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The Guelph Enterprise Manufacturing Co

The Guelph Enterprise Manufacturing Co. – formerly known as the Guelph Sewing Machine (Keables, Osborn and Company then Wilkie and Osborne), was a small foundry purchased by Wallace Russell in 1882. He renamed it the Guelph Sewing Machine Novelty Works then the Guelph Enterprise Manufacturing Company. It stood on Paisley Street (part of Nelson Crescent) where Market Fresh is today and was home to several industries over the years including the Royal Carpet Royal (Burrow Brothers) and the Royal Dairy as well as an arena.

First Venture

The foundry was purchased by the partnership of Charles Auld and A. R. Woodyatt in 1887. It was Woodyatt’s first shop. The partners stopped the production of the sewing machines. As Auld & Woodyatt/the Guelph Enterprise Manufacturing Company, it produced a series of agricultural and domestic items including

      • Hog tongs
      • Apple peelers
      • Egg beaters
      • Doorhangers
      • Hinges
      • Latches
      • Brackets
      • Hat and coat hooks
      • Drawer pulls
      • Rings
      • Boot scrapers

Their revamped catalogue from 1890 featured what was to become one of their most recognized products – lawnmowers (one was granted an American patent in 1893).

Woodyatt was also becoming a respected authority on this subject. In January 1892, a writer for the trade magazine, Hardware and Metal, chose him “as the best person to furnish us with the whole lawn mower story for 1892.”  Woodyatt, of Auld and Woodyatt, informed the readers that lawnmowers “for the next season will be in nearly every particular the same as those put upon the market last year.” The writer then goes on to say how great Woodyatt’s and other Canadian machines are – as good as the American ones – contrary to public opinion on Canadian products in general. He remarks that not only are they being shipped to England in large amounts but also that the Americans had actually begun to copy the Canadian design. He cited an unnamed firm in Milwaukee as one of the firms who had decided to “borrow” from the Canadians.

By the end of 1892, Charles Auld had decided to leave the company. Guelph Enterprise Ltd./Auld and Woodyatt was dissolved. Woodyatt formed a new company shortly after. It was now Woodyatt and Company. Under his management, the company continued to grow.

In 1895, the Woodyatt factory was in a 22.000 square foot factory. It had japanning, nickel plating and painting departments. It also had a large foundry, pattern house and other outbuildings. According to the Guelph Herald’s Illustrated Edition of that year, “the arrangement of the various departments is such as to conduct the greatest economy.” It is described as being “expeditious,” and designed to ensure “efficient performance of the work.”

This new company was to remain under this name and on Nelson Crescent until 1898 when expansion demanded a larger site. By this time, its renown was spreading due to the actions and genius of one man – Augustus R. Woodyatt.

August R. Woodyatt (1850-1901)

Augustus R Woodyatt was born in England. He trained in his craft at the J. B. Armstrong Carriage Factory on MacDonnell St. in Guelph. He had become a foreman there by 1885, the year he left to take up the same position in an American factory in New Hampshire. It was while working in these positions, he became an expert machinist and developed keen management skills. Both characteristics and talents were to serve him well in his role as an entrepreneur.

Woodyatt was a talented man who applied for several patents during his lifetime. His first recorded patent was in 1880. It was for “improvements” in metal bending and shaping machines. Although the patent gives him credit it was made for Armstrong and, therefore, not his. The same would have applied to an 1884 patent for a “tilt hammer.”

After he left the company in 1885, he continued to develop patents. These became his property. They focused on expanding and improving the products he began to produce in partnership with Auld in 1887 after he came back from America.

His patents produced for the Guelph Enterprise Company were not simply for the stock-in-trade products such as a sad iron, although he did have a patent for such a product as well as the right to manufacture Mrs. Potts’ sad irons. His new ideas embraced improving a variety of items including:

  • Wringers
  • Barn door hangers
  • Lawnmowers
  • Grain Sack Handcarts
  • Tree pruner

In his personal life, Woodyatt was Methodist, not common among Guelph’s industrial elite. He was married to Anna Smallhorn and had three children, two boys – Charles and George and a girl – Grace, with her. He was a member of the Trap & Game Club, the Ancient Order of United Workmen (AOUW) and the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association.

Woodyatt did not live long after he had taken over the old Allan’s Distillery site and begun his expansion plans. After a recurring illness, he died on December 2, 1901. He was just 50 and his youngest child, Grace, was only 8 at the time. He also left behind him a company that was well on the road to proving itself a major contender in Guelph and the Country’s industrial sector.

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