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Oliver Farming in Mower County, Minnesota (Part V): The Introduction of the Fleetline Tractors

Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County Minnesota (Part V): 

The Introduction of the Fleetline Tractors


Brian Wayne Wells

The 1947 growing season had been a curious year for the farmers of Mower County, including one particular farmer from Nevada Township in Mower County.  The season had started very badly.  The constant rains in the spring and early summer had drowned the crops during the crucial early part of their growth.  However, the rains had ceased abruptly in mid July and the remainder of the growing season had experienced near perfect weather for the maturing and ripening of the crops.  The result had been that both the soybeans and corn had both suffered losses in yield per acre.  (See the previous article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part IV]: The Wet Year” contained in the blog at this website.)  However, while there had been a 13.3% decline in the yield of soybeans in Mower County, Minnesota in 1947, the loss in yield in corn was less.  There had been only a 9.7% decline in corn yield in Mower County because of the drowning wet weather in the spring and early summer of 1947.  Clearly, corn could handle an excess of moisture in the early part of its development better than soybeans could.  To our Nevada Township farmer the harvest of 1947 seemed to prove again the value of crop diversification on the small farm.

Because the reduction of yields in both corn and soybeans were shared by farmers all across the Midwest, the price of both crops rose.  Last fall, our Nevada Township farmer and his second son had been able to get all his soybeans harvested and safely sold to the Hunting elevator in nearby Lyle, Minnesota (1940 pop. 513) for the near record price of  $3.44 per bushel.  This was best price our Nevada Township farmer had ever received for his soybeans.  Thus, the soybeans had helped him keep the family income at the same level as the previous year despite the losses in yield of his two cash crops.  Additionally, he had been able to get all his corn in the shed last fall (1947) was still drying in the large double corn crib.

A double corn crib with and alley way between.  As shown here, the alley way is a good place to store machinery.


Over the winter of 1947-1948 corn prices had risen and in January of 1948, corn had established a new all-time record high price of $2.60 per bushel.  However, as the corn on farm all across the Midwest began to be shelled out and make its way to the market in February of 1948 the price had fallen to $1.90 per bushel.  Our Nevada Township farmer was unable to make arrangements with any neighborhood custom corn shellers to shell his corn while his corn was at its peak.

Not until March of 1948 was he able to make arrangements with Ray Jacobson of Lodi Township to shell his ear corn.  This delay turned out to be fortunate, however, as corn prices started to climb again in March.  By the time that Ray Jacobson showed up in his yard on the scheduled shelling day, the price of corn had risen back up to $2.11 per bushel.

Ray Jacobson drove into the yard of our Nevada township farmer with his Minneapolis-Moline Model E corn sheller mounted on the back of his 1941 Ford C.O.E. (cab over engine) style 1-½  truck.  He turned the truck around and backed up to the corn crib.  He and the crew of neighbors that had volunteered to help out on this shelling day started to unlimber the sheller so that the long dragline extended down the alleyway of the corncrib.  The cob elevator of the sheller was extended out in one direction and a farm wagon was placed under the end of the elevator to catch all the cobs that would be emitted by the sheller.  The large blower tube was swung around in another direction and aimed at the manure spreader which had been stationed in the location to catch as much as possible of the husks that were going to blown out of the tube during the shelling operation.  The shelled corn elevator was swung out in another direction and positioned over the Oliver/Birdsill wagon.  Morning milking time, throughout the neighborhood was over and the last of the neighbors forming the shelling crew showed up.

The big Minneapolis-Moline Model E Corn sheller, here mounted on a two-wheeled carriage rather than a Ford 1- 1/2 ton truck, is seen here gobbling up the corn.

Once set up, the big Minneapolis-Moline Model E sheller did its work in an efficient manner.   It took only one day to shell out both sides of the large double corn crib.  Although the amount of 1947 crop was smaller than in a normal year, the overall farm income did not suffer too much from a regular year because that smaller crop sold at a much higher price than normal.  Thus, our Nevada Township farmer was able to make some improvements in his farming operation.

Winter was the time that our Nevada Township farmer usually planned for the year ahead and developed plans for improving his farming operation.  This year he had been thinking about trading in his old 1939 Chevrolet Model JD ¾-ton truck on the purchase of a newer and heavier truck.  A new truck would allow him to haul larger loads shelled corn to the elevator and haul more cattle, pigs and sheep when necessary.  However, the prices of all new cars and trucks had escalated a great deal since the end of the war.

The 1939 3/4-ton Chevrolet truck that our Nevada Township farmer hoped to replace on his farm in 1947.
The 1939 3/4-ton Chevrolet truck that our Nevada Township farmer hoped to replace on his farm in 1947.

When he and his wife had purchased their new 1946 Chevrolet Stylemaster Town Sedan at the end of the model year in the fall of 1946.  Usually, the end of the model year was a good time to buy cars.  The dealerships wanted rid of the cars from the old year to make room for the cars from the new model year that were starting to arrive.  However, our Nevada Township farmer was still shocked by suggested retail price of the car–$1,072.00.

An advertisement of the 1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster Town Sedan.
An advertisement of the 1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster Town Sedan.

Naturally, he negotiated a price for the four-door car with the sales staff at Usem Chevrolet in Austin, so the price was lower than the suggested retail price, and then, of course, he traded in his old family car, the 1941 Chevrolet in on the new car.  Still the “boot money” the money that he had put up after figuring in the allowance Usem would deduct for his trade in, still seemed like a great deal of money.  However, in the year since he had purchased the car, the price of the same Chevrolet 4-door Sedan had risen sharply—13% in just one year.  Furthermore, in the fall of 1947 the new 1948 Chevrolets were out and the suggested retail price of the same model of car had risen another 9.2%.  Over the same period of time, the prices of trucks had also increased in price sharply.  A new Chevrolet 1/2-ton pickup now cost $1,100.00, up 9% from the previous year and the suggested retail price of a new Chevrolet 1 ½  ton truck with dual wheels in rear, like the one he and his second son were looking at, was now $1,500.00.  Clearly, his income had not increased by 13% over the last year or 22% over the last two years.

A Chevrolet 1-1/2 ton "round-nose" truck like the one that our Nevada Township farmer and his second son wanted to purchase in the fall of 1947
A 1948 Chevrolet 1-1/2 ton “round-nose” truck like the one that our Nevada Township farmer and his second son wanted to purchase in the fall of 1947

Even though there had been no recession since 1945, he feared that the anticipated recession had merely been delayed and not avoided altogether.  Consequently, he tended to think the family should save as much money as possible in anticipation that the post-war recession had merely been delayed rather than avoided altogether.  Accordingly, he told his he told his second son that they may have to get by for another year with the old ¾ ton Chevy truck.

Our Nevada Township farmer was not alone in thinking this way.  Across the nation, many consumers were delaying their purchases of “big ticket” items like cars and trucks.  The largest single cause of inflation was the huge rise in consumer spending in 1946 and 1947.   Consumer spending is most powerful force in the economy.  Consumers have bills that they must pay and necessities like food and clothing they must purchase.  However, over and above those bills and necessities, there is a portion of their income that is called “discretionary income.”  Discretionary income powers the economy.  Nearly all advertising in newspapers, magazines and over the radio is aimed at this discretionary income.  Discretionary income is either saved or spent, depending on the “mood” of the consumer.  If the consumer is fearful of the future, the consumer will tend to save their discretionary income.  If confident about the future, te consumer will tend to spend more of their discretionary income.  Under relatively normal circumstances, during the years prior to United States involvement in the Second World War, consumers spent upwards of 90% of their discretionary income.  For example, in 1938, consumers spent 96% of their discretionary income in 1939 that figure fell to 94% and in 1940 the figure fell to 93%.  This was, however the normal range in which consumer spending acted.

Watching this figure closely for any sign of either slowing in the economy or “overheating” in the economy is the Federal Reserve Board.  The Federal Reserve Board had been created in 1913 to protect the economy from excessive swings in the economy that could lead to a major economic dislocation like the Great Depression of the early 1930s.  Under ordinary circumstances, if the economy was deflating and the money supply in circulation was contracting, the Federal Reserve would purchase government securities to lower interest rates and to stimulate the economy.  By purchasing government securities, the Federal Reserve would place more money in circulation and serve to spur the economy into growing again.  However, on the other hand if the economy were becoming “over heated” with too much money in circulation, inflation became the major problem and the Federal Reserve was expected to act by selling some of the government securities they held.  This would take money out of the economy and raise interest rates and, hopefully, slow down an over heating economy.

A meeting of the Federal Reserve Board in the 1940s.

Whereas, lowering interest rates was always popular with investors, the public, and with politicians of the political party in power at the time, the raising of interest rates was always unpopular with investors, the consuming public, and politicians in the government.  Consequently, actions taken by the Federal Reserve in slowing down an overheating economy has sometimes been compared to “taking away the punch bowl just when the party is getting rolling.”  Nonetheless, this is just the type of action that was called for in 1946 to prevent the economy from entering into an inflation spiral.  However, the Federal Reserve did not act in 1946 to slow the economy.  Indeed, the Federal Reserve was hamstrung from acting because of political concerns.

Originally, the Federal Reserve had been envisioned as an agency which, although part of the government, was expected to function independently from the government and independently of political pressure from the government—especially political pressure from the President and the Treasury Department.  In 1946, Marriner Eccles was serving as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.  Marriner Eccles had been serving as Chairman since President Franklin Roosevelt had appointed him as Chairman in 1934.  Prior to the Second World War, the Federal Reserve functioned largely in an independent manner—ever so much the way it was supposed to function.  However, during the years prior to the Second World War the economy was working hard to shake off  the effects of the worst economic calamity in United States history—the Great Depression of the early 1930s.  Therefore, the actions of the Federal Reserve were limited to providing stimulus to the economy.  All these actions were popular with the President and with the public.

Marriner Eccles

Then the United States was forced into the Second World War by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Government spending, and government debt, rose to new unprecedented levels, as the nation fought the war in two theaters—Europe and the Pacific.  The interest on this debt was expensive enough for the government.  However, if the Federal Reserve were allowed to raise interest rates generally, the yearly budgets of the United States government would be even more burdened with deficits, requiring the government to borrow even more money just to pay for the yearly interest on the ever rising debt.  Accordingly, in 1942, the Federal Reserve bowed to public pressure and made an agreement with the Roosevelt Administration to keep interest rates low for the duration of the war.  The government instituted price and wage controls and other economic restrictions which were intended to “keep the lid on” the expected inflation.

Short in stature Marriner Eccles is seen here with President Roosevelt and the President’s son, James Roosevelt.

Marriner Eccles agreed with this policy for the duration of the war.  As he did so, he knew that the Federal Reserve was surrendering its independence, but he felt this was the only course that the Federal Reserve could take.  This agreement was regarded as the “patriotic thing to do” in order to help the war effort.  Indeed, to do otherwise, might be regarded as unpatriotic in the extreme.

Every effort in the United States was bent toward the war effort.  Raw materials ordinarily used for production of consumer goods were now channeled into military production for the war effort.  In 1941, consumers spent only 86% of their discretionary income.  During the years of 1942. 1943 and 1944, consumer spending of their discretionary income fell to only 75%. 74% and 73% respectively.  This reduced discretionary spending was not voluntary on the part of the consumers.  The reduced consumer spending reflected the absolute lack of consumer goods available during the war.  A tremendous pent up demand for consumer goods was building up over the course of the war.  Electricity had been present in the cities and small towns of the United States for some time, and since its creation in 1935, the Rural Electrification Administration (R.E.A.) had rapidly been stringing wires across rural America to bring the convenience of electricity to the farms of the United States.  Farm families were anxious to purchase modern clothes washers with electric motors, electric milking machines, modern electric and gas cooking stoves and other modern conveniences that the new electric service to the farm promised.  However, purchases of these goods had to be put off.  Consumers in rural America had no choice but to make due with their wood stoves, wringer-type clothes washers because modern electric stoves and washers were still not available.  Industry in the United States was producing everything for the war effort, there was nothing left for the production of consumer goods.

However, once the war ended and the wartime restrictions on the economy were lifted, the pent up consumer demand was suddenly released.  In 1945, spending of discretionary income rose to 79% and in 1946 that spending shot up to 89% and the average for 1947 was just short of 95%.  Consumers were saving only 5% of their discretionary income in 1947.  Industrial manufacturers of consumer goods desperately tried to re-tool from wartime production back to civilian consumer production.  Still they were not able to keep up with the huge increase in demand that had been released.  Accordingly, prices began to rise due to pure inflation.  During the first six months of 1946, the annualized rate of inflation had averaged 2.80%.  However, in July of 1946, prices of consumer goods exploded.  The rate of inflation nearly tripled in just one month—from an annualized rate of 3.31% in June of 1946 up to an annualized rate of 9.39% in July of 1946 and the inflation rate kept on climbing.  During the last six months of 1946, inflation averaged 14.07% on an annualized basis.  The annualized rate of inflation for first six months of 1947 was 18.61%.  Clearly, the economy was headed for a collision unless something was done.

The Federal Reserve Board had seen the trouble coming.  Once the war was over in September of 1945 and the price and wage controls had been removed and well before the inflationary spiral had actually begun, the Federal Reserve recognized that they must raise interest rates in order to ward off an inflationary spiral.  Any action taken by the Federal Reserve might take weeks or months before the effect of the action would be felt in the economy.  Minutes of the October 17, 1945 meeting of the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee meeting reflect that even this early, the Federal Reserve had expressed concern that interest rates should be raised immediately.  However, the Secretary of the Treasury, Fred Vinson, had asked the Federal Reserve to hold off on raising interest rates until the government had paid off much of the war debt at the lower interest rates now in effect.  Once more, the Federal Reserve was being asked to do the patriotic thing and once more the Federal Reserve agreed.  The Federal Reserve kept on buying government bonds in order to keep the interest rates low.  Even as the inflation spiral had begun in full force in mid-1946, the Federal Reserve, pursuant directives passed at its June 10, 1946 meeting, was still buying government securities as if further stimulus to the economy was needed.  From January 1946 until November of 1947, purchasing by the Federal Reserve kept the bank prime interest rate was kept at the low level of 1.5%.

Prior to December of 1947, this bank prime lending rate, the rate at which the Federal Reserve loaned money to banks, was not an officially published figure.  Still it was a figure that the Federal Reserve used to control the money in circulation in the economy at any one time.  However, in December of 1947, the Federal Reserve officially established this rate as the “Prime Lending Rate” and began publishing the figure.  From this point on the Prime Lending Rate became an official index on which banks could base loans and mortgages they made to the public.  Furthermore, citizens began to watch the rise and fall in the Prime Lending Rate to get an idea about how cheap or expensive loans were going to be in the future.

During that same month of December, 1947, the Federal Reserve, finally, began to sell government bonds on the market sufficient to raise the Prime Lending Rate to 1.75%.  The effect of this selling by the Federal Reserve was felt almost immediately.  The economy slowed as loans became slightly more expensive and slightly harder to obtain.  As a result inflation was slowed.  The inflation rate for December of 1947 was 8.84% on an annualized basis—down from the 18.61% annualized inflation rate of the first six months of the year.  Nonetheless, even this 8.84% inflation rate continued to scare consumers out of the market place.

Our Nevada Township farmer’s second son was disappointed to hear that they would not be getting a new truck in 1948.  Nonetheless, following his experiences with the family’s old steel-wheeled wagon during the soybean harvest in the fall of 1947 (See the previous article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part IV]: The Wet Year” contained in the blog at this website.) the second son, was determined to make one small but important improvement to the old farm wagon they used around the farm.  As noted earlier, this wagon was an old wooden straight sided Birdsell Company wagon box.  (See the previous article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part IV]: The Wet Year” contained in the blog at this website.)  Together with the old 1939 Chevrolet Model JD ¾-ton truck, this wagon, usually hitched to the family car was the main method by which our Nevada Township farmer and his second son got their cash crops (shelled corn and soybeans) to market at the Hunting elevator up town in Lyle, Minnesota.  Also as noted earlier, this wagon had been upgraded by replacing the old horse-drawn wagon gear with a fifth-wheel style of steering with a new Oliver-Electric wagon gear with automotive style steering.  Despite this upgrade, the wagon remained a steel-wheeled wagon which was intended to be driven at slower horse-drawn speeds.  Accordingly, trips to town with the wagon took quite a long time, as the second son knew first hand.  After his experiences pulling the wagon loaded with soybeans to town with his own 1941 Buick Super Sedan, the second son was anxious to make an improvement in this old wagon.

The Birdsill Manufacting Company "double box" wagon gear before any conversion from a horse drawn-wagon to a tractor-drawn wagon had taken place.
The Birdsill Manufacting Company “double box” wagon gear before any conversion from a horse drawn-wagon to a tractor-drawn wagon had taken place.

At the time the new Oliver-Electric wagon gear had been purchased from Thill Implement in Rose Creek, Minnesota (1940 pop. 261), the second son remembered that an option of hubs and modern disc type wheels had been available for the new wagon gear.  Rubber tires could be mounted on these disc type rims and, thus, the wagon could become a smoother running wagon without the expense of buying another entirely new wagon gear.  Rubber tires on the wagon would allow the wagon to be towed down the roads to town at a faster speed than on steel wheels.

The new Oliver-Electric wagon gear with steel wheels which was mounted under the Birdsill double wagon box on the farm of our Nevada Township farmer and his second son in 1947.

Thus, over the winter of 1947-1948, the second son had taken it upon himself to find out that new wheel hubs and modern disc-type wheel rims were available at Thill Implement for this same Oliver-Electric wagon gear.  He purchased these hubs and the matching 16 inch rims at Thill Implement in Rose Creek, Minnesota.  Now all he needed to do was to find some 16 inch rubber tires which could be mounted on the new disc rims.  The second son found out that his older brother, the eldest son of our Nevada Township farmer, was in the process of buying a couple of new tires for his 1939 Model 80 Oldsmobile Business Coupe.  Additionally, ever since returning from his honeymoon during the summer of 1947 he wanted to replace the worse two tires on his wife’s 1940 Ford Tudor Sedan.  Both of these cars had 16 inch tires.  Accordingly, the second son requested that his older brother save the old tires from both cars so that the old tires could be used on the wagon and other equipment around the farm.  When the second son got the old tires, he found that although they were “bald” (with very little tread showing on the surface of the tire), there were no cords showing on the tires.  He felt these tires would work well on the farm wagon.  The tires from the 1939 Oldsmobile were 6.50 x 16 inch tires and were slightly wider than the 6.00 x 16 inch tires from the 1940 Ford.  Accordingly, the second son mounted the slightly wider 6.50 x 16 inch tires in the rear of the wagon and mounted the narrower tires in the front of the wagon.  Getting one of the wagons on the farm up and running on rubber tires, was one of those small improvements that in made a big difference in making harvest easier on the farm.

The Oliver-Electric wagon gear with its new set of rims and rubber tires

Now with the approach of the spring of 1948, our Nevada Township farmer looked forward to the new growing season.  The winter of 1947-1948 had been a “closed” winter—with a great deal of snow on the ground all winter.  Four inches of snow had fallen on the eve of Thanksgiving in 1947 and the snows had continued all winter long.  Rarely was there less than 4 inches of snow on the ground all winter long.  However, in the very warm summer-like weather of March of 1948, the snows had melted.  To our Nevada Township farmer it seemed that there might be an early start to spring in 1948.  It seemed like a bright new beginning to the new growing season.  Twelve (12) miles north of his farm in Nevada Township, in the small town of Rose Creek, Minnesota (1940 pop. 261) it also seemed like a new beginning at the Thill Implement dealership.

In April of 1948, the long-awaited new line of Oliver Row Crop tractors were delivered to the Thill Implement dealership.  The Oliver Company had previously announced to the public of the introduction of Oliver Row Crop tractors.  This new line of Oliver farm tractors was called was called the “Fleetline.”  In the spring of 1948, there were, still, only two models of the new Fleetline which were currently available for the public to see in person.  These two models were the new Model 88–which was the new 6-cylinder powered improved replacement for the old Oliver Model 80 tractor–and the new improved Model 77–which was to replace the venerable old Model 70.

The building in Rose Creek, Minnesota that housed the "Thill Implement Dealership."
The building in Rose Creek, Minnesota that housed the “Thill Implement Dealership.”

The return of unexpectedly cold weather during the first days of April delayed our Nevada Township farmer and his second son from any thoughts of getting an early start on field work.  So they decided to go to Thill Implement to get a look at the new tractors.  Our Nevada Township farmer had heard all about the Model 88 from his first son, who had been involved in the field testing of the various prototypes of the Model 88 ever since he had started working for the Oliver Company.  During the field testing of the Fleetline prototypes, the first son did not know what the model designations of the new Fleetline tractors would be.  He knew only that the prototypes were to replace the current Model 80 and the Model 70 tractors.  His first son had told our Nevada Township farmer that the prototype that had become the Model 88 was, actually, an entirely new tractor that the Oliver had been working on since before the recent war.  The new Row Crop 88 had actually been placed into production in 1947, but only 351 tractors had been produced in 1947.  In 1948, the Oliver Company would produce 2,947 Model 88 tractors.

The Oliver Model 88 Row Crop tractor went into production in 1948.
The Oliver Model 88 Row Crop tractor went into production in 1948.

Despite the fact that his first son had worked on the field testing the prototype of what would become the Row Crop Model 88 on the Thill farm in Windom Township in the same neighborhood as his home farm, our Nevada Township farmer and his second son had never before seen the Model 88.  This visit to Thill Implement in Rose Creek was the first time that our Nevada Township farmer and his second son had ever seen the Oliver Row Crop 88 up close and in person.  The rear wheels were fitted with the largest and widest rubber tires that our Nevada Township farmer had ever seen—38 inch tires like the rear tires on his Model 70 at home, but these tires were 13 inches wide!  The Oliver 70 at home had taller 40 inch tires but they were only 11 inches wide!  The suggested retail price of the Model 88 was $2,810.00.  The high price made our Nevada Township farmer cringe—almost $3,000 for a farm tractor.  He felt that this large expensive tractor would not pay for itself efficiently on his farm.  It was a tractor made for work on a larger farm than his.

Many farmers at visiting Thill Implement in those cold days of early April 1948 felt the same way.  Thus, the new lower-priced Oliver Model 77 tractor might have appealed more to the farmers present at Thill Implement.  However, nobody could purchase a Model 77 on that day.  While Thill Implement did have a Model 77 Row Crop on display, it was for display purposes only.  Our Nevada Township farmer was informed by the sales staff at Thill Implement that the extensive retooling of the Oliver Tractor Works in Charles City, Iowa for the full production of the Model 77 was not yet complete.

An aerial view of the Oliver Tractor Works in Charles City, Iowa showing the extensive building and renovation that was under way in 1948, which delayed the introduction of the new Model 77 and Model 66 Oliver tractors until late 1948.
An aerial view of the Oliver Tractor Works in Charles City, Iowa showing the extensive building and renovation that was under way in 1948, which delayed the introduction of the new Model 77 and Model 66 Oliver tractors until late 1948 and 1949.

Across the nation, the Row Crop 88 tractor created a good deal of excitement among farmers, but those same farmers tended to look more favorably on the Oliver Row Crop 77 than to the larger Row Crop 88.  In the production years to come, the Row Crop 77 would to outsell the Row Crop 88 until 1952, when the larger-sized Oliver 88 would finally pass up the Row Crop 77 in sales.

The new Model 77 was intended to replace the popular 6-cylinder Model 70 tractor.  The Model 70 had been in production since 1935 as Oliver’s first 6-cylinder tractor and their first “streamlined” tractor.  When the Oliver 70 first appeared in public in 1935 the tractor had a “complete suit” of sheet metal—hood, grille and even side curtains to completely cover the engine.  The Model 70 was far and away the Oliver Company’s most popular selling tractor, but, whereas the Oliver Row Crop 70 delivered 22.72 hp. to the drawbar and 28.46 hp. to the belt pulley, with the new 6-cylinder Waukesha/Oliver 193.3 cubic inch that powered the new Model 77, the Model 77 was now a full three (3) plow tractor delivering 32.89 hp to the drawbar and 37.17 hp. to the belt pulley.  Over the years, sales of the Model 70 tractor proved that tractor to be the most popular all tractors in the Oliver full line of tractors.

With the new Model 77 not yet in productiion, the Oliver Company continued producion of the Oliver Model 70 Tractor
With the new Model 77 not yet in productiion, the Oliver Company continued producion of the Oliver Model 70 Tractor

However, the problem was that the new Oliver Row Crop 77 was not yet in full production–only 240 Row Crop 77 tractors were manufactured at Charles City, Iowa in 1948.  Not until 1949 would production of the Row Crop 77 hit full stride when 7,659 would roll off the assembly line at the Charles City Oliver plant.  One of these new 1949 Oliver 77 Row Crop tractors was purchased by Earl Jacobson of rural LeRoy, Minnesota (1940 pop. 752).  Earl Jacobson worked a farm located 1 ½  miles northeast of LeRoy which had originally been owned and operated by his parents—John G. and Edna (Johnson) Jacobson .  Earl had been negotiating with Cease and Oksanen, the International Harvester dealership in LeRoy over a new Farmall M in 1949.  However, he had become frustrated with the unwillingness of the sales staff at Cease and Oksansen to negotiate a price for the Farmall M that he could afford.  He began to feel that the Cease and Oksanen dealership was a little too confident that the sale could be made on the dealership’s terms if the dealership just dug in its heels.  Finally, Earl got up and walked out of the dealership and drove the 25 miles up the paved highway–Minnesota Route 56–to Thill Implement in Rose Creek.  There he quickly made a deal on a new for a new Oliver 77 Row Crop.  This particular Row Crop 77 was fitted with the optional Hydra-Lectric hydraulic system which was a new feature on Oliver tractors in 1949.  Earl traded in the old pre-war John Deere A that had originally been purchased by his father, in to Thill Implement on the new Oliver 77 Row Crop.

In the years since the war, Earl Jacobson had purchased a John Deere PTO-driven field forage harvester or corn chopper.  He had built up quite a custom silo filling business around the neighborhood using the old John Deere A and the John Deere field harvester.  He intended on continuing this business with his new tractor.  With a top speed of 11 ½ mph., the Oliver 77 Row Crop could certainly tow the field chopper and his forage wagons from farm to farm around the neighborhood faster than his old pre-war John Deere A tractor with its top speed of 5 ¼ mph.

Higher road speeds was one of the main reasons that Earl was seeking a modern, faster  post-war tractor.  Accordingly, when Thill Implement was finished with their dealer prep on the tractor, Earl insisted on driving the tractor to back to his farm, himself, rather than have Thill Implement deliver the tractor.  Passing through LeRoy on his way home, Earl made sure to drive out of his way to go down Main Street and straight past the Cease and Oksanen dealership, so that the sales staff at the dealership could see that some farmers would go elsewhere to purchase tractors if the dealership would not negotiate on a realistic price.

To fill in the gap in tractor production caused by the delayed production of the 77 Row Crop, the Oliver Company kept the Row Crop 70 tractor in production, turning out 5,026 Row Crop 70 tractors in 1948.  The new Fleetline series of Oliver Row Crop tractors would be completed only  in the fall of 1948 with the introduction of the third Row Crop tractor—the Model 66.  The Model 66 was intended as a replacement for the old Model 60 which was currently in production.  Powered by a four-cylinder engine, the new Model 66 tractor was a full 2-plow tractor which delivered 21 hp. to the drawbar and 25 hp. to the belt pulley.

The Oliver Model 66 was not produced until the fall of 1948.

Once again to fill in the gap created by the delay in production of the new Model 66, 4,874 Model 60 tractors would be produced in 1948.

Due to the delay in the introduction of the Model 66, the Oliver Company continued productionot the Model 60 tractor.
Due to the delay in the introduction of the Model 66, the Oliver Company continued production ot the Model 60 tractor.

There was another Oliver tractor in production in 1948.  This was the “standard” or “four wheel” Model 90 tractor.  As a standard tractor with a non-adjustable wide front end, the Model 90 was not part of the “Fleetline” series of Row Crop tractors.  It was a large standard tractor intended for work on the Great Plains of the western United States.

The Oliver Model 90 standard or four-wheel tractor was made in South Bend #2
The Oliver Model 90 standard or four-wheel tractor was made in South Bend #2

Indeed the Model 90 was not even made at the Tractor Works in Charles City, Iowa where all other Oliver tractors were made.  The Model 90 was actually being made in Oliver’s South Bend #2 plant located on Walnut Street in South Bend, Indiana.  Nonetheless, the Model 90 was scheduled to receive the same styling treatment that the Fleetline Row Crop tractors were undergoing.  However this change had also been postponed.

Today all that is left of the Oliver South Bend #2 Tractor Works is the power house shown here.
Today all that is left of the Oliver South Bend #2 Tractor Works is the power house shown here.

Pre-production testing of all the tractors, especially the ones made in Charles City, Iowa, (1940 pop. 8,681) was conducted by a field research team of experts employed by the Oliver Company and based in Charles City.  Now in April of 1948, as he thought back, it was hard for our Nevada Township farmer’s eldest son to believe that he had been working at Oliver for an entire year, already.  Much had happened since he had returned home to the United States from his service in Pacific during the late world war.  Last June, 1947, he had been married to a girl he had been dating since late 1945.  Following their honeymoon to the Lake Okiboji region of northwest Iowa, he and his wife settled down in their apartment in Charles City.

Over the last few months, however, both he and his wife had begun to appreciate how small and cramped for space the apartment actually was.  Accordingly, they had begun looking for a house to purchase.  With her job in Osage and his job at the Tractor Works, they felt they could afford a house, especially in light of the fact that the eldest son was eligible for a low interest and zero down payment loan through the G.I. Bill of Rights.  The G.I. Bill was open to all returning veterans of the world war and offered a real solution to the problems of education and housing that faced the returning veterans.  The only problem facing the eldest son was finding a house in Charles City to purchase.  With all the retuning veterans and with all the new hiring that was taking place at the Oliver Company Tractor Works, the population in Charles City was growing by leaps and bounds.  Census figures would reflect that between 1940 and 1950 the population of Charles City would grow by a staggering 18.8%.  This rapid growth created a considerable shortage of housing in Charles City as it was in other towns across the nation.  The construction industry could not keep pace with the need for new housing.  As a result, the eldest son and his wife were finding that the prices of new houses were climbing to extraordinary levels.

Rising housing prices was one of the causes of a slight rise in the inflation rate again in July of 1948.  Inflation reached 10% in July of 1948.  Accordingly, at their August 1, 1948 meeting the Federal Reserve Board directed their staff to start selling enough government bonds to raise the prime lending rate to 2.00%.  This decision may have been a mistake, because by November of 1948 the economy had slid into a recession.  Consumers were already leaving the market and their spending fell to 92% of their discretionary income.  This meant that consumers were reducing their spending and were actually saving more of their discretionary income.  This should have indicated to the Federal Reserve Board that inflation (or overspending by consumers) was not the main problem.  Rather, the reduction of consumer spending, meant that  a business slow down was already occurring.  Based on the reduced consumer purchasing,  corporations across the United States began cut back or delay production.  One example close at hand was the decision made at the Oliver Farm Equipment Company to delay the introduction and production of some their new Fleetline tractors.

Meanwhile, our Nevada Township farmer and his neighbors had experienced a nearly perfect growing season in 1948.  The warm weather of May 1948, with only 2.23 inches of rain for the whole month, had allowed the crops to be planted and spout in good order.  Once the seeds were in the ground, the abundant rains (5.51 inches) returned in June of 1948 and allowed the crops to flourish.  The oats in the field of our Nevada Township Farmer exhibited rank growth and were almost four feet tall.  Without the heavy rains in July (.87 inches for the whole month of July), the oat crop as it began to ripen and surely looked to our Nevada Township Farmer like a record bumper crop of oats, even as the crop stood in the field.

The rank growth of the oat crop in 1948 can be seen here on the farm of Howard Hanks which is located in Fillmore County, just across the county line of Mower County.
The rank growth of the oat crop in 1948 can be seen here on the farm of Howard Hanks which is located in Fillmore County, just across the county line of Mower County.

