At the end of the nineteenth century Quincy had been established as one of the leading manufacturing centers in the Midwest. Through a special 1897 New Year’s Day edition of the Quincy Whig, the organization that would evolve into the present day Chamber of Commerce touted the Quincy Industrial “400.” This “400” referred to the more than 400 factories and shops that employed more than 6,000 people producing nearly 200 categories of goods. The article boasted of some of the industries that led the nation in their respective fields.
Among the Quincy “400” was the largest stove foundry in the United States, the two largest show case factories in the country, and the second-largest strawboard box mill in the nation. J. B. Schott’s Noxall-brand harness and saddlery factory was the largest in the west. The Noxall shirt factory sent shipments to every state in the Union. One half of the country’s poultry incubators were produced in this city. This town had the largest wheat flour mill in the country, shipping flour to England, France, Scotland, Ireland, and Germany. Quincy made hay baling presses that were exported to South America, Europe, Africa, and Australia.
Of all the “400,” the most important was the Gardner Governor Works. Their world-famous steam engine governor was sold every place that the steam engine was used in the manufacturing process. Gardner also made steam engines, as did many other companies. But the other companies had to use the Gardner Governors on their engines. It was Robert Gardner’s 1860 patented governor that prevented steam engines from exploding. Before Gardner’s governor the life expectancy of a steam engine was just two years. Gardner’s invention greatly lowered the nation’s cost of production. Subsequent improvements to his patent sustained its use well into the twentieth century.
The resulting monumental fame of Gardner’s governor also pulled other aspiring entrepreneurs to Quincy. Other men who had an idea for an invention to improve some aspect of life or commerce came to Quincy to set up shop and begin production. In this city the inventor could find local lawyers with expertise and connections to Washington patent attorneys that could protect his efforts.
This Washington connection was facilitated by Orville Browning, a Quincy lawyer who served as the Secretary of the Interior in the Andrew Johnson administration. This office included responsibility for the Federal Patent Office. During Browning’s tenure he appointed John C. Cox, a former railroad executive from Quincy, to act as his chief clerk. Cox brought with him his two sons, Harry and Rowland, and together the three concentrated their efforts in the Patent Office. Both sons were attorneys; Harry having studied law in the firm of Browning and Bushnell at start of his career.
Gaining valuable knowledge of the Patent Office, the two brothers stayed in nation’s capital after Browning’s term ended. They formed the law office of Cox and Cox, which was well known for trademark and patent law. The Cox name would become a long-lasting legal staple in Washington. Rowland’s grandson Archibald Cox Jr. would become the Special Prosecutor in the Watergate scandal of the 1970s. Approximately a thousand patents were granted to Quincy inventors in the hundred years following Browning’s service as Secretary of the Interior.
In 1889, two years after the start of the Chamber of Commerce, at least twelve of the chamber’s industrial “400” developed a shared brand name to promote Quincy products. Noxall became Quincy’s brand name. One of the first to use the name was the Isaac Lesem Company, manufacturers of shirts, pants, and overalls. All Lesem’s products carried the trademark symbol of a black shield with a man’s arm holding a hammer about to strike. The slogan “Best in the World” was at the bottom and Noxall at the top. Lesem registered the trademark image with the patent office in Washington. The name and slogan along with the image of a raised arm and hammer were meant to imply strength in the garment. The trademark continued in use by the successor company, Hargadine McKittrick of Saint Louis, which purchased the business in 1898 and continued to operate the Quincy factory after the death of Isaac Lesem.
In 1888 Henry Blank was granted a patent for his design of a hay bale press. Within months Blank partnered with local industrialist Henry Schwarzburg to form Quincy Baling Press Company and start production of the implement based on his design. Noxall Hay Press was the name that appeared in their advertisement along with the slogan “The Most Rapid and Easiest Operating Bailer.” The Noxall Bailing Press continued past 1892 when the Collins Plow Company purchased the stock of the company and added the Noxall press to their line of implements.
In 1889 John B. Schott was granted a patent for his improved horse collar. To promote the new product the J. B. Schott Company obtained a trademark. This trademark depicted the imprint of a donkey in the motion of kicking his back heels up in the air with the name Noxall above the animal. A motto that appeared with the trademark “Uniformity and Workmanship-Not How Cheap, but How Good!” was meant to imply toughness and strength in the product. By 1897 the yearly output of the factory was 50,000 collars, 10,000 sets of harness and 5,000 saddles. The company grew until the growth of the gasoline engine ate into sales of horse drawn accessories. The business closed in 1939.
Beginning in 1897, William Ruff of the Ruff Brewing Company submitted several patents having to do with the pasteurization of beer. In the early 1900s the company started selling a line of beer with the Noxall label. The label had the words “Guaranteed an absolutely pure malt food beverage for family use. This beer is sterilized and filtered contains no chemical preservatives.” Advertisements in the local newspaper touted the beer as a household remedy: “It’s a good tonic.” Another advertisement said: “We recommend Ruff’s Noxall beer for weakened systems. And your doctor will do the same, for it is a strengthening predigested food.” The Noxall label lasted until Prohibition.
Today it may surprise people that Quincy had 400 factories and shops that produced goods that were shipped all over the country and for that matter all over the world. Or it may be hard to appreciate that Robert Gardner’s steam engine governor was an invention as important as Bell’s telephone or Edison’s light bulb. It was Gardner’s invention that brought other inventors to Quincy to manufacture their own products because they could find lawyers with expertise to protect their efforts. This migration of inventors led to the 1887 founding of our current Chamber of Commerce that in turn led to the creation of Quincy’s brand, Noxall.