The National Russell Collectors Association

The Early History of The Russell & Company


In compliance with your request for some early history of The Russell & Company, I send you the following:

From the early history of Massillon to the present date the name of "Russell" has been a prominent feature in the growth and prosperity of the city. In the early part of 1838 Charles. M. Russell and his brothers, Nahum S. Russell and Clement Russell came to Massillon. Charles M. Russell was the eldest and the leading one to plan and do outside work while the others were industrious and intelligent mechanics. The three brothers formed the firm of C. M. Russell & Company, on the first of January, 1842, and started in the manufacture of agricultural implements, more particularly threshing machines, and very soon the threshers made by this firm became quite popular and were wanted by persons in need of such machinery all over the country. As the firm rapidly increased in reputation and wealth other brothers came on from the New England states and became partners in this popular and prosperous firm. First of the younger brothers to come was Joseph K. Russell, then Thomas H. Russell, George (the text says "Joash" , which is crossed out and "George" is penciled in.) L. Russell, and Allen A. Russell in the order named.

When this firm first erected their shops they were all wooden structures and the ground occupied was a narrow strip of land on the West side of Erie Street north of the present firm of Hess-Snyder Company but after a few years it was found that they could not expand on this ground to meet the demands of their growing business so they then went south of the Pennsylvania Railroad track and bought ground on both sides of Erie Street which extended from the Ohio Canal on the West to South Lincoln Avenue on the East and at once began the erection of a substantial brick building which has been added to from time to time until the large tract of ground on either side of Erie Street from the Canal to Lincoln Avenue is well covered with brick buildings for the use of this prosperous firm. The area thus covered comprises more than twenty-six acres.

The firm name of C. M. Russell & Company was retained until some time in the spring of 1860 when upon the death of the pioneer of the business, Charles M. Russell, which occurred on the 19th day of February of that year, the firm name was changed to N. S. & C. Russell and the partnership was continued under this name until 1863, when it was changed to Russell & Company. The business was incorporated under the laws of Ohio as Russell & Company on the 7th day of December, 1878 at which time Mr. Nahum S. Russell was elected President, Mr. J. Walter McClymonds, Secretary-Treasurer, and Mr. Thomas. H. Russell, Superintendent.

Many were the changes, great the advancement made in the thirty-seven years since the first day of January, 1842, but the pace set by the pioneers has been continued during the thirty-three years of corporate existence, and buildings have been added and machinery installed until at the present time the twenty-six acres of land is pretty well covered with substantial brick structures.

This company has built more than twenty-two thousand threshing machines, more than seventeen thousand engines, upwards of sixteen thousand boilers, five thousand sawmills and a lot of other machinery such as Steam Road Rollers, Gasoline Tractors, etc. They first started in a two-story frame building, which on account of its coats of whitewash became known as the "White Shop". They first carried on a general carpenter business, building houses around town and when outdoor work could not be carried on they made furniture and at one time carried in stock a full supply of household goods, even the stoves. They had no engines, but ran their machinery with a horse power treadmill. As time went on they added to the furniture business the building of machines for threshing grain. These were commonly called "knock-outs" and were simply a threshing cylinder with a cap over it with no separating chamber or cleaning arrangement. The demand for this machinery was so great that they were compelled to enlarge their quarters every year and while the addition of new machinery greatly increased their facility for turning out work, it seemed that the demand kept place with, if not a little ahead of, their enterprise.

By 1845, that is in three years, the "White Shop" doubled in size and in addition to the building of threshing machines they also made plows, for which they found an ever increasing market. In 1845 they erected their first brick building and this was their foundry. By 1849 they had also added to their manufactured goods, mowers and reapers, and it is said that at this time their old shops were so crowded that one could hardly get around in them. In 1849 they built in addition to their "knock-out" machines, fifty or sixty Davenports. These were separators and cleaners as well as threshers. In 1850 they commenced the building of the Pitts separator by arrangement with Mr. Pitts of Buffalo, New York. They built about fifty of these machines that year. During 1845 they built their first engine and installed and started it on January 1, 1846 to run their shop. In 1852 they erected a large brick building for the manufacture of cars. It was built by one J. Davenport, who entered into a partnership with Charles M. Russell and Marshall Wellman under the firm name of J. Davenport & Company. The interest of Mr. Davenport was one-half and that of Mr. Russell and Mr. Wellman one-quarter each. They commenced the manufacture of cars in 1853 and among other orders they built fifty dump cars for the Pennsylvania & Ohio Railroad and one hundred box cars for the Ohio & Indiana Railroad. In 1854 they built fifty passenger cars for the Ohio Central Railroad and in 1855 they built one hundred hand-cars, two hundred stock cars for the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad Co. and fifty dump cars for the Massillon furnace at Ridgeway-Burton & Company. In 1853 there was also built an erecting shop and warehouse. In 1856 the car shops turned out seventy-five flat cars for the Dubuque Railway Company, one hundred gondola cars for the Broad Gauge afterwards New York, Pennsylvania & Ohio and one hundred coal bank cars. In 1857 was built fifty box cars for Steubenville, twenty-five second-class or emigrant cars, thirty gondola cars, for Shallenberger Furnace Company, thirty dump cars for Pittsburgh Coal & Iron Company of Corry, Penna., one iron box car experimental, also two long iron cars trussed. In 1858 were built twenty-five dump cars for Volcano Furnace Company. This year C. M. Russell bought out the interest of J. Davenport in the car business and carried it on for some time.

In the meantime, the "White Shop" with its additional buildings had become so crowded that the company determined to move some of their separator work down to the car shop. The present foundry building was commenced in 1863 and finished in 1864. The first heat was taken December 31, 1864. It was a trial heat only and seven tons of iron were satisfactorily melted and cast. On January 2, 1865 the foundry was started up regularly and continued as the foundry in this building until April 9, 1892, when this building was turned into an erecting shop for automatic engines and so continued until December 16, 1900 when it was again fitted as a foundry and the fire heat on that first day was fifteen tons.

Many have been the changes made in the foundry since the first start on the last day of December 1864, notable among which can be mentioned the change in motive power from steam to electricity also in operating the large cranes, formerly done by hand power exclusively, now run by electricity and compressed air. Not only in the foundry but in every department of the shop these great changes have taken place and equally great changes have taken place in the manufactured product. The threshing machines of today are probably four times, maybe more than that, larger than those of the early days and the engines have increased wonderfully in size and complexity, so that an outfit of today can scarcely be compared to the output of fifty years ago. But in all this change The Russell & Company has ever and always been in the forefront and tried by all means in their power to produce the best machinery in the best way regardless of trouble or expense in so doing and the result has been the building up of a satisfactory business that at this present writing is of such volume that it taxes the workers to their utmost to even approach filling their orders.

The Russell & Company
Charles O. Hegem