One of the lesser-known farm machinery makers, even though it was in business for about 70 years and eventually became part of Minneapolis-Moline Power Implement Co., is Adriance, Platt & Co., Poughkeepsie, New York.
John P. Adriance, who was named for his father, was born March 4, 1825, to a Poughkeepsie businessman. John P. was educated in local schools and worked a number of years in various hardware stores before partnering in 1852 with his brother-in-law, Samuel Platt, and Samuel Sears in a New York City wholesale hardware business under the name Sears, Adriance & Platt.
Inspired by Forbush
The senior John Adriance had been dabbling in farm equipment and he and John P. became interested in the newly invented Forbush mower. John P. decided the new mowers and reapers were the wave of the future and, after buying the rights to the Manney mower patent, in 1855 established a factory at Worcester, Massachusetts.
The Forbush-based mowers weren’t all that successful, but at the big mower and reaper trials held in 1857 in Syracuse, New York, Adriance saw the new Aultman mower patented by Lewis Miller that took first prize. Although his partners were reluctant, Adriance bought patent rights and began to build the new mower, which he said was called the “Buckeye” due to its Ohio origins although Miller also called his mower the “Buckeye.”
Business grew and the operation was moved to Poughkeepsie in 1859. Sears left the firm in 1863, taking the hardware business. Thereafter Adriance, Platt & Co. was in the mower and reaper business.
The Buckeye influence
In a catalog put out by the firm in 1904, a reference is made to its first product: “The mower brought out by us at the beginning of our business proved to embody the best and enduring principles which entered finally, more or less, into all mowers.” Those principles included a floating cutter bar that was double-hinged where it joined to the frame, allowing the bar to follow the ground contour. Then too, the cutter bar was mounted in front of the driving wheels (of which there were two instead of one, as had been customary until then) and the front mounting reduced the possibility of the driver being thrown off his seat into the path of the cutter bar, a common occurrence with the usual rear-mounted bars. The cutter bar could be folded back over the frame in front of the driver’s feet for transport.
In spite of the 1904 catalog hailing the mower as an Adriance innovation, Lewis Miller’s biography states that, “Buckeye business had now grown so big that another firm, Adriance, Platt & Co. of Poughkeepsie, New York, was also making (the Buckeye) machines under license.” Later, in the 1880s, the book says, “The (sales) territory was so divided that the Canton works (C. Aultman & Co.) supplied the South and part of the East, and also the foreign trade. The Akron works (Aultman, Miller & Co.) provided for the Central and Western states (while) Adriance, Platt & Co. of Poughkeepsie, New York, supplied eastern New York and the New England states.”
Regardless of who actually could claim credit for the mower, Adriance, Platt & Co. survived long after both C. Aultman & Co. and Miller, Aultman & Co. had ceased to exist. By the time Adriance issued their 1904 catalog, both other firms were gone. The catalog lists both gear and chain driven mowers, grain and corn binders, self-rake reapers, dump rakes, spring, spike-tooth and disk harrows, and field rollers.
Innovative low-down binder
One of the grain binders offered was a rear discharge, low-down type similar to the unsuccessful Buckeye Banner binder that had helped put C. Aultman & Co. out of business. After cutting the grain and laying it onto a horizontally moving canvas, most grain binders used another pair of canvases to lift the grain up and over the large bull wheel before tying it into bundles. Low-down binders eliminated the two elevating canvases and used a feeder roller equipped with teeth to take the grain from the horizontal canvas and pass it onto the tying deck, which was slightly higher than the level of the horizontal canvas.
Adriance claimed the design not only did away with the two canvases (as well as many other moving parts), it also increased yields. Less grain was shelled and lost due to it not traveling as far. In addition, as each bundle was tied on a conventional binder, it was discharged from the knotter by being forcibly struck by revolving discharge arms, causing still more shelling. On the Adriance binder, a discharge fork grasped the completed bundle at the center near the twine tie, lifted and turned it over and to the rear, and dropped it gently butt first on the ground out of the way of the machine on the next round.
Meanwhile, a couple of partners named Candee and Swann had started building hayrakes and other implements in Moline, Illinois, in 1852. They hired a disgruntled former Deere & Co. plowmaker in 1865, and started building a plow that they called the “Moline plow.” This caused a serious trademark dispute with Charles Deere, as Deere had long called its plow the “Moline plow.” Candee and Swan eventually won the resulting lawsuit and Moline Plow Co. was formed about 1870.
After 1900, Moline started on an aggressive round of acquisitions in order to expand its product line and extend its markets overseas. By the time Moline Plow Co., wanting to add harvesting equipment to its line, purchased Adriance, Platt & Co. in 1913, the Poughkeepsie factory had between 1,200 and 1,300 employees and was one of the city’s most thriving industries.
Although Moline Plow Co. was by then the fifth largest farm equipment company in the world, it had badly overextended itself and was owed a lot of money for implements that had been shipped to Czarist Russia. After the 1917 revolution, the new Soviet government refused to pay the Imperial government’s bills and that, plus the serious Agricultural Depression of the early 1920s, brought production to a halt at Poughkeepsie. Many of the assets (probably including the Poughkeepsie factory, which was destroyed by fire in 1939) were sold off, and in 1925, Moline Plow Co. was reorganized as Moline Implement Co. In 1929, Moline Implement Co., Minneapolis Steel & Machinery Co. and Minneapolis Threshing Machine Co. joined forces to become Minneapolis-Moline Power Implement Co., which was absorbed by White Motor Co. in the early 1960s.
One still sees a few Adriance, Platt machines at shows, but they are rare. 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 email@example.com.