The 1955 Farmall Model 300 Tractor Bearing the Serial No. 22368.
Brian Wayne Wells
This article remains under construction. Periodically, new blocks of text will appear in the article and/or current blocks of text will be corrected.
The tricycle-style Farmall Model 300 tractor. This tractor has the optional three hydraulic levers which are attached to the hood of the tractor behind the steering wheel on the operator’s platform. From this angle the levers can be seen in this picture, just just behind the headlight. Two of these levers will control the hydraulic oil flow through the two hydraulic hoses, which are seen in this picture in front of the belt pulley. These two hoses will led to hydraulic connectors on the rear of the tractor to be used for remote hydraulic cylinders on any farm equipmdnt that might be towed by the tractor. The third lever is probably for the fast hitch on the tractor.
Introduction of the “letter-series” tractors actually began on June 21, 1939 with the full scale production of the Farmall Model A tractor at the company’s “Tractor Works” factory located at 24th Street and Western Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. During the last half of 1939, the Tractor Works would turn out 6,243 Farmall Model A tractors and the next year–1940 (the first full year of production)–the Chicago factory would manufacture 34,756 Farmall Model A tractors.
However, the real action in Farmall tractor production was occurring across the State of Illinois on the Mississippi River at Rock, Island, Illinois. In Rock Island, at the company’s “Farmall Works” facility the larger Farmall tractors which held the future of the company, were being produced. The three-plow Farmall M, which was the largest of the row-crop tractors of all the letter series tractors, began production on July 15, 1939 at the huge “Farmall Works” factory. The Farmall Model H tractor began production on its own assembly line within the Farmall Works.
As noted in other articles at this website, when the two-plow Farmall H began production on July 21, 1939, the Model H quickly became the leading seller in the Farmall line of tractors, immediately out-selling the larger Farmall M. (In 1939, 10,152 Farmall Model H’s were made and sold as opposed to only 6,739 Farmall M’s) There were at multiple assembly lines in the large Farmall Works facility. One of the assembly lines in the Farmall Works was dedicated to production of the Farmall H, while production of the Farmall M was performed on another assembly line in another part of the factory.
Observers had long expected that the larger and more powerful three-plow tractor of the letter series, the Farmall Model M would outsell the two-bottom Model H. However, from the very start of the production run of the letter series in the summer of 1939, the Farmall Model H proved to be the most popular selling tractor of the series. With the exception of the single year of 1947, this would remain the situation until 1949.
During the years that followed the introduction of the letter-series tractors, production of the Farmall H continued to outstrip production of the Farmall M in the years that followed. (41,734 Farmall H’s were made in the modelyear 1940 and 40,850 were made in 1941. During the same years, production of the larger Farmall M was limited to only 18,131 in 1940 and 25,617 in 1941.) These were the glory years of tractor production for the Farmall Model H.
However, with the coming of the Second World War, the United States government began to restrict the use of raw materials and manufacturing capacity for anything but the war effort. Civilian manufacturing was greatly curtailed during the war years. Accordingly, in model year 1942, production of the Farmall Model H at International Harvesters‘ Farmall Works in Rock Island, Illinois fell to 29,353. In 1943, production of the Model H fell to 27,661 tractors. In 1944, production rose again to 35,872, but still did not reach the pre-war production figures. Production in 1945 was 28,697 Farmall H’s. Even with the end of the war, the number of Farmall Model H’s rolling off the Model H assembly line at the huge Rock Island Farmall Works facility in 1946, still was limited to 26,343 Farmall H’s. (During these same immediate post-war years, production of the Farmall M lagged behind at 9,025 tractors in 1942; 7,413 Farmall Model M’s in 1943; and 20,661 Model M’s in 1944; 17,479 in 1945; 17,259 in 1946 and 28,885 in 1947.)
