Webb City Automobile Company, on the northeast corner of Liberty and Joplin (Broadway) Street . It was later home to the Safeway grocery store until it burned. (CONTRIBUTED BY DOUG NONNWEILER), AT 

Ancestors, Legends & Time

Businesses sprung up to provide community with autos and electric conveniences

Jeanne Newby

The Auto Electrical Specialty Co., 211 W. Joplin (Broadway) St. The Webb City Police Department is now at that address. The adjacent brick telephone company building, remains much the same and is also occupied by WCPD.

In 1909, Webb City boasted of having all the modern conveniences available. The newest modern contraption (as many called it) was the automobile. On Jan. 1, 1909, a new business was incorporated, and it was known as the Webb City Automobile Co.

The officers of this business were F.W. Caulkins, president; W.G. Koontz, vice president; and F.R. Beardsley, secretary and general manager. Beardsley seems to be the one who had the most responsibility with this new company. The business claimed that the well-known names of the officers were a sufficient guarantee that this was an honest and reliable company of which to do business. The list of stockholders and directors included 25 of Webb City’s most substantial businessmen and automobile owners.

The Webb City Automobile Co. occupied a brand new building located on the northeast corner of Liberty and Joplin (Broadway) streets. The 50 x 84 foot building was two story, with both floors being used to the maximum. Being the only automobile company in Webb City at that time, business was good.

What an exciting and great business to have. No competition, a brand new commodity and the means to repair, if needed. This company operated a first-class garage using all of the most modern equipment available. By supplying a fine garage and repair business, successful businessmen were more willing to go out and invest in a new automobile. And if it was a Chalmers-Detroit, Winston and Hudson car or runabout that the influential businessman was looking for, the Webb City Automobile Co. was the place to purchase one.

Just to the east of Webb City Automobile Co., at 211 Joplin (Broadway) St., was the Automobile Electrical Specialty Co. The building was nestled between the Webb City Automobile Co. and the phone company buildings.The officers of this incorporation were: A.M. Wagner, president; Hal Campbell, vice president and general manager; and W.E. Perry, secretary and treasurer.

The front window of the business was a complete description of the company and its many attributes. First off, it was stated that the business was incorporated for $10,000. The window advertisement also let the customer know that this company was an agent for the Western Electric Co.; they did wiring for mills, houses, light plant installations, repaired motors of all kinds and sold electrical supplies. They did all kinds of electrical work that might be needed.

One of the most unique attributes of this new company was how they advertised to be “Specialist M.D.s (Meter Doctors) and D.D.s (Dynamo Doctors). They claimed to treat successfully every “disease” that any electrical apparatus would be heir to. Their motto was “No cure, no pay.” The company was said to have the largest and best armature department west of the Mississippi River. Their field was everywhere and there was no part or piece of electrical machinery too difficult for them to repair. And, just like doctors, they claimed to never sleep, and they were on call 24 hours a day.

Should you need to erect a lighting plant, build transmission lines, telephone lines, or electric railway lines, these were your men. To be versatile, this company also manufactured and rented the Automated Hoisting Register, which was an essential invention for the modern mining company.

The picture of this company was interesting, as they were located and attached to the telephone company building and they manufactured and installed switchboards. And although they were next door to the Webb City Automobile Co. they had a horse drawn wagon out front of the business. That half block from the alley starting with the telephone company going west was an industrial park by itself.

Jeanne Newby

A lot of us appreciate the Bradbury Bishop Fountain, but Jeanne actually worked behind the counter making sodas while she was in high school. She knows everything about Webb City and is a member of the Webb City R-7 School Board.