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Thread: The Sears David Bradley Trailer

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Western North Carolina

    Default The Sears David Bradley Trailer

    I recently acquired a 1950s-era all-steel Sears David Bradley trailer, and have been doing some research on it via the internet. With a lot of help from JohnnyC on this forum, who found many of the photos and newspaper ads below in online archives, and Joe Deyoung, who provided the pictures of his Ben-Hur trailer, some interesting information has come to light. Some of this involves a bit of conjecture on my part, so I'll try to indicate whenever I'm not sure about something.

    Forerunners: The Ben-Hur Trailers

    This story actually begins not with Sears, but with one of its competitors, Montgomery Wards. In 1946-47, Wards was carrying a basic two-wheel, all-steel trailer made by Ben-Hur Manufacturing of Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

    From 1941 to 1945, during WWII, the Ben-Hur Manufacturing Co. was one of the primary producers of the G518 military trailer. These extremely tough, versatile 1-ton trailers became commonly known as Ben Hur trailers. A picture of a Ben Hur is below (also see

    In 1946, Ben-Hur developed a new trailer design for the civilian market which in many respects resembled a smaller-scale version of the one-ton military trailer. It featured all-steel construction, and had a 72" x 44" bed with a 1500 lb carrying capacity. This new civilian design was dubbed the Model 22-46, which was followed in 1947 by the (virtually identical?) Model 22-47. During that same time frame, Ben-Hur came out with the "Jiffy Camper", essentially a tent that could be installed on top of the trailer as an optional accessory. The following ads from the March and July 1947 issues of the farming trade journal Implement & Tractor were intended to encourage retailers to carry the new trailer and camper tent:

    This example of a Ben-Hur Model 22-46 owned by Joe Deyoung of Madison, Wisconsin appears to be largely original. The wheels are 15" rather than 16" as specified in the advertising for the Model 22-47 trailer above, but it's possible that the Model 22-46 was supplied with 15" wheels from the factory.

    Joe describes the trailer as being very sturdily built with the notable exception of the parking leg, which is rather flimsy. This may explain why it was later re-designed.

    Joe's Model 22-46 trailer is Serial No. 42-7379. I found a reference on the internet to another of the same model Ben-Hur trailer with s/n 42-11976, so it would appear that at least several thousand units of the Model 22-46 may have been produced.

    The Sears David Bradley Model 231-417 Trailer

    In 1946, the David Bradley Company was a wholly owned subsidiary of Sears. Most of the agricultural equipment Sears sold during the 1940's, 50's and early 60's was marketed under the David Bradley brand name, regardless of the actual source of manufacture.

    In part because Ben-Hur had developed a good design - and perhaps in part to beat Ward's to the punch - it appears that in late 1945 or early 1946, Sears may have contracted with Ben-Hur to produce their new trailer design for David Bradley. Alternatively, Sears may simply have bought the design rights from Ben-Hur, and had the David Bradley version made by another manufacturer. Just exactly what occurred isn't completely clear yet.

    In any case, judging by the apparent absence of further advertising of the trailer by Ben-Hur after 1947, they may have discontinued selling them under their own name at that point. The Ben-Hur 22-46 / 22-47 trailer appears to have essentially been re-badged to become the Sears David Bradley Model 231-417 trailer, with a few minor revisions. These included a redesign of the parking leg, a revision of the tailgate hinges, and the deletion of the spare tire bracket (assuming that the Ben-Hur indeed had a factory-installed bracket).

    The image below is from the Fall 1947 Sears Farm Catalog (courtesy of Sears' Historical Center Archives). This was among the earliest catalogs in which these trailers appeared. Instead of round military-style fenders like the Ben-Hur trailer had, the fenders on this model (at left) were what might be described as 'roadster' style. This change may have been made in an effort to make the Bradley trailer look more 'civvy'. The redesigned parking leg was offered as an option.

