In the 20th century, a Swedish immigrant came to this country with $20 to his name. Col. Emil Tyden played a big part in Iowa's agricultural and manufacturing past and present.
Emil Tyden immigrated from Sweden to Moline, Illinois at just 17 years old. His first job in America was working at the Moline Organ Company in 1882. Although no longer in existence, a pipe organ purchased from this company in 1883 is still operational in Davenport, Iowa. It has been suggested that Mr. Tyden’s craftsmanship skills likely contributed to the making of this beautiful organ.
Emil Tyden was able to use his skills as a natural innovator and gifted entrepreneur to soon become a successful businessman in Chicago. One of his many ventures was a cement company that provided the cement for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Tyden’s next adventure led to his most famous accomplishment. He became a land agent for the Union Pacific Railroad. In this job, he noticed the inefficiency of sealing boxcars and developed and patented the “Tyden Self-Locking Seal,” a tamper-proof device that fits any boxcar locking mechanism. He moved to Hastings, Michigan and built Tyden’s International Seal and Lock Company, a factory that manufactured these seals. This factory was one of the first in the world to use an automated system to mass produce a product, a full ten years before Henry Ford developed his car manufacturing system!
Young Emil Tyden
In 1914, as World War I was beginning, Tyden became director at the Rock Island Military Arsenal in Rock Island, Illinois and was appointed “Lieutenant Colonel” by President Woodrow Wilson. Emil used his innovative skills and manufacturing experience to contribute greatly to the American war effort. The Rock Island Arsenal is the largest government-owned arsenal in the United States today.
Around 1920, Emil’s boxcar seal factory caught fire and he became interested in fire prevention. He invented a dry valve sprinkler system and began the Viking Corporation, a factory that manufactured the sprinkler systems in Hastings. The Viking Group now provides sprinkler systems and valves globally.
Tyden Farm #6
In 1915, Tyden began to purchase farm ground in Floyd and Butler counties in North Central Iowa. He was able to continue to maintain and expand his holdings during the economic downturn in farming in the 1920’s and the Great Depression. By 1938, he had acquired 8 farms that amounted to about 3,000 acres. He hired a farm manager and hired hands to operate each farm while he continued to live in Hastings, Michigan, coming to Iowa four times each year to check on the farms. These farms provided employment to many local individuals during that time, serving as just one example of Col. Tyden’s kindness across his many endeavors.
Tyden modernized the farms and employed the new agricultural methods espoused by Iowa State College in Ames that made extensive use of science and technology to improve farming methods and production. He also invented a protein mix for cattle, which proved to be a successful supplement in aiding the growth of the cows. In 1941, he opened Tyden Livestock and Feeding Company in Dougherty, Iowa. This company sold the protein mix nationwide and served local farmers by allowing them to take advantage of the discounts Tyden received for purchasing large quantities of cattle, feed, and farm supplies.
Col. Tyden passed away in 1951 at the age of 86 with over 200 patents to his name and the love and appreciation of hundreds of people he had helped throughout his life.
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