Sandwich Manufacturing Company of Sandwich Illinois

The Sandwich Manufacturing Company of Sandwich Illinois

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the July/August 1998 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

            Farm equipment companies that did not sell a “full-line” of farm equipment they were referred to as “short line” companies.  Usually these short line companies did not produce farm tractors and most often did not even produce stationary engines.  Inevitably, these small companies were swallowed up by larger companies and, in the process, the individual identity of these small companies was lost.  Often, however, many of the greatest improvements in farm machinery were made by these short line companies.  One of the most inventive and creative of all short line companies was the Sandwich Manufacturing Company of Sandwich, Illinois. 

            The Sandwich Company began as a concept in the mind of one person–Augustus Adams.  Augustus Adams was born in Genoa, New York, on May 10, 1806.  Genoa is located in the “Finger Lakes” Region of New York near Syracuse.  Today, the town is known as the birthplace of Millard Fillmore (1800-1874), who was later to become the thirteenth President of the United States.  Following the death of his father, Samuel Adams, in 1817 (not the famous hero of the American Revolution), Augustus was sent to live with his brother-in-law in Chester, Ohio.  There, he alternated between attending school and doing farm work in the area.  He was studious by nature and devoted a great deal of his leisure time to studying and reading.  In 1829, he returned to the Finger Lakes Region and settled in Pine Valley located in Chemung County near Elmira, New York.  In Pine Valley he opened a foundry and machine shop, which he operated until 1837 when he was smitten by the dream of seeking his fortune in the west. 

            A generation before John Babsone Lane Soule pronounced his famous quote of “Go West, young man” in the Terre Haute Indiana Express in 1851 (later popularized by Horace Greeley), the dream of seeking riches on the Western frontier was firing the imaginations of many young people.  (John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations [Boston 1968], p. 768.)  So it was with young Augustus Adams.  Augustus had married Lydia A. Phelps on October 21, 1833, and started their family.  Over the next few years they had four sons: Darius (August 26, 1834); J. Phelps (September 18, 1835); Henry A. (January 21, 1837); and John Q. (July 23, 1839).  However, Augustus was extremely reluctantly to take his family to the untamed western frontier, and so he left them in New York while he struck out for the town of Elgin, located in northern Illinois, northwest of Chicago.  He intended that the family would follow as soon as he could make decent living arrangements for them on the frontier in Illinois.    

            Augustus, who from his own experiences in working on a farm, knew that much hard, laborious hand work was involved in raising and harvesting crops.  Consequently, he understood that the future of any business would be assured if the business could build labor-saving farm equipment, and over the next several decades, the company that Augustus Adams founded would do just that. 

            At first, Adams set out building a “grain harvester” which cut the grain and collected it on a platform to be bound.  Of course, Cyrus McCormick had already built the first machine for cutting grain on the McCormick farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in 1831, but Virginia was a long way from Northern Illinois in the 1830s.  Besides, Augustus had several refinements that he wished to see incorporated into the grain cutting machine that were not part of the McCormick machine.  If he could manufacture his machine in substantial quantities, Augustus would have the entire local market for these machines completely to himself.  By the fall of 1838, Augustus’ original grain harvester was in operation.  That same fall, Augustus established a foundry and machine shop in Elgin to build duplicates of the harvester to sell to area farmers.   

            In the fall of 1840, Augustus was finally able to bring his wife and four sons to join him in Elgin, Illinois.  Soon their family grew to include five more children: H. Raymond (June 29, 1842); Amy W. (May 29, 1844); Oliver R. (September 10, 1845); Walter G. (July 12, 1848); and Charles H. (February 17, 1855). 

            In 1841, Augustus took on a partner in his business venture: James T. Gifford.   Theirs was a small operation, but it was marked by a generous spirit.  Once Augustus needed a small amount of hard coal for experimentation purposes, so he ordered a couple hundred pounds from a commission house in Chicago.  Two months later, he received word that his coal had arrived in Chicago, but the amount that had actually been sent was a full ton.  The commission house was put in a difficult spot because it had no immediate prospect of selling the coal.  However, Augustus Adams good-naturedly agreed to help the commission house out by purchasing the full ton of coal. 

            Over the years, Augustus continued to work on improvements to the grain harvester.  One such improvement was developed by Augustus in partnership with another inventor, Philo Sylla.  This was the “hinged sickle bar.”  The hinge at the base of the sickle bar allowed the sickle bar to be held in an upright position for transport.  This was the first time that such a hinge had been used on a mower.  The hinged sickle bar has remained a standard part of sickle bar mowers down to the present day.  

            In 1856, Augustus moved his company from Elgin to Sandwich, Illinois, 35 miles to the southwest.  There, he and his oldest sons–Daius, J. Phelps and Henry–established a new machine shop under the name of A. Adams & Sons.  Augustus became the president of the company; his second son, J. Phelps, became secretary; and his third son, Henry A., became treasurer.  One of the major benefits of moving to Sandwich was that the town was served by the newly completed Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad or C.B. and Q. line running east and west through the town.  It was now possible for rail traffic to run uninterrupted from Chicago, through the town of Sandwich, and on to the Mississippi River town of Burlington, Iowa.  (Robert P. Howard, Illinois: A History of the Prairie State [Eerdmans Publishing: Grand Rapids, Mich. 1972], p. 247.)  Consequently, products produced by A. Adams and Sons would most assuredly reach nearly every major point in the midwest by direct connection with the C.B. and Q. railway.

            Because corn was already replacing wheat as the leading farm crop in Illinois, it was natural that a great many machine shops in Illinois began manufacturing machines which would aid in processing corn.  The A. Adams and Sons machine shop was no exception.  Because shelled corn was easier to store and transport, due to the reduced amount of space needed for shelled corn in a sack as opposed to ear corn, corn shelling machines were in great demand by farmers.  Thus, in 1856, A.Adams and Sons began experimenting with a “power corn sheller” in 1856.  The first Adams sheller was powered by a small steam engine.  By 1857, the power corn sheller was in operation, having been improved by the addition of a larger steam engine which could keep the corn sheller working at optimum speed.  This larger steam engine was easier to obtain in quantity, and so better suited to Adams’ purposes when A.Adams and Sons began to mass produce the corn sheller. 

            Over the years, Augustus patented several of his ideas for improvements to the corn sheller; including a multiple spring-type sheller, employing steel rods in the cage of a cylinder sheller, using an adjustable limit stop on the rasp bar of the sheller, providing a flat rim flywheel for the belt drive, providing open driving teeth on the feeder wheel to prevent crushing of kernels, and utilizing offset teeth on the feeder wheel to provide easy entry of the ears.  Adams’ most important innovation, however, was the “self feeder” for the corn sheller which was invented in 1860.  The self feeder was the same type of chain, drag-line self feeder that is used on modern corn shellers designed for shelling corn from corn cribs.  The power self feeding corn sheller marketed by Adams and Gifford became a very popular item. 

            At about the same time, Adams’ shop also started making mechanical hay presses, forerunners of the modern hay baler.  The stationary hay press was most often powered by horses harnessed to a revolving device called a “sweep,” where the horses walked around in circles and generated power which was transferred to the hay press by belt.  The hay press also became a popular mass-produced item sold by the Adams’ shop.  By 1861, the Adams machine shop was employing a large force of men in the manufacture of corn shellers and hay presses. 

            In 1861, fire destroyed the machine shop.  However, Augustus took advantage of this loss to expand his business by building newer, larger facilities.  On April 15, 1867, the Adams firm was incorporated as the Sandwich Manufacturing Company

            Personal loss, however, tempered the joy of starting a new enterprise in the new location, as Augustus’ wife Lydia died on December 14, 1867.  On January 13, 1869, Augustus Adams would marry Mrs. L.M. Mosher.  In 1870, Augustus established his younger sons in a new Sandwich Company-owned facility in Marseilles, Illinois.  The town of Marseilles was chosen because of the water available at that location which promised to be a cheaper source of power than the steam power used at Sandwich.  The new corporate entity, known as the Marseilles Manufacturing Company, was organized to handle the manufacture of the corn sheller, while the Sandwich Company itself concentrated on the manufacture of the hay press.  In 1873, Augustus Adams resigned from his position as president of the Sandwich Manufacturing Company and left the running of that company to his older sons while he went to Marseilles to join his younger sons and to become president of the Marseilles Manufacturing Company

            The older Adams sons, now in total charge of the Sandwich Company, entered into a joint venture with William Low and T.L. French for the production of grain binders in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  The joint venture first was called the Low, Adams and French Harvester Company.  It later became the Adams and French Harvester Company.  The first models of grain binders the partnership produced were hand binders; however, they were pioneers in the development of the wire self-tying grain binder.  All the grain binders sold by the Cedar Falls-based venture were manufactured at the facilities of the Sandwich Company.  Later, the Sandwich Company bought out the other partners and became the sole owner of the binder manufacturing operation. 

            In 1883, the Sandwich Company was struck by another devastating fire which destroyed all of its factory buildings in Sandwich, Illinois.  Once again, the company had to rebuild its factory from scratch, and once again, the company took the opportunity to expand their facilities as it rebuilt the factory.     

            As a natural consequence of being involved in the manufacture of the hay press, the Sandwich Company turned its inventiveness to other machines to ease the labor involved in hay-making on the average farm.  One particular hay-making machine was soon to become one of the Sandwich Company’s best sales items.  This was the hay loader. 

             An Iowa inventor had created a sensation among farmers in 1890 by his successful demonstration of a hay loader which followed a wagon and incorporated a raking cylinder pickup to lift hay automatically from the ground to the wagon.  The Sandwich corporate leadership quickly saw the possibilities of this hay loader and, in 1891, contracted with the inventor to obtain exclusive rights to manufacture this hay loader under its name.  The Sandwich Company started producing two separate models of their hay loader–”Old Reliable” (later named “Clean Sweep”) and the “Easy Way.”  The Sandwich Company made several improvements to the original design of the hay loader, most important of which was the creation of the push-bar elevator.  Soon hay loaders of similar designs were being manufactured by many different companies and being sold by the thousands.  However, hay loaders, of whatever manufacture, always retained the same basic design as had been incorporated in the original Sandwich design. 

            Although advertisements for the “Clean Sweep” hay loader indicated that the hay loader would work well on hay either in a swathe or a narrow windrow, clearly the Clean Sweep, like all hay loaders, would work better when the hay had been raked into a windrow.  For one thing, the horses pulling the wagon and hay loader could walk on either side of a narrow windrow and not have to tread on the new hay.  Furthermore, because the windrow was narrow, the whole width of the pickup cylinder on the hay loader was used.  Consequently, turning the corner of a windrow could be accomplished much easier, with less hay being left on the ground.  Answering the need for a windrowing device, the Sandwich Company pioneered the development of the side-delivery hay rake whose basic design would remain unchanged to this day.  Indeed, with the advent of the mechanical hay loader and the side-delivery rake to the farm, the dump rake and hand-loading with a pitch fork would be replaced within a very short period of time.  Furthermore, the pattern of hay making was established and would remain unchanged for the next 60 years.  The Sandwich Company had a great deal of influence on this process.   

            In 1894, the Sandwich Company designed and built a portable grain elevator intended for use on the typical family farm.  Several years later, after finalizing refinements to the basic design, the portable grain elevator was mass produced for sale to the public.  Here, too, a number of innovations were made to the elevator and wagon unloading: including a safety screw-type raising and lowering device for the wagon dump; use of steel troughs stiffened by double truss rods; reinforcing the steel metal troughs with box crimps; employing steel rather than malleable chain; and making the carrying truck adjustable to accommodate elevators of various lengths. 

            Additionally, some time before 1908, the Sandwich Company began production of several different models of its own internal combustion “hit and miss” stationary engines.  Among these engines were the 1-1/2 hp. “Cub;” the 1-3/4 hp. “Junior;” the 2-1/2 hp. Model T; and a 4 hp. engine.  Sandwich also offered two different models of a 6 hp. engine, an 8 hp. engine, and a 10 hp. engine.  These engines were sold separately, or as sources of efficient power for hammer mills, portable grain elevators, and other equipment in the growing line of Sandwich Company products.  

            The Sandwich Company continued to grow in size throughout the Golden Age of American agriculture (1865-1920) with only a few dips.  In 1904, the Company reported gross sales of $925,994.59.  However, in 1907, there was a dip in gross sales to $736,490.78 caused by the contraction of the money supply in October of that year which has been called the Panic of 1907.  (George E. Mowry, The Era of Theodore Roosevelt [Harper Bros.: N.Y. 1958], p. 217.)  Still, in 1907, the Sandwich Company employed more than 250 people.  In 1908, gross sales returned and were in excess of $819,500.00.

            Meanwhile, a very efficient sales network had been established by the Sandwich Company with branch offices in Council Bluffs, Iowa; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Peoria, Illinois; Bloomington, Illinois; and Kansas City, Missouri, all of which had rail connections to the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad.  Warehouses for storing its machinery were established across the country at strategic locations such as Sioux City, Iowa; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Jackson, Michigan; Denver, Colorado; Portland, Oregon; and Los Angeles, California.  Additionally, Sandwich began selling farm machinery to South Wales, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Central and South America, and especially to the Republic of Argentina after J. Phelps Adams made several trips there to develop contacts.  Locally, Illinois farmers could buy Sandwich equipment from dealers in Somonauk, Shabbona, Hinckley, Big Rock, Aurora, Yorkville, Waterman, Earlville, and DeKalb.  Similar dealership networks existed in other states, making the various Sandwich Company farm machines available to farm customers across the midwest.  One of these customers was John Marshall Hanks and his son Fred Marshall Hanks of Winnebago, Minnesota. 

            Fred Marshall Hanks farmed his parents’ (John Marshall and Charlotte Bruce Hanks) farm in Verona Township, Faribault County near Winnebago, Minnesota.  Fred Marshall and his father were both born in Warren, Vermont.  In 1880, John Marshall brought his family to Minnesota.  From 1880 until 1882, the family rented the Hamelau farm directly adjacent to the District No. 5 Schoolhouse in Verona Township.  In 1882, they purchased a 160-acre farm one mile to the south and about a half mile to the west of the Hamelau farm.  In 1900, the family had purchased the neighboring 40-acre Baldwin farm to add to their 160 acres. 

            Because his father liked woodworking (and indeed was a master woodworker) and was busy putting his skills to work in a profitable way by building barns in the surrounding neighborhood, much of the farming operation fell to Fred Marshall.  However, Fred Marshall really loved farming and had many ideas for improvements.  One such improvement was to shorten the labor-intensive job of putting up hay for the livestock each year.  Like most farmers with dairy operations, the Hanks family had to store a great deal of hay to feed the cattle in winter.  Hay-making was a big job which took days, and even weeks, to perform under the hot summer sun.  Of course, mowing the hay was done with a horse-drawn mower and the hay dried in a swathe.  Gathering the hay into bunches in the field could be accomplished by use of a team of horses and a dump rake.  (The dump rake used by the Hanks family is still located on the Harlan Hanks farm in rural Winnebago, Minnesota.)  Loading of the hay was, however,  accomplished entirely by hand. 

            In late June of 1911, with the sweet smell of freshly mown hay in the air (the mowing had been accomplished the day before), Fred and his sons, 15-year-old Howard and 8-year-old Stanley, headed to the hay field with pitchfork in hand, a team of horses, and a hayrack.  The morning milking was done and the dew had lifted.  Grandfather John Marshall was already in the field with another team of horses, pulling the hay together in piles with the dump rake.  Once in the field, young Stanley, driving a team of horses, moved the hayrack from one pile of hay to the next as his older brother, father, and grandfather loaded the hayrack full of hay.  One fork-full at a time, the entire hay crop would be loaded onto successive wagons and hauled to the barn.  It was a tedious, time-consuming job which could last for days, two or three times a year, as the first, second, and third cuttings of hay were harvested.  Therefore, it is easy to understand the intense desire of Fred Marshall to find an easier way to put up the hay crop. 

            After pondering the question all winter, Fred went to Winnebago in the spring of 1912 and ordered a “Clean Sweep” hay loader made by the Sandwich Company and a Keystone side-delivery rake.  That summer, the new Sandwich hay loader was put to use on the Hanks farm and considerably shortened the hay season.  (A more detailed description of the Sandwich hay loader on the Hanks farm during the 1919 hay harvest is contained in the article “The Larson Bundle Wagon” on page 28 of the March /April 1996 Belt Pulley, Vol. 9, No. 2.) 

            There were two major shortcomings to the Sandwich Clean Sweep hay loader: first, it was made largely of wood; and second, it was extremely tall.  Indeed, the tall, awkward nature of any model hay loader meant that it was destined to be stored outside all winter long.  This meant that the weather would have a very real deleterious effect on the hay loader, especially its wooden parts, and like most farms, indoor storage space was at a premium on the Hanks farm.  Consequently, by 1920, the badly deteriorated wooden Sandwich hayloader had to be replaced by a brand new John Deere-Dain direct-drive, all-steel hay loader. 

            Another drawback to the Sandwich hay loader was that it required the use of three horses to pull the wagon and the hay loader.  The Clean Sweep’s wooden frame pickup cylinder was heavy and created a heavy draft.  By comparison, the new John Deere-Dain hay loader purchased by the Hanks family in 1920 had a lighter-weight pickup cylinder made of metal which considerably lighten the draft and required only a two-horse hitch. 

            In the pattern of the harvest season on typical midwestern farms, the hay harvest is followed by the oat and wheat harvest.  Between the years of 1911 and 1919, the Hanks family hired their neighbor, Ray Iliff, to thresh their wheat and oats.  Here again, the Sandwich Manufacturing Company played a role.  In the evening of one summer day in 1911, a Minneapolis steam engine came chugging down the road toward the Hanks farm with a 36″ x  58″ Minneapolis thresher in tow.  Ray Iliff had just finished threshing at another farm and was bringing the thresher to the Hanks farm where he would begin threshing the next morning.  In the approaching darkness, the groans and creaks of the steam engine, as well as the size of the engine and thresher with its Garden City Company double-wing feeder extensions, created a frightening specter in the mind of young 6-year-old Harlan.  He ran inside the house and stayed there, where he explained the scary scene to his mother, “Nettie” (Jeanette Ogilvie Hanks).  Only the excitement of threshing the next day brought Harlan out of the house to view the steam engine and thresher in the light of day.  The new day brought another Ray Iliff machine down the road.  Horses pulled into the Hanks farm yard with the Sandwich portable grain elevator.  Accompanying the elevator was a hit and miss Sandwich engine dressed in its rich Brewster green paint striped in gold and light green. 

            Even though the Sandwich elevator was portable, it took a lot of work to set it up at each farm.  Indeed, young Harlan Hanks remembered that the Sandwich elevator was only used one year on the Hanks farm because it was regarded as too much bother to set it up for the amount of time it might save.  The men setting up the portable elevator barely had enough time to get the stationary “hit and miss” engine started and the elevator operating before the first wooden “double box” wagon load of grain would come into the yard. 

            With the arrival of the Sandwich hay loader on the farm and now this new motorized method of lifting grain into the granary by means of a Sandwich elevator, Howard must have thought modern farming had truly arrived on the farm.  Thus, he got his new camera and snapped a picture.  Such a sight was surely worthy of being preserved on film.  Forty-seven years later, Howard’s grandson, the current author, would also take a picture of a grain elevator in operation on his home farm loading oats into a grain bin.  At 9 years of age, this would be one of the author’s first photographs.  (Incidentally, this picture is carried in an article on page 30 of the November/December 1993 issue of Belt Pulley, Vol. 6, No.6.) 

            Howard was right.  Modern farming had arrived on the Hanks farm in 1912.  The  Sandwich Manufacturing Company had been responsible for bringing modern operations to the Hanks farm just as it had to many other farms.  The Sandwich Company continued to grow on the basis of its innovative machines and farmers’ demands for modern Sandwich Company farm equipment products.  At its peak, the Company would employ 400 persons.  As the agricultural market began to shrink following World War I, however, the United States rural economy began to enter its depression in 1921.  The Sandwich Company, like other farm equipment companies, found itself in a bind.  Things progressively went from bad to worse for the Sandwich Company, as the agricultural depression of the 1920 deepened and spread into the industrial sector following the 1929 stock market crash.  However, in 1930, the Sandwich Manufacturing Company was sold to the New Idea Spreader Company of Coldwater, Ohio.  New Idea continued to sell Sandwich corn shellers, hay mowers, side rakes, portable grain elevators, and, of course, the famous “Easyway” hayloader under the  New Idea Company name.  In 1945, AVCO would buy out the New Idea Company.  Manufacture of the hay loader would cease altogether some time between 1949 and 1952, as more and more farmers began baling their hay. 

            The old plant in Sandwich would continue to manufacture farm machinery, including mowers, side rakes and elevators, until 1955, when the antiquated little factory in Sandwich would be closed down permanently.  Although the facilities would continue for a time as a sales division and warehouse for machine parts manufactured by the New Idea Division of AVCO, the town of Sandwich realized that it had lost its primary employer, and the city mourned that loss. 

            Today, the community of Sandwich still fondly remembers the farm equipment company.  Today, Sandwich has its own historical society which has collected much material on the Sandwich Company.  Sandwich resident, Roger Peterson, has collected a number of antique Sandwich Company gas engines as a hobby.  Perhaps in the near future, a club of collectors and restorers will spring up which will make some of the old Sandwich Company’s machines come alive again for the public to enjoy.  This would be a fitting tribute to the small company that was a pioneer in so many areas of American agriculture.

Ottawa Manufacturing Company of Ottawa Kansas

The Ottawa Manufacturing Company of Ottawa Kansas:

The August Reddemann Cross-cut Saw

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the May/June issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

            “As the old saying goes: “Firewood warms you twice; once when you cut it and again when you burn it.”  (Allan A. Swenson, Wood Heat [Fawcett: N.Y., 1979], p. 95.)  In recent years, firewood has taken a backseat to other forms of fuel, e.g., heating oil and natural gas.  However, there once was a time when wood was the only source of fuel available to farm families across the United States. 

            The job of putting away enough wood for the winter was an onerous task for our ancestors.  In the days before power saws of any sort, families would have to cut and store completely by hand sufficient wood to last out the winter.  Once a tree was felled, the work had only just started.  The farmer and his family would then begin the task of cutting off the brush and small limbs, sawing all the limbs into pieces 16″ to 24″ in length and loading them into a wagon or sled to be hauled to the woodpile near the house.  Gradually, the tree would be reduced to larger limbs and the trunk itself.  This was the point where bowsaws were no longer big enough for cutting up the remainder of the tree, and the family would have to start the hard, tedious process of cutting the large limbs and trunk into manageable pieces with a large two-person saw.  

            Farm families were constantly striving to find labor-saving methods for performing their farm work.  It is not surprising, then, to find that they were receptive to newer and easier methods of sawing firewood–especially an easier way of sawing the big limbs and the trunk of a tree.  In answer to this need, the Ottawa Manufacturing Company, of Ottawa, Kansas, developed the Ottawa crosscut log saw. 

            The Ottawa crosscut saw was outfitted with a two and a half or a four horse-power, single-cylinder Ottawa “hit and miss” stationary power unit.  Mounted on two wheels with a frame attached to long handles, the operator would simply use the handles of the Ottawa saw to move the entire unit, just like a wheelbarrel or a two-wheeled cart, to a log lying on the ground, rather than requiring the operator to drag the log to the saw.  Securing the handles on the log at the proper location by the use of cant hooks, the operator would position the blade of the saw to cut off a piece of the log to the desired length.  Next, the operator would turn the wheels of the saw 90 degrees from the transport position to a position parallel to the log.  Then the engine would be engaged, the blade would start moving, and the operator only had to stand back and watch.  The flywheel and pitman of the “hit and miss” engine would push and pull the saw blade back and forth across the log at a rate of up to 140 to 170 strokes per minute.  This certainly was an improvement over crosscutting the entire winter’s supply of wood by hand. 

            The Ottawa Manufacturing Company was born in 1904 out of the consolidation of other companies owned by the Warner family.  One of these companies was the Warner Manufacturing Company, formerly Warner Fence.   As the name suggests, the company was first involved in making woven wire and barbed wire fencing for all uses.  Indeed, Charles E. (C.E.) Warner was the inventor of the “interlock tie” style of woven wire fence and many other improvements in wire fencing which would become popular over the years.  It is often alleged that the Colt 45 caliber six-shooter pistol “tamed the west.”  A more accurate statement might be that barbed wire fencing really did the job of taming the west.   

            The Warner family had long been involved in promotional activities.  C.E.’s father, Emery Warner, was born in Rochester, New York, to Mr. and Mrs. Hiram Warner.  Emery’s cousin was H.H. Warner who was celebrated as the discoverer and proprietor of a patent medicine called “Warner Safe Cure.”   Just as many of his generation did, Emery Warner set out in 1840 to seek his fortune on the American frontier in Illinois.  He purchased a farm in Tazwell County, Illinois, and married a local girl–Priscilla Ireland.   On July 2, 1850, Emery and Priscilla’s eldest child was born–C.E. Warner.  The couple had four other boys and a daughter before the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. 

            Despite the southern sympathies of his in-laws (Priscilla Ireland was a distant relative of the future General Price who would become one of the ablest military commanders for the Confederate States of America), Emery Warner enlisted in the United States Army under General Ulysses S. Grant.  Tragically, in 1863, Emery died after being struck with a fever while his unit was in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Left to fend for herself on the farm with her boys, Priscilla and her eldest son C.E. kept the farm operating until 1871 when they packed up the whole family and moved to a farm in Coffey County, Kansas. 

            Once in Kansas, young C.E. took up carpentry as a means to earn income for the family.  However, as he and his brothers were all thinking of other ways to make money, they saw the crying need of the farmers of Coffey County for strong fences to contain the growing number of livestock populating the county.  In particular, there was a need for good hog fencing.  The hogs would root under and crawl out of fences made of boards, barbed wire strands, or even traditional woven wire.  The Warner boys, therefore, developed a woven wire with a barbed strand at the bottom that made the fence effective at containing pigs and obtained a patent in the name of one of the younger brothers–W.H. Warner.  Needless to say, the fence became very popular.  The family formed a corporate entity called the Warner Fence Company and began to make the fence on a large scale for the burgeoning farm market of the 1880s. 

