Updated April 22 2003 First Company Logo

To understand the origins of the Cooper Engineering Co you have to go back to 1843 when William Cooper started to produce his first sheep dip. This was the start of a company that became Wm Cooper & Nephews, William Cooper died on the 20th May 1885 at the age of 72. Two of the nephews died while relatively young, William Farmer Cooper in 1882 at the age of 37, then Herbert Henry Cooper died at the age of 41 in 1891.

The remaining nephew Richard Powell Cooper became the sole proprietor of Wm Cooper & Nephews. In the early 1880’s the company started establishing an overseas network of dealers.

John K. Stewart and Thomas J. Clark were born in New Hampshire, it is said that they first worked for J. K. Priest in Nashua, New Hampshire, the maker of horse clipping machinery. They then went to the Brown & Sharpe MFG Co of Providence, Rhode Island and received the best mechanical training available at that time. Then in 1889 or 1890 they took Horace Greeley’s advice to “Go West, young man”.

They arrived in Chicago with little money, ambition. a lot of grit and the Midas touch and in 1890 John Stewart and Thomas Clark entered a formal company partnership, they produced with aid of two employees barbers hair clippers, fetlock clippers, two hand clippers for horses, bicycle handle bars, and flexible shafts for machine shop use. Their first known factory was set up in loft on Canal Street, Chicago.

The first commercial mechanical shearing machinery was sold and installed at Dunlop Station in New South Wales, Australia, by Wolseley in 1888. The first demonstration of mechanical sheep shearing in the USA was at the offices of the American Sheep Breeder magazine in Chicago, on Wednesday June 18th 1890 using Wolseley equipment. There were no further attempts to introduce shearing machinery into the USA until 1895.

1890 Charles Timson of Wm Cooper and Nephews opens their American branch in Galveston, Texas.

1892 Harry Harrowell opens the Australian branch of Wm Cooper and Nephews in Sydney, Australia.

1894 Harry Harrowell opens the New Zealand branch of Wm Cooper and Nephews. Stewart & Clark moved to a larger factory at 158 Huron Street, Chicago.

1895 City smoke regulations caused problems in the manufacture of a special coal for the “Clark Foot Warmer”. Stewart & Clark found a plant in Aberdeen about 25 miles west of Chicago where they could manufacture the coal. Wm Cooper & Nephews became the American agents for Wolseley shearing machinery with demonstrations and the first sale of this equipment in the USA at that time.

1896 The Chicago Flexible Shaft Co formed to manufacture sheep shearing equipment. Charles Timson goes into partnership with John K Stewart to form the Cooper-Stewart Sheep Shearing Machinery Co, this company markets the Stewart shearing machinery.

1897 The Shearing machine business grows rapidly and the Chicago Flexible Shaft Co was incorporated under the laws of the State of Illinois.

1900 It was found that there was a need to produce shaper and longer-lasting blades for the barber clippers, horse clippers, shearing combs. John K. Stewart worked with a Ed Larson to build a very efficient heat-treating furnace to temper blade steel to achieve better quality and longer lasting blades.

1902 The Cooper Sheep Shearing Machinery Pty Ltd was set up in Sydney, Australia in 1902 under the instructions of Wm Cooper & Nephews, Chicago USA. They sold Stewart shearing equipment and are also the NSW & New Zealand agents for Fairbanks Morse engines. The Chicago Flexible Shaft Co build a eight story and basement building on the southwest corner of LaSalle & Ontario Streets.

1903 Two men who are to play an important role in company development of the Chicago Flexible Shaft Co join the company. Leander Hanscom Lachance the nephew of John K. Stewart, he was sent to London to set up the first overseas branch of the company. Michael William McArdle as the companies advertising man, he was to become a Vice President and then President of the company.

1905 The Chicago Flexible Shaft Co was said to be the predominant maker of shearing machinery in the USA at this time. Development had already been underway for sometime of the speedometer by the company.

1906 The Sterk Mfg Co set up to manufacture and market Stewart speedometers developed by the Chicago Flexible Shaft Co. Space was taken for this purpose in a building in Wells Street near Illinois Street. In the UK magazine “The Implement and Machinery review of September 1, 1906 there is a short article about the Stewart “Little Wonder” two stand portable shearing machine that was sold by the Chicago Flexible Shaft Co of 22 Denman Street, London.

1907 The Chicago Flexible Shaft Co erects a new factory along side the existing one, increasing space by 100%. They produce tremendous quantities of flexible shafts to connect Stewart speedometers to the front wheel of cars. The Warner Instrument Co of Beloit, Wisconsin formed. The Cooper (Stewart) “Little Wonder” two stand shearing machine on show at the Melbourne Royal Show, at least one sold according to testimonial in Cooper catalogue.

