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A 1931 Farmall Regular at Work in Mower County, Minnesota by Brian Wayne Wells
(As published in the March/April 2008 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine)
In the years before the First World War, the internal combustion tractor had shown great promise as an efficient power source for use on farms. Immediately following the First World War, that promise came into fruition as internal combustion powered tractors replacing work horses in the most arduous tasks on the average farm. During the 1920s, many farmers were performing their heaviest field work; e.g. plowing and discing, with farm tractors. However, one field task avoided mechanization and still required work horses. That was the cultivation of row crops—especially corn. The conventional “four-wheel” or “standard” style farm tractor was not suited, nor had it been designed, for to the task of cultivating row crops.
Ever since 1915, the International Harvester Company had been experimenting with various proto-types and configurations of a motorized self-propelled cultivator. However, as important as a cultivating machine would be to the average family farm, a separate motorized implement, which would be used only for the task of cultivating row crops in the summer time and would be stored unused on the farm for the remainder of the year, was not deemed the most efficient use of the limited resources of the average family farming operation. Eventually, the minds the engineers at International Harvester, crystallized around the concept of redesigning the conventional farm tractor into a power source on which a cultivator could be mounted during the summer growing season and from which the cultivator could be removed once the cultivation of row crops was finished. Such a redesigned farm tractor could be used for all tasks on the average family farm on a year-around basis and could replace the horse entirely on the average family farm. Because such a redesigned tractor held the promise of performing all tasks on the farm, the International Harvester Company began calling this newly redesigned tractor the “Farmall” tractor.
The conventional “standard” or “four wheel” style tractor had both front wheels mounted wide apart. Just like an automobile, the front wheels were spaced so that the rear wheels of the conventional tractor traveled in the same paths as the front wheels of the tractor. Additionally, the standard four wheel tractor had an “automotive style” type of steering in which each front wheel pivoted on its own bolster. Thus, the standard tractor could turn only as sharply as a car. On the other hand, the front wheels of the Farmall tractor were mounted close together in a narrow front end configuration. Both of the front wheels of the Farmall were mounted on the same bolster or pivot point which allowed the front wheels of the Farmall to be turned to a 90° angle from the straight forward line of the tractor. This type of steering is called “fifth-wheel” steering. Both because of the narrow front end and the fifth wheel type of steering, the Farmall tractor design has been called the “tricycle design.” The tricycle design of the Farmall tractor was ideal for the cultivation of row crops.
Thus, in 1924, after nine years of experimentation, the new Farmall went into production at the old Tractor Works located at 2600 West 31st Boulevard (the corner of 24th and Western Avenue) in Chicago, Illinois, beginning with Farmall tractor bearing the Serial Number 0501. Only 199 Farmalls were produced in 1924. However, in 1925, the Farmall’s first full year in production, another 837 were manufactured. Only in 1926, did production of the Farmall hit its stride, with 4,418 Farmalls being made and sold in that year. The suggested retail price of these new Farmalls was $950.00. However, in October of 1926, production of the Farmall was relocated to a new factory—the Farmall Works located in Rock Island, Illinois.
Introduction of the innovative new Farmall tractor coincided with some other industrial innovations—large and small. Some of these innovations were incorporated into the design of the Farmall, even after production of the Farmall had already begun. One such industrial innovation was rather small in size but proved to be a very important watershed in industrial and farm machine lubrication. This was the development of the grease gun and the small grease fitting called the “zerk.” This small innovation came to a great number of farms of North America, “piggy-backed” on the Farmall tractor. The grease zerk was destined to change a great number of practices on the farm.
The word “zerk” was derived from its inventor—Oscar Ulysses Zerk. Emmigrating from the Magar region of the Hungarian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Oscar Zerk came to the United States and settled in Kenosha, Wisconsin. There he developed the famous little grease fitting that still bears his name. It was the development of the zerk and the parallel development of the grease gun by young Arthur Gulborg that led to a small revolution in lubrication of bearings, shafts and other moving machine parts. Continue reading A 1931 Farmall Regular at Work→
As Published in the September/October2005 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
Ever since the Surgeon General’s report of January 11, 1964, linking smoking of tobacco with lung cancer, smoking of cigarettes has been on the decline. Today, with only 22.8% of the public of the United State still engaging in the habit of smoking, it seems hard to imagine a time when the majority of the American public smoked. In 1949, 44-47% of the nation’s total population (50% of all men and 33% of all women) smoked. Cigarette manufacturing was a large and lucrative business. Supplying that large and lucrative business with at least some of the raw product—tobacco plants—were North American farmers, particularly the farmers of the southeastern part of the United States. West Virginia does not produce much tobacco. Currently West Virginia is 16th among all the states in the production of tobacco. In 1953, West Virginia ranked 15th out of the 21 tobacco growing states, ranking just ahead of Missouri in tobacco production.
Despite the drought in 1953, West Virginia produced only 4,542,000 pounds of the light burley type of tobacco out of the 2 billion pounds of tobacco produced in the United States that year. Lincoln County in West Virginia produced 31.4% of the State’s total production of tobacco with 1,426,000 pounds grown that year. Hamlin is the county seat of Lincoln County. State Road #3 runs through the center of Hamlin from west to east. About 1½ miles east of Hamlin, State Road #3 intersects with State Road #34. About a mile north of this intersection on S.R. #34 is Harvey’s Creek Road. Living on the first farm on the left down Harvey’s Creek Road in 1953 was Raymond and Edyth Marie (Byrd) Thompson. Raymond worked off the farm and was employed by the Tennessee Gas Company. However, ever since they purchased their 85 acre farm on Harvey’s Creek Road from J.A Pack in January of 1944, Raymond and Edyth had dreamed of making their living from their own land. Much of their farm could not be cultivated because of the rough terrain. Thus, they made the rough terrain profitable by making it a permanent pasture for the Hereford beef cattle they raised.
