George White & Sons Company History

George White & Sons Company helped move Canada's agriculture forward

George White 75 HP steam traction engine built in 1926

George White 75 HP steam traction engine built in 1926, London, Ontario, Canada. Owned by Williams Grove Historical Steam Engine Association Inc., Mechanicsburg, Pa.

Photo by Jack C. Norbeck

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Norbeck Research 117 N. Ruch Street, #8 Coplay, Pennsylvania 18037

George White was born in Devonshire, England. As a young man he learned the blacksmith trade at his father's wagon-building shop and had he not decided to visit Canada on his wedding trip, a name prominent in the annals of Canadian industry might be missing.

Arriving at London, Ontario, Canada, in 1857, George White was delighted with the young country and decided to stay and open up a blacksmith and general repair shop in the fast growing city. However, he was soon enticed with the prospect of owning a hundred acres of land and the next few years found him farming a few miles north of London. White's knowledge of iron-working became too well-known and his services were so much in demand that he decided to move back to the city and reopen a shop. Business was good and his small shop grew steadily and soon became known as the Forest City Machine Works.

During his farming days, George White became conscious of the great need for a suitable agricultural steam engine, and since he had the shop and tools, he began to work on plans for the manufacture of such an engine. Several small steam engines were designed and built. When he was satisfied with his engine, he set about acquiring the necessary boiler-making machinery. Finally, sometime in the early '70s, his first portable farm engine was completed, to be followed by many hundreds more known from coast to coast in Canada as White's Threshing Engine.

During the late '70s and early '80s, George White made several pioneer trips to the Canadian West and established his machines in that fast-developing area.

The first engines had to be shipped via U. S. railroads and hauled the long distance north by horses or oxen. After the Canadian Pacific Railway crossed the prairie, a large warehouse was built in Brandon, Manitoba, to serve western Canada.

In the mid-'90s, steam traction engines were becoming popular. To meet this demand, the White factory built a number of traction engines of the return-flue type using the U. S. Huber as a pattern.

The George White engines were all simple, and were built plain and sturdy. They used no fancy fittings.

Previous to 1898 only engines were built. That year the firm absorbed the plant of the MacPherson Company of Fingal, Ontario, which had been building the Challenge separator. This machine, already highly developed and well-known, rounded-out the George White output advertised as "The First Quality Line."

When the demand came for gas tractors, the firm became Canadian agents for the All Work kerosene tractor. Later, the John Deere tractors were handled for many years and then the B. F. Avery agency was secured.

George White had nine sons and three daughters. After finishing school, several of the boys started to work in their father's factory. Upon completing his apprenticeship, each son was absorbed into an executive position in the firm, which became known in 1880 as the George White & Sons Company. One son was called by the Lord in 1899, but six of the boys remained with the firm for many years. One of the younger boys, Ernest, became Vice President of the company.

The last new machine was built in the year 1924, but engines were repaired and rebuilt for many years after. The company moved to large scale threshing machine production, which lasted well into the 1950s. Sprayer production began in 1968, and along with tractor mounted snow blowers, represents the major part of George White's production.

In October 1974, the original manufacturing plant was destroyed by fire and the company moved to a new location in London, Ontario, Canada.

The George White steam traction engine on the cover is now owned by the Williams Grove Historical Steam Engine Association, Inc., Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania 17055. The engine was purchased from John Kissling who had restored it to its present day condition. You can see this engine in action every year at the Williams Grove Steam Show.

The engine was built in 1926 at London, Ontario, Canada. This 25 HP engine was used in Canada for threshing and running a sawmill for many years. The road grader on the front cover is still being used to grade dirt roads at the Williams Grove Steam Show grounds.

Information for this article came from the Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines and Williams Grove Historical Steam Engine Association, Inc., Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.