Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
In her history of the Fouts and Hunter Carriage and Manufacturing Company, Mae Hunter Weinstein wrote that her father, William Robert Hunter, always had a song in his heart. Maybe that joyful spirit helped Hunter and his son keep the company going from the Civil War through World War I.
After serving in the Civil War, Hunter returned to Terre Haute and joined the Fouts horse sales and commission business. Soon the firm became Fouts and Hunter, and they established a thriving livery business. In 1869, they bought property on Third Street between Ohio and Walnut. They rented part of the building to Wildy and Poths, buggy manufacturers, and used the rest of the building for their livery and sales commission business.
In 1883, Hunter designed the Mikado, a light wagon made for farmers to carry their produce to market. It had a floor with heavy slats so that drainage from the vegetables could go through. The factory gave careful attention to details when building the Mikado. Heavy broadcloth was used for upholstery; the carriages received 17 coats of paint and varnish; and the patterns for each buggy were made by hand.
William Robert died in 1895, shortly after the business was incorporated as the Fouts and Hunter Carriage Manufacturing Company. Hunter’s son, William Andrew, took over the reins of the company, and in 1903 he designed the Cozy Cab, a buggy that had a storm top and doors that made it popular with rural mail carriers. Hunter created a good mail-order business and offered a 30-day free trial of the buggy.
Sales declined with the increasing popularity of automobiles, and the government restrictions on materials during World War I made it necessary for Fouts and Hunter to close its doors in 1919. This innovative local business had a good 50-year run.
The Vigo County Historical Museum has a picture of the Fouts and Hunter building, as well as information about the Mikado Road Wagon and the Cozy Cab in its special exhibit, “The River, the Road, and the Rails,” on display on the first floor.
• The Vigo County Historical Society’s museum is at 1411 S. Sixth St. Hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday through