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Written by Carole

This is a guest post by Kevin Roth and he has written a very informative article about the Leahy Favorite Incubator and some history of the manufacturer.

Leahy Favorite Incubator

Leahy Favorite Incubator

Leahy Manufacturing Company

Higginsville, Missouri

Established 1883 – 1983

The Past to the Present – Incubators

By: Kevin Roth

As many of us have found the hobby of raising backyard chickens, certain research has to be done before one starts out. My search has found two valuable resource of gaining knowledge on raising poultry; the magazine Backyard Poultry and the website: backyardchickens forum. My journey of learning raised my interest in incubators and the components used in manufacturing them.

I also went to craigslist, which caused me more excitement than a room filled with helium party balloons when I found and purchased a Leahy Favorite Incubator Model 1200. I had never owned an incubator and being a backyard cabinet maker, I decided to bring new life to this unit by restoring it. Nothing on today’s incubator market matches the craftsmanship, design and construction that these units have. What incubator manufactured today will last 40 plus years and still produce high incubation rates? This company made thousands of these incubators and many are still in use today. I’ve heard where people have found them in old barns, at auctions and family hand me downs. Some of these people are using them as coffee tables and don’t know what they have or how to use them.

To learn more about this company, my journey directed me to a man in Minnesota that restores incubators, he called these units the “Cadillac of Incubators” and “nothing on the market today is built so well”. Words like that only added fuel towards my desire to learn more about the company. My research travels directed me towards the “Show Me State – Missouri”, specifically Higginsville where the company was headquartered. Here I linked up with the Higginsville Historical Society and Ms Loberta “Bobbie” Runge. She has provided me with newspaper articles; photo’s and company pamphlets to assist me in writing this article. I also found that Brad Legg of Legg Peafowl Farm located in Kansas City, Mo uses the model 1200 exclusively because of the high hatch rate the 14 incubators give him. On his web site you can down load the original operator’s manual for the incubator.

Richard B. Leahy in 1867, being raised in New York on the shores of the Atlantic, was a ten year old boy who had earlier lost his mother and now had to deal with loosing his sea captain father to drowning. For the next 11 years he followed his fathers love for the sea, starting out being a cabin boy. Having the opportunity to visit many different countries gave him a diverse education. In 1883 Mr. Leahy headed west, landing in Higginsville to make his home with a new bride. Starting off in a small 14’ x 20’ shop with one foot powered saw, he began manufacturing beehives for a local farmer. The business started to grow and in 1888, with financial help from James E. Gladish, the inventions and product they made where greatly accepted in the bee industry.

Mr. Gladish wife was very fond of Leghorn Chickens and it was probably her interest and persuasiveness that directed the company to diversify and start manufacturing redwood incubators in 1905. Their employee’s where all master cabinet makers with strong work ethics and it showed in the quality and craftsmanship in their products.

The incubator was made using 2 layers of tongue and groove. The outside was Redwood, divided by an air space and Celotex moisture barrier. By utilizing redwood in both the bee hives and incubators required the company to receive by rail, 65 carloads of lumber per year. Rapid growth found it necessary to incorporate the business in 1890 as the Leahy manufacturing Company, with capital investment of $12,500.00, employing 25 men and in busier months running two shifts with 150 men. During those months, it was never a question if they would receive orders, rather if the orders could be filled in a timely manner. The large safe in the office was testimony of the required cash on hand and at times held more money than all the banks in Higginsville. It was a good thing the bank robbers, Bonnie and Clyde, never caught wind of this loot.

Over time, Mr. Leahy became the authority of Bee Keeping in the United States, capturing 90% of the beekeeping business. They shipped bee supplies and incubators worldwide. Leahy Incubators where shipped to Australia, Cuba, India, Peru and thru the United Nations. They had contracts to provide both Sears and Montgomery Wards with incubators thru catalog sales. In 1927 Sears Roebuck was shipping 30,000 incubators each year and the company expanded with a new two story, 30 x 80, equipped with Grinnell Sprinkler System

In 1905 Mr. James E. Gladish bought Mt. Leahy’s interest in the company. Mr. Leahy died in 1906 at the age of 49.

Although the company bares the Leahy name, it was the four generations of the Gladish family that provide the capital, managerial skills, longevity and vision for the company to prosper over the years. And let us not to forget, behind every good man there is a greater woman, Margaret Gladish was the company bookkeeper in 1908 and held the position for 64 years.

The company converted their machinery from steam power to electricity in 1912. The plant produced its own electricity from a diesel powered generator; it was the first electricity to be used in Higginsville.

