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Columbia Wagon Co. ; Columbia Body Corp.
Columbia Wagon Co. (aka Columbian), 1889-1924; Columbia Body Corp. (aka Columbia Wagon & Body), 1924-1926; Columbia, Pennsylvania; Columbia Wagon Co. of N.Y., 1890s-1920s; New York, New York
Associated Firms
Parvin Iron Wagon Co.

Not to be confused with the identically-named Columbia Wagon Co. of Columbia, Missouri who also manufactured farm wagons in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Also unrelated to the Columbia Body Co. / Columbia Body Corp. of Detroit, Michigan who offered a similar product line of truck bodies during the teens and twenties. The Detroit firm used the phrase 'Better Bodies' in their advertising and surviving examples feature a small burnished Columbia script underneath the lower front seat cushion.

An early Columbia Wagon Co. catalog listed their address as 'Plane and P. R. R., Columbia, Penn., and stated they were manufacturers and wholesale dealers of farm wagons, dumping wagons, municipal trash wagons, carts & sleighs. The catalog offered a full line of "Columbian," "Eli" and "OK" farm and freight wagons; and "Columbian" dumper, carts, contractors' wagons, and bob sleds.

Columbia's founder, William Tredenick Garrison, was born September 26, 1849 in Salem, Salem County, New Jersey to Daniel J. and Rebecca (Brinton Tredenick) Garrison. Of English origin, our subject's father, Daniel J. Garrison, was born on November 29, 1811 to William T. Garrison (our subject's namesake), a wealthy Salem County real estate dealer. During the War of 1812 our subject's grandfather served as Captain of a local militia. He married Ann Curry and the union was blessed with the birth of three children of whom Daniel J. Garrison - the father of our subject - was the second in order of birth. Daniel J. was educated for the ministry in the Episcopal Church at Cambria College, Ohio, after which he attended New York City's Episcopal Theological Seminary. Upon graduation he filled the pulpit for only a short time, deciding he was better suited to the life of a farmer. He married Rebecca Brinton and returned to Salem County, N.J., their union being blessed by the birth of five children; Emily Eloise (1842-1905); Josephine A. (1844-1919), Daniel - a practicing physician of Penn's Grove, N.J. (1847-1909); William T. – our subject; and Virginia Caroleen (1852-1898) Garrison, the wife of William T. King of Mt. Clair, N.J. Our subject's father, Daniel J. Garrison, preceded his wife in death, passing away on April 11, 1891.

William T. Garrison received his elementary education from a private tutor after which he attended Andalusia College in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in1869. Soon afterward his father developed a serious illness and 20 year-old William  was placed in charge of the family's 200-acre Salem County estate. His father slowly recovered and in 1881 William joined the Parvin Iron Wagon Co. of Penns Grove, New Jersey as treasurer. The wagon works was founded by Robert C. Parvin, a prolific inventor who patented an all-iron wagon gear (US Pat. No. 231082) in 1870 (awarded in 1880). During Parvin's lifetime he was awarded the following patents – all relating to agricultural implements: US65263, US119878; US122848; US122849; US122850; US125843, US231082. Penns Grove was located directly across the Delaware River from Wilmington, and maintained a large customer base in Delaware's largest city.

On January 30, 1878 Garrison married Jane - aka Jennie - Smith Remington, the daughter of James and Lucilla (Blackfan Fell) Remington. The couple remained childless for the next 13 years, but on June 20, 1892 their union was blessed with the birth of a son, Paul Remington Garrison (b. 1892 - d. 1973).

In 1889 Garrison resigned his position as treasurer of the Parvin Iron Wagon Co., and relocated to Columbia, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania where he established the Columbia Wagon Company. Gotlieb Young, president of the Columbia Brewery, graciously provided the ground on which the factory was located and H.H. Heise, a local banker and farm implement distributor, solicited the citizens of Columbia to subscribe to the firms initial offering of stock, which by 1893 had grown to $50,000 in authorized capital.

At that time the firm occupied two 2-story 48 x 100 ft. brick buildings which were supplied by their own foundry, kiln and lumberyard. The 1895 Report of the Pennsylvania Dept. of Factory Inspectors lists the Wagon Co. with 50 employees, all of whom worked a 60 hour work week, with an average of 72 wagons being produced each week under the watchful eye of factory manager William H. Platt.

Columbia also had a long-established a factory branch employing 30 mechanics in New York City, which occupied Nos. 422- 426 West Fifteenth Street. An 1894 document lists the following board of directors; Andrew Garber; John C. Forrey; H.F. Yergey; J.H. Herr; Mart Strebig; H.H. Heise; Gotlieb Young; J.B. Hutchinson; and W.T. Garrison. Garrison also served as Treasurer of the Columbia Flint Co.

The September 30, 1897 edition of the Trenton Evening Times included a description of the firm's display at the 1897 New Jersey State Fair:

"The Columbia Wagon Company, of Columbia, Pa, exhibit some of their farm and road wagons, contractors' wagons, dumpers and carts, business wagons, &c. The agent in this section is W. J. Bowland, of Monmouth Junction."

The September 30, 1898 edition of the Jeffersonville National Democrat (Indiana):

"ARMY WAGONS Received at Factory and Then Rejected Here.

"Two hundred army wagons at the Quartermaster's Depot are likely to be returned to the builders because they are not up to the specifications. One-hundred were built at Toledo, O., by the Milburn Wagon Company and the others were made by the Columbia Wagon Company, of Columbia, Pa. Each wagon is worth about $100. Capt. J.M. Brinkman and J.A. Risdon, inspectors in the employ of the Government, visited the depot yesterday and inspected the wagons, although the vehicle s had been received by them from the manufacturers before they were placed on the cars.

"Mr. Risdon was seen last evening and he said: 'The wagons were not accepted at the depot because of a variation in specifications. It amounts virtually to nothing. Assistant Quartermaster General Moore, of Washington, inspected those made at Columbia, Pa., and he said they were all right. The wagons were made after a sample pattern, and the officials from the Jeffersonville depot had not been notified of the change. We will get through the inspection Wednesday.'