    Note that it "Makes a light truck out of"! :

    It appears that Sears agreed to carry Ben-Hur's "Jiffy Camper" tent as part of the deal. Below at left is an early 1948 newspaper ad showing the Ben-Hur camper tent with a Sears David Bradley trailer, and at right is another ad from 1948 for the trailer itself:

    Although only the roadster type fenders were shown in the Sears catalog, some trailers were produced with round military-style fenders like the Ben-Hur models. These may in fact have been Ben-Hur branded trailers. The 1947 and 1948 Sears David Bradley trailers came standard with 16" wheels to carry 6.00 x 16 tires. Sometime in late 1948 or early 1949, the standard wheels offered by Sears were changed to 15" David Bradley tractor wheels, which had 4 holes for attaching wheel weights. Below at left is a photo of a two-wheel walk-behind David Bradley tractor - the product line the brand name was perhaps best known for - with this type of wheel. At right is an example of what may be an early round-fender David Bradley trailer with the same wheels, and beneath are close-ups of the tractor and trailer wheels:

    The underside of the same trailer showing the round axle:

    A few additional design changes appear to have occurred between 1947 and the early 1950's, including the change of the axle from a round tube to a rectangular channel, a revision of the attachment of the tongue to the front edge of the bed bottom, further revisions to the tailgate hinges, and a relocation of the data plate from the driver's side to the passenger's side of the front panel.

    Below at left is a 1950 newspaper ad, and at right, a page from a 1955 Sears Farm Catalog showing the trailer with the various optional accessories sold for it (including another parking leg variation):

    Typically, Sears priced these trailers without tires, but no doubt they were quite frequently sold with Sears Allstate tires installed at additional cost. For most buyers, getting tires put on at Sears would've been the simplest option to enable them to take their new 430 lb. trailer home. Allstate tires were often prominently featured on the trailer in advertising and catalog pictures, which may be why Sears' David Bradley trailers are sometimes incorrectly referred to as "Sears Allstate David Bradley" trailers. Another reason for the confusion may be that Sears also sold single-wheel trailers, as well as a different two-wheel trailer, under the Allstate brand name.

    Below is an image from the 1958 Sears Farm Equipment, Fencing, Garden and Suburban Catalog (courtesy of Sears' Historical Center Archives). Arlene May, Sears' archivist, determined that this was the last catalog in which this trailer was offered, marking the end of an 11 year production run. By that point in time, the coupler had been changed from a screw type to a lever type, 16" wheels were no longer offered, an aluminum top was available - and the price of the trailer had increased dramatically:

    Here are some "before" photos of my David Bradley trailer, Model 231-417, Serial No. 17415. I believe it was probably made in 1953 or 1954:

    I bought this trailer from a friend whose grandfather purchased it new. I'm currently in the process of restoring it, and will post the "after" pictures as soon as it's done.

    If anyone else on this forum has a David Bradley Model 231-417 or Ben Hur Model 22-46 or 22-47 trailer, please make a post about it and include some photos (or e-mail them to me at , and I'll be glad to post them for you).

    If you have a David Bradley trailer that still has the data plate attached, and/or if you happen to know the year it was manufactured, please visit the thread at and make a post there.
    Last edited by maurywhurt; 03-26-2012 at 11:32 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Gilroy, CA

    Default Re: The Sears David Bradley Trailer

    Great information and pictures to boot. The picture of the tent trailer has got me thinking....possible future project.
    '59 CJ5
    '71 CJ5 in pieces

  3. #3

    Default Re: The Sears David Bradley Trailer

    Hello Maury

    it looks like i'll be making a trip to buy a sears dunbar trailer..thats what the owner says it in Dunbar-Kapple military trailer manufacturer.

    when did Dunbar-Kapple close? I'm thinking this would have been at the end of the runs for the bradley type does have the roadster fenders.

    round trip 8 hrs is going to suck!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Western North Carolina

    Default Re: The Sears David Bradley Trailer

    NOTE: Rather than add them into a new post at the end of this thread, I'm editing this post in March 2012, two years after I originally wrote it, to include some additional Sears Catalog listings from 1946-47. Since my first post above had already reached maximum allowable size, I decided to put them here, as they are logical additions to that first post:

    This appeared in the Spring 1946 Sears catalog, and may be the earliest listing for the David Bradley trailer. It is a rather poor artistic rendering, showing longer stake pockets than these trailers actually had. This trailer was sold without fenders (which were then listed as optional) and with what appears to be a different tongue and coupler than those that appeared later. Note that the factory location in this listing is shown as Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which indicates that the earliest David Bradley trailers were almost certainly manufactured by Ben-Hur:

    The very next Sears catalog from Fall 1946 shows the David Bradley trailer with round fenders as seen on the Ben-Hur 22-46 and 22-47 trailers, as well as in the photo of the white DB trailer in my first post above. (The 8' David Bradley trailer pictured next to it will be discussed in later posts in this thread.)

