season for various tasks; however, its new life will be much easier than its former life.  Like all machinery at the LeSueur Pioneer Power site, the wagon is primarily an exhibit for the viewing public.  Accordingly, the wagon will be stored indoors, out of the elements, and will be paraded each year at the Show for the benefit of the public.

The restored wagon is now ready to serve many more years as a grain wagon at the LeSueur Pioneer Power Threshing Show.   It is also sure to be used by members in the off season for various tasks; however, its new life will be much easier than its former life.  Like all machinery at the LeSueur Pioneer Power site, the wagon is primarily an exhibit for the viewing public.  Accordingly, the wagon will be stored indoors, out of the elements, and will be paraded each year at the Show for the benefit of the public.

(Summer of 2016 UPDATE:  This article was written in the mid-1990s.  Clearly, the article envisioned the future use of the red painted Anthony wagon box mounted on the Ralph-Nash-built wagon gear, as a grain wagon in the threshing demonstrations each year at the annual LeSueur Pioneer Power Show and envisioned use of the wagon “by members [of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association] in the off season for various tasks.”  In actual fact, it is the use of the Anthony wagon for “off season” tasks that has come to dominate the entirety of the use of the Anthony wagon.  The Anthony wagon has settled into a role as a year-around utility  wagon for the Melanounek-Deutsch sawmill on the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association.

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A rear view of the Anthony flared-style wagon box mounted on the home-made wagon gear

In the autumn of 1980, a Melanounek-Deutsch sawmill was discovered at a location in rural St. Clair, Minnesota area by the late William (Bill) Witzany and Loren Lindsay, both members of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association.   (The Melanounek-Deutsch sawmill had, originally, been built in New Prague, Minnesota in the the 1880s.  Members of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Show brought the sawmill to the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association in late-May of 1981.  The Melanounek-Deutsch sawmill was setup and demonstrated for the public at the 1981 Pioneer Power Show sawing logs into lumber, and has been demonstrated at every annual show since 1981.  The process of sawing of logs, however, creates a great amount of “slab lumber” which is generally regarded as waste material.  However, the slab lumber can be burned in the boilers of the steam engines which are also demonstrated in field demonstrations around the Pioneer Power grounds during the annual August show, if the long pieces of slab wood can be cut down to the proper size to fit into the doors of the fireboxes of the various steam engines.  Thus, a cross-cut “buzz saw” was mounted on the 1944 Farmall H bearing the serial number 173093, which had been purchased by Wayne Wells in the summer of 1993 and had been restored and repainted in the years that followed.  In 2003, Berlyn Tieg, a member of the “sawmill gang” requested of the Wells family that No. 173093 be mounted with a buzz saw and be used as a full time utility tractor by the sawmill gang to cut up the waste “slab wood” that resulted  from the sawing of logs.  Thus, the 1944 Farmall H continues to be used by the “saw mill gang” of the Melanounek-Deutsch sawmill to cross-cut the long pieces of slab wood on a year-around basis, to reduced the long slab wood pieces to a proper size to be burned in the fireboxes of the steam engines on Pioneer Power grounds during the annual show

Once sawn, the proper-sized slab wood pieces are tossed into the Anthony flare-box wagon.  During the annual August Show on the Pioneer Power grounds the wagon full of wood pieces is towed out the area on the grounds, where the steam engines are operating where the wood is used throughout the annual Show.  So much a part of the Melanounek-Deutsch sawmill display and operation is the Anthony wagon that “Sawmill” has been stenciled on the sides of the wagon box.

During the off-season both the 1944 Farmall H bearing the serial No. 173093 and the Anthony wagon box on the Ralph Nash-built wagon gear are stored in an enclosed area in the back of the Melanounek-Deutsch sawmill building safe from the snow and ice of the Minnesota winters.)

It is hoped that restoration of the Anthony wagon box owned by the Wells family and the use of the wagon at the LeSueur Pioneer Power Show will serve as a monument to the people who manufactured, sold and used this fine quality wagon box.

4 thoughts on “The Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois”

  1. I am trying to find out what an Anthony grain wagon with rubber tired running gear is valued at. It has original paint and anthony logos no structure damage at all and only minor paint pitting. I recently purchased this trailer for utility work but it seems there aren’t many left around. Is there an antique or collectors value?
    Great article without it I wouldn’t have any info on the company.
    Thank you for your time

    Austin shepperd
    US Army Retired

  2. A friend has this piece of equipment with a name tag on it with this info; Hoist model T6383, s/n H092133078, body length 10, overhang 12. It looks like an old dump truck bed is attached to the frame. It has large tires on it. What is this piece of equipment called, what was it`s use and is there any interest in purchase from anyone or should it possibly considered as money towards steel scrap prices? I do have a couple of pictures on my phone if interested.
    Thank you,
    Mark
    Wichita, Ks

  3. Have antique Anthony flare wagon on Wards gear to sell- I do not want to junk as my father bought from Wards in Aurora in 1946.
    Stored inside with fair paint.
    rod

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