Given the terrain of the State, beef farming is a natural choice for most farming operations in West Virginia. Indeed beef farming does constitute a great deal of the farming conducted in the State of West Virginia. Within the West Virginia beef cattle industry, Hereford cattle are predominant. Additionally, a surprising number of Hereford farmers in West Virginia have become interested in improving blood lines of their Hereford cattle. Toward this end a significant portion of West Virginia beef farmers raised “purebred” Hereford beef cattle. These purebred Hereford farmers will generally register the best cows and bulls in their herds with the American Hereford Association in Kansas City, Missouri. Native West Virginian B.C. (Bud) Snidow, now retired and living in Mission, Kansas, worked for the American Hereford Association from 1951 until 1983. Born in Princeton, West Virginian, Bud Snidow, throughout his career, naturally kept track of the registered Hereford beef industry in his native state. He noted that following the Second World War there was an increase in the number of registered Hereford cattle in West Virginia. This increased pushed West Virginia to a position of 20th among all states in the number of registered Hereford cattle herds. Raymond did not follow the purebred blood lines of the Hereford breed like some beef farmers, but he did insist on raising only Hereford cattle on his farm. He liked his Hereford cattle.
Because most of their farm was taken up in the hillsides and bluffs which are common to Lincoln County, West Virginia, leaving only a very small quantity of flat bottom land that was arable, Raymond rented two other 15 acre fields from Eb Oxley. Eb Oxley was actually a distant relative of Raymond and Ethyl Thompson. These two 15 acre fields were located about one mile north of Raymond and Edyth’s farm on S.R. #34 just across the county line into Putnam County. On these two fields rented from Eb Oxley, Raymond raised hay and corn every year alternating the crops from one field to the other every other year. On the very small arable acreage of his own farm, located in the bottom of the Harvey’s Creek “hollow” where they lived, Raymond and Edyth raised oats that they needed for the horses and they also set aside 7/10s of an acre for their tobacco allotment, issued by the United States Department of Agriculture. Pursuant to this allotment Raymond and Edyth were permitted to raise up to 7/10s of an acre of tobacco. Like his neighbors, Raymond knew that, despite the small size of the acreage, tobacco could become a major crop on any farm. For this reason, tobacco allotments were highly prized by farmers.
Tobacco raising had been strictly controlled by means of acreage allotments since the 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act. The original intent of the tobacco acreage allotments was to provide the tobacco farmer with the security of price supports. However, since the end of the Second World War, these price supports had hardly been necessary. The price of tobacco had led all other farm commodities in return for the time and labor invested. Indeed, it was said that the tobacco allotment “paid for many a farm.” As time went by, tobacco allotments added a great deal to the value of a farm. So much so, that some buyers insisted that a particular paragraph be added to the deed of sale of the land they were purchasing which would make specific mention of the transfer of the tobacco allotment with the purchase of the land. (Paragraphs, like these really provided no protection for the buyer of a farm. The Farm Service Agency (F.S.A.) of the United States Department of Agriculture issued acreage allotments, each year, only to the person owning a particular farm that particular year. Any attempted transfer of the acreage allotment not tied to the sale of the farm would not be recognized by the F.S.A. Instead the purchaser of a farm would have to file an application with the F.S.A. each year, to obtain a tobacco allotment for that year.)
For Raymond and Edyth Thompson the growing season of tobacco came in the middle of March every year with a trip to Stone’s Southern States, a feed and seed farm supply store on the west end of Hamlin. Raymond would drive off to Stone’s in his Chevrolet pickup and there he would buy the small packet of certified tobacco seed he needed for his tobacco crop. Returning home after picking up a few other things for of the farm, Raymond opened the seed packet and blended the contents together with some corn meal in a coffee can. The individual tobacco seed is so small that a single teaspoon full will contain a million tobacco seeds. Thus, the certified seed is mixed thoroughly with a small quantity of corn meal to allow the seed to be sown in a uniform manner.
Tobacco seed which is packaged and sold every year is raised by some tobacco farmers. Indeed a little further up Harvey’s Creek Road where the road crosses the county line into Putnam County, was the 100 acre farm of Stanley and Garnet (Painter) Young and their sons. In addition to their own large tobacco allotment in the early 1950s, the Young family had an additional plot of tobacco that they were “letting go to seed.” The flowers on these tobacco plants would not be removed. Instead the flowers were allowed to bloom and the seed pods were allowed to form. In the fall of the year after these tobacco plants had fully ripened, the seed pods would be harvested and sold to the tobacco warehouse in Huntington, West Virginia.
