The Crawford Mower, c. 1875
The Crawford Mower and Reaper
Manufactured in Cazenovia, NY, 1872 to c. 1890
History by Dan Weiskotten 1984
(see my History of the Cazenovia
Illustration from a stereo card in the Cazenovia Public Library
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Joseph F. Crawford, born
in Canada in 1831, graduated from the Cazenovia Seminary in 1856.
During the 1860s he served as pastor of a Methodist Church in Saquoit,
and later in New York Mills, Oneida County. By 1870 he had become
associated with the Remington Machine Works in Illion. It was in
that year that Crawford invented the first reversible mower for harvesting
crops. This mower was unusual in that the blade could be used on
either side of the mower. In 1871 Crawford improved his mower and
received a patent for it. A year later, in 1872, he bought out his
"Crawford's Improved Mower" and soon returned to Cazenovia, continuing
his mower manufactory in Illion.
In 1873 Crawford represented
Madison County in the State Assembly and in 1874 he joined as a partner
in C.B. Miller's furniture and undertaking business in the village of Cazenovia,
in which he continued about a year. The Reverend Crawford also owned
one of the several steam boats on Cazenovia Lake. The tug "J.F. Crawford"
was constructed in 1874 and was large enough to carry "small parties."
The tug towed a barge, also called the "J.F. Crawford" which held over
200 people - not very safely I'm sure. Both the tug and barge plowed
the lake for three or for years, taking campers to the Lakeview Camp Meeting
Grounds which were opened by the Methodist Church at the head of the lake.
In the mean time his mower
works, with reapers also being made, prospered. In 1874 1,000 machines
were produced, which were sold in twelve states across the country.
Nearly 100 of these machines were sold overseas in Germany. Business
was so good that Crawford pledged $100,000.00 and offered a large parcel
of land in Syracuse for the newly founded Syracuse University.
The Crawford Improved Mower
worked much the way a sidebar cutter of today does. It could be lifted
to pass over any obstruction, and could be raised or tilted for use on
rough or uneven ground. The driver could fold the bar, regulate the
height of the cut, shift the gearing, and oil all parts of the machine
without getting out of the seat. The mower was also almost evenly
balanced, which made it much easier for the horse to pull, and, as already
mentioned, the blade was "reversible" and could be used on either side
of the mower. Popularity for these revolutionary new machines grew,
and in the first three months of 1875 over $96,000.00 worth of machinery
was sold. During these three months Germans ordered over 300 mowers
and 400 of Crawford's reapers. To ease the want of his machines and
other agricultural equipment produced by his shop, a stock company was
formed around this time in Geneva, Wisconsin for manufacture and sale in
that state, and sale in Iowa and Minnesota. Such was the demand that
in April 1875 Mr. Crawford was obliged to tell his agents to stop selling
until production could catch up to the back log of orders.
It was at this time that
Crawford engaged well known Syracuse architect Archimedes Russell to design
a building calculated to be large enough so they would be able to complete
one machine every twenty minutes, and employ 200 men. The site chosen
was that which was formerly occupied by the paper mill. Soon construction
of the present three story stone building was under way. (Crawford built
only the stone part of the present structure, the brick and wood being
added later). During construction of the new building the reaping
machines were made in Manlius, and the mowers were said to have been produce
in one of the machine shops in the village. When the new building
was completed in mid 1876, both works were moved into the spacious structure,
and between forty and fifty hands were put to work night and day producing
Unfortunately the firm was
over expanded, and continued to prosper for but a few short years, slowly
dwindling from 75 or 100 men to about ten. The business hung on for
several more years and finally closed about 1890. After closing,
the building and property were acquired by Cazenovia banker Lewison Fairchild,
and the building stood empty for a number of years.
The building seen in this drawing is perhaps the first stage of the
1876 building erected by Crawford to house his growing business.
The old building still stands at the corner of NY 13 and Clark Street at
the northern line of the village. Its first story is built of stone
and the upper floors are of wood and may have been added in subsequent
years. The train in the background is the Lehigh Valley Railroad
on which Crawford's machines began their journey to all corners of the
world. I have yet to find an old one in Cazenovia, but I'm sure some
farmer in Oklahoma still has one that he uses on a regular basis!