You never know the treasures you will run into each day. Last weekend I got my vintage stove that will be going in my new kitchen, and now this week I bought a suitcase made right here in Oshkosh. I was so stunned when I found a travel bag made in Oshkosh. So, once again, I had some history to discover.
The Oshkosh Trunk Company was started in 1902 and operated out of a factory on High St. The firm produced quality wardrobe trunks (exclusively). Its signature line of luggage called the “Chief” was styled with red and yellow striped canvas. In 1927 the company began manufacturing smaller travel luggage. The Oshkosh Trunk Company was acquired by Plotkin Brothers, a Chicago firm, in 1939. The Plotkin Brothers owned several other luggage companies, and added Oshkosh Trunk Company to add quality luggage to its product line. After the merger the Oshkosh company’s name was changed to Oshkosh Trunk and Luggage Company. The company fell on hard times, and the Oshkosh factory was closed in 1961.
Oshkosh Trunk Company (Oshkosh Public Library)
Too bad my suitcase was not the “Chief” line with red and yellow stripes, but I can keep a lookout for one. The plan is to turn this piece of luggage into a craft box for my wife’s sewing and knitting supplies. Another interesting tidbit I found while doing this search was how the “Chief” is making a comeback in small handbags. Apparently someone was inspired by this high-quality line of luggage with the slogan that boasted, “There is none finer.”
My wife and I are in the process of purchasing a home. The kitchen is decked out with steel cabinets, which is really retro but awesome! When we went and toured the home I noticed that the modern electric range had some significant gaps between the cabinets on each side. The realtor explained that the old stove had been removed by previous owners. I never really gave it any thought. I looked up some old kitchen appliance brochures, just to see what late 1940s early 1950s kitchens looked like. I showed my wife and said it would have been sort of neat to have the original stove in the kitchen. Well, good things come to those who wait.
While visiting my in-laws in Milwaukee I acquired one of these vintage stoves by chance. My father-in-law’s friend was also visiting from Portland; he used to live in Milwaukee. We told him about our new house and the vintage kitchen. He told me that the house he wants to sell has an old GE stove in it and we could have it. Sometimes I cannot believe how these opportunities come along. We went over and checked it all over, and the stove is absolutely amazing.
The only mystery I had to solve was the year and model name of this range. I had a category number (C-32) and serial number(7888101) that I found in the oven. One would think that a Google search would muster some answers. This was not an easy task! I found other models of GE ranges but nothing that matched this model. I sort of put this quest on the back burner, but tonight I found my answer! I asked myself, who would know more about GE appliances than GE!? I gave the GE hotline a ring (1-800-626-2005) and asked the customer service representative. I am sure not too many people are calling up this hotline asking about info on ancient appliances. Nonetheless, she was able to tell me that my electric stove was from 1950. She was not able to find out what the name of the model was (Stratoliner, Liberator, Airliner, etc). The search went on!
With very little information available, I decided to go through Newspaperarchive.com and find some answers. I narrowed my years to 1950, and I did a search for “GE Electric Range” in all newspapers. I finally got the results I was looking for. It turns out this model is the GE “Astroliner” electric range. There was no indication of that on the unit itself, but the advertisement I found matches the appearance of our range and the model C-32 I found in the oven door.
I cannot wait to get this oven in our new house once we move in! It will be one step closer to being the original retro kitchen. Maybe a retro refrigerator will be installed one day. How many of my readers remember having or still have one of these old units? What brand do you use?
I am in contact with a gentleman from Milwaukee who is going to help me gather the stories of former Allis-Chalmers employees. He takes his father, a former AC employee, to a monthly gathering of these AC retirees. He said that a lot of these guys are getting up there in age, and I would like to collect as many stories as I can. I am asking any former employees of AC to fill out the form below. I also encourage family members of former workers to fill the form out as well.