The business was sold in 1978 to James Sopczyk (pronounced “subject”) who already had been selling bee keeping supplies in Minnesota. His enthusiastic attitude inspired the now failing company to make a last stand at producing a quality products. Retired employee’s came back to offer their expertise, rekindling the spark for success for the first few years under the new ownership. But know one could have anticipated that the commercial beekeepers would sell out their equipment at bargain prices; half of the company was now starting to die. By 1981 the incubators were keeping the business afloat, showing $80,000 in gross profits in 1983. Mr. Sopczyk believed the incubators alone would have made a good business, but the bank wouldn’t sell it separately. The end result being the doors closed for the last time December 1983, falling just months short of 100 years in business. The bank scheduled the auction of the machinery and anything else that wasn’t nailed down in July of 1984. The old building sat vacant, a monument to the past, dedicated to talented employees over the past 100 years, demolition of this building however was in 1993.

These are well crafted incubators that have withstood the test of time, with all components still readily available today. OK, I hear you folks that are talking about electronic controlled thermostats apposed to the wafer. Allow me to ask, how many chickens have been hatched using the wafer thermostat in the past 100 years? Today’s hobbyist seem to be looking for the “set and leave it alone” incubators, not the tried and true. These jewels are really a beautiful piece of furniture with the capabilities to bring new live into this world.

You can find another post I wrote about the Leahy Favorite Incubator written last year which includes pictures of the model that I have.

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30 Responses to “Leahy Incubator Since 1883”

  1. That was really interesting, Carole! You are fortunate to have such a wonderful piece of history!

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    Carole Reply:

    Paula, I am very fortunate to have found it. With all the information I have received from the visitors of this blog I am sure I will have great success utilizing it. As always, thanks for stopping in and letting me know you were here by commenting.

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    lwman4 Reply:

    i have a redwood incubator montgomery ward made by leahy (just like your picture) model # 35LZ-3697A. it is lined with some type of paper and it needs to be replaced. i would like to know if anyone knows what type of paper this is.

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    Nieves Dela Cruz Reply:

    I need information as to where I can purchase replacement parts for my Leahy Favorite Incubators- Model #624 300 Watts 120 Volts AC. Any
    information you can provide is very much appreciated. I am from
    Scarborough, Ontario Canada. Thanks You.

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  2. What a neat post! I love shows like the antique roadshow because they have such a nice background about stuff hidden away in attics, basements, sheds. We are so used to mass produced that we forget that individuals made things back then–by hand.

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  3. We just bought a Favorite Incubator model 624 300 watts. Can you tell me a little about it how old it is and when it was made. It is in exllent shape and runs we have not hatched any eggs yet because we just bought it yesterday and are testing it out and trying to learn what we can before we try to hatch any chicks. It is beautiful.
    Thank You Vicki

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  4. Hi, I recently purchased a Favorite incubator. It is about a 400 egg unit I think, and made in 1967. I was wondering if anyone might know where I could purchase a manual for it, or where I might get some info on how to use it. Thanks, Tom Geyer tcgeyer@gmail.com

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    David Olsen Reply:

    You can download a copy of the Leahy Model 624 incubator for free at leggspeafoul.com. It may be a little rough but still informational.

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  5. i just purchased a favorite incubator and i was wondering where i could purchase incerts for chicken eggs it came with all quail egg incerts

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  6. does anyone know where you can buy a fan for these incubators. Bob katz@gulftel.com

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  7. does anyone know where you can get a manual for these type of incubators. i have my fathers, and he was in the process of rewiring it and didn’t get to finish it before he passed away. it is a good size, with 5 pull out trays for the eggs (21″wide x 35″ long x 42″ high) every thing is there and it is solid too. it says on the tag
    no.416-E 187 watts 110 volts

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    Bonita \|Webster Reply:

    I have that same incubator, do you know the apporx. value.
    My incubator is in excellent shape.

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  8. Are you using the incubator right now. My question is what setting do you have your incubator on 99.5F.? If so how long does your incuabotor stay on and go off between sings. Mine goes up to 101 degrees F. then swings down to 99 degree F. it averages about 99.5 on the term. that came with the incubator. I have never had a incubator swing so long between on and off. My idea is if it averages at the ideal setting in should be in the ball park. What do you all think. BOB

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    Phillip Gardner Reply:

    It swings to a hotter setting at night then cools down during the hotter part of the day

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  9. I have a 416e favorite leahy incubator does any body know were i can get chicken egg incerts for it. also has any one tried a little giant electric turner in one? email pwcrider11@frontiernet.net

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  10. I love old farm machinery and equipment like this. They’re an important part of our history. It’s great to see these Leahy incubators still popping up in classified ads every now and then.

