Harper Supply Company

Chicago, Illinois

James Monroe Harper was born on September 19, 1842 in Indiana.  He obtained his first patent for a Fly Trap in 1872 while living in El Paso, Illinois.  At that time he was working as a partner in the hardware firm of Mitchell, Harper & Company. Samuel Mitchell was Harper’s brother-in-law.  Following a fire in 1883, the company dissolved.  Mitchell moved to Kansas, while Harper moved his family to Peoria, Illinois to pursue other business interests.

In Peoria he first founded the Harper & Company grain commission in 1885.  By 1888 he partnered with his nephew Robert Harper and established the Harper & Harper Company as grain dealers.  Robert later went to Des Moines, Iowa to establish a second office.  By 1890 the business expanded in Des Moines to include dealing in Armour Meats. It was later noted in the October 2, 1891 edition of the Chicago Tribune that the stock and fixtures of James M. Harper, dealer in Armour Meats, were seized by the sheriff to satisfy a claim of the Peoria National Bank.  Back in Peoria he started the short lived Harper Manufacturing Company in 1891, and by 1894 reestablished the Harper & Company grain commission.

By 1897 James M. Harper had moved to Chicago and filed papers to incorporate the Harper Supply Company.  The Chicago Hardware Foundry Company was formed on May 7, 1898 with a capital of $5,000.  The incorporators were listed as Earl P. Sedgwick, J. A. Sedgwick, and Hope Reed Cody.  The Chicago Hardware Foundry produced items for the Harper Supply Company.  These included nut crackers, sad irons, stove casters, and of course – banks!  Unlike other companies at the time who produced iron banks and toys, Harper copyrighted many of his original designs. Bank production likely ran from approximately 1900 to 1910. 

The Harper Supply Company was dissolved in 1928 shortly after James M. Harper’s death in February of that year.  He is buried in El Paso, Illinois.