There had been very little snow over the winter of 1952-1953. Although temperatures had been colder than usual in late February, it looked as though March was “coming in like a lamb” with higher than ordinary temperatures. Raymond Thompson burned off a small patch of ground on his farm. This patch was just big enough to be covered by a wooden frame with a large piece of cheesecloth stretched over the wooden frame. After working up this small patch of ground with a garden hoe to form a seed bed, he sowed the corn meal/tobacco seed mixture on the newly worked ground and covered the ground with his “hot house” frame. This frame, which was used every year was made of wooden boards placed edgewise and was nailed together at the corners. This frame was taken down out of storage in the barn. There were some small nails sticking upward out of the frame which would allow a large piece of cheese cloth to be stretched across the frame. The wooden frame and the cheese cloth formed a hot house over the small seed bed where the tobacco seed had been sown. The porous nature of the cheese cloth allowed the sun to shine through to the seed bed and allowed the rain to keep the seed bed moist. However, the heat from the sun was trapped under the cheese cloth and kept the little seed bed warm enough to allow the tobacco to germinate, despite the cold weather and occasional snows of the late winter and early spring . Indeed, Raymond and Ethyl also started a bed of leaf lettuce under the same cheese cloth “hot house” to get an early start on the family garden. Raymond would make daily inspections of the hot house under the cheese cloth. Gradually, he would begin to see the young tobacco sprouts poking up out of the ground under the cheese cloth. After the spouts leafed out and became small seedlings, Raymond would start removing the hot house frame from the seed bed during the daylight hours and cover the bed again at night. This procedure allowed the tobacco seedlings to absorb the direct sunlight during the day and to “harden,” or become accustomed to the warming weather outside the hot house.
Eventually, the weather would be warm enough to allow the hot house frame to be removed altogether. The tobacco seedlings would continue to grow as Raymond began his seasons work on the rest of his farm. He tilled the ground on his farm with his horses to form a proper seedbed. Then, he sowed the oats that he would need for the next year to feed the horses. Next, he planted his corn.
As in years past, he borrowed a wire-check corn planter from a neighbor to plant his corn. The wire-check planter came complete with a roll of wire that was long enough to stretch all the way across any field. This wire contained little wire buttons attached to the wire at intervals of 42 inches. This wire was stretched across the field along the side of the field where the farmer wanted to begin planting corn. The wire was attached to the checking mechanism the located on the side of the planter. As the horses pulled the planter across the field the buttons would slide through the checking mechanism and trip the planter releasing seed into the ground with each tripping action. The result would be that the corn would be planted uniformly in 42 inch spaces along the rows. When the horses and planter reached the end of the field, the wire was temporarily disconnected from the planter. The horses and planter were then turned around to line up for the next two rows of corn to be planted along side the first two rows just completed. The wire was then attached to the checking mechanism on the opposite side of the planter. As the planter moves across the field again, the wire passing through the checking mechanism, again, tripped the planter to release seed corn to the ground at 42 inch intervals and the seed placement in these next two rows exactly matched the seed placement in the first two rows just planted.Thus, the corn would be in a grid of 42 inch rows and with “hills” of corn located 42 inches apart along each row. This would allow the corn to be “cross-cultivated” as well as cultivated lengthwise. This way, the weeds within the rows between the hills of corn could also be controlled.
Next it was time to transplant his tobacco to the field. Because, tobacco plants remove a great deal of nutrients from the soil during the growing season, Raymond had to rotate the tobacco crop to a different field each year to prevent the soil from becoming “exhausted.” This year, as an additional guard against soil depletion, he started the practice of adding some artificial fertilizer to the tobacco ground. He “broadcast” the fertilizer on the ground with a horse-drawn fertilizer spreader after disking the soil and before he finalized the seed bed with a peg-tooth harrow or drag. Following suggestions of tobacco experts at the F.S.A., he spread the fertilizer at a rate of 200 pounds per acre. Tobacco allotments are issued by the F.S.A. in sizes ranging from as little as 1/10th an acre upwards in steps of 1/10th of an acre. Generally, in Lincoln County, tobacco allotments ranged from ½ (or 5/10s) of an acre to a full-acre. As noted above, Raymond’s allotment was 7/10s of an acre. The transplanting stage was one of the stages where he really “felt” the size of this large allotment.
To be sure the ground intended for the tobacco that year could be worked up into a seedbed with the horses, just as in the other fields. However, the transplanting of the tobacco was all handwork. The little tobacco transplants were carefully dug up and placed in a large tub and then taken to the field. Then a long string with a stake on either end was uncoiled and stretched across the entire field. The string was tightened into a straight line across the entire length of the field and the stakes were pounded into the ground on either end of the field. Transplanting was an affair for the whole Thompson family. One family member would walk along the string with a stick or a pole and make little holes in the ground along one side of the string—each hole was 18” apart along the string. Another member of the Thompson family could then follow with the tub full of tobacco transplants and place one plant in each hole and then close up the hole around the roots of the transplant with dirt. Packing the ground around the new transplant assured good contact of the root with the dirt of the seedbed and guaranteed the best start possible for the new transplants. When one row was completed over the entire length of the field, the stakes at the ends of the field would be moved over in the seedbed 42”. The string was again tightened out straight across the field and the second row of tobacco transplants was set out in the field. This process was repeated until the whole 7/10ths-of-an-acre field was planted in tobacco.
Almost as soon as the whole field had been completely transplanted, the cultivation of the tobacco was begun. Under the hot summer sun the tobacco transplants grew very fast. Generally, within three weeks after the transplanting of the tobacco, the young plants had grown to the point where the horses and the one row cultivator could not move easily between the rows without damaging the plants. Thus, all cultivation of the tobacco to eliminate weeds had to be completed within the three week period of time following the transplanting of the tobacco crop. Because of the rapid growing nature of the tobacco plants, there was no need to worry about cross cultivating the tobacco. The plants would soon be big enough to cover the space between the plants and shade out any weeds attempting to grow there. In the crush of the summer time field work, Raymond felt himself lucky to cultivate the tobacco three times in the three week period of time that he had to complete the cultivation of the tobacco. Especially since he needed to begin cutting and putting up his hay crop at the same time as he was attempting to cultivate the tobacco three times. Then there was the need to continue the cultivation and cross-cultivation of his corn crop. It was always a busy time. There just were not enough hours in the day. Raymond also knew that he would have to cultivate his corn at least once prior to hay season.
