OLIVER EARLY SERIAL NUMBERS
By Jeff McVey, Copyright 2000
(reproduced here with permission of the author)
Oliver Machinery Co. history has always related that the firm started putting serial numbers on their equipment in February of 1907. Early that year, the company was incorporated and moved into their new factory on Clancy Street in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The organization had been founded, supposedly in 1890, as the American Machinery Co. (AMC). In 1903, probably to avoid confusion with the American Wood-Working Machinery Co., the company's name was changed to the Oliver Machinery Co.
Recent discoveries have shown that, although no detailed records exist, an earlier series of serial numbers was, in fact, utilized. These extend back to the very first machines sold by the firm.
In 1999, I purchased an AMC "No. 2 Universal Trimmer." While cleaning the table during the restoration process, I discovered the number "309" stamped in the center, about an inch forward of the knives. This machine was also marked "Patent Applied For." I contacted Oliver, where this serial number was checked. However, their (post-1907) records indicated that "309" was a cutterhead. They had no records of any trimmer patents, either.
I did some research, and discovered that Joseph W. Oliver had been granted three patents for the trimmers he marketed. The patent for my No. 2 machine was applied for on November 23, 1891, and granted May 1, 1894. I now had some evidence that my machine must have been made between those dates. This patent also covered the later No. 3, 5, and 7 trimmers. Oliver applied for his second trimmer patent on January 11, 1896, and received it on February 23, 1897. This one was for the No. 1 and early-type No. 4 trimmers. He made the application for his third trimmer patent on June 26, 1899. This one, for the No. 0 and 6 trimmers, was granted on June 19, 1900.
Further research revealed that AMC, which sold only trimmers until around 1902, initially had the machines manufactured by other firms. The first production trimmers were built by the Leland, Faulconer, and Norton Co. (LF&N) of Detroit in 1892. They started with a batch of 500 units, including my No. 2, early in that year. By the end of 1895, LF&N had produced a total of 2000 AMC No. 2 trimmers. At this point Leland & Faulconer (Norton had left in 1894), stopped making trimmers for Joe Oliver, and introduced their own.
Oliver was forced to look elsewhere for someone to build his trimmers. Around this time, he also introduced the No. 3 (a larger version of the No. 2), and the smaller, less-expensive No. 1.
I next purchased an AMC No. 1 trimmer, also with an "unlisted" serial number. This one had number 2234 stamped in the table. Also stamped in the table, rather than cast into the right-hand knife guard, was the patent date. It must have been made very shortly after the second patent was granted on February 23, 1897. The manufacturer of this machine is unknown, but C.O. Porter and Baldwin, Tuthill, and Bolton (BTB), both of Grand Rapids, are rumored to have been two of Oliver's manufacturing contractors.
I also discovered a No. 3 of this vintage bearing a brass tag reading "Manufactured for American Machinery Co. by Bardons & Oliver (no relation) Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.." This machine had been badly rusted when found and the table had been reground. Unfortunately, the serial number was gone.
In addition to the machines shown above, I've encountered five more trimmers whose serial numbers don't match Oliver's records. A listing of all these pre-1907 trimmers is shown below:
|309||No. 2||Leland & Faulconer||1892||L&F made about 500 per year, 1892-96. Next, they made their|
|appx. 1000||No. 2||Leland & Faulconer||1893||own trimmers, transmissions|
|appx. 1500||No. 2||Leland & Faulconer||1894||And engines for Olds, became|
|appx. 2000||No. 2||Leland & Faulconer||1895||the Cadillac Motor Car Co.|
|????||No. 3||Bardons & Oliver||1896-7||Serial number ground off table.|
|2234||No. 1||??? BTB ???||1897||Shortly after Feb. 23, 1897|
|4297||No. 4||American Mchnry. Co.||1899?||First of two different type No. 4's|
|6941||No. 6||American Mchnry. Co.||1901?||Like a big No. 0|
|12,184||No. 2||Oliver Machinery Co.||1903?||Marked "Oliver Machinery Co"|
|13,023||No. 3||Oliver Machinery Co.||1904?||Marked "American Machinery Co"|
|21,788||No. 2||Oliver Machinery Co.||1906?||Marked "Oliver Machinery Co"|