"As far as Col. Barnett, Assistant Quartermaster, who is in temporary charge of the Jeffersonville depot, is concerned, the wagons, it is understood, will not be received by him unless the authorities in Washington agree to their acceptance. Mr. Brinkman inspected the wagons made in Toledo."

Biographical Annals of Lancaster Co., 1903, p. 1205:

"H. F. Yergey is treasurer and manager of the Columbia Wagon Company, at Columbia, Lancaster county, Pennsylvania."

A jeweler by trade, Yergey was also treasurer of the Columbia Telephone Co.

In 1904 Columbia touted an annual production capacity of 7,000 wagons.

October 17, 1906 issue of Municipal Journal and Engineer:

WAGONS ON EXHIBIT All Styles Shapes and Sizes of the Dump Variety Shown at Carriage Dealers Annual Exposition New York City.

"The Columbia Wagon Company, Columbia, Pa., exhibited a rear end dumper. The manufacturer reports a demand for wagon of this design for work where the drop bottom cannot be used, accordingly they make a very heavy wagon strongly ironed for hard usage. Another wagon, the Josiah F. Day patent bottom dumper, has chain hinges - the bottom raised by crossed chains front and rear operated from and under the driver's seat. A new bottom dumper with a chain running under both doors and over an equalizer in the rear and with one winding point under the seat was also exhibited."

Good Roads Year Book, Volume 4, pub. 1915:

"Columbia Wagon Company: W.T. Garrison, president; H.F. Yergey, treasurer and manager; Edward B. Smith, secretary; Columbia, Pennsylvania.

"Columbian - Trade name given to dump wagons and carts manufactured by the Columbia Wagon Company, Columbia, Pennsylvania.

"The Susquehanna - Trade name given to a dump wagon manufactured by the Columbia Wagon Company Columbia, Pennsylvania."

A 1907-1908 Columbia Sleigh catalog is in the collection of the Hagley Museum & Library, Wilmington, Delaware:

"Illustrated catalogue of the Columbia Wagon Company: a line of cutters, business sleighs, business bob-sleds, farm and heavy bob-sleds."

In 1910 Columbia launched a lawsuit just after the turn of the century against the Eagle Wagon Co., of Auburn, New York. The suits were all based around the premise that US patent No. 699,262, issued May 6, 1902, to Matthew Van Wagenen, founder of Eagle, was issued in error. Columbia president, William T. Garrison, argued that a nearly identical device (which raised the doors of a dump wagon) had been used in the railroad industry prior to Van Wagenen's patent application. William T. Garrison as president, originally sued Eagle in 1910, the results of which were reported in the August 6, 1910 edition of the Syracuse Herald:


"A decision has been handed down by Judge Holland of the United States Circuit Court for the Eastern district of Pennsylvania, holding a patent owned by the Eagle Wagon Company of Auburn to be valid and infringed upon by the dumping wagon manufactured by the Columbia Wagon Company of Columbia, Pa. The patent covers a device for the raising of the doors of a dump wagon and, it is said, that practically all wagons in use employ a mechanism substantially like the one in controversy.

"The patent was issued to Matthew Van Wagenen who for many years conducted a factory in this city. At his death the patent and good will of his business was sold by his widow to the Eagle Wagon Company, which later was moved to Auburn."

Garrison / Columbia Wagon, appealed the decision and were once again thwarted, the March 9, 1914 edition of the Syracuse Herald reporting:

"Van Wagenen Patents Sustained By Court

"Justice Charles M. Hough of the United State court for Southern district of New York has sustained the patents obtained by the late Matthew Van Wagenen of this city on devices for emptying dump wagons mechanically. His decision was handed down in the suit of William T. Garrison, president of the Columbia Wagon company of Columbia, Pa., against the Eagle Wagon works of Auburn, successors to Mr. Van Wagenen.

"Mrs. Van Wagenen sold out the patents and the business to the Eagle works in 1902, after the death of her husband. The Eagle Works moved the business to Auburn. Some time later they sued the Columbia Wagon company for infringement on patent rights and were sustained both in the District court and in the Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Mr. Garrison next attacked the exclusive rights of the Eagle company to the patent, claiming that there had been a similar attachment on railroad cars for dumping before the Van Wagenen device was invented.

"In his decision dismissing this second action, Justice Hough declared that the new evidence was weak and did not warrant a reversal of the Circuit court, which would have been an unusual and extreme course for his, a trial court, to pursue.

"Parsons, Bell and Bodell represented the Eagle Works."

A feature article on the Columbia operation was included in the June 1914 edition of the Carriage Monthly:

"Columbia Wagon Company

"Wagon optimism has been the keynote of the horse vehicle situation throughout the past year. The confident feeling in the wagon trade entered with the new year, and when the early spring selling season opened up, the sales, both in city and country, exceeded the most sanguine expectations. Summer has arrived, but there has been no abatement of orders, and the result is that wagon factories manufacturing a product of recognized worth are having all the work they car to handle.

"There is every reason to believe in the continued prosperity of the wagon industry—a prosperity that is shared by manufacturers and dealers alike. The expansion in the trade is yet on the increase, and wagon buying has not yet reached its height.

"Encouraging as were all the conditions in the trade at the beginning of 1914, there were not even at that time so many reasons for anticipating a prosperous year as are now to be discerned.

"Reports from jobbers whose territories dot the land from Maine to Oregon and from the Canadian boundary line to the Gulf, ring with the optimism born of certainty, that big things are in store for the wagon trade for the rest of this year and in the year to come.

"Dealers are equally optimistic, a considerable proportion of them having already arranged for their stocks for fall selling, and there is an active inquiry concerning lines of standard makes.

"The sales manager of a Philadelphia accessory house selling to wagon makers, recently returned from a trip that embraced 16 States, tells us he found only one locality where the wagon business could be termed poor, and this condition was caused entirely by local circumstances. Everywhere else he found wagons selling as they have not sold for some time past.

