Parr for the Course

| May 2004

Even before graduating from the University of Wisconsin, engineering students Charles W. Hart and Charles H. Parr founded Hart & Parr in Madison, Wis., in 1896 to build stationary engines.

In The History of the Hart-Parr Company, C.H. Parr wrote of himself and cohort C.W. Hart, 'They had sever al engine designs and sets of patterns which they had built up during their course in the University of Wisconsin.'

With just $3,000 in borrowed money, the two young and prodigious men bought land to erect a sturdy, two-story building and began manufacturing Hart & Parr stationary engines. For the next two years, the company -renamed Hart-Parr Co. in 1897 - lost money. But in 1899 and 1900, the company became profitable and built a foundry to make its own castings.

By 1901, the two young company leaders wanted to expand, but their half-acre lot prevented them from doing so. Madison real estate was scarce and relocating the factory was too costly. Additionally, city planners weren't interested in helping the young firm, Parr wrote, '... because they believed [the company] would lessen the desirability of their city as a place of residence.'

A new beginning

Faced with such limited opportunities, the company learned to adapt. In Hart's hometown of Charles City, Iowa, Hart's father and local business associates offered to sell a reasonably priced building, three acres of land and provide capital for expenses. Hart-Parr jumped, and by Christmas 1901, the firm moved its entire manufacturing system from Madison to Iowa.

The company's staple production items at the time were small stationary engines, portable engines, pumping outfits and wood-sawing rigs. These were inverted, vertical engines with the crankshaft above the cylinder, and the crank and open end of the cylinder completely enclosed. Parr wrote that the engines were sturdily built, '... and in a series of tests conduct-ed in the laboratories of the University of Wisconsin under the supervision of the Professor in charge, they showed remark-ably high mechanical efficiency.'