However, as the demand for bigger and more efficient farm equipment grew in the post-war years, farmers turned to buying larger farm tractors like the Farmall Model M. As a result the sales gap between the Model H and the Model M sales narrowed and in 1947 sales of the Farmall M reached 28,885 tractors and actually surpassed sales of the Farmall H (27,848 Farmall H’s in 1947) for the first time. After falling behind the Model H in sales for the year 1948, (31,885 Farmall Model H’s as opposed to 28,806 Model M’s were manufactured in 1948), the Model M once again took the lead in the sales and production again in 1949 with 33,065 Farmall M’s rolling off the Model M assembly line while only 27,099 Farmall H’s rolled off the Model H assembly line at the Farmall Works facility in Rock Island, Illinois. This time the Model M would continue to lead the Farmall H in production figures for the remainder of the production run of the letter-series tractors. (In 1950, production of the Model M reached 33,939 tractors. In 1951, a record, 43,405 Farmall M tractors were made and sold.
In 1952, the International Harvester Company replaced the Farmall Model M with the new Farmall Super M. Early in the production year of 1952 the Farmall Works factory in Rock Island, Illinois made 7,295 Farmall M tractors before the factory was closed down for retooling and preparation for the production of the Super M. International Harvester actually built 12,015 Super M’s at the Farmall Works in Rock Island, Illinois in the latter part of the 1952 production year. (An additional 1,905 Super M’s built at the newly constructed factory located in Louisville, Kentucky.)
Meanwhile, on the Farmall H assembly line at the same Rock Island factory, 23,948 Farmall Model H’s rolled off the Model H assembly line in 1950; 23,938 followed in 1951 and an identical number of 23,938 were made in 1952. Accordingly, after the first three years of production of the Farmall H–1939-1941, production of the Farmall Model H became much more consistent during the 11 years from 1942 through 1952. During these 11 years the average yearly production of Farmall Model H’s was 27,871 Model H’s per year, or 2,323 every month during this period of time. If we assume that the average month consists of 20 working days excluding weekends and holidays the daily production of Farmall H’s during this period was 116 tractors each work day.
Additionally, 727 Farmall H’s were made in 1953 bringing the total number of Farmall H’s manufactured during the entire production run from 1939 through 1953 to 391,227 individual tractors. Of course, in 1953, the International Harvester Company replaced the Farmall Model H with a the Farmall Model Super H. So after making the 727 Farmall H’s in the early part of the production year of 1953– the Farmall Works facility closed down for a retooling of the H assembly line. Following the retooling of the H assembly line, the Farmall Works produced 21,707 individual Super H tractors in the latter part of 1953.
Adding the 1953 production of Farmall H’s with the 1953 production of Super H’s together,results in the combined production figure of 22,434 individual tractors that came off the Farmall H assembly line at the Rock Island Farmall Works in 1953. This combined production figure for 1953 was only 5,437 less that the average yearly production of the Farmall H assembly line in the Farmall Works facility. The loss of production time in 1953 from the average production year appears to be the equivalent of two-months and seven working days. This was probably the amount of time that was needed for a skeleton crew of workers to retool the Farmall H assembly line at the Farmall Works to begin full production of the Super H.
This article has been referring to the term “production year.” If the “production year” coincided with the calendar year, it would logical to assume that the 1953 production of 727 Farmall H’s occurred over the first six days in January, 1953. However, it is more likely that the 1953 production figures are not for the “calendar year” of 1953, but rather are for the “production or model year” of 1953. Tractors did not change styling on an annual basis the way that automobiles were starting to do annually in the post-World War period, but tractors were starting follow a “model year” system like automobiles rather than following a traditional calendar year system. Under the model year system,new model automobiles were introduced in September of the previous year rather than on January 1st of the current year. However, the model year in tractors would need to begin in August of each year, especially for model years that involved substantive changes in the model of tractor. The reason was that State Fairs around the nation offered the best opportunity for tractor manufacturers to advertise their new tractors to the nation’s farming public. State Fairs created a great deal of excitement and were an advertising opportunity that tractor manufacturers simply could not afford to miss. Especially favored by tractor manufacturers was the nation’s largest agricultural fair–the Minnesota State Fair–which was held over the last ten (10) days before Labor Day each year.the model year in tractors would need to begin in August of each year, especially for model years that involved substantive changes in the model of tractor. The reason was