Category Archives: David Bradley

The David Bradley Company (Part III): Plows and Manure Spreaders

    MAIL ORDER FARM MACHINERY:

THE DAVID BRADLEY COMPANY (PART III)

                                                                        by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the January/February 2000 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

In the second article on David Bradley farm machinery, two of the most popular and recognizable products were discussed–the farm wagon and the garden tractor. However, the David Bradley line, as advertised in the Spring and Fall issues of the Sears and Roebuck catalogue every year, included tractor loaders, field tillage equipment, and even harvesting equipment such as its one-row, semi-mounted corn picker. This installment will feature two lesser known, but still popular, items–the tractor plow and the manure spreader.

 

As pointed out in the first article, the David Bradley Company began its plow production with the famous horse-drawn Clipper plow. With the dawn of the tractor era, however, David Bradley introduced tractor-drawn plows. In the Spring 1936 Sears catalogue, a 2-bottom plow with 12″ bottoms was advertised for $69.95, another 2-bottom plow with 14″ bottoms for $71.85, and a 3-bottom plow with 14″ bottoms for $105.00. These steel-wheeled plows were painted David Bradley red with lime-green wheels to match the rest of the David Bradley line of farm machinery.

During the 1930s, Ned Healy placed an order for a particular David Bradley 2-bottom plow; consequently, a steel-wheeled David Bradley 2-bottom plow with 14-inch bottoms was delivered to the Sears store in Mankato, Minnesota, the county seat of Blue Earth County. Ned Healy, who operated a farm south of Mapleton, Minnesota, farmed with a Graham-Bradley 32-hp tractor and, later, a Massey-Harris 101. Both of these tractors had very fast road speeds for their time (19.8 mph. and 17.85 mph., respectively). (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests [Crestline Publishing Company: Sarasota, FL 1985] pp. 110 and 137.) Ned not only farmed his own farm, he also helped his brother, Horace Healy, on another farm just down the road. Both the Graham and the Massey Harris tractors, with their rubber tires and very fast road speeds, were well-suited for the Healy farming operation which involved frequent transfers of machinery from farm to farm. Consequently, when the new David-Bradley plow arrived on the Ned Healy farm, its distinctive green colored steel wheels were soon cut down to be fitted with rims for rubber tires.

In the same Mapleton, Minnesota, neighborhood lived the Howard Hanks family. As noted in a previous article, the Hanks family once rented the John T. Goff farm also just south of Mapleton, Minnesota. (“The Family’s First Tractor,” Antique Power, May/June 1994, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp. 22-24.) Now, in early 1944, the Hanks family began negotiations to purchase a farm of their own in Beaver township, Fillmore County, near LeRoy, Minnesota. This 400-acre farm was owned by Albert E. Rehwaldt of Good Thunder, Minnesota, but had always been known as the Bagan farm. Included in the terms of the purchase was a 1942 Farmall H accompanied by a 2-row cultivator. This would be the Hanks family’s first row crop tractor. (See “The Wartime Farmall H,” Belt Pulley, July/August 1994, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp. 13-17.)       The family was finally to be settling on their own land! Thus, in order to get an early start on the 1945 growing season, they drove the 100 miles to the Bagan farm in the late summer of 1944 to do some fall plowing, bringing with them their 1931 John Deere D and their 3-bottom John Deere No. 82 plow to do this. They also borrowed Ned Healy’s David Bradley plow to pull behind the Farmall H which was already at the Bagan farm. Because the renter of the Bagan farm, Roy Green and his family, was still in the house, the Hanks family camped out in a small chicken brooder house. Nevertheless, during the ten days they were there, the family completed the fall plowing and did some work on the house before they had to return to the Goff farm for the soybean harvest. They left all of the machinery they had brought with them on the Bagan farm until the following spring, when they would return to plant the crop, and went back to the Goff farm with only Ned Healy’s plow aboard the truck. The little David Bradley had performed well during the short time on the Bagan farm and had helped the Hanks family get a jump on the 1945 crop season.

