We present the following history of the Sawyer-Massey Company, compiled by the late Roy Botterill of Grimsby, Ontario and as publisher in 1985 for our Silver Anniversary book.
THE SAWYER-MASSEY COMPANY
LIMITED, HAMILTON, ONTARIO
John Fisher from New York State founded the company in Hamilton in 1835. In 1836 he produced the first threshing machine ever built in Canada. Realizing the possibility for the company but lacking capital, he convinced a cousin, Dr. Calvin McQuesten of Lockport, N.Y. to become a partner with him. The firm prospered and much of their production was shipped to Western Canada. The company was then known as the Hamilton Agricultural Works. In the 1840's their supplies of iron ore were often in short supply during the winter season as it had to come in by ship from the New York State and from Long Point in Ontario.
In the Early 1840's L.D. Sawyer with his brothers Payson and Samuel joined the company. They were nephews of Dr. McQuesten and also expert machinists. In time they became members of the firm and gradually assumed control of the business. After the death of John Fisher in 1856 the firm's name was changed to L.D. Sawyer & Co.
By 1869 the firm was manufacturing Separators, Tread Mills, Horse Powers, a combination grain drill with clover seeding attachment copied from the better American machines such as the Empire. The Company also sold at this time the Ohio Reaper and Mowers, the Woods Mower, the Dodge Self Rake, the Pitts Threshing Machine, the Rochester Cutting Box and the Birdsell Clover Huller. Early in the 1880's they began building a return flue portable steam engine and in 1887 they added horse drawn road machinery and also became agents for Aveling and Porter stream road rollers.
In 1889 Hart A. Massey, Walter E. Massey and Chester D. Massey purchased 40% interest in the L.D. Sawyer firm. Hart Massey was president of the Massey Harris Co. of Toronto and was also elected President of the L.D. Sawyer Co. A re-organization took place and the company name was changed to Sawyer & Massey Co. Ltd. There was no corporate relationship between the two companies. All went well until 1910 when differences arose over the future of gasoline tractors. The Hamilton firm wanted to greatly increase the production of steam traction engines while Masseys favoured developing the gas tractor. The upshot was the Masseys withdrew their interests in the Sawyer & Massey Co. and the firm was re-organized as the Sawyer-Massey Co. Ltd. The following year the new two word circular trade mark appeared on all their machines. Beginning in 1912 this two word circular trade mark appeared in bold letters on the smoke box door of their steam traction engine.
By the mid 1880's the firm was building the LDS portable engine - named after L.D. Sawyer. It was a return flue type with steam dome and a full water front. The engine was mounted at the rear of the short broad boiler with the belt wheel on the right hand side. A few years later this same unit appears as a traction engine. Although the LDS was a very satisfactory machine public preference for the locomotive style traction engine caused the firm to change their design in the mid 1890's. The open bottom locomotive boiler without steam dome was adopted and hundreds of little 13 H.P. single cylinder side mounted engines were built around the turn of the century. When self feeders and straw blowers were added to the separator more power was needed so the 17 H.P. and 20 H.P. engines of the same side mounted design were turned out. Steam domes were added and the straight smoke stack changed to slightly tapered one. The new smoke stack included the Diamond Spark Arrester with its cone top and spark arrester pipe. The double eccentric link reverse gear was used on all single cylinder engines until 1908. Then the Woods Patent single eccentric valve gear was adopted. All tandem compound engines were fitted with the Woolf reverse gear. The Waters governor was used on all portable engines, traction engines and road rollers.
In 1914 Sawyer-Massey became the only Canadian company to adopt the idea of rating steam traction engines and portable engines by their brake horse power. (This idea was pioneered by the J.I. Case Threshing Machine Co. of Racine, Wisconsin.) Thus the old 17 H.P. became 51 H.P. and the 20 H.P. became 60 H.P. The 22 H.P. simply became 68 H.P. and the 25 H.P. became 76 H.P. The 27 and 30 H.P. tandem compounds became 87 and 100 H.P. respectively. Steam pressure for all engines was now 175 P.S.I.
Threshing machinery continues to be improved. After the open cylinder machines an endless apron type of thresher patterned after the Pitts Machine was produced. Then in the late 1870's a moving deck machine called the "Grain Saver" was produced. It was almost an identical copy of the "Vibrator Separator" built by Nicols & Shepherd of Battle Creek, Michigan. In 1887 L.D. Sawyer & Co. introduced a new vibrating type separator which they called the "Peerless". This new separator was invented and patented in 1885-86, had both decks in forward and upward motion through a pitman driven rocker shaft. The Peerless became the firm's standard product and was offered in a variety of sizes. A sturdier model of the Peerless was built expressly for the Western trade in sizes up to 40" cylinder width. It was called the Great West separator. In later years to accommodate the owners of small gas tractors they built first in wood construction and then in steel machines simply called No. 1, No. 1B and No. 2B. They had cylinders 22", 24" and 28" wide respectively. In the last years of production the steel separator was sold under the Massey Harris name.
During the first part of this century Sawyer-Massey built a very efficient clover huller which they called the "Monitor". It was phased out during World War 1. A portable sawmill basically similar to the other portable mills of the time was produced but it was discontinued in the mid 1920's.
Finally, prior to World War 1, Sawyer-Massey began to manufacture a gasoline powered tractor. They built a 22-45 H.P. size intended for Western Canada. It used a chassis fitted with steam traction engine wheels and gearing and mounted a four cylinder, slow speed engine lengthwise well to the rear of the tractor. It drove the pully and transmission through a bevel gear.
This machine was followed by a 30-60 model during World War 1. After this war Sawyer-Massey also built smaller sized gasoline tractors of 11-22 H.P. and 17-34 H.P. for a few years. Plus a limited number of 17 H.P. and 20 H.P. steam traction engines. These later steamers were built with the old double eccentric link reverse gear and the "Gould" balanced valve. By the mid 1920's gasoline tractor production ceased and Sawyer-Massey became a distributor for the Wallis tractor. Steam traction engine production stopped at the same time.
Post World War 1 conditions in the threshing machinery line caused Sawyer-Massey to concentrate their production on road construction machinery. They were now producing steam Road Rollers, Rock Crushers, Rock Screening Equipment, Dump Wagons, Tank Wagons, pull type Road Graders (This included light maintainers up to the heavy leaning wheel grader.) Construction Plows of all types, Tow type reversible scarifies, Tow type Rollers, Drag Scrapers, and Fresno Scrapers.
In one area Sawyer-Massey pioneered in Ontario. They built the first Motor Grader in Canada, or as it was called then "One Man Power Maintainer". It had hand controls, and 8 foot blade, 39" wide scarifier, and for power, your choice of a Fordson fitted with Trackson tracks, a Cletrac model K Crawler tractor, or a McCormick Deering tractor fitted with hard rubber tires. Eventually the Crawler tractors were fitted with pneumatic tires and complete hydraulic controls replaced the hand controls.
In May 1927 Sawyer-Massey was sold to a new interest. T.A. Russell President of Willys Overland of Canada became the new president. By 1930 Sales were poor and Sawyer Massey started building Motor truck bodies and semi-trailers in an effort to stay solvent. Nothing seemed to work. In the late 1930's Sawyer-Massey became a distributor for the Austin Western Road Machinery Co. of Aurora, Illinois and the manufacture of construction machinery under their own name ceased. Finally after World War 2 the company was terminated. Stelco and General Steel Wares now occupy the former Sawyer-Massey buildings on Wellington Street North in Hamilton.