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Manufacturers Index - Robinson & Co. / Swayne, Robinson & Co.

Robinson & Co. / Swayne, Robinson & Co.
Richmond, IN, U.S.A.
Manufacturer Class: Wood Working Machinery & Steam and Gas Engines

Last Modified: Feb 15 2017 10:32AM by Jeff_Joslin
If you have information to add to this entry, please contact the Site Historian.

This firm was established in 1842, when it was known as Robinson Machine Works. In 1858, son-in-law Jonas W. Yeo became a partner, and in 1862 he assumed sole ownership. He was joined in 1868 by Robert H. Shoemaker, and at that point the name became Yeo & Shoemaker (but the "Robinson Machine Works" name was apparently still used as well). In 1872 the business incorporated under the name of the Robinson Machine Works. In 1877 the business was liquidated and Francis W. and Henry E. Robinson assumed control, under the name of Robinson & Co. By 1889 they reincorporated as Robinson & Co., with Francis W. Robinson as president and superintendant, A. G. Robinson as vice-president and treasurer, and Samuel E. Swayne as secretary. A. G. Robinson was a grandson of Francis, and Swayne was another son-in-law.

In late 1914 the company name changed to Swayne, Robinson & Co. in recognition of the key role of S. E. Swayne in the success of the company. In 1933 Samuel Swayne died and Henry R. Robinson became president. In 1934 the company introduced an inexpensive metal lathe that was advertised in Popular Science and Popular Mechanics. That product seems to have been fairly short-lived but the company survived for several decades until it went bankrupt in 1997.

From January 1935 Popular Mechanics

Information Sources

  • American Steam Engine Builders: 1800-1900 by Kenneth L. Cope, 2006 page 205
  • Steam Power on the American Farm by Reynold M. Wik, 1953 page 253
  • Address: 259 Main Street, Richmond, IN.
  • The list of Premiums Awarded at the Second Annual State Fair of Indiana, 1853, says that F. W. Robinson was awarded $2 and a diploma for his Lard Press, plus $5 and diploma for his horse power, singled out for being of "very light draft".
  • The List of Premiums Awarded at the Indiana State Agricultural Fair October 2, 1854, says that a silver cup and $20 was awarded to F. W. Robinson for "Best horse power and separator combined".
  • The 1858 edition of Williams' Direcotry to the City of Richmond lists Francis W. Robinson as a machinist, with works on south Pearl st. An ad shows F. W. Robinson's "first premium eight horse Separator and Horse Power."
  • The results of the Ohio State Fair for 1861 lists F. W. Robinson of Richmond, Ind., as winning $10 for "Best sweep horse power".
  • The Premiums Awarded at the [Indiana] State Fair, October 3, 1870, lists
    Yeo & Shoemaker, of Richmond, Indiana, exhibited entry No. 118, a combined thresher and separator of very perfect workmanship and high finish.
  • The Premiums Awarded at the Indiana State Fair, 1871, lists Yeo & Shoemaker as exhibiting a portable steam engine and a threshing machine.
  • The 1872 book, History of Wayne County, Indiana by Andrew W. Young, has the following writeup:
    Robinson Machine Works.—This establishment was founded in 1842, by Francis W. Robinson, on the corner of Main and Washington streets. It was for a time confined to tho making of threshing machines of the "Chaff-Piler" and "Traveler" patterns. The former was a horse-power machine, and simply threshed the wheat; the latter took the wheat in the shock, threshed and separated it, and delivered the wheat in a box, leaving the straw on the ground. The value of the machines turned out the first year did not, as is believed, exceed in value $6,000. In 1858, Mr. Robinson obtained a patent for a threshing machine, which has been improved from time to time, until the "Gold Medal Thresher and Separator" is supposed to be equal to any in the United States. In or about the year 1847, he commenced the making of steam engines and saw-mills. In 1862, Jonas W. Yeo became sole proprietor, and was joined in 1868 by Robert H. Shoemaker; since which time the business has been conducted under the firm of Yeo & Shoemaker. From a comparatively small beginning, these Works have risen to a high rank among the manufactories of its class in the state. Its grounds on the corner having become too circumscribed for its increasing business, room was obtained for the boiler shop on the east side of Washington street, and for the warehouse on the south side of Main. Its manufactures are horse-power and steam threshers and separators, portable and stationary engines, portable saw-mills, and castings of every description. The average number of workmen employed is between seventy and eighty ; and the amount of sales has been between $125,000 and $150,000 annually. In 1866, a fire occurred in the establishment which destroyed property to a considerable amount, the loss being mostly covered by insurance.
  • Listed, as Robinson Machine Works, in the 1874 work, Wiley's American Iron Trade Manual of the Leading Iron Industries of the United States: "Saw-mill and threshing machinery. Number of hands, 80."
  • Twenty-Ninth Annual Report of the Indiana State Board of Agriculture, 1879, Indiana State Fair, Indianapolis, October 1879. "Robinson & Co., Richmond, Indiana, showed a Portable Farm Engine of ten-horse power. It has a patent governor, by which the steam is entirely shot off in case of a band being thrown or other accident occurring, by which the engine is relieved of its resistance, an important safety device. The engine has a good spark arrester, and has a circular saw for cutting wood attached to the rear of the engine."
  • Thirty-First Annual Report of the Indiana State Board of Agriculture, 1881. Awards of Premiums at State Fair, 1881. "Robinson & Co., Richmond, Ind., had on exhibition a 10-horse power farm engine, with locomotive slide and cross-head...A saw attachment to the engine is a notable feature. It is portable, easily handled and carried along without being detached from the engine."
  • The 1884 book, Inter-State Publishing Company's History of Wayne County, Indiana has this history of the Works:

