Weaver Manufacturing, founded in Springfield by brothers Ira and Gailard Weaver, was for a time the nation’s largest manufacturer of automobile garage equipment, such as jacks, safety test equipment, hydraulic presses and other items.
Ira “I.A.” Weaver (1871-1965), was the creative genius of the brothers. He received more than 100 patents for garage equipment and, according to a company history, was known as “the Edison of the automotive industry.”
Weaver began tinkering with his father’s farm equipment as a youth in Iowa. Springfield researcher Sarah Thomas wrote about the beginnings of his career in an unpublished manuscript.
Weaver’s father had an uncle who invented a farm machine called a dropper, which cut and dropped grain in such a way that it could be bound in bundles by hand. This was the first real improvement in harvesting machines.
The stories of “Great Uncle Bert” fascinated young I.A. and encouraged him to … develop farming improvements. The first labor-saving device he invented was the Automatic Stock Waterer, which enabled livestock to pump their own drinking water by use of a treadmill.
Because of the ineptitude of a patent attorney, he did not patent this device. This was his impetus to learn about patent laws.
I.A. came to Springfield as chief designer for the Sattley Manufacturing Co., which made a variety of farm implements.
On his own time, Weaver developed a chuck for high-speed drills, and he and Gailard opened a shop to manufacture the chucks. The Weavers then began to specialize in automobile repair and safety equipment.
The three-wheel jack, the brothers’ first product, allowed an auto to be raised so a mechanic could get at the undercarriage. Among I.A. Weaver’s innovations, Thomas found, were:
- Towing poles for transporting crippled automobiles.
- Auto hoists.
- Mechanical tire spreaders.
- Mechanical headlight testers.
- Valveless bucket pumps to dispense measured amounts of lubricants.
- Gauges for testing front wheel turning radius.
- Indicators for testing wheel alignment while a car is in motion.
- Drive-on-and-stop brake testers.
“His company went from a one-room shop to the largest, most complete factory in the world devoted to the manufacture of automobile service equipment,” Thomas wrote about I.A. Weaver.
Weaver Manufacturing, which was incorporated in 1910, eventually built a 130,000-square-foot factory complex that stretched several blocks along Ninth Street south of Ash Street. About 400 people worked for the company in the 1930s.
Gailard “G.E.” Weaver (1883-1942), joined his brother in Springfield after studying at the University of Illinois.
As Weaver Manufacturing matured, G.E. Weaver concentrated on promoting automobile safety inspections and on governmental lobbying. Partly because of his contacts, Weaver Manufacturing was the first Springfield company to do national defense work, including a 1940 contract to produce lifts capable of hoisting 2,000-pound bombs.
The Dura Corp. bought Weaver Manufacturing in 1959 and closed the plant, moving operations to Kentucky, in 1973. In 2013, Weaver jacks and test lane equipment were still being produced in Adrian, Mich.
As Elizabeth Rutherford notes in her comment below, the Weaver complex in the 2200 block of South Ninth Street was demolished in 2014. Aside from the Eurosport garage across the street, the main part of what remains is a loading dock.
Hat tip: This entry was significantly expanded in 2022. Thanks to Sarah Thomas for sharing her research with SangamonLink.
More information: Extensive background information on both I.A. and G.E. Weaver is available at a genealogy website devoted to the Barlow, Wheeler and Hayes families compiled in 2000 by Edna Carroll Skoog. The site includes a list of Sangamon County sources on the Weavers.
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The Weaver plant in the 2200 block of South 9th was demolished in 2014 due to it being structurally unsound (bricks had been falling off the facade for a while). I have some photos of where the plant stood and what remains of a loading dock if you’re interested.
Liz: Yeah, I’d like to see them. Can you send them to me (as attachments) at firstname.lastname@example.org? Thanks.
My dad worked there. And I didn’t know where it was until I moved to Harvard Park in 2000. I would like to see the pictures
This article is great. My mom grew up across from weavers and she and I were talking about her child hood and living on 9th street. Thanks for publishing this!
Aaron: And thank you for reading.
Did your mom sell Avon?
If I remember correctly my great grandfather Charles Mogle lived next door Weavers
Merrill: Thanks for reading.
South of Weavers was their parking lot. Next to it was our house ( rented from I. A. Weaver ) . Next to our house was Charley Mogle ( a cement finisher ) . On the corner and next to Charley’s was a vacant lot. I was a small child then but still recall many fond memories there. I also remember many families and their names in the area. Our rental house was sold to a Weaver employee and moved north of number 6 firehouse.
Don: Thanks for reading.
Charley Mogle was my Great Grandfather. I can remember visiting him there.
James M Clarke:
I worked for Weaver for some years starting as a District Sales Manager and advancing to Product Manager and Regional Sales Manager. I Traveled through the U.S and met many of the leaders of the Auto Industry and consulted with them on upgrades and modifications to service equipment and particularly lifting service procedures and safety issues. Weaver was a fine organization in its time and I. A. Weaver probably contributed more than any other person to the Automotive Service Industry. For me it was a great experience.
