Ever since I started looking into the Rock Island Plow Co/ B. D. Buford & Co history, I’ve been hunting for anything to help resolve the question of how Morrison Mfg and their Browne sulky fit in, since most Browne artifacts get attributed to Morrison since some of the Browne cast seats have their name cast into the seat.I have maintained that I believe this to be an error due to the prevalence of Buford Browne advertising and almost unexistant Morrison Browne advertising. After a number of years of searching, I did finally obtain images of a trade card for the Morrison Browne showing its features. 

Research into the providence of these two companies and their respective Browne Sulky’s has also been complicated by the lack of information of who the Browne sulkies were named after. At this time, I suspect these are the same persons, a William Jerome Brown who may have been the common link. There was a William Jerome Browne who patented cultivator improvements in 1885 in Ft Madison, but I have never tied him conclusively to Morrison Mfg. I have also tied William Jerome Brown to Rock Island as early as 1866 where he is listed in a Freemasons Conclave record in the same conclave as James Madison Buford and Thomas Jefferson Buford. records indicate he was married in Rock Island in 1878 and had a son in 1881, where according to the sons bio they moved to Minnesota early in his life, where he filed other patents involving cultivators and drills. According to ancestor sites, he was born in 1848 and died in 1911. Although nothing ties him directly to either plow company, He is so far the most likely person to fit the role for either company I have been able to find.

From the mid 1870’s through the companies re-organization and name change in 1885 to the Rock Island Plow Co, B.D. Buford & Co’s product line seems fairly stable. Walking plows were a staple of the company, but of most significance was the new riding line. This consisted of the Buford Land Side Sulky, the Browne Sulky and Gang, and the Defiance Riding cultivator. In 1882 Testimony by B.D. Buford before congress on the matter of tariffs claimed $1,000,000 worth of product produced by the company. The Browne Sulky appears to have been the companies flagship product during this time, featuring prominently in ads, which raises some interesting questions today.Rural New-Yorker 1881

A picture of the Browne Sulky appears in the 1877 Missouri Ag report as competing in trials. There, the Buford “Browne Sulky” entry competed directly with the Morrison Bros “Morrison Sulky”. Morrison Bros is of note because in almost all cases, “Browne” cast iron relics are usually associated with Morrison Bros. This stems from two of the 6 versions of the Browne seats having additional lettering of “Morrison Bros” cast above the cutout “Browne Sulky” or “Browne Gang”. Because of this casting, most cast iron collectors have made the assumption that all Browne artifacts are Morrison Bros related.I would strongly dispute this as for a period of at least a decade, the Browne Plow Series was the B.D. Buford flagship product, with frequent advertising depictions and and references from trials in trade publications. These same sources fail to reference a Brown Sulky by Morrison Bros during this time frame, although William J Browne appears to have been associated with Morrison Bros by 1885 and filed a cultivator patent while in Ft Madison in 1885 which was not tied to Morrison Bros; William filed a number of plow patents in Minnesota in the 1890’s and worked for the St Paul Plow Works in the late 1880’s . I have found no ties for him to Buford in the 1870’s. Despite searching, I have not yet come across direct reference to the Morrison “Browne Sulky” in printed literature.

I know others have looked for a connection between the two companies, but so far nothing has emerged to link any connection between the companies. It seems likely that the Morrison Bros use of the Browne name occurred in the mid to late 1880’s to early 1890’s. After that, trade publication information begins to become plentiful enough that some advertising for the Morrison “Browne” would have likely been apparent as Morrison Bros ads do show up.

The Buford “Browne” on the other hand, is not an uncommon find in publications of the early 1880’s. The Rural New-Yorker of 1881 had an especially interesting ad that included text that 6,000 Browne Sulkys were being sold a year. Another ad from the same time period was advertising for the California market showing coast to coast marketing.

One of the earliest verifiable records of the Browne sulky is the picture of the Browne appearing in the 1877 Missouri Ag report (as did the Defiance and Blackhawk model cultivators). This picture so far is also part of the discussion on where the “Browne” name belongs. In this drawing the seat shows lettering as “NE SUL”, which would indicate “Browne Sulky”. A trade card from slightly later also appears to show the same lettering, however, it is so faint as to be inconclusive.

The earliest parts book I have in my collection is a catalog from 1878, which contains five pages of parts plates. Unfortunately, the plates lack a view of the seats themselves so we lack that critical piece of information. My next earliest parts book is 1900 which leaves a substantial gap; During which the line exploded from walking plows, cultivators and two models of riding plows to dozens of implements after the 1885 re-incorporation as the Rock Island Plow Co.

The 1878 Buford catalog also adds to the controversy of the Browne seats, in that the pictures showing the Browne Sulky and Gang are assuredly not the cut out Browne Seats (these same pictures are in the 1881 Buford Catalog Atlas. These pictures appear in advertising from the mid 1870’s through 1885 making them a standard. My guess, and purely a guess lacking printed evidence, is these were produced very early on and represent prototype or first year models. The 1877 Missouri picture seems likely to represent the actual production model.

