The Heritage of a Farm Machinery Company

A twisted road of earlier farm machinery companies leads to the Northwest Thresher Mfg. Co.


| September 2005



StillwaterTractionEngine.jpg

An overhead view shows the Stillwater Traction Engine. Figures 2 and 3 show the application of power to the traction wheels by the traction clutch and the reverse clutch, respectively.

Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series on the Northwest Thresher Co.

Like many successful farm machinery companies, Northwest Thresher Co. of Stillwater, Minn., enjoyed the fruits of work done by earlier sister companies. Unlike many others, the company endured an early, unsuccessful corporation filled with lawsuits, accusations and court cases that went as high as the Minnesota Supreme Court.

SEYMOUR, SABIN & CO.

The first mention of Seymour, Sabin & Co. was in an 1872 Minnesota "Report of the Committee," discussing state contracts from 1866 for the company's use of prison labor for workdays of 6:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Company representatives included U.S. Senator Dwight M. Sabin, his brother Jay and Geo. M. Seymour. By 1872, the company employed 185 convicts at $.40 a day, each.

A Nov. 1, 1879, article, in Independent Farmer and Fireside Companion describes Seymour and Sabin's Minnesota Chief, saying that the farmer's profits depended on getting every kernel of grain. "A thresher must be built that would do all this. But it takes capital to build such machines; capital composed of brains and energy as well as money to carry out and manufacture what invention produced; and this is why the "Minnesota Chief" became a success as a specialty of Seymour, Sabin & Co."

The "manufactory" is described in fascinating detail: "Here are horse thieves, petty thieves, forgers, defaulters and murderers, some of whom were once lawyers, doctors, merchants, farmers and mechanics, all filing, fitting, cutting and hammering at the various parts that go to make up the perfect machine. As you go through one room, blue-eyed Bob Younger looks up from his work, and Cole gives you a look like a startled wolf, while Jim hangs his head sullenly. They are busily engaged making belts, rakes and riddles, doing excellent work."

Excepting its connection to the companies that followed, little else is known about Seymour, Sabin & Co.