            By the 1890s, the Warner Fence Company was well established in facilities at two locations in Coffey County–Melvern and Waverly, Kansas.  Nonetheless, the brothers–principally C.E., William H. (W.H.), and Richard E.–along with C.E.’s son, Eugene L. (E.L.), remained active in the inventive process.  In 1895, C.E. invented a machine which improved the manufacture of the Warner woven wire fence with the barbed margin.  Later, he invented the “interlock tie” style of woven wire fence to solve the problem of slipping knots common with traditional woven wire.  Later still, young E.L. would make even more improvements to the fence-making machines and would patent those machines.  Eventually, the patents would be sold to Steel Trust of Joliet, Illinois, and to National Steel Company of DeKalb, Indiana. 

            The Warners also became active in the community of Melvern.  For six years, W.H. was president of the Citizen’s Bank before he gave up the position to devote more time to his growing wire business.  The Warners also tried to develop a merchandising business.  For the promotionally inclined Warners, merchandising seemed like a natural fit.  However, the venture did not prove successful, and soon the Warners were back to concentrating on their fences.   

            Not far from Coffey County, in neighboring Franklin County, the town of Ottawa, Kansas, was looking for a way to develop their small town.  The town’s citizens saw the Warner Fence Company as an excellent candidate for relocation.  However, Ottawa was not alone in the courtship of the Warner Company; Emporia, Kansas, also was sending out feelers to the Warner Company suggesting that the business move to their town.  With a larger population and good rail connections on the main line of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, Emporia had a lot to offer a new business.   Realizing this threat, the Ottawa Business Mens’ Association, in 1903, straightforwardly offered the Warner Fence Company $3,000 dollars to relocate to Ottawa.  The Warners took the offer and moved their operations from both Waverly and Melvern to a new location on King Street in North Ottawa, Kansas, in 1904. 

            Soon the new plant was up and running, turning out 22 miles of woven-wire fence per day.  Orders came into the Ottawa facility from all over the nation.  In 1908, the Warner Company submitted an order for wire to their supplier in Pueblo, Colorado, that was so large that the shipment required 20 railroad cars filled to capacity.  This was not the normal course of business for the Warner Company, but was done more for the purposes of gaining publicity.

            With the move to a new community came a new line of products for the consumer (powered post hole diggers, powered weed and grass cutters, windmills and power saws) and a new name–in fact, several new names.  From 1904 until 1915, the gasoline powered engines that were manufactured by the Warner Company were sold under the name Union Foundry and Machine Company when the engines were marketed through independent franchise operators.  However, when the same gasoline/kerosene engines were sold by the company directly to the customer, or end-user, the engine was called the Warner.  Then in 1915, the name Union Manufacturing Company disappeared and the engines that were sold to franchises were all known as The Ottawa engines.  The Warners also sold manufactured goods under the name Ottawa Steel Products

            Nearly all engines marketed by Warner were water-cooled, single cylinder “hit and miss” engines; however, in 1915, Warner marketed two models of air-cooled engines–a 1½ hp. engine and a 2 hp. engine.  By 1917, there were 15 different sizes of gas powered engines, ranging in size from 1½ hp to 22 hp.  Some of the engines sold by Warner under the various Warner names generally had two gas tanks: a small tank for gasoline and a large tank for kerosene.  The engine would be started on gasoline and then switched to cheaper kerosene for operation.  However, the Warner Company would become more well-known for the machines that they manufactured, rather than for the engines themselves.  In particular, it was The Ottawa crosscut saw (or log saw) that would create fame for the company. 

            In about 1913, E.L. Warner was on a train to Kansas City, Missouri, when he saw some men laboring to cut up a log with a two-man, cross-cut hand saw.  He instantly recognized that there might be a real market for a power cross-cut saw.  Upon his return to Ottawa, he set his employees to work developing a power cross-cut saw.  Out of this grew The Ottawa cross-cut log saw which the company then began offering to the public.  Although the log saw came in different styles, it was basically a two-man hand saw mounted on a frame and powered by a small engine and a pitman.  The engine and pitman would push and pull the blade across a log in the same way as two men would if they were using a hand saw.  When introduced, the log saw was always referred to as The Ottawa

            The Ottawa was a very popular item for the Ottawa Manufacturing Company: from the very beginning, crosscut saws were sold to individuals across the United States and around the world.  One such individual who became aware of the advantages of The Ottawa cross-cut saw was August Reddemann.  August and Albertina (Preuhs) Reddemann owned and operated an 80-acre farm in Tyrone township in of LeSueur County, Minnesota, that had originally belonged to August’s parents–Karl and Fredericka (Yanke) Reddemann–who had immigrated to the United States from Germany in the 1860s.  They had one son and were expecting a second when they crossed the Atlantic.  During passage on the ship, Fredericka delivered the baby, but it died.  Once in the United States, they made their way to Milwaukee, where they lost all their money to thieves.  Consequently, they were required to work in Milwaukee for a while to earn enough money to continue their journey to Minnesota.  Once in Tyrone township, Karl and Fredericka became one of the township’s earliest settling families.  Other children were born to the couple, the last of which was August Reddemann born on November 6, 18  .   

            August Reddemann grew up on the farm and gradually took over more of the farming operations from his father.  On July 31, 1909, August married a local Tyrone Township girl, Albertina Preuhs, and together they settled into the house with Karl.  Every year, just like so many other families in the United States, the Reddemann family had to store up firewood for the winter.  This was a tedious and time-consuming job which occupied the entire family, both in the early spring and late fall. 

            Following the birth of their son, Orbe, on February 18, 1910, Albertina would no longer be available to help collect wood for the year.  It was no wonder, then, that when August read about The Ottawa crosscut saw he was intrigued by its labor-saving possibilities and decided to buy one.  To pay for the Ottawa saw, he intended to use his “Liberty Bonds.”       

            Liberty Bonds were sold to citizens of United States as a means to help finance the increased government spending incurred when the United States joined the First World War in April of 1917.  In the atmosphere of patriotic zeal that swept the nation just after the intervention of the United States into World War I, purchasing Liberty Bonds became a means by which people could demonstrate their patriotism.  Eventually, the purchase of Liberty Bonds became nearly mandatory.  This was especially true for German-American communities like Tyrone and Sharon townships in LeSueur County, Minnesota, because of the anti-German feeling that accompanied the patriotic zeal.  Like many of his neighbors, August Reddemman had purchased a sizeable number of Liberty Bonds during the war.  Now, in June of 1920, he wished to redeem these bonds and use the money to purchase an Ottawa saw.  August Reddemann was not alone in his wish to cash in his war bonds.  All across the nation, citizens were purchasing goods which they had been denied during the war, and they were cashing in their war bonds to finance those purchases.  (John D. Hicks, Republican Ascendancy [Harper Bros: N. Y., 1960], p. 5.)

            This sudden increase in demand for goods caused prices to rise dramatically, causing an inflationary spike in the economy.  By the fall of 1919, inflation was running at 15%, which meant that Liberty Bonds suffered a decline in value.  (William Greider, Secrets of the Temple [Simon & Schuster: N.Y., 1987], p. 290.)  Consequently, when August Reddemann attempted to finance his purchase of The Ottawa saw and sent the Liberty Bonds to the Ottawa Company in payment for the saw, he received a letter back from the company on June 9, 1920, stating, “On account of the decreasing value of Liberty Bonds, we are unable to give you full par value for your bonds.”  The company went on to inform him that $13.50 remained due on the total $86.50 price of the Ottawa saw and would be payable when the saw was delivered to the railroad depot in LeSueur.           On July 26, 1920, an Ottawa crosscut saw (engine serial no. 26924) was loaded into railroad boxcar HV 9012.  Then, boxcar HV 9012 along with other boxcars loaded with other Ottawa Company products were picked up from the side track adjacent to the Ottawa Company factory in Ottawa by a northbound Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad train.  The train’s destination was Kansas City, Missouri.  Once in the large freight yard located in downtown Kansas City, some boxcars were taken to a siding near the Ottawa Company “branch house,” or warehouse.  From there, the products would be distributed to dealerships served by the Kansas City branch house.  Boxcar HV 9012, however, remained sealed and was transferred to a Chicago, Burington and Quincy train headed to Omaha, Nebraska.  Arriving in Omaha, Boxcar HV 9012 was opened and some products removed and transferred by horse and freight wagon to the Ottawa Company’s Omaha branch house.  The Ottawa saw (No. 26924), however, remained on board the boxcar and was transferred to a train on the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha line.  This train followed the “Omaha Road” tracks nestled in the Missouri River Valley until the train reached Sioux City, Iowa.  After a short pause in Sioux City to pick up some new rail cars and to leave others behind, the train continued on its journey by climbing up out of the valley and out onto the flat plains of northwestern Iowa.  The train moved along the tracks, passing fields of tasseling corn and ripening wheat and oats.  Even as the train passed, farmers were in the fields with their horses and grain binders, binding up the small grain crop of 1920.  The train passed through the small towns of  LeMars, Alton, Sheldon, and Sibley, Iowa, stopping at each local depot to pick up or drop off freight.  (In modern times, the picturesque depot in LeMars has been converted into a restaurant–the Depot Steakhouse and Lounge.  Additionally, the Iron Horse resturant in Sheldon contains much railroad memorabilia and the original flavor of a typical depot.)  Just beyond Sibley, the train passed an insignificant hill located to the east of the train tracks which is noteworthy only for the fact that at 1,670 feet in elevation it is the highest point in Iowa.  Soon after passing this point, the train entered Minnesota.  The train continued across the prairies, making stops at Worthington, Windom, Madelia, and Lake Crystal.  In Lake Crystal, the train followed the Chicago Northwestern Railroad tracks through Mankato and St. Peter before arriving in LeSueur.  (This is the same route that was described in the article “Custom threshing on a Large Scale” contained in the July/August issue of Belt Pulley [Vol. 10, No. 4, p. 31], only this time the trip is taken in reverse.) 

            Arriving at the depot in LeSueur Minnesota, depot agent G.N. Larson took the bill of lading and The Ottawa saw No. 26924.  Total freight charges for the trip came to $6.97.  When August Reddemman was notified that the saw had been delivered to the LeSueur depot, he and 10-year-old Orbe got into his new Chevolet pickup and rode to town to pay the costs of freight and the $13.50 which remained on the saw. 

            Once the harvest was completed in the fall of 1920, the Reddemann family discovered just how handy The Ottawa saw really was.  First, the engine on the new dark green twin fly-wheel Ottawa saw was started by using a hand crank.  Then the saw was leaned against the trunk of a felled tree and secured to the appropriate location by use of the cant hooks attached to the saw.  The moving saw blade, suspended above the log by the hook-up pin connected to the end strap, was then released from the hookup pin and lowered onto the log.  Then the cutting began.  Occasionally, as the engine began to labor under the work load, it emitted black smoke into the cool air.  This meant that the engine was using too much gas.  August would then adjust the mixture control on the carburetor so that the engine would once again work at peak efficiency.  Under ideal conditions, the log could be propped up above the ground so that there would be some space between the underside of the log and the ground.  If this was the case, the chain connecting the blade to the end strap on the frame of the saw would automatically prevent the blade from scraping the ground and becoming dull.  Basically, then, the saw could function independently without supervision while the cut was being made.  In the case of the Reddeman’s, this meant that August, Orbe and grandfather Karl could be free to remove the brush and small twigs from the tree.  On most occasions, however, one of the Reddemann family would watch over the saw to assure that nothing went wrong. 

            Having finished one cut with the saw, August would then move the saw sidewise 16″ to 24″ along the log to where the next cut was to be made and the process would start again.  The Ottawa log saw’s transport wheels were designed to be turned 90 degrees, thus facilitating the movement of the saw along the length of a log.  Wedges were sometimes hammered into the cut in order to prevent the blade from being pinched while the cut was being completed.  The Ottawa saw also had a slip-clutch which would prevent damage if the blade were ever to become pinched. 

            During the time that August farmed the heavily wooded 80-acre Reddemann farm, only about 35 acres were under plow.  By the time August’s son, Orbe, grew up and took over the farming operation, 78 acres were under plow, with the Ottawa crosscut saw playing a large part in clearing this land.  (In modern times, with the concern for ecology, the goal of clearing land for farming has lost some luster as an admirable goal.  Nonetheless, in pioneer days, and even well into this century, clearing land remained very much the goal of farmers.  Orbe himself, as a member of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association, has expressed some modern day concern, especially in regard to the preservation of the wetlands on the grounds owned the Association.) 

            Orbe’s grandfather, Karl, died in 1923, leaving Orbe and his parents on the Reddemann farm.  Orbe grew up, and on November 24, 1935, he married Dorothy Braun from the same neighborhood and together they took over operation of the farm.  They had two children: Sheldon, born on February 7, 1937; and Corinne, born on April 19, 1943.  Every year the family continued to gather wood for the winter, until 1990 when Orbe and Dorothy converted the house to propane gas heat.  The Ottawa saw continued to be used on the Reddemann farm only until 1943 when it replaced by a chainsaw bought by Orbe. 

            In 1976, Orbe’s interest in history led him to become a member of the Tyrone-Dresselville Threshers.  That year, at the 1976 Threshing Bee held on the Dave and Carol Preuhs farm, Orbe demonstrated his father’s Ottawa cross-cut saw as an exhibit.  (The story of the founding of the Tyrone-Dresselville Threshers is contained in the article “Build it and they will Come,” by Brian Wells, at page 33 of the Summer 1996 issue of the Hart-Parr/Oliver Collectors magazine, Vol. VII, No. 2.)  In 1977, the Tyrone-Dresselville Threshers was officially organized into a non-profit organization called the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association, and Orbe Reddemann became its 43rd member.  Besides exhibiting the Ottawa crosscut saw, Orbe became identified with all facets of the new organization.  As the years went by, Orbe would become so identified with the Pioneer Power Association that he would be called “Mr. Pioneer Power.”  In 1979, he was credited with building the first structure on the new Pioneer Power Showgrounds.  This building served as the first kitchen from which food was sold to the public during shows.  Currently, it is occupied during the annual threshing show by the LeSueur Lions Club who sells bratwursts to the crowd.  Even though it is now under different proprietorship, the building is still referred to as “Orbe’s Eat Shack.”  When lack of a good foundation threatened Orbe’s Eat Shack, it was lovingly restored in the summer of 1997 by the LeSueur Lions Club under the management of Wayne A. Wells.              Orbe also built the ticket booth and many of the benches located on the Pioneer Power Showgrounds.  He served as a member of the Board of Directors from 1984 until 1986.  In the minutes of the meeting of June 27, 1985, the organization would refer to Orbe as Pioneer Power’s own handyman because of his unselfish service. 

            Over the years, Orbe would continue to exhibit and demonstrate the Ottawa crosscut saw at Pioneer Power shows.  He also bought another Ottawa crosscut saw from Meinard Megendenz and demonstrated it at various Pioneer Power shows.  The Megendenz saw is identical to the crosscut saw owned by Orbe’s father, except that, whereas the August Reddemann saw is a twin fly-wheel version, the Megendenz saw is a single fly-wheel version.  Still, both of these saws are fine representatives of the little company located in southeastern Kansas which sought to make life easier for the North American farmer. 

            On August 28, 29 and 30, 1998, the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association will celebrate its 25th Anniversary.  A section of the Showgrounds will be set aside for the exhibits which were a part of the first show in 1974 and other early shows.  The public may be sure that Orbe Reddemann will once again be displaying his father’s Ottawa crosscut saw in this historic section.  

            In 1917, the Ottawa Company suffered a fire which destroyed their plant.  Still, the company recovered and continued to grow throughout the 1920s.  In 1934, they sustained another fire at their facilities.  Once again, the company recovered.  The company also changed with the times, manufacturing a full line of service station equipment such as air compressors, power lifts and lubrication equipment.  Later, the company began manufacturing thousands of brake shoes for the nation’s railroads.  The company even began the manufacture of a garden tractor called the “Ottawa Mule Team Tractor.” 

            Ottawa, Kansas, is still home to Clifford Fritts, who started with the Ottawa Company in 1926 as a janitor and rose to become superintendent of the whole company.  A large part of his remarkable rise was due to his attention to details.  This characteristic is best illustrated by the fact that as a janitor sweeping up at the end of the day, young Clifford could not bring himself to throw away the bolts, nuts and washers that he found in the sweepings every night.  Not knowing what else to do with the hardware, he began storing them in boxes and barrels in an upstairs location at the Ottawa Company facilities.  Over the years, this collection of mismatched nuts, bolts and washers grew in size to become a prodigious quantity.  When the Ottawa Company facilities were converted to the manufacture of telescopic gun sights for field artillery pieces for the United States Armed Forces, the company found that raw materials were in extremely short supply–including nuts, bolts and washers.  Clifford, who was by that time occupying a position of responsibility in the company, remembered his large collection of waste nuts and bolts, and soon had the company set some workers to sorting the large collection into appropriate sizes.  This collection gathered over a period of years helped carry the Ottawa Company through the severe shortages the company experienced in trying to fill the United States Army contracts.        For a time during the Second World War, it seemed that the Army might submit a large order for Ottawa crosscut saws to be used by engineering units in jobs like clearing jungles for airports in the Pacific.  However, the development of the portable chainsaw during the war put an end to any hope of the crosscut saw ever becoming part of the war effort.  There was just no way that the crosscut saw could compete with the versatile chainsaw either for the war effort or in the civilian market following the war.  Sales of the crosscut saw declined precipitously and with it the fortunes of the Ottawa Company and all the other Warner corporate holdings.  To make matters worse, the factory was inundated under 8 feet of water by the Great Flood of 1951 which struck the entire midwest.  Almost nothing remained of the company by the time E.L. Warner died later that same year.  Consequently, the factory which once hummed with the activity of manufacturing crosscut saws and other Warner products was sold to the Comfort Equipment Company

            Today, only about 50% of the buildings of the original manufacturing facility remain and these are only partially occupied by various small manufacturing concerns.  However, all is not lost, an effort is being undertaken by George L. and Helen S. Myers, organized as The Ottawa Caretakers (Route 1, Box 237A, Blain, Pennsylvania  17006-9723, Tel. (717) 536-3711), to encourage research on all the Warner companies and to encourage the restoration of Ottawa equipment.  At the present time, the Myerses own one of the few “Ottawa Mule Team Tractors” which were manufactured by Ottawa.  This garden tractor has been lovingly restored by George and Helen, along with six Ottawa crosscut saws and other Ottawa and Warner stationary engines which they have collected over the years. 

            Restorers of Ottawa equipment will find that The Ottawa Cartakers is an excellent source of information and an excellent place to find those hard-to-find Ottawa decals and replications of the original Ottawa aluminum number plates for engines and crosscut saws.  Restorers should also be aware that the Myerses have found Sherwin-Williams JX9353 to be the paint that most closely matches the proper shade of green used by the Ottawa Company for its products.  Where red was used as a contrasting color, the Myerses have found that Acme’s “Fleet Red” No. 137 is the color that most closely matches the red used by the Ottawa Company

            Today, with the help of The Ottawa Caretakers and individual collectors like Orbe Reddemann, the citizens of Ottawa and the public at-large will have permanent reminders of that small company in Kansas which once made many of the products used by our ancestors.

M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 3): Restoration of the Clark-Christenson Super M and the Jim Ellis 3-bottom McCormick-Deering Plow

The M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 3):

Restoration of the Clark-Christenson 1953 Farmall Super M and the Jim Ellis 3-bottom McCormick-Deering Plow

  by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the March/April 1998 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

 

            As previously described, the Clark-Christenson Super M (Serial No. 31,634) had spent all of its working life in the community of Blooming Prairie, Minnesota.  (See the article “The M&W Company [PartII]: The Clark-Christenson Tractor” in the November/December 1997 issue of Belt Pulley, Vol. 10, No. 6.)   As you will recall from that article, the Clark-Christenson tractor had sustained a broken bull gear in the rear end of the tractor in 1963, causing a hole to be torn into the underside of the differential housing.  The hole had been fixed by welding, leaving an identifiable scar on the underside of the differential.  In 1992, the tractor was sold and left Blooming Prairie–apparently lost to all those who had any connection with the tractor; in particular, Bill Radil, who had worked with this Super M in the fields in the mid-1980s when he helped out around the Norman Christenson farm. 

            Over the years, however, Bill Radil, too, had moved from the Blooming Prairie/Hayfield area, and in 1994 was living in Howard Lake, Minnesota.  Because of his continuing interest in antique farm machinery, especially International Harvester machinery, he attended every antique tractor show he could in his area, including the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show in rural LeSueur, Minnesota.  The 1994 Pioneer Power Show brought forth strong, poignant memories for Bill, because his father had died the previous year.  Usually, Bill and his father attended these shows together, but in 1994 Bill returned, this time without his father.  At the 1994 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show, Bill met Wayne Wells, Mark Wells and this author, and participated in the field demonstrations and talked tractors.  After the show, Bill was invited to the Wells house in LeSueur, where he was shown a Farmall Super M which was being overhauled in their garage.  Bill, at that time, was interested in this Farmall to the degree that he was interested in all Farmalls.  However, he soon became more interested when he was told that the Wells family had purchased the tractor from Krampitz Hardware in Blooming Prairie.  As Wayne Wells related that the tractor had come from a brother-in-law of Marvin Krampitz, Bill began to wonder if this tractor might not be the same tractor which he had driven on the Christenson farm.  The point of proof was the welding scar on the underside of the differential left by the broken bull gear.  It was like seeing an old friend from the past.  This was the Clark-Christenson Super M.  The tractor had been sold to Wayne Wells in the summer of 1992 and was taken to LeSueur, where it joined the growing collection of Wells Family Farmalls.  Indeed over the years, the Clark-Christenson Super M has become a favorite of Penny (Ms. Mark) Wells.

            When the tractor first arrived in LeSueur, a large part of the restoration had already been accomplished with the overhaul of the engine in 1985 while the tractor was still on the Norman Christenson farm.  At that time, the M&W high compression pistons were removed and replaced by IHC pistons, thus returning the engine to the original configuration it had when the tractor first emerged from the Farmall Works factory in Rock Island, Illinois, in mid-1953.  Removal of the M&W pistons meant a reduction of horsepower from a high of 58 to the original factory rated horsepower of 41.33. (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests [Crestline: Osceola, Wis. 1985], p. 169.) 

            The Clark-Christenson Super M was afflicted with two typical Farmall problems.  The first such problem was that the hole in the bottom of the clutch pedal which fits around the clutch/brake pedal shaft had worn to a slightly oblong shape, causing the clutch pedal to wobble from side to side.  (This continues to be a common problem with many old Farmall M’s even today.  If the hole becomes very pronounced, the pedal will no longer against the operator’s platform like it is supposed to do when the clutch is engaged.  Instead, the clutch pedal will miss the platform entirely and slide along the side of the platform.)  This problem plagued the Clark-Christenson Super M.  To prevent the clutch from missing the platform, someone had bolted a piece of metal to the operator’s platform to “catch” the clutch pedal.  However, this piece of metal protruded out past the side of the platform.  To really fix the problem and to restore the tractor to its original appearance, this piece of metal was removed.  Then the clutch pedal was also removed, and the hole in the pedal was welded shut and a new hole re-drilled to the proper size of the shaft by neighborhood machinist and Pioneer Power board-member Glendon Braun also of LeSueur.  Additionally, not only had the hole in the clutch pedal on the Super M become worn, but the clutch/brake shaft had also become worn.  To alleviate this problem, Glendon Braun also welded the clutch/brake shaft to build up the diameter of the worn spot on the shaft.  Then he re-turned the shaft on a lathe to bring it down to its proper size again.  (The removal of the clutch pedal and clutch/brake pedal shaft from the Clark-Christenson Super M conducted in April of 1994 can be seen in the second hour portion of Tape # 10 of the International Harvester Promotional Movie Collection.) 

            The second typical Farmall problem which beset the Clark-Christenson Super M was a leaky radiator core.  Engine vibration on most vehicles will cause stress and cracks to develop in the radiator core.  However, this problem appears to be more pronounced in the “lettered” (M, H, B, etc.) Farmall tractors as compared with other models of tractors, and even as compared with the “F-series” Farmalls.  When the radiator on the Clark-Christenson tractor was removed and taken to the radiator experts at LaBelle’s LeSueur Alignment Inc. in LeSueur, they declared the bottom of the radiator to be so full of holes that it was comparable to “Swiss cheese.”  Years of hard work had taken its toll on the radiator of the Clark-Christenson tractor.  Accordingly, a whole new radiator was ordered from Central Tractor Company in Des Moines, Iowa.  (Installation of the new radiator on the Clark-Christenson Super M during the Christmas holidays of 1994 can be seen in the second hour portion of Tape #12.)

            Restoration of the Clark-Christenson Super M also included the purchase and installation of a new belt pulley, because the original rockwood fiber (or paper) pulley was not on the tractor when it was sold to Wayne Wells.  (IHC had contracted with the Rockwood Manufacturing Company to make paper pulleys for its Farmall lettered series and later model tractors.  For the history of the Rockwood Manufacturing Company, see page 14 of the March/April 1997 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  Since belt pulleys for all tractors are a necessity around the LeSueur Pioneer Power grounds because of the great amount of belt work that is performed in the field demonstrations, a 13″ eight-bolt Rockwood fiber pulley was found and purchased for the Clark-Christenson Super M at the 1993 Swap Meet.  (See the author selecting and mounting the pulley on the Clark-Christenson Super M in the second hour portion of Tape #5 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies collection.)  

            Another step taken in the restoration of the Clark-Christenson Super M was to remove all the fluid from the tires.  Calcium chloride may be very useful for ballast on working tractors, but it is very destructive of the wheel rims.   For this reason, it is a bane to antique tractor restorers.  However, because this tractor, even once it was fully restored, was intended for use in the plowing demonstrations at the Pioneer Power Show grounds, compensation had to be made for the lack of weight previously supplied by the fluid in the tires.  To accomplish this, two pair of rear wheels weights, each weighing 145 pounds, were obtained from Bill’s Repair in Plato, Minnesota, for the Clark-Christenson Super M.  Even if both sets of wheel weights were added to the Super M, they would not offset all the weight of the fluid removed from both rear tires.  In this case, however, only one pair of the rear wheel weights was installed on the Clark-Christenson Super M immediately; the second pair was held in reserve in case the plowing demonstrations at the 1995 Pioneer Show proved the need for a second pair. (Installation of the first pair of wheel weights can be seen in the second hour portion of Tape #12 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies.) 

