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F. C. Austin Manufacturing Company (1888-1934) | Historical Construction Equipment Association

Name: F. C. Austin Manufacturing Company (1888-1934)

Historical Note:

Frederick Carleton Austin was born in Skaneateles, New York on June 2, 1853. His father, Dor Austin, was a farmer and subsequently became a farm machinery dealer in Kansas City, Missouri. F. C. started his career working for his uncle, Henry Warren Austin, in Chicago around 1869. His uncle’s firm, H. W. Austin & Company, was founded in 1849 as a manufacturer of farm tools.

After two years of learning the business, F. C. became a salesman for his father in Kansas City. In 1881 he returned to his uncle’s employment in Chicago, then in 1883 formed a partnership with two brothers, James H. Gould and Seabury Gould, to purchase H. W. Austin & Company. Renamed Goulds & Austin, the business thrived. Austin literature cited the 1849 founding of H. W. Austin’s firm as the earliest root of what became F. C. Austin’s manufacturing legacy.

F. C. Austin entered the construction and street maintenance equipment business in 1888 when he incorporated the F. C. Austin Manufacturing Company in Harvey, Illinois. The business prospered until 1897, when it burned to the ground. Instead of rebuilding, he reinvested by purchasing the Harvey Steel Car Plant in Harvey, consisting of twenty factory buildings and twenty acres of land. In its new facility, F. C. Austin Manufacturing Company became the largest construction equipment producer in the United States, and its products were exported worldwide.

In 1901, F. C. Austin Manufacturing Company and Western Wheeled Scraper Company, which until then had been fierce competitors, formed a selling corporation called Austin-Western Road Machinery Company, with offices in Chicago, Illinois, to market their products. Western Wheeled Scraper purchased the F. C. Austin Manufacturing Company in 1902, renaming it Austin Manufacturing Company, and the three companies operated until 1934. Their exact relationship to one another during these years is uncertain, but is discussed in Issue 80 of Equipment Echoes. Austin and Western products were manufactured and sold under those names, although the Austin-Western name also appeared on machinery, especially in the early 1930s.

In 1934, the two manufacturing companies were consolidated under the name Western-Austin Company, with Austin-Western as a wholly-owned subsidiary; the Austin-Western name was in standard use on the equipment after the merger, although the Western-Austin name also occasionally appeared in conjunction with Austin-Western.

Sources: Condensed from article in Issue 80 of Equipment Echoes.

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