Also during the 1930s, another David Bradley 2-bottom plow was delivered to the Sears store in Austin, Minnesota, the county seat of Mower County, for a customer by the name of Martin Hetletvedt. Martin farmed a 160-acre farm north of the “Old Town” area of LeRoy, Minnesota. (Most of his farm has now been merged into the Lake Louise State Park located in the Old Town area.)

LeRoy was originally settled at the site of a sawmill located next to a dam on the Upper Iowa River. The dam and sawmill were built in 1853. By 1855, a settlement had grown up around the sawmill, and by 1858, the town of LeRoy was platted there. However, as white pine from northern Minnesota became more readily available for building material, the sawing of local hardwoods became unprofitable and the sawmill was converted to a grist mill in 1858. In 1867, when the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad (later the Milwaukee Road) came through the area, it by-passed the settlement of LeRoy, and the railroad station built by the railroad to serve the town was actually located about a mile southeast of LeRoy. Consequently, over the next several years, the people of whole town of LeRoy resettled to the area around the railroad station, and in 1874, LeRoy was incorporated at the new location. Gradually, the settlement around the grist mill declined and the area became known as “Old Town.” The grist mill itself also closed up, as better methods of flour milling were developed.

The David Bradley plow arrived on the Martin Hetletvedt Continue reading The David Bradley Company (Part III): Plows and Manure Spreaders

The David Bradley Company (Part I)

 

MAIL ORDER FARM MACHINERY:

THE DAVID BRADLEY COMPANY

                                                                       by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the September/October 1999 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

The story of John Deere crossing the Allegheny Mountains in 1836 from Rutland, Vermont, to settle in Grand Detour, Illinois, to develop the first steel-bottom plow is well-known. (C.H. Wendel, Encyclopedia of American Tractors [1979 Crestline Publishing: Sarasota, Fla.] p. 82.) Likewise, the story of James Oliver developing the chilled steel process for plow bottom manufacturing in 1855 is also well-known. (C.H. Wendel Oliver/Hart-Parr [1993 Motorbooks International Publishing: Osceola, Wis.] p. 107.) The stories of these two men have been widely disseminated as part of the folklore of farm equipment companies which would later bear their names. Somewhat less well known, however, is the story of David Bradley and his plow.

Long before James Oliver developed the first chilled steel plow in 1855–and even before John Deere invented the steel-bottomed plow in 1836–a young pioneer and foundryman in Chicago by the name of David Bradley invented the first cast iron plow which would scour the soils of the Midwest. It was David Bradley who first answered the need for a plow which would turn its own furrow and scour the sticky, heavy, virgin prairie of the Middle West with the invention of his chilled cast iron plow in 1832. David Bradley was the first man ever to bring pig iron west of the Allegheny Mountains for use in making his famous chilled cast iron plow.

David Bradley was born on November 8, 1811, in Groton, New York. He worked for a while at a plow business in Syracuse, New York. In 1832, he left the east to traveled over the Allegheny Mountains, eventually settling in Chicago in 1835. Operating out of a foundry and machine shop, he perfected the chilled cast iron plow called the “Garden City Clipper.” In the late 1830s, together with Conrad Furst, he incorporated the business as Furst and Bradley Manufacturing Company. The company produced plows and other agricultural implements. Over the years, David Bradley’s son, J. Harley Bradley, gradually took over operations of the company from his father. Under the leadership of J. Harley, the company began a period of expansion. During this period, the Bradley family also bought out the stock owned by Conrad Furst and the company became the David Bradley Manufacturing Company, hereinafter known as the David Bradley Company. From its plant facilities at Des Plaines and Fulton Streets in Chicago, the company answered the growing need for agricultural equipment in the Midwest and enjoyed success from the very beginning, producing plows, horse-drawn corn planters, cultivators and other farm implements. This success in the 1890s was spurred by two factors: location and favorable publicity. Continue reading The David Bradley Company (Part I)