            As previously noted, there had been much criticism of the disc brakes of the Super-series Farmall tractors.  One source of the problems with the disc brakes is that the balls inside the actuating discs become rusty and corroded.  (See the discussion of Farmall disc brakes in “Wartime Farmall H” on pages 15-17 of the July/August 1994 Belt Pulley, Vol. 7, No. 4.)  By 1992, the Clark-Christenson tractor was also having problems with its disc brakes.  Thus, all four of the asbestos-lined discs were replaced, and the actuating disc of each brake was disassembled and cleaned.  An actuating disc is composed of two halves which enclose three balls mounted on inclines on the inside of the actuating discs.  When the brakes are applied, only half of the actuating disc moves in relation to the other half, causing the balls to roll up the inclines.  This action spreads the two halves of the actuating disc and causes them to rub against the asbestos-lined discs which are attached to the counter shaft of the transmission of the tractor.  This, then, stops the tractor.  This is especially true of tractors which are stored outside and exposed to the elements.  After separating the two halves of the actuating discs on the Clark-Christenson tractor and cleaning the insides of the actuating discs and the balls, the brakes were reassembled.  (Part of this process is captured on video tape in the second hour portion of Tape #12 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies.) 

            Following the repair of the clutch and disc brakes and the installation of the new radiator and wheel weights,  the tractor was painted and decaled in time for the 1996 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show which hosted the summer convention of Chapter 15 (the Minnesota State Chapter) of the International Harvester Collectors Association.           The 1996 show was a great success, and the Clark-Christenson tractor was used regularly during the field demonstrations.  Following the show, the Clark-Christenson Super M became popular with the volunteer workers on the grounds, as it started easily and could accomplish tasks around the grounds.  (The tractor can be seen working on the grounds and participating in field demonstrations in the second hour portion of Tapes #5 and #6 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies). 

            Like so many other shows, the LeSueur Pioneer Power Show features a parade of machinery each day.  Not only is the parade an opportunity for exhibitors to show off their tractors, but also other restored machinery if each tractor pulls a restored farm implement in the parade.  Over the years, an increasing number of farm implements have been restored, just as have tractors.  As a means of gathering and storing data on all the tractors participating in its parades, the Pioneer Power Association currently enjoys a computerized system which was developed by Pioneer Power member Kathy Klaseus.  This system eases the registration process each year for members and repeat exhibitors at the Show.  All information about any given tractor is held on the computer from year to year, and any exhibitor who has attended in former years will merely notify the registration booth that a particular repeat tractor has once again been brought to the current Show.  In this way, all information on that tractor will be retrieved from the computer and printed out for the parade announcer.  In addition, each computer entry has a comment section.  This section is an excellent means by which additional information can be listed either about the tractor or about any particular implement that the tractor may be towing in the parade.  Consequently, implements may also be recognized by the parade announcer.  To avoid having to make changes to the comment section for each exhibit each year, members tend to pull the same implements with the same tractor year after year.  Thus, tractors tend to be identified with a particular implement during the parade.  Each tractor restoration, then, is not really complete until the proper implement has been found which can be associated with a particular tractor.  Given the work history of the Clark-Christenson Super M, that implement had to be a plow, but which plow?  As previously noted, the Clark-Christenson tractor had pulled a four-bottom plow with 14″ bottoms on the Clark farm, and later pulled a 4-16″ plow on the Christenson farm.  As the reader will recall from the previous issue of Belt Pulley magazine, the Clark Christenson Super M was fitted with M&W high compression pistons during the time it worked on the Clark and Christenson farms.  However, since the tractor had been overhauled and re-fitted with the standard IHC pistons in 1985, the tractor would have less horsepower than it had while working on the Clark and Christenson farms.  Moreover, the gumbo soil of LeSueur County was more difficult to plow than the more sandy soil of southern Dodge and Steele Counties where both the Clark and Christenson farms were located.  Additionally, even if the 1953 Clark/Christenson Super M were currently fitted with M&W pistons, it would have a difficult time pulling a four-bottom plow on the Pioneer Power Showgrounds.  Now, with the original equipment returned to the Super M, the Clark-Christenson tractor needed a proper sized plow.  International Harvester had originally advertised the Super M as a 3-plow tractor.  Therefore, it was felt that a McCormick-Deering three-bottom plow with 16″ bottoms would be the proper plow for the Clark/Christenson Super M.  With the help of Bill Radil, the author located just such a plow owned by Jim Ellis. 

            Jim Ellis is a retired farmer who currently lives in Ellendale, Minnesota.  He has a tremendous collection of International Harvester equipment (restored and unrestored) and parts located on three different farms and at his house in Ellendale.  He favors the F-series of Farmalls and has collected quite a number of these tractors. 

            Jim was born to Omer and Buelah (Matherley) Ellis, who rented a farm near Sac City, Iowa.  Just after Jim graduated from high school in 1937, the family purchased a farm near Dows, Iowa, and moved to the Dows community.  There, Jim farmed with his parents through most of the Second World War.  Shortly after moving to their new farm, the family purchased a 1929 International Harvester 10-20 tractor to perform some of the heavy work around the farm.  In about 1944, Jim struck out on his own and rented a 320-acre farm in the same neighborhood.  On this farm, Jim had a small herd of dairy cows and hogs.  Each fall he would purchase some beef calves from Nebraska and finish them out over the winter.  He raised corn and hay to feed the livestock, soybeans to sell, and sweet corn which was sold to a cannery in Hampton, Iowa.

            Jim also began his own family on this farm.  In 1946, he married Doris Aspel, and on July 29, 1948, their first son Gerald was born.  Eventually, three boys and one girl would be born to the family: Jack, on October 18, 1950; Leon, on January 5, 1955, Laurie, on December 1, 1960; and David on June 10, 1963.  For the first couple of years after he was married, Jim shared farm equipment with his father, especially the International 10-20 which his father owned.  However, during the war, Jim purchased his own tractor–a 1939 Farmall F-20 with factory rubber tires on the front and the rear.  This F-20 had oversized pistons installed in the engine when Jim bought it.  Consequently, he found that the tractor used a lot of gasoline.  If he started plowing at 6:00 a.m., he had better start heading for the gas barrel around 9:30 a.m.  He would have to fill up again at noon, and yet again at about 3:00 p.m. to complete a day’s worth of plowing. 

            However, in exchange for all the gas used, the tractor delivered a great deal of horsepower to the drawbar.  Jim found that, because of the oversized pistons, this two-plow tractor could pull a three-bottom plow.  Accordingly, in 1950, Jim began searching for a bigger plow.  Being a life-long watcher of sale bills and attender of auctions, Jim discovered a three-bottom McCormick-Deering plow with 16″ bottoms was to be sold at an auction in nearby Jewell, Iowa.  Thus, Jim drove his Chevrolet car to the auction site where he found a Little Genius 3-16″ plow with slat-style moldboards.  The front wheels had been cut down and welded to 15″ rims for rubber tires.  The auction started in the afternoon, but because there were so many articles to be sold, the sun had set before the auctioneer finally got to the plow.  Under light provided by the headlights of some cars, the auctioneer collected bids on the plow.  Jim outlasted all the other bidders and bought the plow.  The name of the farmer selling the plow is not now known, but he may well have purchased the plow from the Luglan International Harvester dealership in Jewell. 

            Originally fitted with steel wheels, the plow was most probably purchased during the Second World War when rubber tires were very tightly rationed.  After the war, when rubber tires became more plentiful, the farmer evidently had the front wheels of the plow cut down and fitted with rims for rubber tires.  The task of cutting down the steel wheels and welding on the rims for the rubber tires probably fell to Iverson’s, a blacksmith shop and auto garage located in Jewell.  In the period following the war, Iverson’s cut down the steel wheels on a great number of farm implements, as area farmers sought to upgrade their farm equipment.  The fact that 15″ tires were chosen for this plow is significant.  Plows were usually fitted with old car tires, and until the early 1950s, the 16″ tire (generally the 6.00 x 16″) was universal in the auto tire market.  In about 1948, Plymouth broke with this tradition and started fitting its cars with 15″ tires.  Following that lead, other auto makers gradually began using the 15″ tire on their cars.  By the mid-1950s, the 15″ tire had become the most common in the auto tire business.  The farmer who had Iverson’s cut down the steel wheels on the three-bottom plow prior to 1950 must have already had access to old 15″ tires at that time.  For that reason, it is likely that he owned a Plymouth

            After the auction, Jim Ellis transported the plow back to his farm near Iowa where he found that it worked well with his F-20.  The oversized pistons in the F-20 boosted the horsepower sufficiently for the tractor to handle the three-bottom plow.  Jim farmed in the Dows community area until 1955 when he moved to another farm five miles south of LeRoy, Minnesota, in Howard County, Iowa.  Although he lived in Iowa, his mailing address was LeRoy, Minnesota.  After three years in Howard County, Jim and his family moved again, in 1958, to another farm near Houston, Minnesota.  Finally, in 1965, he retired from farming and eventually settled in his present home in Ellendale, in the south-central part Minnesota.  In the years after 1965, he brought most of his tractors and machinery to Ellendale and began collecting and restoring F-20′s and other old International Harvester equipment.  Although his original 1939 F-20 had been sold earlier, the three-bottom plow followed Jim into retirement at Ellendale. 

            With the help of Bill Radil, the Wells family purchased two plows from Jim Ellis in April of 1995–Jim’s own three-bottom plow, and the James Schaper McCormick-Deering two-bottom plow with 16″ bottoms.  The Schaper plow had factory rubber tires all around with post-war disc-type rims in the front rather than spoke wheel rims.  Because the Jim Ellis plow was intended to be matched to the 1953 Clark-Christenson Super M, it needed to take on a post-war look.  Consequently, the spoke-type front wheels on the Jim Ellis plow were swapped with the disc-type rims from the Schaper plow, and the steel trailing wheel was replaced with a rubber-tired trailing wheel.  New 16″ tires were obtained from M.E. Miller Tire  Company in Wauseon, Ohio, for the front wheels of the plow.  The Jim Ellis plow was then painted and properly decaled with a single “McCormick-Deering Little Genius No. 8″ decal located on the beam of the plow between the second and third bottoms.  Next, the hitch of the plow was adjusted vertically and horizontally to match the drawbar of the Clark/Christenson Super M.  (There is a very good visual presentation about vertical and horizontal hitch adjustment of plows in the movie called “Hitching and Belting Adjustments”  contained in John Deere Service Day Movies from 1943 which have been converted to VHS video tape [Tape No. 90-2] by the Two Cylinder Club, P.O. Box 10, Grundy Center, Iowa 50638-0010.)  Once these improvments were finished, the Jim Ellis plow could easily have been sold new in 1953 as a correctly matched partner to the Clark-Christenson Super M.  Meanwhile, the Schaper plow took on the appearance of a pre-war plow which will be matched to a 1938 F-20. 

            With the addition of the 3-16 Jim Ellis plow, the restoration of the Clark Christenson Super M is complete.  The tractor and implement are a matched set for display and parade purposes at the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show.  “Display” also means that the Clark-Christenson Super M and the Jim Ellis plow are used each year to plow a few rounds on the grounds in preparation for winter.  Although the tractor and plow will not be used as heavily in the future as they once were in the past and will be stored inside one of the sheds on the Pioneer Power grounds for most of the year, the tractor and plow remain a testimonial to the men and women who manufactured, sold, and operated Farmall tractors and McCormick-Deering plows.

M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 2): The Clark-Christenson Super M

The M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 2):

The Clark-Christenson 1953 Farmall  Model Super M

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the January/February 1998 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

            In the early 1950s, M&W Company parts for Farmall tractors became so immediately popular that farmers would often require their local International Harvester dealer to install these parts on their new Farmall tractor as part of the sales agreement.  One such tractor, a 1953 Farmall Super M (Serial No. 31,634), would eventually make its way to Srsen Bros. where, in the Spring of 1954, George Clark, a farmer from rural Claremont, Minnesota (1950 pop. 426), and his 14-year-old daughter, Sharon, would see it and make a deal on the tractor. 

            George Joseph Clark was the third “George Clark” to operate the Clark family farm in Ripley Township, seven miles south of Claremont, Minnesota.  It all began when his grandfather, George Ezekiel Clark Sr., was given a 160-acre farm by the United States government in recognition of his service in the Illinois militia during the American Civil War.  George Ezekiel Clark Sr. operated the Dodge County farm together with an adjacent 80-acre farm which was homesteaded in the name of his wife, Harriet (Jeffers) Clark, until the farming operation passed to his son, George Ezekiel Clark Jr., and his wife, Mary Alice (Steele) Clark.  George and Mary Alice had nine children, the sixth of whom was George Joseph Clark, who was born on November 3, 1908.  Life was fairly typical for George Joseph and his eight brothers and sisters until the sudden death of their father in 1917.  Pulling themselves together to deal with the hard times, Mary Alice and her children continued operating the large family farm.  However, as the older children came of age, they struck out on their own.  In early 1939, George Joseph married Evelyn O’Leary and moved to northern Minnesota.  Two years later, they returned to Ripley Township in Dodge County and rented a farm near the home farm where George’s mother and some of his brothers and sisters still lived and worked the land.  In 1948, George Joseph’s mother moved to the city of Rochester, Minnesota (1940 pop. 26,312), and the home farm was rented out.  In 1950, George Joseph made the decision to move back to the home of his birth and childhood, and in 1952 George Joseph and Evelyn contracted to buy the Clark home farm.  

            The Clark farming operation included raising oats, wheat, barley, and corn.  Livestock included chickens, geese, pure-bred Columbia sheep, hogs, and 30-40 milking cows.  By now, George and Evelyn had a family of five children; Sharon (December 1939), Kay (1941), Mary Jean (1942), Judy (1946), Steven (1950).  A sixth child, Jenny, would be born in 1955.  The whole family was involved in the farming operation; Evelyn milked the cows, and the four oldest daughters all helped their father in the fields and around the farm.  George often said that his four daughters could do anything that four boys could do.

            George always tried to stay modern in his farming operation.  In this, he was supported and often encouraged by Evelyn.  Indeed, it may have been Evelyn who suggested many of the improvements made to the Clark farming operation.  The Clark family started farming with a 1941 Farmall H with its factory-installed rubber tires.  By 1944, George had purchased a new Farmall M from the Srsen Bros. IHC Dealership in Blooming Prairie (1940 pop. 1,442).  (Dealership records still in the possession of Jim Srsen indicate that the sale of this Farmall M [Serial No. 74276] to George Clark occurred on May 15, 1944.)  In the late 1940s, George obtained a Farmall F-20 and an Oliver to supplement the field work.  In about 1946, even before moving to the home place, George had his hay baled, rather than storing it loose in the haymow.  His brother-in-law, Carl Keller, was originally hired to do the baling with his new McCormick-Deering automatic wire-tie baler; later, George obtained his own McCormick-Deering automatic twine-tie baler.  Sharon was assigned the task of driving the Farmall M that pulled the baler in the field during hay season.  Also, in 1946, George purchased a McCormick-Deering Model 2-M two-row mounted corn picker to fit on the Farmall M.  With this new picker, he could open his own corn fields during the fall harvest.  He also retained his older New Idea Model 6-A 2-row pull-type corn picker which could then be used in the “opened” corn fields without running down any rows of unharvested corn.      

            Prior to 1950, all of the harvesting of small grains on the Clark farm had been accomplished by threshing as a part of the neighborhood threshing ring together with the Drache family and George’s brothers, most of whom were farming on other neighborhood farms.  However, in 1950, George purchased a used Allis-Chalmers All-Crop harvester and started combining all of his small grains rather than participating in the threshing ring.

            Improvements in farming practices were advertised everywhere during the early 1950s, but none of these methods of advertising was more entertaining for the families in Ripley Township than that which occurred at the Srsen dealership when they hosted Pancake Days.  The Clark family, along with many other rural families, would drive to Srsen’s on one cold wintery February Saturday to have a look at the latest IHC farm machinery, to enjoy the free food, and to see some IHC promotional movies.  Srsen’s shop would be temporarily cleared out, and new 2 x 8 pine planks would be placed on 5-gallon paint cans to form seats.  When the lights of the shop were turned off, the shop would become an improvised theater.  For young farm children, Pancake Days would be the greatest day of the year–except for Christmas–all the free pancakes and milk that one could eat and a chance to see free color movies of farm equipment. 

            Srsen Brothers IHC dealership originally opened for business in 1918 when brothers Al and Louie Srsen obtained franchises to sell the McCormick and Deering lines of farm equipment.  Srsen Brothers signed two separate franchise contracts–one for McCormick and one for Deering–even though both lines of equipment were produced by the same company–International Harvester.  Although the merger of these two companies had occurred in 1903, two distinct lines of equipment were independently maintained until the 1930s.  Accordingly, until 1930, it was still possible to buy a Deering grain binder as opposed to a McCormick grain binder.  Srsen’s also obtained franchises to sell cars–first, Willys-Overland cars, and then, in 1925, a Chrysler/Plymouth franchise.  When Al and Louie retired, Al’s son, Hubert (Hoob) Srsen, took over the dealership.  Over the years, Konard Wold became a loyal and faithful employee at the business and later came to own part of the business.  Also employed at various times at Srsen were Harold Severson, Karl Harding, Ron Janning, Joe Lynard, Elmer Srock, Martin Nelson and Harold Hillson. 

            Improvements in farming operations were also given a great boost when in the autumn of 1952, on September 5 and 6, Wasioja Township in Dodge County hosted the National Soil Conservation Days and Plow Matches, also know as “Plowville 1952.”  Agreements were made with Kasson/Dodge Center area farmers–Henry Snow, Donald Delzer, George Holtrof, Arnold Scherger, Clarence Jorgenson, and Roy Gossard–to have their combined farms used for this event.  Plowville was a huge event that attracted 100,000 to 150,000 people who came to see the latest in farm equipment, particularly large scale plowing.  Because 1952 was also a presidential election year, it was inevitable that major politicians would be attracted to Plowville as a means to court the farm vote.  Both General Dwight Eisenhower, the Republican presidential candidate, and Governor Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic presidential candidate, showed up on September 6 and used this forum to present their respective positions on agricultural issues.  (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mandate for Change [Doubleday: Garden City, N.Y., 1963], p. 57;  James Bartlow Martin, Adlai Stevenson of Illinois, [Doubleday: Garden City, N.Y., 1976], p. 667.)  This became the only time in history that two candidates for the presidency spoke from the same platform on the same afternoon.  Minnesota’s Republican Governor C. Elmer Anderson, running for re-election, appeared and escorted General Eisenhower.  More than twenty-five years later, Plowville was described as the “greatest event in Dodge County history.”  (Harold Severson, Dodge County: 125 Years of History, [Mantorville, Minn. 1979], pp.96-106.)  Plowville 1952 created much excitement about plowing, and the publicity was widespread.  George and Evelyn and the whole Clark family attended.  

            Perhaps Plowville influenced him, or perhaps he was impressed by the new Super line of tractors which he had seen at a recent Pancake Days celebration, but by the Spring of 1954, George Clark was in the market for a more powerful tractor and a bigger plow.  Consequently, George and his daughter Sharon got into the family’s 1952 Chevrolet and travelled to Blooming Prairie to the Srsen Bros. IHC dealership. 

            At Srsen Bros., George was met by Hoob Srsen.  When George expressed interest in one of the new Farmall Super M’s, Hoob showed him a new 1953 Farmall Super M that was part of the inventory of tractors the dealership had on hand.  This Super M was No. 31,634. 

            Srsen Bros. was in the district served by the International Harvester block house located at 25727 University Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Under ordinary circumstances, the 1953 Super M No. 31,634 would have arrived at Srsen Bros. from this block house via the Milwaukee Road railroad which passed through Blooming Prairie on its way from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul to Chicago.  However, because the very complete sales records of Srsen Bros. do not contain any mention of a Super M with the serial number 31,634, it is likely that this particular Super M came to Srsen’s from another dealership.  This was not an uncommon occurrence in the early 1950s following the end of the Korean War.  With the lifting of price and wage controls which had been imposed during the Korean War came a boom in the sale of farm equipment.  Although not as big as the boom of 1946 following the end of the Second World War, sales of farm equipment in 1953, nonetheless, created an inventory shortage problem for most farm equipment dealers.  Accordingly, dealerships would occasionally obtain a tractor or a piece of equipment from other dealerships in other areas.  Most likely, then, No. 31,634 became part of the Srsen Bros. inventory as a result of this method, and thus the serial number of the tractor does not appear in the regular records of the Srsen dealership.  

            International Harvester’s new Model Super M was introduced in 1952.  Under pressure from third-party manufacturers, like the M&W Company, International Harvester had increased the size of the bore of the pistons on its new Super M to a full 4″ over the 3-7/8″ bore of its immediate predecessor, the Farmall M.  The Super M, with the new oversized pistons, would deliver 43.92 horsepower at the belt as recorded by tests performed at the University of Nebraska.  (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests Since 1920 [Motorbooks International: Oseola, Wis. 1993], p. 169.)

            In the horsepower race of the 1950s, the M&W Company now offered a “cratered” piston to obtain even higher compression and even more horsepower from the Farmall Super M.  The cratered piston was built very tall and had a small notch (crater) in the top of the piston to leave room for the bottom of the sparkplug to protrude down into the combustion chamber at the top of the cylinder.  When the piston came up on its compression stroke, the size of the combustion chamber would be reduced to almost the size of the crater itself thus creating more compression and horsepower for the engine.  With the new M&W cratered pistons, dynamometer tests showed the Super M attaining in excess of 50 horsepower.  Indeed, Bill Radil Jr., an area farmer from nearby rural Hayfield, Minnesota, found that, according to a dynamometer test conducted at Munsen Implement in Hayfield, Minnesota (1950 pop. 805), the new cratered M&W pistons in his Farmall Super MTA allowed the tractor to deliver 58 horsepower.

            George Clark was well aware of the increase in horsepower that would be available if the Super M were fitted with M&W cratered pistons.  Therefore, as he and Hoob negotiated the sale of the Super M in Hoob’s office, Martin Nelson, a mechanic at Srsen Bros., was called to join the conversation.  Although fourteen-year-old Sharon was not a party to their conversation and was only observing the activity in Hoob’s office through the large window into the office, she now deduces that Martin Nelson was most probably called in at this point in the negotiations to determine how soon the service department at Srsen Bros. could add the M&W high compression pistons to George’s 1953 Super M. 

            Sharon Clark was watching a fairly familiar scene which occurred at many International Harvester dealerships across the nation in the early 1950s, as Farmall tractor buyers wanted M&W pistons installed on their new tractors. George Clark’s request for the new M&W pistons was made a part of the sales agreement, and No. 31,634 thus became one of those tractors that had M&W pistons installed from the very beginning of its working career.  Also included in the purchase of the new Super M was a new Model HM-438 four-row cultivator.  George Clark traded in the family’s 1941 Farmall H as part of the payment on the new Super M.  

            Back home on the Clark farm, the new Super M was put to work on a variety of jobs.  In the summer, the tractor was used to prepare the seed bed and to plant the corn, beans, and small grains.  It was also used along with the new four-row cultivator to cultivate the corn and beans.  In addition, it pulled the hay baler.  During harvest season, it was put under the 2-M mounted corn picker, and the Clark’s 1944 M pulled the New Idea 2-row Model 6A corn picker.  In the winter months, the new Super M was employed in belt work, powering the feed grinder making feed for all the livestock on the Clark farm.  During many of these farming operations, in all seasons, usually one of the Clark daughters could be found in the operator’s seat of the Super M.  Most often, it was the eldest daughter–Sharon. 

            In 1955, the Super M’s Lift-All hydraulic system (which was a single action hydraulic system) was modified to allow the hydraulics to have power in both directions.  This meant that not only would the hydraulic system lift tillage tools out of the ground, but the tillage tools could be forced into the ground.  One-way hydraulics would have to rely on gravity to pull the tillage tool into the ground.  Although George’s Super M was never fitted with wheel weights, the 13 x 38 rear tires were filled with calcium chloride to provide more traction during heavy drawbar work.   

            Of course the heaviest drawbar job on the farm is mold-board plowing.  Indeed, the horsepower class of a tractor is usually determined by the number of plow bottoms it can pull; e.g., a two-plow tractor or a 2-3 plow tractor.  Large-scale plowing was, in fact, on George Clark’s mind when he bought his Super M and equipped it with M&W pistons.  After taking delivery on the Super M, he obtained a John Deere 4-bottom plow with 14″ bottoms.  Plowing with 4 bottoms was where the Super M provided the most substantial upgrade in the farming operation on the Clark farm. 

            Pulling the four-bottom plow in hard ground made the Super M work.  At night while plowing on the Clark farm, one could see that the bottom of the muffler would become so hot that it would turn cherry red.  The M&W pistons were obviously generating a great deal more horsepower than the factory installed pistons.  Inevitably, this took its toll on other parts of the tractor.  In 1963, parts of the bull gear broke and cracked through the housing of the rear end of the Super M.  However, the bull gear was replaced, the rear end housing was welded, and the tractor returned to the farm where it continued to work until 1967 when George Clark traded it in on a new International 856.  The 856 purchased from Srsen Bros. was among the new models introduced by International Harvester in 1967.  

            The Super M did not spend much time on the used tractor lot at Srsen Bros., however, before it was purchased by another farmer–Ray Christenson–who owned and operated a 160-acre farm west of Blooming Prairie.  He milked 30-35 head of cattle and raised small grains, corn and soybeans.  His son, Norman Christenson, helped him with the farming operations, using a 1948 Farmall M and a 1945 John Deere A.  In 1967, Ray and Norman negotiated the purchase of the Super M with Jim Srsen, who had just that year taken over the operation of Srsen Bros. from his father Hoob Srsen.  As part of the price of the Super M, Ray Christenson traded in his 1945 John Deere A. 

