University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The State of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Cartwright, Carol Lohry; Shaffer, Scott; Waller, Randal / City on the Rock River : chapters in Janesville's history
(1998)

4. Industry,   pp. 58-94


Page 61

The Janesville Machine Company's Janesville No. 7 Corn Planter.
In 1869, James Harris and his new partners incorporated the Rock River Iron Works as the
Harris Manufacturing Company. The company had a large complex along South Franklin
Street that included a warehouse and office, a wood shop, a three-story machine shop, a
foundry, and a blacksmith shop. Between 1869 and 1880, Harris's company employed
approximately 125 workers who produced reapers, mowers, plows, harrows, seeders, and
cultivators that were sold throughout the Midwest. On April 6, 1875, the factory was severely
damaged by fire and James Harris took on a new partner, Allen P. Lovejoy, in order to rebuild.
In 1881, Harris and Lovejoy reorganized the firm as the Janesville Machine Company. Shortly
thereafter, Harris left the business. The new Janesville Machine Company was to become the
largest agricultural implement factory in Rock County. Its officers included John D. Rexford,
president, and Allen P. Lovejoy, vice-president. ("Harness Making Once Important Janesville
Industry" 1951:16; Brown 1908:601-602; "Businesses were Booming Here in 1874" 1975:22-23A;
City Directories; Gregory 1932: 658)
...........  !' i-       a  .. ..  I
.......
III I I I Z~
The Harris Manufacturing Company, later the Janesville Machine
Co., in an 1873 engraving.
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Janesville Machine Company
manufactured a wide variety of farm equipment, including plows, listers, cultivators, seeders,
and mowers. In 1905, the Thomas Manufacturing Company of Springfield, Ohio, purchased the
mowing machine operation; nevertheless, by 1908, the Janesville Machine Company had grown
to be the largest manufacturing enterprise in the city. The company's factory complex occupied
nearly three city blocks along South River and South Franklin streets, employing between 250
and 300 workers producing more than $500,000 worth of products annually. The Janesville
Machine Company continued to produce agricultural implements until 1918, when General
Motors purchased the company. ("Janesville Machine Company" 1905:n.p.; Brown 1908: 571-
572)
During the 1910s, American farms were becoming mechanized and General Motors wanted to
make a bid for the emerging farm tractor business. After intense lobbying by James A. Craig of
the Janesville Machine Company, General Motors selected that firm to manage its new tractor
division. General Motors merged the Janesville Machine Company with the Samson Tractor
Transportation
61


Go up to Top of Page