Of all the major business enterprises and manufacturing companies existing in Louisville in the 19th century, perhaps one of the most unique was The Fletcher Forage Ration Company. Matthew Fletcher, a native of Louisville, was issued two separate patents. In December of 1863 he was issued a patent for his forage ration, a compressed mixture of hay and grain used for livestock. Later in September of 1864 an additional patent was granted for the steam presses which combined the hay and grain into a small bale.
The small manufactory was set up on High Street in Louisville, and it was here that eight presses were erected for packing the rations and one compress for baling them. Apparently they worked according to plan, turning out one hundred thousand samples for the government to experiment with as well as additional rations for the public at large.
Initially, the company was in the hands of private individuals until the product proved a great success. Officers in the field who were the first recipients of this new product were lavish in their praise when writing Quartermaster General M.C. Meigs. Using a proportion of 12 of grain to 14 of hay, three times the forage rations as before were easily shipped by railway cars and boats.
Once the success of the product was firmly established, the company went public and Reuben T. Durrett, the founder of The Filson Historical Society, was its first president.