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F.F. Zimmermann; F.F. Zimmermann & Sons
F.F. Zimmermann 1866 -1879; F.F. Zimmermann & Sons 1879-1913, Waupun, Wisconsin
Associated Builders

F.F. Zimmermann* was a small-family run Wisconsin carriage builder who supplied small numbers of automobile bodies to regional manufacturers. Their most famous customer was the Kissel Motor Car Company for whom they supplied coachwork from 1906 into 1908 when Kissel set up their own body works. F.F. Zimmerman also constructed bodies for the little – known Bendix, Holsman and Halladay automobiles with the failure of the latter taking down Zimmerman as well.

(*Not to be confused with the Zimmerman Mfg. Co. of Auburn, Indiana, who produced Zimmerman high-wheelers, roadsters and touring cars from 1907-1915.)

Frederick Ferdinand Zimmermann was born in Leipzig (Leipsic), Saxony, Germany, on October 13, 1838 to Ludwig and Veronica (Oelschlaegel) Zimmermann. The family emigrated to America via New York City in September of 1841, and came to Milwaukee the same year, acquiring a homestead 12 miles to the north in Mequon, Ozaukee County, Wisconsin, where he engaged in general farming for many years afterward. The union was blessed by the birth of eight children: one who died in infancy; William F., who passed away in Chicago; Ernest F., who became a Chicago harnessmaker; Frederick F., our subject; Edward, who was buried at sea at the age of six months; and Edward, Amelia and Agnes, all of whom have passed away during the nineteenth century, aged respectively seventeen, two and twenty-eight years.

At the age of 16 Frederick was apprenticed to a Milwaukee carriage builder, after which he worked as a journeyman in Mequon; then Chicago, Illinois; Burlington, Wisconsin, and in the spring of 1859, Waupun*, Wisconsin, where on August 10, 1862 he married Ernestine Geidel, who was born in 1846, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Geidel, who emigrated to America in 1839.

(*Waupun, one of the most important cities in Dodge county, lies partly in Fond du Lac county.)

To the blessed union was born eight children: Ida V., born March 29, 1863 (m. August Grebel); Emma, born July 13, 1865, (m. Oscar Hanisch); Flora, born May 10, 1868 (m. Otto Amthor); Louis E., born April 3, 1871; Alfred A., born March 12, 1874 (m. Ida H. Schlegel); Clara, born April 27, 1876 (m. Ferdinand E. Grebe); Oscar E., born Sept. 10, 1878; and Richard A., the youngest member of the Zimmermann family, was born in 1886.

After seven years as a journeyman F.F. Zimmerman commenced business on his own account in 1866. After graduation from the Spencerian Business College of Milwaukee, his sons Louis E. and Alfred A, Zimmermann joined the works as partners and the firm was renamed F.F. Zimmermann & Sons Co.

The 1894 Wisconsin State Report provided the following details of Zimmerman’s operation:

“ZIMMERMANN, F. F., mfr. carriages, wagons and sleighs. Five buildings—two 3 st. frame: one 2-st. stone; two 1-st. frame; hand power. Estab. 1866. 15 male employees.”

Although the firm had built their reputation on wagons, carriages, buggies and cutters, they were amongst the first in the region to engage in the manufacture of automobile bodies, and employed from 15 to 30 hands. In 1911 the company did a business of $50,000, a fact which placed it in the front rank of the manufacturing concerns of its class in central eastern Wisconsin.

The firm’s listing in the 1905 Fon du Lac and Dodge County directories follows:

“Zimmermann Alfred (F. F. Zimmermann & Sons) h s. s. W. Franklin opp. brewery.

“Zimmermann F. F. & Sons (Ferdinand F., Louis E. and Alfred A. Zimmermann) carriage mnfrs. 501-515 W. Main.

“Zimmermann Ferdinand F. (F. F. Zimmermann & Sons) h. 508 W. Main.

“Zimmermann Louis E. (F. F. Zimmermann & Sons) h 226 W. Main.”

Zimmermann is known to have provided coachwork to Bendix (mfd. in Logansport, Indiana from 1908-1909) and Holsman (mfd. 1901-1910 in Chicago, Illinois) and, as the company stated in 1908:

“…have been supplying the Kissel Motor Car Company …with every body used since the establishment of the motor works.”

Zimmermann announced plans to enter the automobile field in 1908, but no evidence of manufacture, or even a prototype is extant.

On August 10, 1912, Mr. and Mrs. Zimmermann celebrated their golden wedding and their eight children were all present with their families.