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  11. I am so glad that i found this site. I just was given a Leahy Incubator from my husband. He was at a one of our Trade Days here In Texas, McKinney I believe and he saw a gentleman riding his bike around trying to sell things out of his cart he had hooked to his bike. My husband at first thought it was a really nice wooden box for me to use to display some small quilts that I had made. When he realize what it was he asked how much the price was very reasonable and he bought it and brought it home for me to use. I just plugged it for the first time for me any way tonight waiting on the temps to get just right and I will be putting in 36 eggs I got from a friend of mine to hatch. It also came with the original book that shows the different incubators and accessories they had that you could get.
    pamphlet of the price list, and the manual. The person that bought it NEVER used it. The original paper wrk that comes with the incubator when you purchase it, how to use the incubator hygrometer, paper showing humidity for each type of fowl, ect. It was really taken good care of, and the price list is fun to look at and see what they used to pay for things. Well I am sure I have Rambled enough going to get my eggs set to start hatching.
    Deana
    Texas

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    bill Reply:

    i was wondering if i could get a copy of the direction book thanks

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    deana Reply:

    The directions i have for it are for models 65-150-300-and 450. It is not a very big book just a pamphlet. I would be glad to get you directions. I need to see how to scan it on my scanner and then send it to my computer. After I figure it out I will be glad to send it to you.
    deana

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  12. I have a steam powerd favorite incubator what can you tell me about it

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  13. how much is a incubator (like the picture above) worth?

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    Amelia Reply:

    i have one just like it in good conditiom the model number is 35LZ-3697A and what year was it made in?

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  14. I have a model 416-E 225 watts

    I would like to know if I could find a manuel for this model. and maybe some automatic egg turners

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  15. I have a 416-E 187 Watt model Favorite and need two new thermostats. Can anyone lead me in the right direction?

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  16. WE DO HAVE SEARS ROEBUCK MODEL 228.8 . IT LOOKS JUST LIKE THE PICTURE . BUT OURS STANDS UPRIGHT AND ALOT BIGGER . WE DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT IT , BUT THE WOOD BOX IS VERY COOL JUST LIKE YOURS . WE DO WANT TO SELL IT

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  17. i have a leahy incubator no 80 auto. ive been searching everywhere 2 find out what its worth. its huge n looks like it holds over 1000 eggs. it needs a little work but still hatches eggs.i would like to restore it if it dont cost me a arm n a leg. if its to expensive for me to fix i might consider selling it as is can u please help?

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  18. I just traded on a Leahy Favorite incubator. I plugged it up and it worked for a couple of days. The morning of the third day it quit heating. Any ideas.

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  19. Marcia A. Harding
    March 6th, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    I am the daughter of Helen Gladish Andriano, whose father was E.B. Gladish. My mother worked at the Leahy Manuafacturing Company all of her adult life. I, too, spent much of my childhood helping at the plant as it was the family business. My father, James “Jimmy” Andriano, was the Leahy’s president and chief operating officer until it was sold and soon after closed. I have a lot of memorabilia of the plant, including several of the sales catalogues of bee supplies and incubators produced by the company. I may even have some of the manuals folks are looking for. I’d just have to go back through everything to see what’s in storage. I am interested myself in purchasing one of the smaller redwood incubators with the Leahy hardware intact since, ironically,I wasn’t able to obtain one before family members passed away. I live in Little Rock, Arkansas and can be reached at marcia.harding47@gmail.com. if anyone is interested in communicating with me. The Leahy was my childhood and young adult home away from home, as a young child, after school and week-ends, summer breaks, etc. I even went back to work there my first two summers while in college. I miss its very existence.

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  20. I found a Leahy just like Carole’s. Model 65-E 65 eggs. It came with three trays for quail since they are 1 5/8 high. No water pan nor thermometer. It has two heating elements 110 v 55 watts. It is red wood. Nice find. hardly used. Everything works. I relace the cord with a modern one.

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  21. I had two redwoods. One held over 600 eggs. Used it as a hatcher & have a second one that takes over 400 eggs. couldn’t see much difference using the bigger one just for hatching & since it was sooooo big, I sold it :( but kept my “Bertha” It’s been amazing. So just this weekend, I find another one holds 150 eggs & is about the size of a large trunk. someone has taken out the wafer & it needs restoring but a friend is going to get it going for me. It’s a incubator and a hatcher :) I would love to get the manuals for these incubators. I got one from the Leggs peafowl farm website but would like to get more & any other info I can. I live on Vancouver island in canada. My first two redwoods i bought within ten miles of each other & the other I just got north island. I know of at least four other people that have these but only use them as hatchers

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