Category Archives: Manure spreaders

The David Bradley Company (Part I)





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)

The New Idea Spreader Company of Coldwater, Ohio

        The New Idea Spreader Company of Coldwater, Ohio: 

(Part I)


Brian Wayne Wells

          As published in the September/October 1998 issue of

                                                   Belt Pulley Magazine



The golden age of American agriculture, from 1865 until 1921, saw a revolution in the development of labor-saving mechanical devices. Part of that revolution was the development of the manure spreader, a great improvement over spreading manure by fork from the rear of a wagon. Yet, manure spreaders of the 1890s were heavy, cumbersome farm implements. Tim Littleton, of Grayson, Kentucky, has restored an old John Deere manure spreader which was typical of the early design of manure spreaders and has exhibited it at the West Virginia Pumpkin Festival in Milton, West Virginia.
Early model manure spreaders, like the Littleton manure spreader, contained a single beater which was attached directly to the axle of the rear wheels. Therefore, the manure tended to be forked out into a swath directly behind the manure spreader with very little spreading to the sides. As a result, the manure was spread in the fields in narrow bands which tended to be too thick for good incorporation into the soil. If left in these thick bands, the manure would causing burning of the grass or crop. Consequently, following the spreading of manure, farmers would head into fields with peg-tooth drags or similar implements to smear the swaths of manure across the field. This was an extra, time consuming step to be undertaken by the farmer who was already over-worked.

Joseph Oppenheim, Inventor of the “widespread” on the rear of a manure spreader.  This was the “new idea” that provided the name for the company that Joseph founded–the New Idea Farm Equipment Company.

In the 1890s, Joseph Oppenheim, a schoolmaster in a one-room country school in the small town of Maria Stein, Ohio, through circumstances not currently know to us today, pondered this problem, and one day during recess at the school, he was struck by an idea. Every day during recess the students would form teams and play a variation of baseball, called “tom ball.” For a bat, the students used a flat paddle with a handle. The ball would be pitched to the batter who could use the paddle to hit the ball in any direction by simply striking the ball with the paddle held at the desired angle. This well-known effect of paddle and ball struck Joseph as the solution to the problem of manure spreading. He felt that a series of paddles could be attached to the rear of a manure spreader to spread manure in a wide pattern several times the width of the spreader.

A map of Ohio, showing the location of Mercer County in the state.


To test his theory, Joseph, with the help of his son B.C. Oppenheim, knocked the end out of a cigar box and built a small rotary paddle Continue reading The New Idea Spreader Company of Coldwater, Ohio