that State Fairs around the nation offered the best opportunity for tractor manufacturers to advertise their new tractors to the nation’s farming public. State Fairs created a great deal of excitement and were an advertising opportunity that tractor manufacturers simply could not afford to miss. Especially favored by tractor manufacturers was the nation’s largest agricultural fair–the Minnesota State Fair–which was held over the last ten (10) days before Labor Day each year.the model year in tractors would need to begin in August of each year, especially for model years that involved substantive changes in the model of tractor. The reason was that State Fairs around the nation offered the best opportunity for tractor manufacturers to advertise their new tractors to the nation’s farming public. State Fairs created a great deal of excitement and were an advertising opportunity that tractor manufacturers simply could not afford to miss. Especially favored by tractor manufacturers was the nation’s largest agricultural fair–the Minnesota State Fair–which was held over the last ten (10) days before Labor Day each year. The reason was that State Fairs around the nation offered the best opportunity for tractor manufacturers to advertise their new tractors to the nation’s farming public. State Fairs created a great deal of excitement and were an advertising opportunity that tractor manufacturers simply could not afford to miss. Especially favored by tractor manufacturers was the nation’s largest agricultural fair–the Minnesota State Fair–which was held over the last ten (10) days before Labor Day each year. The reason was that State Fairs around the nation offered the best opportunity for tractor manufacturers to advertise their new tractors to the nation’s farming public. State Fairs created a great deal of excitement and were an advertising opportunity that tractor manufacturers simply could not afford to miss. Especially favored by tractor manufacturers was the nation’s largest agricultural fair–the Minnesota State Fair–which was held over the last ten (10) days before Labor Day each year.s largest agricultural fair–the Minnesota State Fair–which was held over the last ten (10) days before Labor Day each year.s largest agricultural fair–the Minnesota State Fair–which was held over the last ten (10) days before Labor Day each year.
Accordingly, we might conclude that full production run of the Farmall Super H was begun in early August of 1952 to have sufficient time to get examples of the new Super H off the production line and shipped to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Minnesota “block house” (the International Harvester Company-owned distribution warehouse located at 2572 University Avenue in the midtown area between the two cities. Ordinarily, the staff at the block house would be hurriedly re-shipping the tractors they received from the Farmall Works to the various dealerships around Minnesota who they served. However, in this case the block house staff would be instructed to not ship any Super Hs out to their dealership until after the official introduction of the Super H at the large International Harvester tent on the State Fairgrounds on the first day of the State Fair.
Television in the early 1950 helped create even more excitement around the Minnesota State Fair. Tractor Manufacturers could not pass up the advertising possibilities to reach the farming public available at the Minnesota State Fair. Here KSTP Channel 9 television out of Minneapolis at the State Fair adds to the excitement and advertising possibilities of the State fair in the 1950s.
It was well advertised that the Model Super H had more horse power (hp.) than the regular Farmall Model H. (Testing in Nebraska had shown the new Super H to turn out 30.68 hp. at the drawbar and 33.40 hp. at the belt pulley. While the regular Model H had created only 24.17 hp. at the drawbar and 26.40 at the belt pulley.) However, one small difference that probably went unnoticed at the State Fair, was the fact that the wheel base of the Super H was about an inch longer that the regular H. (89.25 inches for the Super H and 88.325 inches for the regular H) a single inch added to the wheel base would hardly be noticeable to anyone. This was a sign that the addition of live hydaulics as an option to the Super H had made space along the top of the power train and inside the transmission case extremely limited. The H needed to be totally redesigned in the near future. Thus, it was no surprise that for the model year 1955,International Harvester Company replaced the Farmall Super H in their line of farm tractors with the Farmall Model 300 tractor.
Once again the “model year” of 1955 actually began in 1954. A book written by Guy Fay and Andy Kraushaar called Original Farmall Hundred Series 1954-1958 reveals that IHC records show that production of the Farmall 300 began in November of 1954. During November and December of 1954 the records in the Fay and Kraushaar book have 1,182 Model 300 tractors built in November and 1,677 Model 300 tractors built in December of 1954. Like the Model Super H, production of the Farmall 300 was also short lived. Clearly, in this case, no Model 300 tractors were available for the 1954 Minnesota State Fair. The introduction of the Farmall Model 300 to the Minnesota State Fair had to wait until August of 1955.
