The Michigan State Numismatic Society

The Gale Manufacturing Company was a long-time Michigan industry that was in existence form 1853 to 1968. It was begun by members of the George Gale (1798-1872) family of Barre, Vermont, who came to Michigan by ox team in 1835; the family settled in Moscow (Hillsdale County) in 1836.

George and his son Orlando Charles Gale (1823-1912) began by manufacturing plows. They obtained a melting pot that would hold a half-ton of metal, and they were in business with their foundry. George would go into the woods and hew off some handles and beams, while Orlando operated the foundry portion.

George left the firm in 1849 for the Gold Rush in California, where he lived for about five years. Orlando continued to operate the foundry alone until he sold the business in 1853; he then moved to Jonesville and built another foundry and plow factory. He took in his brother N. Brooks Gale (1829-1894) as partner, but Brooks sold his shares to younger brother Augustus J. Gale (1834-1912) in 1856. Augustus quickly learned the family trade.

In the meantime, father George Gale returned from California, and in January 1856 opened a hardware store in Albion; after a short time he sold it to his son Henry Gale (1826-1906). The Jonesville plow firm was called O.C. & A.J. Gale until 1861, when due to ill health Orlando decided to move to Albion and purchased the hardware store from his brother Henry. Orlando sold his interest in the plow firm to another brother, Horatio Gale (1838-1892) and it then became known as "A & H Gale." They remained in Jonesville for two more years, through 1863.

In 1863-64, Augustus and Horatio Gale sold their Jonesville premises and moved their plow factory to Albion where their father and brothers lived, continuing operations there. Brother Orlando rejoined the firm along with brother-in-law Elliott Hollingsworth, and purchased property at the corner of Superior and Cass streets in the center of downtown Albion.

In 1873, a stock company was formed and the firm then became officially known as the Gale Manufacturing Company. The Gale Manufacturing Company was located on the northwest corner of Cass at Superior from 1867 to 1888, at which time it moved to North Albion Street, where it remained until it closed in 1968.

Gale plows were well known, and in its heyday the Gale Company shipped 25 railroad cars full of them a day to destinations all over the world. It even operated a New York City branch office for its foreign trade. Gale plows won numerous awards, and their plows bore names such as "Big Injun," "Daisy Walking Cultivator," "Chilled Plow," and the "Albion Riding Cultivator." An example of a Gale plow is found today in the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing.

The Gales sold their interest in the firm to Detroit industrialist H. Kirke White, Sr. (of the Detroit Acme White Lead Paint Company) in 1887, and the company remained in the White family for many years through the early 20th century. During World War I, the firm switched from producing agricultural implements to automotive castings, which it produced until closing in 1968.

Just prior to moving from Jonesville to Albion in 1863-64, the firm of A & H Gale issued a cent-sized copper Civil War Store Card token, listed by Fuld as (Jonesville) MI-627B-1a. The obverse text proclaims, "A. & H. GALE MANFRS. OF AGRICULT.RL. IMPLEMENTS JONESVILLE M.," surrounded by stars, lines, and ornaments. The rim features denticles.

The reverse features the advertisement of the die-sinker and reads, "A GLEASON MANUFR. HILLSDALE MICH 1863" with an American eagle and the date 1863 in the center. Fuld lists this design type as No. 1187.

Fuld gives this token an R-9 rating, which estimates only 2 to 4 in existence. Over the past several years this author has seen four of these offered on the numismatic market, although I have yet to obtain one for my own collection.


Gale Token Front Side.                                                                                 Gale Token Reverse Side.                        


Illustrated here are the obverse and reverse of the Gale token, a photo of Augustus J. Gale, and a drawing of a Gale plow.

Sources: Fuld, George & Melvin, U.S. Civil War Store Cards, 1972; Allardt, Louis, Headlight Albion, 1895; "Gales Operated in Jonesville," Morning Star, April 19, 1998; History of the Albion Public Schools, 1991.


By Frank Passic, Life Member-157

Mich-Matist, Summer 1998, pp. 55, 57-59.

[The magazine of the Michigan State Numismatic Society]