"The Columbia Wagon Co., Columbia, Pa, always in touch with the developments of the industry, is experiencing the biggest year in all its history. The demands of the trade are heavy and exacting, but the facilities oi the immense factory plant are equal to the task of supplying the thousands of 'Columbian' wagons that are being sold through American vehicle dealers as well as the considerable quantity that are regularly exported to foreign countries.

"The office force and the field organization, both comprised of picked men who understand the wagon proposition 'from A to Z,' are in the best possible shape both to assist you in ordering just the kind of goods you want and in seeing to it that you get the goods when you want them.

"In a rush season a great deal depends on prompt deliveries, and the hundreds of dealers who have 'tied up' for years with the Colombian goods know the promptness oi Columbian service. They know their orders will be shipped when promised, no matter how busy the factory, and that when the goods arrive they will be 'right' in every particular. The Columbian trade-mark is a 'seal of confidence' in the wagon trade.

"The several illustrations on this page show some of the departments of the big Columbian factory at Columbia, Pa.

"Wheel Department, Columbia Wagon Co.

"The blacksmith shop, shown in one of the views, is 125 feet long by 90 feet wide. In it can be found all the latest devices to facilitate this branch of the work, such as drop hammers, tire setters, punching machines, wheel boxing, threading and bending machines.

"The woodworking department is equipped with all the latest improved machinery designed for the rapid and perfect execution of wagon woodwork. This department is equipped with electric motors, each machine having its own separate motor.

"The painting department of the Columbia Wagon Works is right up to date, furnished with the most modern devices calculated to secure best results in appearance and durability of the paint surfaces.

"The entire plant is equipped with an automatic sprinkler system with two sources of water supply, one of them a 40,000-gallon tank.

"Over one million feet of lumber is carried in the seasoning sheds, so that there is always on hand an abundance of well-seasoned and high-grade material.

"W.T. Garrison is president of the Columbia Wagon Co., and has held this office ever since the organization of the company in 1889. H.F. Yergey, treasurer and manager, has been connected with the company for the past 15 years. Edward B. Smith, secretary, entered the employ of the concern in 1890, and served in the capacity of bookkeeper for eight years, when he was elected secretary.

"The sales department is under the direct supervision of the president of the company, W.T. Garrison, who looks after the territory near the factory. New York and New England trade is in charge of V.D. Ten Broeck and H.R. Capen, New York City, Long Island and New Jersey, as well as a part of Pennsylvania, are visited by J.I. Biddle, while I.B. Bertolet takes care of northeastern Pennsylvania and a portion of Maryland."

October 24, 1914 edition of the Washington Post:


"Firms in Lancaster, Pa., Receive Large. Contracts From France, Great Britain, and Russia.

"Lancaster (Pa.) Dispatch to New York Tribune - Firms in this country have received two orders from the French, English, and Russian governments which will keep large forces or men busy for a long time. The English and French have ordered 3,000 wagons from the Columbia Wagon Company. The Lebzelter company has received from the Russians an order for $75,000 worth of wooden material for use in wagons and automobiles."

Although the firm was mainly known for their farm and municipal wagons, starting in the late teens the Columbia Wagon Co. began offering a line of low-budget commercial bodies designed for the Model T Ford.

Although some very early Ford trucks were sold with commercial bodies, Ford discontinued the program in 1913 to concentrate on the production of chassis. For the next ten years Ford literally gave away their truck body business to independent builders around the country.

Many local carriage makers and truck body constructors furnished bodies for Ford's amazing Models T, and for well over a decade the Model T was the most popular commercial car chassis in the world. During the late Teens and early Twenties Ford sold over 50,000 chassis annually to thousands of domestic coachbuilders. But in 1923 Ford decided to stop being so generous, and implemented a new fully equipped Ford Truck sales program starting with the 1924 model year, that featured bodies designed and built by Ford.

Prior to that time Columbia Wagon offered a full line of products for the Model T ranging from enclosed truck cabs, delivery truck bodies and stake racks to ambulance and hearses. They also offered 'slip-over' parcel delivery bodies for the Model T roadster, the latter being 200 lb. boxes that fit behind the tonneau compartment residing where the turtle deck formerly resided.

During 1915 Model T ambulance production (listed separately from chassis production) exceeded 20,000 units, with most of the production sent to Europe prior to the US's involvement in WWI. This statistic alone makes the Model T the world's most famous professional car chassis, ever.

1918 Columbia commercial bodies available for converted Ford Model T chassis included a Light Weight Stake Body, an ambulance body, a funeral car body, and a number of delivery vans ranging from compact designs for parcel delivery up to huge furniture and moving van bodies, all available with a choice of open or closed (vestibule) cabs.

With the introduction of Ford's new Model T One-Ton chassis in 1918, commercial body builders like Columbia finally had a standard set of dimensions to work with and they soon started to offer bodies designed specifically for the new Ford chassis. Up until 1918 many of their bodies were built for various truck conversion kits, whose size and quality varied from one manufacturer to the other.

Columbia built wood-bodied suburban bodies for Model T chassis starting in the late teens and as late as 1926 continued to offer similar bodies for both the Ford Model T and TT chassis. The bodies for stock Model Ts were lighter and shorter than bodies designed for the TT, but followed the same designs and construction methods.

Columbia's delivery bodies were available with (swell-side vestibule body) or without (open-front panel body) a closed cab. Columbia also manufactured light express bodies with a choice of open or closed cabs. Light express bodies were a predecessor to today's pick-up trucks. Express bodies were offered with and without roofs and could be fitted with screen or canvas sides, depending on the application. They were also built in different length and were often used in conjunction with aftermarket frame extension/truck conversion kits offered by dozens of manufacturers through the 1930s. Popular brands were the Smith Form-A-Truck, Union-Ford, Longford, Perfect Car (Convertible Equipment Co.),etc.