    The coupler on the 6' David Bradley trailer appears to have changed from the one shown in the earlier Spring 1946 catalog. Note that the factory location for the trailer is now shown as Geneva, Illinois (which, as noted in a post below, indicates it was built for Sears by Dunbar-Kapple):

    The next catalog, from Spring 1947, shows the David Bradley trailer with the "roadster" style fenders that were used throughout the remainder of the trailer's production. The tongue shown here appears to be in its final form as well. The coupler appears to be the same one shown in the Fall 1946 catalog above, which was different from the later coupler used on the Ben-Hur trailers and most of the DB trailers (the coupler shown in the Fall 1947 Farm Catalog in my first post above is this later version):

    For an approximate manufacturing sequence and timeline for the David Bradley trailer, see post #129 on page 13 of this thread.

    BACK TO ORIGINAL POST from 3/2010:

    Hey, John - Sure hope you get it!

    So, the plot thickens!....that's pretty fascinating. I googled Dunbar Kapple and learned that they were located in Geneva, Illinois, which jives with the 1947 catalog description (and is not far from the David Bradley factory near Chicago). In the 1950's, Dunbar Kapple made M100 and M101 military trailers, and other trailers as well. It turns out that Sears owned an interest in Dunbar Kapple, which was one of Sears' important suppliers (see, the portion on Larry Dempsey). I read elsewhere that the company was sold in 1960.

    Was Dunbar Kapple the actual manufacturer of the Ben-Hur / David Bradley Trailer? - or, maybe Ben-Hur manufactured and sold them to Sears / Dunbar Kapple? Or perhaps at some point, Sears bought the design rights from Ben-Hur, and from that point on, Dunbar Kapple built the David Bradley trailers?

    Hopefully further research will answer these questions.

    I came across the following post on another forum,, which seems to describe one of these same trailers (a.k.a. "The Silver-Tongued Devil" ):
    Dunbar Kapple Trailer Info Wanted

    Today I saw a Dunbar Kapple M-100 look-alike. It wasn't (I don't think), a M-100 because the side rails stopped immediately at the top of the rounded fenders (it didn't have the extra flare on the top that M-100s or M-416s or M-101s have). I know it was a Dunbar Kapple because it still had the ID plate (sorry, I didn't get any other info from the data plate). My guess is a post-war civilian model. I googled for an hour trying to find one similar and can't find anything.

    It was blue that I'm fairly certain was original. A drop down tailgate. No lights, except for what would be a license plate light that also looks original. It's spring-over, but no shocks and I don't think it ever had shocks. The hitch is a single 36" long bar with no triangulation, and I don't think it ever had any triangulation. The bed looked original with a diamond plate pattern. It had stake pockets for wood stakes. The bed was exactly 72" by 46". It was named the "Silver Tongued Devil" (which if I buy it, I will definitely try to keep the lettering).

    I've been looking for a M-100 to pull behind my Jeep, and ran across this. I'm trying to decide if it will be worth picking up, even though it's shorter (in overall height) than a M-100, so it has less cargo capacity. It also needs some work, like a new pan due to a large hole. But otherwise it seemed to be in good shape.

    If I pick it up this will be the start of the re-build thread...

    This raises another possibility. Maybe the round-fendered variety of these trailers that had David Bradley wheels, as shown in the first post above, were actually the Dunbar Kapple version of the trailer sold under their own name. If so, perhaps Sears/David Bradley provided the wheels for those trailers, as well as for the David Bradley-branded version.

    Eventually maybe one of the Dunbar Kapple-branded variety will surface, and someone can post some photos of it on this thread.
    Last edited by maurywhurt; 06-20-2013 at 05:47 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Western North Carolina

    Default Re: The Sears David Bradley Trailer

    This is getting interesting....I've come across more evidence that the later David Bradley trailers - at least, the ones with a 231- prefix model number - were actually manufactured for Sears not by Ben-Hur, but by Dunbar Kapple.

    As I noted in my original post above, Sears sold single-wheel trailers under the Allstate brand name. On a website about these trailers,, there was a discussion as to whether or not Dunbar Kapple had actually built certain models of the Allstate single-wheel trailers.

