By Rick Mansfield
I grew up believing the Acme Company of Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote fame must have had everything. Anvils, to be dropped on the coyote by the Roadrunner. Mechanical rabbits to help Elmer Fudd guard his vegetable garden. “Iron” carrots to be swallowed by “that rascally rabbit” and then captured by a giant magnet (you guessed it—courtesy of Acme Magnet Co.) to then capture the rabbit.
When quite young, I believed in such a company. That somewhere, the Acme Toy Company was making fake holes for the Roadrunner to pass through and then fool the coyote into crashing against a solid bluff. The Acme Rocket Company had boosters to be strapped onto a variety of conveyances. Acme Spring Company was producing coils, that once attached to the bottom of one’s feet, made leaping like Superman possible—tall buildings and all.
I believed in this because of companies like International Harvester. We went there to get tractor parts. Truck parts. Those slightly more affluent were buying anything from new tractors and farm trucks to new sporty four-wheel drive Scouts; all at the same dealership. Even these came with the two-door version with a small bed in back, or the four-door to carry the whole family.
IHC built cream-separators and coolers for dairies, portable power units for construction and sawmills. The TD-24 was more powerful that Caterpillar’s D8 bulldozer. They manufactured freezers for the meat industry. They had a Steel as well as a Fiber and Twine Department.
Allis-Chalmers was another “one-stop shopping” enterprise. A conglomerate before the term was coined. For a while, they built about anything one needed to mine and mill everything our ground offered up or soil grew. Again, tractors. Grinders. Steam engines. Eventually, energy producing turbines. All built in and for America.
There was also the Sears & Roebuck catalogue. You could buy entire blacksmith shops, anvils and all; or everything you needed to keep bees. Including the bees. Sewing machines for the house and sowing machines for the fields. You could even buy the house! You could get shoes in which to dance or work; a pocket watch that reminded which it was time for.
Shirts and blouses; coats and hats. Saddles, bridles, and harness. Rabbit hutches for hares; hair nets for hygiene and horseshoes for equestrian enterprise or family fun. And everything made here in America.
Growing up, every little town had some type of factory. Several had bottling plants. Even Eminence had a Mercantile. J.U. Boyd’s. Fishing equipment. Outdoor tools, like axes and saws. Outboard motors. Groceries. Canning jars and cooking pots.
Today we have Wal-Mart and other large chains. Filled with people that may or may not know your name and stocked with merchandise manufactured in countries that are our philosophical and ideological enemies.
Benjamin Franklin famously reminded us “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” A great way to organize a workshop or an office. A goal for which I strive. Seldom attain, but for which I strive.
For a country, much more difficult. I thought the pandemic driven break in our nation’s supply chain would motivate our country to revisit its self-sufficiency. Opportunity lost.
I still believe in the Acme Company concept. I even see it in action, albeit perhaps in small amounts. Communities that come together to meet their neighborhood needs in crisis. I recently witnessed this in Eastern Kentucky. Seen it for years in pie auctions and cakewalks.
I have yet to actually see an Acme Anvil. Or a Wiley E. Coyote. Maybe someday. Thanks for joining us!