Haying was started at about the first of June. He needed to get the hay down and raked into windrows quickly. Cecil Lewis, who provided custom baling of the hay for the farmers in Harvey’s Creek, would be scheduling his New Holland Model 77 baler and Ford Model 8N tractor to visit the farms in the area rather soon. Raymond wanted to have his hay ready for any convenient time that Cecil might have to come to the Thompson farm. However, as he mowed and raked his hay, Raymond had to keep an eye on the tobacco to notice when plants began to grow buds in preparation for flowering. June was the time that the tobacco plants would begin to flower. Some times as soon as one week following the end of cultivation the tobacco plants would begin to flower. To keep the energy of the growing tobacco plants directed toward the growing leaves rather than into the production of flowers, the emerging buds had to be removed from the plants as soon as they started to develop. The operation of removing the flowering buds was another task that had to be completed by hand. The entire tobacco field had to be walked and the buds removed from each individual plant.
Even this was not the end of the hand work in the tobacco field, however. Once the flower buds had been removed, some of the tobacco plants would develop “suckers” or additional shoots which would spring up out of the same stem and root system. If allowed to grow these suckers would also sap away energy from the leaves of the plant. So, within a week after the deflowering of the tobacco plants, the field had to be walked again by the family to remove these suckers which may be attempting to grow. These tasks had to be fitted in to the summers work whenever time could be found during their busy summer schedule—whenever the family was not involved in putting up hay and/or cultivating the corn. There was no time to rest and scarcely enough time to get all the field work done. Then, there were usually rainy days in which no work was accomplished at all. This year in 1953, however, Raymond fervently wished for a few more rainy days. He could see that the leaves of corn were starting to roll up, indicating the lack of water. August was incredibly dry. The radio reported that over in Kentucky the rainfall for the growing season was 12 full inches less than normal. In late August.
As Labor day approached in 1953, the leaves on the tobacco plants began to turn from the dark green color of summer to the light green or yellow-green color that indicated that the tobacco plants were beginning to mature. All plants that mature or ripen in the fall, go through a process, whereby, the vital fluids of the plant are returning from the leaves to the roots in the ground for the winter. As the fluids flow out of the leaves, the leaves begin to loose their green color and start to yellow. The more yellow the leaves are, the more fluids have departed the leaves. In tobacco, these fluids in the leaves, and the ingredients that are contained in the fluids, are the very elements thing that make the tobacco leaves marketable. Thus, the proper time to cut the tobacco plants is just when the maturation of the leaves has begun. In this way all the fluids will be retained in the leaves. Accordingly, the tobacco plants are cut off at the stem.
Harvesting the tobacco is hand work which requires the work of the whole family. Cutting and handling is performed carefully so as to not damage the outside leaves. These outside or lower leaves are called flynes and are the most valuable leaves. The tobacco plants are then “speared” or placed on a thin 4 foot long stick. The stick full of tobacco plants is then hung upside down on a rack in the barn. Hanging upside down allows any fluids in the stem to flow back into the leaves. The barns in tobacco growing areas of the country are not like barns in other areas of the United States. Usually barns are built tight to prevent cold weather from infiltrating the inside of the barn. However, a tobacco barn is purposely constructed with the boards on the sides of the barn spaced so as to allow cracks between the vertically-placed boards in the walls of the barn. Observing a tobacco barn, a person will see daylight showing through the walls. These cracks allow air to pass through the walls of the barn and air-dry the tobacco hanging inside the barn. The process of air drying tobacco in the barn takes six to eight weeks.
During this time Raymond harvested his corn. The yield on the corn was disappointing because of the dry weather. Across Lincoln County in 1953, the yield of corn was down by 9%, from the year before—from 31.8 bushels per acre to 28.9 bushels per acre. (From the National Agricultural Statistics Service page on the website of the United States Department of Agriculture.) Yet because the drought was limited to the eastern Kentucky and West Virginia areas there was no dramatic rise in price of corn. (Ibid.) Indeed, of the 81,574,000 acres of corn planted across the nation 98.6% (or 80,459,000 acres) was harvested in the fall of 1953, resulting in a nationwide bumper crop of corn that actually depressed corn prices. Additionally, the nationwide “per acre yield” from the 1953 corn harvest averaged 40.7 bushels per acre—fourth highest yield in the history of United States corn farming. On the Thompson farm, this condition meant that not as much corn was actually harvested and the price obtained for the small amount of corn that was harvested was low.
Thus, Raymond Thompson would feed a great deal of his corn to his beef cattle. Feeding more corn to the young calves would cause them to gain weight faster and be ready for market at an earlier date. This was one means of diversification of the corn crop that Raymond could employ on his own farm. If corn was not getting a good price then using it for cattle feed could possibly be a way of getting a more money for the corn. However, although surpluses were not as big a problem in the beef market, beef prices had been on a slow, but steady, decline since the December in 1952. After reaching a high of 35 to 36 cents a pound caused by the demands of the Korean War, beef prices had dipped to 20 cents per pound and even now was only was hovering around 25 cents per pound. (Omaha Choice Historic Beef Steer Prices from 1950-2005 page at the United States Department of Agriculture website on the Internet.) So, in 1953, even the beef market was a disappointment for Raymond.