Unfortunately, it looked as though the oats would ripen and need to be combined right during the Mower County Fair was to be held during the first week of August ( August 2-8, 1947).  The Mower County Fair and the Minnesota State Fair held on the ten days prior to Labor Day (August 28-September 6, 1948) were two of the few opportunities that our Nevada Township farmer had to show his Purebred Suffolk sheep, build his “brand” among sheep farmers.  Building his brand would mean income all year long as sheep farmers preferred to come to his farm to purchase Purebred Suffolk sheep rather than go to any other sheep seller.  He might even sell a few ewes at the Fair itself.  Of course, he needed only the last two or three days of the Fair.  “Open Class”  judging of sheep was scheduled only for 7th and 8th of August, but our Nevada Township farmer and his second son and his wife would need a third day–the 6th of August as a day of preparation for the Fair.  Luckily, a rain front moved in and it looked like rain which would keep our Nevada Township farmer from being able to combine his oats.  Thus, the family decided to risk going to the Fair.  However, although there was a small rain on the 7th of August the rest of the time during the open class judging at the Fair were clear.  As the family was coming home from the Fair on Monday the 9th of August, the rains started and continued through Tuesday the 10th of August.  This rain deposited between an 1½ and 2 inches of rain on his oats which were still standing in the field.

The oat crop was almost over ripe, when our Nevada Township farmer hitched the Model 70 tractor to the old grain binder which had been converted into a windrower.  He maneuvered the tractor and windrower into the oat field so that he could pull the windrower around the field in a counter-clockwise fashion.  On the first round he was driving the Oliver 70 tractor and the combine over the oats nearest fence all the way around the field.  On this first round, the windrow was deposited into the standing oats in the area nearest the fence in the oat field.  On the second counter-clockwise round of the oat field with the windrower, the windrower deposited the windrow on the stubble of the first round.  Here, propped up off the ground on the stubble, the dry summer air would surround the windrowed oats, even getting underneath the windrow.  Thus, the windowed oats would dry and further ripen, just as bundled oats used to dry and ripen in a shock, when our Nevada Township Farmer used to thresh his oats with a stationary thresher.  Our Nevada Township Farmer continued windrowing the oats in concentric rounds in the counter-clockwise direction, until the entire field was windrowed.  Then he turned his attention to the standing oats nearest the fence around the field.  He raised the cutter bar of the old binder enough to avoid the windrow that had been deposited in this patch of standing oats in his first round of the field.  He proceeded to drive the tractor and windrower/binder over to that remaining band of standing oats which was against fence.  To windrow this last band of standing oats near the fence our Nevada Township farmer turned the tractor around to proceed in clockwise direction around the field.  Thus, the cutter bar on the windrower/binder would be on the correct side of the tractor to cut the band of oats right up to the fence all the way around the field. The old converted binder would then spill the new windrow on the stubble next to the windrow created on his second round of the field earlier in the morning.

The heavy windrow of oats of the Mower County caused trouble when there was a clog in the windrow as our Nevada Township farmer experienced..
A 1948 photo of the heavy windrows of oats on the Howard Hanks farm.  These heavy windrows in the Mower County area caused trouble when there was a clog in the windrow as our Nevada Township farmer experienced..

He then pulled the windrower back up to the homestead and backed it into the shed.  He, then, hitched the Model 70 tractor to the Oliver Model 15 Grainmaster combine.  He was in a hurry to get the combine into the field and harvest the oats before any more rains came.  This combine was being used for only the second season of its life.  However, the combine still had the reel mounted on the feeder of the combine above the empty sickle bar.  The sickle, itself had been removed from the sickle bar following the soybean harvest last fall.  The sickle was then painted with some old waste crankcase oil left over from an oil change of one of the tractors and the sickle was hung on the wall in the lean-to where the combine was stored.  If he had time, he would do the same for the sickle in the cutter bar of the old binder/windrower that he had just put away for the year.  However, was quite busy now and would remove the sickle from the old binder/windrower later on.  He promised, himself, that he would do so in a day or two when he found the necessary time.  He did not want rust to start forming on the sharp edges of the sickle, before he could cover the sickle with oil.

An Advertising booklet on the Oliver Model 15 Combine.
An Advertising booklet on the Oliver Model 15 Combine.

The reel and the sickle bar on the combine were used only for standing crops like soybeans.  Now, however, a combine windrow pickup was needed to harvest the oat crop which was had already cut and laid in windrows.  Accordingly, after removing the reel our Nevda Township farmer positioned the Innes Company pickup over the sickle bar empty sickle bar and bolted the flanges on the Innes windrower onto the sickle bar on the combine feeder.  Next he attached the drive belt for the Innes pickup to the appropriate pulley on the combine and he was ready to go.

An Oliver combine exhibited at the 2015 LeSueur Pioneer Power Association equipted with an Innes Company windrow pickup.
An Oliver combine exhibited at the 2015 LeSueur Pioneer Power Association equipted with an Innes Company windrow pickup.

Then, he connected the power take off (PTO) coupler of the combine to the PTO shaft on the rear of the Oliver Model 70 tractor and drove the tractor pulling the Model 15 Grainmaster combine out to the newly windrowed field of oats.  His son followed driving the old  1937 Oliver 28-44 towing the Birdsill wagon box mounted on the Oliver-Electric wagon gear which now sported the rubber tires mounted on the new disc-style wheels that the second son had, himself, purchased and mounted the on the Oliver-Electric wagon gear.  Our Nevada Township farmer maneuvered the Oliver 70 tractor and Grainmaster around to line the feeder of the tractor up with the third windrow from the fence.  He pushed in the foot clutch with his left foot and reached ahead under the steering wheel with his right hand for the belt pulley and PTO shaft control lever.  This lever engaged the PTO shaft and when our Nevada Township farmer slowly lifted his left foot off of the foot clutch, the Grainmaster combine slowly started to come alive.

Slowly running at first the cylinder started to gather speed, our Nevada Township farmer opened the throttle of the Oliver 70 tractor the recommended cylinder speed of  between 1000 and 1400 RPM. was obtained.  Once he was sure that everything was operating correctly on the combine and the Innes pickup was running at the proper speed, our Nevada Township farmer depressed the foot clutch again and shifted into first gear and slowly released the foot clutch.  Then pulled the throttle on the Model 70 to full open again to assure that the cylinder speed stayed at it recommended speed for combining oats.  The tractor moved slowly forward and the Innes pickup began gobbling up the windrow ahead of the feeder.

A closeup of the Innes Company windrow pickup attached to an Oliver combine.
A closeup of the Innes Company windrow pickup attached to an Oliver combine.

As the combine picked up the third windrow and threshed the oats in the third windrow from the edge of the field, our Nevada Township farmer tried to steer the front wheels of the Model 70 as close to the right side of the windrow so that the windrow would pass harmlessly under the left rear axle housing of the Model 70 without being run over or even touched by the front wheels or the left rear wheel of the tractor or the left wheel of the combine. The oats were threshed so fast in the Model 15 Grainmaster combine that the threshed oat straw was deposited directly on the ground in the same location that the straw had occupied prior to being picked up by the combine.

Our Nevada Township farmer did notice that their was rather thick flow of grain flowing into the grain tank, but he was quite surprised when, about half way around the field, he, by chance, happened to turn around and saw that the pile of grain in the 20 bushel grain tank was visible from the tractor operator’s seat.  He had to stop and signal his second son to drive the wagon down to where he was located with the combine so that they could unload the 20 bushel grain tank into the wagon and allow the combine to continue around the field.  When, the second son arrived with the wagon, he pulled up alongside the grain tank on the combine.  Our Nevada Township farmer pulled the grain unloading elevator out from its stored position to allow the spout to hang over the wagon.  Then, he went back up to the levers on the hitch of the combine and disengaged the gear case throw-out control lever located on the combine hitch behind the tractor operator seat.  This effectively turned off all power to the combine and at the same time engaged the power only grain unloading elevator.  Then, when the PTO of the Oliver 70 was engaged the oats of the combine grain tank began flowing out of the spout of the grain unloading elevator and flowed into the Birdsill wagon box.  In a short time the grain tank was emptied.

Our Nevada Township farmer engaged the throw-out clutch and transferred the power from the grain unloading elevator back to the combine as a whole. Our Nevada Township farmer was able to resume combining, but not for long.  He saw a large clump of grain in the windrow and pushed in the foot clutch of the tractor.  This should have stopped all forward motion of the tractor and combine.  However the backlash from the large cylinder on the No. 15 Grainmaster, spinning at 1000 to 1400 RPM  came back up through the PTO shaft of the combine to the transmission of the tractor pushed the tractor and combine forward right into the clump.  Our Nevada Township farmer watched helplessly as the clump went over the Innes windrow pickup and rode the canvas belt up the feeder and right into the cylinder where it clogged the cylinder and stopped all operation of the combine.  Now our Nevada Township farmer had no choice.  He disengaged the PTO shaft of the combine and took the tractor out of gear and idled down the throttle of the tractor.

The right side of the Oliver Model 15 combine from which the axle of the cylinder protrudes.
The right side of the Oliver Model 15 combine from which the axle of the cylinder protrudes.

He then dismounted the tractor picked up a pipe wrench out of the tool box of the Oliver Model 70 tractor and walked around to the right side of the combine.  Here he clamped the pipe wrench to the axle of the cylinder and turned the cylinder backwards to free the large clump of un-threshed grain and straw caught between the cylinder and the concave of the combine.  Now he could reach into the feeder and pull the mass of straw and un-threshed oats out of the cylinder and spread it out on the canvas belt in a thin layer which would allow the grain to go back into the combine to be threshed when he restarted the combine. He had to spread the un-threshed straw and grain out very thin.  The combine would not immediate return to the operating speed of 1000-1400 RPM.  It would take time for the combine to reach it operating speed.  Then, he returned to the tractor seat and opened up the throttle and engaged the PTO shaft control lever and let out the foot clutch.  All the grain went into the cylinder in a normal way and was threshed.

Our Nevada Township farmer resumed combining down the windrow.  However as he approached the corn of the field he saw another large clump in the windrow right at the corner.  This clump had been formed when the windrower has turned the corner while making the windrows.  This time our Nevada Township farmer stopped the tractor and combine well ahead of the clump and dismounted the tractor and walked ahead to the clump at the corner and spread the clump out along the windrow to smooth out the clump.  He felt that he was constantly wasting his time in the field either by spreading out large clumps in the windrow or by un-plugging the combine cylinder of  large clumps in the cylinder when he failed to stop soon enough and the clump made its way up into the combine.  It certainly slowed down the harvest in 1948, but the trouble he was having was another indication that the oat crop was going to be a bumper crop.

Our Nevada Township farmer eventually did finish combining his oats.  He recognized that this oat crop was a good big crop but the crop turned out to be much bigger than any year since he could remember.  The average yield of oats in Mower County in 1948 proved to be 49 bushels per acre.  This was a new record for Mower County, breaking the old record of 46 bushels per acre set in 1940.  According to the radio, the bumper crop was also being enjoyed by the whole nation. Last June (1947) the introduction of the Marshall Plan had raised the price of oats from its average post-war price range of between 70 and 80 cents per bushel to $1.18 per bushel in December of 1947 and to $1.27 in January of the present year (1948).  However, even the Marshall Plan could not keep the price of oats from sliding to 86 cents a bushel in July and dropping even further to 68 cents a bushel in August–when the market was deluged by the glut of oats from the harvest.

He heard these prices from the Chicago Board of Trade as reported over WCCO out of Minneapolis over the radio in the barn during the morning milking chores.  More importantly he heard the most up-to-date prices after a morning of trading over the local KAUS radio station out of Austin, Minnesota.  He heard these important noon-time prices on the radio over dinner in the house every day.  He had always thought that hearing some good prices on the radio at noon might allow him or his son time enough to load up the wagon or the truck with shelled corn or soybeans and take it to town and catch the high price at the Hunting elevator before the end of the trading day.  However, reality was more mundane–just like last year (1947)–the soybeans were sold right out of the field because the price was unusually high right during the fall harvest.  Corn was sold only when arrangements could be made for the sheller to show up on his farm.  Luckily, last February (1948), a small seasonal rise in the price of con had occurred just as the corn was being shelled.  So that shelled corn went directly to the Hunting elevator, saving back only that portion of the shelled corn that our Nevada Township farmer would need to use as feed for the animals on the farm in the year ahead.  Still his wife appreciated the fact that he could always be counted on to arrive at the house directly at noon everyday in time to wash up and sit down to hear the beginning of the market report beginning just after noon on KAUS.  She used to joke, that if it were not for the market report at noon, she would not know where he was at during the noon hour.

Our Nevada Township farmer knew that oat prices did not really affect his income because he did not sell oats.  He used all of his oats as feed for the animals on the farm.  However, he was afraid of what a bumper crop of oats might foretell about corn and soybeans—his two cash crops.  A nationwide bumper crop in those two commodities would also have the same disastrous effect on the market price of both of those commodities.  Unlike the oats, he depended on these two crops for a major portion of his farm income.  He knew that a similar glut of those crops coming to market in the coming fall and winter might put a real dent in his income.  He was extremely apprehensive about the future of his income for the next year.  Nor was he alone in worrying about his financial future.  By the fall of 1948, the slow down in consumer spending and business activity, was starting to have a major effect on be felt on the economy.  With fewer buyers in the consumer market, the gross domestic product of the United States fell off by 1.7% and unemployment rose.  Talk of the recession had the effect convincing even more consumers to delay spending.

The troublesome year of 1948 was also  presidential election year.  History had shown that fear and apprehension about the economy usually led voters to turn against the political party in control of the White House.  Upon the death of Franklin Roosevelt, the Vice President–Harry Truman Democrat of Missouri—had become President of the United States.  Everybody expected that this would be only a short term arrangement.  With the public so worryied about the future of the economy, it was expected by all that the Republican candidate, Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York would surely be elected on November 2, 1948.  Not only was the economic mood of the country working against Truman, but the Democratic Party was split—not once but twice.  At the National Democratic Party Convention held in Philadelphia on July 12 through July 14, 1948, Hubert Humphrey, the young mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota, gave a strong speech in favor of an civil rights plank of the Democratic platform.

Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey created a sensation at the 1948 Democratic Convention held in Philadelphia with his speech in favor of Civil Rights.


The civil rights plank was opposed by the southern segregationists, who pressed for a more moderate plank.   Animated by Humphrey’s speech in favor of the more radical plank, the convention voted for the more radical civil rights plank by a narrow margin.  As a result many southern delegates walked out of the convention.

The southern segregationist Democrats that had split off from the Democratic Party over Truman’s support for the radical civil rights plank over the Truman’s support of the Fair Employment Practices Act, rallied to a “Dixiecrat” candidate of their own–South Carolina Democratic Senator Strom Thurmond.

Other Democrats left the party and rallied round Henry Wallace who had been Secretary of Agriculture in the Franklin Roosevelt Administration.  Wallace was running as the Progressive candidate for the newly re-vitalized Progressive (Bull Moose) Party of President Theodore Roosevelt.  The Progressives were upset with Truman his foreign policy which they saw as aggressively leading to a “cold war” with the Soviet Union.  The Soviet Union had been an ally of the United States, Britain, and France in the recent world war.  During the war the Soviet Union purchased a great deal of manufactured goods  and agricultural crops from the United States.

The 1948 Progressive Convention held in New York, nominated former Secretary of Agiculture–Henry A. Wallace for President on the Progressive ticket.

Progressives, many of whom were farmers, did not want to see this advantageous trading relationship end.  Some farmers saw the exclusion of the Soviet Union from trade with the United States as a needless restriction of the income they could derive from trade with all the Allies rather than just the non-communist allies.  Thus, they could not understand why the Truman administration seemed intent on provoking a “cold war” with the Soviet Union.  (More of this discussion of progressive farmers supporting a wide ranging trading relationship with the whole world including the Soviet Union is contained in the article called “Farming with a COOP Tractor [Part I] : The National Farmers Union.”  This article is published on this website.)

Given the impossibility of President Truman’s chances of re-election, nobody could understand why he so-feverously crisscrossed the nation aboard a train giving speeches at every little whistle stop along the way.  The Republicans had taken over control of the Senate and House of Representatives in the 1946 Congressional elections and everyone expected that the Republicans would once again dominate the 1948 campaign.  No one gave the incumbent president any chance against the Republican candidate—Governor Thomas Dewey of New York.  Still President Truman continued to speak from the rear platform of the small passenger train at every small stop on his “whistle stop” tour of the United States.  Indeed, the most picturesque feature of the 1948 campaign was the “whistle stop” train tour of the entire United States conducted by President Truman.  Truman’s whistle stop campaign brought him through Minnesota in October—stopping at St. Paul and Duluth on October 13th and Mankato, Waseca, Rochester and Winona on October 14th.  During his whistle stop tour, Harry Truman blamed the Republicans and the “do nothing Congress” for the inflation in the economy and for not doing anything aid the ordinary farmers and the middle class.  As the whistle stop tour continued, the crowds began to respond to Truman’s rhetoric.  “Giv ‘em hell, Harry” became a typical response from the enthusiastic crowds at the whistle stops.

President Truman campaigning from the of a train car with his daughter Margaret and Vice-Presidential nominee, Senator Alben Barkley.
President Truman campaigning from the of a train car with his daughter Margaret and Vice-Presidential nominee, Senator Alben Barkley.


Everybody expected that when all the returns were counted, Thomas Dewey would be the next President.  Indeed, even before any of the polling places had closed on election day, the staff of the Chicago Daily Tribune wrote out their story of the 1948 presidential election for the front page of their newspaper and sent the paper to press.   The headline on the front page of their front page  of their Wednesday,  November 3, 1948 newspaper read “Dewey Defeats Truman” in huge letters across the top of the front page. then the staff of the Daily Tribune went home to bed.   No one gave the incumbent president any chance against the Republican candidate—Governor Thomas Dewey of New York.

As the early election returns began to be reported over the radio, the public saw that Harry Truman actually had a lead over Thomas Dewey.  The public listened intently to their radios for the first sign of the inevitable swing to Dewey.  NBC political reporter and commentator, H. V. Kaltenborn announced with confidence that Thomas Dewey was on his way to victory despite the early returns.  “Wait until the late returns,” Kaltenborn said and he kept on saying all evening despite the fact that the Harry Truman hung on to his narrow lead all evening.  Kaltenborn was basing his opinion on the expected Republican tide from the strong Republican state of California.

However, when all California votes were finally counted in the early morning of November 3, 1948.  It was found that Harry Truman had unexpectedly carried the large state of California by the narrow margin of 47.6% to Dewey’s 46.1% of the statewide vote.  Truman had carried the urban and suburban areas around San Francisco, Sacramento  and Los Angeles as had been expected.  However, what had been unexpected was the fact that Truman captured the vote of the agricultural Central Valley part of the state.  The farmers of the Central Valley of California had voted for Truman and swung the whole state away from its traditional Republican moorings.

Harry Truman carried his campaign for re-election to all rural areas of the nation.  He seemed to instinctively feel that he was able to persuade farmers and other voters in rural areas to vote for him.  Indeed, 57.2% of voters in Minnesota supported Truman as opposed to 39.9% of voters that supported Dewey.  Statewide, Hubert Humphrey was winning a race for the Minnesota’s United States Senate against incumbent Republican Joseph Ball.  Humphrey collected 10,070 votes or 64.8% of the total vote in Mower County,  Minnesota against 5,473 votes or 35.2%  of the total Mower County vote for Joesph Ball.  Right in Nevada Township, Humphrey collected 113 votes as opposed to 97 votes for Joseph Ball.  So like his immediate neighbors, our Nevada Township farmer may have voted for Humphrey and Truman also.

The counting of election returns continued into early Wednesday morning.  Finally at about 4:00 AM on November 3, 1948, the radio public heard that Harry Truman had actually been re-elected as President of the United States.  Even H.V. Kaltenborn, finally had to admit that Truman had won the election that morning.  It was the most surprising outcome of any Presidential election in United States’  history and would remain the most surprising election since that time until the election of 2016 when Donald Trump was elected President of the United States .

Later, Wednesday morning, on his way, back to the White House from Kansas City, Truman addressed a small crowd from the rear of his train at the Union station in St. Louis, Missouri.  Relishing the moment, he held up his copy of the morning’s Chicago Daily Tribune with the mistaken headline–“Dewey Defeats Truman”–for the enjoyment of the crowd.

President Truman holds up his copy of the November 3, 1948 "Chicago Daily Tribune" with its mistaken headline for the enjoyment of the crowd Truman was addressing on the morning after his re-election as President of the United States.
President Truman holds up his copy of the November 3, 1948 “Chicago Daily Tribune” with its mistaken headline for the enjoyment of the crowd Truman was addressing on the morning after his re-election as President of the United States.

In the weeks and months after the election, political analysts tried to explain how the election could have the way it did.  Indeed, the current author has been interested in and has studied the 1948 presidential election since he was in high school and still has not arrived at a real conclusive rationale as to how Thomas Dewey could have lost this particular election with all the economic problems that the nation was facing in November of 1948 plus the fact that the Democratic Party was not only split into two parts but actually split into three parts but by two splits.

After the election, our Nevada Township farmer and his second son still had decent weather until the first week in  December when the temperatures began to get really cold.  All signs seemed to indicate to our Nevada Township farmer that both his corn and soybean crops were both going to be a bumper crops.  Nor did it seem that the good crops limited to the south eastern Minnesota.  There were predictions of bumper crop yields from all across the nation which our Nevada Township farmer heard on the farm reports on the radio.  As our Nevada Township farmer heard these reports he began to fear that there would be a glut of soybeans on the market in the fall of 1948.  This glut, he knew, could have the effect of reducing the market price for soybeans.  Soybean prices, which had reached a high of $4.13 in January, 1948 had already fallen off.  In June the price was $3.90 per bushel.  In July it was $3.66, in August $2.91and in September $2.45.  In absolute terms these prices were  not bad prices.  During the war, he considered $2.10 per bushel to be a very good price, but considering the rate of inflation over the last three years since the war on the goods that he had to buy, he felt that the price per bushel, adjusted for inflation, was more like a “pre-war” price in terms of its current “buying power.”   Furthermore, the fact that he saw no sign that the slide in the price of soybeans would halt or even become slower its decline made our Nevada Township farmer still more anxious about the future.

The weather had been cooling down as one might expect in October of 1948.  The first killing frost,” with temperatures reaching down to 25°F (Fahrenheit) occurred on a night in the middle of October.  Following the killing frost, there occurred suddenly in the last week of October, an “Indian summer.”  Temperatures headed back up to highs of above 70°F, that reminded people of the summer weather that had just passed.  The Indian summer weather remained until the start of November, 1948.  Temperatures for the month of November were generally in the normal range of high 40s during the day and the low 40s at night.  This presented a long period of ideal weather for our Nevada Township and his neighbors to get both the soybean and corn crops out of the field.  Only a 1” (inch) rain in the first week of November marred the harvest season weather and kept the tractors out of the out of the fields for a couple of days.

Despite the fact that the 1948 soybean crop was clearly a bumper crop, the soybean harvest did not present near the problems of clogging of the Model No. 15 Harvestmaster combine as had occurred with the oat harvest in the previous August.  As noted above, our Nevada Township farmer planted his soybeans in rows 40 inches apart.  Typically, soybeans are harvested only two rows at a time.  Thus, ripe soybean plants entered the feeder and the cylinder of the little Harvestmaster combine in a much reduced volume than the six feet of plant material which had been windrowed by the old 6-foot grain binder which our Nevada Township farmer had used for a windrower of the oat crop back in August.

A Model No. 15 Oliver combine hitched to the rear of a Model 70 Oliver tractor. Also the p.t.o. (power take-off) shaft is seen here connected to the tractor. This is the power source for the Model 15 combine. However, once the combine is in full operation, the whirling cylinder of the combine turning at 100-1400 r.p.m (revolutions per minute) would send a backlash back up through the p.t.o, shaft to the rear wheels of the tractor when the foot clutch of the tractor was pressed in. This backlash forced the tractor along the same direction and was a cause of frequent clogging off the combine.
A Model No. 15 Oliver combine hitched to the rear of a Model 70 Oliver tractor. Also the p.t.o. (power take-off) shaft is seen here connected to the tractor. This is the power source for the Model 15 combine. However, once the combine is in full operation, the whirling cylinder of the combine turning at 100-1400 r.p.m (revolutions per minute) would send a backlash back up through the p.t.o, shaft to the rear wheels of the tractor when the foot clutch of the tractor was pressed in. This backlash forced the tractor along the same direction and was a cause of frequent clogging off the combine.


Furthermore, as noted in the prior article in this series called “Oliver Farming in Mower County (Part IV): The Wet Year,” preparation of the combine for the soybean harvest included exchanging the small pulley on the cylinder shaft with the larger pulley on the main drive shaft of the combine.  Turning these two pulleys around had the effect of slowing the combine cylinder down to the range of 440 r.p.m. to 850 r.p.m. a desirable range for combining soybeans as opposed to the combining of oats or wheat.  Additionally, the Innes Company windrow pickup was removed from the feeder of the Model 15 combine.  The pickup was placed on a couple of old saw horses and waste crankcase oil from an old oil change on one of the vehicles on the farm was painted on the large round housing of the Innes pickup.  As he painted the oil on the housing, our Nevada Township farmer paid attention to getting oil down int,o the slits in the housing from which the teeth of the pickup protruded.  This he hoped would lubricate the mechanism that was hidden from view inside the cylindrical housing of the pickup, that caused the teeth to protrude and withdraw as the cylinder turned.

Then, our Nevada Township farmer took the sickle for the combine cutter bar down from the nail hooks on the wall where it had been places after the soybean harvest last year.  He then slid the sickle into cutter bar on the combine.  Then he placed the reel on the combine feeder and attached the reel to  the chain that powered it when the combine was operating.

A picture of a segment of a sickle already installed in a cutter bar.


The whole of the soybean harvest seemed to be a blur of activity.  Our Nevada Township farmer stayed in the field as his second son drove either their ¾ ton truck with a wagon hitched to the rear of the truck both filled with soybeans to the Hunting elevator or he was driving the family automobile with a wagon full of soybeans to the elevator.  During the harvest it was a race to get the crop to the Hunting Elevator before the price fell any more.  Nonetheless, our Nevada Township farmer was able to get his crop to the elevator so as to take advantage of the $2.35 per bushel November price.

As he put the little Model No. 15 Grainmaster back in storage, our Nevada Township farmer congratulated himself once again on  the  purchase of the little Oliver combine.  With his own combine, he no longer had to wait on his neighbor to arrive on his farm to get the soybean crop harvested.  He credited  the little combine with the fact that he had won the race to the Hunting Elevator and had obtained the price he had for his soybeans.  If he were still having his neighbor “custom” combine his soybeans, he would probably still be waiting for the combine to show up on his farm.  Later in the winter, as he saw the price of soybeans drop to $2.23 per bushel, he felt even sure that his decision to purchase the combine in 1947 had been a good decision.

Immediately, following the soybean harvest, our Nevada Township farmer moved to the corn harvest.  The new all-time record high price for corn of $1.96 had been set only rather recently—in July of 1946.  However, throughout 1947 three new record high prices in the corn market were established in the same year.  In July of 1947 the price was $2.01 per bushel, in August the price rose to $2.19 per bushel and in September of 1947 the price was $2.23 per bushel.  Last January (1948) the price of corn set yet another all-time record at $2.46 per bushel.

Our Nevada Township farmer suspected that these high prices were caused by a combination of the fact of a poor harvest in some areas of the United States in 1947.  Indeed, as noted in the previous article (called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part IV]:  The Wet Year) in this series of articles, Mower County had suffered a tremendously wet spring and early summer in 1947.  The rains had delayed the planting of the crops in the first place in 1947 and then had retarded the growth of the crops in the crucial early summer.   As a result, the reduced yield of soybeans and corn in 1947 on his farm left our Nevada Township farmer with less corn and soybeans to sell, but he had been able to obtain higher market prices for those crops.  Furthermore, our Nevada Township farmer suspected that the high market prices for corn were also caused by high demand, driven by the aid that the United States had supplied to Europe under the Marshall Plan in 1947.

Like the soybean crop, the excellent weather and rain during all stages of the growing season, led to predictions that 1948 was going to be a bumper crop year in corn.  Thus, our Nevada Township farmer and his second son did not feel that the high market prices of corn would continue into 1948.  Indeed, the corn market had already begun to anticipate a bumper crop as early as April of 1948 when the market price for corn fell to $2.19 per bushel, in the following months (May and June of 1948) the price fell to $2.16, $2.02 in July, $1.92 in August and $1.38 in September.

Once again our Nevada Township farmer contracted with his neighbor who had the one-row Wood Bros. Company pull-type cornpicker to harvest all his ear corn.  The weather in November of 1948 remained near perfect for harvesting ear corn.  found himself waiting on the arrival of his neighbor in order to get his corn in the crib. The shortcoming of contracting with a custom harvester is that you are placed on a list with other customers for whom the custom harvester has to perform the custom harvesting.  Thus, each customer has to wait his turn while the custom harvester works down his list as fast as he can.  This waiting can drive a farmer to distraction.  This year with every farmer on the list having a larger than normal corn harvest, the wait was longer than usual.

A Wood Bros. Co. one-row corn picker at work in the field.


Our Nevada Township farmer shuttered when he thought of the potential for loss to his crop while he waited on the corn picker to show up on his farm.  Of course, his anxiety was lessened somewhat because it was the corn crop that was sitting in field rather than his soybean crop.  Corn was much more durable in the field than was a soybean crop.  Additionally, corn needed to dry down to only 15% to 13% to be stored as shelled corn.  Indeed, corn could be (and used to be) stored in the field intentionally.  In the past, corn used to be cut, bound up in “bundles” with twine and “shocked” in the field.  Indeed, some farmers maintained that corn tied together in “bundles” with several bundles standing up and leaning against each other in standing in “shocks” in the fields, could weather a winter as well as ears of corn in the crib.

A closeup of a number of “bundles” of corn that have been placed standing up and leaning together in an individual “shock” of corn–ready to face the winter weather.


Soybeans on the other hand had to be harvested at just the right time in their maturity.  Our Nevada Township farmer vividly remembered the years before 1947 when he purchased his small Oliver Harvestmaster combine.  In those days, he had real worries about the conditions of his soybeans in the field as he waited for the custom combine harvester to show up on his farm.  As described in the article called “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County (Part II) : Soybeans” on this website, soybeans need to harvested when they reach a dryness of between 10% and  8%.  If the soybeans sit in the field too long beans might dry down to less than 8% dryness.  This means the soybeans will tend to “shatter” or split into halves.  The elevator will dock the price that the farmer receives if there are to many “halves” or shattered beans in the sample they take.  Rain and snow may also damage the soybeans.  Additionally, as the bean sit in the field, the pods may start falling off the plant.  This represents an absolute loss of yield for the farmer.

Indeed it was with this thought in mind that our Nevada Township farmer, when faced with the choice purchasing either a combine or a cornpicker.  He chose to obtain his own combine, the little Oliver Model 15 Harvestmaster combine rather than purchase a corn picker last year, in the summer of 1947 because  of the risks of leaving soybeans in the field too long.  Now, at the end of his soybean harvest, our Nevada Township farmer once again found himself in the familiar position of worrying about his crop in the field while waiting on a custom harvester to show up in his yard.  In the beautiful weather of the autumn of 1948, the wait was excruciating as one perfect harvesting day after another passed with no sign of the corn picker arriving.

While waiting on his neighbor, our Nevada Township farmer backed his OMC (Owatonna Manufacturing Company) Model 20 farm elevator up against the side of the corn crib.  He positioned the head of the elevator over one of the four covered holes in double corn crib.  For the time being, until the corn picker arrived, our Nevada Township farmer and his second son would leave the lid over the square hole in the roof of the corn crib.  His second son took the chutes that would be attached spout on the head of the Owatonna elevator into the empty grain bin above the alleyway in the middle of the double corn crib.

Remembering the abundant corn harvest of 1943 when he had filled needed the double corn crib up to the roof and had then stored the surplus ear corn in a round snow fence crib in the orchard of his “inner yard,” in what is called the “curtilage” of his house on the farm.  As has been explained in the first article of this Oliver Farm Equipment series of articles, the curtilage was fenced off from the “outer yard” of our Nevada Township Farmers homestead.  Furthermore, the reason for having a tight fence around the curtilage was that the flock of sheep lived in the outer yard.  The fence prevented the sheep from getting into the curtilage and destroying the family garden.

The temporary snow fence corn crib could not be constructed in the outer yard where the sheep lived.  The presence of the corn would be an open invitation to the sheep to break the thin wooden laths of the snow fence and begin gorging themselves on the corn inside the snow fence corn crib.  Corn is so rich that even a small amount of corn would make the sheep sick.  Yet the corn tastes so sweet to the sheep that they could not stop eating the corn.  With the surplus corn in the round snow fence corn crib, positioned in the orchard on the curtilage near the house the corn would be safe from the sheep and the sheep would be save from the corn.  However, an inspection of the snow fence on the farm revealed to our Nevada Township farmer the need for a new snow fence.  Accordingly, he sent his second son to town to buy three new rolls of snow fence.  He was unsure if the snow corn crib in the orchard would need to be any taller than two round tiers, but he thought to have the extra third roll handy just in case.

Ear corn stored in temporary “snow fence” cribs for the winter

When his neighbor finally arrived with the little Wood Bros. Company corn picker, our  They were able get started on the corn early enough in November that they were able to get all the corn in the corn crib during the relatively “warm” weather of the 1948 harvest season prior to Thanksgiving.  The size of the harvest kept our Nevada Township farmer and his second son busy hauling wagons from the corn field to the building site and unloading the wagons into the Owatonna elevator and filling the double corn crib one side at a time.

The weather kept cooperating with the harvest.  Snow did not arrive in Mower County until  December of 1948 and the really cold weather that winter did not arrive until last half of January of 1949.  Starting in the middle of January 1949 a series of blizzards which lasted until through the first part of February dumped a total of about 10” (inches) of snow on the ground and the cold temperatures kept that accumulation on the ground until a warming spell in March.  Accordingly, it was only in March that our Nevada Township farmer could make arrangements with Ray Jacobson to shell out his out all his corn. In the corn crib.

When his neighbor finally arrived with the little Wood Bros. Company corn picker, our  They were able get started on the corn early enough in November that they were able to get all the corn in the corn crib during the relatively “warm” weather of the 1948 harvest season prior to Thanksgiving.  The size of the harvest kept our Nevada Township farmer and his second son busy hauling wagons from the corn field to the building site and unloading the wagons into the Owatonna elevator and filling the double corn crib.

A restored double corn crib with a covered alleyway between the cribs


At this point, they moved the OMC elevator up into the orchard near the house and proceeded to fill the round snow fence corn crib.  When the single snow fence ring was full, our Nevada Township farmer and his second son opened up a second snow fence ring on top of the first.  The bounty of golden ear corn kept coming in from the field by the wagon load until the second snow fence ring of the temporary corn crib was full.  Our Nevada Township farmer and his second son set up the third snow fence ring on top of the second.  Finally, the last of the corn came in from the field and the corn harvest for 1948 was done.  Records would later reflect that the 1948 corn crop yields for Mower County averaged 48 bushels per acre.

A three-tier temporary snow fence corn crib. Over the winter the ear corn should dry down to a level of 15% to 13%.

The weather had cooperated and the first snow of th­­­­­­­­e year was postponed until December of 1948 and the really cold weather that winter did not arrive until last half of January of 1949.  Starting in the middle of January 1949 a series of blizzards which lasted until through the first part of February, 1949 dumped a total of about 10” (inches) of snow on the ground and the cold temperatures kept that accumulation on the ground until a warming spell in March of 1949.

Accordingly it was March before our Nevada Township farmer could make arrangements with Ray Jacobson to shell out his out all his corn—starting with the ear corn in the temporary snow fence corn crib.  Our Nevada Township farmer had tried to tie a large tarpaulin over the top of  snow fence crib.  However, the winds of the winter of 1948-1949 had foiled this attempt to provide a roof over the temporary corn crib.  As a result, the ear corn in the snow fence crib became more “weathered” than the more “pristine” ear corn that was stored in the double corn drib with its shingled roof.  The Hunting elevator in Lyle was more likely to buy the pristine corn without any “dockage” of the price per bushel due to the weathering of the corn.

Thus, our Nevada Township farmer wanted to shell out the corn in the snow fence crib and store that shelled corn in the granary in order to feed as much of the “weathered” corn to the animals on his farm. After shelling out snow fence crib, our Nevada Township farmer was surprised that the resulting shelled corn nearly filled the granary.  This meant that just a little more of the pristine shelled corn needed to be added to the granary to have more than enough shelled corn to feed the animals on the farm all year long.  This meant that almost the whole contents of the large double crib on his farm could be shelled out and sold to the Hunting elevator.  This is what he did as fast as he could.

As shown above, the bountiful harvest resulting in the glut of corn in the market had been expected all during the growing season of 1948.  As a result the monthly price of corn had dropped all summer long.  Currently, the average price of corn for the month of March of 1949 was falling to $1.11 per bushel.  This represented the loss of an entire dollar per bushel off the price of $2.16 in April of 1948—a 47.4% decrease in the price of corn in just on year.  Still $1.11 per bushel was a price well above the usual seasonal price range for corn and our Nevada Township farmer wanted to take advantage of the price of $1.11 per bushel, because he believed that the price would fall even more in 1949.

Starting in the middle of January 1949 a series of blizzards which lasted until through the first part of February dumped a total of about 10” (inches) of snow on the ground and the cold temperatures kept that accumulation on the ground until a warming spell in March.  Accordingly it was well into March that our Nevada Township farmer could make arrangements with Ray Jacobson to shell out his out all his corn.

Our Nevada Township farmer had tried to tie a large tarpaulin over the top of  snow fence crib.  However, the winds of the winter of 1948-1949 had foiled this attempt to provide a roof over the temporary corn crib.  As a result, the ear corn in the snow fence crib became more “weathered” than the more “pristine” ear corn that was stored in the double corn drib with its shingled roof.  The Hunting elevator in Lyle was more likely to buy the pristine corn without any “dockage” of the price per bushel due to the weathering of the corn.

Thus, our Nevada Township farmer wanted to shell out the corn in the snow fence crib and store that shelled corn in the granary in order to feed as much of the “weathered” corn to the animals on his farm. After shelling out snow fence crib, our Nevada Township farmer was surprised that the resulting shelled corn nearly filled the granary.  This meant that just a little more of the pristine shelled corn needed to be added to the granary to have more than enough shelled corn to feed the animals on the farm all year long.  This meant that almost the whole contents of the large double crib on his farm could be shelled out and sold to the Hunting elevator.  This is what he did as fast as he could.

The Hunting elevator as it looks today.
The Hunting elevator as it looks today.


At the end of the year, our  Nevada Township farmer and his second son felt that a small truck ( a pickup)  could be used on the farm for a variety of light-duty jobs and would use less gas than the 1-½ ton truck his father had wanted to purchase the year before.  Pickups were much common now on farms across the United States than they had been  before the war.  Before the war, farm trucks had usually been 1½ ton trucks. With its own rear hitch, the small truck could even be used for hauling wagons to town in place of using the cars.  Since early in the fall, the new 1949 model year Chevrolet trucks had been out at dealerships like Usem’s in Austin.  This new ½-ton pickup shared the same “round nose” styling as the 1948 Chevy trucks, even the larger 1-½ ton truck,  except these new 1949 model pickups  had a shiny, eye-catching chrome grille out front.  The 1-½ ton truck still had the old-fashioned painted grille.  This was a throwback to the war years when all chromium production had been channeled into the war effort.

The 1949 growing season proved to be another great year for crops.Soybean yields in Mower County established another new record—a phenomenal 18 bushels per acre.Corn yields in the county were averaging 48 bushels per acre.The recession officially ended as of September or October of 1949.Yet the ill effects of the recession continued after the “official” end of the recession.In October of 1949 unemployment across the nation stood at 7.9%. As a result of continuing recession and the bumper crops, soybean prices slid to $2.04 per bushel in November of 1949.  When the 1949 corn crop was shelled out and came on to the market in February of 1950, the price still lagged at $1.13 per bushel as an average for the month as a whole. 

The winter of 1949-1950 had seen a great accumulation of snow (sometimes as much as 14 inches) on the ground for most of the winter.The unseasonably warm temperatures of early had finally melted all the snow. However, rains picked up where the snow had left off. Rains continued through most of April and May of 1950—with only a week’s respite in late April that allowed our Nevada Township farmer to get his ground worked up and his oats sown. The dry weather in early May of 1950 allowed him to plant his corn and his soybeans. Apparently, the markets were anticipating that the 1950 crop might be somewhat troublesome, WCCO radio at 830 kilocycles (kc) on the radio dial broadcasting out of Minneapolis, Minnesota (1950 pop. 521,718) was reporting that even this early in the season, the price of soybeans had risen to $2.70 per bushel as an average for the month of May, 1950 and the price of corn had adjusted upwards to the average price of $1.28 per bushel for the month May.  It seemed as thought the markets were anticipating shortages in the fall due to below average harvest yields.Still these prices remained well under the 1947 prices.  That year, there had been a real problem of wet weather in the spring and early summer which had caused a loss in crop yield in the autumn.(See the fourth article in this series of articles called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part IV]: The Wet Year” contained in the blog at this website.) As the weather warmed again in early 1950, our Nevada Township farmer, looked forward again to field work and spring planting with the same positive expectations that he did.Springtime was the natural time to look forward to the new growing season. However, just when it looked like 1950 might be another wet year like 1947, the rains stopped. Unseasonably hot weather, with temperatures as high as 90ºF or higher, occurred in late May and early June, caused the crops to spring up out of the ground and flourish.  Our Nevada Township farmer began to change his mind.Perhaps this would be another bumper year in crops like 1948 and 1949.Because of this he expected to see a decline in farm commodity prices over the summer.

The eldest son of our Nevada Township farmer and his new wife this would have meant that a mortgage would have been placed out of reach because of the combination of high prices for houses they were attempting to purchased and the higher than normal interest rates on the loan they would need to purchase the house.  Only the assurance of low interest rates under the G. I. Bill would allow them to purchase the house they would need in Charles City, Iowa.  For his father on the farm in Nevada Township in Minnesota, this

Soybean prices had beput a real en soaring since the end of the war and had reached a record $4.13 per bushel in January of 1948.  Now, in November of 1948, soybean prices declined to $2.35 per bushel.  The glut in the corn market resulted the average price of corn falling to $1.11 per bushel in March of 1949.  This represented the loss of a full dollar per bushel off the price of corn just one year before in March of 1948—a 47.4% decrease in the price of corn in just on year.

Consequently, just as the high prices of the new Chevrolet trucks and the higher interest rates that the banks were now charging for loans caused our Nevada Township farmer and his second son to put off their plans for purchasing a new truck at Usem Chevrolet, consumers across the United States began to delay purchases of large consumer items like houses and cars.  Indeed, our Nevada Township farmer felt that the recent downturn in the economy was the long expected waited “post-war” recession.  Unknown to him was the fact that most of the public and many of the governing officials of the nation felt the same way.  Indeed, once it became clear in November of 1948, that the economy was headed into a recession, it was the belief of many, even members on the Federal Reserve Board, that this recession was the long delayed “post-war” recession.  Accordingly, the recession of 1948-1949 was largely caused by a psychological expectation that the Second World War would be followed by a recession just as the First World War had been followed by the severe recession of 1920-1921.

The second son felt that a small truck could be used on the farm for a variety of light-duty jobs and would use less gas than the 1-½ ton truck his father had wanted to purchase the year before.  With its own rear hitch, the small truck could even be used for hauling wagons to town in place of using the cars.  This new ½-ton pickup shared the same “round nose” styling as the 1948 Chevy 1-½ ton truck except the new pickup had a shiny, eye-catching chrome grille out front.  The 1-½ ton truck still had the old-fashioned painted grille.  This was a throwback to the war years when all chromium production had been channeled into the war effort.

The second son anticipated that the small truck could be used on the farm for a variety of light-duty jobs and would use less gas than the 1-½ ton truck his father had purchased the year before.  With its own rear hitch, it could even be used for hauling the wagon to town in place of using the cars.  This new ½-ton pickup shared the same “round nose” styling as the 1948 Chevy 1-½ ton truck except the new pickup had a shiny, eye-catching chrome grille out front.  The 1-½ ton truck still had the old-fashioned painted grille.  This was a throwback to the war years when all chromium production had been channeled into the war effort.

The 1949 growing season proved to be another great year for crops.  When combining the oats our Nevada Township farmer was again ready to fight the clumps in is windrows.  However, only at the corners, did our Nevada Township farmer worry about the combine struggling with the crop in 1949.  As the PTO binder was being towed around the corner, cut grain tended to pile up in one spot on the ground at the corner.    Our Nevada Township farmer was still worried that the clumps of grain would clog the little combine but in 1947, our Nevada Township farmer was pleasantly surprised to find that none of these clumps of grain at the corners of the field did anything more than to make the six cylinder engine of the Model 70 to “muscle down” and work to power the clump through the combine.

Soybean yields in Mower County established another new record—a phenomenal 18 bushels per acre.  Corn yields in the county were averaging 48 bushels per acre.

Economists finally assured the pubic that the recession officially ended as of September or October of 1949.  Yet the ill effects of the recession continued after the “official” end of the recession.  In October of 1949 unemployment across the nation stood at 7.9%.  Clearly this recession had cause harm to the economy and hurt to wide portions of the public.  The causes of the recession included the failure of the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to slow the economy from over heating in the post-war period.  Later the Fed failed to recognize that after the initial inflationary cycle had passed that the stfrom 1948 on the the economy However, it remains that the res

As a result of continuing recession and the bumper crops, soybean prices slid to $2.04 per bushel in November of 1949.  When the 1949 corn crop was shelled out and came on to the market in February of 1950, the price still lagged at $1.13 per bushel as an average for the month as a whole.

The winter of 1949-1950 had seen a great accumulation of snow (sometimes as much as 14 inches) on the ground for most of the winter.  The unseasonably warm temperatures of early had finally melted all the snow.  However, rains picked up where the snow had left off.  Rains continued through most of April and May of 1950—with only a week’s respite in late April that allowed our Nevada Township farmer to get his ground worked up and his oats sown.  The dry weather in early May of 1950 allowed him to plant his corn and his soybeans.

Apparently, the markets were anticipating that the 1950 crop might be somewhat troublesome, WCCO radio at 830 kilocycles (kc) on the radio dial broadcasting out of Minneapolis, Minnesota (1950 pop. 521,718) was reporting that even this early in the season, the price of soybeans had risen to $2.70 per bushel as an average for the month of May, 1950 and the price of corn had adjusted upwards to the average price of $1.28 per bushel for the month May.  It seemed as thought the markets were anticipating shortages in the fall due to below average harvest yields.  Still these prices remained well under the 1947 prices.  That year, there had been a real problem of wet weather in the spring and early summer which had caused a loss in crop yield in the autumn.  (See the fourth article in this series of articles called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part IV]: The Wet Year” contained in the blog at this website.) As the weather warmed again in early 1950, our Nevada Township farmer, looked forward again to field work and spring planting with the same positive expectations that he did.  Springtime was the natural time to look forward to the new growing season.  However, just when it looked like 1950 might be another wet year like 1947, the rains stopped.  Unseasonably hot weather, with temperatures as high as 90ºF or higher, occurred in late May and early June, caused the crops to spring up out of the ground and flourish.  Prices on the markets stabilized.  Our Nevada Township farmer began to change his mind.  Perhaps this would be another bumper year in crops like 1948 and 1949.  Because of this he expected to see a decline in farm commodity prices over the summer.


Oliver Farming in Mower County (Part IV): The Wet Year

Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota (Part IV):

The Wet Year of 1947


Brian Wayne Wells



Since the late fall of 1945, one particular farmer in Nevada Township, Mower County, Minnesota, had been farming with the help of his two adult sons who had just returned home from their service in the Second World War.  He was glad to see the return of his sons and looked ahead to farming them as partners.  However, in late 1946, changes had been happening in the life of his eldest son.  Just after Christmas of 1946, the eldest son had two epiphanies that set him on different course in life.  The first epiphany had resulted from the Christmas dinner he had attended at his girl friend’s parent’s house in Charles City.  During their conversations that day, her father had told him of the new expansion that was taking place at the Oliver Tractor Works.  This new expansion would allow the Oliver Tractor Works to maximize production of the full line of new tractors that were scheduled for introduction in 1947.  Despite the fact that demand for tractors was greater in the post-war era than it ever had been, production of the large four-cylinder Model 80 and the small four-cylinder Model 60 tractors still had not gotten into full gear since the end of the war.


The popularity of the Oliver Model 80 was an indicator of the rising demand for larger, more powerful tractors in the post-war period of time.


Only the production of the middle-sized six-cylinder Model 70 was close to meeting the new post-war demand.  According to his girl friend’s father, the problem was that the factory in Charles City was just too small to allow all the production that was needed to meet the rising demand of the post-war era.  The rumors implied that there would be a great deal of hiring at the Oliver Tractor Works after the expansion of the factory.  His girl friend’s father asked the eldest son whether he would like to apply to work at the Oliver plant.

This idea planted a seed in the mind of the eldest son which began to grow.  The eldest son had been wondering of late about his place in the world.  Now that he was back from the war, what should he do?  Should he go into farming?  If so, he would need to find a place of his own.  His father gave no indication of wanting to retire from farming.  Even if his father were ready to retire, his brother, the younger son, would probably want to take over the home farm.  Furthermore, he had come to see that diversified farming, in the way that his parents did it, meant that the farmer was married to the farming operation.  There were no weekends off, no holidays and no annual vacations.  There was just too much to do on the farm for any days off.

He had seen how his girl friend’s father lived.  Her father had hobbies!  He worked at his woodworking in the basement of their house on the weekends.  Something like this was unheard of on his parent’s farm.  To be sure their was no field work in the winter, however, even in the winter, there were cows to milk twice a day, sheep, pigs and chickens to feed and eggs to gather in the chicken house every day.  Even in the winter, there was no time for hobbies.  Hobbies did not pay the family an income.  Additionally, after experiencing the financial ups and downs of his father’s diversified farming operation since returning from the war, he had begun to appreciate the idea of a steady work check around which monthly expenses could be planned.  He shared many of these thoughts with his girl friend.  Sometime following Christmas of 1946, he decided to apply for work at the Oliver plant in Charles City.  His girl friend’s father pledged to talk to some people he knew in the “office” at the plant on the eldest son’s behalf.

A second epiphany struck the eldest son like a “bolt out of the blue” sometime in February of 1947.   He decided to get married.  It sounded strange, but this idea descended on him without warning.  It was almost like he had gone to sleep the night before in one frame of mind and had awoken in the morning in a directly opposite frame of mind.  After all the occasions on which he had maintained to friends that he and his girl were “just friends” and there really was no serious relationship between them, he now concluded that he would be much happier living with his girl friend on a permanent basis rather than living alone.  It now seemed like the most natural thing in the world.  He actually wondered why the thought had not struck him with such clarity before.  Consequently, he shared all this with his girl friend the next time they got together.

She was somewhat surprised when he related all this.  She, too, had thought of their relationship as a friendship.  So it was an adjustment to think about a permanent relationship.  She had always wanted a husband, a house and children.  However, she enjoyed her new life working at the Gilles Amusement Company and her life and friends in Osage.  Consequently, her first reply was that she wanted to keep working at Gilles even if they were married.  He did not argue with this proposal.  As she thought about the idea of marriage she warmed to the idea.  This was a real proposal of marriage and must be considered seriously—besides a marriage meant a wedding.  Ever since she had been a child, she had been thinking about her potential wedding.  Now she began to recall all those childhood thoughts and plans of a wedding.

First, she had always wanted a wedding in the month of June.  June was, after all, the traditional wedding month.  On her next trip home to her parents’ house in Charles City, she would have to find her old “hope chest.”  Back on her 13th birthday, her mother had started a hope chest for her as part of her passage into her teenage years.  The hope chest was a rite of passage into semi-adulthood.   Every so often, she or her mother had purchased dishes or silverware or something that to put in the hope chest for her marriage some day.  During high school, marriage had seemed so far away that she and her girl friends began referring to their hope chests as “hopeless chests.”  Consequently, she had not thought about the hope chest for years and she had lost track of what was in the chest.  Now, however, there with a real marriage pending in her future and she was anxious to find the hope chest and explore the content of the chest.  When she found the hope chest she discovered it contained four dinner plates made from pink “depression ware” glass.  There were also four matching coffee cups and saucers.  There were also a matching butter plate, salt and pepper shakers and a gravy boat in the hope chest.  These still appealed to her but were far too few for practical use in a house.   Additionally, there were some cloth napkins and matching kitchen window curtains featuring a design of little pink and green flowers.  As a child her favorite color had been pink.  Now she cringed at the color and design of these curtains.  She would have to find something else to do with the napkins and curtains.  However, the peuter candle stick holders might help decorate their first dinning room table until she found something better.

In the end, there was no real decision to be made, she really did not want to live without him.  She would marry him.  However, June of 1947 was just 4 months away.  There would be a lot of planning to be done to have the wedding in June.  So they set a wedding date for late June of 1947.

In the fall of 1944, while she was still a senior in high school living at home with her parents in Charles City and before she had ever met the elder son of our Nevada Township farmer, she had seen a movie called Janie.  (See the previous article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment Part III: After the War” on the blog  She had loved the movie.  Working at Gilles since the earlier in fall of 1946, she became aware that a sequel to this movie had been made.  She even learned that the name of the movie was Janie Gets Married.  She wanted to see this sequel.  She watched the papers closely to see when the movie might be coming to the local theater in Osage.  Finally in February of 1947 after she had already set about planning her own wedding and after they had informed both of their respective families about the proposed wedding date, the movie, Janie Gets Married arrived at the Osage theater.  She and her new fiancé attended the 7:00PM showing of the movie and stayed through the entire second showing of the movie at 9:00PM the same night.  They informed their respective families about the prospective wedding date.  Her parent’s were not surprised and really had been wondering what was taking them so long to plan a marriage.  His parents were more curious as to what he was going to do to support a family.  They thought that June of 1947 was too close to make all the decisions that had to be made about a wife and family.  His parents were still thinking of their eldest son as becoming a farmer on a place of his own in their local neighborhood.  His plans about going to work at the Tractor Works in Charles City caught them off guard.

In April of 1947, just when field work was about to start, the eldest son heard back from the Oliver Tractor Works.  The Oliver Tractor Works wanted him to come to work immediately.  The eldest son had not expected to hear from the tractor plant so quickly.  He told his parents that he would move down to Charles City to stay with his fiancé’s parents until he could get a room of his own in Charles City.  However, he promised to be back on the farm on the weekends.

On the farm, it had been a mild winter with little snow accumulations.  April brought showers as expected and everybody expected that when the showers ceased, the growing season would be glorious.  The soil warmed quickly under the April sun.  Field work would begin soon.  Then on the last day of April, 1947 there was a large one-inch rain that delayed the prospects of getting into the fields and the rains continued into May and June.  Planting of corn and soybeans was delayed later than ever.  Our Nevada Township farmer felt that the rains of the previous harvest season of 1946 were continuing with only the interruption of a mild snow-less winter.  Only the hay seemed to be in good condition.  The hay field had been last year’s oat field in the crop rotation plan employed by our Nevada Township farmer.  The hay had actually been planted together with the oats in the spring of 1946.  The hay had grown as an “under crop” to the oats.  Then when the quick-growing oats had been harvested in the summer of 1946, the hay had continued to grow—establishing a good root system prior to the onset of winter.  As the rains continued in the spring of 1947, the planting of the crops was delayed much later than usual.  It became apparent that hay—the one crop that was already “planted” in the field in the spring of 1947—was the only crop on the farm that was developing according to schedule.

The only trouble was that the rains continued so persistently that our Nevada Township farmer had a difficult time getting the hay harvested and stored away in the barn.  He planted the corn before the soybeans.  Consequently, the soybeans were not entirely planted until well into mid-June.  Some farmers in Mower County were unable to get their soybeans planted until the 4th of July.  Our Nevada Township farmer began to wonder if it was worthwhile planting soybeans if they were planted so late.  Once in the ground, the crops still had problems because of the continuing rain.  They seemed to flounder and drown from too much rain.   Even the family garden failed because of the drowning rain.

The rain provided a backdrop to the new life of the eldest son.  The management at the Oliver Tractor Works hired the eldest son for a position on the field testing team for new tractors they were considering.  When the eldest son went to work for the field test team in April of 1947, the new prototype of the tractor that was intended to replace the old Model 80 in the line of Oliver tractors was in the final stages of its pre-production testing.  Although this prototype had no model designation number as yet, the field crew working with the prototype referred to prototype as “the new improved Model 80.”  However, the prototype was very different from the Oliver Model 80.  The Model 80 had originally been introduced as an un-styled 4-cylinder successor to the Model 18-27 (dual wheel) tractor in 1937.  The eldest son was well acquainted with the Oliver Model 18-27 (dual wheel) tractor.  His father, our Nevada Township farmer,  still farmed with a 1935 Model 18-27 on the family farm.  Our Nevada Township farmer had purchased this tractor in February of 1943.



The model designation of the “18-27” indicates that the tractor delivered 18 horsepower (hp) at the drawbar and 27 hp to the belt pulley.  Thus, the Model 80, as originally introduced in 1937, developing 29.92 horsepower (hp) at the drawbar and 38.78 hp at the belt pulley, represented a big improvement over the Model 18-27.   “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota [Part I]: Purebred Suffolk Sheep Raising” contained at the blog


As noted earlier, the smaller Model 70 had begun production in 1935 as a “styled” tractor with a streamlined hood, grill and side curtains over a 4-cylinder engine with a power lift, electric lights and electric starting as options.  (See the previous article in this series of articles “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota [Part II]: Soybeans” contained at the blog  Indeed, the popular Model 70 had even undergone a second stylization into a more rounded look in 1937.  These new post-1937 tractors were fitted with a new Oliver-built 6-cylinder engine and became known as “late-styled” tractors.  The more “square” styled 4-cylinder powered Model 70s of 1935-1937 became known as the “early styled” Model 70 tractors.  In 1940, a new small Model 60 had begun production as a styled tractor following the late-styled design of the 1940 Model 70.  The Model 60 was also introduced with the power lift, electric lights and electric starting available as optional equipment.   During all these improvements to the smaller Oliver tractors, the Model 80 remained basically unchanged.  The Model 80 still lacked even the option of electric lights, electric starting and other modern conveniences.  In the post-war era this was a tremendous handicap for the Model 80.  As a result, sales of the Model 80 lagged far behind both the more modern and “styled” Model 70 and Model 60.


With the new Model 77 not yet in production, the Oliver Company continued production of the Oliver Model 70 Tractor


Development of the new 231 c.i. 6-cylinder engine for the new improved and stylized Model 80 had actually begun in the late 1930s.  However, the war had intervened and work on the new engine had ceased and plans for the stylization of the Model 80 were postponed.  Only now with the war ended, could the Oliver Farm Equipment Company return to their plans for updating the Model 80.  The new and improved Model 80 would go into production at the Charles City Tractor Works later in 1947 with power lift, electric lights and electric starting.  It was unclear what the model designation of the new and improved six-cylinder Model 80 would be, but the entire line of Oliver tractors would appear as a coordinated line of tractors—all with the same styling and with the same options available for each tractor in the line.

With the pre-production testing of the new and improved Model 80 almost entirely completed by the time he began work on the Oliver field test crew, Nevada Township farmer’s eldest son was most actively involved in the 1947 pre-production testing of the new improved Model 60 and Model 70 tractors which would be introduced in 1948.  Under ordinary circumstances, these new 1948 Oliver tractors would have been introduced in September or October of 1947.  However, currently, the introduction of the new 1948 line of Oliver tractors was being scheduled for April of 1948.  This date would coincide with the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Nichols and Shepard Company—the oldest of the four companies that had merged in 1929 to form the Oliver Farm Equipment Company.

The field test team was testing experimental prototypes of both the improved 6-cylinder Model 70 and the improved 4-cylinder Model 60 on various farms around Floyd County.  However soon, our Nevada Township farmer’s eldest son found that some of the new experimental tractors were also being tested up in Minnesota on the farm of John Thill of Windom Township in Mower County.  As noted earlier (see the second article in this series contained called “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County Minnesota Part II: Soybeans” contained on this blog), the Thill farm was owned by John Peter Thill of Rose Creek Minnesota.  John Thill was also the owner of Thill Implement, the local Oliver dealership located in Rose Creek, Minnesota.  The eldest son was thoroughly familiar with John Thill and Thill Implement.  Ever since childhood he had been visiting the dealership with his father.

When he was scheduled to work with the team in field tests on the Thill farm in Windom Township, the eldest son would drive his 1939 Oldsmobile Business Coupe up from Charles City to stay with his parents on the home farm in Nevada Township.  While the tests on the Thill farm were being conducted, he could drive the short distance, each day, from his parent’s farm to the Thill farm to report to work.  This would save him the drive back and forth from Charles City each day.

Because of the nearly constant rain, the field tests could not always able to proceed as scheduled in the spring and early summer of 1947.  Nonetheless, the field test team did what they could to collect the information they could on the performance of the new experimental Models 70 and 60.  The team had several prototypes of the new Model 70 and Model 60 tractors that they were testing.  The new experimental Model 70 prototype tractors were fitted with a new 6-cylinder Waukesha engine.  This new engine had been designed by the Waukesha Company of Waukesha, Wisconsin.  However, this new Waukesha engine was now being built by the Oliver Company at its South Bend #2 Engine Works plant located on Walnut Street in South Bend, Indiana under a license from the Waukesha Company of Waukesha, Wisconsin.

The old 6-cylinder engine that was currently being installed in the Model 70 tractor on the production line at the Charles City Tractor Works had been designed and built by the Oliver Company.  It was a 201.3 cubic inch engine.  This engine developed 22.7 hp at the drawbar and 30.37 hp to the belt pulley.  The new Waukesha-Oliver 6-cylinder engine that was currently being tested in the new Model 70 prototype, was a 193.3 c.i. 6-cylinder engine.  Although slightly smaller in overall displacement, the new Waukesha-Oliver engine actually delivered more horsepower (32.89 hp at the drawbar and 37.17 hp to the belt pulley) than the 201.3 c.i. engine currently in production.

When his field crew was scheduled to work with the new experimental Model 70s on the Thill farm, our Nevada Township farmer’s eldest son compared the new Model 70 with the 1941 Model 70 he had driven on his father’s farm.  His father’s Model 70 tractor was clearly a two-plow tractor—pulling no more than a two bottom plow with 14-inch wide bottoms.  Here on the Thill farm, however, these new experimental Model 70s were comfortably pulling the Oliver Series 100 Plowmaster plows with three 14-inch wide bottoms in basically the same type of soil as on his father’s farm.

The new Model 60 was fitted with a 129 c.i. 4-cylinder Waukesha/Oliver engine which could develop 22.50 hp at the drawbar and 25.03 hp at the belt pulley.  This compared favorably to the 16.92 hp at the drawbar and 18.76. hp to the belt pulley of the Oliver-built 120.6 c.i. engine that was currently being fitted to the Model 60.  This effectively moved the current 1-2 plow Model 60 tractor up into the full 2-plow class of tractors.

However, the most significant of all the improvements added to all the new experimental Oliver tractors was the independent or “live” power take-off (pto).  So far, however, the field test team had not had an adequate opportunity to use this new independent pto to its best advantage.  During the early part of the summer on the Thill farm, the field test team used the pto shaft protruding from the rear of the tractors when they backed one of the experimental tractors up to a pto-driven dynamometer and hitched the coupler on the dynamometer to the spleened pto shaft on the tractor in order to measure the horsepower of the tractor at various stages during the field tests.  The team would then engage the pto by merely pulling back on a lever located behind the operator’s seat on the tractor.  They did not need to be in the operator’s seat to do this.  They could engage the pto while standing on the ground beside the tractor.  The independent pto could be engaged without engaging and/or disengaging the foot clutch.  This was the meaning of “independent” pto.  Power to the pto did not depend on the foot clutch on the regular power train of the tractor.  Later, however, when the team was using the various experimental tractors on the Thill farm to put up hay they would find that they could easily stop all forward motion of the tractor and baler without stopping the power going through the pto shaft and to the baler.  Accordingly, when the driver of the tractor noticed that a large clump of hay was about to be taken up by the pickup on the baler, he could depress the foot clutch and allow the baler to clear itself of all hay before releasing the clutch a little and allowing some of the clump of hay to be picked up a little at a time so that the baler would not plug and stall trying to deal with the entire clump all at once.  Of course, our Nevada Township farmer’s oldest son would not be present on the Thill farm for the use of the experimental tractors during this first-cutting hay harvest.  He would be gone on his honeymoon, but upon his return from his honeymoon, he would many opportunities to work with the new live pto in the harvest season ahead.

