By Jim Hinckley
Do you know what the thread linking Fred and Augie Duesenberg, Maytag appliances, and an obscure manufacturer of tractors and farm machinery is? The answer is William Galloway.
After college, he traveled the rural roads of Iowa, selling specialty goods to rural farm families. Employment as a traveling salesman for a farm implement dealer in Reinbeck, Iowa, was the next step in his journey to create an empire.
In 1901, after literally learning the business from the ground up, he established his farm implement dealership in Waterloo, Iowa. Galloway, however, was an ambitious man with a vision for the future.
The cornerstone for the William Galloway Company established in Waterloo, Iowa, in 1905 was the manufacture of various agricultural products, including manure spreaders and harrow carts. Everything the company was produced was available via mail order. Soon Galloway would be selling products similarly produced by other manufacturers, and in less than a decade, the company was the largest mail order farm equipment supplier in the country.
In 1908, Galloway expanded his product line to include manufacturing a vehicle promoted as a conveyance that could carry the family to church on Sunday and haul loads during the week. Load-carrying capacities are questionable as power for the primitive high wheeler was a two-cylinder, fourteen-horse power engine.
Expansion of his venture into automobile manufacturing occurred in 1910 with the acquisition of a substantial interest in the Maytag-Mason Motor Car Company after securing a guarantee the company would relocate from Des Moines to Waterloo, Iowa. Senator Fred L. Maytag had initially established Maytag to produce agricultural machinery and washing machines. Still, with the acquisition of controlling interest in Mason Motor Car Company in 1909, he expanded operations to include automobile manufacturing.
The cornerstone for the Mason-built automobiles was a two-cylinder engine designed by Fred and August Duesenberg. Incorporated in Des Moines, Iowa, the Mason Motor Car Company established in 1906 was named for Edward R. Mason, the primary financier behind the endeavor.
Promoted as “The Fastest & Strongest Two-Cylinder Car in America,” the Mason garnered critical acclaim as a hill climber in numerous events, and after 1907, like a racecar. This, however, did not translate into sales, and reorganization occurred in 1908.
Maytag’s acquisition of controlling interest in the company and a subsequent merger did little to bolster sagging sales. Neither did manufacturing an automobile sold under the Galloway name in 1911.
Even though the William Galloway Company continued to manufacture agricultural equipment profitably, the company’s namesake still hoped to become a successful manufacturer of motor vehicles. In 1910, Galloway and C.W. Hellen purchased Dart, a manufacturer of trucks in Anderson, Indiana, and relocated the company to Waterloo. In 1914, with the company’s reorganization, it became Dart Truck & Tractor Company, a manufacturer of chain-driven tractors, and after 1916, worm and internal gear-driven models.
The following year he made one more attempt to produce a passenger vehicle under the Galloway name. However, instead, it debuted as the Arabian, a vehicle that, except for the nameplate, was simply an Argo manufactured in Jackson, Michigan by Benjamin Briscoe.
When Briscoe divested himself of the company selling it to Mansell Hackett in the late fall of 1916, manufacturing continued under license at the Galloway facilities in Waterloo, Iowa. The Chilton Trade Directory lists the car as being in production in 1919, but in actuality, cessation occurred at the end of 1917.
All of this took place while the company continued expanding its agricultural line and mail order business. The 1913 catalog featured 146-pages of pumps, cream separators, plows, harrows, Galloway wagons, anvils, forges, iceboxes, mattresses, roofing, work clothes, windmills, and almost anything the farmer could imagine.
Even the “Little Wonder Vodaphone” to “Open Your Doors to Whole World of Entertainment” was available for ordering. Tennis rackets, roller skates, and even bicycles were sold through the Galloway catalogs.
In late 1915, Galloway turned his attentions toward the manufacture of what he envisioned as the blending of the passion for building a motor vehicle and his farm implement and supply company – a tractor. The Galloway Farmobile 12-20 debuted in 1916, and the company’s 1917 catalog notes that the tractor, which sold for $995 featured, “a 4-1/2-by-5-inch engine and a 2-speed transmission.” Promotion claimed that the Galloway manufactured tractor “Pulls Anything, Anywhere, Anytime.”
The October 17, 1918 edition of Automotive Industries noted that the new worm drive tractors produced three years of experimentation. The article also states that “…in January of this year the company received an order for 1,080 tractors of this type from the well–known British firm of Henry Garner, Ltd.”
Appraisal of the company’s complex of shops and offices that sprawled across fourteen acres placed the value at $1,462,000. Profits soared, and Galloway built a red brick home that mirrored his success.
Plans for expansion in the decade to come mirrored the companies soaring sales and diversification. That, however, required financing. Volume 99, Bankers Magazine, 1919, “One of the largest bond issues ever handled by Iowa banks has been underwritten and sold by the Waterloo Clearing House Association without the assistance of either Wall Street or LaSalle Street interests. This was the $1,750,000 issue of the William Galloway Company of Waterloo, Iowa, hearing date of July 1, 1919, and due July 1, 1925.”
The article continued with, “Both are a direct obligation of the William Galloway Company and are a lien against its plant, properties, and business.”
Then, in the blink of an eye, the empire crashed. Overextension, the severe post-war recession, and a plunge in agricultural commodity values brought the William Galloway Company to the brink of bankruptcy in 1920.
His sons resurrected the company in late 1926, but on a much more modest scale. As a mail-order company for farm supplies, it lasted into the early 1940s, and William Galloway passed away in 1952.
Today, Galloway, his catalog business that provided serious competition to companies such as Sears & Roebuck, his automotive manufacturing ventures, and the namesake tractors are less than a historic footnote. A couple of trucks, an array of Galloway stamped products ranging from engines to watch fobs, and thirteen tractors, twelve in the United States and one in France, are all that remain from Galloway’s once-formidable empire.
©Jim Hinckley, Legends of America, updated November 2021.
About the Author: Jim Hinckley is an award-winning author and photographer and an official contributor to Legends Of America through a partnership developed in October 2012. Hinckley is a former Associate Editor of Cars and Parts Magazine and author of multiple books, including several on Route 66. See Jim Hinckley’s America.