Why Did Charles Hart Leave Hart-Parr?

There are two theories for Charles Hart's departure from making Hart-Parr tractors, but what actually happened?

| May 2007

Almost everything written about the Hart-Parr Co. and the Oliver Farm Equipment Co. says that Charles Hart left Hart-Parr in May 1917. However, accounts of his departure from the company he co-founded with Charles Parr differ.

According to one school of thought, there was disagreement over whether the company should concentrate on large tractors or smaller models. Although Hart and Parr believed in large tractors and resisted the move to smaller ones, investors A.E. Ellis and C.D. Ellis won out. In 1918 the smaller, lighter New Hart-Parr tractor was introduced. All of these changes were too much for Hart and Parr, the theory concludes, and Hart left the company.

The second theory differs. According to that theory, the Ellises bought Hart-Parr Co. stock until they had controlling interest of the company. As a result, Hart left the company in 1917.

Since the two explanations don't match, one has to be wrong. A bit of confusion is understandable, given the history of the Hart-Parr Co. and events leading up to 1917.

Hart and Parr graduated from the University of Wisconsin with degrees in mechanical engineering in June 1896. They received special honors for their thesis on internal combustion engines for which they had designed, built and tested a stationary 1-cylinder engine. Following graduation, they built a small factory in Madison, Wis., and started manufacturing gasoline engines. These engines were successful, and in 1900 Hart and Parr added a second building, which they used as a foundry.

The following year they needed to expand again, but land was expensive in Madison and the city did not encourage industrial development. Hart's father encouraged him to relocate to his hometown of Charles City, Iowa. A group of local businessmen, including the Ellis brothers (attorneys and owners of two local banks), offered a reasonably priced site and additional capital. Ground was broken on July 5, 1901, five buildings were constructed and transfer of operations was completed on Dec. 25, 1901. Charles Hart, the creative leader of the company, continued as president and general manager of the Hart-Parr Co.


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