Burt, Hildreth and Company
Archive of Correspondence of Burt, Hildreth and Company, manufacturers of Agricultural Machinery of Harvard, Worcester County, Massachusetts, 1874-1920

212 letters, 288 pages, 132 post cards, 49 printed and manuscript ephemeral items, including trade cards, circulars, etc., 13 snapshot photographs presumably of family members c. 1890s-1920s, plus 4 miscellaneous manuscripts, reminiscences etc., by family members c. 1890-1900. The bulk of the materials date between 1876-1880.

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Archive of primarily incoming correspondence of this firm which specialized in the manufacture of agricultural machinery, the bulk of which dates between the years 1876-1880. The correspondence includes orders, and related matters, legal matters and includes correspondence relating to the firm’s patents with the patent offices in Washington D.C. and in Canada. The correspondence is primarily from customers in New England, however the firm’s customers extended to the Midwest, Minnesota and the plains states of Iowa and Kansas.

           In 1855 Burt, Wright & Co. was established by George E. Burt and George Wright, specializing in agricultural machinery. A couple of years later, Wright accepted other employment and left the partnership. In 1864 Edwin A. Hildreth joined with Burt and the firm operated as Burt, Hildreth & Co., the firm specializing in horse-powered machinery and horse powers (devices for extracting power from horses or other draft animals). The evidence suggests that while Burt was a good inventor and mechanic but not a good businessman and the business failed to thrive.

           It is likely that Hildreth's brother, Stanley B. Hildreth, joined the firm at some point. In 1880, they left that partnership and established Hildreth Brothers in direct competition with their old firm, which continued under the name of George E. Burt. Hildreth Brothers built horse powers, saw tables, and especially a wood-splitting machine for making firewood. It appears that, like Burt, Wright & Co. before them, they licensed some of their designs to others, notably Ames Plow Co. The firm held at least 11 patents on their inventions and machinery.

        The Hildreth Brothers firm survived until at least 1915.

      History of the Town of Harvard, Massachusetts: 1732-1893, by Henry Stedman Nourse, 1894, has the following information:

      Of manufactories [in 1885] there were two of agricultural implements, George E. Burt's and that of the Hildreth Brothers...

       Harvard's representatives in the Massachusetts Legislature... 1883. Edwin Alonzo Hildreth. ... 1890 Stanley Barbour Hildreth.

       Justices of the Peace... 1869. Edwin Alonzo Hildreth ... 1883. Stanley Barbour Hildreth...

      The firm of Benjamin K. Park and Isaac N. Stone here introduced machinery for sawing slate and marble and conducted business successfully for about fifteen years. The property was deeded to George E. Burt and George Wright, machinists, in 1855. About the same time Mr. Burt acquired from Edward W. Winslow a small batting-mill, or carding-shop, which stood on the north side of the highway by the brookside. Under the title of Burt, Wright and Company the firm carried on the business of manufacturing agricultural machinery for two or three years when Mr. Wright removed to Clinton and entered the employ of the Clinton Wire Cloth Company. In 1864, shortly after graduating at the Lawrence Scientific School, Edwin A. Hildreth became associated with Burt. Burt, Hildreth and Company were chiefly engaged in the making of horse-power machines. Since 1880 Mr. Burt has conducted the business by himself, until failing health destroyed his ability to labor, employing from three to five hands. His works have been closed during the past year. He has patented numerous mechanical devices, chiefly improvements in farming implements. His "American hay tedder," manufacture by the Ames Plough Company, has been sold by thousands, and his patent horse-rake and improved horse-power have been widely used. On these he received a royalty, selling the rights of manufacture to others. It is rare that inventive talent is accompanied by those business qualifications that ensure large financial success, and Mr. Burt is not exceptional in this respect.

      Edwin A. Hildreth left the firm of Burt, Hildreth and Company in 1881, and with his brother, Stanley B. Hildreth, began the manufacture of horse-power machinery, etc., by a steam-driven plant in a shop built near his residence. The Hildreth Brothers have created a prosperous business, employing six hands, and selling finished products to the amount of about ten thousand dollars annually. The chief articles manufactured by them are saw tables and a "power-axe" or wood-splitter, patented by them.