Guelph’s Past In Agriculture Implement Manufacturing

Guelph has produced a variety of agricultural implements throughout its history. It has had companies that produced such equipment in addition to their regular items. It has also had companies that focused solely on these products.

Enter the Blacksmith

At first, people relied on the Blacksmith to produce the tools they needed. John Galt, fully aware of this, asked his agent in New York to send him one.  As a result, Owen Lynch arrived in 1827. He was Guelph’s first blacksmith and remained active until 1857.

Other blacksmiths soon came to satisfy the needs of the inhabitants of the village and the surrounding area. Some worked with only an apprentice while others set up larger smithies. Two well-known blacksmith shops in Guelph during the early years were run by:

  1.  The Sallows Family: They had a large, long-running shop on Wellington/Gordon Street. William Sallows is listed from 1832-1895 and Henry Sallows from 1867-1904.
  2.  Allan Simpson: He lived at Cork Street and is listed as a blacksmith from 1852 – 1886

As the community grew, so did the number of blacksmiths. They worked hard to keep up with the demand for both simple agricultural products and basic household necessities. These later arrivals included William Hooper and William Hooper Jr. They lived on Elizabeth Street. Between the two of them, they worked as blacksmiths from 1855 to 1892.

John Sully was shoeing horses and making ploughs from 1852 to 1861. John Armstrong, Robert Armstrong and John Thain worked as blacksmiths at their father’s wagon shops. They were learning the skills of a trade that was soon to become an adjutant to other production concerns.

The Arrival of Foundries 

The arrival of the foundries in Guelph, specifically the Guelph or Robertson Foundry, marked the beginning of a change in the role played by blacksmiths in the community. Foundries took over the production of agricultural implements, hiring blacksmiths to help. This new industry offered farmers more sophisticated products. They used moulds and held patents. They could also produce the items more quickly and uniformly. As a result, the work now available for blacksmiths changed. 

Blacksmiths who chose not to work for a foundry often found work in other industries – including agricultural implement manufacturers and carriage/wagon shops. As foundries and factories replaced the blacksmith shops, many even reverted to the stereotype of the craft – farriers (horse-shoers).

Yet, the focus of these early foundries- which could be agricultural equipment as well as domestic goods e.g. stoves, was to alter over the years. they began to produce other items. The arrival of the Guelph Foundry was only the beginning of a shift in production methods and of products. The next foundries were to indicate the direction of manufacturing in Guelph as it became part of the Industrial Revolution.

The Crowe Foundry: A New Model of Production

The second foundry to arrive in Guelph was the Crowe Foundry. It was part of the new foundries that were to make their mark in Guelph.  The new foundries had both the capabilities and the equipment to produce agricultural equipment and domestic products, but they approached the matter differently than the Guelph Foundry.

What the newer foundries did is called “jobbing.” This is now an ordinary form of production. A company, in this case, Crowe’s, contracted their services out to a larger factory. Crowe’s and later the Griffin Foundry made their money by jobbing for two of Guelph’s prominent industries: Raymond’s Sewing Machine Factory and Bell’s Organ and Piano. They both produced piano plates and sewing machine parts.

Other Guelph foundries followed this same pattern. The most well-known of these was the Wellington Foundry (Inglis and Hunter). It began to manufacture the Corliss Engine for grist and flour mills. Later, the company had remarkable success in Toronto as John Inglis & Co and later Whirlpool, producing armaments (including the famed Bren gun) during both World Wars and household appliances afterwards

Two other foundries that may be considered as part of a new breed of foundries are  Worskwick’s Engine Works and Auld and Woodyatt. Both began as simple foundries before establishing themselves as foundry factories.



Agricultural Implement Companies

With the foundries no longer concentrating on agricultural implements, the role of producing various farm equipment soon fell to several companies who made this their sole interest. Among them were:

Aspinwall Manufacturing Company: Located in the Old Drill Hall at 72 Farquhar/Huskisson St, also known as the old Louden building, Aspinwall between 1908 and 1923 was famous for its potato machinery. It was among the largest of its kind. Originating in Jackson, Michigan, it remained in Guelph for a brief time, producing automatic potato planters and, later, a “Non-Swarming Hive.” Until it arrived in the city, the American company sold its products in Ontario through the Gilson Manufacturing Company.

In 1917,  under its Guelph manager,  Mr. Lawrence Jaques and its VP/manager, C.G. Rowley, Aspinwall was incorporated. The company remained in operation in Guelph until 1923. It then moved to Woodstock, New Brunswick.

