Kalamazoo Sled Company
The Largest Manufacturer of Children’s Sleds in the World
The Kalamazoo Sled Company has its earliest roots in the 1870s. From its headquarters on the corner of Third and Sheldon near the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad, the Page Manufacturing Company made wooden components for buggies until 1894. On February 14 of that year the firm was reorganized under the name of the Kalamazoo Sled Company with a capital stock of thirty thousand dollars. The directors were A. Pitkin and J. B. Wycolf, and the president was H. P. Kauffer. By 1905 the company had absorbed a smaller competitor, the Columbia Sled Company, employed over 100 people, and was the largest manufacturer of children’s sleds in the world. Sleds for Everyone
Over the years the Kalamazoo Sled Company has manufactured a wide variety of goods from croquet sets to wooden handles for feather dusters to lawn furniture and of course, sleds. Their Champion line of sleds was popular with the young and old alike and came in a variety of sizes and styles. Sleek, low racing models were popular with boys, while the girls preferred ornate high-sided models. There was even a baby sled that parents could use to replace the carriage during the snowy months.
Like many other manufacturing companies in the country, the Kalamazoo Sled Company had a difficult time adjusting production during and after World War II. They made a few arctic sleds for use by military troops, but the shortage of iron during the war years forced the company to revert to making inferior all-wooden sleds for sale to the public.
The Flying Disc
Source: PPG Products, January/February 1956, page 6, copy in Local History Room Orange Dot File: Kalamazoo Sled Company
During the 1950’s, the Kalamazoo Sled Company introduced the Champion Flying Disc, a round plastic and fiberglass sled they co-produced with Camfield Fiber Glass Plastics Inc. in Zeeland, Michigan. In 1956, the first year of their production, the Flying Discs were available in orange and green and retailed for about $6.00. The new toy was a big hit for several years, but when the novelty began to wear off, sales once again began to slip.
In 1962 the Kalamazoo Sled Company acquired the J. L. Weiner Company, a small toy company based in St. Louis. At that time the name of the company was changed to Kalamazoo Sled and Toys, Inc. In the years that followed, the company took on production of certain toys and added a line of high quality aluminum lawn furniture. Then in 1968, the Gladding Corporation of New York bought out the Kalamazoo company and made it a subsidiary in their leisure-time products business. The local management remained for a few years, but in 1972 Gladding Corporation consolidated all of its operations at a plant in Maine. The Kalamazoo landmark that had stood on Crosstown Parkway for more then 75 years was abandoned. On April 15, 1974, an arsonist torched the empty building, and it burned to the ground in a spectacular fire that was visible for miles. But it is worth remembering that for many years a small factory in Kalamazoo was one of the largest manufacturers of children’s sleds in the world.
All illustrations on this page not otherwise identified are taken from an undated advertising brochure in the Local History Room Subject File: Kalamazoo Sled Company.
Written by Alex Forist, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, May 2005. Updated July 2005.
Compendium of History and Biography of Kalamazoo County, Mich
David Fisher and Frank Little, editors
Chicago: A. W. Bowen & Co., , page 528
H 977.417 F53 Kalamazoo, the Place Behind the Products
Massie, Larry B. and Peter J. Schmitt
Windsor Publications, 1981, page 136
H 977.418 M417
Kalamazoo Gazette, 16 April 1974, page B1
“Fire puts old sled co. building on the skids”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 21 April 1974, page F1
Local History Room Files
Subject File: Kalamazoo Sled Company
Orange Dot File: Kalamazoo Sled Company
Kalamazoo Sled Company, 844 3rd Street, c1936
History Room Photograph P-92