1908 Thomas Clark fatally injured when his Pops-Toledo Automobile turned over, he was demonstrating the Stewart speedometer on the Glidden Tour of that year. Shortly after the loss of Mr. Clark, John K. Stewart sold his interest in the Chicago Flexible Shaft Co to the Cooper and Timson families to devote his entire time to the growing Sterk Mfg Co. At this time L. H. LaChance was elected President of the Chicago Flexible Shaft Co and M. W. McArdle general manager. The Cooper Sheep Shearing Machinery Co move to 16 Young St, Sydney.

1909 The Cooper Sheep Shearing Machinery Proprietary Ltd of 16 Young St, Sydney wound up by Wm Cooper & Nephews in August of that year. Then at the beginning of September Richard Powell Cooper and his eldest son Richard Ashmole Cooper register the Cooper Engineering Co at the same address. After some years of experimentation with die casting an eight story building was built on Wells Street, Chicago, The Stewart Manufacturing Co is formed to make and sell die castings, their principle customer was themselves as the Sterk Mfg Co required die castings for speedometers.

1910 Under the direction of LaChance & McArdle the Chicago Flexible Shaft Co starts to diversify with production of their first household appliance, the Princess Electric Iron. Their plant is in an area with a large number of small manufacturing plants, near the north side of the Chicago River. From the early 1900’s they made special heat treatment furnaces at the request of these local companies, because the need for furnace equipment grew the Stewart Industrial Furnace Division was formed in 1910.

1911 At sometime between 1911 and 1912 the Cooper-Stewart Engineering Co was set up in the UK, they took over from the Chicago Flexible Shaft Co in selling Stewart shearing equipment. The were also the UK agents for Stewart speedometers

1912 Charles Timson’s son Charles Eldred Timson takes control of Cooper interests in the USA. In the 1926 Stewart-Warner annual report it is said that in 1912 the Stewart & Clark Speedometer Corporation was constituted as public company to succeed the business started in 1906. In early 1998 Maxima Technologies acquired Stewart-Warner, the early company history states that in 1912 John K. Stewart & Edgar Bassick joined forces to create a new company to manufacture vehicle instruments and horns.

1913 Sir Richard Powell Cooper died in 1913 at the age of 65, with Richard Ashmole Cooper inheriting the business from his father. Charles Timson returns to England to become Chief Executive of Wm Cooper & Nephews. In mid 1913 the Stewart & Clark Speedometer Corporation takes over the Warner Instrument Co to form the Stewart-Warner Speedometer Corporation. William George Hodge becomes the manager of Cooper Engineering.

1914 Towards the end of 1913 Horace Caldwell Wright formerly a buyer of the great Chicago hardware firm of Hibbard, Spencer Bartlett & Co was ask to go to Australia and manage the Cooper Engineering Co. At the beginning of 1914 M. W. McArdle arrived in Australia with H. C. Wright. William G. Hodge becomes the assistant manager of company. In August of 1914 Roland Harry Harrowell, who was the Livestock editor of the Livestock Australasian Pastoral Review and the son of Harry Harrowell, became the Sydney manager of Wm Cooper & Nephews

1915 In June 1915 the Cooper Engineering Co Ltd, Sydney, was registered with 10,000 one pound fully paid shares. The control of the Cooper Engineering Co Ltd, Sydney, was sold to the Chicago Flexible Shaft Co with them acquiring 9.993 shares from Richard Ashmole Cooper. The Directors were H C Wright (managing director), Roland Harry Harrowell and Leander Hanscom Lachance. Cooper Engineering Co shows Fairbanks-Morse engines at the Sydney Easter Show.

1916 John K. Stewart dies in New York at the age of 46. The Cooper Engineering sets up the Melbourne branch at 486 Collins St, with William G. Hodge as the manager. The Cooper Engineering became the Australian distributor for products of the Stewart-Warner Speedometer Corporation and then later for the Stewart phonograph made by the Stewart Manufacturing Corporation. These agencies were terminated after several years of operation.

1917 Charles Eldred Timson becomes President of the Chicago Flexible Shaft Co after the resignation of L. H. LaChance to become Chairman of the Stewart & Clark Speedometer Corporation. A Stover 4hp ‘YB’ S/N 96192 shipped from the Stover factory on 8/8/1917 to Cooper Engineering Co, San Francisco. This is possibly one of the first Cooper badged Stover engines to replace the Fairbanks-Morse engines previously sold in NSW & New Zealand. The Chicago Flexible Shaft Co adds a new electric home appliance to the range, a combination toaster & table stove.

1918 In the January edition of Hardware & Machinery, William G. Hodge now shown as a director of Cooper Engineering along with H C Wright (managing director), R. H. Harrowell and L. H. LaChance.