            At home on the Christenson farm, the Super M was employed in seed bed preparation and cultivating corn.  In the fall, the tractor was put under the 2ME mounted cornpicker for harvesting corn.  The Super M also saw plenty of belt work.  In the summer, the tractor powered the apron-fed IHC blower during green corn harvest and silo filling.  In the late fall, the Super M was used on the belt, powering an International Harvester corn shredder for harvesting bundles of ripe corn which had been bundled and shocked instead of picked.  All winter, the Super M was used on the belt to power the Farmhand feed grinder. 

            Ray and Norman Christenson also appreciated the power that was generated in the Super M by the installation of the M&W crater pistons, and they put this power to work in their fields by obtaining a 4-bottom IHC plow with 16″ “breaker bottoms.”  (This plow still sits indoors at the Christenson farm.)  When pulling this plow, the roar of the tractor engine under full load could be heard by the neighbors around the Christenson farm, and at night, of course, the muffler would have a red glow just as it had during plowing season on the Clark farm. 

            In the mid-1970s, Ray Christenson passed away and left his son Norman to operate the farm.  With a shortage of manpower around the farm, Norman would hire men to help him during busy times of the year.  In the mid-1980s, Bill Radil III was one of those men hired to help around the Christenson farm, and he became familiar with the Super M and its history, including the welding scar on the bottom of the differential of the tractor which had resulted from the broken bull gear in 1963. 

            Norman Christenson had the Super M overhauled in 1985, and the cratered M&W pistons were replaced with the standard IHC Super M pistons.  This reduced the amount of power that was generated by the tractor, but, by 1985, the Super M was no longer likely to be used for heavy farm work and the extra power would not likely be needed. 

            By the 1990s, the Super M became pretty much obsolete in modern farming operations.  So it was in the summer of 1992 that Norman Christenson sold his Super M (No. 31,634) to his brother-in-law, Martin Krampitz.  Martin and his wife, Avis (Nelson) Krampitz, owned and operated Krampitz Hardware on U. S. Hwy 218 in Blooming Prairie where they had a franchise to sell Cub Cadet lawn and garden equipment.  They also bought and sold used farm tractors.  Thus, Martin Krampitz parked the Super M on the south side of his hardware building where it could be clearly seen by any potential buyers driving by.  Not long after, in that same summer of 1992, the Super M was sold and left the Blooming Prairie area–gone forever, everyone assumed, from the neighborhood of those people who had been involved with the history of the tractor.

M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 1)

The M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 1)

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the November/December 1997 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

                        From the time of its introduction by International Harvester in August of 1939, the McCormick-Deering Farmall M was a very popular tractor.  For a tractor design which pre-dated World War II, the Farmall M had some surprisingly modern features, such as the integral Lift-All hydraulic power lift system, electric lights, electric starting and the comfortable hydraulic, or Monroe, coil spring operator’s seat.  All of these features were optional, but they were so commonly added to the M that they came to be regarded almost as regular equipment.  Partly because of its popularity, the International Harvester Company (IHC) changed the design of the Farmall M very little over the years and consequently, by 1945, the M was beginning to show its age.  However, the return of young veterans after the Second World War threatened to introduce a whole new element to the farm tractor buying public.

            Wars have a way of changing the consumer’s tastes in a variety of unforeseen ways.  IHC officials well-remembered how, at the end of the First World War, a small little tractor by the name of Fordson knocked IHC out of its position as the biggest seller of tractors in the United States domestic market.  In 1918, veterans returning from the First World War wanted small tractors to start their farming operations on a small scale.  The Fordson answered the market demand perfectly, and consequently Ford led the way in sales throughout most of the 1920s.  IHC spent most of that decade trying to catch Ford with the introduction of International 10-20 tractors.

            In 1945, IHC executives vowed not to be caught off base again.  They anticipated that the veterans returning from this war would once again create a market for small tractors.  Therefore, the company introduced the Farmall Cub and spent a great deal of corporate effort on the design, manufacture and advertising of the Cub and its line of equipment.  Additionally, the company also anticipated that the end of the war would release the pent-up consumer demand for large, durable consumer goods such as refrigerators and freezers.  Wishing to cash in on this consumer demand, IHC opened, in 1946, a plant, test kitchen and experimental laboratory facilities in Evansville, Indiana, for the production of a full line of refrigeration equipment including dehumidifiers and air conditioners.  Soon the Evanston facility was producing 200 chest-type freezers per day.  (Barbara Marsh, A Corporate Tragedy, The Agony of International Harvester [Doubleday: Garden City, N.Y., 1985], pp. 74 and 102.  Although out of print for a number of years, a second edition of this book is now being sold for $29.95 from Binder Books, Scott and Cyndi Satterlund, P.O. Box 230269, Tigard, OR 97281-0269, Tel: (503) 684-2024, FAX: (503) 684-3990, Email: sac@binderbooks.com, Home page: www.binderbooks.com.)

            The diversion of capital and research money into the new Cub tractor and into the refrigeration component meant that less money was available for improvement in the design of large tractors in the International Harvester line, like the Farmall M.  Company officials did not worry about this because the M was selling quite well and they did not see the market for large tractors growing after the war.  This assumption proved to be a mistake.  Some writers (like Barbara Marsh, cited above) now feel that this miscalculation was an important one that eventually led to the dramatic downfall of IHC in 1985.

            International Harvester, along with many other companies, had misread the minds of the World War II vets who were returning to the farm.  Unlike World War I veterans, the returning veteran of the Second World War found that the whole world had changed.  Back at home on the farm there had developed a race for horsepower in the tractor market.  Economic conditions in the United States would no longer allow a young farmer to start farming with small tractors and equipment.  Instead, he must start with big equipment to survive in the new post-war economy.   

            Even IHC’s 2-plow Farmall H, which had sold well during the war (See “The Wartime Farmall H” contained in the July/August 1994 issue of Belt Pulley), was now regarded as a small tractor.  Sales of the H fell off dramatically as the returning veterans looked to bigger 3-plow tractors, like the Farmall M, to do farming.  Indeed, the market demand for large tractors did not stop with the 3-plow-size tractors; farmers were demanding even larger tractors.  Furthermore, they were demanding a variety of different options to make their farming operations easier and more efficient (i.e., live power take-off’s [PTO], live hydraulics, a wider range of tractor speeds, etc.).   

            The need for improvements to correct some of the shortcomings of the Farmall M created a niche in the market for production of third-party, add-on attachments for the Farmall M.  This opportunity was not lost on some people.  One person who saw the glaring need was Art Warsaw. 

            Art Warsaw was one of five sons born to William and Lena (Kalmberumn) Warsaw of Anchor, Illinois (pop. 1000), where William owned and operated the local blacksmith shop.  In the middle of the First World War, William purchased a franchise to sell IHC equipment in the rural area around Anchor, Illinois.  William also did some custom threshing during the harvest season, using a McCormick-Deering Mogul 30/60 to power the thresher.  William would continue to operate the IHC dealership in Anchor until his death in 1963.  (Indeed, the first sale from the Warsaw IHC dealership was a horse-drawn plow which sold for $20.00, minus the $5.00 allowed for the trade-in on the farmer’s old walking plow.) 

            Three of William and Lena’s sons would follow directly in their father’s footsteps and become IHC dealers.  George, the oldest, owned and operated the IHC dealership in Saybrook, Illinois (pop. 767).  Earnest, the second born, owned and operated a Chevrolet dealership.  Edward, the third son, obtained employment with the Caterpillar Company.  Art went away to military service in the Second World War, and upon his return from the war in 1946, bought the franchise for the IHC dealership in Minier, Illinois (pop. 1,155).  Later, when the demands of the new  M & W Company began to dominate all of Art’s time, he sold the Minier dealership to his youngest brother, Howard.  “We all ended up in nuts and bolts,” says Art Warsaw.  In 1952, Art married Gertrude Freitag.      

            As with many IHC dealerships across the nation, the Farmall M was the leading sales product at Art Warsaw’s dealership.  However, area farmers expressed dissatisfaction to Art concerning the problems of the Farmall M, especially the lack of speed ranges available from the five-speed transmission.  The Farmall M developed 2-5/8 mph in 1st gear, 3-1/2 mph in 2nd gear, 4-1/8 mph in 3rd gear, 5-1/8 mph in 4th gear, and 16-3/8 mph in 5th gear.  It was this huge gap between 4th and 5th gears which caused the most concern for potential buyers.

            Art Warsaw shared this concern with a friend of his–Elmo Meiners–a native of the Anchor, Illinois, area.  Elmo’s parents, Ed and Jessie (Rheinert) Meiners, had raised Elmo and his two brothers, Peter and John, on a farm in rural Anchor.  Elmo had started in the grain buying business in 1940 by obtaining the grain elevator in Anchor.  At about the same time, he married LaVerne McCown, also of Anchor.  (Following the death of his father in the 1960s, Elmo’s mother continued to live on the family farm until she was 93.  This farm is now owned and operated by Elmo’s brother, Peter Meiners.)

            Together, in 1946, Elmo Meiners and Art Warsaw set about finding a solution to the problem of a lack of speed ranges between the 4th and 5th gears on the Farmall M.  Art, who along with his brother Edward had attended Caterpillar School and became apprentice mechanics, had been working on an auxiliary kit of gears which, if added to the transmission of a Farmall M, would fill this gap by adding the new speeds–6 mph, 8 mph, 10 mph, and 12 mph.  Additionally, because the gears of the auxiliary transmission were in constant mesh, the transmission could be shifted from the regular transmission speeds to the new range of speeds without stopping the tractor simply be engaging a clutch lever which was added to the transmission.  (If this sounds familiar to Farmall enthusiasts, it’s because the new transmission was really close to operating in the same way as the Torque Amplifier, or TA system, which would be introduced by International Harvester in 1954 on the Super MTA.)

            After hours in the basement of the Meiners Grain Company elevator office building in Anchor, Elmo and Art finally finished building a prototype of the auxiliary transmission kit, which was called the “nine-speed transmission,” for the Farmall M and installed it on a 1941 Farmall M which was being used by Peter Meiners, Elmo’s brother, on his farm.  This 1941 Farmall M, nicknamed “Big Bertha, ” was used as a demonstrator tractor by Elmo Meiners and Art Warsaw to advertise their new nine-speed transmission to dealerships across the midwest.  (Big Bertha was pictured in the March 19, 1949 Bloomington Pantagraph.)  Later, Big Bertha was outfitted with every M & W option available for the Farmall M and continued its life as a demonstrator.  Later still, Big Bertha was purchased by Bert Bradford who worked at Dennis Word Dealership, the International Harvester dealership in nearby Colfax, Illinois (pop. 854).  Bert then sold Big Bertha to his son, Larry Bradford, of Findlay, Illinois (pop. 787), where it remains to this day.  (Much of the credit for researching the subsequent history of Big Bertha belongs with M & W historian–and Belt Pulley subscriber–Darius Harms, of St. Joseph, Illinois.  An avid IHC Collector, Darius and his wife, Lois, are reputed to have the largest collection of M & W literature in the world.) 

            The new auxiliary transmission made by Meiners and Warsaw was made to fit either the Farmall M or the Farmall H, with installation made directly to the original transmission by drilling only a single hole in the transmission housing for the addition of the single extra clutch lever that was required.  Simple as it was, however, installation required tools and mechanical skills not found in the average farm shop.  Thus, it was intended that installation would be conducted at an experienced garage.  Consequently, Elmo Meiners saw that the real market for new transmission kits would be the various individual IHC dealerships.  Marketing was not made directly to farmers.  The company that Meiners and Warsaw would form would come to rely in large part on word-of-mouth and the dealerships for advertising their products. 

            In terms of an initial customer base, Meiners and Warsaw were extremely fortunate in their location in north-central Illinois.  IHC had divided Illinois into a number of sales districts which were served by a centrally located “branch house.”  By 1949, there seemed to be an IHC dealership in every small hamlet in Illinois.  The branch house in Peoria, which served north-central Illinois, supplied 81 dealership franchises in that district alone.  These 81 dealerships would serve as an immediate customer base to get the new company off the ground.  

            After two years of study and of building the prototype, and following the successful pilot project, by the fall of 1948 Meiners and Warsaw formed the M & W Company and started manufacturing the nine-speed transmission for sale to the buying public at a retail price of $159.00 per kit.  To advertise the newly manufactured nine-speed transmission to IHC dealers of the midwestern area, M & W hauled Big Bertha from town to town and provided live demonstrations.  

            Friends of the M & W partners long felt that the “M” and the “W” in the company name should stand for “money” and “wit” to reflect the different personalities of the two partners.  Within the new company, Elmo Meiners tended to handle promotion and sales, the “money” end of the new business, while Art Warsaw brought his skills (“wit”) to the technological portion of the new business.  One of the important requirements that Art insisted on was that the gears for the transmission kit be of a quality no less than, and possibly better than, the quality of the original equipment gears used in Farmall tractors.  Consequently, M & W ordered its gears from the Illinois Gear Company of Chicago, whose gears were quality-made using the “drop forge” method of manufacture.  The “drop forge” process assured that the interior grain structure of the metal in each gear would make the gear strong.  A cheaper method of making gears by milling the gear from a piece of stock metal was rejected by M & W.  Furthermore, the teeth of the M & W gears were coated with a special alloy which reduced wear.  Additionally, the teeth of each gear were “crown shaved,” which meant that when the gears were in mesh, the bearing surface of each tooth would be on the middle of the tooth rather than at the tip of the tooth.  Quality “drop forge” gears were more expensive; however, by embarking on this more expensive road from the very beginning, M & W was able to obtain an important edge over its competition. 

            M & W’s main competition with regard to third-party, add-on transmissions was the Heisler Manufacturing Company, started by a farmer in the Hudson, Iowa, area named Harry Heisler.  Together with his wife, Agnes, Harry Heisler not only operated their family farm, but managed the Heisler business uptown in Hudson which initially made auxiliary transmissions for the Farmall F-12, F-20 and F-30.  The gears used by Heisler were not “drop-forge” gears; rather, they were cut from a simple piece of stock metal.  While these gears worked fine in auxiliary transmissions for the F-Series, the cheaper gears ran into trouble when installed in the newer post-1939 Farmall tractors.  It was not long before M & W‘s drop-forge gears became clearly recognized by IHC dealerships as being superior to Heisler’s stock metal gears.  The choice between Heisler and M & W became simple.  Soon M & W far out-distanced Heisler in sales, and shortly came to dominate the entire market for third-party, add-on transmissions. 

            Other parts for new M & W transmissions were also obtained from out-source suppliers and received in Anchor along with the gears for final assembly in the basement of the Meiners grain elevator.  Once all the outsourced products were delivered to the grain elevator, the auxiliary transmission kits could be assembled.  The only difficulty was trying to keep up with the orders that began to pour in.

            Small as it was at birth, M & W was to be an entrepreneur’s dream.  It was a huge overnight success.  The two partners were swamped with orders, and demand soon outstripped the ability of the two partners to assemble the transmission kits.  (An article in the March 19, 1949 Bloomington Pantagraph newspaper of nearby Bloomington, Illinois, reported that already in early 1949 the new company was unable to keep up with the orders for new transmission kits.)  Realizing the need to expand out of the basement of the elevator into bigger facilities, Elmo and Art bought an old abandoned school house four miles southeast of Anchor for $325.00.  This school house served as the new M & W assembly facility, where gears and parts were received and six newly-hired employees conducted the final assembly of the transmission kits and shipped the finished kits to the dealers.  One of the original six employees who worked in the school house was Donald Bielfeldt of Colfax.  He was just out of high school and living on the family farm with his parents.  On Christmas Day, 1949, he sought out Elmo Meiners to see if he could come to work for the new company.  No doubt impressed by the spunk of this youngster seeking employment on Christmas Day, Elmo Meiners hired him on the spot.  Donald went to work for M & W on December 27, 1949.  He would stay with the company and eventually be promoted to foreman.  He would retire from the company only in April of 1995.  Also employed with Donald at the school house was a fellow classmate of his, Richard Coultas.  It was a pretty young workforce that gathered at the school house to become the first M & W employees.  Another employee was Gail Humphrey who was only about five years older than Coultas and Bielfeldt.  Yet another employee, Frank Calvert, was the “old man” in his 30′s.  None of the new employees had any experience in the field of machine tools or mechanics.  They were hired based solely on their apparent willingness to work, and work they did.  Soon the old converted school house was humming with activity.  Eventually, the six M & W employees in the school house were assembling and shipping 1000 transmission per month, or an average of 50 kits per day. 

            One problem faced by the new company was how to stay out in front of the burgeoning demand for its product.  Having settled the manpower problem, M & W now found that sales of its transmission kits were exceeding the capability of the Illinois Gear Company to supply gears in the numbers needed.  Consequently, M & W turned to Fairfield Manufacturing of LaFayette, Indiana, as its supplier.  Fairfield had a much larger capacity to make the amount of drop-forge gears required by the M & W Company

            The astonishing success of the sales of M & W transmission kits led Art and Elmo to introduce another improvement for Farmall tractors in 1951–oversized pistons and sleeves.  M & W’s oversized pistons increased the 3-7/8″ bore of each piston on the Farmall M to a full 4″ bore.  This raised the maximum horsepower up to about 45 hp from the standard horsepower rating of 36.07 hp.  (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests Since 1920 [Crestline Publishing: Osceola, Wis., 1985], p. 120.)  M & W pistons and sleeves were even more popular than the nine-speed transmission kits, with sales skyrocketing almost immediately.  IHC dealerships reported back to M & W that farmers were ordering new Farmalls only with the assurance that the new tractors would be fitted with M & W pistons and sleeves before the new tractor was delivered to the farm.  In the end, the M & W name would be more associated with oversized pistons and sleeves than with any other product they sold.  Big Bertha, too, was outfitted with these new larger pistons in order to demonstrate the new power that could be achieved with M & W pistons. 

            However, improvements were also being made to the M & W auxiliary transmission as time went by.  To advertise the new improvements to the auxiliary transmission, another 1941 Farmall M was outfitted with the newer, nine-speed transmission kit and the oversized pistons.  This tractor, nicknamed “Old Grandpappy,” became another demonstrator used by M & W.  Along with Big Bertha, Old Grandpappy was subsequently fitted with each new product introduced by M & W.  Old Grandpappy was also purchased by Bert Bradford and is currently being used on his farm near Colfax.  Years later, another Farmall M was outfitted with all of the M & W products.  This tractor is still retained by Elmo Meiners and is exhibited at many shows around the nation.  

            The spectacular success of the M & W Company was not greeted with warm approval by the International Harvester Company.  Naturally, the “company stores,” or dealerships owned by IHC, were forbidden from dealing in M & W parts.  However, there was little that IHC could do to prevent the vast majority of independently-owned, local franchise dealerships from openly selling and installing M & W products on the Farmall tractors that they sold.  Nonetheless, IHC repeatedly sent letters to its independent franchise dealers warning of dire consequences which could occur to those tractors fitted with M & W options.  IHC alleged that both the oversized pistons and/or the nine-speed transmissions would put undue strain on the power train and cause early wear.  However, quite to the contrary, one of the incidental benefits of the M & W auxiliary transmission was to lengthen the life of one trouble spot in the power train which was traditionally a Farmall problem.  In the standard transmission of a Farmall M or H, the pilot bearing of the transmission was lubricated by the splash of the oil from rapidly spinning gears in the transmission.  This proved to be insufficient lubrication for the pilot bearing, and the pilot bearing was routinely replaced on many older Farmalls.  With the installation of the M & W auxiliary transmission kit, oil was actively pumped into the pilot bearing continuously while the transmission was running, and thus the pilot bearing was better lubricated and lasted longer. 

            The hostile reaction of IHC was not altogether a predictable reaction, because on at least one occasion in the past, IHC had cooperated with a third-party manufacturer–the Monroe Company, makers of the hydraulic (Monroe) seat, consisting of a coil spring and a Monroe shock absorber.  The Monroe seat became the standard seat on the Farmall M and H.  The frequency with which even 1938 F-20s are now seen with this type of seat, rather than the standard IHC seat, suggests that by 1938, IHC had entered into a mutually beneficial relationship regarding the installation of the Monroe seat on Farmall tractors.  Although the Monroe seat may have been offered as an IHC-sanctioned option available through the IHC dealerships, it is clear that later the seat became a factory-installed option and, finally, standard equipment on Farmall M’s and H’s.  In the case of the Monroe seat, IHC seems to have co-oped the third-party suppliers rather than fight against them.  However, there was never any similar attempt to co-opt M & W, and International Harvester remained hostile to M & W all of its life as a corporation.

             Nonetheless, recognizing the benefits of M & W products, IHC began making changes to its new Super-series tractors to correct some of the shortcomings of the Farmall M and H tractors addressed by the M & W products.  When the Farmall Super M came on the market in 1952, it had a 4″ cylinder bore, and the Super H was increased from a 3-3/8″ cylinder bore to a 3-1/2″ bore.  (Alan C. King, International Harvester [Independent Print Shop Co.: Delaware, Ohio, 1989], p. 18.)  Later, in 1954, IHC introduced the torque-amplifier which had the effect of introducing five new speed ranges to the Farmall Super MTA and later Farmall tractor models.  Still, the five new speeds were reduced speeds of the original five gears.  Thus, the only speed to fall between the original 4th gear (5-1/8 mph) and the original 5th gear (16-3/8 mph) was the new intermediate 5th gear at 11-1/4 mph.  Clearly, the M & W nine-speed auxiliary transmission was still a better alternative to fill the large gap between the 4th and 5th gears.  Nonetheless, IHC was attempting to squeeze the M & W market by making the new improvements standard equipment or by offering the new improvements as factory-installed options.  This fact was not lost on Art Warsaw in 1954. 

            Successful entrepreneurs are often faced with a dilemma about the companies they initiate–whether to continue on in the management of a company after the company has been successfully started, or to sell the company to someone else and to move on to the next challenge.  It takes a dispassionate appraisal of one’s own abilities and a frank estimate of a company’s ability to continue to gain value to accurately gauge this question, and the answer was different for the two partners involved in the M & W Company.  Elmo Meiners looked forward to introducing new M & W products to improve the versatility and adaptability of Farmall tractors; Art Warsaw, on the other hand, felt that the market for M & W products would inevitability shrink as International Harvester introduced new model tractors with factory installed features.  Better, Art felt, to sell the Company now when it was at the peak of its value and let someone else run the company.  Consequently, in 1954, Art sold his interest in M & W Company to Bert Ertel of Indianapolis, Indiana.  The Company, however, continued to operate under the name M & W Company.

            By 1954, farmers were beginning to require many more new improvements to make their lives on the farm easier and more efficient.  One such improvement was a “live” power take-off (PTO) which would allow the PTO to run continuously, even while the drive train clutch was disengaged.  The Oliver Company had been the first company to bring this improvement to the modern farm tractor.  Now, International Harvester was scrambling to catch up.  Although IHC introduced live power as an option on the Super M in 1954, M & W once again saw an opening, and that same year started manufacturing a live-PTO kit to be installed onto older Farmalls

            In 1955, M & W Company saw another opening in the market and introduced a live hydraulic kit to be retro-fitted onto older FarmallsInternational Harvester had introduced live-hydraulics as a factory installed option in 1953.  Live hydraulics allowed the hydraulic system to operate independently of the drive train clutch.  Other M & W products followed:  the friction throttle; and a new, more powerful starter to turn the Farmall engine with its higher compression created by the new M & W oversized, or “turbo-dome,” pistons.  In 1959, M & W developed a super-charger for diesel engines on some of the later model Farmalls

            Even though the rate of growth of the company was not as spectacular as it had been in the early years, the M & W Company, nonetheless, continued to grow steadily with the injection of fresh capital under the new management of Elmo Meiners and Bert Ertel.  In 1956, the company moved to larger facilities in Gibson City, occupying the Monnie Wagonseller garage at 523 South Sangamon.  The company now employed its own engineering department, consisting of two engineers and four draftsmen.  In October 1960, Phyllis (Martinsen) Anderson was hired as secretary of the engineering department and stayed on for 20 years, commuting 8-1/2 miles from the farm where she lived with her husband Vern.  She became endeared to the company, and put her two sons through college on the salary she received.  Phyllis has become the unofficial historian of the M & W Company in the years since her retirement in December 1980.  Loyalty to the company seems to be a trademark of M & W employees.  In 1963, Dean Greenlee was hired by M & W while he was still in his 30s.  Young as he was when he started, Dean, unlike so many other employees hired by M & W, did have past experience working with factory machines.  He had previously been employed with General Electric.  Dean remained with M & W, working in the fabrication department of the company until his retirement in 1993.  Other employees of the M & W Company were John White of Anchor, Illinois, and Dean Greenlee and Don Hammer, both of Colfax, Illinois.  Much of the information on past employees of the M & W Company has been collected by Belt Pulley subscriber Dale Smith and his father, the late Poland Smith, of Colfax, Illinois.   

            In 1964, the company purchased its present location on the south edge of Gibson City.  Despite delays imposed by some tornado damage in September 1965, the construction was completed by March 1966, and the total floor space in the nine buildings at the site reached 200,000 square feet.

            True to form, the M & W Company continued to adapt itself to the changing market conditions in United States agriculture.  In the spring of 1986, the company obtained the rights to sell the Culti-A-Master minimum tillage farm implement from the South Dakota farmer who had developed it.  M & W then began manufacture of the Culti-A-Master.

            Elmo Meiners retired from the company in 1989 at the age of 75.  However, his unflagging, restless energy found retirement to be too confining, and he became involved in another commercial venture producing golf carts.  After selling his interest in M & W Company, Art Warsaw initiated another successful and well-known company called the K & W CompanyK & W developed and manufactures its well-known and popular water-cooled dynamometer which populates many threshing shows around the nation. 

            Also populating the various threshing show sites around the nation are many tractors which at one time had–and many still have–M & W Company products as a part of their makeup.  These tractors remain monuments to the little company that sprang up so spectacularly in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Super Six Company of Minneapolis Minnesota

The Super Six Company of Minneapolis Minnesota: Tractor-Mounted Hydraulic Loaders for the Modern Farm

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the September/October 1997 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

(This article was also published in an issue of

Antique Power Magazine)

            As with so many farm equipment companies, the Super Six Company originated in the machine shed of a farmer who had an idea.  The farmer in this case was Leo Pfau who farmed near St. Cloud, Minnesota.  Leo Pfau had built a tractor loader for his row-crop tractor on his own farm.  In 1945, D.F. Hamacheck became acquainted with Leo Pfau’s tractor loader and realized the potential for manufacturing it for the farm market.  D.F. Hamacheck was the owner and operator of Central Motor Sales, a Chrysler-Plymouth dealership in the 900 block of 20th Avenue Northeast in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Together, Leo Pfau and D.F. Hamacheck decided to manufacture and market the tractor loader which was eventually designated the Model 45 loader.

