The Biography of Alanson Harris

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A Quick Biography of Alanson Harris
Key Points and Facts
Life Lessons
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The Life Story of Alanson Harris

Early Life and Roots

Alanson Harris was born on April 1, 1816, in Ingersoll, Upper Canada, now known as Ontario.

His parents, John Harris from Mohawk Valley, New York, and Catherine Jane Dygert, provided him with a foundation combining hard work and pioneering spirit.

The Journey Begins

Alanson began his career as a sawmill operator in Brant County, leveraging his skills and ambition to embark on a journey that would redefine agricultural practices.

His early experiences in the sawmill laid the groundwork for his future endeavors in the world of farm implements.

Transition to Farm Implements

In 1857, Alanson boldly purchased a foundry in Beamsville and transitioned from sawmill operations to manufacturing farm implements.

This decision marked a pivotal point in his career, setting him on the path to becoming a significant figure in the agricultural industry.

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The Expansion to Brantford

By 1872, Alanson had moved his operations to Brantford, Ontario, recognizing the city’s potential for business growth.

His foresight and strategic thinking were evident when he began marketing his products across Western Canada in 1879.

Innovations and Business Growth

Alanson was not just a businessman but also an innovator. He acquired Canadian rights to American patents and developed his machinery designs, showing a keen understanding of the market’s needs.

His use of chromolithographs in marketing was ahead of its time, combining technology and art to promote his products.

A Family Business

Alanson’s son, John Harris, born on July 21, 1841, played a crucial role in the family business.

Joining his father in 1863, John was instrumental in securing associations with prominent companies and patented improvements in farm machinery, particularly self-binding harvesters.

Under his leadership, the company grew significantly, employing 300 men by 1887.

The Massey-Harris Merger

1891, a historic merger occurred when Alanson’s company joined forces with Massey Manufacturing Co. to form Massey-Harris Co Ltd.

This merger changed the landscape of the agricultural implementation industry in North America and had a global impact.

Legacy in Family and Business

Alanson Harris married Mary Morgan in 1840, and they had three children: John Alanson, Elmore, and Thomas Morgan Harris.

His legacy continued through his descendants, including his grandson and great-grandson, Lawren Harris and Lawren P. Harris, who became notable artists.

Final Years and Death

Alanson Harris died on October 3, 1894, in Brantford, Ontario, at 78. He left a legacy beyond his immediate family to the broader agricultural community and industry.

The Impact of Alanson Harris

Alanson Harris’s life story is a testament to the power of innovation, entrepreneurship, and family.

His journey from a sawmill operator to a critical figure in the agricultural implementation industry reflects a narrative of perseverance, adaptability, and visionary thinking.

The Massey-Harris company, born from his efforts and merger, symbolizes a significant chapter in the history of agricultural machinery and industry evolution.


Key Points and Facts about Alanson Harris

Personal Background and Timeline

  • Birth: April 1, 1816, in Ingersoll, Upper Canada (Ontario).
  • Parents: John Harris (from Mohawk Valley, New York) and Catherine Jane Dygert.
  • Death: October 3, 1894 (aged 78), in Brantford, Ontario.
  • Resting Place: Greenwood Cemetery, Brantford, Ontario.

Professional Life

  • Early Career: Began as a sawmill operator.
  • Business Shift: Transitioned to manufacturing farm implements in the 1870s.
  • Company Formation: Founded A. Harris, Son and Company Limited for manufacturing farm implements.

Business Locations

  • Beamsville, Ontario (1857-1881).
  • George Street and Colborne Street East, Brantford (1881).
  • South Market Street, Brantford (1882-1964).
  • Henry Street and Wayne Gretzky Parkway, Brantford (1964-1988).

Family and Legacy

  • Son: John Harris, key in expanding the company.
  • Merger: Company merged with Massey Manufacturing in 1891 to form Massey-Harris, later Massey Ferguson.
  • Other Relatives: Another son, Elmore Harris, a pastor in Toronto; grandson and great-grandson Lawren Harris and Lawren P. Harris, notable artists.

Significant Business Evolution

  • Massey-Harris: Evolved from Alanson Harris’s early ventures into a major farm machinery company.

Alanson Harris’ Background and Career

  • Early Career: Sawmill operator in Brant County.
  • Business Expansion: Moved to Brantford in 1872; marketed products in Western Canada starting in 1879.
  • Company Evolution: Merged with Massey Manufacturing Co in 1891 to form Massey-Harris Co Ltd, later Massey-Ferguson Limited.

Technological and Marketing Innovations

  • Adoption and Development: Acquired rights to American patents; developed unique machinery designs.
  • Chromolithograph: Used in marketing, a notable innovation from the 1840s.

John Harris’ Role and Contribution

  • Birth: July 21, 1841, in Townsend Township, Norfolk County, Canada West.
  • Marriage: October 1863 to Jane Tufford; they had nine children.
  • Death: August 25, 1887, in Brantford, Ontario.
  • Early Involvement: Worked in his father’s sawmill; joined the family business in 1863.
  • Innovation: Secured partnership with D. M. Osborne and Company of Auburn, N.Y.; patented improvements in farm machinery.
  • Business Growth: By 1887, the company employed 300 men.

Family and Descendants

  • Spouse: Mary Morgan (married on October 10, 1840).
  • Children: John Alanson Harris, Elmore Harris, and Thomas Morgan Harris.
  • Notable Descendants: Grandson Lawren Harris and great-grandson Lawren P. Harris, distinguished artists.

Business and Economic Context

  • Competition: Contended with Massey Manufacturing Company.
  • Tariffs: High tariffs on imported farm machinery in the 1870s and 1880s.
  • Market Division: Farmers were divided in loyalty between Massey and Harris products.

