Remembering the H.P. Deuscher Co.

The H.P. Deuscher Co. was a well-diversified operation that manufactured farm machinery, school desks and more.

Captain Henry P. Deuscher

Captain Henry P. Deuscher.

Photo courtesy Sam Moore

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From my “Forgotten Farm Machinery Manufacturers” file is the H.P. Deuscher Co., Hamilton, Ohio. Henry P. Deuscher was born May 24, 1829, in Wettingen, Baden, Germany, and came to southwestern Ohio when he was 7.

He grew up on a farm, worked for a while as a butcher in Trenton, Ohio, and in 1857 bought a 481-acre farm. During the Civil War, Deuscher served as captain of Company G, 83rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry and saw service in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.

After the war he returned to farming, built a Victorian Italianate brick home (which is still standing) and was involved with a couple of stores in Trenton. From 1882 to 1889, Deuscher owned Eagle Brewery in Hamilton and had interests in other breweries as well. In about 1874, he and partner Israel Williams took over an empty brewery in Hamilton, Ohio, remodeled the place and equipped it for malting grain, with a capacity of 50,000 bushels.

Malted grain is used in breweries and distilleries and in certain foods. The malting process consists of several steps. The grain is first soaked in water until it begins to sprout. Then it must be dried and roasted. In a pneumatic malt house such as Deuscher’s, that was accomplished by large fans that first dried the sprouted grain and then blew hot air through it to roast the kernels to the required color.

Beating the odds

It seems that whatever experience Henry Deuscher had with farm machinery he gained on his own farm. However, he was a businessman, and Variety Iron Works, a 5-acre foundry in Hamilton, was available. So in 1879, “the Captain” (or “Cap,” as he was called after the war) consulted his banker about buying the foundry as a base for manufacture of farm machinery.

The banker declared the venture too much of a risk and refused to give Deuscher any money. Deuscher, however, found financing elsewhere and proceeded with his plans. Although details are sketchy, the banker apparently knew what he was talking about and the firm was soon in trouble. But Deuscher persevered, producing the then-popular Barbour corn drills as well as castings for Norris Implement Works.

Later he diversified into a line of school desks of the “fashion” style. Each desk had an ornate cast iron frame, a folding wooden seat in front, and at the rear, a wooden desktop. A groove held pencils and an inkwell nestled into a recessed area. When these desks were lined up in a classroom, the seat was for the student in front and the desktop was for the student behind. At one time, probably every school in the country was equipped with “fashion” desks; I sat at such a desk all through grade school. An 1891 Hamilton centennial anniversary book claims that Deuscher made 1,700 of them in the first year and. In 1891, 8,000 desks left the factory.

Expanding with pulverizers

In 1878, Stephen McColm, who had the unlikely address of Waggoner’s Ripple, Ohio, was awarded a patent for a new idea in soil pulverizers. Waggoner’s Ripple was nothing more than a rural post office in the middle of nowhere in southern Ohio and the nearest manufacturing center was the Cincinnati area, which included Hamilton. My guess is that McColm, needing a manufacturer, approached Captain Deuscher with his patent and that Deuscher, needing more products, decided to make the thing.

In the days before no-till and minimum-till practices were adopted, farmers universally believed that in order for seed to grow well, it had to be sown into deeply plowed and well-pulverized soil. A sales brochure for the McColm machine maintains that, “More plants can be obtained from three pecks (of seed) sown on well-prepared ground, and rolled after sowing, than from five pecks sown on cloddy ground.”

To accomplish this, the McColm had a series of cast iron wheels rotating freely on a single axle. On each side of each wheel rim were alternately cast tapered fingers that broke up clods, but left behind small depressions that helped hold seed and moisture and keep loose soil from blowing away. The pulverizer seems to have caught on with grain farmers and similar implements are still in use today.

Diversified operation

Cap Deuscher continued to add products, including Victor and Favorite churns, horse hay rakes, disc and spike-tooth harrows, cultivators, the Universal check rower and the Hamilton 2-row corn planter that the 1891 Hamilton centennial anniversary book claimed had “revolutionized the corn planter trade,” with more than 5,000 sold.

The Deuscher company seems to have not been just a local supplier, as the 1891 book tells us that, “The trade was pushed in every direction and a market found in every state in the union.”

As cities grew and buildings became larger, it became increasingly difficult to heat them with fireplaces and pot-bellied stoves, and central heating and ventilating systems became necessary. More and more homeowners demanded furnaces and production ramped up toward the end of the 19th century. Always on the lookout for new products, the Captain acquired control of a heating and ventilating company in Hamilton in the mid-1890s. He branched out further still with the manufacture of furnaces and ventilating appliances.

Deuscher ran his company right up until his death on Jan. 20, 1903. The firm continued to manufacture horse-drawn farm machinery until the foundry was destroyed by fire on Aug. 10, 1910. The importance to the overall business of Deuscher’s farm machinery line had been diminishing for several years. When business resumed, the emphasis shifted to production of gray iron castings for other manufacturers and manufacture of farm machines was discontinued.

So 1910 marked the end of Deuscher farm implements, although the H.P. Deuscher firm remained in operation until it went bankrupt in December 1989, 110 years after a banker denied Deuscher’s loan application. FC


Sam Moore grew up on a farm in western Pennsylvania. He now lives in Salem, Ohio, and collects antique tractors, implements and related items. Contact Sam by email at letstalkrustyiron@att.net.