Not only did the constant rain in the spring and early summer of 1947 provide a backdrop for his work with the test crew on the Thill farm, the rain also provided a memorable backdrop for the wedding plans.  Planning of the wedding ceremony, itself, was largely handled by his fiancé and her family.  However, the eldest son needed to make arrangements about where he and his fiancé would live following the wedding.  He had never really moved out of his fiancé’s parents’ house to find a room of his own in a boarding house in Charles City, as he had originally intended.  Accordingly he and his fiancé now decided to rent a larger apartment in Charles City as the place where they would live after the wedding.  They rented the apartment immediately and this is where the eldest son moved to when he moved out of his finacé’s parents’ house.

The eldest son and his fiancé also needed to determine where they would like to honeymoon.  They settled on a trip to the Great Lakes resort region of northwestern Iowa near Lake Okoboji.  Having been employed at the Oliver Tractor Works for only about a month, the eldest son was hesitant to go up to the offices at the plant to ask for any time off for a honeymoon.  Nonetheless, when he did, he was pleasantly surprised when the Personnel Dept. extended him as much as two weeks, if he needed for his honeymoon.  They would advance him the necessary vacation time which would then be paid back as he continued to work at the Tractor Works.  Once again, he was being extended courtesy because of his status as a returning war veteran.  However, he also reflected that his future father-in-law had probably prepared the ground work for this courtesy by talking to the Personnel Department ahead of time.

Additionally, the eldest son determined that he and his fiancé should take her 1940 Ford Tudor Sedan rather than his 1939 Oldsmobile Business Coupe on their honeymoon.  With less miles on it, the Ford was in better shape that the Oldsmobile.  Furthermore, he felt the 221 c.i. V-8 engine in the Ford would get better gas mileage than the 257 c.i. straight-8 “L-head” engine in the Oldsmobile.  He felt that the 60 horsepower (h.p.) “flathead” Ford would get about 22-27 miles per gallon (m.p.g.) out on the open road.  The Oldsmobile could not be able to match this mileage.  At 23¢ per gallon the cost of gasoline was a serious concern.  The price of gas had risen 2¢ in the last year alone and was up 4¢ from the 19¢ per gallon price he had come to expect before the war.  Furthermore, his fiancé was not familiar with the semi-automatic transmission of the Oldsmobile. She was more at home, using the clutch and shifting gears in the Ford.  Taking the Ford, meant that he could share the driving with her.  Also as a Sedan with a rear seat and a trunk, the Ford offered more space inside for their luggage than the Oldsmobile Coupe.

Although, traditionally, it was the responsibility of the bride’s family to handle the arrangements for the wedding ceremony itself, our Nevada Township farmer and his wife also wanted to help with the planning of the wedding of their oldest son.  Inevitably some conflicts arose between the two families and the parents and the bride, when their ideas and expectations for the wedding collided.  Sometimes it required delicate negotiations to settle these conflicts.  The eldest son’s fiancé expressed her frustration at times by stating that she sometimes felt that she and the eldest son should simply elope and run off to the Little Brown Church in neighboring Nashua, Iowa.  The Little Brown Church was the historic church which is alluded to in the famous hymn “The Church in the Wildwood.”  Since the 1920’s the church had become famous for elopements.  However, the eldest son knew that his fiancé was not serious in wanting to go to the Little Brown Church.  She had waited too long for a wedding in her home church in Charles City.  She had been planning this wedding since she was a teenager.  She could not simply turn her back on all these is plans at this late date.  Furthermore, to elope to the Little Brown Church would lead people to think she was pregnant before her wedding.

So they continued to work away each day, making all the necessary arrangements.  As the parents of the groom, our Nevada Township farmer and his wife had responsibility for entertaining the whole wedding party prior to the wedding.  This event was called the “rehearsal dinner.”  This dinner was meant to appreciation to all the people serving in the wedding itself.  Our Nevada Township farmer and his wife booked the dinning room in the back of the Normandy Cafe in Austin for the rehearsal dinner.  Located downtown in Austin, te Normandy Café advertised itself as being Austin’s best restaurant.”

The eldest son’s fiancé invited her best friend from high school days in Charles City to be her maid of honor.  However, she also invited her new friend, the stenographer from the Osage theater to be an additional bridesmaid at the wedding.  On the groom’s side, the eldest son asked his own younger brother to serve as his best man.  His brother would be entrusted with the wedding ring that would be presented to his bride at the wedding.  He also sought an old classmate from his senior class at Lyle High School to serve as a second groomsman.

Because the bride’s parents were bearing a large portion of the expense of the wedding, they would, following tradition, be treated as guests at the wedding and reception and, thus, they would be free from any responsibilities during those ceremonies, themselves.  An official hostess would be appointed to direct the smooth running of the wedding ceremonies—especially the reception and the display of the wedding gifts.  As they arrived at the church the guests they would be greeted by the hostess.  The guests would leave their wedding gifts with the hostess before being seated by the ushers.  During the wedding ceremony the hostess would busily open each present and place them on a display table in the banquet hall in the basement of the church.  During the reception in the banquet hall, the presents could be viewed by all the guests.  Following the ceremonies the hostess would move all the presents from the church to the new apartment in Charles City where the eldest son and his fiancé would live after they returned from their honeymoon.  To serve as the “official hostess” for the wedding the bride wanted her other new friend from the music shop in Osage.  This woman was capable and organized and, since she was already married, her husband could help her move the gifts.  Together they would be listed in the wedding invitations as the “host and hostess” of the wedding.

During the actual wedding, it was, of course, raining once again.  What else was to be expected?  It seemed that the rain had become a daily event in 1947.  Guests arrived with an assortment of raincoats and umbrellas that were hung up in the coat racks of the Narthex—the room just inside the front entrance of the church.  With the farmers unable to get into the field, the wedding was a chance to get out and have a good time with the neighbors.  Accordingly, the wedding and reception held in the church in Charles City was a well attended and was an emotional release for all the families and guests.

This wedding in Charles City was just one of many that were occurring across the nation in 1947.  Indeed, there was a nationwide plethora of weddings in the United States in 1947.  The return of the veterans from the war had created a large increase the number of weddings in 1946.  However, in 1947, weddings in the United States had far surpassed even the record number of weddings in 1946.  Furthermore most of the weddings in 1947 occurred in the month of June. 1947.

Following the wedding, the entire wedding party stood in the narthex of the church and shook the hands of all the guests as they left the Nave—the main part of the church—and turned a sharp right in the Narthex and proceeded in a slow moving single file down the stairs to the banquet room located in the basement of the church.  After the guests had all passed the reception line, the eldest son and his bride and wedding party were directed back into the Nave where the photographer took the wedding pictures.

Downstairs in the banquet room, the guests filed past the opened wedding presents on the tables against the wall.  As they waited for the wedding party to appear, they were served punch in clear glass coffee cups and mints and peanuts served on matching clear glass plates.  They found that the punch was rather good and did not refuse seconds when it was offered.  Eventually, a rumor circulated that the punch had been secretly spiked with a flask of rum.  Nobody could substantiate this rumor, but many guests returned for an additional cup of punch and there gradually arose a certain boisterous joviality at the reception as time went by.  Friends of the groom’s family suspected that the grooms brother—our Nevada Township farmer’s younger son—had “fixed” punch.  He had always been a “wild boy.”  (Weeks later when the eldest son heard that his brother was suspected in this rumor, he smiled.  He was glad to hear that the war had not changed his younger brother’s carefree spirit.)  When the bride and groom did appear at the reception, they were led along the tables with wedding presents by the hostess while the photographer took pictures of the “viewing of the presents.”  Then the entire wedding party was seated at the head table and the guests were invited to take their seats at other tables in the banquet hall.  The women of the church then brought on the mashed potatoes, ham, chicken and vegetables.  Since this was June, English peas and asparagus were served because they were “in season.”  During the dinner there repeatedly arose a clinking of forks against the glasses.  One guest may start this clinking and would gradually be joined by the other guests until there was huge din in the banquet hall.  The eldest son would then lean over and kiss his new bride.  The din of noise would stop and the eating would resume.  After a while, the whole process would repeat itself again.

After the dinner the photographer gathered around the bride to take a few pictures of the eldest son kneeling down before her to remove the traditional wedding garter from her leg.  Then, the bride was requested to take her wedding bouquet up to the Nave of the church and then up the stairs to the choir loft in the balcony at the back of the church overlooking the Nave.  The hostess then announced that all young single girls should go to the Nave and gather at the back of the Nave under the choir loft.  Standing in the choir loft, the bride turned her back to the crowd below and tossed the wedding bouquet over her shoulder to the crowd gathered below.  All this was gathered on film by the photographer including a picture of the girl that caught the bouquet—who, legend had it, would be the next future bride.

Sometime during the latter stages of the wedding dinner, the best man unexpectedly absented himself from the banquet hall.  Outside the church he rounded up a few of his cousins who were in attendance and formed a conspiracy to “kidnap the bride” and hustle her off in his 1941 Buick Model 50 Super Sedan.  He had purchased this car as a used car from Usem’s in Austin, Minnesota (1940 pop. 18,307) the previous year.  The Super Sedan’s famous “torpedo” body style had been introduced by Buick in 1940.  The Super Sedan was fitted with the straight-eight 248 c.i. 107 hp. engine and 6.50 x 16 inch tires.  The Buick Division of General Motors had sold a total of 310,995 cars in 1940, which was enough to place the Buick Division in fourth place in nationwide sales among all U.S. car manufacturers.  Of that total almost one third, or 95,875, were Super Sedans models.  The popularity of the Super Sedan had continued in 1941, as Buick sold      New for 1941 was the dual carburetor system which Buick introduced as standard equipment for the Super Sedan’s eight-cylinder engine.  This boosted the horsepower of the engine in the 1941 Super Sedan up to 125 hp.

Now at the wedding of his brother, the second son climbed into the driver’s seat of his Buick while his compatriots in the “kidnapping” placed the captured bride in the back seat of the .  The photographer captured pictures of the bride being led out of the banquet hall and placed in the Buick Super Sedan.  The conspirators then drove the bride around Charles City before returning her to safe and sound to the banquet hall a few minutes later.

Then it was time for the bride and groom to change from their wedding clothes into their traveling clothes.  The bride adjourned to one of the Sunday school rooms in the basement of the church.  The bride was assisted in changing out of her wedding dress by her maid of honor.  The groom changed his clothes in the men’s bathroom in the church.  The bride and groom gave their formal wedding clothes to the hostess, who would see that these clothes were delivered to the apartment where the new couple would live after their honeymoon.  By this time, most of the guests had left the banquet hall and were now gathering in front of the church.  It was still drizzling outside, but a heavier rain was expected to return at any moment.  Consequently, the host and hostess of the wedding encouraged the bride and groom to take advantage of this lull in the rain to make their get away from the church.  As they came out of the church they found unexpected surprises.  Rather than rain the bridal couple was showered with rice thrown by the guests.  Additionally their 1941 Ford had taken on an altered appearance with “Just Married,”  “True Love” and “Best of Luck” written all over the vehicle along with figures of hearts and cupids with bows and arrows.  This artwork had been undertaken with bars of soap which had been temporarily borrowed from the bathrooms of the church.  There were white ribbons tied to the door latches on both sides, to the bumpers and to the windows of the car.  The eldest son and his bride finally made it to the car and got inside.  They started the car and drove off to a clatter of old shoes and tin cans dragging along the street.  This tail of noise makers had been tied to the rear bumper of the car.  As if this were not enough to attract attention of all Charles City residents, a line of cars, all honking their horns, followed the behind the bridal couple as they drove out of town.  The line of honking cars following the happy couple was led by the best man—our Nevada Township farmers’ younger son.  At the edge of Charles City the younger son and the line of cars behind him turned back to the church.

Now that they were no longer pursued, the eldest son pulled the car over to the side of the road.  He got out and untied the string of noise makers from the rear bumper and threw them into the trunk of the car.  He then got back into the car.  His new bride was still smiling over the unexpected “escort” out of Charles City.  She had successfully planned her wedding and the wedding had gone pretty much as she had planned.  However, it was these spontaneous and unexpected events were the things that really made the wedding and reception memorable.

After the wedding, our Nevada Township farmer drove home with wife and younger son.  It was still raining and the drizzle had turned into, yet another, 1 inch rain.  The rains continued for the rest of the month of June and into July.  Mid-July, however, brought a pleasant surprise—a rainless day.  Furthermore this surprise was followed by another surprise—a second rainless day and the drier weather continued.  The hot 90ºF temperatures of July soon dried the soil sufficiently for our  Nevada Township farmer and his younger son put the Oliver 70 and the 1935 Hart-Parr Oliver 18-27 (dual wheel) to work in the fields each with its own two-row cultivator.  They wanted to get the cultivating done, before the rains returned.  They were also in a hurry to get the first cutting of hay harvested and stored away into the barn as soon as possible.  They thoroughly expected that the rains would return at any time catching them with their hay still in the field.    However, days went by and pretty soon there had been an entire week without rain.

Because of the delay in planting in the spring, the oats did not ripen until the second week in August.  This was fortunate as the first full week in August of 1947 [August 4 through August 10, 1947] was taken up with the Mower County Fair in Austin.  Our Nevada Township farmer showed his purebred Suffolk sheep during the “open class” judging on Friday and Saturday of the Mower County Fair.  This year, our Nevada Township farmer was looking forward to the oat harvest with particular interest.

Over the summer our Nevada Township farmer had taken delivery of the new Oliver Model 15 Grainmaster combine from Thill Implement.  Since the Grainmaster combine had arrived on the farm it had been parked under the roof of a “lean-to” structure that was attached to the backside of his granary.  Here the combine had remained clean and dry during all the rains of the year.  Our Nevada Township farmer anticipated keeping the combine under this lean-to whenever it was not in use.  Thus, the Model 15 could be kept out of all the rain and bad weather.  Machinery always ran better and lasted longer when stored indoors out of the weather during the off season.  As he prepared the Model 15 combine for the oat harvest, our Nevada Township farmer and his second son removed the sickle from sickle at the front of the combine’s feeder.  They stored the sickle on some pegs high up on the wall of the granary under the lean-too.  They would need the sickle again when they combined the soybeans  in the coming fall.  Currently they needed to mount the new windrow pickup right over the top of the empty sickle bar of the feeder on the Model 15 combine.  This new windrow pickup was not manufactured by the Oliver Company.  It was manufactured by the Innes Company.  The Innes Company was largely a supplier of windrow pickups for many of the popular small combines that were currently on the market in the post-war period.  The salesman at Thill Implement had advised our Nevada Township farmer to purchase the Innes pickup rather than the Oliver windrow pickup that would have normally have come with the Model 15 combine.  Prior reports from previous farmer/customers of Thill Implement had persuaded the dealership to strongly suggest to all future potential buyers of the Model 15 combine, that they seek an Innes windrow pickup for their new Oliver combine.  Wrapping of the grain from the windrow was a major problem with traditional windrow pickups.  Made in the form of a cylinder that revolve as the “teeth” of the pickup protruded through small holes in the cylinder to lift the windrow of oats or wheat as the combine was pulled across the field.  As the cylinder brought the windrow up to feeder the teeth of the pickup would withdraw into the cylinder.  The Innes windrow pickup design had proved to result in less wrapping of grain around the axle of the windrow pickup than was the case with the Oliver’s own windrow pickups.

The purchase of the new combine had meant that our Nevada Township farmer was able to cancel the contract with his neighbor for the custom combining of both his oat crop and the soybeans with his neighbor’s large Model 10 Grainmaster combine.  This year for the first time, our Nevada Township farmer would be able to harvest his oat crop exactly when it was ready rather than waiting on someone else to get around to harvesting the crop.  He was anxious to get the new combine in the field to see how it would work.

Unlike the soybeans, which could be harvested as a standing crop in the late fall, the oats needed cut and laid into windrows in preparation for combining.  Ever since 1944, when he had first hired his neighbor to “custom combine” his oats with the Model 10 Grainmaster combine, he had been windrowing his oats.  To accomplish the windrowing of his oats, our Nevada Township farmer converted his old 6-foot horse-drawn Minnesota grain binder into a “windrower” by disengaging and removing the tying mechanism of the binder and removing the bundle carriage of the binder.  This binder had been manufactured by the Minnesota Prison Industries located in the Minnesota State Prison at Stillwater, Minnesota.  Being a horse-drawn Minnesota grain binder was a “ground-driven” machine rather than a tractor-powered binder.  Rather than obtaining power from the “power take-off shaft” of a tractor, this ground-driven binder was powered by a large “bull wheel” or drive wheel.  The large metal wheel operated the binder as it was being towed, either by a tractor or horses.

Like most grain binders the cutter bar and feeding platform extended out the left side of the binder.  The large reel of the binder located over the cutter bar turned and each “bat” on the reel gently bent the standing grain over the 6-foot wide cutter bar where the rapidly moving sickle cut the grain.  The cut grain would fall directly onto the feeder platform of the binder.  Wide canvas belts or “drapers” moving across the feeding platform would carry the cut grain to up onto the “binding table” of the grain binder.  Under normal operations the cut grain would accumulate on the binding table and be tied into bundles.  As each bundle was tied, it would be ejected out of the tying mechanism and fall down onto the bundle carriage on the right side of the binder.  When three or four bundles had been dropped into the bundle carriage, the operator riding on the binder would trip the bundle carriage and leave the collection of bundles on the ground.

Now with the binder configured as a windrower, the grain would flow straight across the binding table and out the side of the binder directly onto the ground without any interference by the tying mechanism and the bundle carriage.  Using the binder as a windrower was a one-person operation.  There was no longer a need for a person to ride the binder to trip the bundle carriage.  To pull the binder/windrower, our Nevada township farmer traditionally used his Model 28-44 standard tractor.  This would free up both of his tricycle-style tractors, the Model 70 and the Model 28-17 tractors to continue the cultivation of the row crops while he combined the oats.   Accordingly, he towed the binder/windrower to the oat field with this tractor and lined the binder up to cut the first swathe around the field.  On this first trip around the field, the tractor would be running as close to the fence as possible.  However, the wheels of the tractor would still be running down some of the grain in the swathe nearest the fence.  However on all subsequent trips around the field, the tractor would be rolling along on the stubble of the grain that had been cut on the previous trip around the field.

Once he had the entire field windrowed, he could finally bring the new Model 15 combine to the field.  To pull the combine, he again used the Model 28-44 standard tractor to keep both of his tricycle style tractors free for cultivating corn and soybeans.  As shown by the Model numbers, the Model 28-44 tractor delivered 28 h.p. to the drawbar and 44 h.p. to the belt pulley.  Since the belt pulley horsepower was also a reflection of the horsepower that the tractor would deliver through the power take-off shaft to the Model 15 combine, the tractor had 44 h.p. to deliver to the Model 15 combine.

With the oats all windrowed, our Nevada Township farmer was able to drive his Oliver Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 28-44 towing his new Oliver Model 15 Grainmaster to the oat field in the second week in August of 1947.  Because the cutter bar on the binder protruded off the left side of the binder, the binder was towed around the oat field in a counter-clockwise direction.   However, the cutter bar (with the Innes pickup attachment) was on the right side of the Model 15 Grainmaster combine.  Accordingly, he would pull the combine around the field in a clockwise direction.  From mid-July until mid-August rains ceased almost entirely.  Thus, our Nevada Township farmer was able to get all the oats harvested and stored away in the granary.

The Model 28-44 tractor, hardly, “broke into a sweat” as it towed the Model 15 combine and provided the power to the combine at same time.  Our Nevada Township farmer could see and “feel” the light crop as he combined his oats.  The windrows were not as heavy as the windrows in previous years.  Because of the excessively wet weather of early 1947, the yield of the oat crop over the whole of Mower County was reduced to 33 bushels per acre.  Since 1939, the average oat crop yield per acre in Mower County had been 35.8 bushels per acre.  Thus, the 1947 oat crop yield was down by 8% from a normal year—down by 13% from the 1945 harvest.             Just when our Nevada Township farmer was beginning to wonder if the downing rain of the early summer would be followed by a drought in the late summer, a couple of rains occurred in the third and fourth weeks of August.  These rains were actually welcomed.  The soybeans had been planted so late they actually needed the rains to continue growing.  In September and October, the weather was dry and it was a perfect harvest season.  If only the soybeans would have sufficient time to develop fully.

Having been planted somewhat earlier than the soybeans, the corn was ready to be harvested before the soybeans.  Dry weather in the fall allowed our Nevada Township farmer to get into the field and start harvesting the corn.  He knew that he was taking a risk by doing so.  The snow could come at any moment.  Snow accumulations in the soybean fields would prevent the combine from harvesting of soybeans.  Corn, on the other hand, could be harvested even with snow accumulations on the ground.  Accordingly, all during the time that he was picking corn, our Nevada Township farmer kept checking on the soybeans for dryness.  He would pick a couple pods off a soybean plant, crack the pods open, remove the soybeans, place them in his mouth and chew them.  He wanted a moisture content of around 13% for best harvesting.  Experience had taught him to make pretty close estimate of              the moisture content based on this chew test.  For a really accurate measure of moisture content our Nevada Township farmer would need to send a sample up town to the Hunting elevator for testing.  However, for an approximate test of the dryness, our Nevada Township farmer would chew a few soybeans in his mouth.  If the soybeans split easily in his mouth they were probably around 17% moisture content—too wet to harvest.  If the soybeans were crunchy and somewhat difficult to split by chewing, then they were probably about 13% moisture content.  If the soybeans were “little stones” in his mouth then the moisture content was probably down around 8%.  This was too dry for harvesting.  Indeed, it was not recommended that soybeans be harvested with a moisture content of less than 12% moisture.  Dry soybeans would shatter and there would be a good deal of loss in the field.  With the late planting and development of the soybeans in 1947, our Nevada Township farmer knew that dry beans would not be the problem this year.  The problem was going to be that soybeans would have too high a moisture content due to the lack of time for growth and ripening.

The first killing frost of 1947 occurred in early November.  After the killing frost, the leaves of the soybean plants dried up to a brown color and tended to fall off the plant altogether.  This left only the dark brown stem of the soybean plant covered with dark pods.  With his own combine, he would be able to get into the field just as soon as the soybeans dried out properly.  This was one major improvement over the past years.  Still he kept on working on the corn from day-to-day waiting on the soybeans.  Thus, he was able to get all the corn harvested and stored away in the corn crib before the soybeans were dry enough to be harvested according to his chewing test.  The amount of corn harvested revealed that the corn had recovered somewhat from the downing rain of the early summer.  Still our Nevada Township farmer found that his corn crop yield had been damaged by the drowning rains in the early summer.  He estimated that his corn crop yield was down by 10% from an average year.  He would have to wait until the  corn crop was shelled out in February or March of the coming year to be sure what his corn crop had yielded per acre.

Accordingly, in the middle of November 1947, once all the ear corn was harvested and stored safely away in the corn crib, our Nevada Township farmer could start preparing the Model 15 combine for the soybean harvest.  He removed the Innes pickup from the header of the combine, replaced the sickle into the cutter bar of the combine and re-attached the reel on the header immediately over the cutterbar.

Last summer while harvesting the oats our Nevada Township farmer had kept the cylinder speed at 1,300 r.p.m.  To reach this speed, he had positioned the two main pulleys on the combine so that the larger pulley was the “drive” pulley and the smaller pulley was the “driven” pulley.  This had allowed the cylinder speed of the combine to operate in the range of between 1,000 revolutions per minute (r.p.m.) and 1,400 r.p.m.  Both of these main pulleys were “split pulleys” that could be adjusted on their respective axle shafts to reach any speed within that range.  As the two halves of the pulley were adjusted closer toward each other, the large “v-belt” connecting the two pulleys would ride higher on the pulley.  This changed the effective diameter of the pulley and, indeed, made the pulley a larger pulley.  Naturally, as the two halves of the pulleys were adjusted further from each other—the pulley would become a smaller pulley.  By this means the cylinder speed of the combine could be adjusted to any speed within the range of 1,000 r.p.m. to 1,400 r.p.m.

However, for soybeans the cylinder speed of the combine needed to be slowed down considerably—probably to a speed of 800 r.p.m. or less.  Thus, our Nevada Township farmer removed the two main pulleys of the combine and reversed their positions so that the smaller pulley was now the “drive” pulley and the larger pulley was the “driven” pulley.  According to the Operating Instructions for his Oliver Model 15, swapping the pulleys like this should reduce the cylinder speed of the combine to a range of between 450 r.p.m. to 1,100 r.p.m.  The reason for reducing the cylinder speed when harvesting soybeans was to avoid shattering the soybeans.  As noted earlier (See the second article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County [Part II]: Soybeans”), shattered soybeans could not be processed as efficiently as whole soybeans.  Consequently, our Nevada Township farmer would be “docked” in the price, he received at the Hunting Elevator for his beans if there was an excessive amount of shattering in the crop that he delivered to the elevator.

Now with the new Grainmaster combine ready for the soybeans, our Nevada Township farmer started up his Model 70 Oliver row-crop tractor to hitch up to the combine.  The Model 70 tractor was finally free of the front-mounted cultivator that had been attached to the tractor all summer long.  Our Nevada Township farmer wanted to use the Model 70 tractor while combining because of its modern features.  The Model 70 created 28.46 h.p. at the belt pulley/power take-off shaft and 22.72 h.p. at the drawbar.  So the Model 70 would have less power available for powering the combine than his Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 28-44 standard tractor.  But the Model 70 tractor was much easier to steer and was more convenient because of the electric starting, as opposed to the hand crank on the Model 28-44.  Furthermore, the electric lights on the Model 70 tractor would allow him to combine soybeans into the evening and night during the short days of late fall.  The 70 had two headlights pointed forward and a headlight mounted on the rear of the tractor was turned to the right side of the tractor where it would shine directly on the cutterbar and feeder of the combine.  This would allow him to combine into the dark until the dew began to settle on the plants again for the evening.

After greasing the Grainmaster, our Nevada Township farmer drove the Model 70 tractor to the soybean field pulling the Grainmaster.  He was followed by his younger son driving the drove the Model 18-27 (dual wheel) pulling their old steel wheeled wagon with the Birdsell triple grain box.  This old wagon box had been made by the Birdsell Manufacturing Company from South Bend, Indiana.  Although originally, Birdsell grain boxes had been sold through the Oliver dealership network, in 1931 the Birdsell Company itself had been sold to the Allis-Chalmers Company.  When our Nevada Township farmer had first purchased this wagon at a local farm auction, the Birdsell grain box was mounted on a wagon gear with large wooden spoke wheels.  The wagon gear had the typical “fifth wheel” type of steering common to horse drawn wagons.  One of the disadvantages of this old wagon gear with its fifth wheel type steering, was that when turning the front wheels swiveled a single pivot in the center of the front bolster.  Accordingly, on any sharp turn the front wheel of the wagon needed to fit under the wagon box to complete the sharp turn.  However, the wooden spoke wheels were so large that they could not fit under the wagon box.  Accordingly, the wagon could not turn a sharp corner with the original wooden spoke wagon gear.  Even on gradual turns the front wheels would constantly rub against the side of the grain box.

Accordingly, after he had begun to use tractors on his farm, our Nevada Township farmer had moved the old Birdsell triple grain box off the old wooden spoke wagon gear and onto a new Oliver/Electric steel wheeled wagon gear that he purchased from the Thill Implement dealership in Rose Creek, Minnesota (1940 pop. 261).  This steel wheeled wagon gear had smaller wheels with steel spokes and had an automotive type of steering.  Thus, the front wheels on this new wagon gear were small enough to fit under the wagon box if there had been a need while the wagon was turning.

Now while his son parked the tractor and wagon outside the gate to the field, our Nevada Township farmer drove the Model 70 tractor and pulled the Grainmaster combine through the gate and into the soybean field.  To “open” the soybean field, our Nevada Township farmer our Nevada Township farmer backed the combine up against the fence to line the header of the combine to harvest the third and fourth rows of the eight end rows.  Maneuvering, the tractor and combine around to line the header up with these two rows meant running over a certain amount of soybean plants with the wheels of the tractor and the combine.  This, of course, meant a certain amount of loss of crop.  Still the small size of the Grainmaster Model 15 made the combine much easier to maneuver with less crop loss than had occurred the previous year when his neighbor had harvested the end rows using his large Model 10 Grainmaster.

Next our Nevada Township farmer reached around behind himself to grab the lever on the combine and lowered the header of the combine.  The lowest hanging bean pods on the soybean plants might be only about 2” off the ground.  To harvest all the soybeans, even these low hanging pods our Nevada Township farmer lowered the header on the combine so that the cutter bar would “shave the ground.”  Next, he engaged the power take-off (p.t.o.) on the tractor.  As he released the clutch on the tractor the combine shook as it came to life.  Then he pressed the clutch pedal with his left foot, the power take off was disengaged and the combine ceased operating while our Nevada Township farmer shifted the tractor into first gear.  As he released the clutch again, the combine started operating again as the tractor started moving forward.

With the soybeans planted in 40 inch rows the six (6) foot cutterbar on the Grainmaster could cut and harvest two rows of soybeans as combine passed across the width of the field, harvesting the third and fourth end rows.  As he did so the wheels of the tractor and the combine were able to drive down the spaces between the fifth and sixth rows of the eight end rows on this near end of the field.  So these rows were not damaged by the wheels running directly over soybean plants.  Still a certain amount of loss crop was incurred as the dried soybean plants passed under the hitch of the combine.

Reaching the other side of the field, our Nevada Township farmer disengaged the p.t.o. and reached around behind himself to pull the lever located on the hitch of the combine to raise the header.   Then he backed the tractor and combine around to harvest the fifth and sixth rows.  This time the tractor would pass over the stubble of the rows he had just combined.  Before starting out again with the combine, stopped the tractor, disengaged the p.t.o. and dismounted the tractor to check the condition of the soybeans that he was gathering in the grain tank of the combine.  He was pleasantly surprised to see that the crop was quite clean and free of trash.  Furthermore, there was hardly any splitting of the soybeans.  Apparently, the cylinder speed was correct.  He also checked the straw and waste material that was coming out of the back of the combine.  There appeared to be no soybeans or un-threshed soybean pods among the straw.  The combine was apparently doing a thorough job of getting all the soybeans threshed.

After checking on these things, our Nevada Township farmer remounted the operator’s seat of the Model 70 tractor and engaged the p.t.o. and shifted the tractor into gear and started forward again.  Another pass across the end rows and return, meant that all the end rows on the near end of the field had been harvested.  Now his younger son could drive the Model 18-27 tractor and the wagon into the soybean field and park the tractor and wagon next to the fence.  Before attempting to start across the length of the field with the new combine, our Nevada township farmer pulled the combine along side the grain wagon.  He reached around behind himself to disengage the clutch on the combine.  Then he dismounted the tractor and walked back to the left side of the combine.  He positioned the grain tank unloading elevator to reach over into the wagon.  Reaching down under the grain tank he pushed down the elevator control lever to engage the unloading elevator.  Then he mounted the operator’s seat of the tractor and engaged the power take-off on the tractor again.  When he let out the clutch pedal again, the p.t.o. shaft began spinning, but the only the grain unloading elevator on the combine began operating.  Soybeans soon began flowing out of the end of the unloading elevator into the wagon.      Once the 20-bushel grain tank of the combine was entirely emptied into the wagon, our Nevada Township farmer disengaged the p.t.o. then dismounted the tractor to re-positioned the unloading elevator back into its transport position and pull up on the elevator control lever to disengage the unloading elevator.  He instructed his youngest son to follow the combine with the Oliver 18-27 and the wagon to the opposite end of the field.  While he felt that he might be able to complete a “full round” (two complete lengthwise passes of the field) with the combine before emptying the grain tank, he knew upon reaching the other end of the field he would need to harvest the end rows on the far end of the field in addition to making a return trip full round.  He was unsure whether he could do all this without unloading the 20-bushel grain tank.  Just to be sure, he would empty the grain tank at the other end of the field and then his son could return to the near end of the field and park the tractor and wagon.  After that he should be able to empty his tank after each round until the wagon was full.

