Although the Brinly-Hardy Co. hasn’t had a Brinly at the helm for more than 100 years, fifth generation family member Jane W. Hardy has served as company president since 1994. That this family business has thrived and remained intact is remarkable in a country where most fail in the hands of the third generation. That it is firmly connected to its 165-year-old roots is phenomenal.
It started with blacksmith John Brinly, who made the first Brinly plow in about 1805 with a wooden moldboard, and cast iron front, point and heel bolt. In 1837, John’s son, Thomas, fashioned one of the first one-piece steel plows in North America. It was an immediate hit with Southern farmers whose experiences with heavy soils and wooden or cast-iron mold-boards were frustrating and tiring. Although 1839 is the year most often associated with the company’s actual first year in business, an early catalog points to 1840 as the year it was established.
For the next 20 years, Brinly manufactured plows and other implements from his Simpsonville location. By the late 1850s, virtually all of his production was distributed through the W.B. Belknap Co. of Louisville, Ky. According to the Brinly-Hardy corporate history, Brinly purchased his materials from Belknap, while Belknap shipped Brinly’s plows throughout the south by boat. In 1859, Morris Belknap convinced Thomas Brinly to move his business to Louisville. The company thrived at its new location, and Thomas Brinly took on a few partners, including James E. Hardy in 1863.
In 1879, the company was incorporated as Brinly, Miles & Hardy. T.E.C. Brinly was listed as president, A.D. Miles as secretary and treasurer, and J.E. Hardy as superintendent. Ten years later, the company’s catalog listed scores of plows, including the top-of-the-line Gem Series and the steel-beamed Blackland plow, in addition to sweeps, harrows and cultivators. The 1888 catalog also listed a “greatly improved” hand-plow and garden cultivator. Implements designed exclusively for the garden have been among Brinly’s offerings ever since.
In 1900, the firm was re-incorporated as Brinly-Hardy Co., and in 1902 James E. Hardy was appointed president shortly after Thomas Brinly’s death. James Hardy’s son, William B. Hardy, became president in 1922, and was followed in 1930 by his son, James E. Hardy Jr. James E. Hardy III later succeeded his father (James Jr.) as president, and Jane W. Hardy replaced her father (James III).
Under Jane’s leadership in 1999, the company moved from Louisville to a new state-of-the-art facility in Jeffersonville, Ind. Today the company produces innovative tools that help homeowners get the most out of their lawn and garden tractors or riding mowers. For the collector, Brinly-Hardy offers wonderful continuity in a world full of orphans.