Schroeder Saddletree Factory
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America’s last 19th century saddletree factory stands suspended-in-time at 106 Milton Street in the Madison, Indiana National Register Historic District. For 94 years workers at the Ben Schroeder Saddletree Company crafted tens of thousands of wooden frames for saddle makers throughout the United States and Latin America. It was the nation’s longest lasting, continually operated, family owned saddletree company.
John Benedict “Ben” Schroeder, a German immigrant, started his business in a small brick workshop in 1878, though it grew to include a woodworking shop, boiler room and engine shed, a sawmill, a blacksmith shop, an assembly room, the family residence and several outbuildings.
After his death, Ben’s family kept his dream alive by adding stirrups, hames for horse collars, clothespins, lawn furniture and even work gloves to their line of saddletrees. The factory closed in 1972 and was left completely intact.
Recognized by historians as one of America’s premier industrial heritage sites, the Schroeder Saddletree factory has been restored to allow visitors to Madison to tour through this vintage workplace. Belts turn and the original antique woodworking machines spin into action. Sawdust is whisked from machines into the boiler room, where it once fueled the steam boiler that powered the equipment. Saddletree patterns hang, cobweb covered, from the ceiling.
Demonstrations, tours, exhibits and special programs tell the story of Ben Schroeder’s immigration to the United States and his family’s role in our nation’s transportation heritage.
Madison is a fitting place for this museum. At one time home to thirteen saddletree factories, this Ohio River community was recognized as a leading center of saddletree production. Hundreds of thousands of saddle frames poured out of Madison by steamboat and rail to all parts of the globe during the late 19th century.
The Schroeder Saddletree Factory Museum is open to the public Mid-April through October, Saturdays-Sundays 1-4:30 and Mondays 10-4:30. The last tour begins at 4:00. Admission charged.
The Schroeder Saddletree Factory Museum is one of many historic properties owned and operated by Historic Madison, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to education, promotion and assistance in preservation and restoration of historic resources which protect our heritage and enhance the quality of life in Madison, Indiana. For additional information contact Historic Madison, Inc.