Union Trailer Works

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The Union Camp Trailer was manufactured by the Union Trailer Works Company which was located at 310 Charles Street, Boonville, New York. The Union Trailer Works was actually owned and operated by the Union Loom Works, also known as Union Specialty Works. The company was well known for the manufacturing of quality handmade looms, small furniture, grandfather clocks and many other products as well. The camping trailer was put on the market in 1920, but the company's roots can be traced back much further as is often the case.

The Union Specialty Works was founded by the John H. Elsaser in Boonville, New York in 1911. John purchased the old Boonville high school building and relocated his manufacturing operations from Castorland where he was making chairs and furniture novelties. He also had been dealing in the rag trade, where scraps of cloth were packaged for resale in quilting. He was born on November 8, 1851 and married Catherine Karcher in 1893. They had 6 children; Ben, John A., Carl, Edna, Esther, and Bertha. Catherine passed away on January 17, 1923. Originally all three sons joined the family business but John A. formed a partnership producing potholders. Ben and Carl continued in the family business.

It was their son Ben who in 1915 designed the first loom that would transform the family business. He applied for a patent for his design on March 3, 1915 and was granted US Patent 1,176,822 on March 28, 1916. Thanks to the Arts and Crafts renaissance of the early 20th century business quickly took off. The Union Loom Works was incorporated in 1918. Later siblings Carl and Edna started Carlcraft to deal in fabric repackaging.

The Elsaser family recoginized the importance of the emerging auto trailer industry and were quick to capitalize upon it. In July of 1920 they formed the Union Trailer Works and announced their entry into the auto trailer market with their Union Half-Ton Trailer. Also introduced at this time was the Union Trailer Camp. It was substantially built of quality materials and featured the standard look and feel for a tent trailer from the time period. All trailers sold were covered by a one year guarantee, four times longer than the industry standard. Be sure to check out their first year brochure, a fortunate find!

On January 17, 1924 John's wife, Catherine, passed away. He married his second wife, Bertha Frisbie, on February 4, 1925. John H. retired from the business sometime around 1928 but stayed very active with his mail order business he conducted off to the side. The business prospered until the Great Depression set in. The corporation was liquidated in 1930, although Ben continued the manufacture of the looms as a private business. Eventually he was albe to repurchase the original loom works and revive the family business. He would continue the business until the 1950's. At the time of this writing it is unclear how long the Union Trailer Works continued to manufacture and sell trailers. Advertising is only found in periodicals from 1921 to 1922. But this is not a good indicator that trailer business was discontinued. It's possible that production might have been scaled back and blended in with the other products and continued until the company's first demise in 1930.

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