Stark County, Ohio, was a hotbed of farm implement manufacturing during the last half of the 19th century and first half of the 20th. While most of this activity was centered in Canton and Massillon, Alliance had at least two companies making farm implements.
The Nixon & Company made the Alliance shovel plow and the Cayuga Chief mowing machine during the 1860s and ‘70s and was the subject of a Let’s Talk Rusty Iron column in October, 2010.
The A. W. Coates & Company was another Alliance builder whose products seem to have gained popularity with farmers back in the “earlies,” although few have heard of the firm and information about it is scarce.
Amos Coates from eastern Pennsylvania loaded his wife Jane and all their possessions into a covered wagon in 1823 and “went west” to Marlboro Township in Stark County, Ohio. There, he settled on a farm, taught school and raised 12 children. A son, also named Amos, was born in 1834 and educated at the Marlboro Academy before learning machine casting.
The younger Amos Coates formed a partnership with J.D. Arnold, a brother-in-law, in Paris, Ohio. Arnold & Coates made miscellaneous castings and built plows, apparently doing a good business.
In 1852, Zenas Sanders, a Vermonter, patented a sulky-type dump rake on which the operator controlled the raising or lowering of the curved spring teeth by stepping forward or backward on two separate platforms, one ahead of the hinged axle and one behind.
Arnold & Coates secured manufacturing rights to the Sanders design and built these machines starting in 1855. The Sanders rake may not have been a success as the firm got out of the horse rake business after one season.
During the latter 1850s, in addition to his work at Arnold & Coates, Amos studied law under a Canton attorney. In 1860 he bought out Arnold, but the Civil War began and, in the fall of 1861, Coates sold the foundry and enlisted in General Fremont’s body guard as a lieutenant. While stationed at St. Louis, Missouri, Fremont was relieved of command and Lt. Coates was discharged or resigned.
Returning home in late 1861, Coates was admitted to the Ohio Bar and, in 1864, he moved to Alliance and established A.W. Coates & Company on Linden Avenue just south of the PFt.W&C railroad tracks. Here, he made plows, as well as a hay rake under the White patent – according to one account, 425 of the latter were turned out that first year.
Amos Coates had an inventive turn of mind. In 1860 he patented a chain pump that that had a series of open buckets attached to an endless chain or belt.
When placed atop a well, the lower end of the chain hung down into the water and as a crank was turned, the filled buckets were lifted and emptied into a spout at the top. 19 years later, he patented another plunger-type hand operated pump.
In 1876 Coates was awarded two patents, one for a boy’s pocket knife that had a rounded knob instead of a sharp point at the end of the blade. It was an improvement in the “pocket-knives of the kind ordinarily used by boys,” and the knob was intended “to prevent accidental injury resulting from the careless or thoughtless uses of the knife.” It sure would have limited the knife’s usefulness for the then popular boy’s game of mumblety-peg. Not forgetting the girls, he also patented a pair of scissors with metal knobs instead of points, so they could cut out “their little quilt patches, doll babies, etc….with perfect safety to the eyes and body.” It’s not clear if Coates manufactured these children’s tools, or the water pumps he invented.
Mr. Coates’ most popular product was his “Superior Lock-Lever Hay & Grain Rake.” This was a sulky-type dump rake with an over-center toggle lever to hold the teeth down into working position and to raise them to dump the hay.
He invented the rake in 1865, and having discontinued manufacture of the White patent rake he built 300 of them for the 1866 season. In 1867, the year he received a patent for the thing, he built 1,110 copies of the new rake, reportedly being still 200 short of meeting demand.
In a news account written in 1868, it was reported that Coates was building 2,500 rakes for that year, 400 short of demand, and had found it necessary to give up plow manufacture due to the rush of making rakes.
The article gushed about the extent and modern equipment of the Coates factory and claimed that the rakes were shipped to “all the northeastern states; to West Virginia, Missouri, &c. One order has been shipped to Vienna, Austria, (and) one also to London, where its fame has worked without being introduced by the manufacturer.”
Coates served on Alliance City Council and ran unsuccessfully for the Ohio Senate as a Republican in 1875. In 1877 he built the Coates’ Block at a cost of $20,000, “one of the finest business structures in Alliance, the upper story of which is elegantly fitted up expressly for the meetings of the I. O. O. F.,” an organization of which Coates was a member. He and his wife Ada were the parents of nine children, six boys and three girls.
In 1888 the A.W. Coates Co. employed 26 hands and is listed in the first edition of the Farm Implement News Buyer’s Guide. The listing appears in the 1891 Buyer’s Guide, but not the 1893 edition, so the firm’s demise must have occurred about that time, maybe as a victim of the 1893 financial panic that spelled the end of so many enterprises.
One would think that if the Coates Lock-Lever hay rake was as popular as the accounts make it at least some trace of one would have survived, but I know of none, except for a few advertisements.