            Anticipating the approaching end of the Second World War, D.F. Hamacheck brought together five other investors–Archie Erickson, William (Bill) Olson, W.N. Williams, George Miller and one other person–who along with himself formed the Super Six Manufacturing Company for the purpose of manufacturing Leo Pfau’s loader.  The origin of the name “Super Six” is unknown, but probably refers to the fact that the company was originally formed by six investors.  The investors correctly foresaw that the end of the war would release a huge demand for farm machines, like tractor loaders, which had been pent up by rationing during the war.

            The new company began with the purchase of property at 946 20th Avenue Northeast, directly across the street from Central Motor Sales.  (It was suspected by Super Six employees that this site was selected because D.F. Hamacheck wanted to keep an eye on the operations at Super Six!)  This site became the offices and shop of the engineering department of the Super Six Company.  Jack Mayer was hired on May 21, 1945, to head the engineering department.  Bernard (Bernie) Larson, Cliff Merkel, Jim Kruse, Cyril Merkel, Jack Smith, Ed Behrends, Paul Trombley and others were all added to the engineering department prior of 1947.  When LeRoy Meyer joined the engineering department on June 11, 1947, the company was already well established.   At that time, the sales department of the company was headed by W.L. Murphy and Jack Smith.  Carl Hall led the purchasing and purchasing control departments, Joe Grivan headed the machine shop, and Carl Erickson ran the engineering shop.

            Manufacturing of the Model 45 loaders began at the Super Six factory located at 4026 Washington Avenue North in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Before too long, however, problems would develop.  Farmers soon found that the hydraulic cylinders of the loader, which were connected directly to the axles of the tractor, put a great deal of stress on the castings of the rear axle of the tractor when the loader was lifted.  Cracks and breakage of rear end castings and axle housings became an all to common occurrence in the field.  The engineering department solved this problem by adding a “length bar” to each side of the loader.  This length bar would connect to the axle housings of the tractor, and the cylinders on each side were then connected to the length bar.  The stress created during lifting of the loader was then confined to the loader itself, rather than being transferred to the tractor’s rear axle housing.  This improved design would be called the Model D-96 loader. 

            The D-96 went into production in place of the Model 45 prior to 1948.  Later, the D-96 was further improved and became known as the Model 48 (or Senior) loader, which stayed in the Super Six line until 1960 and was a very popular design.  

            The Senior loader was built with a low profile and could fit a wide variety of row-crop tractors, including the Allis Chalmers UC, WC, and WD; the Case CC, DC, and SC; the Coop E-3; the Gamble 30; the Cockshutt 30; the Cockshutt 40-Row Crop; the Farmall H, M, Super MTA-Row Crop, F-20, F-30 and Regular; the John Deere A, B, G, GM, 50, 60, and 70; the Minneapolis-Moline UB, UTU, ZTU, and RTU; and the Oliver 70, 77, and 88.  Furthermore, the Senior loader and its Super Six predecessors were somewhat unique for loader designs of the time in that the Senior loader had hydraulic cylinders on each side–unlike the early loader manufactured by the Schwartz Company of Lester Prairie, Minnesota, which had a single hydraulic cylinder in the front of the tractor to lift the loader via short chains attached to the arms of the loader.  Additionally, the cylinders on Super Six loaders were located low on the tractor, and they operated parallel to the ground when raising the bucket of the loader.  Thus, the bucket was usually the highest point on the tractor when carrying the load in the bucket.  The design of the Super Six loaders was, therefore, much improved over the competitive loaders of both Schwartz and the Horn Manufacturing Company of Fort Dodge, Iowa, in that the Super Six loaders could be easily maneuvered in and out of most barns and sheds in the late 1940s and the 1950s.  At a time when the interiors of these buildings had been constructed with ceilings no higher than the head of a horse, the low profile of the Senior loader allowed even old buildings to be cleaned with the tractor and loader rather than the pitchfork.  (The history of the Horn Company and a discussion of their tractor-mounted loaders is contained in the Winter 1995 issue of the Hart-Parr/Oliver Collector magazine.) 

            Super Six loaders were designed to be powered hydraulically.  Considering the fact that Allis-Chalmers offered hydraulics only in 1948 and Case only in 1952, the Super Six Company seemed to be writing off a large portion of the market by producing hydraulic loaders exclusively.  To solve this problem, the Super Six Company developed a strong relationship with the Char-Lynn Company, also from Minneapolis, Minnesota, which was becoming a leading manufacturer of hydraulic pumps for tractors.  Thus over the years, Super Six and Char-Lynn sold many pumps and loaders together for farmers owning tractors without hydraulics.  In the early years of Super Six, 75% of all loaders sold included a Char-Lynn hydraulic pump in the sale.  Most of the Char-Lynn pumps sold in combination with the loaders were Char-Lynn’s most popular model–the model that fit directly onto the power takeoff of the tractor.  The relationship between the companies was so close that the decals for both companies were designed by the same advertising agency. 

            The model Senior loader was followed by a similar design made for smaller tractors.  This model was called the Junior and was intended to fit the Allis-Chalmers C, the Case VAC, the Farmall B, and similar small row-crop tractors.  The bulk of these tractors did not have factory installed hydraulic systems and would have to depend on Char-Lynn pumps or some other auxiliary system of hydraulics which could be retrofitted to the tractor.  In the end, the Junior loader was never a very popular design and was removed from production by the company. 

            Both the Senior and Junior loaders were designed with lift-arms which pivoted on a shaft attached to the tractor by mounting brackets located just behind the front wheels.  The pivot shaft was held at its position just under the frame of the tractor by two mounting brackets at which the lift occurred.  When the bucket was raised, this point was the center of an arc made by the bucket.  On smaller tractors, such as the Allis-Chalmers C or CA, Case VC or VAC, or the Farmall B or C, the center of this arc–the pivot shaft location–was located closer to the ground than on larger tractors.  According to former Super Six engineer LeRoy Meyer, when the bucket was down, the Junior loader would extend too far out in front of the tractor.  When the bucket was raised to a useful height, the bucket was too close to the front of the tractor and would tend to dump the bucket load on the front grill of the tractor. 

            Both the Senior and Junior loaders were designed for row-crop tractors only.  For those farmers who had standard tread or adjustable wide-front tractors, the Super Six Company developed the Atlas and Master loaders.  The boom-arms on these loaders were bent so that they would fit over the front axle of the tractor.  Although the pivot points of the loaders were located at a position between the engine and the gas tank of the tractor, the overall profile of the loader was low because the pivot points were raised only enough to allow the booms to clear the front axle of a wide-front tractor. 

            The loaders of the Super Six line were painted a very bright red and marketed through wholesalers around the nation with Super Six decals.  The shade of red paint used was very close to Farmall red (IHC-2150, PPG-Ditzler 71310 or Martin-Senour 99-4115).  Some of the wholesale organizations were J.A. Woodhouse in upstate New York; R.C.Cropper in Macon, Georgia; Lindsay Bros. of Minneapolis, Minnesota; and the Stover Company in Indiana.  Also, some Super Six loaders were sold under the David Bradley name through the Sears and Roebuck catalogue. 

            In 1947, Super Six Senior and Master loaders were taken to Canada to be mounted on Massey Harris tractors and demonstrated for officials of the Massey-Harris Company.  Chief Engineer Jack Mayer went with the Super Six delegation on this trip which proved to be the beginning of a very successful relationship with the Massey-Harris Company.  In 1948, Super Six began selling its line of loaders at Massey-Harris retail outlets in Canada.  Sold under the name “Super Six” through the large Canadian retail network of Massey-Harris dealerships, Super Six gained wide exposure to the Canadian farm market. 

            In the United States, the Massey-Harris (USA) retail organization was a separate entity from the Massey-Harrris retail organization in Canada, and it was not until 1950 that a demonstration of the Super Six line of loaders was organized in Delevan, Wisconsin, for the officials of Massey-Harris (USA)Super Six sales representative Alec Scott was one of the organizers of the Delevan demonstration which resulted in a long-term contract between the Super Six Company and Massey-Harris (USA) whereby Super Six would supply Massey-Harris (USA) with loaders to be repainted Massey-Harris red (Martin-Senour 90R-3743) and decaled with the name Massey-HarrisMassey-Harris Company (USA) contracted with Super Six for three loader designs: the Atlas loader (to be sold as the Massey-Harris No. 1 loader); the Master loader (to be sold as the Massey-Harris No. 10 loader); and the Senior loader (to be sold as the Massey-Harris No. 5 loader).  The lighter weight Atlas, or Massey-Harris No. 1 loader, was to be matched with the Massey Harris Model 30 and Model 22 tractors.  The heavier Master, or Massey-Harris No. 10 loader, would be matched to the wide front or standard Massey-Harris Model 44 and the Massey-Harris Model 55 tractors.  The Senior, or Massey-Harris No. 5 loader, would be matched with the row-crop versions of Massey-Harris Model 44 and Model 30 tractors.  (The Massey-Harris No. 10 loader can be seen on a Massey-Harris 55 in a picture on page 116 of C.H. Wendel’s book called Massey Tractors.)

            The Massey-Harris Company in the United States and in Canada became the largest single customer of Super Six loaders and would remain so even after the merger of Massey-Harris and Ferguson and the Massey-Harris line of equipment was phased out in 1958 by the new combined entity–the Massey-Ferguson Company

            Following the initiation of its long-term contract with the Massey-Harris Company, Super Six changed the color of all of its loaders to Massey-Harris red–even the loaders sold under the Super Six name.  This color change was done to simplify the manufacturing process. 

            From the very first, the Super Six Company recognized the importance of advertising at fairs and shows.  One of the largest agricultural fairs in the nation at that time was the Minnesota State Fair located in St. Paul, very close to the Minneapolis factory and headquarters of the Super Six Company.  Thus, the company sought a lot on the fairgrounds to advertise its loaders.  For the first couple of years, Super Six shared a site at the fair with the company’s Minnesota distributor–Lindsay Bros. Company.  (Minnesota State Fair visitors will remember that Lindsay Bros. occupied a site on Wright Avenue on “Machinery Hill” at the fairgrounds.)  However, due to a shortage of space at the Lindsay Bros. site, Super Six moved around the corner and up Cooper Street, one block south of the John Deere Tower on Machinery Hill.  This site had been used by the Jacobs Windmill Company; consequently, there was a windmill permanently installed on the site.  To best utilize the windmill to  advertise Super Six loaders, signs were attached to the upper portion of the tower, and at the very top a Super Six sign revolved in the wind.  Working at the fair site in shifts throughout the nine days of the Fair, it became the task of one of the Super Six employees to crawl to the top of the windmill and attach the signs at the beginning of the fair and then to crawl to the top again at the end of the fair to take the signs down again. 

            In about 1952, Jack Mayer, Chief Engineer at Super Six Company, found that many other loader designs were raising the pivot point of the booms.  The raised pivot point allowed the bucket to reach higher at full extension without having the bucket stick out in front of the tractor too far when in the lowered position.  Realizing the advantages of the raised pivot points, Jack set about to redesign the Atlas and Master models to raise the pivot points. 

            The headlights on the Massey-Harris Models 30, 44 and 55 tractors were located on the fenders and did not interfere with the booms of the Super Six loaders.  However, the Massey-Harris 22 presented a problem in that its headlights jutted out from the sides of the tractor just ahead of the gas tank.  In this location, the lights interfered with the booms of the No. 1 loader; therefore, removal of the headlights was necessary before mounting the loader.  (An Atlas loader mounted on the Massey-Harris 22 with the headlights removed can be seen in the 1950 Massey-Harris movie World of Power available from Keith Oltrogge, P.O. Box 529; Denver, Iowa 50622-0529, Telephone (319) 984-5292.  The viewer will note that the Massey-Harris 22 in the movie had been equipped for lights because the brackets can still be seen on the sides of the tractor.)  In about 1952, Massey-Harris contracted with Super Six to design and build another loader specifically for the Massey-Harris Model 22 tractor as well as its successors, the Mustang and the Colt, which were introduced in 1952.  The position of the headlights on the Massey-Harris Mustang and Colt was left unchanged from the 22, and therefore presented the same problems as did the Atlas loader on these tractors.  This loader, when built, was sold by Massey-Harris as the No. 2 loader and would feature the newly raised pivot point design.  The loader, although made by Super Six, would be sold only by Massey Harris.  (A picture of the No. 2 loader can be seen in an advertisement from Massey-Harris pictured on page 115 of C.H. Wendel’s book–Massey Tractors.) 

            Meanwhile, Wayne and Marilyn (Hanks) Wells, who owned 160 acres about three miles northeast of LeRoy, Minnesota, were running a diversified farming operation which included dairy, hogs, and chickens.  In the summer of 1954, Wayne would improve the dairy operation on the farm by adding a milking parlor to the dairy barn.  This milking parlor contained three milking stanchions.  All of the old stanchions in the barn were removed and the entire space was converted into a holding area for the milking cows, a calf pen, and a shelter for pregnant cows.  This greatly increased the area of the barn to be cleaned.  No longer were there gutters to be cleaned out every day; rather, the entire area of the barn would be left until spring and cleaned once a year.  During the initial planning for the milking parlor addition, it was realized that the spring cleaning of the barn would be a task well beyond the scope of a pitchfork!  Therefore, Wayne began to look around for a manure loader that could be mounted on his 1950 Farmall M. 

            Wayne became aware that Marzolf Implement, an Allis-Chalmers dealership in Spring Valley, Minnesota, had a used loader that would fit many different models of row crop tractors.  And so just as the finishing touches were being made to the milking parlor, Wayne took his five-year-old son, Brian (the present author), and drove five miles to Spring Valley, Minnesota.  At that time, Marzolf Implement was located near a little creek that ran through the center of town.  Marzolf’s used machinery lot was on the opposite side of the creek from their building.  There, among the weeds in the used machinery lot, they found a used Massey-Harris No. 5 loader, one of the Senior loaders manufactured by Super Six that had been sold to Massey-Harris (USA).  With very little conversion, the loader could be made to fit the Wells family’s Farmall M.  Thus, the loader was purchased.  All Super Six loaders were designed to disassemble easily into relatively small parts for shipping.  This feature was especially appreciated when it came time to fit the loader into a small, two-wheeled trailer owned by the Wells family.  The loader’s boom arms and bucket were disconnected from the length arms and cylinders, and the whole loader was put into the trailer. 

            Once the loader was taken back to the Wells farm, the loader was modified only slightly to fit the Wells’ Farmall M.  Over the next several years it was used with the Farmall M on a regular basis to clean the barn.  Once the tractor muffler had been removed, the highest point on the tractor and loader was the operator’s head and the steering wheel.  The tractor fit nicely into the low ceiling barn on the Wells farm.  In 1959, the chicken house on the Wells farm was modified to allow access for the tractor and loader to ease the cleaning of that building.  Only the old hog house remained inaccessible to the tractor and loader.  The hog house seemed to defy any reasonable plan of modification to permit access of the tractor and loader. 

            Eventually, Wayne would find many other uses for the loader.  He used his electric welder to construct a large snow bucket to aid in snow removal in the wintertime.  Later, Wayne found that this snow bucket was built too big for the lifting capacity of the loader, as the hydraulic cylinders could not lift the bucket when it was full of snow.  Nonetheless, after some practice, he soon learned how to pile up snow with the loader by dumping the bucket before it became totally full.

            Because the Massey-Harris/Super Six loader was one of the first loaders in the neighborhood, many neighbors requested use of the loader.  Marilyn’s parents, the Howard Hanks family, having settled on the Bagan farm in the same neighborhood, also borrowed the loader and Farmall M on occasion to clean manure out of the north side of their barn.  The M and the loader were also used to help raise the rafters at the new Presbyterian Church that was built by the congregation at LeRoy, Minnesota, in 1959-1960. 

             On February 12, 1965, Fred Hanks, now living on the Bagan farm, purchased the loader from the Wells family.  At this time, the versatility of the Super Six loader became apparent.  Occasionally, the loader was mounted on Fred Hanks’ 1951 Massey-Harris 44, but the loader was more frequently mounted on the 1945 John Deere A (All Fuel) tractor that the family owned.  The 1945 John Deere A and a 1949 John Deere A (purchased later) were most commonly used with the Massey-Harris No. 5/Super Six loader until Fred Hanks bought a new John Deere Model 45 loader in 1974 to fit their 1970 John Deere 4020. 

            Currently, the old Massey-Harris No. 5/Super Six Senior loader remains on the Hanks farm in a grove.  It has not been used since 1974 when the new John Deere loader was purchased.  Recently, however, the venerable old loader has become the focus of attention as a potential restoration project.  The loader may be fitted with reconditioned cylinders and repainted in the workshop on the original Bagan farm or in the workshop on the Robin Hanks farm, one mile southeast of the original Bagan farm.  Because of the versatility designed into Super Six loaders, it would easily fit any one of the family’s restored row-crop tractors. 

            Over the years, changes occurred in the line of loaders offered by the Super Six Company.  Although the new loader designs with the high pivot points introduced in 1952 (the 2000-lb. capacity Hi-Boy and the 3000-lb. capacity Chief) were intended to replace the 800-lb. capacity Atlas and the 2000-lb. capacity Master, a piece of 1954 literature shows that the low pivot point loaders were still being offered by Super Six at that time.  Eventually, however, the high pivot point design became the design of choice of all loader manufacturers, and all other designs disappeared. 

            Although Massey-Harris merged with Ferguson in 1953, Massey-Harris continued as a separate line of equipment within the new company until 1958.  In 1958, however, a whole new line of tractors was introduced under the name Massey-Ferguson and a decision was made by Massey-Ferguson’s management to begin making its own loaders.  Accordingly, Massey-Ferguson did not renew their contract with Super Six after 1958. 

            Nonetheless, Super Six continued to sell loaders under its own name and continued to occupy its site at the Minnesota State Fair until 1960, when they were sold to the Daffin Corporation of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the parent company of the  Farmhand CompanyDaffin Corporation reduced its line of Super Six loaders to two designs: the Model 119, which was an improved version of the Chief loader; and the Model 120, which was the upgraded version of the Champ loader.  These loaders continued to be sold by Daffin, or Farmhand, as “Super Six” loaders for a few years after 1960.  A price list dated April of 1965 reveals that at that time the Daffin company was still selling all the parts necessary for the entire line of Super Six loaders.  Other changes occurred along the way, however.  LeRoy Meyer, long-time employee in the engineering department at the Super Six Company, accepted a job in the engineering department of the Schwartz Manufacturing Company of Lester Prairie, Minnesota. 

            Under the Daffin Company, the color of the “Super Six” loaders was changed from Massey-Harris red (which had continued to be the official color of the loaders even following the expiration of the Massey-Harris contract in 1958) to the bright red that matched the machinery in the Farmhand line.  The shade of Farmhand red is also very close to Farmall red.  In a sense, the Super Six loaders were returning to their original color.  Later, however, the Models 119 and 120 loaders were completely merged with the loaders offered in the Farmhand line of equipment and all residuals of the Super Six Company disappeared entirely.  Nonetheless, restorers of Super Six loaders can still contact Farmhand, Inc., at Grinnell, Iowa, Telephone (515) 236-6571, regarding the availability of any parts which may still be obtainable for the various models of Super Six loaders. 

            Although the Super Six Company may not be an active company anymore, there are many Super Six loaders still around the countryside, laying out in groves around the nation, each one waiting to be found by a farm equipment restorer.  Restoration of these loaders would not only add to the flood of memories that people feel when they see them, but will also serve as a continuing signpost of the company that made the loader.  There can be no better tribute to the memory of the Super Six Company than restoration of one of its loaders.

Custom Threshing on a Large Scale: The Pauley-Seppmann 40-inch by 64-inch Minneapolis Thresher

Custom Threshing on a Large Scale: The Pauley-Seppmann 40-inch by 64-inch Minneapolis Thresher

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the July/August 1997 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

            The 1920s heralded the beginning of the small tractor era.  The production and sale of smaller tractors during that time was accompanied by a downward trend in the size of threshers.  By the late 1920s, large threshers had become dinosaurs of a bygone era–huge behemoths which reminded one of threshing days prior to World War I.  However, there remained one small niche in the farm market for the large thresher/separator–the custom thresher operator. 

            Generally, threshing on North American farms in the past was done by a threshing/separator jointly owned by a “ring” of neighborhood farmers.  During harvesting season, a thresher would make the rounds of each of the farms in the neighborhood ring, threshing all the small grains on each farm before moving on to the next farm.  Occasionally, one farmer would own the thresher outright and would circulate the neighborhood with the thresher and thresh his neighbors grain for a fee.  This was called “neighborhood custom threshing.” 

            Custom farming (i.e., custom threshing, custom baling, etc.) in the immediate neighborhood was a common way in which farmers supplemented their own farm income.  As the regular Belt Pulley reader will remember, the Hanks family of LeRoy, Minnesota, found that the extra income provided by custom combining and baling in their neighborhood provided just enough income to make it through 1947.  (See “The Case NCM and a Family’s Crucial Year” in the January/February 1995 Belt Pulley.)   

            To make an income at custom threshing, the operator had to get outside of his neighborhood and follow the ripening crop from south to north across the Midwest.  This style of custom threshing is mentioned in the book Threshers, by Robert Pripps & Andrew Morland (Motorbooks International: Oseola, Wis. 1992), pp. 57-59.  Such custom threshing would require full-time operation and would generally not be done by a farmer who had to operate his own farm.  These custom threshing operators were required to thresh a great deal of grain in a very short time.  They had to cover a lot of ground quickly.  They were, after all, fighting a rear guard action against the trend toward smaller threshing rings and downsized threshers which predominated throughout the 1920s.  Nonetheless, the threshing separator market was still significant enough in the late 1920s that some threshing machine manufacturers were trying to court this market by updating their largest threshers. 

            One of the biggest threshing separators ever built was the 40″ x 64″ separator (a 40″ cylinder and concave with 64″ wide separating tables and screens) manufactured by the  Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company (MTM) of Hopkins, Minnesota.  MTM seems to have begun manufacturing the 40″ x 64″ separator as a wooden thresher as early as 1899.  However, whereas Case had begun offering all-steel threshers as early as 1904, information obtained by researcher and writer C.H. Wendel seems to indicate that MTM was one of the last threshing companies to offer an all-steel version of its thresher/separator.  MTM began offering the all-steel design as an option in the late 1920s.

            One particular all-steel 40″x 64″ separator, among the first ever manufactured by MTM, rolled out of the company’s Hopkins factory in early 1926.  It was loaded onto a waiting Chicago Northwestern railroad car and then connected to a  Chicago Northwestern train headed south to the town of Madelia, Minnesota (1920 pop. 1,447).  The steam engine powering the train pulled slowly out of Hopkins and picked up speed.  In the early spring, teams of horses and farmers could be seen just starting their field work for the season.  It was still very much the time of the horse.  As the train carrying the MTM thresher passed through the Minnesota Valley and through the small towns of Shakopee, Jordan, Belle Plaine, St. Peter and Mankato, it rolled on past fields full of farmers and horses in harness working up the soil for the start of a new year of crops.  At Mankato (1920 pop. 12,469), where the Minnesota River arches around a bend to head off to the northwestern part of the state, the train began to climb up out of the valley.  The tracks then settled out onto the flat plains southwest of Mankato.  At the small town of Lake Crystal, Minnesota (1920 pop. 1,204), the original tracks built by Chicago Northwestern turned south toward Iowa.  However, the train with the large MTM thresher headed off onto the tracks which headed west-southwest out of Lake Crystal.  This line had originally been built by the Chicago-St. Paul-Minneapolis and Omaha RailRoad and was commonly known as the Omaha Road.  Many years prior to 1926, this railroad had merged with the Chicago Northwestern Railroad; however, the railroad employees still affectionately referred to the section of the line between Lake Crystal and Omaha as the “Omaha Road.”  This particular train followed the Omaha Road for only 17 miles before arriving at the small town of Madelia, Minnesota, located in Watonwan County.  Here, the railroad car was disconnected from the train and put off onto a siding for unloading of the thresher.

            A few of weeks earlier, the local hardware store in Madelia–James Brothers Hardware and Farm Equipment–had placed an order with the Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company for the large separator.  Bezaleel “Bez” James and his brother J.C. James had opened the hardware business in 1910.  They sold Massey-Harris tractors and equipment and Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company threshers and equipment.  Carrying these two lines of farm equipment meant that James Bothers had the entire cross-section of farm equipment needed by any farming operation. 

            James Brothers had placed the order for the large MTM thresher pursuant to a purchase contract signed by brothers Cyril and Zeno Pauley of Lewisville, Minnesota (1920 pop. 229) located in Watonwan County, 10 miles south of Madelia.  Cyril Pauley was a mechanic and lived with his wife Laura (Mosel) Pauley and their two children, Eugene and Joyce, in the town of Lewisville.  Zeno and his wife Ann (Fafzden) Pauley owned and operated a 160-acre farm in the rural Lewisville area where they lived with their two children, James and Lorraine.  The Pauley brothers were both tall and big men.  Obviously, they both had the strength and endurance to take on two full-time jobs each–their own respective occupations and also custom threshing.  They began custom threshing in 1917 using a wooden 32″x 52″ Red River Special fitted with double-wing feeder extensions made by the Carpenter Company of Peroia, Illinois.  However, by 1926, the Red River Special had become worn and was too small for the growing number of farmers who were employing the Pauley Brothers to do their threshing each year.  Consequently, they had purchased the large MTM from James Bros. Hardware and Farm Equipment.  The Pauleys had both grown up in the Madelia area; therefore, it was perhaps natural that they would turn to James Brothers to purchase a new thresher for their business.  To power the smaller Red River Special, the Pauley brothers had used a 25 hp. Port Huron steam engine.  For their new thresher, the Pauley brothers obtained a larger steam engine with the increased horsepower necessary to power the larger MTM thresher.