Cossitt’s: Cossitt’s Agriculture Implement Manufacturer & Planing Mills was on Nelson’s Crescent from around 1869. Under the ownership of founder Levi Cossitt, it outgrew its premises and built new ones on Suffolk and Yorkshire Streets. The company was taken over in 1882/1883 by Thomas Gowdy. Cossitt died in Bingham, NY on March 26, 1908, at age 82.

Gowdy Agricultural Works: Thomas Gowdy had been in Guelph working in one capacity or another since he arrived in 1853 from York (Toronto) at an early age. By 1878, Gowdy, after establishing the Toronto Lime Co. in Dolly Varden,  started an agricultural implements factory with his brother. By 1882/3, the works were operating at the corner of Suffolk and Yorkshire. In 1882-3, the company had an order to ship 150  lawnmowers to Southern Australia.

The large building housing Gowdy’s was later occupied by Biltmore Hats, Rowan and Ogg (shoes), and Sherer-Gillet Co. – to name a few.

Louden: Louden was one of the later farm machinery producers to open in Guelph.  An American company from Fairfield, Iowa, it set up its Canadian branch in the Old Drill Hall in 1902. Louden quickly outgrew the space and moved to Crimea Street which became the company’s Canadian headquarters.

Its literature stated, “They manufacture every description of barn and stable fittings, etc.” This was true. Louden’s manufactured large pieces of farm equipment including bale lifters, feed and milk carriers, hay trolleys, steel stalls, stanchions, and pens. They also offered entire plans for the construction of barns.

In 1908, the Canadian CEO was H. B. Callander. By 1927, the building on Crimea St. had an extension and the company had salespeople in Quebec. The company became the Louden Machine Company of Canada Ltd. in 1927 and boasted they made “Canadian Goods for Canadians.” However, during the Great Depression, companies folded, adapted or, if an American branch returned to its parent company. Louden was bought in 1934, by the Beatty Brothers Ltd of Fergus. 

New Idea Spreader: In 1915, this Company also made its home in the Old Drill Hall. Like several other “starter” companies, it outgrew the space and moved. By 1921, it was located at 167-175 Suffolk. Another American company (Coldwater, Ohio), this Guelph-based branch produced a specific product – manure spreaders. Its production days in Guelph were short-lived. It is not listed in the 1923 City Directory.

Thain’s: Charles Thain started a wagon shop on Upper Wyndham at the corner of Cardigan and Eramosa. He included agricultural implements in his product line before 1864. Among his products were the Victoria Churn, the two-horse wheel cultivator and the Victoria Washing Machine.

In 1872, Charles Thain registered a patent for a turnip planter. The description notes it was for: “A certain new and useful improvement on the machine for sowing turnip, mango or carrot seed to be called or known as ‘Thain’s Self- Regulating Turnip Sower.’

Tolton Brothers: One of the more interesting players in the agricultural implement manufacturing business was the Tolton Brothers. Consisting of brothers Andrew, David and Benjamin Tolton, and Alexander Luke, they were involved in more than one industrial concern. The Toltons operated two other manufacturing businesses: Trousers and Paper Boxes. This sometimes makes it difficult to track one specific concern.

The Tolton Agricultural Company began in 1875 as a small family affair. In 1878, it employed 12 hands. Luke died in 1878 and the business shifted gears.

The company was incorporated in 1904 with the enterprising Christien Kloepfer as president. Tolton Bros Ltd. outlasted many of their competition. Beatty Brothers in Fergus bought the company around 1914, but they retained the Tolton style.

In addition to these larger enterprises, some smaller ones operated around Guelph. Among them was William Dunn. His shop was on Sandilands St near Market Square from 1882 to around 1856.

Farm Equipment History

In early Guelph, blacksmiths provided the tools farmers and village residents needed to survive and thrive. They made ploughs and stoves as well as ornamental ironwork. They shoed horses and repaired any metalwork.

Foundries soon replaced blacksmiths in certain areas. They could produce agricultural equipment faster, duplicating the pieces using moulds and patents. At this point, the role of blacksmiths shifted. Many became farriers or worked for foundries. Later foundries themselves adapted to the new manufacturing. They jobbed for other local shops.

This left the production of agricultural equipment to companies for which this was their sole focus. Several of them operated in Guelph over the 19th and 20th centuries. Unfortunately, much of their history is lost and little of what they produced remains today. 

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