The John Bean Mfg. Co.

One major player in the agricultural sprayer business was the John Bean Mfg. Co. of San Jose, California, and Lansing, Michigan.


| August 2016



Bean Tank

A Bean tank sprayer at the Heidrick Ag History Center, Woodland, California.

Photo by Sam Moore

Insect pests such as cutworms, corn borers, Hessian flies and potato beetles have long been a serious problem for farmers and orchardists.

During the mid-19th century, it was discovered that many of these pests could be controlled by exposing them to poisons such as Paris green, hellebore, Bordeaux mixture and arsenate of lead. An extract made by soaking tobacco leaves in water was useful against aphids and other soft-bodied insects. A kerosene emulsion and a foul-smelling lime/sulphur solution were effective on fruit trees to control a parasite that caused scale. However, a means of applying these concoctions to plants and trees was needed.

During the 1860s and ’70s, sprayers with hand-operated pumps were developed, but they were slow and tedious to use. Around the turn of the century, small gasoline engines had become reliable and relatively inexpensive, and came into widespread use. It wasn’t long before pumps were being driven by these engines, and powered spraying equipment became available.

Inventive Industrial Genius

One large player in the sprayer business was the John Bean Mfg. Co. of San Jose, California and Lansing, Michigan. Bean was born in 1821 in Montville, Maine, where he later married and had three children. The family moved to Hudson, Michigan, where, from 1855 to 1872, Bean received many patents for continuous flow pumps, as well as for a hand-operated fire-engine pump, a grain grinder, a fanning mill and a straw cutter.

In 1879, the Beans relocated to Springfield, Ohio, where John Bean apparently worked for the Tricycle Mfg. Co., as his patents for wheelbarrows, a velocipede and a hobbyhorse were assigned to them. Bean’s daughter, Addie, met and married David C. Crummey, who was a salesman for Mast, Foos & Co., makers of windmills and pumps.

Bean had invented a double-acting force pump for use in deep wells that was powered by a windmill. It was the sale of this patent to Mast, Foos & Co. for $25,000 ($ today) plus 25 cents per pump manufactured that allowed Bean, who was suffering from tuberculosis, to move to Los Gatos in the Santa Clara Valley of California for his health in 1883.