Mishawaka-born Wallace Harlow Dodge earned his reputation as an inventor when he patented the Magic Jack in 1878, which became the leading jack for performing wagon maintenance. With the help of his younger brother, William, they incorporated the Dodge Manufacturing Company in 1880 (not to be confused with Dodge automobiles). The brothers continued making jacks and other wood hardware tools, until they patented the Independence Pulley on July 4th, 1882. This wood pulley introduced a new efficient method of making pulleys, becoming Dodge’s signature product.
Most companies made pulleys to order with cast iron molds. But, Dodge set themselves apart when their factory was struck by lightning and burned down in 1881. During its reconstruction, Wallace Dodge made new pulleys out of wood to aid the process. In the new factory, he decided to make wooden pulleys that came in universal sizes. Having standard sizes allowed Dodge to produce stock and speed up turnover on orders. Trusting his invention, Wallace decided that Dodge Manufacturing would solely produce the wood Independence Pulley. The decision proved favorable, and the pulley’s success gave their products a place in global markets.
1893 World’s Fair and Other Opportunities
The first World’s Fair to have electricity was the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, held in Chicago. For the fair, Dodge Manufacturing made the largest rope engine to date. It powered the fair by generating more electricity in one day than was usually used in the entire city. The engine used Independence Pulleys to accomplish the feat.
Dodge’s ongoing success allowed them to expand their location in Mishawaka. By 1902, the Dodge Manufacturing plant consisted of 40 buildings across 65 acres of land. Yet, the company did not limit themselves to Mishawaka, they also established branches throughout the United States.
Construction on the final Dodge building in Mishawaka finished in 1965, but soon after, the Dodge company was on the decline. Reliance Electric Company purchased Dodge Manufacturing in 1967. They operated under Reliance and continued to use its Mishawaka factory until 1999. The Reliance Electric Company was purchased by different firms until finding its current home with the Swiss-Swedish technological company ABB. Even today, ABB continues the production of transmission equipment, carrying Wallace H. Dodge’s name and innovation into the 21st century.