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A respectful family business

Joseph Fleury’s legacy began in Aurora in the 1850s when he, and partner Thomas Pearson, established a Blacksmith shop at the corner of Wellington and Temperance Streets. While that partnership did not last, the foundations were laid for an industry that would ultimately change the local landscape. In 1859, Joseph established a new foundry on the same site with his brother Alex that would later become known as the Aurora Agricultural Works. Joseph’s aim was to manufacture cast beam plows which were better suited to conditions in North America. Alex Fleury remained an integral part of this business until 1868 when he left to establish his own foundry in Markham.
Like other successful pioneer owners of foundries in Ontario, Joseph had exceptional personal qualities: he combined inventiveness with good business sense, dogged determination and resilience. In 1862, an agent of R.G. Dun & Company of New York, paid a visit to Aurora and assessed the credit worthiness of five of its businessmen. In his judgment, Joseph was, “Honest and industrious (and) works hard at the trade. Has small means but intends doing business in a (professional) small way and thinks will pay his debts” (R.G. Dun & Company, Credit Reports Collection, Harvard Business School). The following year, after noting that Joseph owned the foundry and a house worth $1,200, as well as 100 acres in Simcoe County, the agent sized him up as “Sharp and active, attends well to business, prospects good, means small but gaining” (R.G. Dun & Company, Credit Reports Collection, Harvard Business School).
As Joseph’s foundry began flourishing, so too did his family and public life. After marrying Ann Hughes in 1859, their first child, Herbert, was born in 1860, followed by Clara in 1861, and William in 1865. Joseph’s public career began in 1865 when he was elected chairman of the Board of School Trustees for the Village of Aurora. Then, from 1866 to 1870, in the early years of the new Dominion of Canada, Joseph was elected to the Aurora Village Council.
As a testament to his extraordinary energy level, throughout his professional life Joseph would face the demands of running a successful business, raising a growing family, managing a political career and playing the role of an influential community leader in Aurora, and wider afield, in York County.

“ You can make more money pouring iron than
hammering it on an anvil.”

JOSEPH FLEURY
A black and white scan of an old newspaper ad in the form of an epistle.
Aurora Banner, February 1, 1867
A speckled and stained hand-drawn overhead plan of a 19th century factory complex with measurements and cardinal directions, signed in the corner.
Ground map of the Foundry drawn by Joseph’s son Herbert, Aurora Museum & Archives (80.16.32d)
A black and white halftone image of a two storey wooden industrial building on a dirt road with white-trimmed windows and doors, an empty lot with debris in the foreground and other wooden buildings in the background.
Aurora Agricultural Works, 1876, Aurora Banner, September 9, 1909

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