Now, our Nevada Township farmer drove the Model 70 around to line the combine up with two rows in the middle of the field.  Here, he would again have the wheels of the tractor pass down the space between the neighboring rows.  While avoiding running over those two rows, the hitch of the combine would again cause some damage to the bean plants in those two rows.  However, on his return trip he would drive the tractor down the stubble of the rows he was now harvesting.  His field would then be “open” and on each succeeding round of the field he would be able to drive over the stubble and would not need to damage any other rows of un-harvested crop.  Our Nevada Township farmer would combine up one side of this pathway of stubble across the center of the field and return down the other side.  The pathway of stubble across the field would become wider and wider with each round, he would make across the field.

The Operating Instructions for the combine which had come with the Oliver Model 15 combine recommended that the tractor powering the combine be operated at “wide open” full throttle.  Consequently, as he started out on his first trip across the field he started out with his tractor in first gear.  With the throttle wide open, the ground speed of the Model 70 tractor was 2.56 miles per hour (m.p.h.).  Our Nevada Township farmer could see that at this speed, the reel over the cutter bar was turning a little too fast.  Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer shifted the Model 70 up into second gear.  Second gear allowed the tractor to pull the combine across the field at a top speed of 3.47 m.p.h.

Reaching the far end of the soybean field, our Nevada Township farmer combined all the end rows on the far end of the field.  Then he emptied the grain tank again into the wagon.  Then he told his younger son to take the Oliver 18-27 and wagon back across the field over the narrow pathway of stubble extending across the field.  He then told his younger son to park the wagon and tractor on the “near” end of field and take a sample of the soybeans from the wagon and have it tested uptown.  The younger son, shifted the old Model 18-27 into high gear, and headed off down the narrow strip of stubble to the opposite end of the side of the field at 4.15 m.p.h.  Then he turned the tractor off, collected a sample of soybeans from the wagon and walked the jar of beans up to the house and got the keys to the family Chevrolet Sedan and drove the nine miles to Lyle where the Hunting elevator tested the sample tested for moisture content.

Our Nevada Township farmer followed his son down the stubble, harvesting the next two rows.  Upon reaching the near end of the field, he emptied the grain tank and head back over the field harvesting the two rows on the opposite side of the stubble pathway.  After every “round” of the field, our Nevada Township farmer would disengage the p.t.o. shaft on the Model 70 tractor and taxi over to where the wagon was sitting.  There he again positioned the grain unloading elevator over the wagon and then disengage the hand clutch on the combine so that only the elevator would be powered by the tractor and then he would engage the tractor’s p.t.o. again.  Each time the soybeans flowed out the end of the unloading elevator and into the wagon until the wagon was full.  As he came back across the field with the combine and the grain tank filling with soybeans, he looked out and saw that his younger son had already driven the old 1939 Chevrolet Model JD ¾-ton truck out to the soybean field.  He could see his son in the back of the truck sweeping all the debris out of the truck, in preparation for loading the truck bed with soybeans.

As our Nevada Township farmer parked the combine beside the truck, he heard the report from his youngest son that the Hunting elevator found the moisture content of these soybeans was right at 13%.  Our Nevada Township smiled.  His “chewing test” had been proved correct.  This meant that the beans would be not be “docked” in price because the moisture content of the soybeans were higher than the 13.5% allowed.  Moisture content of more than 13.5% created a chance that the soybeans would mold and spoil while in storage.

Now his second son would be able to take the Model 18-27 and the wagon up to the house and hitch the wagon on to the back of the family Chevrolet Sedan and take the wagon load of soybeans to the elevator.  In the past, when he had no combine of his own, our Nevada Township farmer had worried, as he waited for his neighbor to show up with the custom combine his soybeans would become too dry to harvest or that the snow would come and prevent the harvest altogether.  At this stage of dryness, harvesting the soybeans would result in excessive splitting of the soybeans.  As noted above, if he delivered soybeans to the Hunting elevator in Lyle with an excessive amount of splitting among the soybeans, the price of the soybeans he received would be docked.

Due to the late planting this year, our Nevada Township farmer was faced with the opposite problem.  This year his soybeans might be docked in price because they are too high in moisture content of the soybeans might be too “rubbery” or high in moisture content.  At the end of the day when the grain wagon was full of beans, our Nevada Township farmer told his son to drive the Model 18-27 and the tractor up to the building site and park the wagon in the alley of the corn crib until they could determine what to do about the soybeans.

That very night the temperatures fell down to 10º F and during the days that followed in middle part of November, the temperatures remained cold enough that the ground froze solid.  Our Nevada Township farmer welcomed the cold weather.  The frozen ground also presented no problems.  The frozen ground provided a firm base in the fields for the tractors and machinery.  Better to have a frozen ground, rather than the muddy quagmire of the 1946 harvest.

Each day that passed dried the beans still more.  When combining the next day, he kept checking the soybeans in the grain tank his combine.  If he noticed an unusual amounts of split soybeans in the grain tank, he adjusted the pulleys on the combine, right there in the soybean field, to slow the cylinder speed of the combine, still slower.

This year the harvest was moving along perfectly—so far.  However, our Nevada Township farmer was worried that the cold weather may portend the coming of snow.  If an early snow storm occurred it could prevent him prom completing the soybean harvest.  At noon while eating dinner and in the evening after milking the cows he listened to the weather reports on Austin’s own KAAL radio at 1480 kilocycles (kc) on the radio band.  Luckily, he had not heard anything about snow—so far.   Our Nevada Township farmer also turned the radio back to 830 kc.  This was WCCO radio out of Minneapolis.  Broadcasting at 50,000 watts WCCO could be heard far beyond the boundaries of Minnesota.  Thus, WCCO advertised itself as the radio of the entire “Great Upper Midwest” region of the United States.  He listened to this station for any weather changes over the broader area of the Midwest region which might come his way.

The average yield of soybeans in Mower County was only 13 bushels per acre—down 13.3% from the previous year.  However, now in November of 1947, the price of soybeans had reached $3.44 per bushel a new record high price—up 30¢ per bushel from November of 1946.  Our Nevada Township farmer expected that any day the price would fall with the soybeans coming to market.  Accordingly he intended to sell whatever he could straight from the field before the market price fell.  Thus, he told his younger son to bring their old Chevrolet ¾ ton truck out to the field and leave it beside the wagon and then when the wagon was full he would tell his second son to take the wagon to the Hunting elevator in Lyle, Minnesota.  While his son was gone to Lyle, our Nevada Township farmer would continue to combine soybeans and empty the grain tank into the back of the truck until his son returned.

His son drove the tractor and the wagon to the yard and unhitched the tractor and hitched the wagon hitched behind the family car.  It was a slow trip to Lyle with the steel-wheeled wagon.  Rather than drive down U.S. #218 with the wagon, he took the “back way.”  U.S. #218 was paved and would have some pretty fast traffic with a lot of semi-trucks.  It might be dangerous going that way.  The back way offered gravel roads the whole way to Lyle and promised much less traffic.  With the steel-wheeled wagon rattling along over the frozen gravel roads behind the car, the youngest son could only travel at about 15 miles per hour (mph).   The trip took about half an hour to reach Lyle with the load of soybeans.  It was one of those cold, crisp days of winter with not a stitch of snow to be seen on the ground.  The temperature had dipped down to almost 10º F last night.  However, now the sun was shinning and it was warming up to nearly 30º F.  The back way to Lyle brought him into town from the east on the road past the high school which intersected with U.S. #218 just north of Attlesey blacksmith shop.  Then, it would be just a matter of crossing #218 which ran north and south through town.  The Hunting elevator was located south of the intersection on the west side of #218.   Along the west side of west of #218 to the north of the elevator there was a large space of land where trucks and wagons lined up waiting on their turn to get into the elevator.  There was a large line up today.  It seemed that everybody was selling soybeans.  Everybody had the same fear that the price of soybeans would fall before they could sell their soybeans.

As noted above, soybeans had not stopped climbing in price since the end of the war.  Currently the high prices for soybeans had three principal supports.  The first support was the continuing growth of new markets for the peacetime use of plastics made from soybeans.  Secondly, there was a nationwide decrease in the number of soybeans coming into the market in 1947 due to the poor crop nationwide caused by the wet weather and late planting of the soybean crop.  This lack of supply tended to raise the price of soybeans.  Thirdly, there had been a general rise in all farm commodity prices ever since this last June, when Secretary of State William C. Marshall had addressed the 1947 graduating class at Harvard University outlining the new plan to aid Europe which would bear his name—the Marshall Plan.  Soybean and corn prices rose significantly anticipating that corn and soybeans would make up a large portion of this aid to Europe.  Indeed, corn had prices had set a new all-time record high price of $2.10 in June of 1947.

While he waited in the line of trucks and wagons, the younger son had a chance to talk with some of the young men working at the Hunting elevator.  Some of them he had known since he was in high school.  Many of the staff at the Hunting elevator were, like himself, returning war veterans.  When it was his turn to enter the elevator alleyway, the younger son edged the car forward until he pulled the front wheels of the wagon on to the lift located in the alleyway.  Then he unhitched the wagon and drove the car forward off the scales which formed a major portion of alleyway of the elevator.  Now the wagon full of soybeans was weighed and the total weight was recorded on a slip of paper.  Then the staff working at the elevator took a sample of the soybeans out of the wagon to test for dryness and split or shattered soybeans.  Then they opened the tailgate of the old Birdsell grain box and let the soybeans fall out of the wagon and into a grate on the floor of the alleyway.  A large auger under the grate was engaged which pulled the soybeans to a large hopper under the floor where, hidden from view a large vertical elevator would lift the soybeans up to the top of a storage silo.  There the soybeans would wait until they were loaded into a box car of the Chicago-Milwaukee and St. Paul (Milwaukee Road) railroad which passed through Lyle in a north-south direction.  The Milwaukee Road train tracks  were located immediately behind the Hunting elevator with a separate track siding close to the elevator on which boxcars could be parked for loading and unloading.  The Hunting elevator would ship the soybeans to a market (terminal) elevator in either Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Chicago, Illinois; or St. Paul, Minnesota, where ever the Hunting elevator could find the best price for the soybeans.

Once the soybeans would no longer flow out of the wagon, the staff at the elevator proceeded to push a button on the wall of the alleyway which activated an electric motor and winch which raised the lift under the front wheels of the wagon to allow the rest of the soybeans to flow out the tail gate of the Birdsell grain box.  When the wagon was empty of soybeans the lift was lowered and the empty wagon was weighed and this weight was subtracted from the earlier weight.  This provided the Hunting elevator with a accurate figure of the number weight in pounds (lbs.), of the soybeans contained in this wagon load.  Divide this weight by 52.2 lbs. (the weight of a bushel of soybeans) and the number of bushels of soybeans in the wagon could be determined.  This is how our Nevada Township farmer would be paid for his soybean crop.  Once the wagon was empty, the younger son backed the car up to the wagon and hitched it up to the wagon and pulled away from the elevator and headed home again.  In the yard of the farm he once again unhitched the car from the wagon and hitched the wagon to the Oliver 18-27 and headed for the soybean field once more.  Upon reaching the soybean field again he parked the wagon and tractor.  He noted that their old Chevy truck was now full of soybeans.  He checked his watch and saw that he would have enough time to deliver this truck load of soybeans to the elevator, but first he would wait on his father to complete the current round with the combine.  His father would want to hear if there were any changes in the prices at the elevator.  Each time his son returned from the Hunting elevator, our Nevada Township farmer would inquire about the prices and each time he was pleasantly surprised to hear that the price was remaining steady.  They were still receiving about $3.44 per bushel for the soybeans.  So it went all during the soybean harvest until all the soybeans were harvested and sold to the Hunting elevator.

The last of the soybeans were combined just the day before Thanksgiving in 1947.  As put the combine away in its spot in the machine shed and walked toward the house, he noticed some snow flakes.  It had started to snow.  It snowed all night and in the morning there was six inches of snow covering the ground.  This was the start of a very cold and “closed” (large accumulations of snow) winter of 1947-1948.  He had finished his combining just in the nick of time.  Any soybeans left in the field that night would have been lost.  He credited the new little Grainmaster combine with saving the soybean crop.  He shuttered to think what would have happened if he had been forced to wait on his neighbors custom combine to harvest the soybeans.  He might have lost the whole soybean crop.  Considering the high price of soybeans at this time, that would have been a big loss to the family income.  The new Grainmaster combine had certainly proved its worth in its very first year on the farm.

As he sat down in the house and figured up his crop yield, according to the slips his son had brought home from the elevator, he could see that the wet weather of the spring and early summer had taken a toll on his crop.  All across Mower County it was the same story.  There had been a 13% decline his soybean yield in Mower County in 1947.  However, the high price farmers were now receiving for their soybeans more than made up for the loss of yield.   Once again, soybeans had saved the family income.  Not only did the high price of soybeans save them from a loss in income caused by the low soybean yield, it also helped recover some of the losses he had suffered in his corn yield in 1947.  Once again, just as in 1945, diversification, and specifically diversification into soybeans, had saved the day.

Allis-Chalmers Farming (Part V): Tractors on the Engstrom Farm

Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4

Allis-Chalmers Tractors at Work on the Engstrom Farm


Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the September/October 2007 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

            When the Second World War ended in September of 1945, it was clear that great  changes were being wrought in rural America by the fact that the modern farm tractor was replacing the horse on the average farm in rural America.  During the war, new modern farm tractors had been hard to obtain because of the mobilization of the whole economy of the United States for the war effort.  However, once the war was over, sales of farm tractors skyrocketed.  As use of the farm tractor became universal in rural America, the cost of producing an average bushel of corn began to decrease.  Consequently, there was a long term decrease in the market price of corn which had started prior to the recent war and was now continuing with abandon in the post-war era.  The family farmer needed to raise more bushels of corn to make up for the decrease in the price of each individual bushel.  Thus, the long-term decrease in the price of a bushel of corn, was putting the economic pressure farmer to “get big or get out” of farming altogether.  The effects of this economic trend were evident.   Whereas, in 1940, farming had employed 18% of the North American population, by 1950, just ten (10) years later, this figure had fallen to only 12.2%.  During the same period of time, the number of farms in the United States had decreased by almost 1 million farms, from a figure of 6,102,000 farms to a low of 5,388,000 farms.  At the same time, the average size of the United States farm had increased from 175 acres in 1940 up to 213 acres just ten years later in 1950.

            The trend toward bigger farms had always had its first and most deleterious effect on rental farm agreements.  A rental farm agreement usually meant a division of the crops in half, with one half going to the renter, who performed the work on the land, and the other half going to the landlord, who owned the land.  In other words, two families were attempting to live off the crops of the same piece of land.  Even now in the post-war era, the owner of a small farm of 160 acres or less might be able to make a living.  However, chances of a renter bring able to make a living on his share of the crop of a 160 acre farm were becoming increasingly doubtful.  The story of the Engstrom farm of LeRoy Township, Minnesota is one such story of a post-war farm rental agreement.  Like the previous article in this series, this story begins with a Swedish immigrant to America.

Just like Albert Anderson in the article in the previous issue of Belt Pulley magazine, August Engstrom was born in Sweden and immigrated to the United States.  (See the article called “The Allis-Chalmers Model WC: the Styled Version” contained in the July/August 2007 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  However unlike Albert Anderson, who immigrated to the United States in 1909 and came through the immigration process at Ellis Island in New York harbor, August Engstrom was a part of the much larger Swedish wave of immigration which arrived in the United States between 1865-1892, before United States Immigration Service had even opened the Ellis Island facility.

Born in Sweden on April 24, 1874, August Engstrom had immigrated to America with his parents in 1881 as a seven-year-old child.  The family settled near Rockford, in northern Illinois.  In 1900, the age of 24, August married Edna Preston.  Together they moved to a farm near Byron, Illinois, in Winnebago Township in Winnebago County, Illinois.  They entered into a rental agreement to work the farm.  However, they dreamed of saving enough money to purchase their own farm.  On this farm in Illinois, they lived and started their family with the birth of a daughter, Frances (Ruth), in 1902 and a son, Verne H., on January 28, 1904.

This was the “golden age” of farming and by 1905, August and Edna were ready to move to a farm of their own.  They took the money that they had saved and moved to LeRoy Township in Mower County along Minnesota’s southern border with Iowa.  There they purchased and moved onto a large 320-acre farm located in southeastern LeRoy Township in 1906.  On their new farm their family continued to grow with the birth of a daughter, Danna, born in 1907; another daughter, Doris, in 1908; a son, Glenn, born in 1911; another son, Charles, born in 1913 and, finally, a last son, Eugene born in 1917.

Excluding the building site and the small 15-acre permanent pasture located just north of the buildings, the farm consisted of about 300 arable acres.   On this farm, there was about 70 acres of hay and 100 acres of oats were raised each year.  All the hay and nearly all the oats would be consumed on the farm as feed for the horses, chickens and pigs.  Corn was the largest cash crop.  About 70 acres of corn was raised each year.  Initially, barley had served as the farm’s second cash crop.  However, during the prohibition years there had been less demand for barley for malting beer.  Accordingly, August and his neighbors, in Mower County had switched to raising flaxseed.  Flaxseed was predominately processed and used as “linseed oil.”  Linseed oil was used on leather, mainly horse harnesses, to preserve softness and flexibility of the harness.   Each year, the crops were rotated from field to field in order to avoid depleting the soil.  In this rotation, the hay field of the prior year became the pasture land for the current year.  The old pasture land of the prior year had to be plowed and converted into a corn field.

Naturally, August needed help to work such a large diversified farm.  First there were a great number of horses that needed care and feed year around.  Then there were the dairy cows that needed to be milked and fed twice a day, the pigs and the chickens to be fed and cared for.  Accordingly, when Lewis Hatlestad, the United States Census taker, showed up on the Engstrom farm on Friday, April 29, 1910, he found that a 23-year old hired hand, Joe Thelen, was living on the farm with the family.  Joe helped with milking the cows and feeding the pigs in the winter.  During the summer, Joe helped with the field work.  However, the size of the farm required that August hire on even more help, on a temporary basis, during the busy times of the summer.

Nonetheless, these years continued to be good years for the Engstrom family fueled by high commodity prices for farm products during the First World War.  Following the post-war recession which occupied the first few years of the 1920s, good prices for farm cash crops—most importantly corn—returned.  Though the price of corn never reached the high level it achieved during the First World War, there was a return to a decent price which allowed a corn farming family, like August and Edna, made a good living on the farm even after paying the hired help.  Like their neighbors, they suffered through the worst part of the Great Depression and felt the economy start to recover in the mid-1930s.  However, by 1940, August was 65 years of age and Edna was 64 years of age.  Thus, they began to plan for a retirement from farming.  Because none of their children were showing any immediate interest in taking over the farming operation, August and Edna determined to sell the farm.

Among the people who were interested by the news that the Engstrom farm might be up for sale, was Frank Klassy who was living with his father on the farm immediately adjacent to the Engstrom farm to the west.  Consistent readers of the Belt Pulley will recognize that Frank Klassy was the son of Matt and the late Ada (Loveland) Klassy.  (See the article called “The Decline of the LeRoy Equipment Company” contained in the November/December 2006 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  As noted previously, Matt and Ada had purchased the present Klassy farm from Hans Rudolph in 1909.  Born on September 10, 1902, Frank had spent most of his young life on this farm.  Along the way there had been much hardship and tragedy.  Frank’s younger brother Frederick was killed in a bizarre accident on October 19, 1922, when he choked to death on a pebble that he threw up into the air and caught in his mouth.  Frank’s mother Ada died on March 16, 1934, after an illness and an unsuccessful operation in Rochester, Minnesota.  To help his father on the farm, Frank had ceased his schooling when he was 15 years of age.  It would take Frank eight additional years to complete his high school education.  Eventually, Frank graduated from LeRoy Public Schools, at the age of 26 years, in the class of 1929 with his younger brother, Wilbur.

A few days after graduating from high school, Frank Klassy married Esther Ann Lamon on June 5, 1929 in an open air ceremony held at the LeRoy Municipal Wildwood Park.  (Wildwood Park has since become Lake Louise State Park.)  Together they moved back into the house on the farm with Frank’s parents.  In May of 1930 Esther gave birth to a daughter Jeanne.  Later, the family was expanded with the birth of a son, Donald F. Klassy, born on April 27, 1932 and another son, Robert E. (nicknamed Buzz) Klassy born on August 4, 1936.


Wildwood Park near LeRoy, Minnesota (Now incorporated into the larger Lake Louise State Park).


Now in 1943, he and Esther were looking forward to having a home of their own.  The Engstrom farm looked like the perfect opportunity.  They would be living on their own farm, yet they would be close enough to the home farm that Frank would still be able to cooperate with his father in summer field work and share horses and farm machinery.  Accordingly, Frank and Esther began to negotiate the purchase of the Engstom farm.

However, Frank’s father, Matt, had also been thinking about the future.   He was now 68 years of age and he had been widowed for nine years now.  He was tired of living alone.  He had been seeing Doretta Spencer, a widow who lived in the town of LeRoy.  Together they had made plans to marry.  Matt wanted to retire from active farming but did not want to leave farming altogether.  He made plans that when Frank and Esther moved off the farm, he would also move off the farm.  He and Doretta would marry and they would move into her stucco house located at the corner of Luella Street and North Broadway Avenue directly across from the Presbyterian Church in the village of LeRoy.  Matt thought that he and Doretta might live rather comfortably in retirement on the rental income they could receive by renting out the home farm.

As he related these new plans to Frank and Esther, Frank began to think about purchasing the home farm from his father rather than purchasing the Engstrom farm.  In order to remain involved in farming, Matt, in turn, began to think about purchasing and renting out the Engstrom farm.  With the current record high prices that were being received by farmers for their crops because of the World War in Europe and the Pacific, Matt wanted to remain involved in farming to some extent.  Accordingly, in 1943, public records reflect that Matt purchased the 320 acre farm from August and Edna Engstrom.  However, inside the Klassy family the purchase of the Engstrom farm is referred to as a “trade” or “swap of farms” between Matt and his son, Frank.

In actual fact, August Engstrom sold only a 5/6ths interest (or an 83.34%  interest)  in the farming operation to Matt Klassy.  August Engstrom retained the remaining 1/6th interest (or 16.66% interest) in the farm.  Probably, he wanted to keep his options open for the future, in case his own children expressed an interest in purchasing the farm sometime in the future.  If ever Matt Klassy wanted to sell the whole farm to a third party, August would have agree to sell his 1/6% interest to the same third party.  Few buyers would be interested in purchasing only part interest in a farm.  The 1/6 interest retained by August would give him a chance to buy back the 5/6ths interest in the farm, if he so chose, before the whole farm was sold to a third party.

Both Matt and August, hoped to live in retirement on the landlord’s share of the crop from the farm.  So the crops raised in the farming operation were now expected to support three families.  The renting family collected the renters share of the crop and the landlord’s share of the crop would be split between Matt Klassy and August Enstrom.

On October 10, 1944, Matt married Doretta Spencer and he moved into Doretta’s house.  Matt and Doretta planned to live off the proceeds of the Klassy home farm to his son, Frank, and from the rent obtained from his 5/6ths interest in the Engstrom farm.              The degree of comfort that this arrangement allowed for each of the three families rested heavily on the relatively high prices that the farmers of North America were receiving for the crops they raised during the current war.  Matt Klassy and August Engstrom found renters for their farming operation during the war.  However, during the post-war era, the landlords once again needed to find another renter.  They advertised and they found Curt Foster.

Born on December 9, 1921 to James C. and Myrna M. (Gorder) Foster, Curt had been raised on the family farm in Jenkins Township, Mitchell County in northern Iowa.  He married Mary Ellen Aspel and they started a family.  In 1947, a daughter Karen Kay Foster was born.  In the months following the birth of Kay, Curt and Mary became aware of an opportunity to rent the large Engstrom farm located in LeRoy Township about 17 miles northeast of their hometown of Riceville, Iowa.  The Engstrom farm was located just across the Iowa-Minnesota State Line.  Curt and Mary moved their family onto the Engstrom farm on March 1, 1948.  Other changes were afoot in 1948.  On December 8, 1948, August Engstrom died.  Eventually his 1/6th share in the farm was sold, by his widow, Edna, to Matt Klassey.

Moving to the large Engstrom farm, Curt Foster worried about the changes that had been wrought on farming by the recent war.  The much anticipated post-war recession had not occurred because of continued economic aid which the United States had offered to war-torn countries of Europe and Asia including Germany and Japan under the Marshall Plan.  The Marshall Plan pledged the United States to financing the recovery of all these countries.  Based on the demand for corn created by the Marshall Plan, the price of corn remained at around $2.00 per bushel and United States farmers were encouraged to continue to grow crops from “fence row to fence row” just as they had during the war.  Now in early 1948, Curt Foster was still worried, however. The countries in Europe and Asia would, sooner or later, recover and the Marshall Plan would come to an end.  What would happen then?  Perhaps the post-war recession would only be postponed and not avoided altogether.

Before moving to the Engstrom farm, Curt had sold his 1947 crop of corn.  The very wet spring of 1947 had resulted in very late planting of corn in Mitchell County, Iowa.  Consequently, as a result, the average corn yield in Mitchell County was reduced by 31.0% in 1947.  Luckily, the nation-wide production had also been reduced.  This meant that there was no glut of corn on the market and the price remained higher than normal—$2.74 per bushel as an average for the full month of January 1948.  Riceville was located on the border between Mitchell County and Howard County Iowa.  Both Mitchell County and Howard County were heavy producers of corn.  Corn predominated in these two Iowa counties as the major cash crop.  However, in Mower County, Minnesota, where the Engstrom farm was located, significant inroads were being made by a new cash crop—soybeans.


An advertisement for the mobilization of United States agriculture for the Second World War


Mobilization for the war effort had developed many new products and caused new industries to spring up.  One of these new industries was the plastics industry.  Plastics had been required for the war effort.  However, in the post-war era, plastics had converted easily into many new peacetime uses.  Consequently, the post-war demand for plastics was still broad and growing.  Soybeans were the main raw material used in making plastics.  As a result, the market demand for soybeans, grew proportionately with the demand for plastics.  United States production of the soybeans nearly doubled from 107,197,000 bushels for the 1941 growing season to 187,524,000 in 1942.  However, demand for soybeans remained so strong that the price actually rose from $1.55 per bushel in 1941 to $1.60 per bushel in 1942.  When the war ended, in 1945, despite the continuing increase in production of soybeans during each year of the war, the price of soybeans had actually increased to $2.03 per bushel.  Rather than falling off at the end of the war, as industries converted over to peacetime production, the price of soybeans rose, in 1946, to $2.57 per bushel.

In 1941, only 17,800 acres in the whole of Mower County had been planted to soybeans.  However, during the war, the amount of acreage of the county planted to soybeans had grown to 51,500 acres.  Ever since the end of the war, soybeans continued to grow as a second cash crop on farms in Mower County.  Already in 1947, farmers of Mower County were planting 40% of their cash crop acreage in soybeans.  Because the terribly wet conditions and the late planting had ruined the soybean crop in 1947, soybean prices had continued to soar until now in early 1948 they were reaching $3.33 per bushel.


Many peacetime uses for plastics were discovered after the Second World War creating a good market for soybeans in the post-war era


In Mitchell County, prior to his move to Engstrom farm, Curt had raised only corn as his cash crop.  However, with the move to the Engstrom farm, Curt had determined to diversify his farming operation by raising soybeans.  The large Engstrom farm would certainly offer Curt Foster opportunities for diversification into new cash crops in ways that were not available if he were renting a smaller farm.  At 320 acres the Engstrom farm was twice the size of the ordinary 160 acre “homestead farm.”  Continue reading Allis-Chalmers Farming (Part V): Tractors on the Engstrom Farm

Case Farming Part IV: The LeRoy Equipment Company

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J.I. Case Company Part IV:

The Rise of the LeRoy Equipment Company


Brian Wayne Wells

              (As Published in the July/August 2006 of the

Belt Pulley Magazine)

Poster advertisement of the new Case dealership in LeRoy, Minnesota
Poster advertisement of the new Case dealership in LeRoy, Minnesota

All farm machinery manufacturing companies depend heavily on their various franchisees and sales staff for the success of the company. The story of the sales component of any company consists of hundreds of small individual stories. The J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company is no exception to this rule. One thread in the continuing story of the sales component of the J.I. Case Company began on a farm in Carroll County, Iowa near the small town of Lanesboro on January 1, 1914. On that day, a second child, another son was born to Otto and Hazel (Coomes) Wetter. This son was named Duane E. Wetter. Duane joined the first born, Maurice, who had been born to the family in 1913. Later in 1916, a daughter, Winifred E., born to the family. The Wetter family operated the farm in Carroll County until 1917 when they purchased another farm in Redwood County, Minnesota.   This farm was located in Woodbury, Township within Redwood County.

Just to the south of Woodbury Township lay Lamberton Township. Here on December 13, 1918, another thread in this same story, began with the birth of a fourth son, Merle to the family of John and Ella (Werner) Krinke. Both of Ella Krinke’s parents had immigrated to the United States from Prussia in Germany. While John’s father, Christian William Krinke, had also immigrated from Germany, his mother, Mary, had been born in Wisconsin. After living in Wisconsin, and near Rochester, Minnesota and near Blue Earth Minnesota, Christian and Mary (Adler) Krinke purchased a 320-acre farm three (3) miles northwest of the town of Lamberton, Minnesota in 1905. This was the farm where John Krinke grew up. In 1910, John and Ella had married. In 1912, a son, Darold was born to the couple. Then another son, Kenneth, was born in 1913. In 1914, upon the retirement of his parents, John and Ella took over total control of the farming operations. Meanwhile the family kept expanding. A third son, Donald was born in 1915. Following the birth of Merle in 1918, two daughters were born, Mildred in 1921 and Ruth in 1922. Finally, two more children, Robert born in 1925 and Betty born in 1929 rounded out the family of two parents and eight children.

On the 320-acre farm, John and Ella raised about 20 acres of rye, and 20 acres of wheat for cash crops. However, the family’s largest crop was about 100 acres of corn. Some of the corn was used as feed for the pigs and the beef cattle they also raised on the farm. However, 40-50 acres of the arable land on the farm had to be designated each year for the raising of oats to feed the many horses they used for power on the farm. As the older sons came of age, they helped their father with the field work. To effectively and efficiently operate this 320 acre farm took a lot of manpower and horsepower. As John’s sons grew up they helped their father with the work on the farm. The family had a five (5) horse hitch and a six (6) horse hitch which they employed when plowing in the fall and the spring. Including riding horses, the Krinke family at one point, owned and operated 22 horses on their farm. Additionally, the family milked 10 to 12 Milking Shorthorn cows twice a day as a part of their farming operations. Kenneth, who is currently living in Lamberton at the age of 93 years, remembers that he and his brothers each had to milk three (3) cows every morning before they headed off to school. The family also raised a substantial herd of Hereford beef cattle. Thus, another large portion of the arable land on the farm had to be set aside just for raising hay for pastures for the dairy cows, the beef herd and the horses.

Besides the substantial help provided by their boys, John and Ella still needed to hire on additional help during the busy threshing season. Sam Marburger, a bachelor farmer also living in Lamberton township had a 28” Altman-Taylor threshing machine and a steam engine that he used in the summer to perform custom threshing for other farmers in the neighborhood. By the time of the mid 1920s, farming had recovered to some degree from the post-World War I recession that had settled over the farming economy in 1921. At this time, John Krinke perceived that the work would progress much smoother during threshing season if the family had their own thresher. Accordingly, he paid a visit to Oscar Wiebold, the local J.I.Case Company dealer in Lamberton. Eventually he signed a purchase agreement for a 22” Case thresher and a crossmotor Case tractor to power the thresher. After a while they also purchased a tractor plow to be able to use the tractor in the fields as well as on the belt. Soon other neighbors were soliciting John and his sons to do the threshing on their farms also. So the family found that they could supplement their farm income with some income from custom threshing in the neighborhood. Later in the 1920s, the Krinke family obtained a Waterloo Boy tractor which was also used to power the thresher.