            The type of threshing that was generally conducted in the Lewisville area at that time was predominately “stack threshing.”   The individual farmer would bind all of his wheat and oats, and rather than putting the bundles of grain into small “shocks” in the field to “sweat” or dry, he would begin carefully constructing large stacks of bundled grain that would rise to a point at the top.  If the top of a stack were correctly made, it would repel rain and keep all the bundles in the stack dry for a long time.  Many times the stacks would have to sit out in the elements a long time before threshing.  The threshing season would begin in August, but could extend to as late as November before a threshing crew could get around to threshing the last customer on their list.  Although farmers would try to position the stacks close together (usually with just enough room between the stacks to insert the self-feeder of the threshing separator), the fact that the stacks were large and immobile meant that some bundles would have to be carried from one side of the stack to the other.  Furthermore, near the bottom of the stack the crew members (bundle tossers) throwing the bundles onto the self-feeder would not have the advantage of standing on a wagon to feed the thresher.  Consequently, the bundle tossers would have to lift the bundles up above head level to feed the thresher.  As a result, stack threshing created a real need for feeder extensions which would swing out to any angle from both sides of the self-feeder to ease the task of the bundle tossers when working on the stacks.  Additionally, the feeder extensions could be lowered as the bundle tossers worked down the stack.  The “double-wing” feeder extensions jutting out at angles from the self-feeder were a great improvement and became a very popular option for most threshers headed to “stack threshing country.”  Anticipating that their 40″ MTM thresher would be used primarily for stack threshing, the Pauley Brothers ordered the optional Garden City double-wing feeder extensions on their new MTM thresher.  Although manufactured by the Garden City Company of Pella, Iowa, the double-wing feeder extensions were added to the Pauley thresher by MTM at their Hopkins facility as a factory installed option.  

            Once the large thresher was de-trained at the depot in Madelia, it was parked nearby until the Pauley brothers could arrive to take possession of it.  To transport the 9,900-pound thresher from Madelia to Lewisville, the Pauleys would no doubt have had to have used their large steam engine.  Madelia is located in the valley of the Watonwan River, and the road leading south out of town toward Lewisville involved a long steady climb before emerging onto the flat, table-top land which covers most of Watonwan County.  One can surely picture the steam engine chugging along under full load in the particularly steep portions of this climb out of the valley.  Arriving in Lewisville, the thresher was ready to conquer the threshing jobs that the Pauley brothers had already scheduled for the 1926 season.  

            Among the crew the Pauley Brothers hired in 1926 was young Carl Tetzloff.  Carl would work with the Pauley Brothers for the first two seasons they had the Minneapolis thresher (1926 and 1927).  He was sometimes charged with the duty of driving the steam engine and transporting the thresher from farm to farm.  Carl, in later years, would relate some of his experiences to his son, Willard, now a member of the Watonwan County Historical Society in Madelia.  Carl told how the steering on the steamer was loose and required a considerable amount of over-steer to keep it headed down the road.  Young Carl was also very much aware of the mishaps that could occur with a heavy steamer and thresher, and he was not reckless.  Once he refused to cross a small wooden bridge for fear the bridge would break under the weight of the steamer and threshing machine.  Cyril, himself, had to arrive on the scene and take the risk of crossing the bridge.  In 1928, Carl would marry Verona Wiederhoeft and eventually he would own and operate the Allis Chalmers and Chevrolet dealership in Lewisville.   

            Other members of the 1926 crew and later Pauley crews have left us their names.  Visible to this day on the underside of the feeder and other protected areas of the Pauley/Seppmann thresher are the names of some members of the crew that was hired by the Pauley Brothers in different years.  A date–September 7, 1926–and the names Gerhard Brummund and Herbert Ritz (with “Truman” written behind this name, probably indicating that Herbert Ritz was from the little town of Truman, Minnesota [1920 pop. 752] located 6 miles south of Lewisville in Martin County) are found under the feeder.  Also, appearing at various locations on the thresher is the date September 14, 1926, with the names Herbert Wegner (Truman is likewise written after this name), Robert Meyer and Lille, Hugo Nessler, Edward Meyer, Pat Hiller (with “Good Thunder Route 2″ following his name, indicating perhaps that he came from the small town of Good Thunder, Minnesota in Blue Earth County [1920 pop. 464]), Art Meyer, Ted Clow and Helen Clow (with “Truman” following their names); and the date September 20, 1930, with the names Walter Ritz and Clarence Ritz.  John Hiniker, who later restored the thresher and found many of the names, believes that during lulls in the threshing operation some of the crew took the time to put their names in pencil on the thresher in places where the writing would most likely last.  They probably did not suspect that 70 years later people would view their hasty actions of one insignificant day during a threshing season with a great deal of interest to attempt to deduce the meaning of the dates and names.

            Sometime after the 1927 season, the Pauley brothers decided to modernize their threshing operation by obtaining a gas-powered tractor to replace their steam engine.  The Pauley brothers’ MTM 40″ thresher required 65 horsepower to run efficiently.  (Pripps and Moreland, Threshers, p. 121.)  Because most farmers were buying smaller tractors during the 1920s and most tractor manufacturers were downsizing their tractors, only the MTM 35-70 (with 35 hp. delivered to the wheels and 70 hp. delivered to the belt) and the four-cylinder Avery Model 45-65 (produced only until 1924) had the required amount of horsepower for the large thresher.  The Pauley’s did not have a lot of choices when looking for a large gas-powered tractor.  Thus the Pauley brothers bought a 1921 MTM 35-70, and thereafter used it exclusively to power their large thresher. 

            In purchasing the MTM 35-70, the Pauley’s had obtained the tractor that was the most common power source for the all-steel 40″ x 64″ thresher.  Indeed, the matching of a 40″ MTM all-steel thresher with a 35-70 MTM tractor was so common at that time that it almost seems that the history of any 35-70 tractor involves also at some point a 40″ thresher.  The cover story of the January/February 1997 Antique Power dealt with the 1913 35-70 which was restored by Frank and Betty Sticha of New Prague, Minnesota.  This 35-70 is now located on the grounds of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association in LeSueur, Minnesota.  Frank Sticha obtained his current 35-70 because it reminded him of a 35-70 which had been owned by his parents, Frank and Rose (Havlicek) Sticha, who had used it in their farming operation to power a 40″ MTM all-steel thresher.  Regular readers of the Belt Pulley will remember that the September/October 1995 issue carried the story of the Volkart threshing ring of LeRoy, Minnesota.  The Volkarts also used a 35-70 tractor to power their MTM 40″ threshing machine.  (Although the article mistakenly identified the thresher as a Case separator and contained a picture of the Scottie Jamieson Case thresher which was from Winnebago, Minnesota, the Volkart threshing ring was another example of a MTM 40″ thresher teamed with a MTM 35-70 tractor.) 

            So common was the linking of the 40″ MTM thresher with the 35-70 MTM tractor that C.H. Wendel, author and researcher of many tractor companies, believes that the thresher and tractor were offered as a package.  Although there is no proof that this was the case, the frequency with which the histories of the 35-70 tractor and the 40″ thresher merge would support the contention that MTM did consciously market these machines together by discounting the price when they were purchased as a unit.  Indeed, the whole reason for Hopkins, Minnesota-based MTM to begin manufacture of the large gas-powered tractor must have been as the intended power source for the 40″ thresher.  The Company began production of the 35-70 tractor in late 1912 and continued manufacture of the 35-70 tractor up to its merger with the Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Company (MSM) of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the Moline Plow Company of Moline, Illinois, in 1929.  (C.H. Wendel, Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors, Crestline Publishing: Sarasota, Fla. [1979] p. 199).  With the cessation of production of a tractor large enough to power the 40″ thresher, it can be assumed that the new Minneapolis-Moline Company also ceased production of the large 40″ thresher in favor of smaller designs.  The Pauley brothers continued to use their 35-70 and all-steel 40″ MTM thresher until 1934, when they would sell their tractor and thresher. 

            Alfred B. (Al) Seppmann, another farmer living 40 miles to the north and east of Lewisville, west of the city of Mankato near Minneopa State Park, was, during the 1920s, also involved in custom threshing.  Al Seppmann was one of eight children born to Louis B. and Augusta (Miller) Seppmann.  Louis B. Seppmann was born in Westphalia, Germany, but immigrated to the United States in 1852.  In 1864, Louis built a wind-powered grist mill from the native limestone of the Mankato area.  The tall, large tower supported an axle with long wooden arms equipped with canvas sails which would catch the wind and power the mill.  The Seppmann mill served as a center of activity for farmers in Blue Earth and Nicollet Counties during the mid-to-late 19th Century.  Farmers from miles around brought their grain to the Seppmann mill to have it ground into flour.  The revolving arms of the windmill, as they appeared on the horizon to a farmer driving a team of horses and a wagon loaded with sacks of grain, must have presented a very European look to the southern Minnesota landscape.

            The Seppmann windmill was gradually surpassed in technology by water-powered and steam-powered grist mills, and finally by the roller process of making flour.  When mother nature damaged the Seppmann windmill in 1890 for the third time, Louis Seppmann discontinued its use altogether.  Nonetheless, when Al Seppmann took over the 160-acre farming operation on the Seppmann farm upon the death of his father in 1914, he become heavily involved in the processing of small grains, just like his father, albeit with a difference–by engaging in the business of custom threshing.  Just like Al Seppmann himself, the custom threshing business grew up in the shadow of the windmill.  It was natural that the same farmers that used to bring wheat to the Seppman windmill would now turn to the Seppmanns to thresh their small grains.

            In 1920, Al Seppmann began custom threshing in a big way.  Each summer, just as the small grains around Blue Earth and Nicollet counties were beginning to turn golden amber, three threshing crews would leave the Seppmann farm:  one crew with an International Harvester 10-20 and a Case 22″ x 36″ threshing separator; a second crew with an International Harvester 15-30  and another 22″ x 36″ Case thresher; and the third crew with a 1930 6-cylinder Rumley Model 6A tractor with a Case 36″ x 58 thresher. 

            In 1934, Al Seppmann heard about the Pauley brothers’ thresher and tractor for sale in Lewisville, Minnesota, so he went to Lewisville and purchased them.  He then delegated the task of towing the thresher with the large 35-70 tractor home to his hired hand and his son, Alfred W. Seppmann.  At the top speed of 2.1 mph., driving the 35-70 on the 40-mile journey back to the Seppmann farm must have been a long, tedious trip.

            In the summer of 1934, the 40″ MTM separator joined the three other threshers leaving the Seppmann farm to make the rounds of the neighborhood.  In the tow of the large 35-70 Minneapolis tractor, the Minneapolis 40″ separator would have a slow trip traveling down the country roads west of Mankato, Minnesota, moving from one threshing job to the next.  The massive 22,500-pound tractor would cause the ground to shake as it passed.  Once at the threshing site, however, the 35-70 was able to perform the task for which it was built–to deliver a great deal of stationary power to the belt.   However, one of the more daunting tasks facing the threshing crews using the 35-70 MTM tractor during the threshing season was starting the tractor.  Hand starting the large Minneapolis tractor required the use of a 4-foot lever attached to the flywheel.  This lever would be pulled by the operator, thereby revolving the large engine until the engine fired and started running on its own.  Al Seppmann, being very mechanically inclined, recognized that a “pony engine” mounted on the 35-70 to revolve the engine during starting would greatly reduce the hard labor involved in the onerous task of starting the 35-70.   Accordingly, sometime after he obtained the large Minneapolis, Al Seppmann set to work installing a 1928 four-cylinder Chevrolet car engine on the large tractor to act as a starting engine, or “pony engine,” to turn the tractor’s own large engine until it fired and began to run.  This greatly facilitated the initial starting of the tractor each day during the threshing season and also facilitated the restarting of the large tractor when it stalled in the middle of the day.  With all of these improvements, the tractor and 40″ thresher operated well for many years.  (John Hiniker of North Mankato, Minnesota, remembers another time that Al Seppmann showed his mechanical ability.  Al was the inventor of a hydraulic parking brake which could be retrofitted on most vehicles with hydraulic brakes.  Operated by a small switch on the dashboard, the Seppmann hydraulic parking brake operated much more efficiently than the typical mechanical parking brake operated by a lever on the floor of most heavy trucks.)

            Over the years since 1890, when the Seppmanns had ceased using the windmill, the windmill itself had fallen into disrepair.  The canvas sails and the wooden arms that supported them deteriorated and fell away until all that was left was the distinguishing limestone tower and its roof.  Still, this presented enough of a European landscape that it served as a backdrop for some scenes in a small, independent, community-made movie called Man with a Mission which was filmed in 1965.  This movie involved a story about the underground resistance during World War II.  It was less than memorable to the author who first saw it when it came out on initial release in 1965 and was shown at the State Theater in Mankato.  Later, in 1972, the Seppmann Mill again received some local notoriety by being pictured on the front cover of the Mankato Citizens Telephone Company telephone book.  The windmill was eventually donated by the Seppmann family to the State of Minnesota, who declared the mill to be a historic site and incorporated the mill and the land around the mill into the Minneopa State Park. 

            As the years passed by, the list of farmers employing the Seppmann custom threshing business shrunk in size, as more and more area farmers obtained threshers of their own or purchased combines.  Finally, in 1946, Al Seppmann retired the four threshers, including the large Pauley/Seppmann MTM 40″ thresher, and the MTM 35-70 tractor.  The tractor and thresher would remain unused on the Seppmann farm for 20 years until purchased by John Hiniker in 1966.  (John Hininker would also eventually buy the 6-cylinder Rumley Model 6A tractor which were part of the custom threshing business and some other machinery from Al Seppmann.)

            John Hiniker was one of a very few individuals who, in the 1960s, saw the need to save some of the farm machinery that was rapidly fading from the scene of North American agriculture.  Having been involved in his own construction business, John Hiniker had a natural understanding of how machines worked and he put this ability to good use in restoring the 40″ Minneapolis to operating condition.  Additionally, he removed the 4-cylinder Chevrolet engine used as a pony on the 35-70 Minneapolis tractor and returned the tractor to its original hand-start operation. 

            In 1968, John Hiniker put on a small threshing show for the public on some land located in Nicollet County just north of the suburban community of North Mankato, Minnesota.  At this show, after 20 years of inactivity and two years of restoration work, the Pauley/Seppmann 40″ MTM separator, powered by the restored Pauley/Seppmann 35-70 tractor, was again put to work threshing grain.  The thresher and tractor would again be demonstrated at the same location in North Mankato in the summers of 1969 and 1970. 

            In 1972, the widely advertised Farmfest came to Vernon Center, Minnesota.  Farmfest, in 1972, was held on the Burt Hansen farm on U.S. 169 between Garden City and Vernon Center, Minnesota.  The Pauley/Seppmann thresher and 35-70 tractor were demonstrated at this Farmfest.

            Four years later, another larger Farmfest was held at a site in rural Lake Crystal, Minnesota.  This time the public was treated to a demonstration of the Pauley/Seppmann threshing separator through some stack threshing which offered an opportunity to show off the functionality of the Garden City double-wing feeders. 

            Following the 1976 Farmfest, the large thresher was stored away until 1980 when it was taken to the Blue Earth County Fair at Garden City, Minnesota, to be a stationary exhibit.  In preparation for the fair, John Hiniker, his good friend John Klasseus, and John’s son Nick Klasseus mounted a large, electric motor on the top of the thresher.  The electric motor was connected with a belt to the thresher and the thresher was operated in slow motion all during the fair.  The Pauley/Seppmann 40″ MTM thresher remained as an exhibit at the Blue Earth County Fair until 1990. 

            John and Nick Klasseus as well as John Hiniker were early members of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association located in LeSueur County northeast of Blue Earth County.  At the June 27, 1991, membership meeting of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association, John Hiniker requested that the 40″ thresher and some 15 antique tractors which he had restored (which were at that time located at the Blue Earth County Showgrounds) be brought to the LeSueur Pioneer Power Showgrounds as part of a permanent exhibit.  The membership agreed to this request, and in 1991, the Pauley/Seppmann 40″x 64″ MTM thresher was brought to its current place of residence in LeSueur County. 

            At the July 26, 1990, Pioneer Power Association meeting, the membership voted to construct a new exhibit hall for its 1991 Show in anticipation of the J.I. Case Collectors summer convention to be held at the Pioneer Power Showgrounds concurrent with the August 1991 threshing show.  The new building was to serve as the headquarters for the J.I. Case Collectors Association and their vendors.  (The exhibit hall has served as headquarters for similar groups when they came to the Show in succeeding years–the Central Minnesota Two-Cylinder John Deere Collectors Club in 1993, Allis Chalmers in 1994, the Hand Made Scale Model Collectors in 1995, and the Minnesota State International Harvester Collectors in 1996.) 

            From the very beginning, the new exhibit hall was immediately electrified.  At the 1992 Show, the Pauley/Seppmann thresher with its electric motor was set up in the exhibit hall as a stationary exhibit.  The electric motor was once again connected to the thresher by a belt and the thresher operated in slow motion for the viewing public, just as it had at the Blue Earth County Fair.  (During the Second Hour portion of Tape #1 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies, the 40″ thresher can be seen operating via electric motor inside the new exhibit hall.)

            In the years since 1992, the Pauley/Seppmann 40″ x 64″ MTM thresher has remained as a stationary exhibit in the exhibit hall.  At the upcoming 1997 Pioneer Power Show, the MTM 40″ thresher will be one of the highlights, as the show will be held concurrently with the national convention of the Minneapolis-Moline Collectors Association.  Once again, the exhibit hall will be the headquarters of the featured guest association, and in the center of the exhibit hall will be the Pauley/Seppmann thresher–an example of the largest all-steel thresher ever built by Minneapolis-Moline or any of the companies that merged to form that company. 

            In addition to being the center of interest for all Minneapolis-Moline enthusiasts at the 1997 show, the large restored thresher will serve as a recognition to threshing as it was performed in the days prior to World War I.  It will also serve as a salute to all the people who built and operated the machine and finally as a salute to all those that were responsible for the preservation and restoration of this grand old machine.

A Life of Giving: Marcus Griep’s Minneapolis-Moline Model ZAU Tractor

A Life of Giving: Marcus Griep’s Minneapolis-Moline Model ZAU Tractor

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the May/June 1997 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

            At various antique tractor shows around the nation, you can see service tractors which have, at some point, been restored with a new coat of paint and the proper decals, but usually they are not as pampered as the tractors meant exclusively for exhibition.  Service tractors provide the day-to-day power needed to prepare a site for a show.  They are expected to start the first time, every time, in all kinds of weather.  They are expected to pull water wagons for steam engines, to pull graders and drags for grooming the grounds, and even to pull the other pampered tractors in attempts to start them.  Service tractors usually do the seed bed preparation and planting of the crops in the spring and the binding of the grain in the summer, well before the fall threshing shows.  More often than not, service tractors are neglected and taken for granted.  They usually are not registered for the show nor are they usually paraded with the other tractors.  Instead, they tend to be invisible to the viewing public as they perform the more mundane tasks.  In other words, they are treated much the same as a tractor on a working farm.  In this way, service tractors are the best example of a “real farm tractor” that a show may actually possess. 

            One such tractor on the grounds of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association is a 1949 Minneapolis-Moline ZAU, Serial No. 0064903012 (hereinafter referred to as “No. 3012″), last owned by the late Marcus Griep of nearby Henderson, Minnesota.  Marcus remembered No. 3012 from his childhood on his family’s farm.  In the years following the death of his father, Oscar Griep, in January of 1982, Marcus used No. 3012 to perform useful duties and impromptu acts of kindness throughout the Henderson community, like helping people get their cars started in the winter.  The very fine recent history of Henderson (Henderson: Then and Now) contains a pictorial record of Marcus Griep’s community involvement–helping city workers hang Christmas decorations and participating in the community beard growing contest. 

            His early membership and participation in the activities of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association led him to bring No. 3012 out to the Pioneer Power grounds to continue a family tradition of service to the Henderson/Dresselville/LeSueur community.  Although Marcus, himself, was most often in attendance at “work nights” on the new 93-acre site which had just been purchased by the Association in 1980, he made it clear that No. 3012 was to be used by association members in his absence if the need arose.  Soon No. 3012 became a regular sight around the grounds, performing all sorts of tasks. 

            In late April of each year, the tractor can be found pulling the road grader, leveling the roadways around the grounds in preparation for the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet.  Also, No. 3012 is used to pull wagons loaded with seed corn and oats during the spring planting of the fields located on the grounds.  After the wheat and oats are ripe and have dried in the shocks in the fields, No. 3012 is once again used by the crews to pull the loaded bundle wagons.  During the Show, No. 3012 can be seen pulling water wagons for the steam engines and pulling the trash pickup wagon through the campgrounds in the morning.  In short, No. 3012 continues to give good service to the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association, long after its previous owners–Marcus and his father Oscar–have passed away.  Even today, the tractor is continuing a Griep family tradition of community service to the LeSueur area.  (In the Second Hour portion of Tape #5 of the International Harvester Movies, No. 3012 can be seen doing just that–pulling the road grader in preparation for the 1993 Pioneer Power Swap Meet.) 

            The family tradition of service began with Marcus’ grandfather, Reverend A.O. Mann, who served as the last minister of the Salem-St. Paul’s Evangelical and Reform Church located in the small unincorporated settlement of Dresselville, Minnesota.  August Oscar Mann was born on January 29, 1885, in Detmold, Missouri, as the son of a local flour miller.  His family later moved to Washington, Missouri, where A.O. spent his childhood.  On April 23, 1911, he married Lydia Panhorst from his hometown and on March 2, 1912, had one daughter, Viola. 

            After 20 years in education, serving as a teacher in various country schools in the German-American community of Washington, Missouri, and serving as superintendent of schools in Gasconade County, Missouri, August decided to change course.  He enrolled in Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, on his way toward becoming a minister in the Evangelical Reform Church.  In 1923, he graduated from the seminary and was installed as minister at the Evangelical Reform Church in Cambridge, Maryland.  In 1926, however, he was able to transfer back to Missouri to take up a vacant pulpit in his parents’ church in Washington.  Viola grew up, and in the fall of 1930, she enrolled at the University of Missouri at Columbia.  She wished to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a school teacher.  In a time when a two-year certificate was most common for a teacher, Viola graduated with a full four-year baccalaureate degree.

            By the time Viola graduated, her parents were living in North Dakota, where A.O. Mann was serving as minister in New Salem.  Viola moved to her parents’ home and obtained a teaching position which was scheduled to begin in the fall of 1935.  However, before Viola could begin teaching, her father was called to St. Paul’s Evangelical and Reformed Church in the little town of Henderson, Minnesota. 

            Henderson (pop. 672 in 1930) is a small town nestled on the west bank of the Minnesota River, about 60 miles south of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  The town was incorporated in 1855.  A ferry connecting the town of Henderson with LeSueur County on the east side of the Minnesota River was started in 1856 and would continue in operation until 1877 when a bridge would be built spanning the Minnesota River at Henderson.  In the days when river boats plied the Minnesota River, Henderson served as an important supply center for eastern Sibley County.  Henderson’s economic focus was directed primarily to the west.  Goods would be off-loaded at the landing and dispersed to all points west in Sibley County.  (See the newly published very fine history of Henderson, Henderson: Then and Now 1852-1994 [Crow River Press: Hutchinson, Minn. 1995], p. 106.) 

            Symbolic of this westward outlook of Henderson is Main Street, which begins at the steamboat landing and proceeds steeply up hill, curving gently to the south and then to the north before curving to the west again and emerging out of the Minnesota River Valley onto the flat tabletop prairie that is Sibley County.  Henderson is a river town, but the city limits extend all the way west to the crest of the heavily-wooded bluffs to the point where the prairie begins.  The coal black soil of this prairie was and still is the primary source of wealth in the community, reliably delivering bountiful crops of wheat, corn and oats. 

            In about 1913, William Griep and his wife Bertha (Kiep) Griep bought a farm west of Henderson.  They moved to their new farm from another farm located across the Minnesota River near Ottawa, Minnesota.  On their new farm they raised four sons–Oscar, Arthur, Francis and Clarence.  In Henderson, the boys went to school and made friends with some of the other boys in this German community.  In particular, from a very early age, they played with Frank, Fred and Harold Steckman.  Oscar Griep–who was born on November 11, 1905–eventually became a partner in his parents’ diversified farming operation. 

            The Griep family were members of the Evangelical Reform Church in Henderson when, in 1935, Pastor Mann and his family came to occupy the pulpit.  During the church activities, Oscar Griep was attracted to the pastor’s daughter, Viola Mann, who by this time had obtained a teaching position at Independent School District No. 2, a country school located in Henderson Township west of the city of Henderson.  (Henderson, p. 583.)  Viola taught school here in 1936-1937, and then began teaching first grade in the Henderson city school system in the fall of 1937.  While teaching, Viola continued to live with her parents in the church parsonage, and she and Oscar courted each other.  After some time, they became engaged.  Anticipating the marriage and anxious to set out on his own, Oscar purchased an 80-acre farm on the prairie west of Henderson.  Indeed, Oscar’s new farm bordered the western edge of the city limits of Henderson, and was located right at the very point where the valley abruptly changed into flat prairie. 

            Following their wedding on August 8, 1940 (at which Fred Steckman served as best man), Oscar and Viola set up their farming operation.  Viola continued to teach first grade in Henderson and, in addition, helped with raising the pigs, milking the cows, feeding chickens, and gathering eggs.  Together, she and Oscar worked hard to make the farm their own.  They sold their eggs to Schultz’s Grocery in Henderson and to the egg plant in Henderson which was owned and operated for a short time by Chester (“Chesty”) Narr.  (Henderson p. 253.)  Each year, Viola and Oscar would save about 200 eggs to be taken to the hatchery in Arlington, Minnesota, to start their new flock of laying hens for the next year.  Oscar obtained an Angus bull and bred their 12 to 14 Holstein and Guernsey dairy cows and then sold the crossbred calves.  In the summer, when Viola was not teaching, she was helping with the crops.  They raised winter wheat, oats, corn and hay.  For threshing the small grains, Oscar joined a threshing ring with Ed Wudalmann and Ed Bertrang–from adjacent farms to the north of the Griep farm–and together the three farmers purchased a 26″ x 46″ Woods Brothers thresher.  In the middle of the summer, this thresher would be pulled by Ed Bertrang’s Farmall F-20 from one farm to the next to thresh all the oats and wheat on the three farms. 

