Fuller & Johnson Mfg. Co. of Madison, Wis., went into receivership in 1932 and there was no permanent home again until Aug. 15, 2008. That was the day of the official ribbon cutting ceremony and grand opening of the new Fuller & Johnson dealership building at the Badger Steam and Gas Engine Show grounds in Baraboo, Wis. The Fuller & Johnson Dealership and Museum will be devoted 100 percent to Fuller & Johnson Mfg. Co. history, and will feature memorabilia, engines and horse-drawn equipment. Even the factory whistle is on display.
Blast from the past
The 30-foot-by-40-foot building was designed as a replica of what an original Fuller & Johnson dealership may have looked like. It was built from home-sawed pine lumber from the Wisconsin Rapids area. The lumber was sized and cut into shiplap boards at the Badger Steam and Gas Engine Club grounds by volunteer club members, using antique machinery located there. Although the building was open and used for the 2008 show there is still some work to complete, including staining the outside boards in the spring after the lumber has dried, and installing a plank floor like the ones implement dealers and blacksmith shops used years ago.
A dream becomes reality
While having a conversation with club member Kevin Haarklu in late August 2007, I was made aware of and became involved in the idea of an F&J building at the show grounds. Of course, with my longtime interest in the company, I was very interested and excited about the possibility of a permanent display building. The idea was shared with the club membership at the 2008 annual meeting. After discussion, it was decided to proceed, with the club furnishing the site, doing the grading and pouring the cement slab for the building. F&J enthusiasts would be responsible for the rest of the project. We had our work cut out for us!
Finding the funding
Fundraising and design of the building were the first priorities. Jim McGhee, who is a builder, designed the project, made the list of materials and engineered the construction. We were also fortunate to have Mark Beard, who procured the materials. He was able to find what we needed at a good price and had success in collecting donated items. Fundraising, too, went well with a number of F&J enthusiasts donating money for the project.
A year prior to the project, I became acquainted with Stan Johnson, who is a great-grandson of John A. Johnson, the founder of Fuller & Johnson Mfg. Co. Stan was very interested in what our club was doing as some of the Johnson family members wanted to create a memorial to John A. Johnson and the company. Needless to say, our fundraising received a sizable boost as several members of the family donated to the project.
Right on schedule
With the plan approval, site preparation, slab and building design complete, and funds raised, it was time to begin the building. This work was done by volunteer club members as well as family and friends. About 10 weeks after they started the building, it was up and ready for the annual show in August.
There were many, many volunteer hours spent working on the building. Several club members, in particular, worked most every day. When finished, it was great to hear Jim McGhee express his appreciation for all the help and how well they worked together on the project. Everyone involved agreed they had fun working on it.
We would like to invite all F&J enthusiasts to visit the new building at the 2009 Badger Steam and Gas Engine show, Aug. 21-23. Stan is also making plans for another Fuller & Johnson rally at the show in 2010. Watch for details on this event and we’ll see you at the museum!
Contact Verne W. Kindschi at S9008B U.S. Hwy. 12, Prairie du Sac, WI 53578 • (608) 643-3915