• Arizona Contractor & Community

Old School Equipment: The Buffalo-Springfield Roller Company

Douglas Towne


Construction machinery not only moves mountains, it can become a part of pop culture. One equipment line, the Buffalo-Springfield Roller Company, found fame simply by having its steamroller parked in the right spot at the right time. The location was outside music producer Barry Friedman's house in Los Angeles, where future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay, were staying in 1966. Their search for a name for their new band ended when they spied the nameplate on the nearby machine.

However, the construction connection was not known when the group appeared on the TV show, The Hollywood Palace, a year later. Guest host Tony Martin introduced the ensemble, jokingly, as “a band that has been so successful they’ve bought Buffalo and half of Springfield.” But, the story of the Buffalo-Springfield Roller goes way back before the Swinging '60s, to 1851 when the John A. Pitts Company was founded in Buffalo, New York.


Pitts operated the agricultural equipment manufacturing firm until he died in 1859. Afterward, his heirs ran the business under a series of names that culminated in The Buffalo Pitts Co. The firm manufactured steam traction engines and portable steam engines, according to www.vintagemachinery.com. However, by 1915, the company's only thriving line was its road-building machinery, organized as a subsidiary, the Buffalo Steamroller Company. Contractors used the machinery, which utilized a combination of its size and weight, for leveling surfaces such as roads.

The following year, the Buffalo Steamroller Company merged with their biggest rival, Kelly-Springfield Road Roller Company, to create Buffalo-Springfield Roller of Springfield, Ohio. The company's machinery was the most popular in the nation. Its closest competitor, J.I. Case, only had a small market share.


In Arizona, beginning in 1956, the Buffalo-Springfield line called the "Cadillac of Rollers" was distributed by the Road Machinery Company, located at 716 South Seventh Street in Phoenix and 2601 South Fourth Avenue in Tucson.


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This article originally appeared in the bimonthly Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, Jan/Feb 2022 issue, Vol. 11, No. 1.