Thursday, April 16, 2015


Lawrence Fitzgerald

The Cortland Democrat, Friday, December 13, 1889.

State Treasurer Fitzgerald.
(From the Albany Argus.)
   State Treasurer Fitzgerald is busy signing checks and preparing to turn over his department to Mr. Danforth, January 1st. Then Mr. Fitzgerald will look more closely after his interests at Cortland, which are extensive, for there is no part of the world now but what you can find one of the Cortland wagons and desks manufactured by the company over which he is the principal head. Mr. Fitzgerald has many warm friends in Albany, who will regret his leaving here.

Photos courtesy of Grip's Historical Souvenir of Cortland.
Extract from Grip’s Historical Souvenir of Cortland.
   Cortland Wagon Co.—Cortland is best known in the marts of the world as the home of the Cortland Wagon Co. This great establishment is not the resultant of a mere accident, nor has it reached its present colossal proportions at a single bound. Its early beginning was the creation of executive energy and enterprise, and its steady, sturdy growth has largely been the product of organizing ability, mechanical ingenuity and inventive genius of a high order.
   The embryo of this great carriage industry had its genesis in a little one story building on the present site of the Graham block on Port Watson street, where in the spring of 1866 Lawrence J. Fitzgerald began manufacturing carriages for the local trade. In 1869 Mr. Fitzgerald formed a partnership with O. C. Gee for the manufacture of carriages and sleighs. The business was carried on in a shop on West Court street, immediately in the rear of the present Wallace building on Main street. Early in the spring of 1872 Charles Kinne bought Mr. Gee's interest in the partnership, and soon after the firm of Fitzgerald & Kinne began the manufacture of platform spring wagons for the general trade.
   The immediate and increasing demand for these platform wagons compelled the erection of a more extensive manufacturing plant, hence on what is now the Central High school lot on Railroad street larger factories were erected, and in the spring of 1873 the platform wagon plant was moved into its new quarters on Railroad street. Soon the whole of the Railroad street lot was covered with factory buildings, and yet their capacity was found inadequate to supply the increasing demands of the trade.
   During the year 1875 Fitzgerald & Kinne changed the firm name to the "Cortland Wagon Manufacturing Co.," and in 1876 enlarged their manufacturing plant by the erection of a large additional building on the site of the present immense factories on East Court street. During the latter year 2, 200 platform spring wagons were manufactured and sold. In the following year Mr. Kinne died, leaving the responsibility of the large and constantly increasing business on the shoulders of the surviving partner, who alone carried on the business with marked success until the 1st of January, 1879, when the present stock organization was formed and incorporated under the name of the Cortland Wagon Co. The charter directors of the new company were: L. J. Fitzgerald, W. D. Tisdale, Hugh Duffey, M. D.Welch. L. J. Fitzgerald was elected president, and Hugh Duffey vice-president and general superintendent. Although this company has increased in size and capital, these officers have held the offices to which they first were elected through consecutive years to the present time.
   During the first year of the existence of the new company nearly six thousand wagons were manufactured, which number was increased to eight thousand as the product of the following year. During 1880 new additional buildings were erected on the East Court street lot, and in 1881 the whole factories and offices were grouped together in their Court street home. This eligible location made possible the running of special railroad tracks into the works from the D. L. & W. and from the Lehigh Valley railroads. On Dec. 5, 1888, a disastrous fire broke out in the works and swept away the whole factory, save two buildings.
   In the following year the present magnificent factory structures were erected and equipped. Some idea of the size of the present factory may be conveyed by stating that the total floor space would cover nearly seven acres. Great as is the capacity of the enormous factory, it is frequently tested to its utmost during the busy season.
    The growth of the Cortland Wagon Co. has been phenomenal. Judged by the number and variety of work manufactured, by the excellent grade of work produced, as well as by the wide extent of territory into which the goods are shipped, this company holds a commanding position. The extent of the output has reached as high as 15,000 spring wagons and carriages, 5,000 carts and nearly 8,000 cutters and sleighs in a single year.
   From being manufacturers solely of platform spring wagons the company has become makers of spring wagons, buggies, carts, coaches and carriages of over 100 styles and varieties. They have offices and representatives in London, England, in Philadelphia, in Chicago and in San Francisco. The vehicles of the Cortland Wagon Co. have been sold not only in every state and territory of our own country, but also have been shipped in large numbers to Mexico and South America, into nearly every European country, into China and India, into South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
   The Cortland Wagon Co. carried on an extensive trade in Canada until a few years ago when the Canadian prohibitory tariff made profitable shipment of goods into that territory impossible. To supply that trade the Cortland Wagon Co. organized a company and established carriage works at Brantford, Ontario, under the name of the Brantford Carriage Co., and now manufactures in that place for the Canadian trade nearly 5,000 carriages and sleighs annually.
   The abounding success of the Cortland Wagon Co. has been the means of starting many similar factories in different parts of the country, in which factories the machinery and mechanical arrangement of the Cortland Wagon Co. have been largely copied and followed. Factory and insurance inspectors openly assert that in labor-saving devices, in economical arrangements, in the perfection of mechanical details and in the simplicity and completeness of organization the Cortland Wagon factory stands unequalled. And when one enters these commodious buildings alive and teeming with the stir and movement of activity and enterprise and notes on every hand the utmost order method and system it is easy to give assent to the conclusion of the factory examiners.
