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#31 Acme Wagon Company in Emigsville; Countdown of Top 50 York County Factories at the end of 19th Century

Parts of Photos of an Acme Wagon for Sale on eBay (Montage Arrangement by S. H. Smith, 2013)
Parts of Photos of an Acme Wagon for Sale on eBay (Montage Arrangement by S. H. Smith, 2013)

In my post Late 1800s Factory Inspection Reports Assist in Identification of an East Prospect Photo  I wrote about finding these reports in the State Library of Pennsylvania.  For this series on the Top 50 York County Factories at the end of 19th Century, I’m using data from the 10th Report of the Pennsylvania Department of Factory Inspection.

The 10th Factory Inspection Report is for the Department’s year ending October 31st 1899.  I ranked the 479 York County factories by numbers of employees; #50 has 47 employees, on up to #1 with 510 employees.  In the coming weeks, on Monday and/or Tuesday, I’m counting down to the top employer in York County at the end of 19th Century.

At #31 in the count down of the Top 50 York County Factories at End of 19th Century is the Acme Wagon Company in Emigsville.  This company was located in Emigsville on the east side of what was then called the York & Liverpool Turnpike, later called the Harrisburg Pike, and now known as North George Street.  These wagon works were north of Emig Road, i.e. nearly directly across North George Street from the Emig Mansion.



The 10th Factory Inspection Report notes that on March 22nd 1899 the Acme Wagon Company in Emigsville has 80 employees; all male.  Of these 80 employees, 11 are under 21-years-old; of which 4 are between 13 and 16-years-old.  The goods manufactured are recorded as “wagons, carriages, etc.”

George Prowell’s 1907 History of York County has this to say about Emigsville and the Acme Wagon Company on pages 1018 & 1019 of Volume I:

Emigsville is situated along the line of the Northern Central Railway four miles from York and is built upon lands originally owned by John Emig, a prominent farmer and merchant who had been identified with various interests in Manchester Township.  Soon after the railroad was completed in 1851, the station became an active business centre for the agricultural region surrounding.

John Emig [Jr.] kept a store and post office, and acted as agent for the Railroad Company for many years and was then succeeded by his son, J. A. Emig.  The fortieth parallel of latitude passes through Emigsville, which also lies on the northern limit of the great lime belt that crosses York County in a northeastern and southwestern direction.  Quick lime for building purposes and for fertilizing lands has been burned in this vicinity in large quantities for the past fifty years.

East of the railroad stands the Union Chapel used by various denominations as a house of religious worship.  A brick school building of two rooms has recently been erected.

Since the establishment of the wagon works and other industries here Emigsville has developed into a prosperous town of 500 inhabitants and is destined to become an important business and manufacturing centre in the township.  In 1882, E. K. Emig and his brother, J. A. Emig, began the manufacture of one, two, and six-horse farm wagons.  They began on a limited scale and the business has gradually developed.

In 1887 an incorporated company was formed under the name of the Acme Wagon Works, with E. K. Emig as president and general manager.  With these increased facilities a prosperous business has been conducted, employing from ninety to a hundred men in the machine shop and woodworking department.  The National Tubular Axle Works are situated here.  The business was incorporated in 1892 with E. K. Emig as president of the company.

1908 Ad by the National Tubular Axle Company of Emigsville, PA (S. H. Smith Collection)
1908 Ad by the National Tubular Axle Company of Emigsville, PA (S. H. Smith Collection)

I’ll continue by adding a little greater detail and making a few minor corrections to the Prowell paragraphs based upon family history, deeds and estate records.  Emigsville was named for John Emig Jr. (1812-1882).  In 1838, he married Sarah Ellen Knisely in Lower Windsor Township; she was know as Ellen most of her married life.  Although living in Emigsville, they also were the longest landowners of the Dosch Farm in Lower Windsor Township; their “plantation near the river” had belonged to her parents.  Ellen’s parents are buried in the Dosch Burial Grounds on that farm.

In 1882, two sons of John & Ellen Emig, Edward K. Emig and John Albert Emig begin to manufacture wagons in Emigsville under the name E. K. Emig Company.  In 1888, this business is incorporated as the Acme Wagon Company.  From a 1911 Emigsville Directory, Edward K. Emig is President & Treasurer, J. Albert Emig is Vice President, and Joseph S. Miller is Secretary of the company.

American Acme Company Building in Emigsville (2013 Photo, S. H. Smith)
American Acme Company Building in Emigsville (2013 Photo, S. H. Smith)

Many wagon companies transitioned into making custom auto bodies when the ever-increasing use of automobiles significantly reduced the need for wagons; the Acme Wagon Company took another path.  In 1927, the American Toy and Novelty Company of York, owned by Carl Oermann, bought out Acme Wagon Company and became the American Acme Company.

All manufacturing operations of the combined companies consolidated into the former Acme Wagon Works in Emigsville.  Children’s sleds were the signature product of the American Acme Company.  It was reported that the new company sold more than 150,000 sleds in 1927.

American Acme Company producing sleds with names like the Flexoplane #445, Polar Plane, Speed Plane, Rocket Plane, Ice Plane, Royal Plane, and Sky Plane.  The company gradually expanded its product line to include play gyms, outdoor furniture, rocking horses and assorted other children’s toys.  Production ceased at the American Acme Company about 1984; at that time they were mostly making butcher-block tables.

A review of my count down, thus far, of the 50 top factories in York County at the end of 19th Century follows.  As a group, these 20 factories provided employment for 1,223 people in York County during 1899.

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