1919 In January William G. Hodge resigns as the Melbourne branch manager and is replaced by W. G. Blackstone. During 1919 /1920 Wm Cooper & Nephews start to build their Sydney factory and laboratories at Cabaret on the Parramatta River, this was in operation until the 1960’s or 70’s. They start local production of sheep dip; Roland Harry Harrowell becomes managing director of the company.

1920 Wm Cooper & Nephews purchased a tin mine at Ottery (near Tenterfield NSW) which produced arsenic used in the preparation of their sheep dip; this was sold in 1934. The Stewart-Warner Speedometer Corporation acquires a substantial amount of the stock of the Stewart Manufacturing Corporation to again control of this company. They were manufacturing die-castings for a large range of companies including Stewart-Warner.

1921 The Chicago Flexible Shaft Company produces the first household appliance using the “Sunbeam” name. The patented “RAIN KING” & revolving lawn sprinkler were introduced, these were manufactured in Cooper’s Melbourne branch in the 1930’s

1923 The Managing Director of the Cooper Engineering Co, Horace Caldwell Wright returned to Chicago to become a Vice President of the Chicago Flexible Shaft Co. he later becomes the President and finally the Chairman of Company. The Stewart Little Wonder goes out of production? And from mid-1923 a new range of Stover engines are sold, these were the type’s “KE” 1˝hp, “KA” 2hp “KF’ 3hp “KG” 4hp & “KC” 6hp.

1925 Wm Cooper & Nephews and McDougall & Robertsons Ltd amalgamate the two businesses and form the new company Cooper McDougall & Robertsons Ltd. The name Wm Cooper & Nephews was still used in Australia and the U.S.A.

1929 The enclosed crankcase type “CT” range in Australia replaces the type “K” range of engines. They are the 1 1/2hp type “TA” and 2hp type “TB” that assembled in Melbourne using frame and cylinder castings sent from Stover in the USA, all other parts made locally. The 3hp type “TC” and 4hp type “TD” came in 1930, an enclosed crankcase version of the 6hp type “KC” (hay press special) also sold. The annual report of Stewart-Warner dated December 31st 1929 shows the company changed its name to the Stewart-Warner Corporation.

1933 In 1932 a drop in the value of the Australian pound in relation to the US dollar made it unprofitable to sell machinery that was imported from the Chicago factory. It was then decided to establish an Australian manufacturing plant, to achieved this objective a 28,000 square foot building was purchased in Elizabeth Street, Waterloo, Sydney. In January 1933 H. C. Wright a Vice President of the parent company and original MD of Cooper Engineering came out to Australia. He brought with him Ernist Sjolin a tool engineer, also several experienced comb makers and automatic screw machine operators from the Chicago plant. Prior to his arrival, all necessary machinery to manufacture the then existing products was shipped to Australia from the Chicago plant. The following was achieved in a period of ninety days, alterations were made to the factory to allow the machinery to be installed, and production started. Roland Harry Harrowell becomes Chairman of the board of Cooper Engineering.

1934 Cooper badged Southern Cross petrol and diesel engines sold as well as Stover engines

1935 Within two years of production starting in Australia the number of employees of the company had more than doubled, This was at the time of a world wide depression and the Cooper Engineering Co Ltd was one of the few Australian companies that continued to expand it’s workforce. H. C. Wright becomes President of the Chicago Flexible Shaft Co following the death of M. W. McArdle.

1937 The sale of Cooper badged Southern Cross petrol and diesel engines phased out and Cooper badged Ronaldson Tippett petrol and diesel engines sold from September of that year, the first engine looks to be a 2hp type “N” S/N 11750. All the Cooper family shares in the Chicago Flexible Co were finally sold to the American co-president of the company; this had been done over a number of years.

1938 A new product for 1938 is the “SF” Small Flock single stand shearing plant, the ad states “INCORPORATING JOHNSON IRON HORSE ENGINE”, this is a 3/4hp engine.

1942 In the 1942 Cooper catalogue under the heading “New for 1942, The Cooper type JM is an exact reproduction of a famous American engine (the Johnson “Iron Horse”). We decided to build it locally when restrictions were placed on non-Sterling countries. The JM is 100% Australian made”.

1946 The Chicago Flexible Shaft Co it’s name to the Sunbeam Corporation in the USA; Horace Caldwell Wright is chairman of the board and CEO of the company.

1952 On December 12th the Cooper Engineering Co Ltd changes it’s name to the Sunbeam Corporation in the Australia.

While this is supposed to be an Australian history I feel that what happened in the UK and the USA prior to 1915 is important in understanding how the company started and expanded in Australia. Any further information would be appreciated.

Ron Wiley, April 22, 2003.

Email: ronwiley@iinet.net.au