Monday, May 23, 2011

Wawanesa Wagon Seat Company

Last night we were enjoying a rousing evening of company and conversation at our friends' house across the street.  Dale and Kevin have a beautiful 1914 Eaton's catalogue house.  They have lovingly restored it to it's deserved stateliness, and have decorated the interior with bits and pieces of history - wonderful pieces of furniture, old picture frames, shutters, trunks and the like.  A glass-topped coffee table has compartments that show off the bits and pieces of past lives that they have dug up in the garden and around the property.  They like to surround themselves with old things.  Maybe that's part of the connection we have with them - a love of the past and the past's stuff.

Anyhow, last night someone pointed out the mark on a piece of wood that Kevin brought to the house.  This piece of wood sits atop a radiator and serves as a side table with a lamp and books sitting on it.  I'd never really thought about it, wondered where it came from or what it was used for originally, but suddenly my archaeological juices were flowing. 

The mark is a large oval with writing inside.  It is no longer really clear, but with a little study, we were able to figure it out - it was from the Wawanesa Wagon Seat Company in Wawanesa, Manitoba - patented in Canada in November 1904.  And sure enough, this piece of wood, with iron strapping at the end on both sides, would have been a wagon seat originally.

First comment - there was actually a company that made wagon seats???  I figured if you make the wagon, you make the seat, right?  From the patent information it looks like this particular type of seat might have been sold seperately from the wagon itself - it was removable and could hang off the side of your wagon if you weren't using it.

A search on the internet showed one solid hit on the Wawanesa Wagon Seat Company.  Apparently, Alonzo Fowler Kempton, one of the founders of the Wawanesa Insurance Company (with whom we insure our house), was a very entrepreneureal man and he was also a founder the Wawanesa Wagon Seat Company - along with several other ventures including a razor strop and paste company. 

A.F. Kempton - Quite the image of an early 20th century business man, no?

So if we have a patent date, we should be able to find a patent, yes?  Well, theoretically.  But it's not quite so easy.  There are three patents that I found under the name of A.F. Kempton - one for a whiffletree (which is part of a wagon), one for a steam washing machine and one for a wash boiler.  The whiffletree was promising.  Now, I know that a whiffletree is part of a wagon, because somewhere in my archaeological past I found part of a whiffletree in an excavation. 

So, with Kempton being a bit of a dead end, I went to November, 1904 and searched all the patents.  There is one patent for a wagon seat on November 29, 1904.  The name associated with it is Benjamin Fraklin Lloyd (I like the name!).  He had another Canadian wagon seat patent in 1906, and one for a Draft Equalizer (also wagon-associated ) in 1904. 

Searching further for B.F. Lloyd, I found two patents with the U.S. patent office for Benjamin Franklin Lloyd (1905 and 1906) ... and what were they for??  Wagon seats!  (These were undoubtedly the U.S. versions of the Canadian patents).  And he lived in Wawanesa, Manitoba. 

Interesting thing about the seat is that it looks like it hung - which didn't make sense to me except maybe having been re-used as a swing.  But sure enough, the patents show the wagon seat hanging from the box on springs.  Here's the website for one of them:

So there you go.  The Wawanesa Wagon Seat Company.  Don't know how long it lasted.  But Alonzo Fowler Kempton and Benjamin Franklin Lloyd both seem to have been involved and the patents indicate 1904-1906 at least.

And, yes, this is the kind of thing that consumes me on a Victoria Day monday morning when I'm supposed to be doing paid work. 

Onwards ...

1 comment:

  1. How interesting is that?!

    Where did my dad even get that from? I love it - turning a rad into a table is genius.

    I love my parents' house.


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