In 1870 Albert F. Dunavan purchased the Dayton horse-collar factory, a thriving business. The collars were sold throughout Illinois and adjoining states, and in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California. In 1886 they even received an order from Sidney, Australia, enthusiastically described in the Free Trader as the most distant sales ever made from La Salle county. The Dunavans did a good business for many years, but in 1892 the business failed and was sold to pay the debts. Albert Dunavan then moved to Harvey, Illinois, where he worked in insurance and real estate, but he also applied for a patent on an apparatus for shaping horse collars, based on his many years of experience.
1885 was not a good year for the Dayton Horse Collar Factory. As you will see, there were no less than THREE attempts to rob the safe that summer.
The first try:
A. F. Dunavan, of the Dayton Collar Factory, was in the Free Trader office last Thursday morning and stated that an attempt had been made the night previous to blow open his safe. Powder was placed in the keyhole and fuse was found on the floor, but the burglar or burglars left, finding the attempt unsuccessful. Krouse, the gunsmith, went up and opened the lock of the safe, which had been so damaged that it could not be opened.1
Later in the summer, two more attempts were made:
Wednesday night of last week burglars broke into the safe of A. F. Dunavan & Son, of Dayton, the celebrated horse collar men. The safe was blown open with powder, but the thieves found nothing to reward them for their trouble, the safe being only used for the protection of books and papers in case of fire. This was the second attempt made by burglars, within the last two weeks, to break open this safe. Safe cracking is getting almost too numerous in this vicinity of late. There is work for a good detective in this county.2
However, it doesn’t appear that the thieves made any profit from their labors, reinforcing the notion that crime doesn’t pay.
- Ottawa Free Trader, May 30, 1885, p. 1, col. 5
- Ottawa Free Trader, August 15, 1885, p. 1, col. 5
The celebrated Pennypacker horse collar was a specialty of the Fox River Horse Collar Manufacturing Co., which claimed that the general mechanical construction of this collar “has rendered it the best device of its kind known to the trade. It is so constructed that the draught is close to the horse’s neck instead of back on his shoulders, and thus an easy and comfortable fit is effected.” Their goods were widely known, from Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia on the east, to Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri on the west. They used about forty tons of rye straw yearly for filling horse-collars, and the hides of about 2,000 head of cattle were required yearly to supply them with leather. The Seamless Team Collar was a standard pattern, always on hand. They also advertised their willingness to make any grade or pattern to order on short notice. Their collars were for sale by any harness dealer in Ottawa and elsewhere. In 1883 the factory had a capacity of turning out 300 dozen collars per month, which were shipped throughout all of the western states and into many of the eastern states, and even, in 1886, to Sydney, Australia.