Thus, Raymond’s hope for a successful crop year lay with his tobacco crop. Tobacco plants can withstand dry conditions better than corn. Proof of this was shown when the tobacco was harvested. Over all of Lincoln County a new record level tobacco harvest was reached with 1,426,000 lbs, over the entire county—up 2% from 1952. Considering that only 920 acres of tobacco were planted in 1953 as compared with 950 acres in 1952, this was a staggering result considering the extreme dryness of the growing season. The 1953 average yield in Lincoln County was 1,550 lbs. per acre—up almost 5½ % from 1952. The only explanation, that Raymond could find for the higher yield in a dry year was the fact that he had joined many of his neighbors in adding artificial fertilizer to the tobacco ground. Before the tobacco leaves could be sold, however, the Thompson family had to strip the leaves off the stem of each plant. Starting, generally, in November, the process of stripping was also a long process which involved the most hand labor of all the tobacco growing procedures. The sticks full of dried plants were taken down from the drying racks in the barn. The plants were removed from the sticks and the leaves were then stripped from the stem. In order that the leaves would not be too brittle to be destroyed by handling, Raymond usually waited for one of the uncommonly humid days in the fall to get the racks down from the barn and begin the process of stripping. Handling the leaves in a relatively humid environment would not damage the leaves especially the outer or lower leaves which were the most valuable leaves. Handling the leaves at this stage was somewhat messy work. While stripping the leaves by hand a dark residue would settle on the hands.
Still it was with some anticipation that the family performed the tasks. At the end of the process, Raymond knew that, in an ordinary year, the 7/10 of an acre allotment would allow his family to load the Chevy pickup up with a thousand pounds of leaves for delivery to the Huntington Tobacco Warehouse at 20 Twenty-Sixth Street in Huntington, West Virginia. Once at the tobacco warehouse, the tobacco would be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Auctions were held at the warehouse from November through January each year. Buyers from the R.J. Reynolds, American Tobacco, Phillip Morris and all the other tobacco companies would be present at these auctions to bid on the tobacco. Coming this late in the year and being the major cash crop on the farm, Raymond would use a portion of the money he would receive for the tobacco to pay off the debts. Then they would get the new shoes and clothes that the children would need.
(Carol [Young] Mullins, granddaughter of Stanley and Garnet Young, remembers that she and her family too anticipated Christmas as they worked to strip the tobacco leaves. The Young children looked forward to a happy Christmas which would be financed in part by the money the fetched at market. Anticipating Christmas led the children to work diligently at stripping the tobacco leaves.)
This year, in the late fall of 1953 Raymond looked over at his children as they worked together stripping the tobacco. They were becoming adults. Eleanor Gay (“Gay”) and Patricia Fay (“Fay”) were already teenagers and would soon be setting out on their own. Soon he would be more shorthanded that he already was in doing his farm work. He became aware that he would soon have to think about doing something to save time in his farming operation. Toward this end he had been considering the purchase of a farm tractor. He felt this was the year that he would have to make his move to purchase a farm tractor and replace the horses on his farm. Accordingly, over the winter of 1953-54 he visited Henderson Implement Company in downtown Hurricane, West Virginia. Hurricane, West Virginia is located across the county line into Putnam County about 14 miles north of the Thompson farm. Bernie Henderson had started selling horse drawn McCormick-Deering equipment from his dealership located on Main Street in downtown Hurricane. However, since the end of the Second World War, he had found that the market for small tractors was really growing by leaps and bounds. In addition to the Farmall C and Super C, he found that the Farmall Cub was becoming a mainstay of the sales from his dealership. Continue reading Tobacco Farming with a Farmall Super C→
The PAPEC Company of Shortsville, New York (Part 2):
AModel 127 PAPEC Silo Filler at Work
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the January/February 1996 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
By 1931, the Pneumatic and Propeller Ensilage Company, or Papec for short, was well established at its site in the small up-state town of Shortsville, New York. Model 158, Model 127, Model 81 and Model R Papec stationary silo fillers, as well as various models of hay choppers and hammermills, were rolling out of the Papec facilities in Shortsville. (For a history of the Papec Company, see the November/December, 1995 issue of Belt Pulley, Vol. 8, No. 6.)
One particular Model 127 Papec stationary silo filler complete, with its shiny new color coat of red, black and two shades of green paint, a Rockwood pulley, and a galvanized feeder, rolled out of the Papec’s Shortsville, New York, facility in early 1931. By prior arrangement with Deere and Webber Company, wholesale distributor of Papec equipment in Minnesota, this particular silo filler was equipted with an optional large pulley for use with tractors with a high rpm. belt pulley. The Model 127 was “knocked down” (KD’ed) or taken apart, into its component parts and put in a waiting boxcar of the New York Central Railroad destined for Beske Implement of Minnesota Lake, Minnesota. The New York Central steam locomotive pulled the train containing the boxcar with the KD’ed silo filler out of Shortsville, through Buffalo, New York, across Pennsylvania’s Erie Triangle, and into the broad plains of Ohio and Indiana, arriving at the end of the New York Central line in Chicago, Illinois. Once in Chicago, the boxcar with the KD’ed silo filler was transferred to another train on the Chicago-Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad for the next phase of the trip to Minnesota. On the Chicago-Milwaukee and St Paul line, the silo filler made its way north to Milwaukee, across Wisconsin to La Crosse, and into southern Minnesota to the little junction town of Wells (1940 pop. 2,517). At the Wells junction, the boxcar with the silo filler was connected to the train that was headed north to Mankato. The first stop on that railroad line was the town of Minnesota Lake, Minnesota (1940 pop. 526). At this stop, the Model 127 Papec silo filler was unloaded onto a truck for the short trip to the Beske Implement dealership, where the KD’ed Papec silo filler was put back together by the employees. The silo filler was soon sold to two area farmers, John T. Goff and Ernest More, of Mapleton, Minnesota (1940 pop. 1070).