Merger and Industry Impact

  • Massey-Harris Merger: Formed in 1891, it greatly impacted the agricultural implementation industry in North America and internationally.


Alanson Harris

Timeline of Alanson Harris’s Life


  • April 1: Alanson Harris is born in Ingersoll, Upper Canada (Ontario).


  • Business Shift: Alanson purchases a foundry in Beamsville and starts manufacturing farm implements.


  • Business Development: Alanson transitions to manufacturing farm implements in Brantford, Ontario.


  • Business Expansion: Alanson moves his operations to Brantford.


  • Marketing Growth: Begins marketing his products in Western Canada.


  • New Location: His business moves to George Street and Colborne Street East in Brantford.


  • Another Move: Relocates to South Market Street in Brantford.


  • Merger: Alanson’s company merged with Massey Manufacturing to form Massey-Harris Co Ltd, which later became Massey-Ferguson Limited.


  • October 3: Alanson Harris passes away in Brantford, Ontario, at 78.

Posthumous Developments

  • 1964-1988: The business continues at a new location on Henry Street and Wayne Gretzky Parkway in Brantford.

This timeline captures the significant milestones in Alanson Harris’s life, from his birth to his entrepreneurial endeavors and the lasting impact of his business ventures.


Lessons from Alanson Harris’s Life

Embrace Change and Innovation

Alanson Harris started his career as a sawmill operator, but he didn’t stay there. In 1857, he purchased a foundry in Beamsville and began manufacturing farm implements.

This shows us that being open to change and willing to innovate can lead to great success.

Alanson didn’t just stop with changing his career path; he also adopted new technologies and ideas. He acquired Canadian rights to

American patents and created his machinery designs. Lesson learned? Don’t be afraid to change your path and embrace new ideas!

The Power of Family and Teamwork

Alanson’s son, John Harris, played a critical role in the family business.

He joined his father in 1863 and brought his innovations, helping the business grow even more. This teaches us the importance of teamwork and family in achieving goals.

John’s involvement shows that working together, especially with family, can bring greater success and growth.

It’s a reminder that sometimes, the best team members are those who are closest to us.

The Impact of Mergers and Adaptation in Business

In 1891, Alanson’s company merged with Massey Manufacturing to form Massey-Harris, which later became a significant player in the farm machinery industry. This strategic move teaches us the importance of adapting in business.

By merging, Alanson’s company could compete more effectively and grow on a larger scale.

It’s a lesson in not being afraid to join forces with others, especially when it means creating something bigger and better. This kind of adaptability is key in the business world.


Alanson Harris’s life story demonstrates the importance of family and teamwork and the power of strategic business decisions.

His journey from a sawmill operator to a leader in farm machinery is a testament to these lessons. Remember, it’s okay to change your path, work with others (especially family), and make big decisions to adapt and grow in business and life!


Frequently Asked Questions about Alanson Harris

Who was Alanson Harris?

Alanson Harris was a Canadian entrepreneur born on April 1, 1816, in Ingersoll, Upper Canada (Ontario).

He started as a sawmill operator and later manufactured farm implements, significantly impacting the agricultural industry.

What did Alanson Harris do for a living?

Initially, Alanson Harris operated a sawmill. In 1857, he shifted his focus to manufacturing farm implements, starting in Beamsville, Ontario, and then moving his business to Brantford, Ontario, in the 1870s.

Where was Alanson Harris born, and where did he die?

Alanson Harris was born in Ingersoll, Upper Canada (Ontario) and died in Brantford, Ontario, on October 3, 1894. He was 78 years old at the time of his death.

What was Alanson Harris’s significant business achievement?

Alanson Harris’s significant achievement was forming company A. Harris, Son and Company Limited to manufacture farm implements.

This company later merged with Massey Manufacturing in 1891 to form Massey-Harris, a significant name in the farm machinery industry.

Who were Alanson Harris’s family members involved in his business?

His son, John Harris, was instrumental in expanding the company. John was involved in the company’s operations from 1863 and contributed significantly to its growth and innovation.

Did Alanson Harris have any notable descendants?

Alanson Harris’s family continued his legacy: his grandson and great-grandson, Lawren Harris and Lawren P. Harris became a notable artist.

His other son, Elmore Harris, was a noted pastor in Toronto.

Where is Alanson Harris buried?

Alanson Harris is laid to rest at Greenwood Cemetery in Brantford, Ontario.

How did Alanson Harris’s business evolve over the years?

Alanson Harris’s business evolved from a simple sawmill operation to a significant player in farm machinery manufacturing.

His company underwent several location changes and expansions, eventually merging with Massey Manufacturing to become Massey-Harris and then Massey Ferguson.

What were some innovations and marketing strategies used by Alanson Harris?

Alanson Harris adopted and developed new machinery designs by acquiring Canadian rights to American patents.

He also used chromolithographs in marketing, a notable innovation from the 1840s.

What was the impact of the Massey-Harris merger?

The 1891 merger of Alanson Harris’s company with Massey Manufacturing to form Massey-Harris significantly influenced the agricultural implementation industry in North America and abroad, marking a significant development in the history of agricultural machinery.

These FAQs provide a snapshot of Alanson Harris’s life, career, and legacy in the agricultural industry, demonstrating his influence as an innovator and entrepreneur.

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Alanson Harris – Wikipedia

Alanson Harris | The Canadian Encyclopedia

Alanson Harris (1816-1894) | WikiTree FREE Family Tree

Biography – HARRIS, JOHN (1841-87) – Volume XI (1881-1890) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography

Dave Matheson, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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