John continued to plant his corn with the horses and the wire check two-row corn planter. Wire checking meant that a wire with curls or “buttons” placed every 40 inches along the wire was stretched across the entire length of the field. The wire was then attached to a mechanism on the side of the planter. As the horses pulled the planter across the field, the buttons on the wire would cause the mechanism to trip both rows of the planter at the same time. Thus, not only were the rows planted 40 inches apart, but the “hills” of corn were planted 40 inches apart within the rows. This formed a perfect grid of hills in the corn field which allowed the corn to be cultivated “cross-wise” as well as length-wise. Accordingly, not only were all the weeds between the rows dug up and eliminated by the cultivator, but even the weeds between the hills within the rows were removed by “cross cultivating” the corn. Every year, corn farmers tried to cultivate every corn field on their farm three times—the first cultivation was conducted lengthwise, then the corn was cross-cultivated and finally the corn was cultivated once again in a lengthwise fashion. Cultivation of the corn, thus, required a great number of hours (or days) of work during the summer. No wonder then when a mechanical way of speeding up this summertime task was developed, farmers jumped at the chance to employ this newer method of getting the task done.

Exactly for this reason, John Krinke obtained another tractor. This tractor was a tricycle-style Farmall Model F-12 tractor.   Besides moving faster in the field and having more endurance than horses, the F-12 was designed to be fitted with a two row cultivator. Thus, tractor cultivation of the corn could proceed at a rate of two rows at a time or twenty (20) acres in a single day as opposed to a mere six (6) or eight (8) acres a day when cultivating with the horses one row at a time. John Krinke was made aware of his need to save all the time in the fields as he could. In 1934, his oldest son, Darold got married and moved onto a farm of his own. In 1936, his second son, Kenneth did the same. In 1934, Donald had graduated from high school in Lamberton and had entered Minneapolis Business School.

Meanwhile, his fourth son, Merle, was also growing up. After obtaining an eighth grade education in a country school, Merle had enrolled in Lamberton High School for the “short course.” The short course was only three (3) months long and took place in the middle of the winter. The short course was designed for farm students who needed to help their parents on the farm during the spring and the fall of the year. Also attending these short courses at Lamberton High School was Duane Wetter. Although living in separate townships, the Wetter family and the Krinke family had become acquainted with each other at the Methodist Church in Lamberton. Originally, the Wetter’s had been attending another church in the community, but when that church suddenly burned down, they began attending the Methodist Church. In their first year on their new farm in Woodbury Township Otto and Hazel Wetter had added to their family with the birth of another son, Milo in 1918. Later, two more daughters, Zona in 1920 and Donna in 1923, were added to the family. Now during the short courses at Lamberton High School, the children of both families became more closely acquainted. Furthermore, in the fall of 1932 a new teacher moved to Lamberton from Amboy, Minnesota. This new teacher was Robert W. (Bob) Olson.

Bob Olson had a fairly active life. Born in 1893 in Sterling Township in Blue Earth County near the small town of Amboy, Minnesota (1900 pop. 432), Bob had served as a United States Army pilot during World War I. Coming home from the war in late 1918, he enrolled in school at the University of Minnesota and became a teacher. While at the University he met Mabeth Starrett. They fell in love and were married in 1920. Unable to find a teaching job, Bob and Mabeth moved back to the home farm of Bob’s parents in Amboy. Rural living was a new experience for Mabeth, but she soon adapted to life on the farm where she and Bob lived for a number of years. Two children were born to the young couple—a son, Bob S. Olson in 1924 and a daughter, Helen in 1926. Bob helped his father on the large family farm. However, in 1932, Bob was hired to teach an industrial arts class at the High School in Lamberton. Accordingly, Bob and Mabeth and their children moved to Lamberton. Among the students in Bob Olson’s industrial arts class during the winter months of the 1932-1933 school year was Merle Krinke. Although Duane Wetter had graduated from Lamberton High School on the previous June 2, 1932, he may well have met Bob Olson, anyway and Bob Olson might well have had an impact on the life of Duane Wetter. At any rate the lives of Bob Olson and Duane Wetter have some surprising parallels.

Like Bob Olson, upon graduating from high school, Duane went to Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul to further his education. He attended Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis and studied the new and growing technology of refrigeration. After finishing his studies at Dunwoody, Duane obtained employment at the Minnesota Department of Highways in 1939. That fall, war broke out in Europe. As the war stretched into its second year, United States’ involvement in the war seemed more likely all the time. Even before the United States became involved in the growing world war, Duane joined the war effort by journeying to Winnipeg, Canada, to join the Royal Canadian Air Force (R.A.F.) and became a pilot. He met and married Esther Else. Together they moved off to Sherbrook, Quebec, where Duane became a flight instructor of other prospective fighter pilots. While the couple was living in Sherbook, Esther became pregnant and gave birth to a son, Berwyn. In May of 1944, after the United States had become involved in the world war, Duane and many other American citizens serving as pilots in the Canadian R.A.F. took advantage of the agreement between Canada and the United States to transfer from the R.A.F. to the United States Army Air Corp.   (Following the Second World War, the Army Air Corp would become an independent branch of the armed forces—the United States Air Force.) Thus, Duane was shipped out to Europe as a replacement pilot attached to the 316th U.S. Fighter Squadron of the 324th Fighter Group, stationed in Luneville, France. Thus just like Bob Olson a generation earlier, here was Duane Wetter serving as a pilot for the United States Army Air Corp in a war against the Germans and stationed in France.

Duane was assigned to a Republic Company-made P-47 (Thunderbolt) fighter and began flying combat missions on February 14, 1945. He would end the war as a survivor of seventy five (75) combat flight missions and also would win a number of decorations for valour during his service in Europe. Following the war, Duane stayed on in Europe to become part of the occupation forces stationed at Stuttgart, Germany. Duane was discharged from the military and was finally able to make his way back to Minnesota only in November of 1945.

In the meantime, Bob Olson had also impacted two other students in his short time at Lamberton High School. In the industrial arts class during that school year of 1932-1933 were Donald and Merle Krinke. During the fall and spring months, the Krinke boys were needed by their parents for help on the farm. However, during the “short course” held in during the winter months both Donald and Merle sought to further their education. During the short time that the boys knew Bob Olson in the winter of 1932-1933, Bob Olson made an impression on these boys that lasted far beyond their school days.

At the end of the school year, Bob Olson made a decision to leave teaching and take advantage of a business opportunity in Lamberton. He purchased a franchise from the J.I. Case Company to sell farm machinery in the rural area around Lamberton. This was 1933, starting a business at this time appeared to be a foolish decision. Business activity all across the nation was at a standstill because of the worst economic depression in the history of the United States. Bob’s outgoing personality and business sense were assets for his new business, but the biggest asset to his new business was the improvement in the economy. As 1933 gave way to 1934, the economy started to improve ever so slightly. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief and everybody began spending money again with more confidence in the future. Farmers, began once again to feel that there was a future in their occupation and began to purchase new farm equipment.

Case Model CC left side picture
The Case Model CC tractor was first introduced to the public in 1929. This left-side view of the tractor shows the famous “chicken’s roost” steering bar that was characteristic of many early Case tricycle style tractors.

The dealership was housed together with a hardware store and a plumbing and heating business. However on the farm equipment side of his new business, Bob found that, more and more, that the row crop tractor was the single item of farm machinery that farmers wanted most. This made sense given the fact that corn was the primary crop grown in Redwood County. On average, 37.5% of all farm acreage in the county was growing corn. The second most produced crop in the county was oats—with 26.3% of all farm land in the county growing oats. However, oats and hay were grown on all farms largely as feed for the animals, in particular the horses that were used for power on the farms. If both hay (10.4% of all farm land) and oats were removed from consideration, corn then made up of 59.3% of all “cash crops” grown on the farms of Redwood County.

Small wonder then that Bob Olson found that the Case Model CC row crop tractor was in large demand by the farmers showing up at his new dealership. The row crop tractor was allowing farmers to mechanize all the farming operations on their farm especially the cultivation of corn. This meant that slow animal power could be done away with on the farm altogether. The decline in the number of horses in Redwood County, is shown in the decline in the amount of acreage devoted to oats in the county. In 1925, 123,000 acres of oats were harvested in Redwood County. On average, between 1925 and 1935 108.6 acres of oats were harvested each year in the county as a whole. However, starting in 1936, oats started to decline in importance—from 100,100 acres harvested in 1936; to 87,000 in 1938; to 84,100 acres in 1942 and finally to 79,500 acres in 1944. (To be sure, oat production made a recovery back up to an average of 103,800 acres for the period of time from 1945 to 1955. However this is due to the sudden rise of the egg production in Redwood County during the Second World War. In the immediate, post war period Redwood County became the home for 500,000 chickens who were laying upwards of 100 million eggs each year.)

Early versions of the Model CC Case tractor weighed just 3, 640 pounds and had a maufacturer's suggested price of just $1.025.
Early versions of the Model CC Case tractor weighed just 3, 640 pounds and had a maufacturer’s suggested price of just $1.025.

Bob Olson sold a great number of Model CC tractors in the first years of his dealership. In 1936, he sold a Model CC to John Krinke. This particular Model CC was fitted with rubber tires front and rear on the tractor. Donald Krinke had graduated from Lamberton High School in 1933. In 1936, Merle Krinke also graduated from Lamberton High School. Like Duane Wetter, both of the Krinke boys also headed off to college in Minneapolis. Merle entered Augsburg College and later attended the University of Minnesota just as Bob Olson had done a generation earlier. Following his higher education in Minneapolis and no doubt under the influence, to some degree, of Bob Olson, Donald Krinke sought and obtained a job as the district manager for the J.I. Case Company in the area including Redwood and neighboring counties.

In 1939, Case introduced their “flambeau red” series of farm tractors. This Case Model DC was the top of the line row crop tractor of the flambeau red series.


However, in 1940, with war clouds looming, and with the United States involvement in the Second World War looking increasingly likely, the U.S. Congress re-instated the Selective Service draft. Merle Krinke’s number was drawn in the draft lottery and it was a very low number, suggesting that he was soon to be drafted into the military. Not waiting for the draft, Merle quit school and enlisted. Perhaps, the influence of Bob Olson caused him to enlist in the Army Air Corps. The Army Air Corps unit to which Merle was attached was guarding the Panama Canal. Thus, in 1940, well before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Both Duane Wetter and Merle Krinke were involved in the spreading world war.

On December 7, 1941, the United States suddenly became involved in the world war.   Merle re-enlisted and continued his service until 1945. In April of 1944, Merle was, however, permitted a 30 day leave from his military service. During this leave he returned to Lamberton, Minnesota. He had a good reason for wanting to return home at this time. He wished to get married. In the years, that he had known the Wetter family, he was attracted by Duane’s sister, Zona. They had begun seeing each other and writing each other while Merle was away in the service. Now, in 1944, while on his 30 day leave from the Air Corp, Merle and Zona had decided to marry. Thus, on April 8, 1944, they were married. All too soon, however, Merle had to return to Panama. Only at the end of the war in September of 1945 was he allowed to come home for good and resume married life. Upon his return from the military, Merle obtained a job at the the Myhere and Nelson Implement dealership in Montevideo, Minnesota. The Myhere and Nelson dealership owned the J.I. Case Company franchise for the area around Montevideo and surrounding Chippewa County. Montevideo was located on the Minnesota River about 60 miles to the northwest of Lamberton. Merle commuted to his new job while continuing to live in Lamberton. After only a very short time at his new job, in Montevideo, Merle became aware of an opportunity to open a new Case dealership in another town.

With the lifting of the wartime restrictions on the economy of the United States a huge pent-up demand for new farm machinery was unleashed. Having been unable to purchase new farm machinery all during the Second World War, farmers now poured into local dealerships to buy up the machinery that was now becoming available. Furthermore, the prices of farm commodities had reached new highs as the North American farmer attempted to feed the armed forces which were spread around the world. Since the war, the farm machinery manufacturing companies were busy not only making the new machinery as fast as they could get re-tooled from their wartime production for the armed forces, but they were also in a rush to open as many outlets from which to sell the new machinery. Record numbers of new franchises were being sold by all the farm equipment manufacturers. At the Myhere and Nelson dealership in Montevideo, Merle Krinke heard about yet another Case franchise that was being offered to anyone that was willing to start a dealership in the small town of LeRoy, Minnesota (1940 pop. 752). LeRoy, Minnesota is located in the extreme southeastern corner of Mower County, Minnesota. Mower County is situated in the Southeastern part of the state on the Minnesota/Iowa border in fact, the town of LeRoy is located only about ½ a mile from the Iowa border. Continue reading Case Farming Part IV: The LeRoy Equipment Company

The Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the September/October 2004 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

            As the 1890’s drew to a close and the new twentieth century began, there was a feeling in the air that everything was “new.”  (George E. Mowry, The Era of Theodore Roosevelt [Harper and Brothers Pub.: New York, 1958] p. 2.)  Technology had invented a new, efficient source of power—the internal combustion engine.  This new source of power was to revolutionize industry and agriculture.  The public was demanding ever-newer more efficient power sources.  In answer to this growing demand, development of the internal combustion engine evolved from the large bulky engines to engines that were small, efficient and simple to use.  In first years of the new century, a young man from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by the name of Charles H. John, was intrigued with the idea of designing an engine that would meet the power needs of a broad masses of the public.  As opposed to the single-cylinder “hit and miss” engine which were then being popular, Charles favored the multiple cylinder style of engine.  Thus, he set out designing this own version of this type of engine.

Charles H. John was aided in the development of this engine by A. F. Milbrath.  Following the development of a prototype of their engine the two partners sought to incorporate and on March 12, 1909 they received a corporate charter from the State of Wisconsin which legally incorporated the Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company.  (C.H. Wendel, American Gosoline Engines Since 1872 [MBI Pub. Co.: Osceola, Wisc., 1999] p. 557.)  A.F. Milbrath became the Secretary of the new company.  However; because, like Charles John, A.F. Milbrath preferred to work with his hands he also occupied the position of Mechanical Engineer for the Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company.  In this position, A.J. Milbrath would continue his inventive ways.  In 1916 he would be granted a patent from the United States Patent Office for a magneto coupling that he designed and built.

The Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing  Company operated out of a shop in North Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  However the Company would soon outgrow this facility.  By 1911, the Company was required to purchase a 6-1/2 acre site at 53rd and Burnham Street in West Allis, Wisconsin.  On this new site the company built one of the most modern engine manufacturing plants in the world at the time.  By 1912, the Wisconsin Motor Company was employing about 300 people in this new facility on both day and night shifts making engine to fill purchase orders that were flowing in to the Company.

At first the Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company found that the largest market for their four (4) and six (6) cylinder engines was for installation in heavy construction equipment.  The Bucyrus-Erie Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (formerly [prior to 1893] of Bucyrus Ohio) installed Wisconsin engines in the large cranes and power shovels which they manufactured.


An Erie-Bucyrus Company dragline crane working in Erie, Pennsylvania, probably fitted with an engine from Wisconsin Motor Company.


Indeed, seventy-seven (77) of these Wisconsin-powered Bucyrus shovels were used on the largest and most famous construction project of the time i.e. the Panama Canal which was completed on August 15, 1914.  (David McCullough, Path Between the Seas: Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914 [Simon & Schuster: New York, 1977] p. 609.)  Wisconsin Motor also supplied engine to the Marion Steam Shovel Company of Marion, Ohio.  Marion was the manufacturer o large power excavators, draglines and shovels.  As their name suggests the company relied primarily on steam as a power source for their construction equipment.  (From the web page on Marion, Ohio, located on the Roadtrip America website on the Internet.)  However, the efficiency of internal combustion engines, supplied by Wisconsin Motor eventually won out over steam power.  By the late 1920’s, the Marion Steam Shovel Company had changed its named to the Marion Power Shovel Company to reflect modern realities.  (Ibid.)  The Marion Company also supplied heavy Wisconsin powered shovels and excavators to the United States Corps of Army Engineers for the mamouth Panama Canal project.  Thus, Wisconsin engines were seen every where on the Canal project under at least two different company names—Marion and Bucyrus-Erie.


Former President Theodore Roosevelt at the controls of one of the large Erie-Bucyrus Company cranes in the Panama Canal during his 1909 trip to Panama.


The role played by Wisconsin engines in the construction of the Panama Canal, was glamorous and the connection with this huge construction project was used by the Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company for advertising purposes.  Nonetheless, the contracts with construction equipment manufacturing companies were small in comparison to the mushrooming market that was soon to occupy nearly all of the production capacity of the Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company.  This was the automobile market.

The vast number of automobile companies that sprang up in the early 1900s had no time to develop their own engines.  They appreciated the smooth running engines that Wisconsin Motor had available.  Thus, many small, but up and coming, automobile manufacturers looked to Wisconsin as an outsource supplier of engines for their automobiles.  Supplying this new burgeoning market, propelled the Wisconsin Motor Company into period of rapid expansion.  Automobile engines proved to be the most popular market for the Wisconsin Motor Company. Continue reading The Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Massey-Harris Farming (Part II): Arno Schull of Mapleton Minnesota

Massey-Harris Farming (Part II):

Arno Shull of Mapleton, Minnesota


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the May/June 2004 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

            Regular readers of the Belt Pulley magazine will remember that Mankato, Minnesota lies at the bend in the Minnesota River Valley where the river makes an abrupt turn from flowing to the southeast and heads north to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  (See the article “The Wilmar Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor [Part 1: The Mankato Implement Company”] at page 16 in the March/April 2002 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  U.S. Highway No. 22 makes its way southward out of Mankato, Minnesota up out of the Minnesota River Valley.  Also as previously noted following Highway 22 south reveals a sudden topographical change in scenery.  (See the article called “The Wilmar Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor [Part 2]” contained in the May/June 2002 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  Almost as though passing through a doorway, one emerges from the hilly tree-covered land of the valley and comes out onto the open prairie.  The prairie is flat as a tabletop and basically treeless except for the clumps of trees that surround the building sites of the farms that dot the scenery.  Out on the prairie, one can see a building site of farms in every direction, even those that are some distance away.  Nine (9) miles south of Mankato, U.S. Highway 22 passes through the small-unincorporated hamlet of Beauford, Minnesota.  Five (5) miles further south, the highway arches eastward around the village of Mapleton, Minnesota (1940 pop. 1070) located in southern Blue Earth County.

            Running directly eastward out of the center of Mapleton is Blue Earth County Road No. 21.  One mile east on County Road No. 21 brought a person to the intersection with County Road 159.  In 1944, one mile south on County Road No. 159 and on the right side of the road, was the farm of Carl F. and Emma (Truebenbach) Schull located on the west side of the road.  Carl Fredrich Wilhem Schull, Jr. had been born in Pommern, Germany to Carl Sr., and Caroline (Papke) Schull on July 31, 1869.  In 1881, when young Carl Fredrich was aged eleven years, the family which consisted of Albert, Henry, Gustav and Caroline in addition to Carl Frederich, immigrated to the United States.  The family first settled in Lime Township of Blue Earth County, just west of Mankato.  Carl Frederich grew up in Lime Township.  As an adult, Carl struck out on his own and moved to his own farm east of Mapleton in 1899.

On October 25, 1899, he married Emma Truebenbach.  They began a family which would eventually consist of six children, George, Fred, Earnest, Rosine, Walter and Arno.  Arno Schull, the youngest child, was born on February 26, 1917.  Most of the corn, oats and hay, they raised in the fields on their 120 acre farm was fed to the herd of Holstein dairy cattle they milked, the pigs that they raised and, of course, the horses that they used in their farming operations.  The older sons grew up, got married started farming operations and families of their own.  Rosine, the family’s only daughter, also married and left the farm.  By 1944, only 27 year old Arno was left on the farm to help his father.  However, in that year life suddenly took a sharp turn for the family when Carl Frederich was struck down by a heart attack while working in the family garden on the morning of Wednesday October 11, 1944.  He died almost immediately.  All responsibility for running the family farming operation, then fell mainly on Arno’s shoulders.  Like most sons on many family farms across the nation at this time, Arno had new ideas on how the farming operation could be improved.  One of his main new ideas was the acquisition of a modern farm tractor.  He knew that by mechanizing farm power rather than relying on the horses, he could save much time and effort in the farming operation.  However, he was unable to purchase a tractor immediately.  Under the economic restrictions in place during World War II, purchase of new farm tractors was drastically curtailed and even the used machinery market was greatly restricted.  Immediately, upon V-J Day on September 1, 1945, signaling the end of the World War, economic restrictions were lifted.  However, the abrupt ending of the government restrictions triggered a period of spiraling inflation through out 1946.  Consequently, government price controls were re-imposed.  Arno had to postpone his dream of having mechanical power on his farm.

However, during this period of time, changes were occurring in Arno’s personal life.  He attended a dance for young people held in the nearby town of Butterfield, Minnesota, (1940 pop. 511.)  At this dance, he met Lois Dreeszen, who was a local grade school teacher in the Butterfield Public School.  Lois Dreeszen had been born to the family of Roy and Florence (Groschens) Dreeszen of Aitken, Minnesota (1940 pop. 2062.) on June 16, 1925.  Following graduation from high school, Lois entered Mankato State Teachers College in the summer of 1944.  Ordinarily, the State of Minnesota required two years of college training to qualify for a teacher’s certificate in order to become a grade school teacher.  Because of the high demand for school teachers at the time, Mankato State Teachers College had a course of instruction by which a person could obtain a two-year teacher’s certificate by attending college for one summer, an entire school year and the next summer.  This was the program in which Lois Dreeszen enrolled in June of 1944.  Following this course of study, Lois accepted a teaching position in Butterfield, Minnesota in the fall of 1945.  However, after meeting Arno Shull at the dance they fell in love and were married on June 6, 1946.  Accordingly, Lois ceased her teaching career after the single school year and she moved to the Shull farm with Arno and became a homemaker.  Arno and Lois also started a family which eventually included three sons, James born on October 24, 1947, Glenn born on October 5, 1948 and Curtis born on November 12, 1950, and a daughter Lynette born on November 14, 1953.  (As noted elsewhere, the current author’s mother, Marilyn [Hanks] Wells, graduated from Mapleton High School in Mapleton, Minnesota, in June of 1944.  [See the article called “The Papec Company of Shortsville, New York: Part II” on page 17 of the January/February 1996 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.]  Marilyn, too, enrolled at Mankato State Teachers College in June of 1946.  There she met and became close friends with Lois Dreeszen.  Over the years, Marilyn and Lois remained in close contact and, consequently, the children of the Schull family and the present author, and his siblings became and remain close friends.)

Young farmers like Arno Schull of Mapleton, Minnesota were part of the same exact demographic group that was being studied by farm tractor manufacturers.  One of these tractor manufacturers was the Massey-Harris Company Ltd. of Racine, Wisconsin.  Massey-Harris was rather late in getting into the tractor market.  Indeed as noted in the previous article in this series, the company had tried three times to find a tractor design that would be a popular sales item with the farming community.  As noted in the previous article, only in 1928, when the Massey-Harris Company acquired the rights to manufacture and sell the Wallis tractor was the company successful in entering the tractor market in a major way.  The Wallis tractor was a very advanced design of tractor.  The Wallis tractor was the first tractor designed with an entirely enclosed power train.  This was the famous U-frame design that was first introduced on the Wallis Cub tractor in 1913.  (Michael Williams, Massey-Ferguson Tractors [Blandford Press: London, 1987] p. 29.)  The enclosed power train was so popular that soon all the other tractor manufacturers would copy this design for their own tractors.

The Massey-Harris Company continued the production of the Wallis Model OK (also known as the Model 20-30) tractor.  Indeed Massey-Harris expanded their tractor line by adding the smaller Wallis Model 12-20 to the line of tractors offered by the company.  By 1936, the company had modified the design of the Model 12-20 to make their first row-crop tractor—the Challenger tractor.  (C.H. Wendel, Massey Tractors [Motorbooks International Pub.: Osceola, Wisc., 1992] p. 50.)  Besides being a row-crop tractor, the Challenger contained several improvements over the Model 12-20.  The Challenger had a four-speed transmission as opposed to the three-speed transmission of the Model 12-20.  (Michael Williams, Massey-Ferguson Tractors, p. 35.)  The Challenger was able to deliver 26.21 horsepower to the belt.  (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Farm Tractor Tests [Crestline Pub.: Osceola, Wisc., 1993] p. 99.)  While the Model 12-20 delivered only 20.32 horsepower to the belt.  (Ibid., p. 66.)

Nonetheless, the Massey-Harris Company realized that the design of the Challenger was really a mere modification of the same tractor design that had been developed in 1913.  Thus, the design was badly out of date in the late 1930s.  Consequently, Massey-Harris engineers set to work on a totally new design for a row-crop tractor.  In 1938, the Company went into production with this radically new design.  The tractor was called the Model 101 Junior.  The power unit for the new Model 101 Junior was outsourced by Massey-Harris.  The company signed a supply contract with the Continental Motors Company of Muskegan, Michigan, for purchase of sufficient numbers of Continental’s four-cylinder Model WFA “Red Seal” engines for installation into the new 101 Junior tractors that were being built at Massey’s Racine, Wisconsin, tractor manufacturing facility.  Testing of the Model 101 Junior at the University of Nebraska on May 22 through May 26, 1938 revealed that the Continental-powered 101 Junior delivered 19.44 horsepower to the drawbar and 27.57 horsepower to the belt.  (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Farm Tractor Tests p. 131.)  The 101 Junior was a radical departure from all previous Wallis/Massey-Harris designs.  The tractor was fitted with a mechanical lift under the seat for raising the cultivator.  The operator need only step on a pedal on the operator’s platform to raise and/or lower the cultivator with this mechanical lift.  Battery power, a generator, electric lights, electric starter and rubber-tires were widely popular options available on the 101 Junior.  Not only was the Model 101 Junior a modern row-crop tractor, but also it was “styled” in the modern fashion with extensive sheet metal covering the radiator and power train.  In the late 1930s nearly every other tractor manufacturing company was exploring “styled” designs for their tractors.  Industry leaders, International Harvester and John Deere did not introduce their line of “styled” tractors until 1939.  Thus, the 101 Junior moved the Massey-Harris Company to the forefront of modern tractor design a year ahead of the competition.  Also in 1938, Massey-Harris introduced the larger Model 101 Senior with a six-cylinder Chrysler engine.  In 1942, the company also introduced the smaller Model 81 row-crop tractor.  These tractors were also styled tractors.  Nevertheless, the two-plow 101 Junior proved to be the most popular selling tractor in the Massey Harris line of tractors.  Even with the wartime restrictions in place, Massey-Harris sold 34,668 Model 101 Junior tractors from 1938 until the end of 1945 of this number 27,371 were the row-crop version of the tractor.  In 1940, the 124 cubic inch Continental engine in the Model 101 Junior was replaced by a 140 cubic inch Continental engine.  In 1942, this engine was replaced by the 162 cubic inch Model MFB Continental engine.

With the end of the Second World War, the huge pent-up demand for new farm tractors and farm machinery was unleashed.  However, the farming public was demanding larger tractors with conveniences like hydraulic power and a wider range of speeds.  In answer to this demand, the Massey-Harris Company updated the Model 101 by adding a 5th gear to the transmission of the Model 101 Junior.  In 1948, the mechanical lift of the 101 Junior gave way to the new hydraulic system for lifting the cultivator.  This hydraulic system consisted of a hydraulic cylinder located under the operator’s seat which would raise or lower the rockshaft to which the cultivator was attached.  This hydraulic system was such a popular option with Massey-Harris farmers that Massey-Harris offered the hydraulic cylinder and appropriate linkages as a kit that could be purchased for retrofitting onto Massey-Harris tractors originally fitted only with the mechanical lift.

The changes made to the 101 Junior were significant enough to require a change in the model number of the new tractor.  Accordingly, the Massey-Harris Model 30 tractor was born in 1946.  However, production of the Model 30 in any sort of large numbers began only in 1947.  (From the Belt Pulley Serial Number Index, p. 24.)  The Model 30 tractor was manufactured in either a kerosene or a gasoline version and in either a standard or a row crop style.  (From the Production Records located on the “Unofficial Massey-Harris Home Page on the Internet.)  The Model 30 continued in the role of best selling tractor in the Massey-Harris line until 1949.  A role previously occupied by the Model 30’s most immediate and direct ancestor, the Model 101 Junior.  From 1946 until 1951, over 29,000 Model 30 tractors were built and sold.  (Ibid.)

Just like the late-model 101 Junior, the new Model 30 was fitted with a Continental “Red Seal” Model MFB 162 cubic inch engine.  When tested at the University of Nebraska, the Model 30 developed 20.64 horsepower at the drawbar and 30.09 at the belt pulley.  (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Farm Tractor Tests, p. 147.)  Design of the Model 30 provided for a fifth gear in the transmission.  As noted above, from 1948 onwards, a new hydraulic system was integrated into the design of Model 30 tractor.  Thus, the Model 30 was well adapted to the farming needs of the post-World War II economy and sales of the Model 30 reflected this fact.  Another change that was made to the 1948 Model 30, was somewhat cosmetic in nature.  The throttle control lever was moved from its former position on the right side of the steering column behind the steering wheel to a new position between the legs of the operator.

As noted above, Massey-Harris manufactured 3,438 gasoline-fueled row-crop Model 30 tractors in 1948.  These tractors were shipped from the Racine, Wisconsin factory to the network of Massey-Harris dealerships spread throughout North America.  Some of these gasoline-fueled row-crop Model 30 tractors made in 1948 were shipped to the W.J. Nelson Implement dealership in Amboy Minnesota, (1940 pop. 576).

Amboy was located on Minnesota Route 30 which passed east and west through town.  Just outside of town to the west, lie the intersection of Route 30 and U.S. Route 169.  Small as Amboy was, it is quite surprising to note that in 1948, the town contained farm machinery dealerships offering nearly every brand name of tractor and/or every brand name farm equipment across the whole United States.  Because of the heavy preponderance of farm equipment retailers, the small town of Amboy became known as the “Farm Machinery Capitol of Southern Minnesota.”

The W.J. Nelson Dealership was founded in Amboy in 1919 by William J. (Bill) Nelson. Bill Nelson had been born in Vernon Center, Minnesota in 1892.  Vernon Center (1940 pop. 355) is another Blue Earth County town, was located just five miles north of Amboy on U.S. Route #169.  In June of 1918, a year before founding his dealership, Bill had married Frieda Deljen.  Frieda was the daughter of John and Ernestine (Benzel) Deljen of rural Mapleton Township.  Together they would eventually have a family of two sons, Roger and Willard Nelson, and a daughter, Glee Helen.

The Nelson Dealership obtained the franchise to sell Allis-Chalmers, farm equipment and tractors, and the franchises to sell Packard cars and Dodge trucks and cars.  The dealership did well and later, sometime after 1929, Bill Nelson obtained a franchise to sell the tractors and implements manufactured by the Oliver Farm Equipment Corporation of Charles City, Iowa.  It is not known, precisely, when Bill Nelson obtained a franchise to sell Massey-Harris farm equipment, but it could well have been immediately after the Massey-Harris Company purchased the rights to produce the Wallis tractor in 1928.  (See the previous article in this series in the March/April 2004 issue of Belt Pulley magazine for the story of this purchase.)

The wartime economic restrictions placed on the nation’s manufacturing companies during the Second World War severely restricted the amount of farm machinery that the W. J. Nelson Dealership could obtain and sell to the farming public.  However, once the war was over the wartime restrictions were lifted.  The demand for farm machinery, which had been pent up for the nearly four years, during the United States’ involvement in the Second World War, came bursting into the market place.  Anticipating the flood of new business, the W.J. Nelson Dealership moved, in 1946, from their location in the center of the business district in Amboy to the intersection of Minnesota State Route 30 and United States Route 169 on the west edge of town.  In their new location, the dealership began another period of tremendous growth based on the new post-war tractors and farm machinery available from the Massey-Harris Company—particularly the new two-plow Model 30 Massey-Harris tractor.

Under normal free market conditions individual farmers are faced with a two-edged sword.  On the one hand they hope for a bumper crop to bring to market.  On the other hand bumper crops usually result in surplus products in the market and result in low prices.  Thus, a large bumper crop can be as bad as a small crop for the farmer’s economic survival.  Since 1941, farmers had been encouraged to raise as much crop as they could to support the war effort.  The federal government had provided a financial incentive for farmers to raise a great deal of farm commodities.  (From a Columbia Encyclopedia article called “Agricultural Subsidies” (2001) found on the Internet.)  By setting very high government subsidized price supports for various farm commodities, the government removed one of these problems facing individual farmers.  Thus, during the war Arno Schull and his neighbors worried less about the threat of a bumper crop resulting in low prices.  Instead they concentrated only on raising as much crop as they possible could and getting as much of that crop to the market as possible.

