The Sandwich Manufacturing Company of Sandwich Illinois
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the July/August 1998 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
Farm equipment companies that did not sell a “full-line” of farm equipment they were referred to as “short line” companies. Usually these short line companies did not produce farm tractors and most often did not even produce stationary engines. Inevitably, these small companies were swallowed up by larger companies and, in the process, the individual identity of these small companies was lost. Often, however, many of the greatest improvements in farm machinery were made by these short line companies. One of the most inventive and creative of all short line companies was the Sandwich Manufacturing Company of Sandwich, Illinois.
The Sandwich Company began as a concept in the mind of one person–Augustus Adams. Augustus Adams was born in Genoa, New York, on May 10, 1806. Genoa is located in the “Finger Lakes” Region of New York near Syracuse. Today, the town is known as the birthplace of Millard Fillmore (1800-1874), who was later to become the thirteenth President of the United States. Following the death of his father, Samuel Adams, in 1817 (not the famous hero of the American Revolution), Augustus was sent to live with his brother-in-law in Chester, Ohio. There, he alternated between attending school and doing farm work in the area. He was studious by nature and devoted a great deal of his leisure time to studying and reading. In 1829, he returned to the Finger Lakes Region and settled in Pine Valley located in Chemung County near Elmira, New York. In Pine Valley he opened a foundry and machine shop, which he operated until 1837 when he was smitten by the dream of seeking his fortune in the west.
A generation before John Babsone Lane Soule pronounced his famous quote of “Go West, young man” in the Terre Haute Indiana Express in 1851 (later popularized by Horace Greeley), the dream of seeking riches on the Western frontier was firing the imaginations of many young people. (John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations [Boston 1968], p. 768.) So it was with young Augustus Adams. Augustus had married Lydia A. Phelps on October 21, 1833, and started their family. Over the next few years they had four sons: Darius (August 26, 1834); J. Phelps (September 18, 1835); Henry A. (January 21, 1837); and John Q. (July 23, 1839). However, Augustus was extremely reluctantly to take his family to the untamed western frontier, and so he left them in New York while he struck out for the town of Elgin, located in northern Illinois, northwest of Chicago. He intended that the family would follow as soon as he could make decent living arrangements for them on the frontier in Illinois.
Augustus, who from his own experiences in working on a farm, knew that much hard, laborious hand work was involved in raising and harvesting crops. Consequently, he understood that the future of any business would be assured if the business could build labor-saving farm equipment, and over the next several decades, the company that Augustus Adams founded would do just that.