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The Gustav Schaefer Wagon Company (1880-1977) | Historical Construction Equipment Association

Name: The Gustav Schaefer Wagon Company (1880-1977)
Variant Name: Schaefer Body, Inc.; Schaefer & Eckhardt; Gustav Schaefer Wagon Works; Schaefer Body Company

Historical Note:

Schaefer Body, Inc., initially specializing in custom-made wagons and carriages, grew with the automotive industry, building auto and truck bodies and supplying related services. From its beginnings as Schaefer & Eckhardt in 1880, immigrant Gustav Schaefer, a skilled wagon-wheel maker, acquired $800 in working capital and organized the Gustav Schaefer Wagon Works on Lorain Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio, to produce wagon bodies. By 1913 the firm was also making automobile bodies and in 1917 it incorporated as the Gustav Schaefer Wagon Company.

In the 1920s the company responded to the changing times by building commercial auto and truck bodies of all types and adding services such as wheel repairing and auto painting and trimming. It also introduced a rotary scraper in 1921; some trade press directories credit them with producing a pull grader as well, but it may well be this scraper, as there were other instances in these directories of scrapers being referred to as graders.

The company name was shortened to the Schaefer Body Company in 1926. After a fire destroyed the plant in 1927, the company, crippled by the Depression, went into receivership and had its assets sold at public auction in 1935. Financed with Cleveland capital, the company reorganized as the Schaefer Body, Inc., with Gustav's son, Henry Schaefer, as president, and relocated to Superior Ave. on the east side.

By 1964 Schaefer had augmented its custom body work by repairing truck, trailer, and auto bodies and providing contract maintenance for fleets. It was also a major sales and service outlet for new equipment. Although new management tried to strengthen Schaefer Body's distribution and service operation in 1972, the company had a variety of problems and closed in 1977. All assets, including equipment and machinery, were liquidated.

Sources: Sales literature; Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, http://ech.case.edu/ech-cgi/article.pl?id=SBI
Note Author: Thomas Berry

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