The Crawford Mower and Reaper
Manufactured in Cazenovia, NY, 1872 to c. 1890
 
History by Dan Weiskotten 1984
(see my History of the Cazenovia Paper Mill)
Illustration from a stereo card in the Cazenovia Public Library
 
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        Joseph F. Crawford, born in Canada in 1831, graduated from the Cazenovia Seminary in 1856.  During the 1860s he served as pastor of a Methodist Church in Saquoit, and later in New York Mills, Oneida County.  By 1870 he had become associated with the Remington Machine Works in Illion.  It was in that year that Crawford invented the first reversible mower for harvesting crops.  This mower was unusual in that the blade could be used on either side of the mower.  In 1871 Crawford improved his mower and received a patent for it.  A year later, in 1872, he bought out his "Crawford's Improved Mower" and soon returned to Cazenovia, continuing his mower manufactory in Illion.
        In 1873 Crawford represented Madison County in the State Assembly and in 1874 he joined as a partner in C.B. Miller's furniture and undertaking business in the village of Cazenovia, in which he continued about a year.  The Reverend Crawford also owned one of the several steam boats on Cazenovia Lake.  The tug "J.F. Crawford" was constructed in 1874 and was large enough to carry "small parties."  The tug towed a barge, also called the "J.F. Crawford" which held over 200 people - not very safely I'm sure.  Both the tug and barge plowed the lake for three or for years, taking campers to the Lakeview Camp Meeting Grounds which were opened by the Methodist Church at the head of the lake.
        In the mean time his mower works, with reapers also being made, prospered.  In 1874 1,000 machines were produced, which were sold in twelve states across the country.  Nearly 100 of these machines were sold overseas in Germany.  Business was so good that Crawford pledged $100,000.00 and offered a large parcel of land in Syracuse for the newly founded Syracuse University.
        The Crawford Improved Mower worked much the way a sidebar cutter of today does.  It could be lifted to pass over any obstruction, and could be raised or tilted for use on rough or uneven ground.  The driver could fold the bar, regulate the height of the cut, shift the gearing, and oil all parts of the machine without getting out of the seat.  The mower was also almost evenly balanced, which made it much easier for the horse to pull, and, as already mentioned, the blade was "reversible" and could be used on either side of the mower.  Popularity for these revolutionary new machines grew, and in the first three months of 1875 over $96,000.00 worth of machinery was sold.  During these three months Germans ordered over 300 mowers and 400 of Crawford's reapers.  To ease the want of his machines and other agricultural equipment produced by his shop, a stock company was formed around this time in Geneva, Wisconsin for manufacture and sale in that state, and sale in Iowa and Minnesota.  Such was the demand that in April 1875 Mr. Crawford was obliged to tell his agents to stop selling until production could catch up to the back log of orders.
        It was at this time that Crawford engaged well known Syracuse architect Archimedes Russell to design a building calculated to be large enough so they would be able to complete one machine every twenty minutes, and employ 200 men.  The site chosen was that which was formerly occupied by the paper mill.  Soon construction of the present three story stone building was under way. (Crawford built only the stone part of the present structure, the brick and wood being added later).  During construction of the new building the reaping machines were made in Manlius, and the mowers were said to have been produce in one of the machine shops in the village.  When the new building was completed in mid 1876, both works were moved into the spacious structure, and between forty and fifty hands were put to work night and day producing machines.
        Unfortunately the firm was over expanded, and continued to prosper for but a few short years, slowly dwindling from 75 or 100 men to about ten.  The business hung on for several more years and finally closed about 1890.  After closing, the building and property were acquired by Cazenovia banker Lewison Fairchild, and the building stood empty for a number of years.