Beske Implement was a very old John Deere dealership, founded by Gus Beske in about 1912. Gus Beske operated the dealership until his son, Woodrow W. Beske, took over its operation upon Gus’ retirement. Minnesota Lake was a small town, serving a rural area which included the larger town of Mapleton, Minnesota. South of Mapleton was the farm of John T. Goff. The picturesque Goff farm was known in the surrounding neighborhood as “the farm with the round barn.” John T. Goff (or “John T.” to friends and associates) had built the round barn to ease the feeding of livestock. The milking cows were placed in stanchions in a circle in the barn. All calf pens were located in the center of the barn. Hay was fed to the calves and cattle from the center of the barn.
The PAPEC Company of Shortsville, New York (Part 1)
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the November/December 1995 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
The storing of forage in a silo to cure into ensilage became popular in the United States in the 1890s. To mechanize that process, the stationary silo filler was invented.
Silo fillers started out as complicated machines which chopped bundles of green corn plants and piled the chopped corn into stacks to be elevated into silos. Eventually, stationary silo fillers were modified and simplified to a single-stage machine which chopped corn into the appropriate size and then blew the ensilage up a large pipe for distribution inside a silo, all in one step. This was the stationary silo filler as it is most commonly known.
Many small companies sprang up at about the turn of the century to supply the farmers’ demand for these silo fillers. One of these companies was founded by Billy Hamlin in Lima, New York, in 1901, and was organized with capital from members of the Hamlin family. Billy Hamlin had originally wanted to name the company the Union Manufacturing Company; however, he found that there were already six other companies with that name in New York State at that time. Accordingly, he decided on a name that would emphasize the main product manufactured by his company–silo fillers. The name he created was the Pneumatic and Propeller Ensilage Company. The only drawback about the name was that it was hard to pronounce and so the name was shortened to the mnemonic P.A.P.E.C., or Papec.
Billy Hamlin had purchased a Canadian patent for an “ensilage cutter” and set about refining the design cutter to make an improved silo filler. Thus, in 1901, Papec began production of a model of silo filler based on the Canadian patent, but with substantial improvements. This model went through other improvements over time and eventually became the Model C silo filler. However, in 1904, the venerable Model C was phased out of production and replaced with the Model D. The Model D would remain in production until 1917.
Both the Model C and Model D silo fillers were very popular with farmers. A 1931 Papec advertisement proudly stated that there was still an active market for knives for the Model C more than 27 years after production had ceased. A 1944 Papec advertisement made similar statements about the Model D which had been out of production for 27 years.
The Papec Company lost money regularly every year from the time of its founding through 1909. The shareholders blamed Billy Hamlin for the continual losses and deposed him as president of the company in 1909. At this stage, three remarkable men were enlisted by the shareholders to get the Company on the right track. Frank Hamlin, now of Naples, New York, remembers that these three men were unique: “One was a money man” (George W. Hamlin, father of Frank Hamlim, who became the Treasurer); “one was a good manager” (Ward H. Preston, who would serve as President until 1953); “and the third was an ingenious mechanic” (Fred Bullock, who became the plant manager). These men were each strong individualists. (An interesting sidelight is that Fred Bullock was a perennial candidate for governor of New York on the Socialist Party ticket until he became Vice President of Papec, at which time he became a Republican!). Ward Preston, affectionately called “The Commander” by personnel at the factory, was a colorful personality. He was a person squarely aimed at getting the job done. Photographs have captured him on hand in the factory when the 20,000th Papec silo filler was completed in 1949. On another occasion, in 1931, he was photographed at the occasion of the delivery of the first Papec with a galvanized feeder to a local New York farm.
While looking the new machine over in his barnyard, the new owner was asked how he liked it. The farmer responded that he felt the end of the galvanized feeder was a little too narrow. Whereupon, to the surprise of those present, The Commander, even then an elderly man, crawled up into the feeder and jumped up into the air and came down with his feet against both sides of the ends of the feeder–spreading the end of the feeder. “How’s that?” The Commander asked. The stunned farmer managed to reply that the improvement to the machine was just fine!
These men were individualists, and by all reasonable expectations the new management should have been rent asunder by conflict between these strong personalities. However, these three men realized that for Papec Company to survive they would each have to work together. Each of the three men developed a respect for the others and refrained from interfering with those sections of the company outside their own area of expertise. The result was a harmonious relationship within the management of the Papec Company.
Papec began to make money. For the next 45 years (until 1954) Papec prospered through the sale of silo fillers and forage equipment. During this long period of growth, the company lost money for only three years–one year immediately following World War I and for two years during the depression.
It was a long period of growth for Papec. By 1909, the Papec Machine Company had outgrown their facilities in Lima, New York, and had moved to another location in Shortsville, New York. Shortsville was located about 25 miles to the east of Lima. In Shortsville, the Papec Machine Company purchased the old Empire Grain Drill Works building site located near the Canandaigua outlet which flowed through Shortsville. In the early 1800s, the Empire Grain Drill Works had depended on water from the outlet as the source of power for the site. (Of course, by 1909, the building had long since been connected to electric power.) The building site contained a 300-foot-long foundry building and was a good site for the future expansion of Papec.
