James Manufacturing Company Records, 1906-1964


The James Manufacturing Company of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin was, and its corporate successor remains, an important manufacturer of equipment for dairying, poultry, and other agricultural operations. Traditionally the Jamesway product lines have been directed toward advancing sanitary conditions and productivity on the farm. Among the many products marketed are stanchions, drinking cups, various types of feeders, livestock handling equipment, incubators, ventilating devices and systems, and barn cleaners. The company has also offered design services for barns and other agricultural facilities, pioneered in the development of metal buildings for agricultural purposes, and, through its Power Choring equipment, been a leader in automating agricultural work.

The origins of the James Manufacturing Company date to 1905 when A.M. Webb and Harry H. Curtis started a small manufacturing concern in Fort Atkinson. Later that year they bought out the Kent Manufacturing Company, a Janesville firm which produced corn and potato planters. The new firm operated out of Fort Atkinson under the Kent Manufacturing Company name.

In the meantime, William D. James, working on his father's farm near Genesee, Waukesha County, Wisconsin was perfecting an improved stanchion and was developing other ideas to improve the sanitary conditions and productivity of dairy operations. In 1906 James joined the Kent Company. Soon the company's primary product was the James Cow Comfort Stall, consisting of the improved stanchion and other design features related to sanitation. The firm gained valuable public exposure in 1909 when the State of Wisconsin built a model dairy barn on the state fair grounds according to design specifications submitted by the Kent company. About 1912 the name of the firm was changed to the James Manufacturing Company.

From the time W.D. James joined the firm its growth was both rapid and sustained. Two important reasons for the success were the product lines which expanded rapidly to meet the needs of the agricultural community, and the aggressive promotion and sales techniques employed by the company. Construction of a new plant in Fort Atkinson was completed in 1914, and in 1916 a branch plant was opened in Elmira, New York. A second factory was erected in Fort Atkinson in 1920, and about the same time a branch office was opened in Minneapolis, Minnesota. By 1925 the company claimed assets of 2,800,000 dollars and billed itself as the largest manufacturer in the world of dairy barn, horse barn, hog barn, and poultry house equipment and ventilation systems.

The James Manufacturing Company maintained its strong position through the Depression and in succeeding years. During the 1930's it opened facilities on the West Coast and in Canada. W.D. James headed the firm until his death on April 16, 1948. Late in 1958 the firm was purchased by Rockwood and Company, and about 1965 it was acquired by the Butler Manufacturing Company of Kansas City, Missouri. Currently known as the Butler Manufacturing Company - Jamesway Division, the company continues to manufacture essentially the same type of equipment, and its products still carry the Jamesway designation.