May 8, 1918 Automobile Industries:

"Orders Placed by War Department

"WASHINGTON, May 2. The War Department has approved the following orders: McCord Mfg. Co., Detroit, radiators, $30,139.46. Reo Motor Co., Lansing, MI, spare parts, $30, 867.64. Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Co., Springfield, O., rear parts, $34,971.00. Standard Steel Casings Co., street wheels, $72,688.02. Briscoe Motor Corp., 1 set tools, 5,000 differentials, $1,279.91. Richmond Forging Co., axles, $167,.538.80. Lexington Motor Co., 1,000 10-ton trailers, $74.882.57. Dort Motor Car Co., crating chassis, $1,738.17. Columbia Wagon Co., escort wagons and wheels, $52,342.94. Winona Wagon Co., escort wagons and parts, $63,146.81."

Jennings Patent Automatic Dump Body for Ford 1-ton Truck.

(July 15 1920 CCJ ad pp 266)

Lebanon Semi Weekly News February 16, 1920:


"The Columbia Wagon Company, of Columbia, one of the largest in the East, and well known in Lebanon by reason of the fact that much of its product finds sale here, and some Lebanon men have been employed at the plant, passed into the hands of a receiver, on Friday at Lancaster. Bond was fixed at $100,000. The bill in equity was filed by the Philip Lebzelter and Sons, Company, on a note of $5,000 due today, and a large bill for merchandise. The bill also states that the company has a large floating debt, has no working capital and is indebted to its workmen for wages. The answer to the bill, signed by State Representative Michael R. Hoffman, president of the concern, admits the business has been conducted on borrowed money. B. F. Hoffman, of Conoy township - his brother, is named as the receiver."

Lebanon Semi Weekly News February 19, 1920:

"Columbia Wagons Are Being Built Faster and Better Than Ever Before

"M. L. Bachman, the implement dealer, at Zinn's Mill and Lebanon, Wednesday paid a visit to the Columbia Wagon Company, at Columbia, to personally investigate unpleasant rumors circulated in these parts. He found them all grossly exaggerated. The Columbia Wagon Company of today is one of the most substantial concerns in this part Of the state and their large force is pressed to the limit to turn out this popular vehicle. Mr. Bachman last fall ordered two car loads of wagons and haybeds and these will be delivered in time for his monster spring sale on Wednesday, March 24. He was so well pleased with the work that he immediately placed an order for another car load of wagons for later delivery. This is gratifying news to the many people who contemplated buying Bachman wagons and they will be furnished their favorites by Mr. Bachman is spite of some disgruntled competitors. The Bachman wagon is a dandy just now and Mr. Bachman is very anxious for this consignment to prove his assertion."

William T. Garrison passed away on November 26, 1921, at which time Henry F. Yergey, the firm's longtime manager and treasurer, assumed the Columbia Wagon Co.'s presidency. Unfortunately Yergey, who was born on October 11, 1851, and a jeweler by trade, passed away six months later, on June 5, 1922, leaving the firm without an experienced hand to lead it. The firm's chief creditor soon became aware of the firm's unstable condition while testifying during a lawsuit filed against the Wagon Co. by its main wheel supplier (Philip Lebzelter & Son, Co., vs. Columbia Wagon Co.).

Michael R. Hoffman, the Wagon Co.'s principal creditor, realized the sorry financial condition of the firm. Hoffman, a onetime member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (1907-1909), was a senior partner in the Lancaster County-based Hoffman Leaf Tobacco Co. and was also a director of the Columbia Flint Co. of which W.T. Garrison was formerly treasurer.

In order to protect his investment, Hoffman spearheaded a reorganization of the firm, and in early 1924 founded the Columbia Body Corp., the March 20, 1924 issue of Automotive Industries reporting:

"Wagon Company Acquired by Columbia Body Corp.

"COLUMBIA, PA., March 17 - The Columbia Body Corp. has been organized to take over the Columbia Wagon & Body Co., whose net assets are reported to be worth $500,000. Michael R. Hoffman, owner of the Columbia Wagon & Body Co., also holds all of the stock in the new company, of which he has been named as president. M.R. Hoffman, Jr., is treasurer and Guy S. Hoffman secretary. George W. Hall, formerly vice-president of the Martin-Parry Co. of York, Pa., is general manager and sales agent. The corporation will continue the manufacture of horse-drawn vehicles but will bring out a line of commercial automobile bodies which probably will constitute seven-eighths of its business."

Hoffman was likely unaware a similarly-named firm was also manufacturing truck bodies in Detroit – a fact which continues to cause confusion to this day. The Detroit-built truck bodies feature a burnished Columbia script burned into the heel board directly underneath the driver's seat cushion of the cab – the Pennsylvania firm reportedly used a decal, although I couldn’t locate an example. Hoffman's firm constructed very few bodies after its 1924 reorganization, and most of them were sold in and around central Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey.

The reason for the decline in sales was directly related to Ford Motor Co.'s reintroduction of factory-supplied coachwork for its 1924 Model T and TT commercial vehicle lineup. As stated earlier, Ford supplied some early Model T's with commercial bodies, but discontinued the program in 1913. For the next ten years Ford literally gave away what could have been a lucrative sideline to independent builders like Columbia who were located in regional population centers around the country. In 1923 Henry decided to stop being so generous, implementing a new fully equipped Ford Truck sales program starting with the 1924 model year.

Some of the 1924 Ford brand commercial bodies were built at Ford's Highland Park plant while others were outsourced from various suppliers who included Budd and Simplex Manufacturing. The first body made available was an all-steel express body, a canopy express body became available later in the year in three popular styles; totally open, screen-sided or with roll-up curtains.

The new Ford bodies were stocked by larger dealerships and could be ordered individually through regional Ford distributors by smaller dealers, who couldn't afford to keep them in inventory.

Ford also introduced an enclosed cab to go along with their open cab in their new truck body program during the same year. The Ford cab was easily identified by its sloping windshield and half moon openings in the rear quarters. By the middle of 1924 Ford had 8 distinct fully equipped (cab, chassis & body) light trucks available across the nation. Within 5 years many of the small commercial builders found themselves out of business, while larger ones prospered, providing that they were official Ford body suppliers.

