In 1882 brothers Charles E. & Samuel E. Bradt launched a partnership with another DeKalb, Illinois resident, Madison D. Shipman, in order to manufacture wagons and buggies. Shipman, Bradt & Co. was not their first business venture as all three men were involved in a similarly named wholesale glove manufacturing business that had its origins in Gloversville, Fulton County, New York.
Charles E. & Samuel E. Bradt were born in Gloversville, Fulton County, New York on January 27, 1852 and October 22, 1861 respectively. Their parents were Andrew and Amy A. (Sweet) Bradt, both of whom were born in the town of Ephratah, Fulton County, New York, the former May 15, 1824, and the latter January 20, 1828.
Andrew Bradt was the son of Anthony J. and Hannah (Peek) Bradt, both natives of the state of New York. He was reared on a farm, educated in the district schools and at the age of seventeen commenced teaching in his native township, a profession he followed for several winters while during the summer seasons he worked upon the farm. His marriage with Miss Amy Ann Sweet was celebrated January 31, 1848. Eight years later he came west and purchased one hundred and forty acres of land in sections 23 and 24, DeKalb Township, where he engaged in agricultural pursuits.
For several winters Bradt engaged in selling gloves and mittens to dealers in northern Illinois, purchasing his stock from the manufactories located at Gloversville and Johnston, in the heart of New York State's Leatherstocking region.
In 1870, in company with his eldest son, Charles E., he started a glove factory in De Kalb but two years later retired and disposed of his interest in the firm to his son Charles E. Bradt. Following his retirement Andrew Bradt served as a preacher in DeKalb's Methodist Episcopal Church, and was instrumental in building up its congregation.
Although Charles E. Bradt was born in Gloversville, New York, he spent most of his formative years in DeKalb, receiving his primary education in the district schools. He later attended the Northwestern University, at Evanston, Illinois, where he completed his school life. After leaving school he succeeded his father in the family's glove making business, and in 1872 reorganized the firm as Bradt, Shipman & Co. in co-partnership with Madison D. Shipman, another native of the Empire State.
Madison D. Shipman was born on June 11th, 1848 in Cortland County, New York to Dr. J. A. and Azubah (Hunter) Shipman, both of whom were born in New York State.
Dr. J. A. Shipman was a skilled physician and in 1853 removed to Bureau County, Illinois, where he successfully practiced his profession. In 1868 he moved to De Kalb, Illinois, from which place he removed in 1873, to Henry County, from Henry County to Prairie City, Illinois. Here he resided for the remainder of his days, respected as a citizen, trusted as a physician, and honored as a gentleman of the highest order. Dr. Shipman passed to his reward March 6, 1885, at the age of seventy-three years, while his wife's demise had occurred many years before when she was just 52 years of age.
Young Madison received his early schooling in the district schools of Bureau county and high school of De Kalb, and subsequently attended the Northwestern University at Evanston, Illinois. At the conclusion of his school days in 1872, he became associated with Charles E. Bradt in the manufacture and sale of gloves at wholesale. The partner's factory was on Sixth near Main street, De Kalb, and during the next quart century the two partners business grew to be the most successful firm of its kind in the Midwest.
On the 20th of December, 1882, Shipman was united in marriage with Miss Jennie B. Bradt, daughter of Andrew and Amy A. Bradt, and sister of his business partner, Charles E. Bradt.
Between 1882 and 1892 Shipman was a partner with his two brothers-in-law in the wagon-making business that bore both their surnames.
The firm's junior partner, Samuel Ellsworth Bradt, Charles E.'s younger brother, was born in DeKalb, Illinois on October 22, 1861. At the usual age Samuel E. Bradt entered the public schools, wherein he pursued his studies until he had completed the high-school course. At the age of seventeen he began his business career as an employee of the firm of Bradt & Shipman, glove jobbers. He had, however, prior to this time spent many leisure hours in the house and had largely become familiar with the business, so that when he entered upon formal connection therewith as an employee he took charge of the receiving and shipping rooms. A few years later he was made a member of the firm and about that time the scope of the business was enlarged by the establishment of a department for the manufacture of gloves.
The business has grown under the direction of Mr. Bradt of this review until it is one of the important manufacturing interests of De Kalb. At one time an annual business of four hundred thousand dollars was transacted, the firm owning and operating in addition to the De Kalb plant a glove fastener factory in Gloversville, New York. In 1902 the Gloversville factory was sold to the glove trust and the associated fastener plant sold to the United States Fastener Company. All three partners maintained a financial interest in the trust, with Shipman and the senior Bradt serving on its board of directors.