As the years went by, improvements were made to Papec silo fillers. Eventually Papec offered a line of silo fillers of different sizes including the Models F, H, and O. An advertising booklet dating from about 1931 promotes the Papec Model R and Models 81, 127 and 158. The model numbers of the last three silo fillers correspond to the area of the opening of the throat in square inches: e.g., the Model 81 had a throat size of 6-3/8″ x 12-3/4″, for a total of 81 square inches; the Model 127 had a throat size of 8-1/2″ x 15″, for a total of 127 square inches; and the Model 158 had a throat size of 8-1/2″ x 18″, for a total of 158 square inches. The Model R had a throat size of 6-1/8″ x 10-1/8″ throat, for a total of 62-plus square inches.
The Company also made Model N, L and K hay choppers which were identical to the Models 81, 127 and 158 silo fillers, respectively, except the hay choppers were reinforced with heavier construction at certain points to allow for the difficult task of handling dry crops. Additionally, Papec expanded into the manufacture of the Model 8 and Model 10 Feed Cutters and 13-inch and 16-inch hammermills. By 1944, the large Model 158 silo filler had been discontinued, and the Model 127 became the largest silo filler built by Papec.
The whole Papec product line was painted with a complicated color scheme, including red, black, and two shades of green, with yellow stenciling or decals. Originally, the sides of the feeding table of the Papec silo fillers were wooden. Papec painted these red.
Meanwhile, other improvements were introduced into the line of silo fillers. In about 1928, Papec discontinued the use of cast iron belt pulleys and contracted with the Rockwood Pulley Company of New York City to supply all the belt pulleys for Papec silo fillers. Therefore, about from 1928 on, the Rockwood fiber pulley was used exclusively on all Papec silo fillers. In 1931, Papec introduced a new style of feeding table for their silo fillers and hay choppers. This new feeding table had galvanized sides so that only the floor of the feeding table remained wooden. The galvanized feeding table was made standard equipment on the Models 81, 127 and 158 silo fillers. Only the Model R continued to have a wooden feeding table. By 1944, however, Model R had been converted from the wooden feeder to the galvanized feeder to match the rest of the Papec line of silo fillers.
Although New York was the fourth largest dairy producing state in the nation, the first three dairy states (Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan) were located a considerable distance from Shortsville. Because forage equipment was used predominately by dairy farmers, Papec needed to find some way of marketing their product to their richest target: dairy farmers in the upper midwest and Canada. In Canada, Papec arranged for the Cockshutt Plow Company Limited to serve as wholesaler and distributor for the Canadian provinces. Cockshutt had wholesale warehouses at Truro, Nova Scotia; Moncton, New Brunswick; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; Montreal, Quebec; Smiths Falls and Brantford, Ontario; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; and Edmonton, Alberta. Additionally, Cockshutt had a string of dealerships which were served by these wholesale facilities. By this single agreement, Papec was positioned to reach nearly every dairy farmer in Canada with sales and service. The export market was served by Papec facilities at 1 Park Avenue in New York City. In the United States, Papec established its own Papec wholesale outlets in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Kansas City, Kansas. As to the remainder of the United States, however, Papec depended on individual wholesaling contracts. Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho were served by a contract with John Deere Plow Company, whereby Papec would be marketed through the John Deere dealerships in those states. The John Deere Company and Deere family brother-in-law C.C. Webber, had formed the wholesaling firm of Deere and Webber Company located at 800-828 Washington Avenue North in Minneapolis, which served as the wholesaler for John Deere equipment in Minnesota. As a result of Papec’s contract with Deere and Webber, Papec equipment was offered for sale at every John Deere dealership in the state of Minnesota. In Pennsylvania, Papec contracted with Landis Brothers at the corner of North Queen Street and Walnut Street in Lancaster to serve as wholesaler of Papec equipment for the whole state of Pennsylvania. Brown County Warehouse Company, located at 501 Liberty Street in Green Bay, served the important state of Wisconsin. Michigan was served by Western Michigan Storage Company, located at 128-138 Coldbrook Street Northeast in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
In the rest of the nation, Papec sought to make individual contractual arrangements with dealerships. John Deere dealerships frequently offered the best opportunity as a potential outlet for Papec equipment, because the John Deere line of farm equipment did not include a stationary silo filler. (Don Mcmillan and Russell Jones, John Deere Tractors and Equipment, Vol. I [New York, N.Y.: American Society of Engineers Press: 1988], p. 272). As noted in John Deere Tractors and Equipment, the John Deere Company did not get into the manufacture of forage equipment until 1936 with the introduction of their first model of ensilage field harvester. Consequently, until they began manufacturing their own field harvester, John Deere dealerships were inclined to contract with Papec to supplement the line of John Deere equipment offered by their dealerships.
Once the distribution network had been arranged, Papec needed to insure sufficient transportation to get their products to the wholesaling agents across the nation. According to Tim Record, historian of the Shortsville/Manchester area of New York State, Shortsville was excellently served by the New York Central Railroad and the small LeHigh Valley Railroad. However, Papec most often used the Vanderbilt-owned New York Central lines to get their machines to their intended markets.
As farming operations modernized after World War II and filling silo changed from the use of silo fillers to the use of field harvesters, Papec gradually phased out production of the stationary silo filler in favor of production of field forage harvesters. The ease of handling corn chopped in the field and bringing it to the silo by forage wagon was doing away with the technology of binding corn, just as surely as grain combines had done away with the process binding small grains and feeding the bundles into a thresher.
The Papec Corporation also recognized the direction in which the market for farm forage equipment was headed and started manufacturing forage wagons in 1946. They also began manufacturing their own Papec field harvester. However, even with Papec’s extension into the area of field forage harvesters, the company was still in a period of decline. The whole farm machinery market was dwindling. Furthermore, whereas John Deere had wanted to co-operate with Papec in selling stationary silo fillers, John Deere had long been working on their own design for a field forage harvester and no longer had any interest in working with Papec for the sale of either the stationary silo filler or the Papec field forage harvester.