In 1925 Ford introduced an optional body for their runabout which attached to the chassis in place of the rear deck. That body was the first production Ford pickup truck, a vehicle that  eventually became the most popular motor vehicle in North America, and remains so today. The official name of the vehicle was the "Ford Model T Runabout with Pick-Up Body", and it sold for $281 fob Detroit. It featured four stake pockets and an adjustable tailgate, and required a 9-leaf rear spring.

Severely declining wagon sales and the sudden loss of their Ford commercial body business caused Hoffman to pull the plug on the entire operation a little more than two years after he took over the firm, and in 1926 the Columbia Body Corp. withdrew from business and the property was converted over for storage facilities for his prosperous tobacco business, which was later reorganized as the American Cigarette & Cigar Company.

Columbia's factory complex, built between 1889 and 1920, survives today and includes seven contributing buildings. They are rectangular brick factory buildings with heavy timber frame construction. Six of the buildings are arranged in an "H"-shape. The buildings range in height from one to 3 1/2-stories. Between 1994 and 1996, the complex was converted to house 60 apartments.

A refurbished Columbia Wagon (circa 1900) is in the collection of the Wrightsville Historical Museum, 309 Locust St., Wrightsville, Pa.

© 2015 Mark Theobald for

Appendix 1

Eagle Wagon Works vs. Columbia Wagon Co.

(Circuit Court, E. D. Pennsylvania. August 3, 1910.) No. 32.

1. PATENTS (§ 26*)—INVENTION.—NEW COMBINATION OF OLD ELEMENTS. A new combination, with a new mode of Operation, may be invention, even if all the parts thereof are old, and even if the function of the combination is also old. [Ed. Note.—For other cases, see Patents, Cent. Dig. §§ 27–30; Dec. Dig. § 26.*]

2. PATENTS (§ 26*)—NEW COMBINATION OF OLD ELEMENTs—EVIDENCE oE INVENTION. While a new combination of old elements often appears simple, where there was a prior defect which was thereby overcome, and the new deVice Was immediately recognized, and went into extensive and general use, it is persuasive that more than mechanical skill was required in bringing together the elements in such a combination to each other as to bring about the Success. [Ed. Note.—For other cases, see Patents, Cent. Dig. §§ 27–30; Dec. Dig. § 26.* Patentability of combinations of old elements as dependent on results attained, see note to National Tube Co. v. Aiken, 91 C. C. A. 123.]

3. PATENTS (§ 328*)—VALIDITY AND INFRINGEMENT—DUMP WAGON. The Van Wagenen patent, No. 699,262, for a dumpwagon, while for a combination of old elements, obviates prior defects and discloses patentable invention. Also held infringed by the device of the Garrison patent, which, if it contains patentable novelty, is for an improvement only in one element of the Van Wagenen combination.

In Equity. Suit by the Eagle Wagon Works against the Columbia Wagon Company. Decree for complainant.

Parsons, Hall & Bodell, for complainant.
M. W. Sloan and Hector T. Fenton, for respondent.

HOLLAND, District Judge. This is a bill of complaint charging an infringement of patent No. 699,262, issued to M. Van Wagenenon May 6, 1902, for an improvement in dumping wagons. The defenses are: (1) Noninfringement; (2) want of patentable novelty.

The patent is for a combination of devices, all of which have been in prior use, either in the form in which they appear in this combination, or embodying substantially the principles involved. The improvements relate to that class of dump wagons in which the bottom wall of the receiving chamber consists of movable sections hinged to the lateral side walls of the box and having the adjacent free ends adapted to meet substantially midway to said side walls; said movable bottom sections being elevated by a suitable drum and cable and adapted to open or drop by gravity when released, and should either chain, for any reason, become lengthened, or either door obstructed while being closed, the invention has provided a rocking member or device in the rear of the wagon body for taking up the sag in either chain resulting from an inequality of movement of the doors. The claim in the patent in which it is alleged the defendant has infringed is as follows:

*For other cases see same topic & $ NUMBER in Dec. & Am. Digs. 1907 to date, & Rep’r Indexes

“4. The combination with a dump wagon having movable bottom sections hinged to its side walls, a rotary drum at one end of the movable Sections, a rocking member at the other end, cables or chains connected to said drum and to said rocking member at opposite sides of its pivot, the intermediate portion of said cable being connected to the bottom sections and means for rotating the drum.”

The wagon body is boxed shape, and the bottom has two long doors or sections, which are hinged longitudinally adjacent to the side walls of the wagon body so that the free edges will meet; a winding drum located at the front of the wagon body and having mechanism for rotating it, arranged in convenient reach of the driver; means to rotate the drum with the ratchet and pawl mechanism,and a single rocking member pivotally mounted on the rear of the wagon body, and two separate chains, or two lengths of a single chain, each individual to one of the doors and extending in a lengthwise direction beneath the same parallel with and adjacent to, its free side edge; the front ends of the chains being connected to the winding drum, and the rear ends thereof being connected, respectively, to the rocking member on opposite sides of its pivot. This device enables a driver to dump his load and to close the bottom doors. The chain individual to each door is so contrived that, if one of the doors is prevented from its upward movement, the companion door may be further raised until both doors are brought to a closed position, or, should one chain be longer than the other, the compensating mechanism in the rear, together with the winding drum, will take up the sag and enable the driver to bring both sides closed to a tight fit. The defect in prior closing mechanisms used on this class of wagons was that, where each door was raised by its own run of chain, any operative inequality in their length of lifting action, caused by sagging or stretching, would prevent a tight closing of the doors. This defect was obviated by the use of the pivotally mounted rocking member placed upon the rear of the complainant's wagon.

