ITS HISTORY AND TRADITION
E. J. WALLEN
E. J. Wallen, who was long a prominent representative of industrial
interests in northwestern Iowa as head of the Sioux City Tent & Awning Company, which he founded, had been a resident of the municipality for a third of a century when he passed away in the winter of 1924, aged sixty-two years. His birth occurred at Marshalltown, Iowa, July 17, 1862, and there he spent the period of his minority. After leaving Marshalltown, he moved to Mitchell, South Dakota, where he was a salesman for several years. On the 4th of August, 1886, while a resident of Mitchell, he was married to Miss Ida A. Reitzel, of Pennsylvania Dutch stock.
In 1889 Mr. and Mrs. Wallen moved to Dallas, Texas, where he was engaged in
the tent and awning business for a time. In 1891 Mr. Wallen became ill and
returned north for his health. He settled in Sioux City and became affiliated
with the Hopper & McNeil Company. In 1899 he severed relations with that
firm and established the Sioux City Tent & Awning Company, doing business at
630 Fifth street, then at 317-19 Fifth street, and for fifteen years at 308-10
Jackson street. In 1920 the company purchased the building where it is now
located at 914-16 Fourth street and installed the most modern machinery for
manufacture of its products.
The following is an excerpt from an article concerning the business which
appeared in the Diamond Jubilee section of the Sioux City Daily Tribune of June
8, 1924: " 'Ye Old Timers' well remember the old schoolhouse at 412 Jackson
now occupied by the Princess theater. Do you remember back in 1899 when the
building was occupied by E. J. Wallen with his tent and awning business?
That was the real beginning of a business that now has the distinction of being
one of the largest of its kind between Chicago and the Pacific coast. * *
* The company has four men on the road distrubuting goods in six tributary
states, and has about fifteen men and women in its employ, with an annual
pay roll of approximately twenty thousand dollars. Mr. Wallen died last winter. His four sons, who have succeeded him, are conducting the business along the same lines and ideals laid down by the father. The company manufactures
tents, awnings and other canvas products for the wholesale and retail trade. The firm carries a most extensive line of tourists' supplies, including auto tents, camp tents, bedding, folding stoves, camp furniture and accessories.
They also carry a large number of tents for rental purposes, claiming that they have enough canvas to house the entire population of the city. The company is incorporated with a capital of one hundred thousand dollars. The officers are: Mrs. E. J. Wallen, president; Claude R. Wallen, vice president; Numa James Wallen, treasurer; Day E. Wallen, secretary. George S. Wallen has
charge of the Aberdeen branch, established eight years ago, and doing a prosperous business in that territory. This is strictly a Sioux City concern, the young men in charge of the business being reared and educated in the city. They have been brought up in the business, and know its every angle."
The following article was printed in one of the Sioux City papers with the
caption, "The Man Who Works is the Man Who Wins": "Development of 'sunshine
plants,' where pure air and clean surroundings assure high grade products, has
brought about a remarkable enlargement of the awning business. The modern
method of taking the best products to the people for approval has also
developed a remarkable demand for tents in which to house such displays during fair and home-coming weeks. Man has passed the period where the tent longer serves to house him, save for an occasional vacation trip, but the tent has come to stay, because of the place it fills in the list of possible advertising mediums. This turn in the business, incidentally, has been the cause of the upbuilding in Sioux City of one of the strongest tent and awning concerns of the country. When E. J. Wallen came to Sioux City, some twenty-three years ago, the business was in its infancy, but he saw opportunities and he grasped them, with the result that when he became the sole owner of the Sioux City Tent & Awning Company, in 1899, the business was on a basis that made possible the development here of a powerful concern, having dealings with hundreds of towns and cities in the trade territory. The company having been conceived with an eye to the future, Mr. Wallen took note of the development possible in this field and the company now issues a catalogue covering hundreds of special items. Stores and office blocks within a radius of one hundred miles of Sioux City are now shaded from hot suns by Wallen awnings and are further protected by this concern's window shades. The company took note of demand for such canvas goods as grain stack covers, carpet, horse and piano covers, and developed that side of the business. Boat cushions, seat cushions for grandstands, got pace in the catalogue alongside covers for the veteran prairie schooner, while all standard tents continued to hold several pages in the price lists. One annual demonstration of the growth of this company and its ability to serve is had each year during the Interstate Live Stock fair. In that week the company has tents on the fair grounds that accommodate thousands of guests. The tents range in size from the circus tent, where prize animals are judged, to the frankfurter stand, where 'prize animals' are eaten. The success of the local company having been so astounding, Mr. Wallen decided to extend his operations, with the result that George S. Wallen, a son, become manager of the Wallen Tent & Awning Company in Cedar Rapids. The policy of this concern is the same as that of the parent company and the reiterated statement of both companies that they will sell only full weight and full size goods has served to center business of the central Iowa field with the Wallen company in Cedar Rapids. After one year in that field the size of the plant was doubled and further additions in a capacity way will soon be demanded."
