The American Wood Rim Co.
Submitted by Nute Chapman
From Onaway Outlook March 1, 2013
CAPTION #1: THE HURON HOUSE sat on the corner of Washington Avenue and Shaw Street. The Awakon
Federal Credit Union and parking lot occupy this location now. The Huron House was associated
with the Huron Handle Company. Photo is courtesy of the Clayton Dunn Family.
In the next few weeks we plan to share with our readers some of a longtime collection of the American Rim Company information and pictures that we have saved, collected and researched.
Some of the material has been published more than once and told differently each time. Some of the information will be from my own tour of the ruins with the late Vern Jackson, who was the yard foreman on the day of the fire.
Some weeks the article may be short with a large picture because of limited space.
If any of you old-timers have pictures or information that you would like to see in print or donated to the new museum, please contact me or the Onaway Outlook office.
Although one can take the Lobdell family and iron wheels for railroad cars back to the 1850s, I chose to start in Marietta, Ohio where E.J. Lobdell was making wooden wheels, chain guards and rear dress guards for bicycles in the year of 1880. It was here that competition for good hardwood became a problem.
Another factory in Marietta was making wooden bicycle handlebars and it burned in 1897.
In 1900 Merrit Chandler already owned 40,000 acres of hardwood timber in the Onaway area. This hardwood was payment for his service of building part of the Petoskey to Presque Isle area road. To insure the future growth of the Onaway area, Chandler restricted the sale of his hardwood holdings to the lumber companies willing to move into the Onaway area and employ the settlers. No industry was willing to venture into such desolate country; therefore the land was not touched for many years.
In 1900 the Huron Handle and Manufacturing Company, located in Alpena was affected by the scarcity of timer. The company accepted Chandler's offer and moved its sawmill and handle factory to Onaway that fall. By February 1901, the Huron Handle and Manufacturing Company was ready for operation. The Huron Handle Company had started the Northern Michigan Railroad and was making broom handles, coat hangers, flooring and dimension stock. Chandler's dream was becoming a reality.
It was about this time that Lobdell was looking at fierce competition and the American Wood Rim Company was formed. From here we will bring to you at least three pages of information from the American Wood Rim Company Catalog.
This catalog was sent out to potential customers. It has no date and no copywrite. This catalog was printed after the American Wood Rim Co. came to Onaway in 1901. It belonged to the late Joe Eichorn, (Glen Eichorn's father). Joe's son-in-law Claude Godfrey presented it to me in July of 1979. Joe signed this book on October 7, 1931.
The manufacture of bicycle wood rims was started 21 years ago, and in less than three years this entirely displaced the all-steel rim by its merit. The wood rim is resilient and springy and enhances the life of the tire and, when made properly of fine selected straight-grain maple, has proven a very serviceable and lasting construction for bicycles.
Manufacturers of wood rims multiplied very fast. There was a total of 24 factories during an interval of six years manufacturing wood rems, some of which made a cheap rim out of elm wood. There were various styles of construction, but the three leading manufacturers of fine quality wood rims were The Fairbanks-Boston Rim Co., Bradford, Pennsylvania, The Kundtz Bending Co., Cleveland, Ohio, and E. J. Lobdell, Marietta, Ohio. The rims manufactured by these three concerns were used on nearly all the high-grade bicycles manufactured in the United States.
The competition became fierce and The American Wood Rim Company was organized and comprised the following wood rim manufacturers: The Indiana Novelty Co., Plymouth, Indiana, The Fairbanks-Boston Rim Co., Bradford, Pennsylvania, The Kundtz Bending Co., Cleveland, Ohio and E. J. Lobdell, Marietta, Ohio.
It became necessary to purchase a large acreage of standing hard rock maple in Michigan in order to secure a strictly high-grade, straight-grain selected maple suitable to manufacture into high-grade wood rims. The owners of the American Wood Rim Company organized The Lobdell-Emery Mfg. Co., purchased 28,000 acres of the finest standing hard rock maple forest in the southern peninsula of Michigan, and erected a very large saw mill and woodwork manufacturing plant in Onaway in 1901. There was an annual cut of 20,000,000 feet of hard rock maple per annum, so as to manufacture from this timber straight-grain hard rock maple rim strips suitable for the rim work.
To be continued next week.
-From The Onaway Outlook, March 1, 2013, p. 3. Retyped by J. Anderson.