Walter A. Wood: An Early Leader in Farm Equipment Manufacture

A brief history of Walter A. Wood and the company that made him a leader of farm equipment manufacture during his time.

| March 2015

  • Tubular steel mower
    The Walter A. Wood tubular steel mower was introduced in 1890.
    Illustration courtesy Sam Moore
  • Walter A. Wood
    Walter A. Wood.
    Image courtesy Sam Moore
  • Self-binding harvester advertisement
    Wood self-binding harvester, a wire-tie machine from 1878.
    Illustration courtesy Sam Moore
  • Runaway mower advertisement
    This somewhat fanciful woodcut of a boy on a Wood mower pulled by a runaway team is meant to illustrate the toughness of the machine as the cutter bar easily slices through a row of fence posts.
    Illustration courtesy Sam Moore
  • 1894 Walter A. Wood catalog
    The cover of the 1894 Walter A. Wood catalog. Advertisers liked pretty girls even back then.
    Illustration courtesy Sam Moore
  • The Walter A. Wood factory
    The Hoosick Falls factory of Walter A. Wood Mowing and Reaping Machine Co.
    Illustration courtesy Sam Moore

  • Tubular steel mower
  • Walter A. Wood
  • Self-binding harvester advertisement
  • Runaway mower advertisement
  • 1894 Walter A. Wood catalog
  • The Walter A. Wood factory

In the 1830s, John Deere built his first plow and Cyrus McCormick’s reaper burst onto the scene. Jerome Increase Case began building threshers in the early 1840s. These three gentlemen are well remembered today, mostly due to the successful and long-lived companies they established. Many other pioneering farm machinery manufacturers are largely forgotten.

One of these is Walter A. Wood, whose mowing and reaping machine factory in Hoosick Falls, New York, was, by 1890, employing some 2,000 men and turning out about 90,000 machines per year. Many of those were shipped overseas.

Wood was born in October 1815, in Mason, New Hampshire. A year later the family moved to Rensselaerville, New York, where his blacksmith father built wagons and plows. The boy worked in his father’s shop, learned the blacksmith trade, and in 1836 relocated to Hoosick Falls, where he worked at Parsons & Wilder machine shop and became a skilled machinist.

In about 1840, Wood relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, where he worked at building wagons and carriages, reportedly ironing a new carriage for James K. Polk, probably when that worthy was governor of Tennessee and before he became the 11th president of the U.S. A couple of years later Wood returned to Hoosick Falls, married Bessie Parsons (daughter of his former boss) and opened a foundry and machine shop with John White.



Manufacturing the Manny

Inventors had been trying for decades to develop a successful mechanical means of cutting hay and grain, a slow, hard job with a scythe or a cradle. By the early 1850s several machines on the market showed promise.

Sometime during those years, Wood and his brother-in-law, J. Russell Parsons, attended a farm machinery trial sponsored by the Geneva, New York, Agricultural Society where, in the estimation of the two men, the mower-harvester patented and demonstrated by John H. Manny of Illinois made the best showing. Wood and Parsons bought the rights to manufacture the Manny machine in New York and then divided the state, with Parsons and Chandler Ball taking the eastern half, and Wood the western, with manufacturing being done in two separate shops in Hoosick Falls.



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