Still another article reads as follows: "Throughout this section of the
state, this concern is known as one of the foremost firms engaged in the
business of making custom tents and awnings for the public at large. They have
attained a position in the trade in this line that brings them an ever increasing
business an as a consequence their place is the scene of continued activity.
"The many tents and awnings that they have manufactured for business and
home owners in this part of the state have been the admiration and comment of
everyone. They have their place equipped with all the necessary machinery and
they are expert men in these lines. Their activities embrace all branches of
this business, including the manufacture of awnings for store fronts and
windows. If a particular idea is to be carried out in either a tent or an
awning, this firm will be able to give suggestions, as they are excellent
craftsmen and designers and have direct supervision of the place. This assures the public of awnings of the highest character and workmanship. Their reputation as designers of tents and awnings is well merited and they have been able to make old ones present an excellent appearance."
Mr. Wallen was a prominent worker in the Masonic order. He was a charter
member of Morningside Lodge No. 615, A. F. & A. M., having transferred from
Tyrian Lodge, No. 508, A. F. & A. M. He also belonged to Sioux City Consistory,
No. 5, S. P. R. S.; and Abu-Bekr Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S. Characterized as
one of Sioux City's "live wires," he was a member of the Chamber of
Commerce, past president of the Iowa State Manufacturers Association and one of the first and most popular members of the Rotary Club. He was elected president of the manufacturers' bureau of the Commercial Club, of which organization he had been an active member since its inception. On the 4th of November, 1919, Rotarians observed the seventh birthday anniversary of the Rotary Club as the
guests of E. J. Wallen in the new home of the Sioux City Tent & Awning Company at 914-16 Fourth street. A local newspaper described the event in part as follows: "A weird mystic atmosphere was created by the Halloween decorations
that graced the banquet tendered to the members of the Rotary Club and their wives last night by E. J. Wallen. As the guests arrived they were conducted through a labyrinthine maze of canvas within which were encountered several skeletons of men and gruesome objects suggestive of current and ancient superstitions. Mr. Wallen was host to more than three hundred guests. The banquet was served on the second floor of the reconstructed building occupied by the Sioux City Tent & Awning Company at 914-16 Fourth street. The event was of double significance to Mr. Wallen, because yesterday was the twenty-eighth anniversary of his arrival in Sioux City, and the thirty-third anniversary of
his marriage. As an expression of appreciation of the entertainment tendered, the Rotarians presented Mr. and Mrs. Wallen with a clock, the presentation address being made by Henry Hoskins. In accepting the gift Mr. Wallen said he had enjoyed his relationship with the Rotary Club, and that it had been a source of inspiration to him."
E. J. Wallen was survived by his widow and by four sons and two daughters, as follows: Claude R., Day E. and Numa James Wallen, of Sioux City; George S. Wallen, of Aberdeen, South Dakota; Mary Ann, the wife of J. B. Tasker, of
Sioux City; and Irene A., the wife of Dr. W. H. Empey, of Battle Creek, Iowa. There are also thirteen grandchildren.
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