   The Cortland Wagon Co. is making a higher grade of work from year to year. The grade of work manufactured this year [1899] is higher than in any previous year. The work shipped to-day bearing the manufacturing plate of the Cortland Wagon Co. is an unfailing guarantee of work of attested high grade. The work is made on honor and no matter how great the urgency, the rush, or the demand nothing is slighted. The motto of the manufacturing department "Dispatch Without Neglect" is absolutely imperative on workmen and admits of no variation.
    Cortland is justly proud of this institution carried on by men whose minds are on a level and not above their business. If work is the true source of human welfare and happiness then these institutions that give opportunity for work must, in a sense, be viewed as benefactors not alone to those that toil but as well to those who reap advantages from those that toil. No business community deserves to thrive that fails to give lasting appreciation, encouragement and honor to all the institutions that are carried on by the vital union of head and hand, of labor and thought, for out of such a union shall constantly appear influences that make for greater light and larger life.
   Lawrence J. Fitzgerald, the president and financier of the company, is prompt in the dispatch of business, and is approachable and affable. He is generous and loyal in his impulses, and is widely interested in a large number of enterprises. He is the owner of several stock farms, and possesses quite extensive agricultural interests. Mr. Fitzgerald was the incumbent of the office of State Treasurer during two terms, 1886-'7 and 1888-'9, being elected the first time in November, 1885, on a full gubernatorial and state ticket. Gov. Hill was running for his first full term as governor and Mr. Fitzgerald's associates on the state ticket in the successful issue of that campaign were such well-known Democrats as Frederick Cook of Rochester, Alfred C. Chapin of Brooklyn and Denis O'Brien of Watertown, since made a judge of the Court of Appeals. On his re-election in 1887, among his associates was Edward Wemple of Fultonville, one of the most picturesque figures in state politics. The result of both campaigns was so marked that every man on the winning ticket became prominent in the state.
   Mr. Fitzgerald has served a year as president of the village, four years as a member of the Board of Trustees, and two years as president of the Cortland County Agricultural society. He was one of the incorporators of the Second National bank, of which he has been a director from the beginning, and he filled the position of vice-president down to within six years when he resigned; also being the vice-president of The National Bank of Cortland.
   As a member of the local board of the Cortland Normal school, of which he is the treasurer, Mr. Fitzgerald has been deeply interested in the prosperity of that institution. He was born in Skaneateles, Aug. 5, 1841, and educated in the Skaneateles academy. In that village he began the trade of wagon making, all of the details of which he mastered as a workman during nearly ten years he was employed in various shops, among them being S. W. Cately's at Tully, and factories in Auburn, Geneva and Homer. During the years 1862-'5 he was employed at Tully, coming to Homer in the latter year, and in Oct., 1865, marrying Joana Shea of that village.
   The firm of Fitzgerald & Gee continued the business until 1872, when the latter sold out his interest to C. W. Kinne, and the firm of Fitzgerald & Kinne bought a tract of land on Railroad street, where they erected buildings capable of accommodating a more extensive plant. In 1875 new buildings were erected and the business was greatly extended both as to the capacity of the works and in the territory covered by their salesmen. On May 10, 1877, Mr. Kinne died, but the firm remained as hitherto, the Kinne estate retaining his interest in the business until the organization of the Cortland Wagon Co., two years later.
   Hugh Duffey, the vice-president and superintendent of the Cortland Wagon Co., is a man of commanding genius. He has not only supervising and organizing ability of a high order but has mechanical insight into the needs and power of machinery and the inventive genius to supply such needs. He is not only the inventor of most of the machinery used in the Cortland Wagon Co.'s factory, but much of the machinery that is to be found in other factories of the world. He is a master of details in all branches of vehicle construction, and he is so well informed of the actual cost of construction in every part of every wagon manufactured by the company that he can summon figures in items or in the aggregate at any stage in the progress of a job without the necessity of figuring it out.
   At an age when most men are conservative he is radical in foreseeing the demands of the trade and progressive in keeping in the lead in the matter of style and finish of vehicles that are placed upon the market. He has been president of the village, member of the board of trustees, and has almost continuously held a civic office of trust. He is a firm believer in liberal public school education and was one of the most active in founding the present village school system, being a member of its original board of trustees. As a member of the local board of the State Normal School in this village he has been active and aggressive in seeing that the wants of the school are supplied; and is always a generous upholder of organization and discipline. In politics he has been rightly classed as a stalwart Democrat. He has not only been chairman of the Democratic county organization for a long time, as well as a regular attendant at State conventions, and several times a delegate to the National conventions, but his counsel and advice have been sought for in the political circles of the state organization and greatly prized. On one occasion he was a candidate of his party for one of the responsible offices of the state.
   Mr. Duffey came to Cortland in the spring of 1875 with the Middletown Horseshoe Nail Co.'s works, of which he was one of the owners. The preceding year he had been in Cortland to secure a site and the erection of buildings. In 1879, when The Cortland Wagon Co. was organized, Mr. Duffey was one of the incorporators, and was made the vice-president, which position he has since held. He was born in Portage, Wyoming county, June 10, 1840, and learned the trade of machinist and steam engineering in the Buffalo Steam Engine works. During the war he was chief engineer of a line of steamboats which conveyed troops and supplies for the Army of the Potomac. As a commissioner at the World's Fair at Chicago, where he represented the interests of Cortland, Mr. Duffey brought before public attention the products of its factories in a manner that undoubtedly made Cortland more widely known than ever. Mr. Duffey is the president and manager of the Brantford (Canada) wagon works, and is a director in the Homer & Cortland Traction Co.

