Hershey | Lot 146

1926 Cretors Model D Popcorn Wagon



$115,500 USD | Sold

United States | Hershey, Pennsylvania

10 October 2013

Chassis No.
  • Authentic Cretors vending wagon
  • High-quality restoration
  • Fully functional and ready to pop and roast

One-horse propulsion, solid axles with transverse full-elliptic leaf-spring front suspension and longitudinal semi-elliptic rear springs. Wheelbase: 100.5 in.

Addendum: This lot will be sold on a Bill of Sale only.

Charles Cretors, a Decatur, Illinois, confectioner, was disappointed with a steam-powered peanut roaster that he had purchased. As Cretors was an inventive soul, he set out to make a better one, which was in operation by 1891. During this time, he moved to Chicago, where J.M. Savage, a traveling salesman, convinced Cretors that a wide market for roasted nuts existed. Cretors devised a steam-powered machine that would roast 12 pounds of peanuts and 20 pounds of coffee, while also popping corn and baking chestnuts. As a fully mechanized unit, it provided more even quality than roasting by hand, and the operation itself provided entertainment for the customer. At Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition, he transfixed the public with the smell and taste of delectable snacks that were provided by his hand-drawn cart.

As a former sign painter, Cretors recognized the importance of an attractive place of business, and at his confectionary, he had improved customer traffic by putting the candy maker in the store window. His horse-drawn popcorn and peanut vending wagons, which debuted around 1900, embodied both these concepts, and he did them one better with mechanized operations. Cretors used steam for roasting and popping, which gave a much better product than open flame designs. Moreover, the steam kept the roasted and popped products warm, while a small steam engine rotated the roasting drum. As an acknowledged showman, Cretors put the steam engine in the window, where its action would delight small children and fascinate adults.

Cretors vending wagons were painted in bright colors and lettered in gold leaf. All trim was polished nickel, and the glass was bevel-edged. The “Peanut and Popcorn” signage was comprised of bevel-edged mirrors with reverse-etched decorations and painted letters.

This Model D Wagon is painted in red with decorative black striping and has contrasting yellow wheels that are pinstriped in black. Red and white canvas awnings roll out on both sides. At the front, raised twin steam poppers disgorge fresh popcorn into a large bin behind glass, from which it is dispensed to customers. On the far side is the peanut roasting drum, and opposite, next to the vending window, is the small steam engine. Steam is also piped through the roof to operate a shrill whistle.

It was originally purchased by Robert Holmes, of Port Edward, Wisconsin, on April 10, 1926, for $2,200. It is reported to have been in the Eau Claire, Wisconsin, area before being sold to an owner in Havana, Illinois. He attended county fairs in the region with the wagon, particularly Oktoberfest celebrations in his home town. The current owner purchased it in 1997 and then subjected it to a complete restoration.

During this process, it was completely disassembled, cleaned, and repainted. The steam engine was rebuilt, and after a two-year search, an original steam popper was eventually found in Washington State. It took so long to find one, because most surviving Cretors wagons were converted to electric poppers. The crystalline art glass signs were restored, and the body and ceiling were pinstriped and detailed. It is now fully functional for roasting and vending popcorn and peanuts, using the original steam method. A correct Cretors miniature clown cranks a display of roasted nuts, which is also driven by the steam engine.

The popularity of the automobile soon dictated truck-based vending. The Cretors machinery was often found on the back of a Ford Model AA truck, and by that time, Cretors had moved from steam to electric roasters. The popularity of popcorn in movie theaters ensured a lasting business for roasting equipment, and C. Cretors and Company remains a cornerstone of the hot snack food industry today.

This Cretors Wagon is a fine example of the iconic mobile popcorn vendor of yesteryear, and it comes with all its accoutrements and equipment for operation. As a self-contained concession stand, it can be used entirely for show or be put to full commercial use.

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