- Authentic Cretors vending wagon
- One of only five such examples extant
- High-quality restoration
- Fully functional and ready to pop and roast
Drawn by hand, solid axles with transverse fully elliptical leaf spring front suspension and longitudinal semi-elliptical rear springs. Wheelbase: 61 in.
The big Cretors popcorn and peanut roasting and vending wagons are well known, but it is frequently forgotten that Charles Cretors came into the limelight with a hand-drawn vending cart at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. There he dispensed snacks to all and sundry, proving that a mobile vendor could do as well or better than a storefront franchise.
His first horse-drawn Cretors wagon debuted around 1900, and it mechanized much of the process. The small steam engine, which rotated the roasting drum, was put in the window, where it amused both the young and old alike. The Model A sidewalk wagon, introduced in 1905, put these principles into a more maneuverable package for smaller spaces and had some unique features.
A Cretors No. 1 horizontal steam engine stirred the popcorn, and, when engaged by a clutch, operated the peanut roaster. This was similar to other Cretors wagons, but unique to the Model A was a red-and-white roller curtain extension awning. A gum and candy case over the peanut roasting cylinder allowed for the sale of more products, thus broadening the customer base. A 500 candlepower hollow-wire gasoline lantern, with inverted mantle, lit up the stand at night. There was also a swiveling auxiliary gas torch on the engine bed plate, which acted as a “flashlight” of the period. The glass all around was French plate beveled glass.
This Improved No. 1 Cretors Model A Sidewalk Wagon, serial number 11110, was purchased new by Bill Chelvin of Redondo Beach, California, on 6 April 1918. The price was $975, a hefty sum at the time. It was subsequently purchased by Bill Trunnell of Anaheim, California, who was associated with the long-running Rose Bowl Swap Meet in his city. Mr. Trunnell sent the wagon to Pearson & Company, specialists of Cretor’s machines, for restoration. Before the job was finished, Mr. Trunnell passed away. The current owner acquired it from Trunnell’s widow about 20 years ago.
The owner, who has extensive experience with Cretors wagons, researched it carefully and completed the detailing, which was unfinished when he bought it. This has included attaching the fuel tank with its brackets, fitting a correct air pump to pressurize the fuel system and adding the correct Cretors fuel tank pressure gauge. The roof was removed and completely restored, and the wheels were carefully restored and re-finished. An original tongue was restored and fitted for pulling the wagon. The wagon was then outfitted with a proper candy box, glass jars, and shelves. The beveled glass is all original.
Robert Pearson of Pearson & Company, the Cretors registrar, reports that only five Model A Sidewalk wagons survive. The most deluxe of hand-drawn vending wagons, the Model A cost three times the price of a basic model. In contrast to the larger Cretors wagons, the Model A is much smaller and easier to maneuver; the operator stands beside it, not inside. Fully operational, it is ready to roast, pop, and serve all.