    The Robinson Machine Works were founded in 1842 by Francis W. Robinson. He was born in Baltimore, Dec. 9, 1810, removed to Wilmington, Del., and thence to Philadelphia, where he remained until his nineteenth year, during which time he learned the trade of a housecarpenter and builder. In 1829 he moved to Indiana bringing with him his youngest sister. He settled in Richmond in the year 1833 or 1834, and followed his trade until the year 1842, when he commenced business on the present site of the Robinson Machine Works, in a small way, running the establishment by a horse-power which had formerly been used by Robert Morrieson and Daniel P. Wiggins for grinding bark.

    The popular threshing machines of that day were called "chaff pilers," and "traveling threshing machines," but neither kind separated the grain from the chaff. After a few years Mr. R. bought out Edward Borton & Son (then engaged in the same business), and began the manufacture of "traveling separators," and shortly substituted steam for horse-power, and began the building of improved threshers and separators with separate horse-powers. About 1860 he commenced manufacturing portable farm engines and "Pitt's " separators, having patented some valuable improvements making them successful "grain-saving" machines and rapid threshers.

    Up to 1858 he was sole proprietor, and was his own superintendent, foreman, book-keeper, collector and salesman, when Jonas W. Yeo, his son-in-law, became associated with him. Afterward R. H. Shoemaker purchased an interest in the business, and in 1872 the works were incorporated under the name of the "Robinson Machine Works," the incorporators being F. W. Robinson, Jonas W. Yeo, R. H. Shoemaker and R. H. Swift. In 1872 H. E. Robinson, son of F. W. Robinson, bought the interest of R. H. Shoemaker. In 1877 the affairs of the incorporated company were wound up, and in 1878 the firm of Robinson & Co. came into possession of the works, and the firm of Robinson & Co. is now composed of Francis W. Robinson and Henry E. Robinson.

    The machinery now built at the works is protected by numerous patents, being the inventions and improvements of F. W. Robinson, including a patent steam-engine governor, patent revolving straw-stacker, patent clover attachment to threshing machines, and numerous patents for improvements in threshers, engines, etc.

    They manufacture steam-engines, boilers, threshers, horsepowers, saw-mills, drag-saws, etc.

    The works comprise a machine shop, carpenter shop, woodworking shop, boiler shop, smith shop, foundry and two warehouses. The motive power is a steam-engine of fifty horse-power.

    Since 1878 Robinson & Co. have added to the real estate by purchase of a lot on Main street, 60 x 150 feet, on which is their commodious three-story brick office building; a lot on North Third street, 60 x 145, adjoining the shops on the north, to be occupied by a three story brick warehouse; also three lots on North Third street for storing lumber, etc. The capacity of the works is about $150.000 per year in product. The machinery made is in use in almost every State in the Union, but more especially in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri.