Wagons previously manufactured of this kind contained two of the elements of claim 4, to wit, movable bottom sections hinged to the side walls, and a rotary drum at one end of the movable sections. The ends of the chains at the rear were immovable, and there was no means of providing for an inequality in length of chain, or any means by which the sag of the chains resulting from an inequality of movement in closing the doors could be taken up. This was a defect which was recognized, and it was overcome by the combination worked out and placed upon this class of wagons by the patentee. It is not claimed that there is any new principle involved in any of the elements used in this combination; but it is claimed that it is a new combination of * old elements, resulting in a new mode of operation. The elements are old; but they have never been found correlated in the same way as the patentee in this case has combined them, nor has there been any device placed upon these wagons which would close the bottom doors in the same way and so satisfactorily as the device found in the patent. A new combination with a new mode of operation may be invention, even if all the parts thereof are old, and even if the function of the combination is also old. Walker on Patents, p. 40; Steiner & Voegtly Hardware Co. v. Tabor Sash Co. (C. C.) 178 Fed. 831.

In order to establish the defense of a lack of patentable novelty, three patents have been introduced, showing the state of the art prior to the issuance of the complainant's patent: The Weber, the Blake, and the Lawrence patents. The Weber patent is for a cart, and, in order to dump it, it is necessary to tilt the whole body. In the Blake patent, we find the movable bottom section hinged to the side walls of the body, with two runs of chain for each door, to independently lift and close the hinged doors, a winding drum on the wagon forward of the doors, to wind up the two runs of chain, and means to operate the drum, but no rocking member. The Lawrence patent is for a dumping device on a railroad car, provided with a hopper bottom, and this hopper bottom at about the middle thereof is provided with an opening designed to be closed by two hinged doors, which are arranged transversely of the car, and are of a less length than the width of the bottom. A winding drum is arranged beneath the bottom of the car and parallel to the sides of the door, and there are two pulleys spaced at a distance apart from each other, over which is guided the intermediate parts of the chain, the lengths or runs of which extend transversely of the two doors, each length or run being common to both doors and co-operating directly with both doors for raising the same. The pulleys are not located at the ends of the doors, but are mounted beneath the bottom of the car, and are spaced a distance from the hinged side edge of one of the doors. These two pulleys, placed at the rear of the doors in the Lawrence patent, embody exactly the same compensating principle found in the rocking member placed on the rear of the body of the wagon in the patent in suit. There is no difference whatever, so far as the operation in both is concerned. In the Lawrence patent the same result is attained by two pulleys that is accomplished by the rocking member used by complainant. There is no pretension on the part of complainant that there is any difference in principle. While it is true that none of the elements entering into this device is new, yet they are put in such a combination that they bring about the result which is regarded by the general public as a great improvement in dump wagons. The old mechanism failed to give satisfaction, and the combination brought out and perfected by the patentee in this case overcame the difficulties and objections theretofore expressed, and we think it is such a correlation and combination of old elements as to indicate an exercise of the creative faculty of the inventor, and not merely the ingenuity of the skilled mechanic, and that there is patentable novelty involved. It appears very simple now, after what has been accomplished by Van Wagenen. 

Patents for the combination of old elements found in the prior art are usually susceptible of the attack of want of novelty, because of the apparent simplicity of the combination after success has been attained; but where there was a prior defect long suffered, and an immediate recognition of the new device, which immediately went into general and extensive public use, it is persuasive that more than mechanical skill was required in bringing together the elements in such a combination in relation to each other as to bring about the success. Johnson v. Forty-Second St., etc. (C. C.) 33 Fed. 501; Regent Mfg. Co. et al. v. Penn Electrical & Mfg. Co., 121 Fed. 83, 57 C. C. A. 334; McMichael & Wildman Mfg. Co. v. Ruth, 128 Fed. 707, 63 C. C. A. 304; Los Alamitos Sugar Co. et al. v. Carroll, 173 Fed. 280, 97 C. C. A. 446; Expanded Metal Co. v. Bradford, 214 U. S. 381, 29 Sup. Ct. 652, 53 L. Ed. 1034.

“Now that it has succeeded, it may seem very plain to any one that he could have done it as well. This is often the case With inventions of the greatest merit. It may be laid down as a general rule, though perhaps not an invariable one, that if a new combination and arrangement of known elements produce a new and beneficial result, never attained before, it is evidence of invention.” The Barbed Wire Patent, 143 U. S. 283, 12 Sup. Ct. 447, 450, 36 L. Ed. 154.

The defendant further sets up the defense of non-infringement, and claims that it is manufacturing its wagon under a patent issued to Garrison on April 30, 1907. An examination of this patent shows that it is an exact duplicate of the wagon manufactured by complainant; the dumping mechanism being exactly similar, excepting that the rocking member is eccentrically pivoted, “having arms of unequal length and unequal weight, the longer and heavier arm acting at all times to maintain the shorter and lighter arm in elevated position,” which enables one door to be moved upwardly toward its closed position after the companion door has reached its closed position, and after its closing position has been arrested.

The Garrison patent, if it contains patentable novelty, is an improvement on the rocking member employed by the complainant; and, while he may be entitled to protection for this discovery, he has ingrafted it upon the patent belonging to the complainant, and it cannot be regarded other than an improvement on the complainant's invention, and does not avoid the infringement of the claim in issue, which is directly readable upon his structure. Cramer & Haak v. 1900 Washer Co. (C. C.) 163 Fed. 299; Underwood Typewriter Co. v. Typewriter Inspection Co. (C. C.) 177 Fed. 230; Cantrell v. Wallick, 117 U. S. 689, 6 Sup. Ct. 970, 29 L. Ed. 1017.

The complainant, having shown invention and infringement, is entitled to an injunction and an accounting as prayed for in the bill filed. Let a decree be drawn in accordance with this opinion, with costs.

Case No 2: 229 Fed. 159


(Circuit Court of Appeals, Second Circuit. November 9, 1915.)

No. 30.

Patents <S=328—Validity And Infringement—Dumping Car.

The Lawrence patent, No. 645,816, for a dumping car having a hopper bottom with hinged doors swinging downward to discharge the load and a double run of equalizing chain to hold them securely in place when closed, as to the latter feature was not anticipated and discloses patentable invention; also held infringed.

Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.