Mr. Clarke: Thanks for the comment, and thanks for reading.
My wife, edna skoog was I.. A. Weaver ‘s granddaughter. Her obit is under her name.
WEAVERS WAS MY FIRST JOB OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL IN 1959.I WORKED THERE UNTIL IT WAS BOUGHT OUT BY WALTER KIDDE COMPANY, WHICH HATED UNIONS SO THEY MOVED TO A NON-UNION AREA AT THAT TIME,TO PARIS KENTUCKY.IT ONLY LASTED FIVE YEARS THEN FOLDED. WEAVERS WAS A GREAT PLACE TO WORK,THEY WOULD ALWAYS HAVE A SUMMER PICNIC AND A GREAT CHRISTMAS PARTY. THAT ALL CHANGED WHEN THE BIG COMPANY BOUGHT WEAVERS. AROUND THREE HUNDRED MEN HAD TO FIND JOBS. ANOTHER THING VERY FEW PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT IS THAT THOSE WORKERS WHO HAD BEEN AT WEAVERS FOR 30 YEARS OR MORE AND WERE 65 YEARS OF AGE RECEIVED A SMALL MONTHLY PENSION AND THE ONES WHO HAD NOT REACHED 65 AND BEEN THERE 30 YEARS WHERE TO RECEIVE A MONTHLY PENSION WHEN THEY REACHED 65. ALL THEY EVER GOT WAS A VERY SMALL ONE TIME PAYMENT WHICH WASN’T MUCH AND THEY NEVER EVER GOT THEIR MONTHLY PENSION. THIS WAS THE UNITED STEEL WORKERS UNION’S FAULT, WHO AFTER WEAVER FOLDED COULD HAVE CARED LESS ABOUT THE MEN THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO HAVE REPRESENTED AT THAT TIME OF CLOSURE.
My dad worked at Fiat-Allis for 15 years. The plan was to work his 30 and retire. He started in 1970 and worked until the plant closed in 1985. He gets less than $200 month, and he had to fight for almost two years to get that. The old union guys that had been there ages were the ones that screwed everyone because they were not willing to budge on some things.
I don’t know if you will get this. Do you remember a Harold McGrath?
ADDED COMMENT. DURA CORP, WHO FIRST BOUGHT WEAVERS, SOLD TO KIDDE CORP LATER ON AND THEY WERE THE ONES WHO MOVED TO KENTUCKY.
My father was one of the Weaver employees who was not 65 years of age but had been employed over 30 years. He did not receive anything. We have an original policy for $1000 that was to be given to original 100 employees. My family has tried since his death in 2003 to track this down but to no avail. This is so unfair.
Worked there my senior year in high school, at night, 1971 – 1972. I made good money at the time as we were working 5 then hour days during the week and 8 hours on Saturday. Good bunch of people working their. I quit when I found out they were closing.
My grandfather was I.A. Weaver, I.A. Sold the company in 1959 when I was 14 years old because he was in his 80’s and his patents were expiring. Today almost all automotive
Service Equipment is made in China.
My father Philip Kopp was a mechanical engineer employed at Weavers until it was no more. He held many patents including one for a grease gun. Mr Weaver came to our home in Hazel Dell several times to talk over business with my father. Your grandfather was an interesting character and my father enjoyed his visits.
I have an old leather makers rivet foot press. The cast iron pedestal has Weaver. Springfield Ill on it. Though through all my research i can find no other references to its origin.
Boy, does this bring back memories. I grew up about a half block south of the Weaver Plant on South Ninth. Weaver was always a quality name in the auto service industry. I remember Mr. Mogle living on the corner of Ninth and Princeton Ave. Many men in the Harvard Park area were employed by either Weaver or Allis Chalmers. Hobbs over on Ash and Yale Blvd was another plant in the area. There was a lumber company at 8th and Princeton. I think it had a big fire. The local Coke bottling plant was over on 6th street. The old bus barn was on the corner of 6th and Ash. There was a little gas station at the corner of 9th and Ash. That was life in the 50’s and 60’s. Gone are the days.
I’m the great-great niece of Ira and Gailard Weaver and can’t thank you enough for this site. My grandmother Helen Weaver, wife of Don I. Weaver (both passed years ago) used to tell me stories of Ira and all his inventions. I also know the story of how/why Gailard was given the name he was; I’m reminded daily of his name because I was given it as my middle name. My brother has a couple of Ira’s original patents framed in his home in Idaho. Anyhow, thank you so much for helping me relive a bit of my childhood memories.
*I’m the daughter of James G. Weaver (same middle name) of Omaha, NE, my grandparents were from Dunlap, IA.
Thanks for reading, Ms. Williams.
Found a old weaver air compressor unit model wv10261 still running in eastern Canada
I have a Weaver photoscope, headlight Amer and tester, been in my possession since 1965. stored and just recovered. Still in working condition. I think it was manufactured for the 50s vehicles. It is a magnificent looking piece.