  • The 1894 book, American Agricultural Implements by R. L. Ardrey, and self-published but available through Google Books, has the following writeup of this firm:
    The Robinson Machine Works were established at Richmond, Ind , in 1842, in the manufacture of "chaff-piler" threshing-machines. A traveling thresher, designed to thresh the grain as it was drawn through the field, was also made for a time, neither of these machines separating the grain from the chaff. About 1860 they commenced making portable engines and Pitts separators. In 1872 the business was incorporated under the name of the Robinson Machine Works, and in 1889 they reincorporated as Robinson & Co., with F. W. Robinson as president and superintendent; A. G. Robinson, vice-president and treasurer, and S. E. Swayne, secretary.
  • From the 1912 book, Memoirs of Wayne County and the City of Richmond, Indiana, ed. Henry Clay Fox, has the following paragraph:
    Robinson & Company is one of the prominent corporations and manufactories of our city, one which, founded in the days of the city's infancy, has since been closely connected through its owners with the social and business life of Richmond. It was founded, in 1842, by Francis W. Robinson, a Friend, who was born in Baltimore, in 1810, and moved to Richmond in 1833. His son-in-law, Samuel E. Swayne, is now president and treasurer of the company and his grandsons—William Piatt and Henry Raymond Robinson—are secretary and vice-president and superintendent. These officers, with the daughters of the founder, now form a family corporation which owns and operates the modern plant, which has grown from the small beginning made in 1842, at which time a horse provided the power for the works. In 1858, Jonas W. Yeo became associated with Robinson and, in 1872, the business was incorporated as the Robinson Machine Works. When the affairs of this corporation were wound up, in 1877, Francis W. and Henry E. Robinson acquired full control of the business, under the firm name of Robinson & Company, and it was incorporated under the same name in 1889. The main plant now occupies the entire square from Third to Second street, on Main, and north to A street, and about an equal area on the east side of Third street. The buildings consist of a modern office, a large steam and electric plant, a commodious foundry, machine and carpenter shops, fire-proof pattern house, and a test house and erecting shop which alone is as capacious as the entire plant was in 1884. Branch houses are maintained at Indianapolis, Columbus, St. Louis, St. Joseph (Mo.), Galesburg (111.), Enid (Okla.), and Jennings (La.), and a growing export business is handled through New York offices. The machinery manufactured consists of traction and portable engines, threshing machines and attachments, and steam hay balers. The output finds ready sale all over this country, in the Dutch East Indias, Africa, Chile, the Argentine, and other countries.
  • The 1913-10-25 issue of The Implement Age mentions that a committee of the National Implement and Vehicle Association included S. E. Swayne of Robinson & Co. as one of its members.
  • A 1914 catalog of Fordson tractor accessories is from Swayne, Robinson & Co.
  • The January 1915 issue of Farm Implements has the following news item.

    The old corporation of Robinson & Co., Richmond, Ind., has been reorganized under the name of Swayne, Robinson 8L Co., thus giving recognition in the corporate title to the president. S. E. Swayne, who has been identified with the business for a great many years. The change is in reality not a reorganization, being in name only. No alteration has taken place in the ownership or management of the company, or business, which continues exactly as before. The addition of Mr. Swayne’s name is a courtesy accorded him in recognition of his indefatigable efforts on behalf of the business.

    At the last meeting of the National Implement and Vehicle Association, Mr. Swayne’s loyalty to that organization, and his activity in connection with the association's efforts to improve Conditions in the implement trade were recognized by his election to the presidency following his service of one year as chairman of the executive committee. He has also been prominent in other ways in connection with the betterment of the implement trade, and the courtesy extended him by the other members of the corporation of which he is the executive officer will be a source of gratification to many friends in every branch of the implement business.

  • A 1934 edition of Motor has the following snippet:
    The Swayne-Robinson series 200 lathe is a low priced unit that can be used for many jobs in the repair shop such as armature turning, valve refacing, making pins, bushings, sleeves, guides, etc. The spindle is 1" alloy steel turned to ...
  • The February 1935 issue of Popular Science carried a small display ad for the Model 200 metal lathe from "Swayne Robinson & Co., 280 Main Street, Richmond, Indiana". The lathe cost $39.50 for the 18" version, $41.50 for the 24" version. "Extension for woodworking" added $5.
  • A 1973 edition of Gray and Ductile Iron News has an ad for Swayne, Robinson & Co., mentioning 130 years of business.
  • The 1994 book, Richmond, Indiana: A Pictorial History, by Gertrude Luckhardt Ward, David Marsee, and George T. Blakey, has the following snippet.
    Distinguished as the oldest, family-owned foundry in the United States and Richmond's oldest industry, Swayne, Robinson & Co. was founded in 1842 by Francis W. Robinson (1810-1897). The oldest of seven children, Robinson probably ...
  • The Wikipedia article on Swayne, Robinson & Co. has a good accounting of the company's later history.
  • The Steam Tractor Encyclopedia by John F. Spalding & Robert T. Rhode, 2011 pages 304-306.
  • More information on the small Swayne-Robinson double tube bed lathe is available on the lathes.co.uk site.