   H. J. Baldwin has been appointed post-master at Cincinnatus.
   The cigar makers' dance will be held in Wells' hall. Dec. 20th.
   A skating rink is to be prepared at the Floral Trout Ponds soon.
   H. M. Whitney, of this place, has taken out letters patent on a spring vehicle.
   The semi-annual meeting of the Cortland County Medical Society was held in this village yesterday.
   Chas. B. Rumsey, of Homer, has secured letters patent on a take-up mechanism for looms, which he has assigned to the Homer Wire Fabric Company.
   The Irish National Concert Company gave an excellent entertainment in the Opera House, last Tuesday evening, which was highly appreciated by all present.
   Last Saturday evening the employees in the Cortland Chair and Cabinet Company presented Mr. L. S. Hayes, President of the company, with a handsome gold-headed cane. The present was a birthday remembrance. Mr. Hayes accepted the gift in a neat and appropriate speech.
   Last Sunday Mrs. Sophia Kibbe, aged 92 years, who lived in a house alone near South Cuyler, was burned to death. She insisted on living in the house alone, but her meals were brought to her and she was cared for by the family of her son, J. E. C. G. Kibbe, who lived only a few rods distant. It is supposed that her clothing caught fire from the stove, before which she was sitting when her breakfast was brought to her only an hour before. The funeral was held on Tuesday.

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