Carl Davis added a neat twist to the I&I Antique Tractor & Gas Engine Club’s Historic Farm Days show in Penfield, Illinois, in July 2016. The club featured J.I. Case, Graham-Bradley tractors and farm equipment sold by Sears. Carl expanded on that by displaying a collection of David Bradley chainsaws originally sold through the Sears & Roebuck catalog.
Carl started collecting David Bradley chainsaws about 17 years ago. But his David Bradley obsession really began with a David Bradley 2-wheel garden tractor that he bought in the early 1990s to add to his collection of about 27 garden tractors. “After that,” Carl says, “whenever I saw anything David Bradley, I would buy it.”
When he saw a David Bradley chainsaw on an auction north of his Ashland, Illinois, farm, he was hooked. “It was my first one,” he says. “Now I have probably 13 David Bradley chainsaws, plus some other brands. I probably have about 20. I just keep hoarding stuff.”
Carl runs a cow-calf operation on his farm, and works as a welder for Eli Bridge Co., Jacksonville, Illinois, a builder of carnival rides like Ferris wheels and Scramblers. With farming in his blood and a love of all things mechanical, Carl is well equipped to build a collection of David Bradley relics.
Starting with an innovative plow
According to information in the Sears archives, David Bradley was a young pioneer mechanic and foundry man in Chicago when he designed and built a plow that turned its own furrow. Bradley designed the plow specifically for the boggy, heavy, virgin prairie of the Midwest.
The success of that plow made David Bradley an important early manufacturer of farm equipment. At first, David Bradley manufactured a wide range of agricultural items, including wagons, rakes, binders, planters and more.
As Sears did with many of its popular brands, the company added many other products under the David Bradley name. By the mid-20th century, the Bradley line swelled to include lawn and garden equipment, chainsaws, furniture and barbecue grills.
Sears bought David Bradley Mfg. Co. in 1910 and changed the company name to David Bradley Mfg. Works. After the acquisition, Sears regularly outsourced items like corn planters and wagons to other manufacturers who put the David Bradley name on them.
Carl believes David Bradley chainsaws were manufactured in the 1950s, but he doesn’t know where. He doesn’t use any of his collectible chainsaws. “They’re just for display,” he says, “but all of them have been started so they don’t get stuck.”
Displaying a vast collection
At the Penfield show, five of Carl’s David Bradley saws were displayed on and under a table in the feature building. A vintage David Bradley chainsaw banner set the tone.
The display featured a pair of Gear Drive 360 David Bradley saws along with one with no model name. Beside that one was a saw simply labeled “David Bradley Sears & Roebuck.” Beneath the table was Carl’s crowning glory, a David Bradley two-man chain saw so heavy that it takes two men to lift it.
Carl’s David Bradley collection includes corn shellers, walk-behind garden tractors, pump jacks, 2-wheel David Bradley garden tractors and all 36 of the attachments the company offered, and Generation 2 and 3 hauling carts.
His trailer held a pair of large David Bradley chainsaws, and he set up a very handsome David Bradley Model B with a cordwood saw on a David Bradley hauling cart. But that was just a drop in the bucket. Over in Penfield’s lawn and garden section, Carl displayed several more David Bradley tractors and attachments! FC
For more information: Carl Davis, (217) 473-9707.
Cindy Ladage is a freelance writer living in Virden, Illinois. Contact her at 35216 East 5th Rd., Virden, IL 62690; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.