    It appears that they in fact did. Below is a picture of a 1950's Dunbar Kapple single-wheel trailer along with its data plate:

    And here's a photo of a Sears Allstate trailer and its data plate:

    As these two trailers appear to be virtually identical, it would seem very likely that they were indeed made by the same manufacturer.

    The first three digits of Sears' model numbers represent the manufacturer source code. Note the 231- prefix of the Allstate trailer's model number. The model number of my David Bradley trailer likewise has a 231- prefix, indicating that it came from the same manufacturer as the Allstate trailer:

    (Incidentally, note the phrase "Always Mention Model No. On Parts Inquiry", which also appears on the Dunbar Kapple data plate above.)

    Based on the evidence to date, my guess is that Ben-Hur made the early round-fender, round-axle David Bradley model that was identical to the trailer they marketed under their own name in 1946-47. However, it appears that Sears acquired the rights to the design from Ben-Hur shortly thereafter, and contracted with Dunbar Kapple (which was partially owned by Sears) to make some modifications and manufacture the David Bradley / Dunbar Kapple trailers from that point forward.

    Another possibility might be that Ben-Hur continued to manufacture them under contract for Dunbar Kapple - but that seems rather unlikely, given that Dunbar Kapple was also in the trailer manufacturing business. It could also be that Dunbar Kapple manufactured all the David Bradley trailers, and that Ben-Hur only provided the design.

    Hopefully, a photo of a data tag on one of the David Bradley / Dunbar Kapple trailers like the white round-fender example pictured above, will surface soon - and more of the gaps can be filled in.
    Last edited by maurywhurt; 08-13-2010 at 08:49 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Central Illinois

    Default Re: The Sears David Bradley Trailer

    Maury or any of the others suppling info,

    Have you run across any ads for the Hiawatha in your research. I'd like to get something advertising related to put on my web site.
    Art C - Central Illinois
    47 CJ2A #134955 Project
    48 CJ2A #194287 Project & 48 CJ2A #206759
    45 T3-C #191 Project & 47 T3-C #12183

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Western North Carolina

    Default Re: The Sears David Bradley Trailer

    Hi Art - I haven't run across any ads for, or for that matter, any other references to the Sears Hiawatha trailer in my research so far - but will PM you if I do! - Maury
    Last edited by maurywhurt; 03-27-2010 at 12:00 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Western North Carolina

    Default Re: The Sears David Bradley Trailer

    Here's another example of a Ben-Hur or early David Bradley trailer. This one is owned by Shawn Palmer, who posted these photos on the Expedition Portal forum.

    It has the early round fenders, and as you can see in the third photo below of the same trailer with a primer coat, it also has a rectangular axle.

    Based on the information available at this point, I would guess this indicates either that 1) Ben-Hur changed the axle from round to rectangular (maybe on the Model 22-47?) prior to stopping production; or that 2) when Dunbar Kapple started production, they were manufacturing the trailers with rectangular axles and round fenders, before they began using the "roadster" style fenders instead.

    Hopefully, over time, these kinds of unknowns can eventually be sorted out.

    Shawn said the wheels were 16", but the spare was 15". It's not clear whether any of the wheels were original or not.

    Incidentally, this photo of the same trailer after repainting shows that the spare tire bracket appears to be a "Bubba" addition - although a pretty good one - rather than a factory-installed part:

    Last edited by maurywhurt; 03-25-2010 at 10:08 PM.

  9. #9

    Default Re: The Sears David Bradley Trailer

    well i picked up the "david bradley" sears trailer.

    its a 1954 the currect owner doesnt have the title anymore...but...the reggie does say its a Dunbar.

    he says that the title said manuafturer was dunbar.

    please excuse the sudo-jeepie rusty toyota thing next to it

    am I banded now Maury ?

    name plate is typical sears

    Its has alil bit more rust that i would have likes...but...for $125 not bad

    also the rack is the original bradly rack

    Last edited by johnnyc; 03-29-2010 at 09:28 AM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Western North Carolina

    Default Re: The Sears David Bradley Trailer

    Thanks for the great pictures, John! Does the plate say it's a David Bradley?

    If it isn't too much trouble, could you take a close-up picture of the data plate (or just post the model & serial numbers if it won't photograph well)?

    Also, could you take a couple of photos of the rack corner attaching hardware? That's the first original stake rack I've seen.

    Thanks again, John - and congratulations!
    Last edited by maurywhurt; 03-29-2010 at 01:39 PM.

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