Shortly thereafter the Zimmerman’s joy was turned to sorrow, when in November of 1912 the firm bearing his name was forced to shut down, the December 1912 issue of the Hub reporting:

“The carriage factory of Zimmermann & Sons, Waupun, Wis., has been closed pending the settlement of the affairs of the auto company, of Streator, Ill., for which the firm made bodies. The Zimmermanns have some $3,000 tied up in auto bodies on hand and the failure of the Streator company has caused them considerable financial embarrassment. Whether or not they will resume work is uncertain. It is one of the oldest manufacturing plants in the city.”

The failed firm which the article referred to was the Streator Motor Car Co. of Streator, Illinois, the manufacturer of the Halladay automobile. Its formation was announced in the January 22, 1909 Ottawa (Ill.) Free Trader:

“The incorporation papers of the Streator Motor Car were filed for record in the Recorder's office yesterday. The Streator Motor Car Co. will manufacture the Halladay automobile and will consist of three stockholders, J.C. Barlow, L.P. Halladay, and P.R. Chubbuck. The company is incorporated for $30,000. The stock is equally divided between the three stockholders.”

“The situation reached an unfortunate end as reported in the February 15, 1913 issue of Automobile Topics:

“Streator Finishes Stormy Career

“By the confirmation of the terms of sale of the personal property of the Streator Motor Car Co., of Streator, Ill., to the Assets Realization Co., of Chicago, for $56,000, the career of the Halladay car seems at an end, and the Streator Motor Car Co. a thing of the past. The decree of the court turns over to the Chicago concern all machinery, completed and uncompleted cars, as well as all parts and accessories in the factory. The Chicago company will strip the plant of everything and sell the contents piecemeal, most of it in Chicago. No bids so far have been received for the real property of the company, which has been appraised at $30,000, and the court has ordered an auction sale of this property. The Streator Motor Car Co. from the very beginning of its history has had an unusually stormy career. It has passed through two bankruptcies and ‘reorganizations’; has had internal troubles among the chief stockholders and officers; and has been in law suits by the score. Internal dissensions in the company ruined its chances of success.”

The May 3, 1913 issue of Automobile Topics announced that A.C. Barley had purchased most of the firm’s assets:

“New Committee Takes Halladay

“Matters at the plant of the Streator Motor Car Co. of Streator, Ill., maker of the Halladay car, took a new turn last week when a new creditors committee composed of James L. Hilliard, G. Jahn and Duncan McDougall took charge. The factory operations are controlled by A.C. Barley of the Western Motor Co. who purchased the equipment from the trustee recently.”

Barley reorganized Streator’s assets as the Barley Mfg. Co., which would go on to produce the Barley automobile, however Zimmermann was cut out of the settlement and within two months the financially embarrassed Waupun businessman passed away, the July 16, 1913 issue of the Fond Du Lac Daily Commonwealth reporting:

“F. F. ZIMMERMANN DIES AT WAUPUN; Was Member of County Board From Sixth Ward; PROMINENT CARRIAGE MAKER; Had Been in Business in Waupun Since 1866—Leaves Wife and Eight Children.

“Special To The Daily Commonwealth.

“Waupun, Wis., July 16. - F.F. Zimmermann, a prominent resident of this city, and a member of the county board from the Sixth ward, died last evening at his home here. He had been in failing health for a long time, but had been seriously ill for only the past three months.

“Mr. Zimmermann was born in Saxony, Germany, Oct. 13, 1838. The family came to New York city in 1841 and to Milwaukee the same year. He learned his trade, that of carriage maker, in Milwaukee when he was seventeen years old. In 1859 he came to Waupun, where he worked at his trade for seven years, starting in business for himself in 1866 in the upper town, he has been in business since that time continuously, making carriages and later making auto bodies. He took his three sons into partnership with him. Last spring the company went into bankruptcy because of the failure of the auto company for which it was making bodies. This was a great shock to Mr. Zimmermann and it is thought that it possibly hastened his death.

“In 1862 Mr. Zimmermann was married to Miss Ernestine Siegel [sic] and last year the couple celebrated their golden wedding with all of their eight children present.

“Mr. Zimmermann leaves besides his wife four daughters. Mrs. Ida Grebel, of Beavor Dam, Mrs. Emma Hanisch. Mrs. Flora Amthor and Mrs. Clara Grebe, of this city; and four sons, Louis, Alfred, Oscar and Richard.

“Mr. Zimmermann was a self-made man and a man hold in the highest esteem by all who know him. He had held a number of public offices in the city, especially in connection with the school board of the upper town.

“The funeral will be held from the residence at 2 o'clock Friday afternoon. Rev. William Stachling of Emmanuel’s Lutheran church, will officiate”

© 2013 Mark Theobald for







Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark - Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942

Western Historical Company -The History of Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, pub. 1880

Western Historical Company - The History of Dodge County, Wisconsin, pub. 1880 

Maurice McKenna - Fond Du Lac County, Wisconsin, Past and Present, Vol. II, pub. 1912

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