A HISTORY OF THE
SIMPLICITY MANUFACTURING COMPANY
back to 1872, the Western Malleable & Gray Iron
produced gray iron castings in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.. About 1900, the
company began building gasoline engines for tractors under the name
"Simplicity." L.M. Turner purchased the Western Company in
renamed it the Turner Manufacturing Company, and moved the
enterprise to Port
Washington, Wisconsin, on the shores of Lake Michigan. The Turner
Company produced gasoline engines and two models of farm tractors. The
company prospered until the end of World War I, when Henry
began producing Fordson tractors. The Turner Company
to compete and it closed its doors in 1920. Turner's sales manager,
William J. Niderkorn, acquired some of the Turner Company's assets,
including the Simplicity name, and he founded the Simplicity
Manufacturing Company in 1922.
The Simplicity Company's primary
product was a portable cylinder-boring machine which was used to
rebuild car and truck engines. This was a popular item and
sales continued for over a decade, even into the Great Depression.
However, this period of prosperity ended in 1936, when Detroit
automakers began to rebuild engines and sell them directly to car and
truck owners. The Simplicity Company was forced to produce a
product, and in 1937 it introduced a two-wheeled, walk-behind garden
which was marketed through Montgomery Ward and Company. The
tractor sold well, in part due to the variety of implements which
Simplicity produced for the tractor. These included a cultivator, a
plow, a front blade and
a sickle-bar mower. In 1939, Simplicity introduced a sulky which
the tractor to be used as a riding garden tractor.
tractors used Briggs & Stratton engines almost exclusively.
During the mid to late
1950's, the Model FC had a Kohler engine; however, by 1960 Simplicity
tractors were outfitted with Briggs & Stratton engines again.
production of garden tractors was limited by the government
during World War II, causing the Simplicity Company to turn to other
such as an electric fence controller and an external surface grinder
to satisfy the War Production Board. However,
the Company continued its involvement with lawn and garden tractors and
expanded its production of these after the war. Sales were excellent,
much of this resulting from the large number of veterans who were
returning home, establishing homes and families in suburbs across the
country and needing lawn and garden equipment..
In 1955, the Simplicity
Company introduced the
Simplicity Roticul, a walk-behind rototiller. The
company also recognized that there was a need for homeowner
equipment, and in 1955 it introduced a snow-throwing attachment for its
walk-behind garden tractor. This was followed by a
single-purpose walk-behind rotary snowblower in 1961.
1957, the Simplicity Company released the Simplicity Model 700
Wonder-Boy, the company's first riding lawn mower. This rear-engine
remained in production until the 1970's. The first four-wheeled garden
tractor with the engine in the front was the 7 HP
WonderBoy 700, issued in 1959. To avoid confusion
with rear-engine models, this tractor became simply the 700 in
1960. The company
began marketing its first lawn tractor in 1963--the 6 HP Broadmoor.
During this period the company offered a long line of light-duty lawn
and garden implements for its tractors, including disc harrows,
tillers, rotary and reel mowers, snow blowers and a buzz saw. The last
true walk-behind tractor was the 8 HP Model W built until the 1970's.
Some of the later walk-behind tractors had transmissions with
multiple forward gears and a reverse gear.
During the early
1960's, the Allis-Chalmers Corporation attempted to purchase the
Simplicity Company but was unable to do so because of restrictive
fair-trade laws. Allis-Chalmers began manufacturing its own garden
a plant in South Carolina; however, after the fair-trade laws were
repealed, Allis-Chalmers acquired the Simplicity Company in 1965 and
of its garden tractor production to the Port Washington facility. At
that time, the company began to explore foreign markets and established
an international office in Brussels, Belgium.
its first commercial industrial tractor, the PowrMax, in 1971. The
PowrMax was larger
than a traditional garden tractor but smaller than a farm tractor. It
is recognized as the first true compact tractor. The PowrMax had three
speeds and was powered by a
twin-cylinder 16 HP Onan engine. A larger 19.5 engine was offered in
1973 and this tractor became very
popular--so much so that the government purchased a number of them for
use on military bases. Tractors with diesel engines were
introduced in 1978--the Simplicity 9523 and the 9528. Both tractors
were built by the Japanese company Hinomoto, using Toyosha engines.
In 1983, three Simplicity
executives--Warner C. Frazier, Nicholas P. Trunzo, and Carl
Charles joined with the Wesray Corporation to purchase the Simplicity
Allis-Chalmers. A subsidiary, Wesray Equipment, was formed to serve as
the parent company for Simplicity. In 1985, Wesray sold its interest
in Simplicity to an Employee Stock Ownership Trust (ESOT).
suffered during the late 1980's due to a drought during the summer of
1988, a dry winter in 1988-1989, competition from
companies, and the fact that Simplicity machines were so durable and
reliable that there were relatively few repeat sales.
Company acquired Middlesworth Engineering & Manufacturing
of Greentown, Indiana, in 1989. Middlesworth made industrial mowers
which featiured innovating steering
machines were enhanced to create a line of six professional lawn
mowers. During this period Simplicity experimented with a snow-thrower
on tracks, but the
supplier of the tracks proved to be unreliable and the model was
During the early 1990's,
Simplicity began selling
lawnmower attachments to mulch grass clippings and blades to shred
fallen leaves. The company acquired the Tornado Products Company in
1992. This company produced a stand-alone chipper/shredder which
featured unique triangular hammers to increase shredding power. Later
models included machines powered by electric motors and large
commercial versions. Walk-behind chipper vacuums were introduced in
The Simplicity Company invested
large amounts of money
during the 1990's to update its production equipment. These included a
large laser-cutting machine, a huge hydraulic press, and welding
Some 350 union workers went
on strike in October, 1999; health care and
a longer contract period were the primary issues The strike lasted for
2000, the Simplicity Company purchased Ferris Industries, located in
Munnsville, New York. This company manufactured professional
turf-care machinery. Also, in 2000, Simplicity acquired Giant-Vac
Manufacturing, a Connecticut company that made leaf blowers, and
Snapper, Inc., a large company based in Georgia. With these
acquisitions, Simplicity more than doubled in size, dramatically
product line and extended its market across the country.
The Simplicity and Snapper lines were merged in 2008 and the
Washington, Wisconsin, plant was closed.
Briggs & Stratton
purchased the Simplicity Company in 2004 and
added it to Briggs & Stratton's Power Products Group..
the years, Simplicity built lawn & garden tractors for
Allis-Chalmers, Deutz-Allis (Agco-Allis, AGCO), TECO (Canada), J.C.
Penney, Montgomery Ward, Viking (Stihl), Homelite and Rapid.
The above information was taken from:
Kreifels, Les. An Unofficial History of
Simplicity Garden Tractors.
Simplicity Manufacturing Company.
Simplicity Manufacturing, Inc. History.
Will, Oscar H., III. Garden Tractors. Tractor. Legacy
Series. Voyageur Press, 2009.