In 1882 the three partners established the firm of Shipman, Bradt & Company for the manufacture of wagons and buggies, and for the next ten years were identified with that line of production.
In 1891 the three partners secured a franchise for an electric light plant, organizing the De Kalb Electric Company in association with J. W. Glidden, another DeKalb businessman. The business was successfully conducted until 1901, when these gentlemen sold their controlling interests in the plant and the De Kalb Sycamore Electric Company was organized. Mr. Bradt of this review had been secretary and treasurer of the other company and after the organization of the new company he was made a member of its board of directors. In August, 1906, the original members sold their entire holdings to the De Kalb Sycamore Traction Company.
In 1892 Charles E. Bradt sold his interest in the wagon works to his partners who remained in charge of the firm into 1903 when a controlling interest in the firm was purchased by Sycamore businessmen, Frank C. Patten, William Smith, Harrison F. Gleason and George W. Dunton. Only Samuel Ellsworth Bradt retained an interest in the new business.
On January 20, 1904 Articles of Incorporation were issued by the State of Illinois to the Sycamore Wagon Works “to manufacture vehicles and other articles similar thereto.”
The Company was capitalized for $60,000 by William Smith, Harrison F. Gleason, and George W. Dunton. Shareholders included William Smith, 100 shares; Harrison F. Gleason, 200 shares; Frank C. Patten, 200 shares; and S.E. Bradt, 100 shares. Frank C. Patten was elected President by the board of directors who also included William Smith, Harrison F. Gleason, Madison D. Shipman and Thomas L. Halloran.
Frank C. Patten was born on a farm in Afton township, De Kalb County, Illinois on October 10, 1867 to Sylvester W. and Elizabeth (Coffin) Patten. Sylvester W. Patten, a native of the state of New York, was born in Starkville, Herkimer County, on September 4, 1837, to David and Nancy (Countryman) Patten. In 1850 Sylvester W. came to Illinois with his parents, settling in Boone County where they resided for two years. In 1852 they removed to South Grove township, De Kalb county, settling on a farm where his father conducted his small carpentry business.
Sylvester W. Patten, Frank C.'s father, assisted his dad with the farm operations during the summer months, and in the winter seasons engaged in teaching school up to the time of his May 1st, 1860 marriage to Miss Elizabeth Coffin (b.1839), a fellow school teacher, the daughter of Jacob and Mary Ann (Hull) Coffin, two native New Yorkers who moved to Belvidere, Boone County, Illinois in May of 1845.
Subsequent to his marriage Sylvester purchased a farm eight miles south of De Kalb in Afton township, where he resided until 1882, when he sold that property and bought another farm two miles northwest of De Kalb, continuing to reside thereon until 1892, when he retired and moved to downtown DeKalb.
To the blessed union were born six children, Mary L., Emma Louise, Frank C., Edith S., Alice Carey, and Elizabeth M. Patten.is the wife of C. F. Toenniger, of De Kalb. Coincidentally Mary L. Patten, Frank C. Patten's oldest sister, married Madison D. Shipman, of the Shipman, Bradt companies, following the death of his first wife Jennie B. (Bradt) Shipman.
Frank C. Patten's primary education took place in the district schoolhouse after which he attended DeKalb High School, from which he graduated in 1885. Immediately afterwards he entered the employ of Chicago's William Deering & Co. the well-known harvester and farming implement manufacturer. One year later he returned to De Kalb and established a small shop, in which he began the manufacture of sundries on a limited scale. The business prospered and by 1887 he employed several assistants and had purchased his own building which by 1889 had grown to cover an entire city block.
By that time Patten had established a real estate development and construction firm which during the next half-century built well over 100 residences in addition to school buildings at De Kalb, Maple Park, Elburn, and Grossdale, Illinois. At one time Patten's various business enterprises furnished employment for as many as 350 DeKalb County residents.
In 1893 Patten purchased the Marsh Harvester Co. of Sycamore, Illinois and along with it the former plant of the R. Ellwood Manufacturing Co. The two businesses were consolidated under the Patten Manufacturing Co. banner which was later reorganized as the Sycamore Foundry Co.
It was in this enterprise that Patten became acquainted with Seymour Merritt Hunt, who served as the Secretary of both firms for fourteen years, and would later play an important part in the history of the Sycamore/DeKalb Wagon Works. During Hunt's tenure with Patten, the Sycamore-based firm's workforce grew from 35 to 175 hands, and its product line expanded from farming implements to gasoline engines, hot air furnaces, blacksmiths' tools, and a long list of hardware specialties.
