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Manufacturers Index - Guilford Iron Works
Last Modified: Nov 20 2018 3:01PM by Jeff_Joslin
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By 1836 Niram Rockwell Merchant, a farmer, millwright and carpenter, was manufacturing agricultural tools and machines, especially seed planters of various kinds. The Guilford Iron Works (we have also seen the name Guilford Foundry & Machine Shop) was established in 1844 or '45 by Niram R. Merchant and Andrew Bradbury, as N. R. Merchant & Co. Merchant's son Andrew P. Merchant was there from the beginning, as was Niram's brother, Orin G. Merchant (who was a partner in the business between 1847 and '55). Andrew, like his father, proved to be a skilled mechanic. Bradbury was a machinist and handled much of the business side of the operation. Products included a planer-matcher (designed by Bradbury) and a small patent machine for doweling barrel-heads (designed by N. R. Merchant and subsequently improved by A. P. Merchant). They also made water wheels of various designs, and a dog power for running a churn.

On N. R. Merchant's death in 1863, the Merchant family maintained a one-half interest in the business, with Andrew supervising their interest. The other half of the business went to Andrew Bradbury who became superintendent. The planer-matcher and doweling machine were both manufactured for some years, into the 1870s. The later history of the Iron Works is unknown. We know that Bradbury died in 1882 and Andrew Merchant

Information Sources

  • August 1836 The Cultivator. "New Drill Harrow.—We have received from the inventor, Mr. Niram R. Merchant, of Guilford, Chenango co. the compliment of a Drill Barrow, of peculiar simplicity and cheapness; and if we are permitted to judge from its apparance, without having given it a trial, it will be found a very economical and useful implement in the hands of every farmer and gardener in the country who is not already provided with a drill harrow. Mr. Merchant has been selling the machines at $2 each..."
  • Between 1838 and 1842, N. R. Merchant was granted a trio of patents, for a machine for sowing rutabaga, a machine for sowing corn, and a stove. Brother Orin G. Merchant was co-inventor on the corn sower, and Andrew Bradbury was a witness. The only patent machine known to have been made by the Guilford Iron Works is the doweling machine, which was patented by N. R. Merchant in 1861 and improved by A. P. Merchant in 1876.
  • 1874-07-02 Chenango Union, in an article on Guilford in 1874. "Mr. A. Bradbury is the proprietor of the Guilford iron works located in the upper portion of the town. This is an extensive manufacturing establishment. Here they make a specialty of manufacturing "the latest improved Teed and other first-class water wheels." They also manufacture the best variety of planers and matchers. I learned that Mr. Bradbury is a first-class business man who has the entire confidence of the community. Mr. A.P. Merchant in the same works manufacturers "Merchant's Patent Doweling Machine." This machine has an extensive sale."
  • 1880 book, History of Chenango and Madison Counties, by James H. Smith.
    MANUFACTURES.—The Guilford Iron Works, of which Andrew Bradbury is proprietor, were established in 1845, by Andrew Bradbury and Niram R. Merchant, in a building erected about 1838 for a plaster-mill, by William D. Gilbert, and used for that purpose till about 1842. The building was subsequently occupied for a short time as a cotton-batten factory by Asahel Edson. It was swept away by a freshet in 1855, and the present building was erected the same year by Messrs. Bradbury and Merchant, who carried on the business of founders and machinists till the death of Mr. Merchant, Dec. 24, 1863, having been associated with Orin G. Merchant, brother of Niram, from 1847 to 1855. Andrew Bradbury has conducted the business alone since the death of his partner, though the latter's heirs still retain his interest in it. Mr. Bradbury does a general foundry and machine business, including the manufacture of mill gearing, corn crackers, the latest improved Teed's and Merchant's water-wheels, shingle mills and edgers, planers and matchers, single and combined, dog powers and iron and brass castings, making a specialty of planers and matchers and water-wheels. About eight men are employed in the shops. The motive power is furnished by a Merchant water-wheel, the invention of Andrew P. Merchant, which is driven by water from Guilford Creek, with a head and fall of fourteen feet. Andrew P. Merchant is engaged in these shops in the manufacture of a patent coopers' doweling machine, which was invented by his father and patented by him in 1861. The son patented an improvement in 1876. About 10,000 of the machines have been manufactured and the demand for them is steadily increasing.
  • 1880-04-22 Chenango Union, via the Local History website.

