Troy Street, Canton
Seventy years ago, in the Spring of 1879, William W. Gleckner started a small harness shop on Troy Street in Canton Boro. He had already served his apprenticeship in the trade – coming to Canton from East Point at the age of fifteen - - and was a skilled mechanic of an inventive turn of mind.
The business grew, and a few years later was moved to a building on Sullivan Street then owned by George Bullock. About this time Mr. Gleckner’s two older sons, Charles and William entered the business, which became known as W. W. Gleckner & Sons. In 1891 a severe set-back occurred when fire destroyed the shop and its entire contents. With commendable community spirit temporary quarters were made available in O. B. Westgate’s carriage shop, tools and merchandise were obtained, and a new building was erected on the same site by Mr. Bullock. This building still stands, being owned by Mrs. Eleanor Keagle and occupied by Wood’s Store.
Shortly after moving into the new building, in 1892, the business "branched out" on a wholesale basis – with Will V. Gleckner the first salesman covering Bradford, Sullivan, and Tioga Counties. At about the same time a "branch" was opened in Towanda, with Charles Gleckner in charge. Both stores sold at wholesale and retail, but all manufacturing was done at Canton - - with "shipments" moving down the valley by stage.
During these same busy years the founder invented the Eureka Shaft Tug, The Gleckner Winker Brace, and the Gleckner Check Holder. All three items were patented in both the United States and Canada, and materially assisted the company in expanding its distribution among retailers, wholesalers, and other saddlery manufacturers. Quality was the watchword, and those were the days when the Horse was King.
In 1902, the Canton store took over the north side of the new Preston Building, and shortly afterward leased part of the Cleveland Block. Robert Gleckner soon became a partner, and was followed by his brother Byron, and by Mr. Charles E. Bullock. The six partners were admirably fitted to conduct a growing business - - Charles was the administrator, Robert the producer, Will and Byron the salesman, while Mr. W. W. and Mr. Bullock were the balance wheels of "Know-how" and experience.
The future looked bright, and in 1906 - - a year of low prices - - the firm broke ground for an ambitious building project at Second and Sullivan Streets, then a quiet residential district. Products included Single and Double Buggy Harness, Coach and Surrey Harness, and the patented "specialties". In addition a great variety of related items were purchased for re-sale, that is "jobbed", or "distributed" as we say today. With the passing of time more and more heavy draft horses were used in the cities and on the farms, and double team harness were designed and produced for such use.
For many years the company made no collars but in 1914 a large addition was erected, workmen were brought in from other communities, and with the advent of the First World War all of the firm’s facilities were engaged in military production - - with every square foot of floor space occupied by a loyal workman. Both Harness and Collars were packed for direct export, and these products received the highest possible rating from the Quartermaster General - - equivalent to the "E" of World War Two.
Civilian demand for Harness and Collars was excellent for several years following 1918, but gradually declined in the late twenties. At this time the company began the manufacture if men’s belts, and work gloves - - the former being sold throughout Latin America and Europe. The "depression", with its currency restrictions, was a hard blow to the export trade, and the company gradually discontinued these newer lines to again concentrate on the reviving Harness and Collar business.
Between 1918 and 1935 several partners died, and others retired, so that since the latter date the business has operated as a corporation owned by William V. Gleckner. World War Two was not a "horse war" but production of Farm Harness and Collars from 1942 through 1946 eclipsed all previous records. New lines have since been added, and although no longer a large employer of labor the firm of W. W. Gleckner & Sons Company is today one of Canton’s leading industries.
Eleanor P. Keagle (1896-1971)