William Frech Wagon Co.

Maker of Frech "Cut Under" Truck Shelvings and Circus Wagons
Interview from an old Moorestown Chronicle newspaper

The Moorestown Chronicle newspaper reporter starts the article about the toll houses along the Moorestown- Camden turnpike, and only is familiar with the Moorestown ones and didn't know where the Maple Shade toll houses once were so they went and asked Mr. William Frech of Maple Shade, and then the article switches gears into the story of the Frech Wagon Works!
The term "truck shelvings" is a wagon with shelves for produce baskets of "truck" (vegetables).

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We told about the toll house at North Bend (near Dolly's garage), the mile posts in front of the property of the late Dr. Harry Jarrett, Main and Chestnut streets, and the one on West Main street near the Forks of the Road. We were not certain of the location of the two toll houses nearest Moorestown going west, and in that matter William Frech of Maple Shade has helped us out. One house stood where the present Sunoco gas station in Maple Shade is now located and the other at Coles avenue, Maple Shade. Two were in Maple Shade to prevent residents of that community and other nearby places from by- passing the first toll house by using the various streets to go beyond it, yet not pass through the toll gate.

Speaking of William Frech brings to mind "truck shelvings" and we will conclude our article on that very useful and popular wagon used to cart produce to the Philadelphia and other nearby markets. Mr. Frech states, it was a type of a wagon peculiar to South New Jersey and practically used nowhere else. Mr. Frech was the leading builder of these truck shelvings in the State. While it took about three weeks to build one shelving from start to finish, he constructed them on a production basis and averaged about three a week. The shelvings sold from $200 to $225. Other well known builders were C.T. Woolston, Riverton; Harry DeHart, Thorofare; and I.G. Cox & Bro., Paulsboro. The late Martin Dugan, of Moorestown, and William O'Donnell, also of Moorestown, who is still in business, also built truck shelvings. It was the custom of Cox & Bro. to build all through the winter and then take long lines of carts, wagons, and shelvings to various places and sell them at public sale. In Moorestown these sales were always held in the yard of Coles Hotel. The hotel stood on the site of the present Burlington County Trust Co. building and the yard is about the same as it always was (back and to the side of the building), except the horse sheds and barns are gone.


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William Frech invented the "cut- under" truck shelving in 1911 and that put him out in front at once and away head of his competitors. As will be seen by the picture we are printing with this article, the body was made so the front wheels could cut under the frame and this enabled the shelving to be turned in almost the length of its body. Before this invention of Frech's a man needed about an acre lot to make the turn. Despite the patent, his competitors began to infringe upon it and to also build "cut- unders." When Frech consulted a law firm familiar with patents they disclosed while the principle was sound, the patent had been applied for and granted in such form that he could not hope to win a suit- so the matter was dropped.

Builders of truck shelvings exhibited them at the various fairs- Mount Holly, Trenton, etc. and while exhibiting at Trenton a man who had a merry- go- round became greatly interested in Mr. Frech's shelvings and asked him if he could build circus wagons and if so would be down to see him after the circus season closed. Mr. Frech never expected to see him again, but he did come and from that small beginning there developed a large and successful business in circus wagons as well as truck shelvings.


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These circus wagons were extremely heavily constructed, were twenty feet long, eight feet wide, and the tires on the wheels were six inches broad. Two of them could be loaded on a 45- foot flat car. The wagons were only used for transportation of "rides" etc. from the railroad station to the circus grounds. In addition to the immense three ring circuses that show in New York, Philadelphia and other large cities there are numerous smaller ones which use from twenty to thirty railroad cars to transport performers, animals, and the "rides" and other concessions- and it was for this type of circus that Mr. Frech constructed his wagons.


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"Rides" is the trade name for merry- go- rounds, Ferris wheels, "Whips," etc. These did not belong to the circus proper but were owned by men who paid the circus management a certain percentage of the receipts for the concession. "Rides", when the circus was moved to another city, were dismantled, put in these Frech wagons, hauled to railroad station and then put on the cars fully loaded. The circus wagon was constructed with a "possum belly" underneath- a compartment that came down within a foot of the ground and a great deal could be stored in them also. With many dirt roads around the country in those days, a wagon would sometimes get mired, and to aid in pulling it out Mr. Frech said they anchored large "bull rings" made of round inch iron with openings four inches across, on each side of the body so that extra horses could be hitched to them to help pull the wagon out of a hole.

In addition to these circus wagons Mr. Frech built "office" wagons for circuses. the wagons were the same size- twenty feet long and eight feet wide, and most of them had three rooms- one a small private office. One was arranged like a paying teller's window in a bank, where money was exchanged for tickets, concessions, payment of all kinds of bills for which a circus contracts- food for the performers, and meat, hay, and grain for the animals. A safe was always a part of the equipment, and the steps that led to the office were always packed, when the wagon moved, in the "possum belly." Mr. Frech in the heyday of the business shipped these wagons as far away as California and Texas.


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But a changing world changed everything. With the coming of the automobile the truck shelving and the circus wagon became a thing of the past. The Frech concern seeing the handwriting on the wall went into the building of bodies for trucks and in some instances would allow a substantial value in a trade- in on the shelvings for a truck body. Later the shelvings were valueless except for the iron and they would be burned in lots of ten to fifteen at a time and, when the embers had cooled the iron would be salvaged.


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We spoke about a thousand truck shelvings going through Moorestown in a night. It was no exaggeration. Many older residents will remember when the canning factory was at Third and Schooley streets. They will remember a line of truck shelvings, loaded with tomatoes, standing along Schooley street, overflowing to Main street and extanding east for some distance awaiting their return to be unloaded.

At that time the "Hessian House" so called because Hessian officers occupied it overnight when Lord Howe evacuated Philadelphia and one column marched though Moorestown, had a long porch across the front, also an addition on the east which extended within a foot or two of the Edgar G. Scott property. In this addition was a harness shop kept by Asa Schooley (it was from him Schooley street derived its name) while above the harness shop were a couple of bedrooms. This addition was torn down many years ago. The house was completely transformed and restored by its present owner, Col. Tom A. Murphy (rest of sentence didn't copy)


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Then there is photo and under it it says-

FRECH FAMOUS "CUT- UNDER" TRUCK SHELVING

This famous "Cut- Under" Truck Shelving, invented and patented in 1911 by William Frech, of Maple Shade, completely revolutionized the building of truck shelvings. the truck shelving was a type of farm wagon peculiar to South Jersey and in their time thousands of them were built.


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