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RACINE — Every year, the Racine Historical Society has something on display at the Racine County Fair. This year, the museum’s exhibit is especially fitting: a Racine-made automobile from a foundational Racine manufacturer that shuttered the same year of the first modern iteration of the Racine County Fair.

Two vehicles — one wagon, one automobile — from the collection of the Racine Heritage Museum will be displayed.

The automobile is a 1905 “Runabout,” also known as the “Light Car,” from The Mitchell Company.

According to the Historical Society, the Runabout had a modest nine horsepower and could reach 30 mph; the Model T Ford, launched in 1908, had 22 horsepower and could reach 40 mph.

The Mitchell Company was founded by Henry Mitchell, a native Scot who came to Racine as an adult in the 1830s after getting started as a wheelwright and wagon-builder back home.

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He founded Mitchell Wagon Works, originally building wagons.

He died before the automobile age arrived. According to an Oct. 27, 1893, report from The Racine Daily Journal (a predecessor to The Journal Times), 1,500 people paid respects at his funeral. “Not in many years has the death of one of our citizens caused such universal regret as has the demise of the late Henry Mitchell.”

He was 83. All of his pallbearers were employees of the company, then known as Mitchell & Lewis Co.

In 1910, the business moved into 815 Eighth St.; that building is now the Mitchell Wagon Lofts, which opened in 2004 just southwest of Downtown Racine.

“At peak production in 1910, the Mitchell Motor Car Company was capitalized at $10 million and employed over 2,000 people. 1910 was the turning point,” according to research from Larry A. Goodwin at the Racine Heritage Museum. In the years to follow, two quick transitions in company leadership followed by slow sales sent the company plummeting. No one from the Mitchell company was even involved in the company for most of its final decade.

Christopher Paulson, Racine Heritage Museum executive director, said the company stopped manufacturing vehicles in 1922, although it officially filed for bankruptcy the following year.







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This Mitchell Company wagon, pictured Friday inside the Racine Heritage Museum, will be on display at the Racine County Fair starting Wednesday.




Friday afternoon, four employees from Floyd’s Towing Inc. meticulously and slowly loaded the vehicles onto flatbed tow trucks to transport to the Racine County Fairgrounds, 19805 Durand Ave., Yorkville.

The exhibit on the main floor of the Racine Heritage Museum that had used the Runabout and the wagon in the coming months will be redone. It will soon feature materials honoring famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

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