    The Guilford Iron Works

    "The Guilford Iron Works," where all kinds of casting and work in brass and iron is done. The "foundry" was started in 1844 under the firm name of N .R. Merchant & Co., and so continued to the death of N.R. Merchant, since which time it has borne the name of A. Bradbury, though the Merchant estate still has one-half interest. The celebrated endless tread dog power for churning, was originally made here from a design of Mr. N.R. Merchant in 1857, and between four and five thousand of them have been made at this foundry. Mr. Merchant not protecting himself by patent, other iron workers are building them, so that their sale decreases.

    A.P. Merchant, son of the founder, N.R. Merchant, has worked in the foundry from the beginning, in 1844, and now superintends the estate's interest. Mr. Merchant is a practical, mechanical genius, if we may be allowed the expression. In 1856 he designed, and the firm have since manufactured, a superior planer and matcher, which is extensively used throughout the country. In 1861 he designed and patented the famous Merchant dowelling machine, of which he makes from 500 to 600 per year, and of which he has made and sold in all upwards of 8,000. In February last past he contracted with N.Mack & Co., manufacturers, of Rochester, N.Y., to furnish them all he makes, and they are shipping them extensively to South America and continental Europe. Later he designed a shingle machine, which is said to be the best in use.

    In 1855 the firm began the manufacture of water wheels. They first made the Goodwin wheel then the Johnson wheel, then the Teed wheel, and now are making a specialty of a turbine wheel designed by Mr. Merchant about four years ago, and from which in that time they have had no breakage, which is sufficient proof of its excellence. They estimate that they have made and sold upwards of 1,000 water wheels of these different designs since 1855. They manufactured from Mr. Merchant's original designs all of the machinery used in the foundry, with one exception, the estimated value of which is $12,000.

    They have had the good fortune to get good assistants, and have kept them. O.D. Merchant, the pattern maker, has over 15,000 different patterns under his charge, varying in value from twenty-five cents to $150, and can explain the use of any one of them. Having such a variety of pattern designs, they are enabled to match almost any casting, and receive orders for duplicates from all over the State. O.D. Merchant has been with them thirty-two years; Hobart Nash, who is an excellent machinist as well as a fine musician, for seventeen years; John McLean, with the exception of three years in the war, has been their molder twenty-five years; Burkett, the present molder, came there in 1861.

    Mr. Bradbury, the head of the firm, is second to none in the State as a commercial manager, having been educated to its practical duties in Liverpool, Eng. Among the many original designs there has but one patent been taken out, that on the doweling machine. Has not Guilford a right to feel proud of this quiet and romantically situated foundry, doing it $8,000 business per annum.

  • FindAGrave entry for Andrew Bradbury.
  • Genealogy of the Families of John Rockwell, of Stamford, Connecticut 1641 lists "Niram Rockwell Merchant, born Danbury, Conn., March 1, 1800; married Maria Dibble, born July 22, 1801; died at Guilford, N. Y."; "Orrin [sic] Gilbert Merchant, born Danbury, Conn., June 18, 1803; married Sally L. Smith, born Oct. 8, 1809, and resided at Guilford. She died Aug. 16, 1855. He died March 6, 1880."; "Andrew Percival Merchant, born Guilford, N. Y., April 7, 1831; married Hannah Phillips, and settled ant Guilford, and she died there Dec. 29, 1875. He is the proprietor of the Guilford Iron Works."; (child of Orrin and Sally) "Ossian Delos Merchant, born Guilford, N. Y., April 3, 1832; married Mary E. Harris, and resided at Guilford in 1892. They had no children. For forty years he has been employed at the Guilford Iron Works."
  • 2010-08-10 Guilford News and Views, from the Guilford Historical Society. "One mystery that has not been solved concerns the Guilford Iron Works. Only a sketch in an old newspaper shows the building that contained a two story machine shop and adjacent to it the “Furnace” structure where the crude iron was processed. The first photographer of Guilford was Purley Merchant, brother of Andrew Merchant who owned the Iron Works after his father died. Purley made the glass negatives of Main St in the 1860’s but where is the photo of his family’s business? The Iron Works endured until 1919 but no photos of it have surfaced..."
  • 2017-07-27 The Tri-Town News (Sidney, NY), in an article on "Guilford Day History Tour Enlivens Hamlet’s Past", by Teresa Winchester. "The Guilford Iron Works (circa 1855) – a machine shop and furnace building – was demolished by a cattle dealer circa 1917 and replaced by a barn."