Wallace H. Dodge was born in Mishawaka, July 10, 1848 to Harlow and Elizabeth Luce Dodge. Wallace and his younger brother William attended Mishawaka schools and grew up working in their father’s hardware store as book keepers and clerks. They were said to have been mechanically minded and went on to study at the University of Notre Dame.
Wallace married Miss Hattie Veasey of Sturgis, Michigan on July 13, 1870. They would have no children.
In 1878, at the age of 29, Wallace opened his first modest factory on the banks of the St. Joseph River. William worked in the business also, taking responsibility for the financials, while Wallace managed the day to day operations. The factory manufactured “wood specialties” such as doorstops, tool handles, sawbucks, chopping blocks, and curtain rods.
The company’s first unique design was the Magic Wagon Jack. Over half a million were sold. The Magic Wagon Jack was superior to other jacks used to lift wagons at that time in order to grease or change wheels.
Two years after the factory was first established in business, on April 3rd of 1880, the business incorporated as the Dodge Manufacturing Company, a moniker which it would maintain for over a century. However, soon after Dodge Manufacturing came into existence, it seemed as though its success would be very fleeting.
In the summer of 1881, lightning struck the factory causing a complete loss. Wallace immediately rebuilt the factory larger than before. In the process of trying to acquire pulleys for the new factory, Dodge Manufacturing invented its next great product, the “Independence” wood split pulley. Wallace was so confident of the future success of this product that he ordered a halt to the manufacture of other products altogether and solely focused on the split pulley. This controversial decision would prove successful as the split pulley and future Dodge products would be sold around the world.
Wallace was known for his community spirit as well as his business acumen. Wallace was an active member of his church community, was a member of many local social and business fraternities, was supportive of other local businesses and was instrumental in the support of creating the electrical and water infrastructure that supports Mishawaka today.
Wallace fell ill on a return voyage from Europe in 1889. He sought treatment but would never fully recover from this illness. Wallace died on September 10, 1894 at the age of 45. Dodge Manufacturing would continue to grow after Wallace’s death eventually becoming the second largest employer in the city of Mishawaka. Dodge Manufacturing operated in Mishawaka for 121 years until its closure in 1999.