How The Troy-Bilt Brand Was Built

Troy Bilt Historical Review

This is the 1st ad featuring the Troy-Bilt trademark. It was featured in the Aug-1968 edition of Popular Mechanics. The trademark was granted Jun-1968.

Troy-Bilt’s history goes back more than 80 years to the early days of home gardening. Before Troy-Bilt was Rototiller, Inc., a rotary tiller manufacturer based in Troy, New York. A trademark dispute in 1967 lead to naming their new tillers – Troy-Bilt – a homage to being built in Troy, New York.

As of Mar-2015, Troy-Bilt LLC is a subsidiary of MTD Consumer Group, Inc., based in Valley City, Ohio. Troy-Bilt LLC was formed in Sept-2001 to manage the Troy-Bilt brand. MTD acquired the Troy-Bilt and Bolens brands for $44.1 million when Garden Way, Inc. filed for bankruptcy on Jul-2001.

Troy-Bilt makes and sells products in the outdoor power equipment industry – including mowers, tillers, pressure washers and generators. However, Troy-Bilt didn’t always sell a wide-range of products. In 1968, there was only one: a rotary tiller. You can see the ad for it pictured. It was the first time the Troy-Bilt trademark appeared (Aug-1968).

The real beginnings of Troy-Bilt goes back to 1930 and a man named C.W. Kelsey. So let’s start there:

Rototiller, Inc.

In 1930, at the age of 50, Kelsey was in the automobile manufacturing industry, as he owned Kelsey Automobile Company. With The Great Depression taking hold people were looking to become more self sufficient and home vegetable gardens / hobby farming was becoming more popular. After a former employee of Kelsey’s, a German by the name H.B. Hiller, introduced him to his current employers “earth-grinders”, Kelsey immediately became the distributor for the Siemens rotary tillers. He established Rototiller, Inc. in 1932 in Long Island, New York. Kelsey continued to import and distribute the Siemens machines while also creating his own improvements. He patented many new modifications and started to manufacture, under the Rototiller name, his own line of tillers.

Moving To The City of Troy, New York 

In 1937, Rototiller moved manufacturing to Troy, New York. George B. Cluett, a rich Troy, NY businessman, financially backed the move, investing factory space.

Being an automotive industry man, Kelsey drove Rototiller to release new models every year between 1937 and his retirement in 1957 (at the age of 77). During this time Rototiller switched strategy and began solely marketing and manufacturing home garden size tillers. He was inspired to do this after reading The Have-More Plan – A Little Land, A Lot of Living. A book written by Ed and Carol Robinson about escaping the urban for the rural way of life. After hiring Ed Robinson to create a marketing pamphlet the A Little Power-A Lot of Living pamphlet was published. And shorty after a second titled How To Do Wonders With A Little Land was published.

Public Stock Company 

In 1959, Porter Cable Co. became the majority owner and moved manufacturing to Syracuse, NY. Shortly after that it was acquired by Rockwell Manufacturing Co. Which then sold its interest in Rototiller back to Troy era employees. In 1961, some original Troy plant Rototiller employees brought the business back to Troy under the Watco Machine Products name.

Watco Machine Products, Inc.

Watco Machine Products continued manufacturing tillers in Troy, NY. The marketing and selling of the tillers was being handled by Lyman P. Wood, a friend of the Robinson’s, and also a man interested in the rural self-sufficient life.

By 1966 Wood and partners had formed an advertising agency called Precision Marketing Associates, Inc. (PMA). Through his consulting work with Watco, Wood knew the company was in trouble. Combine that with his interest and belief in the rural-self-sufficient life, the importance of tillers for maintaining crops, and Wood became interested in acquiring Watco with PMA partners. In 1967 PMA acquired 62% control in Watco.

PMA immediately began marketing the tillers through mail order. However, their was a trademark dispute with their newest model name. It was called The Trojan Horse.  They lost the dispute and were forced to quickly rename their tiller. On October 3, 1967 Watco Machine Products, Inc. filed a trademark application for Troy-Bilt – a tribute to Troy, New York, where the Rototiller, Inc. company began manufacturing tillers in 1937.

Creating The Troy-Bilt® Trademark

Troy-Bilt Trademark Application Detail

Click Image To Make Bigger – Troy-Bilt Trademark Application Detail

Watco Machine Products, Inc. received the trademark for Troy-Bilt on June 4, 1968 and the brandname was born. They immediately put it to work and it quickly became a popular brand in the home garden industry.

At this time Watco was renamed to Garden Way Manufacturing, Inc. And in 1976 PMA was renamed to Garden Way Associates

Garden Way, Inc. 

In 1988 Garden Way, Inc. acquired the Bolens brand from the FMC Corporation. Garden Way focused on their yard equipment lines and as a result over the years some of the Bolens manufacturing tooling became non-existent. No longer could older model parts be cast and produced.

In 1998, Garden Way added an online store at www.TroyBilt.com to sell Troy-Bilt products.

Bolens®

Bolens is well known for their garden tractors. They introduced their first in 1919 and currently operate as Bolens LLC, a subsidiary of MTD Consumer Group, Inc.

MTD Consumer Group, Inc. (2001)

In September 2001 MTD Consumer Group, Inc. acquired Garden Way, Inc. including the Troy-Bilt and Bolens brand for $44.1 million.

Garden Way had been struggling financially for years and were forced to close their Troy manufacturing facility in July 2001 leaving 550 without work.

MTD is a well established company with $1.190 billion revenue (2006) in the outdoor power equipment industry. They operate the brands Cub Cadet, Yard Man, MTD, Remington, Ryobi and many more.

They formed a new corporation in 2001 to manage the Troy-Bilt brand.

Troy-Bilt LLC

Troy Bill LLC is based in Valley City, Ohio at the head offices of MTD Consumer Group – no longer are there products manufactured in Troy, NY. They currently offer a wide range of products including pressure washers, lawn mowers, tillers, generators and blowers.

As of 2015, their company mission is:

Passionately create, build and deliver great products and services that consumers all over the world enjoy using to improve and beautify lawns and gardens.

Sources

  1. Garden Way Publishing Company Records“. The University of Vermont Libraries Special Collections. Info retrieved 2015-Mar-20.
  2. (Dec 9, 2002) “Garden Way Inc. Bankruptcy Information“. MTD Products Support Center. Retrieved 2015-Mar-19.
  3. Jones, Donald A. (Feb 3, 2007), “C.W. Kelsey and Rototiller, Inc.“, DonaldAntiqueRototillers.com. Info retrieved 2015-Mar-20.
  4. About Troy-Bilt“. TroyBilt.com. Info retrieved 2015-Mar-23.
  5. Gear For Good Living“. GearForGoodLiving.com. Info retrieved 2015-Mar-20.
  6. Rovito, Rich (Sept 30, 2001), “Four years post-Port, Garden Way bankrupt“. Milwaukee Business Journal. Info retrieved 2015-Mar-23.
  7. (Aug 10, 1998), “Garden Way adds online product site for Troy-Bilt“. Albany Business Review. Info retrieved 2015-Mar-19.
  8. “Troy-Bilt” search in Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). United States Patent and Trademark Office. Info retrieved 2015-Mar-23.
  9. Antram, Robert C. (May 31, 2002), “The Rototiller Story“. www.ZucksRototillers.com. Info retrieved 2015-Mar-23.
  10. (Jan 13, 2003) “Bolens Historical Review“. Troy-Bilt Support Center. Retrieved 2015-Mar-23
  11. Advert from: Popular Mechanics, August 1968, Page 181.