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The New Idea Spreader Company: Making Manure Spreading Easier

Joseph Oppenheim (1859-1901), a schoolmaster in Maria Stein, Ohio invented what is referred to as the first modern “widespreading” manure spreader. He undertook the production of this device in October 1899. Locally, it was referred to as “Oppenheim’s new idea.” The name was adopted and the New Idea Spreader Company was born.

Oppenheim died in 1901 but not before he saw the company’s growth trajectory. His wife, Maria, was a moving force behind the continuance and success of the company. She was aided in this by her eldest son, B.C. Oppenheim, and one of the company’s original employees, and co-inventor, Henry Synck. By 1916, the New Idea Spreader had branches in eight states as well as a factory or assembly plant in Guelph.

The Guelph Branch

In 1915, the New Idea Spreader arrived in Guelph. It had been incorporated in Ottawa in February with a capital of $250,000. Its purpose was to manufacture manure spreaders, although it also had the right to produce other agricultural equipment and implements. The incorporators were all American and included:

  1. B. C. Oppenheim
  2. J. A. Oppenheim
  3.  C. A. Mullenix

In Guelph, the manager was to be W. J. Shibley, also an American. Although a Canadian Branch, complete control of the company remained in American hands.

The New Idea Spreader made its home at 167-175 Suffolk, previously home to the now-defunct Morlock’s Furniture Factory and the short-lived Jules Motor Company.  This plant was next to the Libby, McNeill, Libby Company at 155, later home to Fried-Grills Hats then Biltmore. The complex of buildings in this spot at the corner of Suffolk and Yorkshire Streets was historically home to several industries over time, including the Gowdy Agricultural works (154), Rowen-Ogg (157) and Sherer-Gillett (167-169).

Exhibitions and Products

The company was quite active in promoting its products. In November 1915, it exhibited one of its spreaders at a tractor demonstration. It was joined by the Gilson Company – at that time producing farm equipment including, for this exhibit, the Gilson ensilage cutter, and the famous disc harrow produced by Elora’s T. E. Bissell Company. They were also at the “Tractor Farming Demonstration” in November 1916. That year, they were joined by another company also operating out of Guelph – Aspinwall.

1916 was also the year the company received a rave review in the International Review of the Science and Agriculture. They wrote glowingly of the New Idea Spreader Company Manure Spreader in detail. Noting how the wheel “in revolving, spreads the manure over a width of about 7 feet, and also crushes the lumps of manure which might have passed intact between the 2 spiked pulverizing cylinders which feed the spool regularly and uniformly.” A drawing of a Guelph-made machine is included as part of the article.

The Company Departs Guelph

The New Idea Spreader company remained in Guelph until at least 1922. It is not mentioned in the 1923 Vernon Street Directory. The company was sold to a large conglomerate – the Aviation Corporation (AVCO), in 1945

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