“ ‘A WICKES-MADE product’ – where machinery is made and used and boilers and boiler construction are discussed, it is unnecessary to add Saginaw, Mich., as the home of the Wickes Boiler and Machine companies, so well and widely known is this pioneer Saginaw, Industry. The story of the growth of the Wickes organization is a long and interesting one.” Saginaw News Supplement, March 10, 1935
Founded in Flint in 1855 by H.W. Wood, Henry D. Wickes and Edward N. Wickes as the Genesee Iron Works, the company was a general foundry and machine shop focusing on the manufacture of plow shares, odd castings and repairs. As the raw materials for the company were shipped by water to East Saginaw and then transported over the Genesee Plank Road to Flint. The Wickes brothers saw this as waste and by 1860 the firm had been relocated to East Saginaw. In 1864, they purchased Wood’s interest. In his history of Saginaw, James C. Mills notes: “Soon after coming here [East Saginaw] the defects and imperfections of the existing type of gang saws used in the saw mills [sic.] along the river, were brought to their attention, and mechanical ingenuity was at once turned to the improvement of such machinery.”
They perfected the gang saw – a type of saw that cuts multiple pieces of lumber from a log at one time. Wickes Brothers became a dominant supplier of equipment for sawmills throughout county for generations. Adjusting to changing demands and technology the company diversified its product lines. In 1947, Wickes Boiler, Wickes Brothers and U.S. Graphite merged to become the Wickes Corporation. In the early 1970s, the Wickes Corporation diversified, and eventually corporate offices were removed from Saginaw. In the early, 1980s, Wickes Corporation ran into difficulty.
This weekend, when you attend the 48th Annual Gas Tractor Show Mid-Michigan Old Gas Tractor Association’s 48th Annual Gas tractor Show you will have a chance to see a Wickes Gang Saw in Operation.
(While the Castle Museum’s doesn’t have space to display examples of most of the items manufactured by Wickes Brothers, we do have several brochures and catalogs in the collection. Images from one accompany this post.)