MAIL ORDER FARM MACHINERY:
THE DAVID BRADLEY COMPANY
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)