The partnership of AR Woodyatt and Charles Auld was formed in 1887/88 when they took over Guelph Enterprise Ltd. The company was located on Nelson Crescent where Market Fresh is today. By late 1892, Charles Auld decided to leave the company. It was dissolved and Woodyatt formed Woodyatt & Company. In both incarnations, this factory manufactured household, farm goods and hardware. Its major products were hog tongs, eggbeaters, apple peelers and hand measures. As the Guelph Sewing Machine Company under Osborne, it had also produced sewing machines. It ran into financial trouble and was bought out by Russell. Under the leadership of Woodyatt, the company began to expand its line of goods and products and soon would be looking for larger premises.
The Company Expands
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 “expeditious,” and designed to ensure “efficient performance of the work.”
However, by 1898, Woodyatt knew he would have to relocate his factory. His last expansion was of a new moulding shop at the Nelson Crescent site in 1889. However, it was becoming increasingly clear the company had no further space on which to grow. According to the trade magazine Hardware and Metal, Woodyatt had received some “tempting offers to move to other places.” Instead, the company decided to remain in Guelph. They bought the former property of the Guelph Woollen Mills Co. knowing its 1.5 acres allowed plenty of room for growth. Woodyatt then set about remodelling the existing premises. This also included the addition of “buildings especially erected for the storage of the iron, coke, coal and sand used.” These were located near the CPR switch. An addition to the moulding shop of 100’ was also under construction in August 1901 with further plans to grow in the future.
The company equipped the factory with the latest and most advanced machinery available. It was within these premises that Woodyatt began to establish the company as a manufacturer of high-quality hardware. These included mowers and sad irons, but they also began to specialize in a line of hardware including:
- Screen door hinges
- Steel barn door hangers
They also made special castings in grey and malleable iron and brass. Woodyatt’s also was going beyond the ordinary japan finish. They were plating their products – a method recently coming into common use among foundries.
However, where Woodyatt’s continued to make an international mark was in their sale of lawnmowers. Among the many models made popular by Woodyatt– so popular they continued to be sold long after the company had become Taylor-Forbes, were:
- The Woodyatt – came in 12”, 14”, 16” and 18” models. Claimed to be “The Lightest Running Mower Made.” A “Grass Box” for most models was also available
- The Star Line – featuring wood rollers of hard maple, it also came in various sized wheels – 12” 14” and 16”
The markets for these lawnmowers were not simply Canada. Orders came in from Africa, New Zealand and Australia, Great Britain and several European countries. This necessitated an agent visiting Europe and other countries annually. Behind this success was one man, A. 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 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 innovative ideas embraced improving a variety of items including:
- Barn door hangers
- 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 Mill 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.
His passing did not go without notice. The local newspapers praised him as one of the “Royal City’s Captains of Industry,” a “mechanical genius,” “tenacious,” and independent. His funeral, unlike other industrialists of the time, was simple. It was private but a “delegation was present from the workmen of his factory. This may have been from more than a sense of obligation or duty dictated by the times. In 1895, the Guelph Herald Illustrated Edition stated he was “highly popular with his employees.” This may be suspect as promotional, but some evidence suggests otherwise.
While Woodyatt was alive, he supervised all aspects of his factory. He ensured the equipment was the most modern. Under his supervision, recorded accidents numbered four from 1896 to 1900 inclusive. Moreover, the International Iron Moulders’ Union did not strike once while he was in charge. It was only after Woodyatt had died and the company was being run by others that the workers went out and the accident rose to one of the highest in Guelph’s industrial history.
The End of Woodyatt and His Company
When an illness which had, according to The Guelph Mercury, “Again and again carried [him] down to the gates of Death, and then rallying, and, with indomitable hope, and energy on his feet again superintending the construction and planning of his new establishment in which he was so much interested…” eventually won, Woodyatt left behind a company with a promising future. It did not die. It was not parcelled out. Instead, Woodyatt’s partner, friend and proprietor of Malleable Iron on Paisley Street – George Forbes, struck an alliance with two other men. These were John M Taylor and Adam Taylor. They formed the company of Taylor-Forbes. It went on to become one of Canada’s largest producers and sellers of hardware products.