©=jFor other cases see same topic & KEY-NLMBER in all Key-Numbered Digests & indexes

Suit in equity by William T. Garrison and another against the Eagle Wagon Works and William Deveson, for .infringement of patent No. 645,816, granted March 20, 1900, to George H. Lawrence, for a dumping car. Decree for defendants, and complainants appeal. Reversed.

The following is the opinion of the trial court:

In this action complainant asserts that defendant infringes the Lawrence patent for a dumper freight car by manufacturing a dumping wagon, intended to be drawn by horses, or at all events not to be self-propelled.

Defendant's wagon is constructed in conformity with patent 699,262, issued May 6, 1902, to Van Wagenen.

In Eagle Wagon Works v. Columbia Wagon Co. (D. C.) 181 Fed. 150, the defendant in this case sued one alleged to infringe theVan Wagenen patent. In that suit the Lawrence patent was cited as an anticipation of the Van Wagenen invention. The defense was held not good, and the result affirmed in 183 Fed. 772, 106 C. C. A. 137. Unless this trial court is to take the unusual and extreme course of disagreeing with the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, this action must fail, provided the record be not so very different as to compel a different judgment.

This is the contention of present complainant, who asserts that the record in the Third circuit case "contained no proof that road wagons of the dumping type were frequently constructed with bottom doors hinged transversely, instead of longitudinally, and were perfectly operative." In my judgment it is very doubtful whether the present record does contain evidence that road wagons of the dumping type with doors transversely hinged were "perfectly operative." It is even more doubtful whether such road wagons, even if operative mechanically, were so successful as to close the door of invention to those devising wagons of the kind manufactured by this defendant.

It does not infrequently happen that a new record in a new case requires the abandonment of earlier decisions on the same patent. But it is also true that the first decision on a patent furnishes a species of target at which evidence may be directed in future litigation. Such evidence ought to be critically considered, and unless it is very strong earlier decisions should be adhered to. I do not think that the new evidence before this court is very strong, and I am sure that it is not sufficiently compelling to require this trial court to disagree with the appellate tribunal of the Third circuit.

Bill dismissed.

H. T. Fenton, of Philadelphia, Pa., for appellants. Frederick G. Bodell, of Syracuse, N. Y., and A. E. Parsons, of Syracuse, N. Y., for appellees.

Before LACOMBE, WARD, and ROGERS, Circuit Judges.

LACOMBE, Circuit Judge. The improved dumping car belongs to the class in which the load is dumped by opening the bottom. The bottom is composed usually of two hinged doors, which normally are closed and held in closed position by some device; when released they swing downward, and the load falls or slides out; thereafter the doors are again raised into place and the car is ready to receive another load. The specification states that car is "simple and durable in construction and arranged to permit of conveniently opening and securely closing the doors without danger of unequal closing of said doors and a consequent loss of the loaded material." The structure in all its details is very clearly set forth. Figs. 2 and 3 here reproduced will make the description easy to understand. Fig. 2 is a plan view of the bottom of the car viewed from below. Other figures and the use of the word "hopper" indicate a car with sloping sides running down to the doors, so that when the latter are open the loan will readily slide down to the aperature of discharge. Figure 3 is a sectional slide elevation on the line 3,3 indicated on Figure 2.

The patentee states that the hopper bottom "is provided with usual doors C C" connected by hinges D D', with the hopper-bottom, so as to readily swing into an open position when released. At one side of the hinge D for the door C is arranged a framework E, in which is journaled a transversely extending winding shaft F, provided at one outer end with a square offset F' for the frame of a crank arm or other device to allow the operator to turn the shaft; the shaft being provided near the offset F' with a ratchet wheel G, adapted to be engaged by a pawl G' to lock shaft F against accidental unwinding.

"On the shaft F wind the ends of a chain H, extending longitudinally of the car and transversely across the doors G C and under pulleys 7, journaled in suitable bearings, at or near the free ends of the doors C C at the under side thereof.' The chain H then extends to and passes over pulleys J journaled in suitable bearings in the framework E secured to the hopper bottom A at one side of the hinge D."

The patentee then describes a method of arranging the pulleys / and their journals, so that when the doors are closed there is formed "a truss chain for securely holding the door." This feature is referred to only in claim 4, which is not involved in this suit. The specification then proceeds to detail the processes of opening the doors by releasing the pawl and of closing them by turning the shaft F and winding up the ends of the chain. These are so apparent from a glance at the drawings that description may be omitted. The patentee then points out the advantages of his structure as follows:

"Now it is evident that in case there is any slack in one of the runs of the chain it is readily equalized owing to the chain passing over the pulleys J, spaced apart on the car body and on the side of the doors opposite to that on which the shaft F is located. Hence the two runs of the chain push equally on the doors, near the ends thereof, and consequently both doors are swung properly into a closed position and are held in this position against accidental opening or against sagging at one end of the door owing to the equalized chain, the ends of which are uniformly wound up on the shaft F, the latter being locked against rotation by the pawl O' engaging the ratchet wheel (?)."

The claims in controversy are:

"1. A dumping car, provided with a winding shaft located on the under side of the car and at one side of the dumping doors, and an equalizing chain arranged for winding at its ends on said shaft, the chain extending transversely across the dumping doors and having a traveling connection with the car, to allow the chain to equalize, substantially as shown and described.

"2. A dumping car, provided with a winding shaft on the under side of the car body and at one side of the dumping doors, an equalizing chain arranged to wind at its ends on said shaft, the chain extending transversely across the dumping doors and car body, and pulleys on the car body at the side of the doors opposite that at which the shaft is located, the chain passing over said pulleys, to allow the chain to equalize, substantially as shown and described.

"3. A dumping car, provided with a winding shaft on the under side of the car body and at one side of the dumping doors, an equalizing chain arranged to wind at its ends on said shaft, the chain extending transversely across the dumping doors and car body, pulleys on the car body at the side of the doors opposite that at which the shaft is located, the chain passing over said pulleys, to allow the chain to equalize, and door pulleys on the under side of the doors at or near the free ends thereof, and under which the chain passes from the winding shaft to the car body pulleys, substantially as shown and described."