            Oscar and Viola worked hard during their first two years on the farm, performing all the field work with horses.  The agricultural depression which had begun in 1921 still had a grip on the farm economy of the country.  However, by 1942, big changes were afoot in the world that would directly affect the midwest.  The United States had entered the Second World War in December of 1941, and this caused an increased demand for farm products to feed the armed forces fighting a two-ocean war.  This huge demand put a quick end to the lingering agricultural depression, and farmers once again began to see good prices for their products.  Now, for the first time in a long while, farmers had the money to begin modernizing and expanding their farming operations.  So, too, Oscar and Viola Griep began thinking about purchasing a tractor to mechanize their farm.

            Small as it was, Henderson was home to two farm equipment dealerships.  On Main Street, down near the bridge over the Minnesota River, was the Wieland Oliver dealership, owned and operated by brothers Fred and Walter Wieland.  Further to the west and across Main Street was the International Harvester dealership, once owned and operated by Herman Lindorff, but, since 1937, owned and operated by the Steckman brothers (Oscar’s old childhood friends).  In 1942, both the Wieland and Steckman dealerships were taking advantage of the great increase in demand for tractors and other modern farm machinery which was being propelled by the war.  However, they were also feeling the pinch of the shortage of new farm equipment as the war effort began to dominate all of the industrial capacity of the nation.  Indeed, as early as April of 1941, the Office of Price Administration (OPM) had been operating under an executive order by President Roosevelt.  (James McGregor Burns, Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom [Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, Inc: New York, 1970], p. 116.)  As war loomed and the Lend Lease Assistance to Britain and the Soviet Union demanded more and more of the industrial capacity of the nation, OPM exercised increasing authority over prices and wages and placed heavy restrictions on the production of new farm machinery.  Consequently, when Oscar Griep walked into the Steckman Bros. dealership to see his old friends about a tractor, they could not be very encouraging about the possibilities of selling him a new tractor; however, they were able to offer him a used tractor–a Minneapolis-Moline Model RTU. 

            The Model RTU had been introduced in 1939 by the Minneapolis-Moline Company as the latest and smallest of its line of “Prairie Gold” tractors.  The Model RTU was intended to serve as a downsized version of the first Prairie Gold tractor, the Model Z, which had been introduced in 1936.  It contained the same simplified engine with a 3-5/8″ bore that was contained in the Model ZTU, except that the stroke of the RTU engine was shortened to 4″ rather than 4-1/2″.  Tests at the University of Nebraska in 1940 found that the two-plow RTU delivered 21.63 horsepower to the belt and 15.66 horsepower to the drawbar.  (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests Since 1920 [Motorbooks Publishers: Oseola, Wis., 1985], p. 125.)  The tractor had been intended as the perfect tractor for the small farmer who wished to mechanize his farming operation.  In other words, it was a tractor intended for farmers just like Oscar Griep.

            Since Steckman’s Bros. was an International Harvester dealership, we do not know for certain how this particular Model RTU had found its way to Steckman Bros. nor do we know where the RTU was originally sold.  However, if it were a local tractor, it is likely that it was originally sold through the Ewald Brandt Dealership in nearby LeSueur, Minnesota.  Although Minneapolis-Moline offered optional lights, electric starting, and a battery for the Model RTU, this particular tractor did not have these very common optional features.  Nonetheless, the RTU did have rubber tires on the front and the rear.  Oscar felt that the tractor would meet his needs, and so a deal was struck for the Model RTU and for a new International Harvester Little Genius 2-14 bottom plow on steel wheels.  Oscar took his newly purchased farm equipment home and put them to work on his farm. 

            In 1942, Viola quit teaching to be able to spend more time at home on the farm.  She also became a mother when, on June 20, 1942, their first a son, Kenneth, was born.  Viola, however, remained active in the Henderson community, serving as organist in her father’s church, and she also began to teach piano lessons out of her home.  Later, she pursued her intellectual concerns by working at the local weekly newspaper–the Henderson Independent–which came out every Thursday.  The convenient location of the Griep farm at the edge of the city limits of Henderson allowed Viola to pursue the community service work that was her passion.  On July 26, 1947, another son, Marcus, was born.  Later, their family was made complete by the birth of a daughter, Karen, on November 8, 1950.  Young Marcus became enthralled with tractors even as a toddler, an interest that would follow him the rest of his life.

            The Second World War flung many of Henderson’s young sons to the far reaches of the earth.  When they returned in 1945, they sought to settle into their community again.  This was not always easy.  One of the many returning Henderson veterans was Willard Busse.  Willard had always been interested in mechanics, and upon his return, he entered the vocational school at Mankato, Minnesota, to pursue this interest.  Near the end of the course of study, each student was required to perform some apprenticeship work in an actual mechanic’s garage.  Willard was able to obtain an apprenticeship at the Weiland Oliver dealership in his hometown of Henderson, where he was working when Oscar Griep’s Mineapolis-Moline Model RTU was brought in for repair.

            On the whole, the Model RTU was performing well on the Griep farm; however, there was one small problem.  The tractor appeared to work well for short periods of time, but then suddenly would lose all oil pressure for no apparent reason.  Oscar returned the tractor on numerous occasions to Steckman’s to have the problem fixed.  However, the mechanics at Steckman’s were baffled as to the source of the problem.  Following repeated unsuccessful attempts to fix the problem, Steckman’s turned to Weiland’s to get a second opinion.  Eventually, the problem tractor was assigned to Willard Busse to diagnose the problem.  He set to work on the oil pressure regulator where he suspected the real problem existed, and eventually settled on a valve in the oil pressure regulator which appeared to become stuck intermittently.  This valve consisted of a steel ball which was held into a seat by a sleeve and a spring behind the sleeve.  The spring and sleeve pressed the ball against the seat to allow oil to pass through the valve only when the proper amount of oil pressure was created by the engine.  When stuck open, oil would flow through the regulator on a continual basis and all oil pressure would be lost.  Willard found that if he removed the sleeve and the spring was allowed to press against the ball directly without the sleeve, the tractor ran with no problems.  Consequently, he removed the sleeve from the tractor and let the spring act alone against the ball in the regulator valve.  The tractor was returned to Oscar Griep without any additional problems thereafter.  To this day, Willard still does not understand why the tractor ran better without the sleeve in the regulator valve, but suspects that there must have been some imperfection in the sleeve that would catch inside the valve and would cause the valve to become stuck in the open position, thus the tractor would have no oil pressure.  Nonetheless, following the repair, Willard’s continued employment at Weilands was assured!  Willard continued to work at Weiland’s until 1950 when he left to pursue his own business.

            In 1952, although the RTU was now operating well, Oscar Griep felt that it was time to upgrade his farm machinery and to expand his farming operation.  Although there had been a dip the prices of farm commodities following the Second World War, this economic crisis ended with the coming of the Marshall Plan, as has been discussed elsewhere.  (“The Anthony Company of Streator Illinois” Belt Pulley, Vol. 8, No. 4 [July/August 1995], p. 19.)  Stabilization of the whole farm economy created an opportunity for agricultural expansion, and the Korean War extended this opportunity.  Sometime following the Second World War, Oscar Griep purchased a pre-October 1936 gray Farmall F-20 to help out with the farming.  In 1952, he purchased another 80 acres of land adjacent to his farm.  Although much of this new acreage was covered with timber and was not arable, the increase in the size of the farming operation meant that there would be more work for all.  Because he had two growing boys who could help with the field work, Oscar felt that he could work more effectively with more and newer farm equipment.  Accordingly, in 1952, he sold the gray F-20 and bought a newer F-20 from a  neighbor Ray Gasta.  This newer F-20, one of the red post-October 1936 models, was outfitted with a manure loader which was to ease the task of hauling manure to the fields.  Also, he went back to Steckman’s and made a deal on a new McCormick-Deering W-4 standard tractor.             The next year, 1953, Reverend Mann was called to the pulpit of the Salem-St. Paul’s Evangelical and Reformed Church in the small unincorporated hamlet of Dresselville, Minnesota.  Four years earlier, in 1949, the German Evangelical Salem Church, located a little over three miles away in Tyrone Township, had closed its doors and merged with the St. Paul’s Church to form the Salem-St. Paul’s Evangelical and Reform Church.  (Although the Salem church has not been used as a church since 1949, the building still stands and is maintained in good repair by volunteers from the Tyrone township community as a monument to the first settlers of the area who built the church in 1868.)  Dresselville was settled by German immigrants in 1856 and named for Phillip Dressel who ran the Dresselville Post Office out of his home.  Even at its height of development, Dresselville contained only a Post Office, a creamery, and the St. Paul’s Church and parsonage.  By 1953, Dresselville itself was in distinct decline.  Today, nothing is left at the site of the Dresselville settlement except the church cemetery, but the name Dresselville lives on.  Today, the memory of the unincorporated settlement of Dresselville is carried forward in a more concrete way.  Prior to its official incorporation in March of 1977, the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association had been holding its annual threshing shows under the name of Dresselville-Tyrone Threshers.  In February, 1980, the Pioneer Power Association purchased the old Dresselville Creamery building from LeSueur County for $1.00, moved the creamery building to its present location on the Showgrounds and restored it to its original appearance.  Some years earlier, the creamery building had been moved from Dresselville by LeSueur County to a location near German Lake, where it was being used as a garage for highway equipment.  (The restored structure can be seen on the cover of the November/December 1996 Belt Pulley magazine as a backdrop for Charlie Schleeve’s Minneapolis-Moline Model ULDX.) 

            Reverend Mann continued as minister at the Dresselville Church until 1960, when the little congregation at Salem-St.Paul’s Church voted to close its doors and merge with Zion United Church of Christ in LeSueur, Minnesota.   Following his last sermon on June 26, 1960, Reverend Mann and Lydia retired to a house located on 20 acres of land across the road from the Griep farm.  Reverend Mann died in 1967; however, Lydia continued to live in the house until 1972. 

            Meanwhile, improvements continued to be made on the Griep farm.  In 1959, Oscar Griep once again upgraded his tractors by trading in the RTU to Steckman Brothers on the purchase of a Farmall 300 and a 1949 Minneapolis-Moline ZAU (the above noted No. 3012).  Minneapolis Moline introduced the ZAU to replace the Model ZTU which had been the first “Prairie Gold” tractor in 1936.  The ZAU contained the same engine as the Model ZTU with its 3-5/8″ bore; however, the stroke had been lengthened to 5″ and the engine speed had been accelerated from 1400 rpm to 1500 rpm.  As a result, the ZAU had a rated drawbar horsepower of 25.18, over the 15.98 of the Model ZTU.  The ZAU also offered optional hydraulic power.  No. 3012 came with the optional hydraulics, complete with a Minneapolis-Moline mounted two-row cultivator.  This cultivator is still located on the Griep farm.

            Oscar’s son Kenneth remembers that ever since Oscar originally purchased the RTU in 1941,  Steckman’s always seemed to bring any Minneapolis-Moline that they took in on trade out to the Griep farm to try and sell it to Oscar.  In the case of No. 3012, the Steckman’s were successful, and Oscar made a deal on the two tractors.  As a result, the Oscar Griep family came to have four tractors: the Farmall F-20 with loader; the International W-4; and the two recent additions, the Farmall 300 and No. 3012.  However, even with these tractors, Oscar continued to use work horses on the family farm until 1962.     Over the years, Oscar also purchased two additional International Harvester Little Genius 2-14″ plows from Steckman’s, such that both of his sons could help in the fields during busy times of the year.  This help was needed, as Oscar and Viola began farming another 12 acres down by the river, down the hill and to the south, just outside of Henderson.

            Eventually, the Griep children grew up and moved off the farm.  Kenneth attended Mankato State University, South Dakota State University, and the University of Minnesota, becoming an electrical engineer.  He is now employed at General Electric in Schenectady, New York.  Karen graduated from Mankato State University and became a teacher and Middle School counselor, following in the footsteps of her grandfather, A.O. Mann, and her mother, Viola.  She now lives in New Brighton, Minnesota.  Marcus remained on the farm and became partners with his father in the farming operation.  He also worked at McGraw Monument Works in LeSueur, Minnesota.  Upon the death of Oscar Griep in January of 1982, the family held an estate auction to sell most of the farm machinery.  At the auction, with his attraction to farm tractors now a permanent part of his psyche, Marcus unexpectedly outbid all buyers to keep No. 3012 and the other three tractors in the family.  Marcus continued to live on the family farm after his father’s death, but his life was cut short all too soon when he died of lung cancer on November 17, 1991.  While inventorying the estate of Marcus Griep, the family found that No. 3012 was located on the grounds of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association.  The tractor ran well and had been restored with a new coat of paint and the proper decals.  The family also found that No. 3012 had become an established part of the operations at the Showgrounds, not as a pampered show tractor, but as a service tractor which was started on a regular basis (even in the winter) and used to perform all kinds of work around the grounds. 

            Pioneer Power member Charlie Schleeve has given the tractor a tuneup, and also has donated a Minneapolis-Moline wheel weight which will be mounted on the left side of the tractor–the left side being the land-wheel side while pulling a moldboard plow.  This wheel weight will facilitate the use of #3012 in plowing demonstrations to be held during the August 22-24, 1997, LeSueur County Pioneer Power Threshing Show which will feature the Minneapolis-Moline Collector’s National Convention.  To be sure, the Charlie Scleeve collection of rare Minneapolis-Moline models will attract much attention at this particular Show.  (See the article on Charlie’s Minneapolis-Moline Model UDLX by Cindy Ladage in the November/December 1996 Belt Pulley.)  However, the 1997 Minneapolis-Moline National Convention will offer visitors a chance to see No. 3012 hitched to an appropriate 2- or 3-bottom Minneapolis-Moline plow, doing a couple of rounds during the field demonstrations, and, in addition, visitors will also see #3012 in its more typical role–making the rounds performing daily duties. 

            Although in the intervening years Viola has moved to New Brighton to be near her daughter and none of the Griep family members remain in Henderson, the family has retained ownership of the 160-acre home farm and the 20-acre house site across the road which served as the retirement home of their grandfather A.O. Mann.  Three Griep family tractors–the Farmall F-20 with the loader, the Farmall 300, and the International W-4–are still housed indoors on the Griep farm.  Meanwhile, on the Pioneer Power Showgrounds, No. 3012 continues to carry on a Griep family tradition of service to the community.  There can be no better remembrance for the departed members of any family.

Rockwood Pulley Company of Indianapolis Indiana

The Rockwood Pulley Company of Indianapolis, Indiana: Manufacturer of Paper Pulleys

by

BrianWayne Wells

As published in the March/April 1997 issue of

 Belt Pulley Magazine

 

            They are everywhere at threshing shows, just as they used to be everywhere on farms:  on threshing machines, corn shredders, hammer mills, ensilage cutters, and tractors.  Seldom are they really noticed, but they make everything work smoothly.  They are, as the advertisements used to say, the “pulleys that grip while others slip.” (See the 1938 Rockwood advertisement on page 113 of Threshers, by Robert Pripps and Andrew Moreland [Motorbooks International Publishers: Osceola, Wis. 1992]).   They are Rockwood paper pulleys. 

            They were commonly called “paper pulleys” because of the heavy fibrous material that was wrapped around the metal core of the pulley.  This fibrous material was made by a process identical to that of manufacturing paper, except that the raw material being used was straw.  Because of their ability to grip, paper pulleys were a technological leap over the wooden and steel pulleys that were first used in flat belt applications like threshing machines. 

            Although over the years (since the first appearance of paper pulleys on the North American farm scene) other companies would enter the field of manufacturing paper pulleys, it was nonetheless Rockwood Manufacturing Company that developed the first paper pulley.  Rockwood so dominated the paper pulley market, that the terms “Rockwood pulley” and “paper pulley” were often used interchangeably.  

            Like so many companies, the Rockwood Manufacturing Company began as the dream of a single person.  William O. Rockwood was born to Rev. Elisha and Susannah Rockwood of Westboro (Westborough), Massachusetts.  Elisha was a doctorate of divinity graduate of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.  Upon graduation, he became the minister for the parish of Westborough, a post he would hold for 27 years.  His wife, Susannah Brigham (Parkman) Rockwood, was the daughter of Rev. Ebenezer Parkman, who had been the first minister of the same Westborough parish.  Together, they saw to it that their young son, William O. Rockwood, obtained a good education, enrolling him in Leicester and Amherst Academies, and then entering him at Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut.  William O., however, rebelled against the ministry, the path laid out for him by his parents.  He had a love of the sea.  Accordingly, after two years at Yale, he signed on to a sailing vessel bound for Savannah, Georgia, at which port the ship would be loaded with cotton and would sail for Liverpool, England.  Upon his return to Massachusetts, he stayed for a while with his parents.  On June 4, 1836, William’s mother died.  This was a shock to the young man and set him on a different course in life. 

            Having had his fill of adventures on the high seas, William O. packed up his bags and moved to the midwest–about as far from the high seas as one could get.  He settled in Warsaw, Illinois, to try his hand at business.  Warsaw was a port town on the Mississippi River, visited by the steam boat traffic that plied the river in the days before the Civil War.  Soon, however, William, still restless, moved south to the larger port town of Quincy, Illinois.  Still dissatisfied, he moved further south, to St. Louis, Missouri, where he became a partner in a wholesale grocery business serving the growing city which was known as “the gateway to the west.”  During those days, thousands of settlers moved through St.Louis to start the long trek over the Oregon Trail to the west.  St. Louis was the jumping off point for nearly all of the westward migration of the entire nation.  (The City of St.Louis during this period of time is portrayed in the first part of the television miniseries Centennial based on the book of the same name by James A. Michener.) 

            St. Louis may have seemed exciting to visitors, but as a resident, William O. Rockwood was bothered by some aspects of the seedier side of life in that city.  As he matured, some of the foundations of his New England family’s beliefs began to reappear.  William O. Rockwood was revolted by the open market for slave trade and liquor trafficking that was tolerated in St.Louis.  For a time, he looked the other way and avoided the issue, but soon it came to a head.  William O.’s partner in the grocery business realized the money that could be made if the partnership expanded into both liquor sales and the slave trade.  So rather than becoming a part of these trades which were so repugnant to him, William O. and his partner dissolved their partnership and William O. moved north to the town of Madison, Indiana, where he found work at Polleys and Butler

            While at Madison, William married and began a family.  First, a daughter Helen Mar was born, followed by a son William E. in 1847, and then another son Charles P. would finish out the family.  The family eventually moved to Shelbyville, Indiana, where William O. became involved in milling enterprises and served as superintendent of the new Shelbyville Lateral Branch Railroad.  Ultimately, William O. and his family moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where he would serve as treasurer for the Indianapolis and Cincinnati Railroad.  William O. Rockwood was also prominent in the inception of many iron manufacturing businesses, including the Indianapolis Rolling-Mill Company which made iron rails for the railroads  

            The coming of the Civil War was devastating to the country, but much business activity was spurred by the war effort.  Business was especially good for the railroads and those companies that were dependent on the railroad industry–like the Indianapolis Rolling-Mill Company

            In April of 1861 following the fall of Fort Sumter, William O.’s oldest son, William E. Rockwood, was traveling in Franklin, Louisiana, when Lincoln issued a proclamation calling out the militia.  William E., feeling as strong a commitment to the Union as his father, wanted to apply for military service even though he was only 14 years of age.  William O. was opposed to his son joining the military at such a young age.  Still, William E. proved to be as head-strong and rebellious as his father had been as a youth, and in July of 1862, William E. obtained a position as servant to Captain A. Dyer of Company F of the 71st Indiana Regiment.  One month later, the 71st Regiment came under fire in Lexington, Kentucky.  During the engagement at Lexington, William E. received a wound in his left foot.  While attempting to make his way back to his unit with his wounded foot, William E. was taken prisoner near Richmond, Kentucky, on August 30, 1862 by Confederate forces under General Kirby Smith.  However, the Confederate Army was unable to care for the wounded prisoners, so they paroled William E., Captain Dyer, and the remainder of Company F, leaving them to make their own way back to Indianapolis.  William E. spent days languishing in Cynthiana, Kentucky, with his untreated foot wound, waiting for a relief train.  Meanwhile, back in Indianapolis, William O., notified of his son’s condition, boarded the relief train and traveled down the Baltimore and Ohio tracks from Indianapolis to Cynthiana, Kentucky, to bring his son and the other wounded soldiers home to Indianapolis. 

            William E. stayed at home and obtained medical care for his foot–which did not heal properly–until May of 1863 when he returned to Camp Nelson in Kentucky to complete his tour of duty.  Still too young for the infantry, William E. was employed as an assistant to the forage master, Butch Cogel, on a supply train.  This service train served General Burnside, who until January 23, 1863, had been in command of the Grand Army of the Potomac, but was now in charge of armies conducting a campaign in eastern Tennessee, eventually liberating Knoxville, Tennessee.  The capture of Knoxville led directly to the seizure of Chattanooga, Tennessee, in November of 1863.  Young William E. Rockwood was discharged from service on the supply train in November of 1863, but not before becoming familiar with the industrial potential of eastern Tennessee.  After another tour on the staff of General J.T. Wilder, commander of the 17th Indiana Regiment, from March 15 until November 1864, William E. Rockwood returned to Indianapolis to work for his father in the iron companies, but he never forgot what he had seen of eastern Tennessee during the war.  In 1870, he joined his old regimental commander, J.T. Wilder, and another former Union officer, Col. S.B. Lowe, to establish the Roane Iron Company.  (Robert E. Corlew, Tennessee: A Short History [University of Tennessee Press: Knoxville, 1981], pp. 365-366.)  From new facilities at Rockwood, Tennessee and Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Roane Company produced rails for the flurry of railroads that were being built during this time.  William E.’s father had financially backed the newly founded Roane Company, and so William E. was installed on the directorate of the company to protect the Rockwood family interests.  William E. served in that capacity from 1870 until 1876.  From 1876 until 1880, William E. was put in charge of the improvements which were being made to the Cumberland River by the Rivers and Harbors Commission. 

            Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, William O. Rockwood continued his prosperous business activities, re-investing earnings into other Indianapolis companies.  Soon he had active responsibilities in many different companies, serving as treasurer of the Indianapolis Rolling Mill Company, and also serving as a director on the boards of the First National Bank, the Bank of Commerce of Indianapolis, the Franklin Fire Insurance Company, and the Bedford Railroad.  Additionally, he served as president of the Industrial Life Association and as treasurer of the Indianapolis Telephone Company and the Hecla Mining Company.  As his business responsibilities grew, he was forced to give up the position of treasurer of the Indianapolis and Cincinnati Railroad in 1868.  He had simply become too busy with his own holdings to continue in the position he had held ever since he first came to Indianapolis. 

            On November 13, 1879, William O. Rockwood died, leaving William E. as the new head of the family’s business concerns.   In 1880, William E. wrapped up his work with the Rivers and Harbors Commission in Tennessee and returned to Indianapolis to take up the reins of his father’s diverse business ventures.  The crown jewel of the Rockwood family business holdings was the Indianapolis Rolling Mill Company.  

             Although the Rockwood companies had suffered a blow in the Panic of 1873, economic recovery following the Panic had been brisk, and the building of new railroads began again with renewed vigor, creating a huge demand for steel rails.  To answer this demand, the Indianapolis Rolling Mill Company expanded into a new facility in 1881.  The new 200′ by 300′ factory was one of the finest in the United States at the time.  By 1884, they were employing 350 people and turning out $3,000,000 worth of steel rails per year. 

            Meanwhile, one of the employees of Indianapolis Rolling Mill, E.B. Martindale, developed a process for making pulleys out of layers of pulp pressed together with tremendous force.  The pulp for the pulleys was made from straw–a cheaper alternative than the wood pulp used in regular news print.  Busy as he was, William E. Rockwood was careful not to miss the significance of this invention, and thus a patent for this process was issued to E.B. Martindale on October 31, 1882.  In December of 1882, William E. Rockwood and H.C. Newcomb formed the American Paper Pulley Company and employed Martindale and others to mass produce the patented paper pulley in the building located on 114-116 South Pennsylvania Street in Indianapolis. 

            The market for the new paper pulleys for use on agricultural machines was immediate, as North America headed into a period of rapid mechanization of agriculture.  The new company was forced to adapt to the growing agricultural market.  In 1886, the company was incorporated as Rockwood, Newcomb & Co..  Later, in 1891, William E. Rockwood bought out the other owners of the company, and a year later, in 1892, the company moved to a bigger plant at 176-190 South Pennsylvania Street.  After eight years at this location, the company moved to 1801 English Avenue in Indianapolis, land which had been owned by William E.’s father William O.  This site was well-suited for the growing manufacturing company in that it was adjacent to the old Indianapolis and Cincinnati Railroad tracks which later would be operated by the Big Four railroad.  On their new site, which covered an area of three square blocks, the Rockwood Company built four buildings; i.e., a 125′ x 175′ main plant building, a 75′ x 150′ machine shop and office building, a 50′ x 75′ foundry, and a 25′ x 40′ blacksmith shop.   

            The process of manufacturing a Rockwood paper pulley began with the acquisition of the raw material–strawboard.  The major supplier of strawboard to Rockwood was the LaFayette Boxboard Company of Lafayette, Indiana.  LaFayette made the strawboard by whipping ordinary straw and other chemicals into a liquid pulp mixture.  The pulp mixture was then dried and compressed into finished strawboard sheets 1/16″ thick.  These sheets arrived by railroad at the Rockwood facilities in sizes ranging from 24″ x 24″ up to 72″ x 80″ in order to allow any size of pulley to be made.  The Rockwood Company would then glue several strawboard sheets together and press them under 3,000,000 pounds with a huge press.  The result was a pressed board about 1/2″ thick.  Stamping machines were then employed to cut disks of various sizes from the pressed board.  These disks could vary in size from less than 1″ in diameter to 7′ in diameter, depending on the size of pulley being made.  In the same operation, a large hole in the center and other smaller holes around the outside would be stamped into the disks to allow for the installation of a hub at a later step in the operation.  The disks, or rings, were then placed on an assembly line where they slowly moved through a hot air-drying tunnel/oven.  The disks moved so slowly through the tunnel/oven that it took 24 hours before they emerged, fully cured, from the opposite end of the tunnel/oven.  Several thicknesses of the half-inch disks or rings of the same size would then be glued and pressed together with the hub.  Then molten metal was forced down into the cracks where the hub met the fiber at a pressure of 350 pounds per square inch.  With the hub installed, a metal ring was then nailed onto the outside edge of the completed pulley.  The final step in the processing was to place the pulley in a rapidly turning lathe to smooth the fiber face of the pulley. 