(Coincidentally, the current author attended this fair as a six year old child. along with his parents, the late Wayne A. Wells, Marilyn (Hanks) Wells, four year old brother, Mark Wells, and and three-year old sister, Eileen Wells. Also attending was the current author’s Uncle John Hanks and his Aunt Hildreth Hanks and the family’s good friend Rhona Fitzpatrick. A good time was had by all!! For the current author and his siblings it was a marvelous adventure. brother The family slept out in a series of camping tents in the campground at the State Fair. One of the first exhibits the family saw was the early show at the International Harvester tent. It was quite a show as the Fast-Hitch 300 tractor was shown hitching and unhitching rapidly to the music of a square dance. Later years at the big International Harvester tent would have the would have Farmall tractors driven through their famous square dance without the Fast Hitch implements, but 1955 was different. The Fast Hitch on the 300 had to be demonstrated for the farming public in attendance. The visit to the State Fair was repeated again in 1956 and threatened to become an annual event. However, in 1957, Uncle John went into the United States Army and the current author’s immediate family rode a passenger train to Elyria, Ohio to see Aunt Hildreth and pick up a new 1957 Plymouth station wagon. In 1958 the family took the new car on an extensive trip to Seattle , Washington, and back. The family would not see the State Fair again until 1959. By this time the Farmall tractors had changed appearance dramatically and the big top tent at the International Harvester exhibit now featured International Model 340 crawlers doing the famous square dance.)
While the production run of the Model 300 continued for the entire twelve months of 1955 and continued into 1956, production of the 300 ceased in August of 1956. As a result, the production run of the successor to the Farmall 300 (the Farmall Model 350) did not—according to Fay and Kraushaar’s beautiful book–begin until the November of 1956.
The model year of 1955, saw the introduction of the whole line of the “Hundred Series” tractors by the International Harvester Company. The Hundred Series line of tractors included the larger Model 400 and the smaller Model 200 and Model 100 tractor in addition to the Model 300.
The production figures of the Farmall Super H and the Farmall 300 are confusing because both Super H and the 300 were produced for only one entire model year each–1952 and 1954, respectively. Every year has 250 working days excluding Saturday and Sunday of each of 52 weeks in the year. By using the serial numbers index we can determine how many tractors can be built in a single day at the Rock Island Tractor Works. Whether the tractor was the Farmall H or the Farmall Super H or the Farmall 300, the average daily production figure was 85 tractors per day. As noted above, instead of the January to January, calendar year we must consider the model year which for reasons stated above, must be considered rather than the calendar year. Instead, of January 1, we look at the August 1 as the beginning of the new model year. Following this procedure we can determine that the 1955 model year of the Farmall 300 began on August 1, 1954. and ended on August 1, 1955. At the rate of production of 85 tractors built per day, the production of the Farmall 300 bearing the Serial No. 22368 occurred on the Monday, July 18, 1955. Just 10 days prior to the start of the new model year of August, 1955-August, 1956.
When the new Farmall 300 was made available to the public, there were a number of options that were available for the 300. These options had not been available on predecessors of the 300, i.e. the Farmall Super H or the Farmall H. First, one of the most common options available on the Farmall 300 was the newly developed “Torque Amplifier” or “T.A.” After being available in 1954 on the Farmall Super MTA tractor during the short production run of the Super MTA in 1954, the T.A. option was made available on “Hundred Series” tractors, e.g. the Model 400 and Model 300 etc., when the Hundred Series was introduced in the 1955 model year.
The 1955 Farmall Model 300 bearing the Serial No. 22368 was first purchased by a farm family from Carver County and probably purchased from an International Harvester dealership in the county seat of Chaska . The tractor seems to have been equipped at the factory with every single piece of optional equipment that had been made available for the Model 300. Besides the Torque Amplifier option which is described above, No. 22368 is fitted with the optional three hydraulic valve levers located on the right side of the dash board on the operator’s platform.
