Fuller & Johnson

Early History

The Fuller & Johnson Company is known for stationary gas engines. The Madison Plow Works was established in 1846 by Charles A Billings and George A Cary. For several years, the company was operated under the owner’s names as well as Madison Plow Works. S H Carman joined in 1849 becoming Billings & Carman. This company was burned out once and relocated at least three times. Carman left in 1860. Frank H Firmin joins in 1866 becoming Firmin & Billings. Items manufactured included plows, harrows, and cultivators under the name “New Eclipse” or “Quality First.”
Morris E Fuller of Fuller & Williams operated from 1840 until 1870. John A Johnson became a representative of the company in 1869 and a partner in 1873. The name became Johnson, Fuller, & Co. This company than merged with Firmin & Billings in 1880 (Madison Plow Works). The merger included the Garnhart Reaper Works. Garnhart had been established in 1871 by John H Garnhart to manufacture the “Madison Reaper”. Garnhart failed in 1873 and became part of Firmin & Billings in 1874. The new company became Fuller & Johnson in 1882 as they accumulated patents for plows, planters, wagons, mowers, cultivators, harrows, and feed mills. F & J would sell off Madison Plow Works in 1911.

Johnson created the Gisholt Machine Company in a corner of F & J in 1887 to manufacture machinery. First was a turret lathe. Realizing tooling was essential for machinery, a lathe is useless without a chuck, he began making tooling. Training operators followed. Soon a school was set up in the plant. When a machine was sold, the new operator would assemble it, learn to operate it, and then take it back apart for shipment. The school focused on standardization of work practice.
Gisholt acquired the American Turret Lathe plant in Warren, Pennsylvania in 1905. A new building was erected in Madison in 1911 followed by a new foundry in 1912. The Northern Works of Madison was purchased in 1915. Gisholt formed and operated the Northwestern Ordinance Company for the U S Government during the first world war making 4.7-inch guns. Machines manufactured now included vertical boring mills, engine lathes, Horizontal mills, tool grinders, and automatics.

Fuller & Johnson
Gisholt had began working on gasoline engines at the beginning in 1887 with Frank D Winkly as a designer. The Madison Gas Engine Company was created in 1900. John A Johnson died in 1901. His son Frederick A assumed control at this time. The gas engine division was sold to F & J in 1903. The real success for the engine came in 1910 with the introduction of the air-cooled farm engine. The company sold thousands between 1912 and 1929. Development of larger engines resulted in debt just as the recession hit. Creditors forced the sale of the company in 1932.
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