1878 catalog Browne Sulky and Gang, same illustration used in 1881 catalog

The 1878 catalog, despite not clarifying the seat issue, was an absolute trove as it is the earliest parts plates I have had access to, although they are not a complete parts list. Of key note is it identifies 3 wrenches so far not identified with Buford and illustrates an unmarked version of the Browne wrench in the B.D. B & Co CP style. These wrenches are not identical in opening size, but do share the same shape.

unmarked 10 inch

blown up view form 1878 catalog

The actual Browne wrench to my eye does appear to match the openings of the illustrated wrench, more closely than the BDB & Co version commonly associated with Buford. Dan Chopiak did point me to two unmarked variants of this style of wrench, a 9.5 inch and 10 inch variant, both believed to be tied to Deere which also used a variety of this style of wrench. The 10 inch, to my eye bears a strong resemblance to the pictured unmarked wrench. The 61 catalog entry appears as a tracking number, and they do not seem to be casting numbers. These numbers were not carried over into the 1900 list. I am currently unconvinced that Buford used an unmarked variant, but I cannot exclude it. I would welcome any discussion on this.The second wrench shown in the 1878 catalog appears to be a common type S wrench on the Browne Gang Plow plate with no apparent markings or a certain scale labeled 19. A number of wrenches of this type can be found, so without further references, this wrench may not ever be totally identifiable. My guess is this wrench was replaced fairly quickly. I have chosen to add a place holder wrench to my collection anyway.

example of unmarked early S wrench

Defiance cultivator

92 wrench and similar to the 1878 91

Wrenches 3 and 4 appear side by side and are listed for the cultivator. A picture of the Defiance showsone of these wrenches on the cultivator. The wrench labeled as 91 has a few variants, both in the handle and the wrench openings, some of these carry casting numbers, some do not. I jumped the gun and purchased one not catching it had a half round handle instead of the full handle and squared off openings. The 92 wrench appears to be a unique wrench with no casting numbers.

1878 cultivator plate

Of these four wrenches, none appears directly in the 1900 parts list, nor do the Browne and B.D.B & Co variants. There are a couple of unnumbered entries with no plate or information, but the Browne, Defiance, and Blackhawk plows and cultivators do not appear at all.

My personal guess again is that these wrenches represent early transitional wrenches. Whether or not an unmarked Browne variant or not was used, I feel comfortable classifying the marked Browne wrench as part of the Buford family. I also feel comfortable that despite less conclusive proof, the B.D.B & Co C P wrench is also Buford and likely replaced the unmarked S wrench.

Without additional information, I cannot confirm the fate of the 91, 92 and S wrenches, but I suspect they were all replaced fairly soon after the 1878 catalog.

1878 “92” wrench

Top: Buford 11 inch, Bottom: Buford C1

The next wrench I believe may have replaced the 92 wrench and possibly the Brown and B. D. B. & Co wrenches is the 11 inch “Buford” wrench (below, top wrench). Of all the wrenches so far, this is actually the one I have the most concerns about. It does not appear in the 1878 catalog, nor does it appear in the 1900 catalog. At least two other companies of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s did use Buford in their name. Neither were on the scale of BD Buford & Co, but they cannot be ruled out. Buford, Mast & Burwell may have had a small connection to B.D. Buford & Co, but if so it was tenuous; but this company would be my first choice as an alternate source of the “Buford”. Perhaps the biggest reason to believe this wrench is a B.D. Buford is that it does posses a hex wrench to replace the 92 wrench (opening size confirmed, as do the other openings) which would otherwise be lacking in the line, so it fills a needed niche. While not confirmed, I am going to proceed with it as a B.D. Buford. The main cultivator wrench in the 1900 book is the C188, neither variant has the same hex openings as the Buford. The two hex S329 does match the smaller hex on the Buford, it is listed under plows.1889 Rock Island Plow Co. Buford Tongueless

At this time, I believe the final implement wrench of the Buford line is the C1 wrench (above, bottom wrench). Of all the wrenches discussed, the C1 is the only one to conclusively appear in the 1900 catalog. It is the only one so far to have a confirmed number, and it appears only in the index as C1 Wrench, with no corresponding appearance on a plate. The C1 is not a direct replacement for any of the previous wrenches it appears based on opening sizes; however, the C prefix Rock Island wrenches were always listed under the cultivator lists. The C1 may have still been actively distributed after the reorganization as the Buford series cultivators were still actively advertised onto the 1890’s, which would explain it receiving a part number if this wrench was tied to the Buford series cultivators.Besides these wrenches, a number of clevis wrenches appear in the 1878 catalog all the way through the 1920’s, I have made no attempt to catalog these yet. After the reorganization into the Rock Island Plow Company; the Buford plow, Browne, and Defiance lines were all soon replaced with a rapidly expanding and diverse product line including the ELI And Rock Island model plows and the Ajax, Rock Island and Superior Cultivators.

1878 cover