Hay trolley history is divided into two distinct but overlapping phases. The period between 1860-1920 was the era of invention and experimentation for trolley makers, when numerous small-scale “cottage” manufacturers drew designs and filed for patents. Some of the most beautiful trolleys were made by the smaller companies.
The years between 1900-1945 marked the peak of hay trolley manufacture. Like many companies of that era, most small, independent makers were consolidated into just a few large companies, which in turn dominated the trolley market. Even at the peak of business before World War II, trolley makers weren’t likely to make the Fortune 500 list. In fact, only a few companies boasted total earnings of more than $100,000 per year.
Farmers used hay trolleys to move square bales well into the 1980s, but the devices lost importance with the introduction of round bales because they were too heavy for the carriers. As a result, most were essentially forgotten in the dark recess where they hung until collectors decided to shed light on the curious carriers.