Toledo, thanks to Peter Gendron, has
become prominent throughout the world for its development of the
manufacture of metal wheels and for the quantity and quality of its
output of that class of products. Mr. Gendron, came to the city at
the age of twenty-one and found employment as a pattern maker in the
Toledo Novelty Works, then conducted by Russell & Thayer. In 1871 he
went to Detroit as a pattern maker for the Detroit Safe Company. As
a boy he had worked in his father's wagon shop and while in Detroit
he conceived the idea of a wire wheel. In 1875 he returned to
Toledo, perfected his invention, first using the wire wheel on
children's carriages. In 1877, with three associates he began the
manufacture of wheels, but the company lacked sufficient capital to
put the product on the market and consequently failed. Mr. Gendron
did not lose faith in his invention, however, and after three years
of persistent effort established a market for his wheels.
The Gendron Wheel Company was incorporated in 1880 and a small
factory was started at 218 Summit Street. Within three years the
business increased to such proportions that larger quarters became
necessary. A site at the corner of Orange and Superior streets was
purchased and a four-story building 100 feet square was erected. In
1890, the capital stock was increased to $300,000 and a few years
later it was increased to $500,000. This company was not only the
originator of the wire wheel, but it has always been the recognized
leader in the manufacture of goods of that class. It makes bicycles,
tricycles, invalid chairs, go-cars, baby carriages, doll carriages,
coaster wagons, toy wheelbarrows, etc."
In 1927, Gendron became a subsidiary of American National. American
National was formed as a holding company for three companies, Toledo
Metal Wheel, National Wheel and American Wheel. For the next eleven
years, American-National, Toledo, and Gendron products were
manufactured in the Gendron plant which covered about one square
block at St Clair, Superior, Jackson and Adams streets in downtown
Toledo, Ohio. At their peak, between 3000 and 4000 people were
employed. American-National, Toledo and Gendron products were sold
under the trade names of Pioneer, Skippy, Express, Reliance,
Hi-Speed, Hi-Way, Speed King, Blue Streak, Sampson, American,
Streamline, Etc. Each company had their own products and catalogs.
In the late 1930\’s, American-National had financial difficulties.
In 1941, the assets and all rights to the product line were
purchased by a group of Toledo industrialists headed by Walter H.
Diemer. Previously, Mr. Diemer was the President of
American-National. The new company was incorporated as the Gendron
Wheel Company, Perrysburg, Ohio. The company was organized “to
manufacture, import, export, buy, sell, and in general deal in
wheelchairs, playground equipment, and other juvenile conveniences
of every kind”.
All of American-National plants were closed except the Gendron
Perrysburg plant. Due to the war effort, Gendron concentrated its
efforts on wheelchairs and hospital stretchers. However, they
continued to manufacture wooden wagons and playground equipment.
Catalogs from the 1950's and early 1960\’s show playground
equipment and hand car racers with the trade name Howdy Doody.
In 1959, Gendron Wheel moved most of its manufacturing to Archbold,
Ohio. The Perrysburg plant was closed in 1963. In 1964, the company
became a subsidiary of Howmedica, however the Gendron trademark
continued. In 1971, Mr. Robert Diemer and Mr. Richard A. Bigelow
purchased the company. It became Gendron-Diemer. In 1975, Richard A.
Bigelow purchased Mr. Diemer\’s interest and the company became
Gendron, Inc.. In 1997, Mr. Bigelow sold the company to Steven W.
Cotter, Thomas A. Dewire, and Frederic W. Strobel.
Today Gendron Inc. produces Mobile Patient Management products for
transport, trauma treatment, imaging, bariatric and special
procedures. Gendron also produces miniature model pedal cars and
some speculation has risen that they may once again begin making
full size pedal cars.