            The Rockwood factory site was very self-sufficient.  All metal parts used on the Rockwood pulley were forged in the foundry located on the property.  The machine shop, also located on the factory site, manufactured the hub of each pulley.  The hole in each hub was drilled to tolerances of within .002 of an inch to meet the specifications of the various axles on which these pulleys were expected to be mounted.   To attract customers, the pulleys were also painted before being shipped by railroad to their destination.  Rockwood arranged ahead of time with its regular corporate customers to have all the appropriate colors of paints on hand so that the pulleys could be painted the proper color at the Rockwood plant site and would not have to be repainted by the corporate customer upon their arrival.

            Long before recycling became popular, the construction of Rockwood pulleys was completed with a minimum of wasted strawboard.  Furthermore, the small pieces of strawboard material not used by the Rockwood workforce were gathered together and baled up for shipment back to the LaFayette Boxboard Company to be reprocessed into new strawboard sheets. 

            William E. Rockwood had a family of two sons, George O. (born on August 7, 1872) and William M. (born on March 14, 1874), and two daughters.  William E. brought his two sons into the family business early on, starting both out in the factory.  The boys eventually worked up through the ranks into executive positions.  George graduated from Purdue University.  He married Marie Rich Sayles in 1907 and had one daughter–Diana.  (Diana would later marry and become Princess Diana Rockwood Eristavi-Tchitcherine.)  George O. served as treasurer of the Rockwood Company and later as treasurer of the General Fiber Company before eventually becoming president of both companies.  George O., like his grandfather, was also active in business and civic affairs in Indianapolis, serving as a member of the University Club and a member of the Indianapolis Country Club.  William M. joined the family company in 1893, right after graduation from Shortridge High School.  He married Virginia Shaw in 1906 and eventually had a family of two sons, William M., Jr., and John A., and a daughter Josephine.  He served most of his life as vice president and treasurer of the Rockwood Company

            In about 1906, William E. Rockwood began to suffer from ill health that required him to take a less active role in the family’s business.  As he gradually retired, William E. Rockwood’s two sons began to take up the reins.  Eventually, William E.’s ill health caused him to move to Auburn, California, where he died on December 28, 1908. 

            The Rockwood sons took over the company at a critical juncture:  the market for Rockwood pulleys was changing.  While Rockwood was still largely a producer of paper pulleys for the agricultural machine market, a new market arose for Rockwood, as industrial machine manufacturers were also quick to note the advantages of the paper fiber “face” of the Rockwood pulley.  Tests results revealed that the paper pulley experienced about 20% less slippage than comparable cast iron or wooden pulleys.  Furthermore, the paper pulley took much less time to manufacture and could be operated safer at higher speeds than could cast iron pulleys.  Consequently, paper pulleys represented a better product at a cheaper price.  Rockwood pulleys were now beginning to be used in industrial applications as well as for agricultural use.  General Electric and Westinghouse bought a majority of their pulleys from Rockwood.  With these two markets to supply, the Rockwood Company was conducting $300,000 worth of business by 1912.  Meanwhile, throughout this same period of time the agricultural market was continuing to grow, as both International Harvester and Ford started buying Rockwood pulleys for use on their farm equipment.  Nichols & Shepherd advertised their Red River Special threshers as employing Rockwood pulleys just as other advertisements of farm machinery emphasized Timken roller bearings.  By 1933, the Massey-Harris Company of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, began offering the Rockwood paper pulley on its Model 25 standard tractors.  With the introduction of the stream-lined Farmall M and H, and the International W-9, W-6 and W-4 model tractors, the International Harvester Company began to order even larger numbers of paper pulleys from Rockwood, fitting these new models with paper pulleys as standard equipment with cast iron pulleys now taking a back seat as optional equipment.  

            Besides serving as a wholesaler to other firms, Rockwood attempted to engage in direct marketing.  Through Rockwood Paper Pulley Stores, Inc., the company attempted to sell pulleys directly, both to the farm market, by encouraging farmers to replace their cast iron pulleys with the appropriately sized Rockwood paper pulley, and to the growing industrial market. By 1927, the Rockwood Company was required to have an inventory of some 2,500 pulleys of various sizes warehoused at the Indianapolis factory site in order to supply the fifty-some stores that made up its own chain of Rockwood Company retail stores.  

            The Rockwood sons oversaw many improvements in the manufacture of paper pulleys during their tenure with the company.   In 1922, the company began weatherproofing their paper pulleys by soaking each completed pulley in a large tank of boiling oil heated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for five minutes.  This was the famous process of weatherproofing that Rockwood later used to advertise its pulley.  In 1927, Rockwood began electrically plating the hub, rim, and nails with cadmium prior to installation of these metal parts into the pulley. 

            Covering three city blocks, the Rockwood Company site was one of the largest factory sites in Indianapolis.  By 1927, the complex had a weekly payroll of about $10,000 and employed about 400 workers.  In a time when women were rarely employed in a machine factory or heavy industrial setting, a large portion of the workers operating the large punch presses at the Rockwood plant were women.  

            Thanks to the dual market for paper pulleys (industrial as well as agricultural), the Rockwood Company was insulated from the full impact of the agricultural depression which began in 1921.  The Rockwood Company continued to grow from $500,000 in business transactions in 1916 to $900,000 in 1926.  Still, the industrial market could not carry the company alone.  Rockwood remained largely tied to the fortunes of United States agriculture.  The depression finally caught up with the Rockwood Company in 1927 when there was a dip in sales ($548,973 in transacted business).  Consequently, Rockwood merged with a major regional competitor–the Ohio Valley Pulley Works–on August 12, 1927.  The new entity was called the General Fiber Products Company.  The Rockwood Company, however, continued to manufacture and sell paper pulleys as a service company for General Fiber, and in 1930, Rockwood transacted $1,069,174 worth of business.  Eventually, though, the overall business depression of 1929 began to take its toll on Rockwood.  The company deteriorated, conducting only $691,466 worth of business in 1931, $480,837 in 1932, and $349,043 in 1934.  On October 31, 1934, the Rockwood Manufacturing Company was dissolved in West Virginia.  Two days later, on November 2, 1934, the holding company, General Fiber Products, changed its name back to Rockwood Manufacturing Company.  The separate subsidiary company handling the retail products, Rockwood Paper Pulley Stores, was dissolved on February 6, 1936. 

            George O. Rockwood died unexpectedly at the age of 62 on July 2, 1935.  William M. Rockwood continued to serve as vice-president of the Rockwood Company until his death on June 23, 1945. 

            On August 4, 1947, the company was re-incorporated in the State of Indiana under the same name, Rockwood Manufacturing Company, Inc., with a board of directors which included Homer K. York, Olyn G. Price, and Samuel Simpson.  The address of the company remained as 1801 English Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana. 

            In 1949, the workforce at Rockwood was organized into a local union which belonged to the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).  In 1951, there was a strike by the employees at the Rockwood plant.  In the face of the strike, the assets of the Rockwood Manufacturing Company were sold to the Browning Manufacturing Company of Maysville, Kentucky.  In a bitter letter dated October 25, 1954, Homer K. York, last president of the Rockwood Manufacturing Company, blamed the union for the demise of the company.  However, the real reason may have been the absolute collapse of the agricultural market for pulleys.  New farm equipment was now designed to be powered by a power-take-off (PTO) shaft rather than by a belt pulley, and production of Rockwood pulleys fell from 4,400 per day in 1949 to only 1,800 per day in 1951. 

            The Browning Manufacturing Company continued to supply the dwindling industrial market for paper pulleys made at the Rockwood facilities.  In 1979, Browning, whose main business was making mechanical transmissions, sold the pulley-making concern to a small enterprize–Paper Pulleys, Inc.  Paper Pulleys, Inc., which was founded in 1979, set up their paper-pulley making operations in Columbia, Tennessee. 

            Although collectors and restorers of antique farm machinery usually face the problem of finding replacement or repair parts for their machines, this has not been a problem with repairing or replacing Rockwood pulleys.  Paper Pulleys, Inc., (810 Woodland St., P.O. Box 519, Columbia, Tennessee, 38402-3325, Telephone: [615] 388-9099, FAX: [615] 380-1669) has advertised widely in antique tractor magazines for a number of years.  The company was one of the first businesses to recognize the antique farm machinery hobby as a potential market for their products.  As the hobby has grown, so too has the market for restored pulleys.  Although Paper Pulleys, Inc., continues to derive most of its business from selling paper pulleys to the industrial market (the largest market for paper pulleys today is for cable-operated well-drilling equipment), 10-15 % of their paper pulley business is for the antique farm machinery market.  The fact that Paper Pulleys, Inc., has been able to flourish, based in part on the growing need for paper pulleys for restoration of antique farm machinery, is a sign of just how vast the hobby of collecting and restoring antique farm machinery has become in only a very short period of time. 

            Paper Pulleys, Inc., continues to carry on where the Rockwood Company left off in their concern for the maintenance of paper pulleys.  In a time when restored threshing machines are usually never exposed to the elements, Paper Pulleys, Inc., reminds antique farm machinery collectors that paper pulleys usually need no maintenance.  Restorers should not paint the fiber face of the paper pulley and certainly not apply belt dressing.  If any treatment is needed at all, a light amount of ordinary fuel oil may be brushed onto the fiber face of the pulley. 

              Although there were other companies which manufactured paper pulleys, in the public’s mind the name Rockwood became synonymous with all paper pulleys.  Rockwood also become synonymous with a time in our history, prior to power-take-off-driven machinery, when a steam engine or tractor could be seen leaning back into the end of a long flat drive belt connected to a threshing machine at the start of a long day of threshing on the farm.  It is this time that is captured at the various antique threshing shows held each summer around the country.  Every time a quietly humming threshing machine at one of these shows continues to run efficiently despite being loaded up to capacity with bundles, it should be noted that it is the grip strength of the Rockwood pulleys which is being put to the tasks.  

            It must also be borne in mind that there are inherent dangers which should not be overlooked when operating old machinery and belts in close proximity with a curious and inexperienced public.  Belts and pulleys do not come with shields or written warning labels which are a part of more modern power-take-off equipment.  Yet the risks of injury are just as high or higher as with modern machinery.  The risks can, however, be reduced to nil through close observation of the running machines and careful supervision of a threshing site at the threshing show.  A safe show with carefully restored machinery and well-lubricated bearings will be a perfect tribute to the men and women who invented, manufactured, sold, and used Rockwood paper pulleys.

Irving King’s McCormick-Deering Corn Binder

A McCormick-Deering Corn Binder at Work on the

Irving King Farm

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the January/February 1997 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

            As previously noted, necessity is the mother of restoration projects.  (“The Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois,” Belt Pulley Vol. 8, No. 4, [July/August 1995] p. 17).  The most recent example of this principle was at the August 1995 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show when a one-row, ground-driven McCormick-Deering corn binder was made a part of the machinery collection on the Pioneer Power Showgrounds in time for the threshing show.  The LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association plants some corn on their 100-acre site every spring.  Part of the corn is cut, bundled and shocked prior to the August show to allow at least some ripening and curing to occur prior to the August threshing show.   The corn bundles are then fed into one of the two corn shredders located on the Showgrounds.[1]   

            The remaining corn which had not previously been bundled and shocked, is cut and bundled at the Show itself.  These bundles are immediately fed into the stationary silo fillers as part of the green corn harvest field demonstrations at the Show.  Consequently, there was a need to have at least one working corn binder employed prior the Show and to also serve as part of the field demonstrations at the Show itself.  (One of these stationary silo fillers at the 1995 Show was the newly re-painted and decaled Model 442 OK silo filler made by the Algoma Manufacturing Co. which was pictured in its unrestored condition in the article on the Algoma Company in the March/April issue of Belt Pulley Vol. 8, No. 1, p.18). 

            In the years before 1995, a one-row, ground-driven McCormick-Deering corn binder was used to fill this role.  However, this binder was sold by its owner over the winter between the 1994 and 1995 Show and had been removed from the Showgrounds.  Recognizing the need for a corn binder for the 1995 Show, Glendon Braun, board member of the Association and life-long resident of Tyrone and Sharon Townships, brought another one-row, ground-driven McCormick Deering corn binder to the Showgrounds.  Glendon had purchased this binder some years previously from his neighbor, Ralph King.  This binder had originally been purchased by Ralph King’s first cousin once-removed, Irving King, of rural LeSueur, Minnesota.  The corn binder arrived on the Showgrounds in time for the August 1995 Show.  

            Every restored farm tractor or machine serves a number of purposes.  In the mind of the collector or observer, the machine may call up memories of a similar farm machine from the past.  The memory might be of a comparable machine used by the collector or his family in the past or the memory may stem from a fleeting experience with or observation of a similar machine.  In this way, the restored farm machine becomes the representative of the machine in the memory of the collector.  Because the McCormick-Deering corn binder was a very popular and widely used farm machine, any restored McCormick-Deering binder is sure to bring back memories to many people. 

            International Harvester was a corporation that was formed in 1903 from the merger of several smaller companies.  Among these companies were the Deering, Osbourne, Milwaukee and McCormick companies, each of whom offered corn binders in their product lines.  Following the merger, International Harvester continued to offer corn binders under the separate names of Deering, Osbourne, Milwaukee and McCormick.  Although differences existed between these corn binders, over the years of their production under the umbrella of the International Harvester Company, these corn binders became progressively more similar.  By 1927, when the fiction of separate names was dropped, the various corn binders became very much alike and had a great number of interchangeable parts.  In 1927, International Harvester offered corn binders under only one name–McCormick-Deering

            As a representative sample of the McCormick-Deering corn binder at work in the fields of the Pioneer Power Showgrounds, the Irving King corn binder spurs memories in many people.  The George and Louise (Schwark) Wells family of LeRoy, Minnesota, used a McCormick-Deering corn binder in their farming operation not only on their rented farm near Chester, Iowa, but they took the binder with them in 1936 when they moved to the 160-acre Moses Crawford farm in LeRoy Township, in Mower County, Minnesota.  This binder was horse-drawn but later, after the Wells family purchased a 1929 Farmall Regular in 1939, the corn binder was converted to tractor-pulled model.  The corn binder was used in the Wells farming operation to cut and bundle green corn for feeding into the McCormick-Deering Model N silo filler. 

            In a picture in the second article on the Papec Company in the January/February 1996 issue of Belt Pulley magazine, a Deering corn binder–largely identical to the later McCormick-Deering corn binder–can be seen in operation in a field of sorghum on the John T. Goff farm near Mapleton, Minnesota.  This Deering corn binder was owned by the Howard and Ethel (Buck) Hanks family and used on the Goff farm while they rented that farm.  The binder was moved to the Bagan farm near LeRoy, Minnesota in 1945 when the Hanks family purchased that farm. 

            Maynard Lawrence remembers that his parents, Dean and Carrie (Schafer) Lawrence, used a McCormick-Deering corn binder on their Pilot Grove Township farm in Faribault County, near Winnebago, Minnesota.  Dean and Carrie Lawrence and their two oldest sons, Delmar (born April 6, 1914) and Virgil (born July 10, 1916), had moved from the Gatskill farm in Adams County near Corning, Iowa, in 1923.  In Minnesota, they settled on the historic David Ogilvie farm.[2]  When the Lawrence family moved to Minnesota, their livestock rode in a freight train which arrived at the little railroad junction town of Wells, Minnesota (1920 pop. 1,894).  Living on the 160-acre Ogilvie farm, Dean and Carrie had two more sons, Ronald (born December 26, 1925) and Maynard (born January 8, 1928).  The Lawrence family purchased a new horse-drawn McCormick-Deering corn binder in the late 1920s following the consolidation of the names in 1927.  Always seeking to employ modern methods in his farming operation, Dean Lawrence purchased a new Farmall F-12 in 1934.  Their horse-drawn corn binder was immediately converted to a tractor-drawn machine and continued to be used in the Lawrence family farming operation for many more years. 

            Besides serving as representative of some other machine, each restored tractor or farm machine has its own history.  Sometimes the history of a machine is not known and may be impossible to discover.  When the history of a particular machine is known, the restoration of that machine becomes all the more fascinating to the people restoring it.  The Irving King corn binder is particularly interesting in this regard, not only because its history is known, but also because the corn binder is a “neighborhood machine.”  This particular binder was used in the fall of 1958 and the fall of 1959, binding up corn on the Ralph King farm which is a mere stone’s throw from the Pioneer Power Showgrounds where it is currently being used.  Therefore, when the binder is cutting corn during the field demonstrations at the Showgrounds, it is working on almost the same land where is was used in 1958 and 1959.  Furthermore, the Irving King farm, where the little binder spent its life prior to 1958, is also located in Sharon township across the road from the current Ray Allen Schwartz farm south of LeSueur, not far from the Pioneer Power grounds. 

            Irving King was a bachelor farmer living on his own 80-acre farm south of LeSueur, Minnesota, in the late 1920s.  He purchased the present one-row horse-drawn McCormick-Deering sometime in the late 1920s after the 1927 consolidation of the names.  The binder was purchased from the Jack Clifford International Harvester dealership in LeSueur, Minnesota.  (Consistent Belt Pulley readers will remember that the Jack Clifford dealership in LeSueur was sold to Paul Meyer in 1941.  See the article: “History of a Thresher” in the May/June, 1994 issue of Belt Pulley, p. 19).  The binder was used on the Irving’s diversified farm to cut some of the ripened corn in the fall for the corn shredder.  Corn shredding was a popular method of harvesting part of the farmer’s ripe corn in the LeSueur area.  Shredding part of the ripe corn crop allowed the farmer to save some of the corn stalks from the corn crop for livestock feed or bedding.  The corn shredder would be parked near the barn and the bundles of corn were fed into it by a crew of men.  The corn shredder would strip the ears of corn from the stalks and elevate the ears into a wagon.  The stalks and husks are then shredded and blown directly into the hayloft of the barn. (The Rosenthal Steel 40 corn shredder employed at the Pioneer Power Show each year provides the public demonstrations of this very popular, but by-gone method of harvesting corn.)  The rest of the corn crop on the farm would be hand-husked in the traditional manner. 

            Corn shredding was a way to save yet another by-product from at least some of the corn crop.  Indeed, the bedding and feeding value of shredded corn stalks was so appreciated that following the hand-husking of the corn, some farmers would bind and shred these empty corn stalks for additional feed and/or bedding.   

            Binding of corn for shredding usually began the second week in September.  The corn would cure in the shocks until October when the corn would be shredded.  Corn shredding, like grain threshing required a large crew of workers.  During corn shredding and at other times throughout the year, Irving cooperated with his brothers Leland and Howard, who were also both bachelors and living together on a farm about a mile south of Irving’s farm.  Even with the large crew, shredding of corn was a long ordeal which would usually last throughout October and November. Sometimes corn shredding would not be complete until December.

            Horses provided much of the power on the Irving King farm as was the case on so many farms of the 1920s and 1930s.  However, Irving upgraded his farming operation by obtaining a new Case LA standard tractor.  Later, in 1940, he purchased his first row-crop tractor–a new 1940 Farmall B–and a 235 two-row cultivator.  The Farmall B was a three-wheeled version with a single front wheel and was also purchased at Clifford’s.  As shown in the 1939 movie Farmall B and Equipment on Tape 2 of the International Harvester Movie collection, the Farmall B was introduced in 1939 as the “best little tractor on three wheels” and seems to have been offered only in the single-front-wheel configuration for the first couple of years of its production.  Irving found that the Farmall B was a very handy little tractor.  Not only was the Farmall B used for cultivating, but Irving soon began to convert his horse drawn machinery to be pulled behind the B.  By the fall of 1940, the tongue on the little McCormick-Deering corn binder had been shortened up and fitted with a hitch for the drawbar of the B.  After the conversion of the binder to tractor-power, the 1940 Farmall B was used exclusively to pull the corn binder on the Irving King farm.  The Farmall B is ideally fitted to the corn binder.  Indeed the Farmall B was originally advertised as being ideally suited to this task.  In a sight which must be very much reminiscent of the B and the corn binder on the Irving King farm , there is a scene at the end of Farmall B and Equipment in which a three-wheeled B can be seen pulling a ground-driven McCormick-Deering binder in a corn field. 

            The Irving King binder is also a valuable addition to the farm machinery collection on the Showgrounds because its condition.  Having had very good care over the years since its original purchase in the late 1920s and having been stored indoors all of its life, the Irving King binder was in very good condition when it was sold in 1958 to Irving’s cousin, Ralph King.  

            In 1958, Ralph King had just taken over the farming operation of the 80-acre family farm from his parents, John and Hattie (Dressel) King.  Ralph and his wife, Carol (Wanner) King, still live in the same house in which Ralph was raised. 

            Ralph was born on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1927, as part of the first set of triplets ever delivered in ImmanuelHospital in Mankato, Minnesota.  The other infants in the set of triplets were a boy named Roy (named after Dr. Roy M. Andrews who delivered the triplets) and a girl named Runette.  When the triplets returned to the King home from the hospital, they joined two older sisters, Mary Louise (born on May 25, 1922) and Ruth (born on April 3, 1925); however, Roy died after only two months at home, leaving Ralph as the only boy in a family of girls. 

            As the years went by, Ralph became old enough to help his father with the milking and chores.  The day began early on the King farm.  Without fail, every morning John B. King would awaken Ralph at the stoke of 5:00 AM on the mantel clock in the dining room of the King house.  Ralph would then get up, get dressed and go downstairs and out of the house toward the barn to help his father with milking the cows by hand and with the other morning chores.  After chores, they would return to the house where Ralph’s mother, Hattie, would have breakfast ready.  Hattie was known in the neighborhood for her homemade bread and her home canned dill pickles.  Coming back into the house after milking, Ralph might find the house full of the smell of his mother’s bread baking in the oven. 

            Over the years, the regularity of this schedule was rarely changed.  On only one memorable occasion in the middle of husking season did Ralph find himself awakened after what seemed to be an unusually short night, get dressed and finish all the chores and return to the house, only to find that his father had accidentally awakened Ralph at 4:00 AM by miscounting the number of strokes from the clock.  Ralph and his father had to wait an hour for it to be light enough to get back to husking or hand picking the corn in the corn fields that day!

            In 1936, John King purchased a new model John Deere A.  This tractor was used for all the farming operations on their farm.  During corn shredding season, the John Deere A powered the Rosenthal Steel 40 corn shredder which the King family owned.  This Rosenthal Steel 40 was identical to the Rosenthal corn shredder now used on the LeSueur Pioneer Power grounds, except that the King’s Rosenthal did not have the optional self-feeding attachment.  Therefore, a worker had cut the strings on each bundle of corn and feed the corn into the shredder by hand. 

            After John King retired from farming in 1958, Ralph took over the responsibilities of the farming operation on the King farm.  Corn shredding gave way to mechanical picking of the entire corn crop in 1960.  Consequently, the little McCormick-Deering binder was rarely used after the 1959 season.  In the early 1980s, the binder and the 1936 John Deere A were sold to Glendon Braun.  (The John Deere A came to be named “Ol’ Ralphie” and is still used on the Glendon and Eldon Braun farms.)  During all this time, the corn binder continued to be stored indoors, and when it was brought to the Showgrounds in the summer of 1995, some of the original paint on the binder was still apparent. 

            On the Showgrounds the binder has become the object of restoration plans.  In the future, the binder may be re-painted according to the color scheme outlined in the  International Harvester paint committee decisions obtained from the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives.  Decaling and/or stenciling of the lettering on the corn binder may also be undertaken.  The binder may be pulled in the parade held on the Showgrounds each day of the August Pioneer Power Show. 

            A permanent registration system for the exhibits in the parade has been devised by Kathy Klasseus.  This system is a computerized and will allow each exhibit to be correctly identified by the parade announcer as the exhibit passes the announcer’s stand.  All the registered exhibits are stored on a computer.  This saves much time in registering tractors for the parade each year.  Furthermore, each entry in the computerized registration system contains a “comment” section which is available for additional notations about each exhibit–perhaps a description of the implement being towed by a particular tractor.  Because of the permanent nature of the registration system, care must be taken to attach the same tractor to the same implement for each parade each year.  Therefore, particular tractors tend to became permanently linked with particular implements for purposes of the parade at the Show.  One particularly appropriate tractor to be linked with the Irving King corn binder would be the 1945 Carl Pinney Farmall B (Serial No. 130,161) now owned by Wells Family Farmalls.  With the exception of the lack of a single front wheel, the Carl Pinney Farmall B pulling the McCormick-Deering corn binder would look very much like the unit that Irving King would have taken to the corn fields in early 1940s to bind up the corn for the corn shredder.  

            Whether the Irving King binder is working in the field demonstrations at the Showgrounds or being paraded at the LeSueur Pioneer Power Show each year, it is certain that it will stir many people to memories of their own experiences with a similar McCormick-Deering corn binder. 



    [1]One corn shredder is a small wooden two-roll International Harvester owned by Kenny Schultz.  It can be seen in the Second Hour portion of Tape #3 of the IHC movie collection, operating at the 1988 Show and being powered by Eldon Braun’s 1925 [spoker] John Deere D.  The other corn shredder is a Model 40 all-steel [called a "Steel 40"] four-roll Rosenthal corn shredder, currently owned by Doug Pfarr.  Kenny Schulz can be seen near the end of the second hour portion of Tape #11 of the International Harvester Movies collection, throwing corn bundles into the self-feeder of the Rosenthal Steel 40 which is being powered by an Monty Braun’s Allis-Chalmers WD-45 at the 1994 Show.  The self-feeder on this late-model Rosenthal is an optional attachment not commonly found on corn shredders.

    [2]David and Mary (Reid) Ogilvie, David’s brother James and Helen (Cherry) Ogilvie, Andrew and Jeanette More, and Archibald and Anne Cardle are celebrated locally as the original 1858 settlers of PilotGroveTownship and indeed were among the first settlers of rural southern Minnesota.