When the war ended, the high price supports were left in place as the United States attempted to feed war-torn Europe, through the Marshall Plan.  Thus, thanks to government price supports, farm commodity prices remained relatively high throughout 1947 and 1948.  Arno Schull knew that he would be assured a relatively high price for his crops, especially corn, at harvest time if only he could get enough of the crop to market.  Now if only weather would cooperate.

However, in southern Blue Earth County, Minnesota, the outlook for the weather in the fall of 1946 did not look good.  The rains began in the fall of 1946 and did not stop.  (Regular readers of the Belt Pulley magazine will remember the effect of the rain in 1946-1947 on another family in the article called “The Case NCM Baler and a Family’s Crucial Year” in the January/February 1995 issue of Belt Pulley p. 31.)  The constant rains continued into the spring and early summer of 1947.  Because of the extremely wet spring and summer of 1947, spring planting that year was badly delayed.  Hopes for a decent crop were rapidly fading.  With the late planting, it was feared, the growing season would just not be long enough to allow the crops to mature.

Fortunately, the rains eased somewhat in July of 1947, but still, there did not seem to be enough time to allow the corn to mature.  As the fall progressed, Arno was pleasantly surprised to see that the harvest season remained unseasonably warm and dry.  Furthermore, the drying weather continued well into the winter months.  This happy circumstance allowed Arno’s corn to fully mature and allowed him to get all the corn picked and safely stored away in the corncrib.  The corn not used on the farm was shelled and sold in the spring.  With the income from the corn and milk from his farm, Arno made a decision to mechanize his farm.

As noted above, the lifting of the wartime economic restrictions at the end of the war set off a period of intense inflation.  (Harry S. Truman, Year of Decisions [Doubleday & Co.: Garden City, New York, 1955] p. 488.)  By December of 1945, the wartime restrictions and price controls were re-instituted in an attempt to control inflation.  Only in July of 1947 were the wartime economic restrictions finally lifted.  (Ibid.)

Now in the spring of 1948, Arno Schull finally felt the time was right to obtain a tractor.  He visited his local his local Massey-Harris dealership—the W.J. Nelson Dealership in Amboy, Minnesota—and signed a purchase agreement for a new Massey-Harris Model 30 tractor.  The purchase agreement also included a Model 34 Massey-Harris mounted cultivator with spring trip teeth.

Because of the delay in the harvesting of the crops in the fall of 1948, Arno had not completed all of the fall plowing on his farm.  Now in the spring of 1948 warm weather arrived sooner than usual.  Even in early April, the temperatures during the day were in the high 70s.  For plowing with the new tractor, Arno had purchased a McCormick-Deering Little Genius two-bottom tractor plow with 16” bottoms.  The Model 30 tractor handled this plow well even in the hard black gumbo soil of Mapleton Township.  Arno was pleased to note that plowing in the spring of 1948 proceeded at a much quicker pace than would have occurred had he been forced to continue farming with the horses that year.  No longer did he have to stop at the end of the field each time across the filed to rest the horses.

The warmer temperatures in 1948 continued throughout the spring.  May 1948 was unseasonably warm as temperatures reached 90 degrees.  (Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Daily Maximum/Minimum Temperatures for 1948 located on the Internet.)  Thus, spring planting was completed early, unimpeded by the weather.  The corn sprang up out of the ground in the warm weather and, soon, Arno was back in the cornfield with the Model 30 and the mounted Model 34 cultivator.  For this first cultivation of the corn, Arno attached the shields to the cultivator.  The shields protected tender shoots of corn from being covered up and crushed by the large clods of gumbo soil that were rolled up by the cultivator shovels.

The temperatures during the month of June in 1948 were actually cooler than the temperatures had been in May with temperatures reaching no higher than the low 80s for most of the month.  (Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Daily Maximum/Minimum Temperatures for 1948 located on the Internet.)  Thus, the initial cultivating of the young corn was almost a pleasure.  Nearly every day during the month of June of 1948 a short rain occurred.  (Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Daily Rainfall Amounts for 1948 located on the Internet.)  However, the rains were usually less than 2 to 3 tenths of an inch.  This was just enough to keep the corn growing properly, but not enough to prevent him from doing his fieldwork.

As the Model 30 and the cultivator approached the end of the field, Arno slowed the Model 30 tractor a little more with the throttle located between his legs on the operator’s platform.  Then he pulled on the hydraulic control lever also located between his legs just behind the throttle.  The pipes linking the front cultivator units with the rear cultivator unit which passed between the fenders of the operator’s platform on either side of the operator’s seat of the Model 30 tractor, moved forward and the shovels of the Model 34 cultivator were lifted out of the ground just before the front wheels of the tractor passed over the first of the eight (8) end rows planted at each end of the field.  Arno touched the right brake to bring the front end of the tractor around to be aligned with the next two rows of uncultivated corn.  Then he pushed ahead on the hydraulic control lever and the cultivator shovels were dropped into the ground and then he readjusted the throttle to a half-way position on the quadrant and the tractor headed out across the field again.  The whole turn could be accomplished without even disengaging the clutch.  Arno was pleasantly surprised with the progress he was making on the cultivation of the corn, cultivating two rows at a time with the tractor as opposed to cultivating only one row at a time with the horses.  He appreciated the fact that he did not have to raise the cultivator by use of hand levers at the end of the rows.  The cultivator was effortlessly and quickly raised by the tractors hydraulic system.

Heading back across the field with the new tractor and cultivator, Arno could hear the excited calls of the Killdeers who were tending their nests, which were built directly on the ground in the corn field.  He could see the adult Killdeers feigning broken wings in attempt to draw attention away from their nests which were now filled with unhatched eggs.

Early July 1948 saw the return of very hot weather as the mercury climbed to temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  (Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Daily Temperature Amounts for 1948 located on the Internet.)  The unseasonably mild days of June were left behind.  Furthermore, the first two weeks of July saw no rain whatsoever.  (Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Daily Rainfall Amounts for 1948 located on the Internet.)  As he cultivated his corn for the second time in July, Arno worried that the corn would be stunted in growth by the lack of water.  However, as he cast his eyes over to the oat field, he could see that the oats were ripening nicely in the intense heat and dry weather.  With income he had received from the milk, the pigs and sale of some of the excess corn not used as feed, Arno had revisited the Nelson Dealership to purchase a Massey Harris pull-type “Clipper” combine.  (The story of this combine will be included in the next article in this series on Massey-Harris farming.)  Soon he would be returning to the fields with the new combine to harvest the oats.

The rains returned in late July and continued into August of 1948, just as he was attempting to harvest the oats.  (Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Daily Rainfall Amounts for 1948 located on the Internet.)  Luckily these periodic ½ inch rains did not ruin his oat crop which was lying in windrows waiting to be harvested.  The thirsty corn, however, lapped up all the moisture that the rains could supply.  The Massey Harris Model 30 tractor had speeded up the process of cultivation of the corn and also had allowed him to get the combining of the oats completed without damage from the rains.  By the time of the large 2” rain storm which struck in mid August all the grain was safely under cover.

With the oats already harvested, the corn to tall for any more cultivating and the ground too wet for any other type of field work, it was a good time for Arno to catch up on a little of his favorite hobby—fishing.  After the cows had been milked in the evenings of mid-August he was able to get away in the family car to go fishing for Blue Gills at his favorite fishing spot—Cottonwood Lake, a small fishing lake located on the Landsteiner farm not far from his own farm.

The Massey-Harris Model 30 tractor helped Arno Schull get his corn crop raised and harvested.  Thus he was able to take full advantage of the supported commodity prices of 1948.  By the year 1949, the war-torn agricultural economies of Europe and Asia had recovered.  Those countries ceased buying United States food products.  Surpluses of grain began to build up and farm prices declined.  The year 1949 was a year to merely be endured and 1950 looked much the same from the outset.  However on Sunday June 25, 1950, North Korean Troops crossed the 38th parallel on the divided Korean Peninsula and invaded South Korea.  (Joseph C. Goulden, Korea: The Untold Story of the War [Times Book Pub.: New York, 1982] p. 50.)  By Friday June 30, the United States was already mobilizing troops to defend South Korea.  (Ibid., p. 109.)  In September of 1950, the federal government re-instituted war time restriction on wages, prices and, credit and brought back wartime rationing of consumer goods and farm equipment.  (Harold Underwood Faulkner, American Economic History [Harper & Row Pub.: New York, 1960] p. 717.)

However, anticipating greater need for food around the world, United States farm commodity prices once again rose.  (See the Columbia Encyclopedia article called “Agricultural Subsidies” cited above.)  Once again farmers sought to expand and modernize their farming operations.  The effects of this new demand were felt at farm equipment dealerships around the nation.  After a short dip in sales in 1949, the Nelson Dealership, once again, noticed a strong demand for farm equipment starting in late 1950 spurred by the demands of the Korean War.  Since October of 1949, Bill Nelson had been retired from active management of the dealership.  Management of the dealership was not in the hands of Bill’s sons, Willard W. and Roger J. Nelson.  Despite the re-introduction of restrictions on the manufacture of farm equipment, Willard and Roger still had less trouble obtaining farm machinery than their father had had during the Second World War.  Other Massey Harris dealerships across the nation shared these experiences.  One dealership in particular was the Pimper Dealership of Howells, Nebraska (1950 pop. 784).

Like the W.J. Nelson Dealership, the Pimper Dealership had been established in the years immediately following the First World War—in 1919 or 1920.  Founded by Al Pimper, the dealership started as a “battery station” serving the Howells community.  The Howells battery station supplied electrical batteries for the home electric generating systems that were in use in some residences and on some farms.  (Regular readers of the Belt Pulley will remember that a home electric generating system using Excide batteries was used on the John T. Goff farm near Mapleton, Minnesota.  [See the article called “The Papec Company of Shortsville, New York: Part II” on page 16 of the January/February 1996 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.])

Al Pimper married Beatrice Chudomelka of rural Dodge, Nebraska.  She was the daughter of Don Chudomelka who presided over a variety of activities on his farm north of Dodge.  The Chudomelka farm was a busy place with a dance hall, a roller skating rink and a scale for weighing truckloads of grain.  Every building on the Chudomelka farm was covered in corrugated metal.  Thus, the farm became known as “Tin City.”  In addition to operating the dance hall, operating an ice skating rink in the winter and doing custom weighing of grain for the neighborhood, Don and his two sons operated their own farm and also found time to do custom threshing in the neighborhood with their own Case steam engine and large Case thresher.

Settling in Howells with her new husband Beatrice traded one busy situation for another as the Pimper Dealership sought to supplement the battery business and obtained the franchises to sell cars for the Ford Motor Company, the Maxwell Motor Company of Detroit Michigan and to sell the Whippet car and the Willys/Knight car for the Willys-Overland Company of Toledo, Ohio.  When the Maxwell Motor Company became the Chrysler Corporation in the middle of 1925, the Pimper Dealership became a sales outlet for Chrysler cars.  Later, in 1935, as the Ford Motor Company sought to build a sales network composed of exclusive dealerships, the Pimper Dealership lost their Ford franchise.

In the late 1920’s probably 1929, the Pimper dealership obtained a franchise to sell farm machinery for the Oliver Farm Equipment Company.  This was the Pimper Dealership’s first excursion into the farm equipment market.  However, it was not until the Pimper Dealership obtained the franchise to sell Massey-Harris farm machinery in the late 1930s that the dealership really found its notch.  Al Pimper was aided in the successful dealership by a number of different factors.  First, his son, Al Pimper Jr., who had been born in 1923 was now of high school age.  During his time out of school, Al Jr. was employed in the parts department at the dealership.  Additionally, the Pimper Dealership developed a good working relationship with the Massey-Harris Branch House in Omaha, Nebraska, and with Larry Dimig, the District Manager.  This favorable relationship assured the Pimper Dealership of sufficient amounts of tractors and machinery to keep its inventory full at all times.  At times the dealership ordered six or seven railroad carloads of machinery at one time from the Branch House.

Just like the W.J. Nelson Dealership, the Pimper Dealership experienced ups and downs in sales in the post World War II era.  In 1951, with high prices for farm commodities fueled by the Korean War, the Pimper Dealership was once again selling Massey-Harris tractors and farm equipment.  One of the 4,118 Model 30 tractors manufactured by the Massey-Harris Company in 1951 was the Model 30 bearing the Serial No. 15095.  Number 15095 was shipped from the tractor factory at Racine, Wisconsin, to the Branch House in Omaha, Nebraska.  Larry Dimig placed No. 15095 on a trainload of machinery destined for the Pimper Dealership.  Accordingly, No. 15095 arrived in Howells, Nebraska, in the early spring of 1951, on board a Chicago and Northwestern Railroad flatcar with some other Massey Harris farm equipment sent from the Branch House in Omaha.  The tractor did not spend long in the inventory of the Pimper Dealership before it was sold to Joe Vogel, a local farmer in rural Howells.  Joe and Catherine (Becker) Vogel operated a 40-acre farm near Howell’s Nebraska, the family of Joe Vogel, was raising pigs, milk cows and some chickens.  Most of the arable land of the farm was used to produce corn and alfalfa which was used to feed the animals on the farm.  By 1951 their son, Gilbert had married Marilyn Molacek and had started taking over the farming operations from his father.  The family already had a John Deere Model B with a tractor plow and a mounted two-row cultivator.  Thus, when the Massey-Harris Model 30 was purchased the purchase contract did not include a tractor plow or a cultivator as might have been expected.  Joe Vogel appreciated the fact that the tractor was fitted with hydraulics and purchased a Duncon hydraulic loader to mount on the Model 30.

The Model 30 tractor functioned well on the Schull farm in 1948 and during the following years.  It was the sole tractor on the farm until 1956 when Arno purchased a new Massey-Harris Model 333 tractor.  Although a row crop tractor, this particular Model 333 was fitted with an adjustable wide front end and had the optional three-point hitch.  These two features would keep the Model 333 a useful part of the farming operations through the 1970s.  Indeed, the present author used the Model 333 to cultivate corn with a six-row rear mounted cultivator on the Arno Schull farm the in summer of 1970.  Meanwhile, the Model 30 continued as a second tractor on the farm.  When the tractor became so worn out, in the early 1960s, that it needed major work done to it, Arno and his oldest son, James, purchased another Model 30 from a junkyard and combined the two tractors to make a single tractor.  The restored Model 30 continued on the Schull farm for many more years.

Likewise, No. 15095 continued working on the Vogel farm.  Frequent use of the Duncon loader on No. 15095 created pressure on the front wheels of the tractor and required the Vogels to replace the wheel bearings and other parts on the front end of the tractor.  However, this was the extent of the major repairs that No. 15095 required during its working life.  In 1982, No. 15095 was sold to John Mlnarik.  (John Mlnarik is the father of Glen Mlnarik who has long served as a national board director of the International Harvester Collectors Association.)  John Mlnarik had operated an International Harvester dealership in Howells, Nebraska and now lived in retirement in nearby Dodge, Nebraska.  In 1992, John Mlnarik advertised No. 15095 for sale and the tractor was purchased by Fred Hanks of LeRoy, Minnesota.  No. 15095 was fully restored and painted in the summer of 2003 in anticipation of the August 26-29, 2004 Le Sueur County Pioneer Power Show.  As previously noted the 2004 Pioneer Power Show will host the national summer convention of the Massey-Harris Collectors.  No. 15095 will be present along with many other Massey-Harris tractors and farm machinery.  Just as the restored No. 15095 stirs memories of other Model 30 tractors which have played a part in North American agriculture, so too will the other Massey-Harris farm equipment surely stir memories of the past with the many attendees at the Show.  For a trip down memory lane be sure to be there and reminisce.

Massey-Harris Farming (Part I): The Oltrogge Family of Waverly, Iowa

                   Massey-Harris Farming (Part I):

The Oltrogge Family of Waverly, Iowa


Brian Wayne Wells

 As published in the May/June 2004 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

German immigration to the United States began as a trickle in the 1830s, but by the period of time from 1846 to 1855, German immigration had reached a peak when more than a million Germans emigrated into the United States.  (Maldwyn Allen Jones, American Immigration [University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1960] p. 110.)  More than half of the German immigrants coming to the United States at this time moved to the Upper Mississippi and Ohio River valleys.  (Id., p. 118)

Arriving at the end of this wave of German immigration in 1856 was a 36-year old young man, William Frederich Oltrogge (known as Frederick or Fred), and his 34-year old wife, Sophia.  Together with their two daughters, Sophia ages 6 years and Caroline age 2, they had boarded a ship for the United States.  The Oltrogge family had been originally from Hessen, or the State of Hess, in the west central part of Germany near the large city of Frankfort.  The Rhine River formed the western boundary between Hess and the Prussian Province of Rhineland.  The Kingdom of Bavaria which lay to the south of the State of Hess.

The reasons that Frederick and Sophia brought their family to this country are not known.  However, some clues might be found in the facts surrounding the immigration of the Oltrogge family.  The fact that the Oltrogge family came to the United States with a group of people they had known in the State of Hess and the fact that immediately upon their arrival, in 1856, they establishing a Lutheran congregation and then a year later in 1857, they erected the St. John’s Maxfield Lutheran Church, suggests that there may have been a religious motive in their immigration to Iowa.

During this period of time Germany was not yet a unified nation.  Instead the German speaking lands were divided into a patchwork of small kingdoms and princely states.  These small states were constantly warring against each other for one reason or another.  However, Martin Luther and the Reformation of 1520 and the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) had the effect of further splitting the German states along religious lines.  The states of the northern part of Germany became predominately Protestant (Lutheran), while the southern states remained Roman Catholic in religious persuasion.

The State of Hess was one of the middle states of Germany—not part of the predominately Lutheran north, nor part of the mainly Catholic southern part of Germany.  As a consequence, the people of Hess were, themselves divided in religious affiliation—65 to 68% Protestant and 26 to 32% Roman Catholic.  (James K Pollack and Homer Thomas, Germany in Power and Eclipse [MacMillan & Co. Pub.: London, 1952] p. 442.)  Ever since the Reformation, there had been religious unrest between the Catholics and the Protestants in Germany.  This unrest was especially prevalent in the middle states of Germany where the population was fairly evenly split between the Catholic and Protestant religions.  The State of Hess was no exception.  However, not only were the protestant families leaving Hess, but so too were the Roman Catholic families.  One notable Catholic example was Adolphus Busch, who left the State of Hess and immigrated to St. Louis, Missouri in 1857.  Adolphus Busch later became one of the founders of the Anheiser-Busch Brewery Company of St. Louis, Missouri.  (Peter Hernon and Terry Ganey, Under the Influence: The Unathorized Story of the Anheuser-Busch Dynasty [Avon Books: New York, 1991] p. 22.)

However, besides religious reasons, there may have been political reasons, which may have caused the Oltrogge and Busch families to leave the State of Hess.  There had long been unrest in the Germany over the very fact that the various German speaking states were divided into so many small political units.  There had been much agitation in favor of a unified German State.  However, there was much disagreement of dispute arose over the form the new unified Germany would take.  In 1848, all across the German speaking lands, uprisings in favor of more democratic freedoms and constitutions had arisen.  These revolts had been bloodily suppressed by the conservative rulers of the various German states.  One such crisis broke out in the State of Hess and threatened in 1850 to become a war involving some of the states neighboring Hessen.  (Marshal Dill Jr., Germany: A Modern History [University of Michigan Press: Ann Arbor, 1970] p. 120.)  Historians used to believe that the suppression of the uprisings of 1848 was a major cause of the German emigration to the United States in the early 1850’s.  They believed that tide of emigration consisted of disappointed liberals and democratic reformists.  Recently, however, theory has been challenged.  Modern historians now hold that the emigrating Germans were “little concerned with politics and with revolution not at all.”  (Marcus Hansen quoted in American Immigration by Maldwyn Allen Jones, cited above, p. 110.)

In actual fact, despite all the trappings, it may well have been plain economic motives that brought the Oltrogge family to Iowa.  For there were economic motives aplenty.  There had been poor harvests in the lands along the Rhine River for a number of years.  (Maldyn Allen Jones at p. 110 and Hernon and Ganey, Under the Influence:The Unauthorized Story of the Anheuser-Busch, p. 22.)  The vast open spaces of land and the virtually unlimited opportunity for land ownership in the upper Midwest of the United States compared quite favorably to the dismal future prospects that appeared to be waiting them in Germany.    (Robert P. Howard, Illinois: A History of the Prairie State [Eerdmans Pub. Co.: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1972] p. 222.)

Whatever the reason, Frederick and Sophia Oltrogge moved with their family onto a 240-acre piece of land in Section 1 of Jefferson Township in Bremer County Iowa.  The early years of settlement were mostly taken up with building the house and barn and, as noted above, the neighborhood church in adjacent Maxfield Township.  It was hard work, settling in the new land.  However, they were not alone.  The whole neighborhood was involved in the same struggle to tame the land and carve out a niche for themselves on the prairie.

In 1856, Iowa was still a frontier state having entered the union only 1846.  (Leland L. Sage, A History of Iowa [Iowa State University Press: Ames, 1974] p. 91.)  Large portions of the state were still inhabited by bands of Dakota (Sioux) people.  Indeed, one year after the arrival of the Oltrogge family, 1857, saw the uprising of the Wahpeton Sioux against the increasing flood of white settlers that were coming into Iowa.  This uprising has become known as the Massacre of Spirit Lake.  (Ibid., p, 107-108.)  However, the settlers kept coming even after the uprising.  The town of Jefferson City (now called Denver, Iowa) sprang up three miles to the south of Oltrogge farm.  By 1875, the Jefferson township schoolhouse had been built in the center of Section 2 just one mile west of the Oltrogge farm.  Slowly, the community was growing.  The size of the Oltrogge family also grew with the addition of a third daughter Anna Justine Wilhelmine born on April 4, 1858, another daughter Anna born on April 12, 1861 and a son William Frederick born on October 2, 1863.  Named for his father, the younger William Frederick was called William to distinguish him from his father who was called Fred or Frederick.  Like his older sisters, Sofia, Caroline and Anna just two years before, William, too, was confirmed in the St. Johns Maxfield Church in 1877.

The community continued to make progress.  A public road was eventually built directly though the center of Section 1 and 2 of Jefferson County which passed just south of the Oltrogge farmstead.  The 240-acre Oltrogge farm consisted of 160 acres located north of this road and 80 acres located south of the road.  Some time prior to 1875 another house was built on the 80 acres located south of the road.

As William grew up, he developed a real interest in the family farming operation.  The farm contained a dairy operation, with about 30 head of Holstein cattle being milked at any one time.  The family also raised about 200 to 300 pigs and 500 chickens.  Approximately half of their arable land was planted in corn.  Since they did not have a silo on their farm, they built a bunker for storing corn silage.  A portion of their corn was harvested as green corn silage; the remainder of the corn was harvested when ripe.  Much of the ripe corn was stored on the farm and fed to the pigs, chickens and dairy cattle.

On October 12, 1887, just ten (10) days after his 24th birthday, William married Anna Steege, an 18-year old girl from a neighboring farm.  Eventually they had a family that included Louis Wilhelm Johann Heinrich born on June 1, 1890, Amanda born in 1891, John born in 1892, Herman Heinrich Friedrich William born on May 23, 1893 and Hilda born on April 8, 1895.  Gradually, William took over the operations of the family farm from his father.

Under William Oltrogge’s management several improvements were made to the farming operation.  In the summer of 1897, he negotiated with the Borden & Selleck Co. of Chicago, Illinois for the purchase of a Howe Scale Company weighing scale for installation in the granary on the farm.  A letter dated July 30, 1897 from the company headquarters located at 48 and 50 Lake Street in Chicago and signed by H. Borden, president of the company informed William that although building plans for the scale could be forwarded immediately, actual construction of the scales would be delayed until October.  When installed in the covered alleyway of the granary, the 8ft. by 14 ft. platform of the scale had the ability to weigh an entire wagon load of grain or ear corn.

In 1916, a new barn was built specifically to house the teams of horses that the large farming operation required.  This horse barn was built as a separate building rather than being attached to the main cow barn.  Some time during the First World War, William mechanized the milking of the dairy herd.  He built an engine house which was attached to the granary located about fifty (50) feet away from the barn.  In the engine house was a 2 ½ horsepower Fairbanks-Morris stationary engine.  This kerosene-powered “hit and miss” engine was belted to a vacuum pump which, in turn, was connected to an underground pipe that ran to the barn.  The Fairbanks engine was started at the beginning of morning and evening milking and supplied the vacuum necessary to power the Universal-Coop milkers which William now used to milk his herd of cows.

Changes were also happening in the family.  The year 1913 saw the passing of William’s father, Frederick Oltrogge at the age of 83 years.  On March 18, 1914, Louis Oltrogge, William’s oldest son, married Hilda Kohagen from the local community.  Following their marriage they struck out on their own and purchased a 240 acre farm which was adjacent to the original Oltrogge farm on the northwest corner of the home farm.  In the summer of 1915, the Oltrogge family purchased their first automobile—a 1911 Model Kissel.  Besides being a convenience for the family members the car greatly shortened the amount of time that it took to deliver the separated cream to the Co-operative Creamery in Artesian, the little unincorporated settlement located ½ a mile to the east of the home farm.

Additionally, young Herman began to take up the decision-making authority with regard to the farming operation as William now in his 50’s began to think about retiring.  On May 3, 1917 Herman married Millie Kohagen, a sister of Hilda.  To make room for the new family on the main farm, William tore down the old house located south of the road and built a new house on that site.  William, then, moved into this new house and left the main house on the north side of the road for Herman and Millie.

Like his father, Herman was always seeking ways in which to improve the farming operation.  Indeed, Herman was even more inclined toward this idea of modernizing the farm.  In 1920, Herman, remodeled the house on the main farm.  In the early 1920s, the Interstate Power Company stretched an electric power line along the road between Olewyn, Iowa and Waverly, Iowa.  The power line followed the path of the road that would become State Route #3 along the edge of Readlyn, Iowa, and passing the Oltrogge farm.  Interstate offered farm owners along the path of the power line the right to hook up to the power line at an affordable price.  The Oltrogges accepted the offer from Interstate and electrified their farm.  Now with electricity in the barn, the family hooked the vacuum lines which extended to all the stanchions in the barn to an electrically powered vacuum pump located in the barn itself.  No longer was there a need for the vacuum lines extending underground to the barn all the way from the engine house.

However, Herman Oltrogge was aware that the most significant improvement in farming was the farm tractor which could fully mechanize the power on the farm.  Indeed, in the winter of 1917-1918, Herman’s brother, Louis, had purchased a new Model 15-25 Lauson tractor.  Herman had seen, first-hand how the steady power of the Lauson tractor compared favorably to the use of animal power for performing heavy farm work.  Consequently, by the Spring of 1920, Herman had purchased a 1919 Model International Harvester Titan 10-20 Model tractor.  This tractor was one of the post-1919 Titans which had the full length fenders which covered both rear wheels down to the drawbar.  Herman used the Titan and a three-bottom John Deere Model No. 5 plow, to do his spring plowing in 1920.

The Titan was not only intended for all the heavy work around the farm, but was also intended to supply power to the belt.  In 1920, the, Oltrogge’s also purchased a Sprout-Waldron feed grinder/burr mill.  (Keith Oltrogge, William’s great –grandson, is a Certified Public Accountant, practicing in nearby, Denver, Iowa, still owns and lives on the family farm and still has this 1920 Sprout-Waldron burr mill on the farm.)  Herman thought that the burr mill and the belt power provided by the Titan would speed up the processing of the animal feed on the farm.

Although the Titan was Herman’s first tractor, he never talked about it much.  It may well have been that he was dissatisfied with the Titan tractor.  It is not hard to find reasons for dissatisfaction with the Titan.  Regular readers of the Belt Pulley will remember a 1920 Model Titan tractor was purchased in 1927 by Clarence Rodning of St. Peter, Minnesota to mechanize his farming operation.  (See the article “Farming with an International 10-20 Titan” in the May/June 1996 issue of Belt Pulley magazine, p. 16.)  Among the other problems, the Titan was hard to start.  Indeed, Lee Klancher in his short book on International Harvester Farmall devotes five pictures to the Titan and the process involved in starting the Titan.  (Lee Klancher, Farmall Tractors [Motorbooks, Intl. Pub.: Osceola, Wisc., 1995] pp. 17 through 24.)  Additionally, due to the fact that the Titan was a two-cylinder tractor with both cylinders connected in parallel to the crankshaft, the pistons moved forward and back in the sleeves together rather than in an alternating two-cylinder pattern like John Deere tractors.  Thus, even though the pistons were counter-weighted to reduce vibration in the tractor, the Titan had a tendency to “lope” or rock back and forth when powering a belt driven machine.  This loping on the part of the tractor sent waves down through the belt and causing the burr mill to shake in time to the waves on the belt.  Herman discovered this shortcoming of the Titan when he used the tractor on the belt to power the new Sprout-Waldron burr mill he had purchased.  Herman was dissatisfied with the Titan and in 1923, he traded the Titan in to the dealership of Coddington and Laird in Waverly, Iowa, (pop. 600) toward the purchase of new four-cylinder Wallis Model OK tractor.

The Model OK had only been introduced in 1922 by the J.I. Case PlowCompany.  (C.H. Wendel, 150 Years of Case [Crestline Pub.: Osceola, Wisc., 1991] p. 18.)  The J.I. Case Plow Company of Racine Wisconsin should not be confused with the J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company which was also located in Racine, Wisconsin.  The Case Threshing Machine Company was maker of the Case tractor.  Although founded by the same people as the Threshing Company, the J.I. Case Plow Company had always been a separate corporate entity.  In 1919, J.I. Case Plow Company was merged with the Wallis Tractor Company of Cleveland, Ohio and, thus, Henry M. Wallis became the new president of the company which bore the name J.I. Case Plow Company.  Inevitably, once the J.I. Case Plow Company was controlled by persons no longer associated with the Threshing Company, disputes arose over the use of the name “Case” by the Plow Company.  A decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court allowed both companies to use the name “Case” under limited conditions.  (Ibid., p. 17.)  By the time the that the decision of the Wisconsin Supreme Court was handed down, the Case Plow Company had already been purchased by the Massey-Harris Company of Ontario, Canada.  Immediately, after the Court decision, Case Threshing Company began pursuing a course of negotiations with Massey Harris to purchase the Case Plow Company for itself.

However, Massey Harris had been trying to enter the tractor market without real success, since 1912.  The purchase of the Case Plow Company represented the company’s third attempt to add a tractor to the line of Massey-Harris farm equipment.  (Michael Williams, Massey-Ferguson Tractors [Farming Press: Ipswich, U.K., 1987] pp. 15 through 44.)  Once having obtained ownership rights to the manufacture of the popular Wallis tractor and the large Racine, Wisconsin tractor factory, Massey-Harris was not inclined to sell this valuable property.  What they were willing to sell, and what the Case Threshing Company really wanted, was the limited right to the use of the name “Case” currently held by Massey Harris as the owner of the Case Plow Company.  Thus, shortly after spending $1.3 million in cash and guaranteeing another $1.1 million in bonds in order to purchase the Case Plow Company, Massey Harris was able to recoup a great deal of the purchase price by selling their rights to the limited use of the name “Case” for $700.000.00.

At 4,020 pounds, Herman’s new 1923 Wallis Model OK tractor was much lighter than the 5,708 pound Titan.  (C. H. Wendel, Nebraska Farm Tractor Tests [Crestline Pub.: Osceola, Wisc., 1993] pp. 19 and 42.)  Furthermore, the Wallis Model OK tractor was a four-cylinder tractor delivering smooth power to the belt and to the rear wheels.  Testing of the tractor at the University of Nebraska had shown that the tractor delivered 18.15 hp. to the drawbar and 27.13 hp. to the belt pulley.  (Ibid., p. 42.)  The Wallis tractor introduced many innovations to the tractor industry.

