Artifact of the Month

Goods Handler
Donated by Pat Baskin

This simple looking tool has more to tell than meets the eye. Its purpose, not unlike the "Handy Grabbers" sold today, was to help reach things on high shelves. The item, officially named a Goods-Handler, was designed and patented by a Springdale man, Edgar E. Welch, in 1907. Made of oak, the long handle has a curved crosspiece with tiny metal teeth.

We have two of these in our collection. The first one was found during our move to new facilities in 1991. The piece was an uncataloged mystery with an intriguing stamp on it: Made by Ed. E. Welch, Springdale, Ark. The piece languished in collections, a curiosity and mystery, until another one was donated to the museum in 2000. This one includes the familiar Welch stamp but also bears the word "Patented," and the handle is marked with the name of a New Orleans store, Kohn & Weil.

The arrival of the second Goods-Handler intrigued museum staff and a search began to find out about the contraption, and about Mr. Welch. By searching old issues of The Springdale News and exploring the complex but fascinating United States Patent and Trademark Office website, the story was finally uncovered.

Edgar E. Welch arrived in Springdale in the 1890s. He was married to Anna Dell Parks and they had one son, Bourke. A traveling wholesale shoe salesman, he was so taken with Springdale that he made it his home base. He was active in community events when he was not on the road selling shoes. In particular, he helped put together Springdale's Fourth of July celebrations, organized parades, and emceed the Old Time Fiddlers contest. When he traveled to the 1903 World's Fair in St. Louis he wrote letters to the Springdale News describing the wonders of the fair.

Edgar E. Welch
      Edgar E. Welch.
      Washington County
      Historical Society Collection

Welch was a salesman and promoter, energetic in all things. We can only guess that his inspiriation for the Goods-Handler was a result of his visits to the stores where he sold shoes. When Welch went to St. Louis in July 1906 to file a patent application, The Springdale News reported, "It is an excellent contrivance and literally 'fills a long felt want,' enabling a storekeeper to lift a stack of hat boxes from a shelf without aid of a step ladder."

On April 30, 1907 Edgar E. Welch received his patent. Not long after that, Welch moved to Hutchinson, Kansas, where he died in 1911.

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