Patten served as Mayor of Sycamore for two years and in was instrumental in the establishment of the Sycamore Wagon Co., of which he was elected its first President.
A classified ad from the May 7, 1904 Racine Daily Journal gave the name of the recently reorganized firm:
The following display ad was taken from a 1904 issue of Hardware Dealers Magazine:
The following advertisement is from a 1904 issue of Buff Jersey's Book, a dairyman's annual published by Euclid N. Cobb:
The following article/ad appeared in the March 4, 1909 issue of Iron Age:
A classified advertisement in the January 21, 1910 Racine Daily Journal indicates the firm was still working out of its Sycamore, Illinois factory:
An announcement in the Feb 1911 issue of the Hub revealed the firm had relocated to 229 W. Garden St., DeKalb, Illinois:
A classified ad in the Racine Daily Journal dated August 23, 1911 indicates the firm was still going by Sycamore Wagon:
The firm's former Sycamore, Illinois facility at 101 Edwards St., remained in use as a storage warehouse for Montgomery, Ward and Company for the next half decade.
On April 30, 1912, roughly one year after the Sycamore Wagon Works relocated to DeKalb, the firm was reorganized as the DeKalb Wagon Company. Records indicate that there were 15 men on the payroll at the time of the reorganization. Officers included Seymour M. Hunt, President and Edwin S. Hunt, Treasurer.
S.M. Hunt (b. Aug. 16, 1867-d. Jun 1, 1940), President of the DeKalb Wagon Co. had also served in the same position with its predecessor, the Sycamore Wagon Co. for a number of years and was also Secretary and General Manager of the Standard Foundry & Manufacturing Company of De Kalb.
One of De Kalb's native sons, Seymour Merritt Hunt was born there on the August 16, 1867. His successful business career had its beginning in the position of bookkeeper, since which time he had gradually progressed until now he stands at the head of an enterprise which figures prominently in industrial circles in this county.
His paternal grandfather was Charles Seymour Hunt, a native of Orleans County, New York, born September 3, 1811. He wedded Mary Ann Woodard, also a native of the same county. Their son, Horace D. Hunt, the father of Seymour Merritt and Edwin Stanley Hunt, was born in Ashtabula County, Ohio, July 15, 1838 and became a farmer and stock-buyer.
At the age of three months, Horace accompanied his parents on a permanent move to Fulton County, Illinois where he was brought up on the family farm. Upon reaching the age of consent Horace D. Hunt moved to De Kalb county, where he established his own farming and live stock business. He wedded Mary J. Simonds, who was born in Pawlet, Rutland County, Vermont, on February 24, 1841, and to the blessed unions was born seven children, namely: Myrtie Minerva, born May 8, 1862; Mary Agnes, January 29, 1864; Seymour Merritt, August 16. 1867; Willis Joel, December 31, 1869; Clifford Simonds, January 22, 1873; Edwin Stanley, October 12, 1874; and Roy Dayton, March 5, 1878.
Seymour Merritt Hunt acquired his early education in the public schools of De Kalb, which was supplemented by a commercial course in the Metropolitan Business College of Chicago. After leaving school he became bookkeeper for William L. Ellwood, one of the nation's largest breeders of Percheron draught horses, serving in that capacity for five years before he accepted an assignment as secretary of the Patten Manufacturing Co. of Sycamore, Illinois, which was subsequently reorganized as the Sycamore Foundry Co.
Fourteen years after he joined that organization Hunt organized the Standard Foundry & Manufacturing Company of De Kalb, Illinois, of which he was a stockholder as well as Secretary and General Manager. The organization of that firm was announced in the December 1906 issue of The Foundry:
Located at 2100 E. Peasant St., DeKalb, the firm manufactured furnaces, furnace castings and several types of heavy hardware specialties. In the course of business Hunt became acquainted with the Sycamore Wagons Works, acquiring an interest in the firm sometime around 1910.
Seymour's younger brother, Edwin Stanley Hunt (b. Oct 12, 1874-d.May 12, 1934), treasurer of the Dekalb Wagon Co., was also born in DeKalb, Illinois on October 12, 1874. He was educated in the public schools of De Kalb, and after graduation from business school served in the accounting departments of several firms. He eventually took a position as general manager of the Randolph Motor Truck Co. in Flint, Michigan, one of William C. Durant's numerous automotive holdings, joining his brother in the DeKalb Wagon Co. after Randolph went bankrupt in late 1912.
