An Iconic Era Ends for Le Roy Plow Co.

Postcards and promotional pieces tell the story of the Le Roy Plow Co.

| June 2014

  • Cover from a 1915 Le Roy Plow Co. catalog.
    Illustration courtesy John Cole
  • Catalog illustration of a Le Roy Plow Co. hillside plow, “guaranteed to do better work than any other hillside plow.”
    Illustration courtesy John Cole
  • Images on this postcard, which was mailed in 1915, show “farm boys” converted to soldiers destined for the battlefields of World War I, and a 13-year-old back on the farm, plowing with a Le Roy plow.
    Illustration courtesy John Cole
  • The Le Roy Plow Co. product line is shown on the front of this postcard.
    Illustration courtesy John Cole

Le Roy Plow Co. was established in 1899 when a group of Le Roy, N.Y., businessmen purchased Miller Mfg. Co. The latter firm manufactured the Miller bean harvester. In 1903, the Le Roy factory burned to the ground but was immediately replaced with a new facility. By 1906, Le Roy ranked third in the state in plow output.

The Le Roy plow was designed by Edwin Hall, a leading expert in plow design. According to the 1915 Le Roy plow catalog, the company was capable of producing 25,000 plows a year. Le Roy’s product line included walking plows (steel or wood beams), sulky plows, tractor plows, hiller and shovel plows. Le Roy also produced land rollers, manure spreaders, buzz saws, harrows, discs, garden cultivators, row markers, pulverizers, packers and the Boss potato digger.

I was told that Le Roy also built an electric plow that ran electric current between plow blades. This was supposed to kill weeds. Actually, it probably killed more farmers.

The Le Roy plow works employed 35 to 50 men at any given time. Summer was a slow time, as most plows were produced in the winter. Many employees found farm work to tide them over.

At least two postcards were produced to promote the Le Roy plow. One boasted of a product so well-designed that a 13-year-old boy could do the plowing. While the use of child labor is regarded quite differently today than in 1915, countless numbers of farm kids have grown up driving their dad’s tractor and helping with chores.

Le Roy Plow Co. ceased production immediately after the end of World War II. Although some of the company’s facilities remained more or less intact for decades after, the last one was demolished in 1991. FC


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