Aspinwall Manufacturing Company: First in Potato Machinery Leaves Murky Trail
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Mr. Baker says that the Iron Age planter cut into Aspinwall’s business to the extent that in 1920, Aspinwall Manufacturing Company merged with the Drew Carrier Company of Waterloo, Iowa. The Aspinwall-Drew Company apparently didn’t survive the 1921 depression and in 1925, L. Augustus Aspinwall, now an old man, went to work for the McKenzie Manufacturing Company of Lacrosse, Wis., a potato machinery company, primarily manufacturing sprayers.
History of the Aspinwall Company, take two
The current “Reflector,” Charles H. Wendel, who writes a monthly column in Gas Engine Magazine, gives a little different slant on the Aspinwall Company. Wendel, in his book Encyclopedia of American Farm Implements and Antiques said that L.A. Aspinwall started to develop a potato planter in about 1861, and worked for 20 years to perfect the machine. Aspinwall’s planter was the first to open the furrow, drop the seed pieces a set distance apart, and then close the furrow, all in one operation. A factory at Three Rivers, Mich., opened in 1884 to build the machine, which became very successful.
The factory was moved to Jackson, Mich., in 1891, where, by 1900, the firm was building potato planters, sprayers, cutters, sorters, and diggers as well as churns, weeders and lawn swings. Aspinwall advertised that they were “the only concern in the world making a complete line of potato machinery.” One ad also claimed that “our planter will plant potatoes, corn, beans, ensilage and distribute fertilizer.” The company introduced a two-row potato digger, powered by a New Way gasoline engine in 1919, along with a strawberry digger for transplanting.
Despite these innovative new diggers, Aspinwall went out of business during the early 1920s. The McKenzie Manufacturing Company of LaCrosse, Wis., bought Aspinwall’s potato machinery line and in 1925, L.A. Aspinwall went to work for them at the age of 83. He died on Nov. 5, 1930, at the age of 88.
According to a full page ad in Farm Machinery and Hardware magazine, “On July 25, 1929, the new flag of Oliver flew for the first time about the home of the famous McKenzie line of potato machinery.” From that time on, McKenzie Manufacturing Company would be a division of the Oliver Farm Equipment Corporation.
Whatever the exact detail, L. Augustus Aspinwall was instrumental in relieving the potato grower of the back-breaking drudgery of planting potatoes by hand. FC
Sam Moore is a regular contributor to Farm Collector.
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