My tour of the Ward W.O’Hara Agricultural & County Living Museum on East Lake Road in Auburn, NY (315-252-7644) brought back a flood of memories while I was growing up. There in the museum was the story of the D.M. Osborne & Co. which was incorporated in 1875 and manufactured harvesting machinery.
Before the Civil War (1861 -1865), farming and trading were the primary industries in the United States. But once the Civil War ended, the industrial revolution exploded across the Finger Lakes Region with the Finger Lakes themselves serving as the source of power for the factories and the man-made connecting canals serving as the arteries of commerce to transport the raw materials to the factories and to transport the finished goods to the waiting markets.
The D.M. Osborne & Co. played an important role in building mechanized equipment for the farming industry. I noted the Osborne mower which featured a variable cutting height mechanism which was invented by William Kirby, a New Yorker. I can remember that we had such as mower on our farm in Ohio although our mower was modified to be pulled by a tractor instead of a team of horses. We also had a corn binder on our farm. It was similar to the Osborne Corn Harvester build around 1895. We used this corn binder well into the fifties to cut and bind the corn into bundles which were then loaded onto a wagon, taken to the barn, chopped, and blown into the silo for cow feed during the winter. I do not know if either of these machines was made by Osborne or not.
The D.M. Osborne & Co. was a huge industry in Auburn, NY in 1900 employing more than 2600 employees and supporting 41% of the city’s population. In 1903 the Osborne Company was purchased by International Harvester and by 1950, the Auburn plant of International Harvester closed and moved to Tennessee.
The Industrial Revolution exploded all around the Finger Lakes from the end of the Civil War to around the start of the First World War. Why in the Finger Lakes you ask? Why not!