The recent reorganization of the Sycamore Wagon Works as the DeKalb Wagon Co. was reflected in the following Racine Daily Journal classified ad dated June 10, 1912:
The April 3, 1913 issue of the Automobile revealed that DeKalb Wagon Co. was entering the expanding Motor Truck manufacturing business:
The vacant Randolph plant was subsequently purchased by the Little Motor Car Co., an affiliate of the Republic Motor Co. Shortly thereafter both firms were acquired by William C. Durant's reorganized Chevrolet Motor Co.
The June, 1913 issue of the Hub also mentioned the pending debut of the DeKalb truck:
The July 31, 1913 issue of The Iron Age announced an increase in capital:
A 1913 issue of the Automobile Trade Journal:
Pictured to the left is a beautifully engraved stock certificate from the De Kalb Wagon Company issued in 1913. Printed by Cameron, Amberg & Company, the specimen has been hand signed by DeKalb's President (S.M. Hunt ) and Treasurer (E.S. Hunt).
The culmination of the firm's efforts in the motor truck field were announced to the trade in the April 22, 1915 issue of Iron Age:
Two DeKalb truck models were listed in the catalogue, 2 and 2 1/2 ton priced at $2,100 and $2,450 respectively (bodies extra).
Some confusion surrounds the DeKalb Motor Truck as two DeKalb, Illinois firms were producing similarly named commercial chassis at the same time.
The DeKalb Wagon Company, the subject of this corporate biography, was unrelated to a similarly-named firm, the DeKalb Manufacturing Company, another DeKalb, Illinois-based firm that was organized in August of 1915 to take over the assets of the W.H. McIntyre Co. (formerly W.H. Kiblinger Co.) of Auburn, Indiana. DeKalb Mfg. Co. was owned by Fort Wayne, Indiana’s Vesey family who reorganized and relocated the former McIntyre firm in order to protect their interests in the bankrupt business.
The DeKalb Mfg. Co.-built truck was manufactured in very small numbers between 1915 and 1917. A former carriage manufacturer, McIntyre/Kiblinger had previously produced both an automobile (1908-1915) and a motor truck (1912-1915) prior to its reorganization by the Veseys.
A catalog of DeKalb Motor Trucks issued by the DeKalb Wagon Company is part of the Northwestern University Transportation Library collection in Evanston, Illinois. Undated, but likely issued in the late teens, the catalog features detailed specifications for the "Dependable DeKalb," a comparative analysis of the cost of operating a truck versus a horse-drawn vehicle and a picture of the company's DeKalb, Ill., headquarters.
A small display ad in the February, 1917 issue of The American City advertised the DeKalb Fire Truck:
DeKalb was one of a handful of commercial body builders who continued to produce circus wagons into the twenties. The following announcement appeared in the March 3, 1916 issue of the Opera House Reporter:
They also continued to manufacture horse-drawn conveyances for firms who continued to deliver their goods the old-fashioned-way. The following ad/article appeared in the March, 1917 issue of Bakers Review Magazine:
During World War I the firm produced horse-drawn military wagons. Large quantities of supply wagons, ration carts and ambulances were manufactured. Following the end of the war, the company resumed production of commercial wagons and truck bodies and became nationally-known for its line of wagons and truck bodies.
4-1-1927 Freeport Journal-Standard classified ad:
The June 3rd, 1940 Freeport Journal-Standard carried the following obituary:
Seymour Hunt was employed early on as a bookkeeper with William Ellwood's Percheron horse business, and then as secretary of the Patten Manufacturing Co. in Sycamore, Illinois (later Sycamore Foundry Co.). In association with C.F. Patten, he went on to organize the Standard Foundry and Manufacturing Company of DeKalb, and also served as president of the DeKalb Wagon Works (later DeKalb Commercial Body) at the time his new residence on Augusta Avenue was completed in 1923.
In World War II, DeKalb manufactured shelters for mobile communication units for the U. S. Army Signal Corps. The company name was changed to its final iteration, the DeKalb Commercial Body Corporation, in January, 1941. During the war, a backlog of orders for new truck bodies had built up, and the company expanded its production after the war. It launched a program of field research to determine the requirements of fleet operators and began producing streamlined truck bodies.
DeKalb advertising, both to the dealer and consumer, stressed the theme of "quality." Display advertising was placed in the major trade papers by the company. E.E. Miller, president, took over leadership of the company in 1949. Other officers at the time included J.T. Modloff, vice-president in charge of engineering and production; P.T. Nugent, vice-president, sales; M.T. Miller, secretary; and F.B. Terwilliger, assistant secretary-treasurer.
Amongst the numerous targeted catalogs issued by the firm during its first 50 years in business were the following:
The company was listed in the 1969 DeKalb City Directory at 229 W. Garden St. but the property was listed as a vacant lot in the 1971 Directory.
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