The optional set of three levers means that the particular tractor is equipped with three independent and “live” hydraulic valves on the tractor. Each lever controls the hydraulic oil valve that regulates the flow of oil pumped down a hose to any cylinder located on the tractor or located “remotely” on an implement being towed by the tractor. The hydraulics on the Hundred Series Farmalls are independent “live hydraulics.” This means that the hydaulics will operate even when the foot clutch on tractor is depressed or disengaged.
By the time that No. 22368 was purchased in the spring of 2018 by Wells Family Tractors, a Model 33A McCormick-Deering hydraulic loader had been mounted on the tractor. Accordingly, the lever nearest the dash board controlled the valve that directed hydraulic oil down the hoses to the cylinders located on the arms of the loader which would allow the loader to raise the bucket which was attached to the arms at the front of the tractor.
In addition to being independent hydraulic cylinders on either side of the Model 33A loader controlled by the inside lever of the three hydraulic control levers on the right side of the dash board on the operator’s platform. The hydraulic cylinders were also “two-way” cylinders. This means that the cylinders on the arms of the loader can apply pressure and power in both directions–when contracting as well as when extending. Lifting the loader is effected by pulling back on the “inside” hydraulic control lever nearest the dashboard. When the same lever is pushed forward the cylinders on the loader can be contracted under power so that the bucket is pressed against the ground and the front wheels of the tractor can be lifted off the ground.
As noted above, the outside hydraulic lever–furthest from the dashboard–to raise and lowers the Fast-Hitch drawbar. The cylinder controlling the Fast Hitch drawbar is also a two-way hydraulic cylinder. Thus, if a person places a couple of large cement blocks under the the drawbar and then lowers the drawbar under power, the rear wheels can be raised off the ground. Furthermore, because the three hydraulic valves are all independent of each other the operator of the tractor could lift the front wheels of the tractor off the ground by manipulating the lever course nearest the dashboard and at same time lift the rear wheels of the tractor off the ground by manipulating the outside hydraulic lever–furthest from the dashboard–to lower the Fast Hitch drawbar onto the cement blocks.
Of course, the middle lever of the three-lever set, on No. 22368, controls yet another hydraulic valve that can also act independently and can apply power in a two-way manner. However, more discussion of the use made of the middle hydraulic lever of the three-lever set on No. 22368 can be found below.
Yet another option which was factory-installed on No. 22368 is the optional power steering. The operator of No. 22368 becomes aware of the fact that the International Company installed power steering on the tractor before the operator has even started the engine. Right in front of the operator at middle of the on the steering wheel is a little light weight aluminum disc bearing the woords “Power Steering.”
A new aluminum power steering insignia which mounts on the center of the steering wheel of tractors of the hundred-series.
Because this power steering insignia was made of light weight aluminum and was mounted on the steering wheel, the aluminum insignia stood the risk of easily becoming damaged even under ordinary tractor use.
Additionally, the cylinders on the Model 33A loader mounted on No. 22368 are “two-way” hydraulic cylinders. This means that the cylinder can apply pressure and power in both directions–when contracting as well as when extending. This means that the cylinders on the loader can be contracted under power so that the bucket is pressed against the ground and the front wheels of the tractor can be lifted off the ground. The other two hydraulic valve levers of the optional three-lever set on No. 22368 can be connected to hoses leading to other hydraulic cylinders. (Indeed later in this same article discussion will had of connections made to the middle hydraulic lever.)
However, the third lever of the set of three (the outside lever located the furthest from the dash board of the tractor) is connected to the optional Fast Hitch drawbar of No, 22368. The optional Fast Hitch drawbar on the Hundred Series tractors is usually painted white and can be raised and lowered by hydraulics controlled by the third (outside) valve lever. This leaves the middle (or second) lever of the three hydraulic levers on No.
Charles Cook International Harvester Dealership of Cleveland, Minnesota and the Super M bearing the Serial Number 32096
Brian Wayne Wells
This article remains under construction. Periodically, new blocks of text will appear in the article and/or current blocks of text will be corrected.
For a large part of the long production reign of the famous Farmall M from 1939 until 1952, the Model M had been over shadowed by the larger sales of the smaller Farmall Model H. Both of these tractors had been introduced in 1939. Their production lines had been parallel to each other in the Farmall Works in Rock Island, Illinois. However, each year, The Model H outsold the Model M until just after the Second World War.
