Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




John C. Weaver




With about $3,000 of his savings and a set of plans, T.E. Bissell began to manufacture disk harrows in 1894. When he sold the business thirty-four years later, he had become the largest disk harrow manufacturer in Canada. By an analysis of the financial structure, technology and marketing strategies of the firm, this paper identifies the policies that enabled Bissell to resist the trend to consolidation and to prosper as an independent farm implement manufacturer. The single-line specialization of this firm allowed it to exist under the umbrella of the larger manufacturers, who generally regarded the Bissell disk harrow as complementary to their own lines of implements. Bissell's entrepreneurial personality effectively placed limits upon the growth of the firm. He was obsessed with control and security, sought to dominate all aspects of the business, and was incapable of delegation of authority. Overall, Bissell was a type of entrepreneur who harkened back to an earlier generation of industrialist. Much of the success of his firm derives from the strong ties between himself and his firm, and the characteristics of his community, the village of Elora. In the twentieth century, this style of industrial agrarianism could persist much more easily in a small town than in a city. It accounts for both the success of Bissell and the failure of later absentee owners of the business.

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