Iowa Ghost Towns




The incredible story I’ve always wanted told

Fred Jacobs

Since he was a youngster sitting at his dad’s knee watching Sgt. Joe Friday track criminals on the 1950s Dragnet television series, Doug VanderLaan (retired editor at J-Ad Graphics, Inc.) has always been a sucker for a great detective story.  

As a one-time police reporter for the Grand Rapids Press many years later, VanderLaan got even closer to the work of detectives gathering leads and uncovering evidence as they built cases against the bad guys.

That’s why he was so enthused to answer the call of J-Ad Graphics publisher Fred Jacobs to research and write the story of legendary industrialist and entrepreneur Emil Tyden who called Hastings, Michigan his home for much of his life.  The difficulty in that assignment, though, was that Emil Tyden was no criminal.

“For Tyden, the world was the stage on which his gift of

entrepreneurship benefited so many others.”

“Far from being a criminal,” attests VanderLaan, the more I learned about him, the more admiring I became of his life and his character.  

Emil Tyden made a mark in this world at the turn of the 20th Century, but it was the imprint of a selfless man whose incredible talents and care for his fellow man that should be admired by every succeeding generation.”

Somehow it wouldn’t seem fair for the little town of Hastings, Michigan to claim Emil Tyden as its own. Not that it didn’t benefit from the Swedish immigrant’s decision at the turn of the 20th century to choose Hastings as the production center for what became one of the world’s most prolific and profitable inventions, the boxcar seal. Tyden was the catalyst to ushering a

sleepy little agricultural town into the Industrial Age.

For Tyden, the world was the stage on which his gift of entrepreneurship benefited so many others.

In Idaho, Tyden found work for other unemployed Swedish immigrants by establishing the colony of New Sweden where he helped pioneer the baked “Idaho Potato;” in the Depression Era, he turned his concern to the plight of Iowa farmers whose livelihood and communities were renewed with Tyden’s inventive agricultural talents.

Also, in service to his adopted country, Tyden teamed with auto magnate John Dodge to equip American soldiers with the arms they needed to fight World War I.

Tyden’s talents did not go unnoticed nationwide, either. In 1938, comic strip artist Chester Gould used the Tyden boxcar seal in his syndicated Dick Tracy comic strip as an inventive gadget that sealed the fate of gangsters on two consecutive newspaper Sundays.

So impressed with Tyden’s accomplishments in America, Sweden knighted him into the Royal Order of Vasa in 1940. By that time, Tyden was already proudly wearing the “Lieutenant Colonel” title conferred on him by the United States government in recognition of his service to this country during World War I.

Though Hastings might not call Tyden its own, his quiet insistence of being an ordinary man who could

make others extraordinary is the lasting gift that’s still being lived out in communities today.

Two locally-owned international businesses can trace their heritage to Tyden and several others thrive on the principles of  “The Tyden Factor,” finding success in striving to make others successful.

It’s a business and community-building principle that can be applied in any city, town, or village today. It’s part of an incredible personal story that, without evidence of its effect today, might forever go untold.

“It’s a compelling read,” states VanderLaan, “and one I feel fortunate to be part of in its telling.  Fred Jacobs has wanted to document this compelling story for most of his life because, as a youngster, he heard the legendary stories of this great man.  

I’m happy that I could be a part of his effort to bring it to the public in a lasting presentation.”

                                                                                                           Doug VanderLaan

Learn more of the incredible life of Emil Tyden here…


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