In 1880, Charles Cretors opened his confections shop in Decatur, Illinois where, practically from day-one, he displayed a gift for showmanship and innovation. Charles cleverly arranged his shop so his candy makers would be in the window, as to tempt passersby with their delectable creations. In the late 1800s, roasted peanuts had become a wildly popular and affordable snack, so Cretors decided they would make a good complement to his confectionary offerings. He purchased a steam-powered roaster which he was immediately disappointed with. So, being the innovator he was, set out to design and build a better one himself. His first roaster was built in 1891 which he set up on the sidewalk outside of his shop. One day, a traveling salesman named J.M. Savage stopped for a snack, and as he admired the roaster, he figured he could sell lots of them in his territory. Cretors of course agreed with Savage’s idea and C. Cretors and Company was suddenly on its way to success.
By 1893, Cretors had invented a wheeled, steam-powered machine that could simultaneously pop popcorn as well as roast coffee, chestnuts and peanuts all with remarkable consistency and, of course, a dash of showmanship. Aside from the novelty of the steam engine, customers (especially the kiddies) would delight at the sight of “Tosty-Rosty Man”, a tiny mechanical clown magically turning the drum of peanuts as they roasted. Customers could see corn popping through the glass of the elaborately decorated carts, all the while tempted by the delicious smells from every which way. In 1900, Cretors introduced the first large, horse-drawn popcorn wagon known as the Special. The special-series was beautifully crafted and essentially hand-built to order, as Cretors always took great care to meet the individual needs of his customers. The hand-crafted nature of these wagons means that surviving examples have myriad of detail differences, and collectors cherish them for their unique character. It was with these larger horse-drawn wagons that Cretors finally began to turn a healthy profit, and the company continued to innovate and design new models to keep up with changing times. In fact, Cretors is still proudly in business today, over 125 years later.
This 1909 Cretors Model C is a nicely restored example of the iconic early 20th century popcorn wagon. It was originally built for the Pacific C&B Co. of Seattle Washington and today it is presented in a classic red and yellow livery, with hand-striped details on the wheels, frame and body. The detailing is delightful, with a rooftop decoration that seems inspired by a Mississippi Riverboat. It is in wonderful condition throughout, and has been discreetly updated with modern electric power so it can still be used with ease at virtually any venue. The paint and finish work is in fine condition, not over-restored but still very nicely presented, grabbing your attention just as Charles Cretors envisioned. Like the paint, the woodwork is in fine order throughout and the windows feature original-style colored glass signage, all in excellent condition. A pair of striped awnings extends on either side, and even the original Tosty-Rosty Man can still be seen in the window, turning his drum of peanuts.
Electricity now powers the wagon for ease of use, the modern-type popcorn popper works as it should and interior and subtle exterior lighting make this wagon great for evening events. As this is a Model C, it is a smaller, more manageable size than its larger siblings making transport and storage a breeze.
This delightful Cretors Model C is a wonderful period piece that would be welcome in virtually any collection of antique equipment; yet it is fully functional and can still be put to work for fairs, festivals or parades. It is a charming piece of Americana, updated for modern use and enjoyment.
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