History of Robert S. Bickle, Co.

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Part of Bickle plant in Woodstock, Ont.

Robert S. Bickle began his career in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as a sales representative for an American fire equipment manufacturer in 1906. By the end of that year he formed the R.S. Bickle Company. Originally specializing in two-wheeled horse-drawn chemical carts, the company soon began producing motorized fire equipment.

In 1913 the company moved into a new facility in Woodstock, Ontario where it continued to produce hook-and-ladder trucks and chemical wagons "ideally suited to small municipalities". The company continued to grow over the next few years and moved into larger quarters in 1916. During the First World War it sold two-wheeled fire engines to the Canadian military.

By 1923 it employed 25 mechanics and had expanded its manufacturing facilities several times. In 1928 the company began producing custom fire apparatus under the slogan "Strictly Canadian - Built by Canadians". Four models - the "Volunteer", "Chieftain", "Woodstock" and "Canadian" were built based on their custom chassis.

The company built fire apparatus in partnership with a number of firms including Ahrens-Fox, German-based Magirus, and Seagrave. In 1936 the Bickle Fire Engine Company (as it was now called) acquired the rights to produce and sell Seagrave apparatus in Canada and changed its name to the Bickle-Seagrave Company.

Interestingly, despite Canada's frigid winters, Bickle-Seagrave continued to sell open-cab trucks until 1970.

The company fell on hard times after WWII, and in February, 1956, went into bankruptcy. In May of that year Vernon Bickle King (R.S. Bickle's nephew) purchased the manufacturing rights to Bickle-Seagrave and in 1957 changed the company's name to "King-Seagrave". By 1971 King Seagrave - with offices in from coast to coast - employed 475 employees and had a production volume of $10 million.

Hard times again struck the company and on 26 August 1982 it closed again. It was re-organized under new management as "King Seagrave (1982) Ltd in October of that year, but went bankrupt again in November, 1984.

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