The Belding family came west from Pennsylvania in 1854, and Edgar Belding was born the next year in Rock Creek, Illinois (Carroll County). He was one of the 10 children of Daniel and Harriet Blank Belding. When Edgar was 21, he married 16-year-old Caroline Holmes in 1875, and they moved to western Kansas with their two daughters in 1878.
Edgar decided that farming wasn’t something he wanted to do for the rest of his life, but he saw a need for someone who could move homesteaders’ cabins as populations in the west grew along with industry. He started a one man, one mule moving business on the side. Two years later, in 1880, he loaded a railroad car with wheat and came to Turner (present day West Chicago). Edgar used the profits from the wheat sale to set up his moving business here.
Using teams of mules or horses, rope blocks, steel wheels, and railroad ties, Edgar served the residents of the Chicago area, moving houses, farm buildings, and machinery. Here is an enlargement of his business letterhead.
The Dr. after Belding’s name is short for draying, which means carting or hauling. The company saw great success in the western suburbs, especially in West Chicago, where many buildings needed to be moved out of the way of the growing railroad. By 1910, sons Wilbert and Harlow joined the company and it became E.E. Belding & Sons.
Over the years the company gained a reputation for expertise moving. Some of the unusual structures moved by Belding include the windmill at the Fabyan Forest Preserve in Geneva, and a hemp mill moved from Wayne, Illinois to Hainan, China in the 1930s. Edgar’s sons continued the work of their father after his death in 1933
Probably one the company’s most remarkable moves was that of the Clarke House in Chicago. In 1977 Belding moved Chicago’s oldest house, built in 1836, over the CTA “L” tracks. After power was shut off, the 120-ton house was moved up and over the 27 feet high railroad tracks.
From its earliest beginnings as a one man operation, Belding developed into an international leader in moving and installing heavy machinery. The same year that they moved the historic landmark Clarke house, they also moved a 40-ton superconducting magnet from Argonne National Laboratory to Moscow, Russia.
Besides being a successful businessman, Edgar was an accomplished violin player and dance caller. As this photo of the Union Tool band shows, he also played the tuba. Like his father, Edgar had a strong singing voice, and was a member of the First Congregational Church choir.
Described as six feet one inch tall and well over 200 pounds, with a crop of bright red hair and a handlebar mustache, Edgar was a striking figure. Apparently he wanted to be even more conspicuous. Check out his outfit for the July 4th bicycle race in 1895. The race was five and a half miles long and started from the corner of Main and Washington, where this photo was taken. No, Mr. Belding was not the winner of the race. Stop by the City Museum to see the entire photograph from the historic 1895 bike race, on display as part of the “(Bi)Cycle of Life” exhibit on display through September 13, 2014.