It often happens that a patentee's description will indicate in detail the points in which his device differs from those of the prior art. There is no such detailed indication here. It will therefore be necessary to refer to the prior art as disclosed by the record to ascertain just what it is which Lawrence showed by way of improvement: when that is disclosed we can see whether it constituted patentable invention. Vehicles with dumping bottom are used on ordinary roads and on railroad tracks; so far as the arrangements for opening or closing their dumping doors are concerned they belong to the same art. This prior art may be considered in the order in which it is given in the reference index.

One Deveson identified a sketch of what he called "old style Watson wagon," which he said he had dealt in—presumably prior to the patent in suit. We find no such sketch in the record, but from his testimony it is apparent that it had two chains with no equalizing device. The Watson patent, 378,272, February 21, 1888, shows a dumping wagon in which the bottom of the wagon box is divided lengthwise through the center, the two hinged parts swinging downwardly to discharge the load. The doors are swung up into place and held there by four separate chains wound on two drums, each chain is independent of the others. Each door is held in place by a pull upward and at each outside corner, no chain runs under either door crosswise or lengthwise. The Johnson patent, 474,744, May 10, 1892, shows bottom doors opening transversely; it has a single chain which runs only once transversely across the middle of the doors. There is no equalizer and the chain crossing the doors once only, there is nothing to be equalized. Brown, 131,248, September 10, 1872; Hoadley, 183,396, October 17, 1876; Hubbard, 303,518, August 12, 1884, and 295,174, March 18, 1884, show equalizing devices for whiffletrees. Haas, 293,167, February 5, 1884, shows a machine for drawing metal bars in which there is an equalizing device. Scherer, 451,173, April 28, 1891, has an equalizer in a burial apparatus. It needed no reference to these remote arts to establish the proposition that the mechanic art was familiar with various devices for equalizing the pull of cables, ropes, and what-not. But if Lawrence was the first to place under the bottom of a dumping car two runs of chain across both doors so located as to hold them efficiently and to secure such an equalizing of the pull on the chain, when wound up, that the chain presses uniformly against both doors, we do not see why he should be deprived of the fruits of his ingenuity because he employs one or more common mechanical devices in carrying out his method. That he was the first to do this is manifest from the record. Indeed upon the argument defendant's counsel admitted that the use of an equalizer in connection with a dumping car the bottom of which is held up by runs of chain was new with Lawrence. We find no file wrapper in the record, nor any action in the Patent Office which would call for any modification of the claims in controversy, which in plain language cover the simple and apparently useful device which Lawrence disclosed. Does the defendant's device infringe? It has the two hinged doors, the single chain underrunning them twice and an equalizing device at the side opposite the shaft on which the ends of the chain are wound, such equalizing device operating as Lawrence's does and accomplishing the same result. It is contended, however, that infringement is not shown for the following reasons.

1. Defendant's wagon is not a railroad car for dumping coal; it is a road wagon for dumping dirt or stone. For anything that appears in the record this is a single art; so far as the opening and closing of the doors is concerned there is no difference between a dumping car and a dumping cart. At the opening of his specification the patentee says that his invention relates to railroad coal-cars of the hopper bottom type. He had already stated that he had invented a new and "improved dumping car." There is nothing in his drawings to indicate that the device is not adaptable for carts as well as cars. In his claims he does not confine himself to railroad cars, in each of them referring to the vehicle in which his arrangement is to be placed as a "dumping car."

2. That in defendant's car the opening between the doors runs fore and aft, instead of transversely. For some sort of dumping the one method may be preferable to the other, but the chains of defendant which cross the doors fore and aft near their free edge, work in the same way as plaintiff's and are equalized in their effect just as plaintiff's are.

3. As an equalizer the defendant sometimes uses a single large wheel instead of the two small wheels //; sometimes it uses a yoke pivoted centrally as here shown to the ends of which the chain is attached. These are manifest equivalents.

4. That defendant's device is patented. It is made under patent to Van Wagenen, 699,262. May 6, 1902 (application August 8, 1901), a junior patent to Lawrence's. But a junior patent may have some additional feature of improvement, which will be found patentable over the senior patent, and nevertheless a structure made under it will infringe if it includes the patentable feature of the senior patent. This Van Wagenenpatent was sustained by the Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, in a suit brought by the present defendant against the Columbia Wagon Company. 183 Fed. 771, 106 C. C. A. 137. In that suit the Lawrence patent was cited as an anticipation. We do not know what the record in that suit disclosed; but if the same question were presented to us on the record here we should be strongly inclined to reach a different conclusion. The Third Circuit laid much stress on the circumstance that in the Lawrence patent the runs of chain extend transversely across the dumping doors, whereas in Van Wagenen they run across the doors near their meeting edge. This is a necessary result of the one set of doors opening fore and aft while the other opens across. The court says nothing at all about the equalizing of the chain stress, which seems to us the really important contribution of Lawrence to the art. However the question of the patentability of the Van Wagenen patent is not here; and in the suit in the Third Circuit the defense of non-infringement was not raised. It may be noted that in a later Van Wagenen patent, 779,891, January 10, 1905, the equalizing yoke is eccentrically pivoted; this secures such a modification of action that one door is closed a trifle sooner than the other. If this modification subserves a useful purpose the later Van Wagenen device would no doubt be patentable despite the Lawrence patent, but it would nevertheless infringe that patent since its equalizer operates just as Lawrence's does to keep an equal strain on both doors when closed, holding them more firmly in position than the single unequalized chain of the prior art, or the plurality of independent chains which obviously required careful regulation to insure a constant equal pressure by each chain.

The decree is reversed, with costs, and cause remanded, with instructions to enter decree in accordance with this opinion.

© 2015 Mark Theobald for







Chapman Publishing - Portrait and Biographical Record of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, pub, 1894

J.H. Beers - Biographical Annals of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, pub. 1903

Richard Edwards - Industries of Pennsylvania: The Cities of Lancaster, Columbia & Mount Joy; pub.1879
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