In 1913, the Wallis Tractor Company introduced the revolutionary Wallis Model “Cub” tractor.  Two years later in 1915, the Model J, “Cub Jr.” was designed with a complete enclosure of the entire power drive train including the final drives at the rear wheels.  (C.H. Wendel, Encyclopedia of Farm Tractors [Crestline Pub.: Sarasota, Fla., 1979] pp. 57 and 58.)  Despite claims by Henry Ford that his Fordson tractor, which went into production 1918, was the first unit frame designed tractor, the Wallis tractor was, actually, the first tractor designed with a totally enclosed power train running in oil.  (Ibid.)  Every succeeding model of Wallis tractor was patterned after this design.  Thus, by merely obtaining the production rights to the Wallis tractor in 1928, Massey-Harris was instantly set on a course to become one of the world’s five largest tractor manufacting companies within ten years.  (Michael Williams, Massey-Ferguson Tractors [Farming Press: Ipswich, U.K., 1987] pp. 39 through 41.)

Furthermore, by its acquisition of the J.I. Case Plow Company, the Canada-based Massey-Harris Company instantly obtained a retail tractor sales network throughout the United States.  In northeastern Iowa, this meant that Massey-Harris obtained the excellent services of the Coddington and Laird dealership of Waverly, Iowa, with branch dealerships in Plainfield, Readlyn, Tripoli and Janesville, Iowa.

Founded in Waverly, the Coddington and Laird dealership was the brainchild of Alva Bush Coddington.  Alva (nicknamed Al) Coddington had been born in 1870 in Janesville, Iowa, located in southern Bremer County (pop. 445).  After having attended business school in Burlington, Iowa, Al was employed for a while as a bookkeeper at the firm of J.C. Garner in Waverly, Iowa.  Garner’s was a local business which owned a meat marketing business and farm equipment dealership holding retail sales franchises from many different farm equipment manufacturing companies, including Emerson Manufacturing Co., John Deere and Oliver plows, Ohio Cultivator Company discs and cultivators, Hayes Pump and Planter Company planters, Dain Manufacturing Company hay rakes and hay loaders, Sandwich Manufacturing Company “Clean Sweep” hay loaders, DeLaval cream separatorsand Great Western Company manure spreaders.  Garner’s also had franchises to sell horse-drawn buggies made by the Staver Carriage Company of Chicago, Illinois; the Northwestern Furniture Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the Velie Carriage Company of Moline, Illinois.

Al Coddington was a recognized success at bookkeeping during his employment at Garner’s.  In 1891, he married Olive Wetherell, a girl from his own hometown of Janesville, Iowa.  Their first child, Harry Coddington, was born in 1895, but tragically died in infancy that same year.  However, they eventually had a family that was to include three additional children—Herbert Wetherell Coddington born in 1896, Olive Harriet Coddington born in 1902 and Margaret A. Coddington born in 1908.  After some years at Garner’s Al sought to advance his career by accepting a position in Des Moines, Iowa.  However, when he heard in 1902, that his old employer—the Garner dealership firm—was up for sale, it did not take him long to makeup his mind to move back to Bremer County and to purchase the Garner dealership.  However, Al felt himself unable to make the purchase of all the stock in Garner’s by himself.  So he formed a partnership with Ralph Eldon Laird to make the purchase.  Thus, the October 30, 1902 issue of the Bremer County Independent was able to report to its readers the first news of the consummated sale of Garner’s to the partnership of Al Coddington and Eldon Laird, which would take effect on January 1, 1903.  For a place of business, the new partnership of Coddington and Laird, purchased a local icehouse and the five (5) acre lot on which it sat, located at 20 and 22 West Bremer Street in Waverly from the s of land from the firm of Miller and Babcock.

A combination of good business sense on the part of Al Coddington and his partner and the beginnings of the mass demand for automobiles on the part of the public, made the new partnership a success from the very start.  In 1902, the Northwestern Furniture Company, one of the companies that supplied horse-drawn buggies to Coddington and Laird, began offering a motorized “high wheeler” horseless carriage to the public.  In 1907, the Staver Carriage Company did the same and in 1909, the Velie Company followed suit.  Holding franchises to all three of these companies, Coddington and Laird, was perfectly placed to take full advantage of the coming boom in demand for automobiles.

In the meantime, Coddington and Laird sought to broaden their line of products they could offer to the public.  The partnership purchased a windmill retailer, the John Voorman retail business on February 18, 1904.  At the same time, Coddington and Laird leased the old skating rink from O. Wheeler, that had been used as a place of business by John Voorman.  In this building the partnership established a buggy and farm machinery warehouse.

By March of 1904, Coddington and Laird was doing so well that they established a branch dealership in the small village of Readlyn, Iowa (pop. 468) located 15 miles to the east of Waverly and about six miles east of the Oltrogge farm.  Al Coddington also had the privilege of opening a branch of his expanding business in his own hometown of Janesville, Iowa.  By 1913, he would have additional branches in the Bremer County towns of Plainfield and Tripoli.  In this way, the partnership covered every major sales market in Bremer County.

The partnership attempted to find the enterprises that would best position the partnership for the future.  Accordingly, Coddington and Laird sold off the meat market part of their business on May 14, 1904 to O.O. McCaffree.  In November of 1904, the dealership leased the Smalley Grain Elevator located on the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad (“the Rock Island Line”) tracks which led out of Waverly in a southwesterly direction.

By 1905, Coddington and Laird was already being referred to as Waverly’s “leading farm implement house” (the October 5, 1905 issue of the Waverly Democrat).  Furthermore, the October 5, 1905 issue of the Waverly Democrat, reported that in addition to managing both the implement dealership and the grain elevator, the Coddington and Laird partnership occupied four warehouses with a wide range of goods for sale including lime, coal, ice and farm implements.  In March of 1910, Coddington and Laird took over the building next door to them at 16 and 18 West Bremer Street.  This building was remodeled to function as a garage where the dealership would begin to offer mechanical servicing to the owners of the new automobiles, motorized trucks and farm tractors that were beginning to make there appearance in Bremer County.  Two years later, Coddington and Laird was already looking for new and larger premises for their business.  The May 30 and June 27, 1912 issues of the Bremer County Independent the description of the new building at the corner of West Bremer and 2nd Street North West that the J.M. Miller Construction Company had been contracted to build for the Coddington and Laird dealership.  By October, the building structure was complete up to the second story.  By January of 1913, Coddington and Laird was moving into their new building located two blocks down West Bremer Street from their former location.

The dealership recognized that the trend of the future lie with modern farm equipment.  Accordingly, Coddington and Laird sold off the ice business part of their combined enterprise to C. R. Farnham in November of 1914.  Next spring, in May of 1915, they sold off the grain elevator and the coal business to the Colburn Bros.  Concentrating on their core business as a farm equipment, tractor and automobile dealership, Coddington and Laird had found their niche.

However, within the emerging automobile industry vast changes were afoot.  In 1904, the Northwestern Furniture Company had ceased making automobiles.  (Beverly Rae Kimes, Standard Catalogue of American Cars 1805-1942 [Krause Pub.: Iola, Wisc., 1996] pp. 666 and 1047.)  To replace this franchise, Coddington and Laird signed a contract with the Clark Motor Company of Shelbyville, Indiana, to sell Clark automobiles.  However, the Clark Co. had only a short life-span from 1910 until 1912.  (Ibid. p. 337.)  In 1914, the Staver Motor Company found itself unable to keep up with the competition and went out of business.  (Ibid. p. 1386.)  Even the Velie Company began a decline that would eventually end in the total demise of the company in 1928.  (Ibid. p. 1495.)  Luckily, the dealership signed a franchise contract with a the REO Motor Car Company of Lansing, Michigan, the nation’s twenty-second largest automobile maker.  (James H. Moloney, Encyclopedia of American Cars1930-1942 [Crestline Pub.: Sarasota, Fla., 1977] p. 319.)  REO had the large scale capacity necessary to produce their cars in sufficient numbers to meet the increasing demands of the public.  Furthermore, in 1909, the REO Company began the line trucks for which they would become renowned.  (Albert Mroz, Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Trucks and Commercial Vehicles [Krause Pub.: Iola, Wisc., 1996] p 327.)

However, the most important franchise that Coddington and Laird obtained was the franchise to sell Chevrolet cars.  In the period just after the First World War, Chevrolet was on its way toward overtaking Ford Motor Company in production and sale of automobiles—an event which would occur in 1927.  (Robert Lacy, Ford: The Men and the Machine [Little Brown &Co. Pub.: Boston, 1986] p. 298.)  Coddington and Laird were doing their part to help Chevrolet in this endeavor.  Sales of Chevrolet cars in the twelve-month fiscal year from 1923-1924 resulted in Coddington and Laird becoming a member of the Chevrolet Division’s “Winners Class” of dealers for the year 1924.

            Coddington and Laird served as the local retail sales agent for many different farm equipment manufacturers.  Generally, these manufacturers did not have tractors in the line of farm equipment and they often specialized in the farm machinery they did manufacture rather than offering an entire line of farm implements.  Thus, these manufacturers were called “short line” companies.  Only by obtaining multiple franchises from many specialized short line manufactures, could Coddington and Laird offer to the public a “complete” line of farm equipment.  The Wallis tractor formed the capstone of that complete line of farm equipment offered by Coddington and Laird.  In June of 1926, the dealership partitioned off the front part of their new building to form a showroom which allowed the Coddington and Laird dealership to exhibit the Wallis tractor and other farm implements, inside, out of the weather and elements, even during the coldest of Iowa winters.  Although somewhat more expensive than other tractors which were on the market in the post World War I period, the Wallis tractor nonetheless, proved to be a popular sales item in Bremer County.  Thus, when Massey-Harris purchased the exclusive rights to build Wallis tractors, it only made common business sense for Coddington and Laird to become a Massey-Harris franchisee, which they did in 1928.

Herman Oltrogge was well satisfied with the Wallis tractor.  Not only did he use the Wallis Model OK on all the heavy duty field work, but he also immediately started using the tractor on all sorts of lighter duty work around the farm.  For example, he shortened the hitch on his John Deere grain binder and fixed the tractor with a long steering wheel extension that allowed him to steer the Wallis from the seat of the binder.  This allowed the grain binding operations on the farm to remain a “one-man” operation just as it had been with the horses.

The Wallis four-cylinder valve-in-head engine provided smooth power to the belt when Herman belted the Wallis to the Sprout Waldron burr mill.  Only one problem arose on the farm because of the new tractor.  The new Wallis Model OK tractor had a rated engine speed of 1000 rpm.  (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests [Motorbooks Intl. Pub., 1993] p. 42.)  This speed compared with an engine speed of 575 rpm. for the Titan.  (Ibid. p. 19.)  As noted above, when he purchased the burr mill, Herman had, of course, intended to use the Titan tractor to power the burr mill.  Thus, the burr mill was fitted with a 6” belt pulley with a 6” face.  This small pulley had the effect of speeding up the implement.  Thus, the burr mill had been customized to the slower belt speed of the Titan tractor.  Herman found that the Wallis tractor powered the burr mill at too fast a rate for efficient operation.  Thus, it is not surprising that on February 5, 1923, Herman wrote to the Sprout Waldron Company in Muncy, Pennsylvania to determine how to adjust his burr mill to fit the new higher speed Wallis tractor.  Charles Waldron, Vice president of the company responded three days later with a suggestion that the burr mill should be fitted with a larger 8” pulley.  Sprout and Waldron had an 8” pulley with a 6” leather face available for sale at a price of $5.25.  Acquisition of this new pulley allowed the Wallis Model OK tractor to efficiently power the burr mill and the smooth four cylinder engine did not cause the tractor to lope and send waves down the belt.

Massey-Harris continued manufacturing the Wallis Model OK tractor for about three years following the purchase of the J .I. Case Plow Company.  Indeed in 1929, Massey-Harris introduced a newer smaller version of the Model OK.  This was the Wallis Model 12-20.  (C. H. Wendel, Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors, p. 185.)  In 1931, the Massey Harris Model 25 was introduced as a replacement for the Wallis Model OK tractor.  (Michael Williams, Massey-Ferguson Tractors [Blandford Press: London, 1987] p. 32.)  Still, the Massey Harris 25 tractor bore many of the identical design features of the Wallis tractor.  The Massey-Harris Model 25 was offered to the public for the retail price of $1,275.00.  (C.H. Wendel, Massey Tractors [Motorbooks Intl. Pub.: Osceola, Wisc., 1992] p. 39.)

As was noted in an earlier article, during the years 1931 through 1933, the Oltrogge farm served as the test ground for the prototype of the Rosenthal corn picker.  (See the article “The Rosenthal Corn Husker Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Part V” contained in January/February 2002 issue of Belt Pulley magazine p. 12.)  Also as related in that article, Herman traded the Wallis Model OK tractor to the Coddington and Laird dealership in 1932 on the purchase of a new Massey-Harris Model 25.  Herman Oltrogge surely did not realize that his purchase of this tractor was to start a connection between the Oltrogge family and Massey-Harris tractors which extends down to the present day.  The Massey Harris 25 continued to serve on the Oltrogge farm until after the Second World War.

The purchase of the Massey Harris Model 25 tractor did not, however, provide the family with a tractor that would perform all farm operations.  The Massey-Harris was not a “row crop” tractor that would allow for the mechanical cultivation of corn and other row crops.  The Oltrogge family raised a lot of corn but even after the purchase of the Massey-Harris Model 25, they still used horses for the cultivation of row crops—one row at a time.  Not until early 1942, when they purchased one of the first Case Model VAC that came out in production, did they have a row-crop tractor which would allow for the mechanical cultivation of corn and other rows crops—two rows at a time.  However, after only one year with the VAC, the Oltrogges traded the little Case in on the purchase of another row crop tractor.  Once again they chose a Massey-Harris tractor.  They purchased a Model 101 Super from their local dealership—Coddington and Laird.  The 101 Super was an important part of the Massey-Harris Company’s attempt to develop a row crop tractor.  However, development of Massey-Harris row-crop tractors would come to full fruition only in the post-World War II sales boom.  This story remains as a subject for the next installment on Massey-Harris farming.

The connection between the Oltrogge family and Massey-Harris tractors continued.  Herman’s son, Orville Oltrogge took over the farming operations from his father in the late 1940’s.  The family farmed with a Model 44, a Model    and a Model Massey-Harris tractors.  Currently, Orville’s son, Keith Oltrogge, lives in the same house and on the same farm that was occupied by four prior generations of Oltrogges.  Although, Keith works in nearby Denver, Iowa, as a Tax consultant and accountant, Keith is known to Massey-Harris collectors and restorers, nationwide, as the editor of Wild Harvest, the official newsletter for Massey-Harris collectors.  In this way, Keith continues his family’s connection with Massey-Harris and actually makes the Oltrogge name as household term among Massey-Harris collectors.  Massey-Harris farming will be celebrated at the 2004 LeSueur Pioneer Power Show held on August 27, 28 and 29, 2004 as the national Massey Harris collectors “Wild Harvest” summer convention will be hosted at the Show.  Show attendees can be certain that Keith Oltrogge will be there to maintain his family’s continuing connection with the Massey-Harris name.

The 1938 Rasmus Thronson Farmall F-12 Tractor

The Farmall F-12 (Part III):

The 1938 Rasmus Thronson Farmall F-12 Tractor


Brian Wayne Wells

with the assistance of

Elvin Papenhausen of Princeton, Minnesota

 As published in the September/October 2003 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine


The restored 1938 Rufus Thronson Farmall F-12 bearing the Serial No. 121778 at the 2016 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show.


As noted earlier the “waist” of Minnesota is the narrow part of the state, as it appears on a map.  (See the article called “The Possible Story of One”  Part I of the Loren Helmbrecht Tractor contained in the May/June 2003 issue of Belt Pulley magazine at page 28.)  The waist is located roughly half way between the northern and southern parts of the state.  Located in the waist, bordering Sherburne County on the north side is Mille Lacs County.  (See the above-cited article for a description of Sherburne County.)

A map of Minnesota showing the location of Mille Lacs County in the “waist” of the state.


This area of the State of Minnesota is where the deciduous hardwood forests of the southeastern portion of the State end and the northern coniferous forests begin.  (Theodore C. Blegen, Minnesota: A History of the State [University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 1963] p. 11.)  The pine and fir trees of the northern coniferous forests spring from the same sandy soil that covers Mille Lacs County.

The pine tree forests of the Chippewa National Forest typify the soft wood forests that are spread all across northern Minnesota.


As described in an earlier article, the sandy soil of the area had made the area of Sherburne and Mille Lacs County a good place to raise potatoes.  Potato farming had thrived in the area of Mille Lacs and Sherburne Counties since 1890.  (See “The Possible Story of One F-12” cited above.)  In 1908, potato marketing cooperative associations began making their appearance in the State of Minnesota.  (Blegen at p. 399.)  In 1920, the Minnesota Potato Exchange was formed.

The potato washer located in the O.J. Odegard Inc. warehouse located 2nd South Street in Princeton, Minnesota.


Princeton Minnesota (1920 pop. 1,685) served as a marketing outlet for the area potato crop.  Indeed, in 1901 and 1902 Princeton became the largest primary potato market in the Northwest.  One of the major potato buyers in Princeton was  O.J. Odegard Farms Inc.  Although, the Odegard family operated their own potato and onion growing operations on their own farm called “the bog,” Odegard’s served as a major buyer of potatoes for the entire Princeton area.

The O. J. Odegard peat bog, shown here is representative of the agricultural land of the southern part of Mille Lacs County including Greenbush township.


During the potato harvest in the fall of the year, the Odegard warehouse, located on 2nd South Street became a major employer in town.  Potatoes were received washed and packed into 100 lbs. sacks and loaded onto freight cars of the Great Northern Railroad.  The Great Northern tracks ran through town, north towards the county seat of Milaca and south to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  The loading of the freight cars took place at the Great Northern Railroad Depot which is located at 10th Avenue and 1st Street in Princeton.  (This depot is now the home of the exhibits and library materials of the Mille Lacs County Historical Society.)  The potatoes were sold to wholesalers in Minneapolis.

The old Great Northern train depot in Princeton as it appears today.


Not only did Odegards hire on employees to work the harvest and processing of potatoes in the fall of the year, but they also hired on teenagers all summer to work on their hands and knees weeding the fields of their own farm in the bog.  This made Odegards the largest employer in the Princeton area.  (Taken from the manuscript called Memories of Princeton, Minnesota by Elvin Papenhausen.)

Princeton even developed into a market for the “culls” or unsatisfactory potatoes that potato growers could not sell on the edible potato market.  These cull potatoes were used in the manufacture of commercial starch.  On March 26, 1890 the Princeton Potato Starch Company was incorporated and a factory was built.  The factory was so busy processing cull potatoes that the factory operated both day and night.  Later a second starch factory was built in Princeton.   (From an internet document called “History of Princeton, Minnesota.”)

The Parlin & Orenburg factory located in Canton, Illinois, as seen in 1905.


In 1919, following, the First World War, the International Harvester Company made their first major corporate acquisition since 1904, when they purchased the Parlin & Orendorff  (P. & O.)  Company of Canton, Illinois.  (C.H. Wendel, 150 Years of International Harvester [Crestline Pub.: Sarasota, Fla., 1981], p. 31.)  Along with their famous line of plow, the P. & O. Company also had introduced a mechanical potato digger several years prior to the merger with International Harvester.  The International Harvester Company inherited this horse-drawn mechanical potato digger.  (Ibid. p. 237.)  In 1920, International Harvester continued production of this potato digger, with some substantial improvements.  The potato digger was called the McCormick-Deering Model No. 6 potato digger.  (Ibid.)  One of the improvements of the Model No. 6 over the prior P.&O. Company potato digger was the rod-link chain apron.  The potatoes would travel over the moving apron which would shake off all the dirt.  The potatoes would then be deposited on top of the ground in plain view for the field hands to collect.  (Ibid.) 

A McCormick-Deering one-row potato digger


In 1920 the local International Harvester dealership franchise in Princeton, Minnesota may have been held by the owner and operator of the local hardware store.  Starting in 1920, the International Harvester dealership in Princeton was able to compete in the potato growing market by supplying the area potato farms with mechanical potato diggers.  In 1921, International Harvester introduced the new McCormick-Deering potato planter.  Together the Model No. 6 potato digger and the new McCormick-Deering potato planter allowed the dealership in Princeton to prosper all through the early part of the 1920s.  Sales of farm equipment allowed the hardware store to advertise employment for a position of farm equipment sales person.

The City of Princeton, Minnesota is located in Princeton Township on the southern border of Mille Lacs County. Indeed a small part of the city of Princeton spills over into neighboring Sherburne County to the south. In this 1914, map of Mille Lacs County Princeton Township can be seen as the pink-colored township at the very bottom of the map. Additionally, Greenbush Township, where the Rasmus Thronson farm was located is shown here as a green-colored township at the bottom of the map to the left of Princeton Township also on Mille Lacs County.


In answer to the newspaper advertisement of the position of sales person at the hardware store an ambitious 24-year-old man by the name of Floyd Hall arrived in Princeton.  Born in Henry, South Dakota, on January 30, 1896 to W. K. and Grace (Henry) Hall, Floyd had married Eva Leathers on October 11, 1916.  Eva was also from the town of Henry.  In 1918, while still living in Henry, Eva had given birth to their son, Willard F. Hall.  Now in 1920, she was pregnant again with a daughter.  Marjorie Hall was born to the couple in December of 1920.

Floyd Hall in middle age.

Continue reading The 1938 Rasmus Thronson Farmall F-12 Tractor

The Behlen Manufacturing Company (Part II)

            The Behlen Manufacturing Company: (Part II)

The Hi-Speed Gear Box 


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the November/December 2002 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine


As noted previously in Part I of this series of articles, the Behlen Manufacturing Company was the brainchild of Walter Behlen.  (“The Behlen Manufacturing Company, Part I” in the September/October 2002 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  Along with his brothers Gilbert and Herbert (called Mike) and their father Fred, Walter had built a small company (which began in his own garage) into a nationwide supplier of grain storage and drying systems.  Emerging from the Second World War, the company was manufacturing many products besides its mainline product of grain systems.  One of its lesser-known products was the Hi-Speed Gear Box meant for installation on older, pre-war, steel-wheeled tractors.

Following the war, farmers across North America began to demand devices which would upgrade their old, pre-war farm tractors.  One way farmers upgraded their old tractors was by cutting off the steel bands on the rear wheels and welding on a rim for mounting of rubber tires on the rear.  Once the rubber tires were mounted in the rear, farmers began to notice how really slow these old, pre-war tractors were.  Thus, a market was established for some sort of supplemental transmission to provide a faster road gear for these tractors.  The Behlen Hi-Speed Gear Box was just such a supplemental transmission.  Behlen made its Hi-Speed Gear Box in three different styles:  one for installation on the John Deere Model A and/or Model B tractor; another for installation on McCormick-Deering’s Farmall F-30 tractor; and, the most popular of all, the Hi-Speed Gear Box made for installation on the Farmall “Regular” and/or the Farmall F-20.  The Farmall Regular and its successor, the F-20, had been pioneers in the tricycle style design of tractors.  The Hi-Speed Gear Box was intended to give these old pioneering tractors, a new lease on life in the post-World War II era.

Development of the “Farmall” had actually begun in the midst of an earlier war.  By 1915, the war in Europe was settling down to the stalemate in the trenches, with no end in sight and the Wilson administration seeking to keep the United States out of the war.  Meanwhile, on the average family farm in North America, the horse was already being displaced by the tractor.  Most of the heavier tasks on the farm, such as plowing and seedbed preparation, were already the domain of tractors, with “standard tread” model tractors of all companies taking over many of the heavier jobs.  Belt power, provided by these standard tread tractors was also being used to run grain threshers, silo fillers, corn huskers and feed grinders.  However, one task remained that was definitely for the horse – the cultivation of row crops.  Standard, or “four-wheeled,” tractors were simply not designed or suited for that task.

In 1915, it became the goal of the International Harvester Company to design a machine specifically for use in cultivation of row crops on the farm.  Research and experimentation was intensive, and by 1919, two engineers at IHC – Edward Johnston and C.W. Mott – had obtained a patent on a specialized machine know as the “motor cultivator.”  (Barbara Marsh, A Corporate Tragedy: The Agony of International Harvester, [Doubleday and Co.: Garden City, N.Y. 1985], p. 53.)  (Photographs of the development of the various prototypes of the “motor cultivator” can be seen in International Harvester Farm Equipment, by Ralph Baumheckel and Kent Borghoff [American Society of Engineers Pub.: St. Joseph, Mich. 1997], pp. 125-126).  However, the trouble with the motor cultivator was that it was another expensive piece of self-propelled machinery designed to perform only one task and would have to be stored by the farmer for a whole year until it could be used again.

Finally, in 1921, IHC determined that a new type of tractor design was needed – a design which would allow the tractor to cultivate corn as well as perform all the rest of the chores around the farm.  Consequently, the “tricycle” design of farm tractor was conceived and the “Farmall System” of farming was born.  In 1924, the Farmall Regular was introduced.  The goal of the Farmall System was aimed at total mechanization of all farm tasks and the elimination of all horses from the farm.  The tricycle design would prove successful from the very start.  Eventually, all tractor manufacturers copied the tricycle design for their row-crop tractors – leading International Harvester to counter with the advertising campaign slogan, “If it isn’t a McCormick-Deering, it isn’t a Farmall.”  (Ibid. p. 144)

In 1932, the Farmall (now called the “Regular”) was replaced by a new and improved version called the Farmall F-20.  The F-20 had 10% more horsepower than the Regular (23.11 hp as opposed to 20.05 hp) and had a new 4-speed transmission (2-1/4 mph, 2-3/4 mph, 3-1/4 mph and 3-3/4 mph) as opposed to the 3-speed transmission (2 mph, 3 mph and 4 mph) of the Regular.  (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests, [Crestline Pub.: Osceola, Wisc. 1993], pp. 51 and 85.)  Additionally, the two-plow F-20 was joined in the Farmall line by the three-plow F-30, introduced in 1931, and the single-plow F-12, introduced in 1932.

Because of the sudden popularity of the Farmall Regular, its production was moved, in 1927, out of the Tractor Works at 2600 West 31st Boulevard in Chicago and into the Company’s new factory, The Farmall Works, located at 4201 Fifth Avenue in Rock Island, Illinois.  Production of all F-20s and F-30s was carried on at the Farmall Works.  Only production of the F-12 remained at the Tractor Works in Chicago.  By the time No. 127613 rolled off the assembly line in the morning of May 13, 1938, the Farmall Works was only eleven years old.

The price of a new F-20 with rubber tires front and rear in 1939 was $1,190.00.  (Ralph Baumhecckel and Kent Borghoff, International Harvester Farm Equipment, p. 146.)  This was a great deal of money for a farmer emerging from the experience of the Great Depression.  Still, as they learned that rubber tires would grip the ground just as well as steel wheels, farmers dreamed of having rubber tires on the front and rear of their tractors for the smoother ride the rubber tires could provide.  One particular farmer who dreamed of having and then purchased an F-20 with rubber tires front and rear is portrayed in the 1938 International Harvester promotional movie called Writing Your Own Ticket.  This movie advertises the new Income Purchase Plan which was being introduced by the International Harvester Company (IHC) as a way to help potential farm customers individualize an installment plan for loan repayment.  This plan would allow them to pay installments as their income came to the farm, rather than on a rigid monthly installment plan.  In this way, farmers could “write their own ticket.”  (“Writing Your Own Ticket” is available on VHS video Tape #3 from International Promotional Movies)

While rubber tires on the rear were nice, they would add nearly $150.00 to the price of a tractor.  (Donald R. Darst, F-30 Farmall Restoration Guide and Story: From Field to Hot Rod to Show [1993], p. 3B.)  Thus, many farmers dropped this option when purchasing their tractors.  Farmers felt they could live with the “bouncy” ride of the tractor, thereby reducing the initial outlay of money they would need for the tractor.  A cheaper option was to have rubber tires in the front in order to improve the steering of the tractor.  Thus, it was a typical configuration for most tractors of that era to have rubber tires in the front and steel wheels in the rear.  No. 127613 was no exception.  On the front, No. 127613 had two 6.00 x 16” rubber tires mounted on IHC-made, cast iron, drop-center wheels with 4.50 x 16” rims.  These cast iron front wheels had replaced the 4.50 x 16” French and Hecht (F. & H.) round spoke rims.  International Harvester had made this switch at the F-20 tractor bearing the serial number 109124, which came off the assembly line in late 1937.  (McCormick Deering Model F-20 Farmall Tractor Parts Catalogue, p. 175)  (Kurt Aumann, Ed., Antique Tractor Serial Number Index [Belt Pulley Publishing: Nokomis, Ill. 1993], p. 16.)  Accordingly, when No 127613 was manufactured a year later, it was fitted with cast iron wheels with rubber tires in front and IHC-made steel wheels on the rear. Continue reading The Behlen Manufacturing Company (Part II)

Pioneer Implement House and the Great Binder Wars

       The Pioneer Implement House Farm Equipment Dealership of

Winnebago, Minnesota, and the Great Binder Wars of the 1890


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the July/Augsut 2002 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

In the 1880s, farming was in its golden age.  As old painful memories of the Panic of 1873 were fading, a new generation came with a whole new set of advantages to make farming easier.  To be sure, mechanical cutting of wheat and oats had been developed well prior to the Civil War, with most credit going to Cyrus McCormick for the invention of the successful reaper in 1831.  However, harvesting small grains still required a tremendous amount of manpower, because reapers basically only cut grain.  Even raking cut grain from the cutting table was done by hand until self-raking reapers were developed – like McCormick’s own “Daisy.”  (A picture of the Daisy can be seen in C. H. Wendel’s book 150 Years of International Harvester [Crestline Publishers: Sarasota, Fla., 1981], p. 20.  Additionally, there is a Daisy self-raking reaper among the permanent collection at the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show which can be seen in the parade at the 1992 show on the second hour portion of Tape #1 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies.)

While the Daisy self-raking reaper was a big advance in technology, grain harvesting still required a great deal of hand labor.  The first real advance in the area of small grain harvesting came only in 1873 with development of the wire-tied grain binder by the Walter A. Wood Mowing and Reaping Machine Company of Hoosick Falls, New York.  (C.H. Wendel, Encyclopedia of American Farm Implements and Antiques [Krause Publications: Iola, Iowa, 1997], p. 160.)

The advantages of self-binding reapers were very quickly recognized by the farming public and demand for these binders skyrocketed.  In 1876, 5,000 binders were purchased by Minnesota farmers alone.  (Theodore C. Blegen, Minnesota: A History of the State [University of Minnesota Press: St. Paul, 1963], p. 342)  By 1880, the knotter-bill design for twine-tying of grain bundles was perfected.  That same year, the Deering Harvester Company made 3,000 of these twine-tying grain binders for the 1880 harvest season.  (C.H. Wendel, 150 Years of International Harvester [Crestline Publishing: Sarasota, Florida, 1981], p. 23)  Twine was a great improvement over wire because farmers would not have to worry about pieces of wire breaking off and getting into the grain where it might be accidentally swallowed by cows.  Small bits of metal swallowed by cows tended to get stuck in the lining of the cows’ stomachs and would cause “hardware disease,” a disease which causes cows to become sickly and eat less.  Thus, beef cattle will gain less weight and milk cows will produce less milk.  Twine, on the other hand, if accidentally swallowed, was harmless to the intestinal tracts of cattle.

Demand for the new twine-tying grain binders caused many companies to be formed solely for the purpose of making binders and caused other, older companies to focus more directly on the booming binder market.  Not only did the grain binder create opportunities for the manufacturers of farm equipment, but opportunities were also created at the retail end of the farm machinery business.  Many young men became aware of these opportunities for selling farm machinery, especially grain binders, to the farming public.  One such young man was John Azro Hanks.

Born on December 16, 1860, on a farm near Warren, Vermont, John Azro Hanks was the second child and first son of John Marshall and Charlotte (Bruce) Hanks.  A lifelong lover of books and an avid reader, John Azro completed his schooling in Warren, and went on to graduate from Randolph Normal School in Randolph Center, Vermont.  He had taught one year of school (1879-1880) in Vermont, when, in August of 1880, his parents and younger brother Fred Marshall moved to Minnesota and settled on a farm in Verona Township, Faribault County, near the town of Winnebago.  They intended to get settled on a farm before spring field work would begin.  John Azro, who was 20 years old at this time, remained in Vermont to teach school for another year before he too would immigrate to Minnesota in the spring of 1881.  (John Azro also had an older sister – Ellen Ione Hanks – who was 26 years of age in 1880 and had been married to George Provonche since February 11, 1874.)  Continue reading Pioneer Implement House and the Great Binder Wars