The year of 1949 proved to be the high water mark for earnings and profits for the Papec Corporation. After 1954, sales and profits continued to sag throughout the remainder of the 1950s and 1960s. The Company was headed into a long period of decline. At its peak in 1950, Papec employed 300 people. Among the long-term employees at Papec were Glen Brackett and Harold Lyon, who were both employed in the engineering department. In the 1920s and early 1930s, Ken VanSickle worked as a draftsman, Carl Dudley served as plant superintendent, and Harry Sheet also worked at Papec. In later years, Wayne Holtz and Randy Woodhams served as superintendent and John Kolberg served in the paint department. Paul Bailey and Paul Sleight also worked at the Shortsville, New York, plant of the Papec Company.
In 1953, “The Commander”–Ward Preston–announced his retirement effective as of November 1. He also announced that Frank Hamlin would be taking over the operation of the Company. Frank Hamlin, who despite being the son of one of the founders of the company, had started with the Company as a laborer in the sheet metal department. Over the years he had been groomed by “The Commander” to take over the Company. Now, at 47 years of age, after 25 years of employment in various positions in the Company–and, incidentally, the largest shareholder of stock in Papec–Frank Hamlin became the President of the Company.
After financial losses in 1968, 1969, and 1970, Papec was sold in 1972 to the Lansdowne Steel and Iron Company of Morton, Pennsylvania. Papec went through a corporate down-sizing under the management of Landsdowne Steel. However, this did not save Papec from continual decline, and in November of 1979, all manufacturing ceased. In February of 1981, Landsdowne closed down all the facilities in Shortsville. After attempting to make a profit selling replacement parts, Papec closed down all operations in April of 1981. While lying vacant, the historic old building at the Shortsville site–which had originally been the home of Empire Drill Works–was destroyed by fire.
Fortunately for restorers of Papec implements, in 1981 the entire parts inventory owned by Papec was purchased by the Randy Hale family of Shelbyville, Tennessee, who then formed J.H. & R. Enterprises. J.H. & R. Enterprises, located at 1049 Madison Street, Shelbyville, Tennessee 37160-3621, Telephone: (615) 684-9737, offers parts books for sale on the old stationary silo fillers, and by use of these books, Papec parts can still be ordered for stationary silo fillers, or any of the other Papec machines, by the original Papec part numbers. For the restorer of Papec farm equipment, this source for replacement parts is invaluable. However, there is one shortcoming. In the late 1950s, Papec changed its Company colors from the complicated two shades of green, red, and black with yellow lettering, to the simpler yellow with black lettering. From this point on, even the replacement parts for the older Papec equipment were painted yellow or black. Therefore, the parts in the inventory of J.H. & R. provide no clue as to the shade of green paint used on the old Papec stationary silo fillers because all of these replacement parts are painted yellow or black, reflecting the Company’s newer colors. There seems to be no Company records which would help the restorer of Papec machines discover the right shade of paints. The only clue as to the correct paint shade seems to be a 1987 restoration of a Model 127 silo filler performed by several former Papec employees in Shortsville, New York.
In 1987, Shortsville celebrated its Centennial. In celebration of Papec, the town’s dominant employer until the 1970s, some of the former employees of Papec and other interested townspeople restored a Papec Model 127 silo filler. Involved in the restoration were the Mayor of Shortsville Francis (Cap) Walker, his wife Ann Walker, who served as village historian, former Papec employees Paul Bailey, Paul Sleight, Harold Lyons, Wayne Holtz, Randy Woodhams and John Koberg, as well as Jim Tobey, Bill Fox and John Liberty.
The silo filler selected by the Shortsville group had a small Rockwood pulley. The silo filler was in very good shape and did not need much repair. It did, however, need to be repainted and re-stenciled. Working from memory, the former Papec employees used a regular gloss or semi-gloss black for the wheels. Farmall Red (IHC #2150, PPG-Ditzler #71310 or Martin-Senour #99-4115) was used for the cast iron feed roller housing and the frame and shafts supporting the knife sharpening wheel. A regular silver paint was used on the galvanized portion of the feeder. As for the two shades of green, Cap Walker, who works at the local hardware store, spent one evening with the former Papec employees in the project at the hardware store mixing batches of the store’s collection of Benjamin Moore paints to get the most accurate shades of green. Resulting from that evening session was the conclusion that the lime green color used on the axles and frame is Benjamin Moore Impervo Enamel #420. Working from a color photo of the restored Model 127, the author found that this shade of lime green is most closely represented by Martin-Senour #274A (Signal Green). The dark olive green is Benjamin Moore, Morse House Paint #110-43, (Essex Green). The author found this color to most closely match Martin-Senour #281A. Cross-indexing of paints to Martin-Senour paint numbers means that these shades of paint will be readily available to restorers across the nation at their local NAPA auto parts stores.
The 1987 restoration of the Model 127 Papec in Shortsville, New York, may be the final word we ever have on the exact shades of paint used on early Papec equipment. Since 1987, all of the former employees of Papec involved in the restoration project have died. Furthermore, as time goes by, the restored Papec in Shortsville will become even more important. Not only will it serve as a research tool for restorers, but it will stand as a permanent monument to all those men and women who labored in the design, manufacture and sale of the Papec line of equipment.
Belt Pulley Magazine Articles by Brian Wayne Wells