In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, Quincy was a major manufacturing center of many industrial products. As metal wheels began to replace wooden wheels on agricultural equipment, wagons, tractors, and farm trucks, Quincy companies had a major role.
The Thomas Register of American Manufacturers for 1905 showed the following metal wheel manufacturers in Quincy: Bush Metal Wheel Works, Electric Wheel Company, J. R. Little Metal Wheel Company, Quincy Corn Planter Company, and Empire Manufacturing,
Companies such as Electric Wheel and J. R. Little were incorporated with stockholders being known Quincy industrialists. However the Bush Foundry and Metal Wheel Company was owned by a single individual for about 25 years before it obtained incorporation. Even then, all stockholders were family members.
Clement Bush was born at Bitton near Bristol, England in February 1838. He came to the United States in 1857 working at foundries in Seneca and Auburn, New York.
In 1861 Bush returned to England. On Christmas Day, 1864, he married Ellen Lockley Woodland, the daughter of a Bristol attorney. The couple had five children all born in England.
Starting in 1863 Bush operated a successful foundry near Bristol for 17 years, but lost his fortune in some bad investments. The family then went to Montreal, Canada where Bush worked in the shops of the Grand Trunk Railroad Company.
Mrs. Bush found the Canadian winters too severe, and in 1864, the family moved to Quincy where he operated the foundry of Wright and Adams on Front and Broadway. Soon he rented the foundry and operated it on his own for three years.
In 1890 he built a foundry at Thirteenth and Broadway. The foundry was enlarged in 1900 when he established his metal wheel works.
Clement Bush received several patents, including one in 1899 for an apparatus for casting metal wheels. The spokes of the wheel were inserted into the mold so that the inner ends would be joined to the molten metal that formed the hub. This was in contrast to the electric welding technique used at the Electric Wheel Company.
In July 1901 the firm received an order for 15,000 wheels. This was expected to keep the company busy until the following April. The major problem was obtaining the raw material. The company had placed an order for 200 tons of steel, but was not sure when it would be delivered. The company not only made their commitment, but continued to manufacture wheels for many years.
In the winter of 1902-3, Ellen Bush had an illness that weakened her and affected her heart. She died on May 27, 1903 and was buried in Woodland Cemetery.
In January, 1905, Bush planned to expand his C. Bush Foundry and Metal Wheel Works on Broadway. The plans for a brick addition was “drawn at the suggestion of J. R. Little, foreman of the wheel department” according to a Quincy paper. It is somewhat surprising that J. R. Little had an association with the Bush Foundry since he was a principal in the J. R. Little Metal Wheel Company, a competing metal wheel manufacturer.
In May, 1905 Clement Bush made another trip to his homeland. When he returned in August of that year, he came back with a wife. While he was in England Bush had married Isabella Burley of London.
In the early evening of October 8, 1909 flames were discovered coming out of the roof of the Bush Foundry. It was thought that a spark from one of the forges in the plant lodged in the framework of the roof of the molding plant, later causing the blaze. The greatest loss was in the pattern department. The wheel department was damaged more by water than fire. But it caused the plant to be closed for several days.
Clement and Isabelle Bush moved to Long Beach, California in 1911 for health reasons and his son, Albert R. Bush, became manager of the firm.
An unfortunate tragedy occurred to the Bushes in 1913. The city of Long Beach, California was celebrating the birthday of the late Queen Victoria on May 24, 1913, with reportedly 25,000 people witnessing the event. The parade had finished and the memorial celebration was to take place in the auditorium at the end of the wooden pier. As the mass of several thousand people on the pier rushed to enter the auditorium, the upper deck of the pier collapsed on the lower deck causing panic, injuries and death.
There were 44 people killed, a majority of them being women. Isabella Bush was one of the individuals who lost their lives. Clement Bush suffered a concussion and was in serious condition for several days. Coincidentally, another former Quincy resident, Mrs. Burnett, the mother of E. C. Collyer, died in the same disaster.
In 1915 the Bush Foundry and Metal Wheel Company was incorporated, however, the company ownership remained in the family. Clement owned 250 shares and each of his three sons, Albert R., Clem J., and Frank A., owned 50 shares.
In 1916 the Bush Foundry was manufacturing the BUSH metal wheels “made of the best material by experienced wagon men in our own plant under our own patents.”
Clement Bush died in May 27, 1918 in California at the age of 80. He was buried in Sunnyside Cemetery in Long Beach near his wife, Isabelle.
The Bush metal wheel works was not as large as some of the other Quincy wheel manufacturers. In 1904 they had approximately 30 employees while in March 1907 they were employing about 20 men. In the heat wave of July 1925 the company had to close for the first time, but only laid off 10 men.
The Bush Foundry and Metal Wheel Company contributed to making Quincy a major hub of metal wheel manufacturing.
1900 United States Federal Census, Quincy Ward 5, Adams, Illinois; Roll: 236; Page: 11B; Enumeration District: 0136; FHL microfilm: 1240236.
“A Fire in the Foundry”, The Quincy Daily Journal, October 4, 1909, 10.
Ancestry.com. Bristol, England, Select Church of England Parish Registers, 1720-1933 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014, accessed February 8, 2017.
“An Order for 15,000 Wheels”, The Quincy Daily Whig, July 18, 1901, 5.
Artkraft Directory Publishers (Compilers) Directory of the City of Quincy, Illinois – 1937, Quincy, Illinois: Artkraft Directory Publishers, Inc. 1936.
“Bush Foundry and Metal Wheel Company is Incorporated”, The Quincy Daily Journal, June 1, 1915, page 5.
“Clement Bush Has Brain Concussion”, The Quincy Daily Herald, May 29, 1913, 4.
“Clement Bush Is Dead in California”, The Quincy Daily Herald, May 27, 1918, 8.
“Clement Bush Is Married”, The Quincy Daily Journal, August 26, 1905, 3.
Collins, William H. and Perry, Cicero, Past and Present of the City of Quincy, Adams County, Illinois, Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1905, 845-846.
“Long Beach Pier Collapses; 33 Dead, 200 Hurt”, The San Francisco Call, May 26, 1913, 25.
Iron Trade Review, Volume 34, August 1, 1901, 36.
“Manufacturing Review of Quincy for Year 1904”, The Quincy Daily Journal, January 27, 1905, 6.
“Plant Will Be Enlarged”, The Quincy Daily Journal, January 10, 1905, 5.
The Quincy Daily Herald, Monday, July 13, 1925, 12.
The Quincy Daily Whig, Sunday, July 09, 1916, 17.
Thomas’ Register of American Manufacturers and First Hands in All Lines, The Buyers’ Guide, 1905-1906., New York: Thomas Publishing Company.
United States Patent No. 626,446, Clement Bush, Apparatus for Casting Metallic Wheels, July 11, 1899.
Wilcox, David F. (editor), Quincy and Adams County: History and Representative Men, Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1919, 966-969.
“Will Locate in California”, The Quincy Daily Whig, October 14, 1911, 5.