The Bain Wagon Company Built Wagons and Sleighs Sold by Massey-Harris John Bain, founder of the Bain Wagon Company, learned to work with his hands at a very early age. The son of a cabinetmaker, John had always been fascinated with farm equipment, especially wagons. His knowledge of wood, received while working in the family business as a young boy, made him realize that a farm wagon was only as good as the lumber from which it was built. Even the best quality lumber had to be thoroughly dried and well-seasoned. It was the attention to quality and detail that would make wagons and sleighs built by the Bain brothers a great addition to the Massey-Harris catalog of farm implements and products. John Bain Studies the Wagon Trade in the US John’s Keith Bain’s father, John Senior, had immigrated from Scotland and settled in Canada in the early 1840’s. John was educated in the local public schools and at age nineteen was apprenticed to J. T. Hinks, a wagon-making company in Brantford, Ontario. After finishing his apprenticeship, he went to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to further study the manufacturing process. He then moved to Illinois and continued to pursue his trade in the cities of Batavia, Rock Island and Moline. John was a skilled baseball player and it was while residing in Illinois that he played professional ball for several years. It appears that he played for the infamous Chicago White Soxs while he resided in the United States. He was not part of the famous scandal that involved the White Soxs throwing the 1919 World Series. Although baseball was an interesting distraction, his true passion was in wagon building and design. That interest would take him back to his Canadian homeland. John Bain Forms a New Company By 1880, John noticed that many of the wagons produced in US factories were being exported to Canada. In 1881, sensing that there might be some lucrative opportunities, he and his brother George, founded the Bain Wagon Company back home in Canada. He established the original Bain Wagon Company, first in Cedar Creek and then in 1882, they moved the new company to Woodstock, Ontario. After a brief association with the Verity Plow Works the brothers moved their operation to Brantford. For a newly founded company, they did very well, completing the production of one hundred wagons that first year and employing forty-five workers. Now called the Bain Bros. Mfg. Company, the move to Brantford proved to be a profitable one. There the company prospered until 1893, at which time they became affiliated with the Massey-Harris Company. This new association greatly expanded the demand for their products and they decided to move the operation back to their hometown of Woodstock. There they purchased a large factory that would allow them to expand the operation, now known as the Bain Wagon Company. John became General Manager and his brother George, became Plant Manager. Massey-Harris became the exclusive sales agents for the company’s entire output and their products were distributed all over the world. From production of only one hundred wagons in 1881, the business had an output of ten-thousand wagons and four-thousand sleighs of various models by the year 1902. That same year, the company employees numbered almost three-hundred workers. They continued to produce top-quality farm and freight wagons, log wagons and lumber trucks, farm and railroad dump carts, spring wagons, several different delivery wagons, bob-sleds and passenger sleighs sometimes known as cutters. Building Vehicles for the Boer War and World War I The Bain Wagon Company’s quality product caught the eye of the Canadian government which lead to large sales of wagons, ambulances and water wagons to South Africa during the Boer War. World War I also helped the company to grow at a rapid rate, again leading to another large expansion of the manufacturing facility. Finally, in 1926, Massey-Harris Company purchased all of the Bain Wagon Company stock and took over full ownership and operation. Even with the advent of steam and gas traction engines, the demand for draft animal drawn wagons and sleighs remained very strong. The wagon operation in Woodstock remain a profitable part of the Massey-Harris Company. In 1931, a rumor began to circulate that Massey-Harris was going to close the Bain factory and transfer workers to Brantford. The fear of job loss became so great that the local Woodstock paper, the Daily Sentinal-Review, published an article on April 4, 1931, stating, “The head office in Toronto today declared that they are not considering closing the Bain Works at Woodstock and sending the work to Brantford.” The factory not only did not close but remained in operation into the early 1940’s. Different Companies with the Bain Name If you are a student of horse-drawn implements–wagons and sleighs in particular–you need to be aware that there are two–possibly maybe three–Bain Wagon Companies. One is the company discussed in this article, located in Woodstock, Ontario and the other was founded in Kenosha, Wisconsin with a third in Perkin, Illinois. Most of the wagons and bob sleds found here in the United States were built by the company in Wisconsin. What makes identifying the wagon maker so difficult is the fact that the main component in these implements is wood. In most cases, there were no serial number plates or identification tags. The name of the maker was painted on the body or axle. When an old wagon or sleigh is located, about the only way to identify which company built it is to compare the scroll work and the lettering to a known implement. The Canadian Bain Company had the most elaborate paint scheme, the most durable wheels on their wagons and very distinctive patterns to the decorative scrolling.