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Massey-Harris-Ferguson Collection, Archival and Special Collections

Collection Profile

Beginning with the early settlement of Upper Canada and for most of the 20th century, Massey-Harris, or as it was known after 1953, Massey-Ferguson, was one of the largest agricultural implement companies in the world. Farmers around the globe purchased Massey products and the Canadian company was an international leader in developing innovative farm machinery.

Daniel Massey (1798-1856) began manufacturing farm implements in 1847, and Alanson Harris (1816-94) established his own foundry in 1857. In 1891, Massey Manufacturing and A. Harris, Son & Co. merged to form Massey-Harris Company Ltd. By the mid-1890s, the company was the largest Canadian farm implement manufacturer, winning fame at international expositions, especially Paris in 1900. More mergers followed, especially with Johnston Harvester Company, located in Batavia, New York, in 1910, and J. I. Case Plow Works at Racine, Wisconsin, in 1928. Eventually the company became Massey-Harris-Ferguson Ltd. Massey-Ferguson prospered in the 1960s and 1970s with its tractor and combine production lines, but it declined rapidly in the changing farm equipment market during the 1980s.

The University of Guelph Library acquired the Massey-Harris-Ferguson Collection in 1999. The collection illustrates the growth of a large industrial corporation and serves as an essential resource for Canadian rural and agricultural history. The entire archive covers the period 1847 to 1986 and includes annual reports, administrative planning documents, financial records and statements for operations on four continents, posters, promotional catalogs and pamphlets, sales brochures and circulars, photographs, patent ledgers, exhibition medals and awards, speeches, price guides, repair manuals and parts catalogs, correspondence, marketing material, contractual agreements and deeds, legal records, company histories and biographies, 16mm films, and other company resources. It documents the company's production and history in Canada and overseas, including many firms that came to be part of Massey. In addition, there are important literary magazines encouraged by its most energetic president, Hart Massey (1823-96): Trip Hammer, Massey's Illustrated, and Massey's Magazine, plus many highly visual and colorful posters and advertising sheets.

The majority of Massey items date to the 20th century, but the earliest items begin in the 1850s and extend until the company's merger with A. Harris, Son & Co. in 1891. Many archival series provide important details that mark the progress, success, and decline of the company. These include corporate mergers; records and decisions of the famous Harry Ferguson-Henry Ford lawsuit, 1947 to 1952; company submissions on Canadian government inquiries on farm machinery and on agricultural and rural life; and records relating to foreign branch operations in the United States, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, South Africa, Australia, and other countries.

All materials are cataloged and more than 50 finding aids are available via the library's online catalog. As well, a Web site has been established to guide the public to more than 800 cubic feet of Massey records. It is anticipated that digitized images of machinery, company photographs, posters, and other historical documents will follow as the Web site is developed after 2007.

Profile and Overview: Lorne Bruce
Illustrations: Dean Palmer

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