Part of the reason for this rise in the popularity of the Farmall M was the influence of the returning veterans from the Second World War. In large numbers, these veterans were returning home from the horrors of war and wanting to settle in to the peacetime activities and peacetime economy of the United States. Since, the United States was still a rural and farming nation after the war, the thoughts of these veterans was directed towards returning to the farm and either continuing the family farm or starting a new farming operation. One of these returning veterans was Ambrose Holicky.
Following the end of the Korean War, a slight boom in the sales of farm machinery occurred. This boom as it applies to the sales of the new Farmall Super M tractors is discussed in the article called ” M. & W. Company (Part II): The Clark-Christenson Super M” that was published in the January/February 1998 issue of Belt Pulley Magazine. This article has also been re-published on this website under the same title. The Clark-Christenson Super M bears the Serial Number of 31634 and is currently owned by Wells Family Tractors L.LC. and has been pretty much adopted by the sister of the current author–Eileen Wells, who also serves as the Secretary of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association.
The article on the Clark-Christenson tractor contained at this website provides the story of the original sale of #31634 by Srsen Implement of Blooming Prairie, Minnesota to George Clark a local farmer in the Claremont, Minnesota community and the later sale of the same tractor to Ray Christenson in 1967.
A total of 39,401 Farmall Super M tractors were produced in 1953. No. 31634 was most likely produced on Friday June 26, 1953. As developed in the article on the Clark-Christenson tractor, unusual events surrounding the shortage of Super Ms at various dealerships and surpluses at other dealerships meant that the Clark-Christenson tractor bearing the Serial Number 31634 did not get into the hands of George Clark until 1954.
Three production days later on Wednesday, July 3, 1953 another Farmall Super M came rolled off the assembly line at the Farmall Works in Rock Island. This Super M bore the Serial Number 32096. This tractor was only 462 tractors removed from #31634. Like #31634, this tractor was also shipped from Rock Island to the International Harvester block house at 25727 University Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota. Pursuant to the request of the local dealership in Cleveland, Minnesota, for a tractor to fulfill an order, #32096 was placed on board a railroad flat car of the Chicago-Northwestern Railroad train headed out of the Twin Cities on a
The Rock Island, Iowa, headed toward the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota.
Once at the block house on University Avenue in the Twin Cities, N.
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Throughout the history of North American agriculture, farmers have been attempting to solve their own problems. Farmers have repeatedly joined together in societies and organizations to protect their common economic and political well being. In the United States, one of these attempts of farmers to band together to solve their problems occurred in 1867 with the formation of the National Grange of the Society of the Patrons of Husbandry (or more simply “the Grange). The Grange was formed in the state of Maine in 1867. Following the initial founding of the National Grange, local chapters of the Grange Society sprang up all across the northern rural areas of the nation. At first, Grange meetings were merely social events—community dinners and dances. This was an attempt to solve the problem of loneliness or isolation facing many farm families. However, soon the Grange took a more serious bent and began to protest the political and economic problems faced by farmers.
Chief among the concerns of the Grangers was the exploitation of farmers by private grain elevators and the railroad. Usually the local privately-owned grain elevators exercised a near monopoly over the prices that local farmers received for their crops. Often times this price was much lower than the farmer might have received if some competition in the market had been available to the local farmer. However, such competition was usually not readily available to the farmers. Usually there was only a single grain elevator in each local town. To find competing elevators the farmer would have to carry his grain to more distant elevators. Shipping their products to more distant markets was one means by which the farmers might find a higher price for their farm products. Railroads, the primary method of shipping to those distant markets, but usually railroads also had a monopoly over shipping from local small towns. Usually there was only one railroad in each small town. Thus, railroads could charge what ever they wanted for shipping the farmer’s grain. So railroads, along with grain elevators became the targets of farm protest movements.
The individual farmer felt himself being squeezed between the twin monopoly powers of the railroads and their local privately-owned grain elevators. Accordingly, the political program of the Grange developed into a strong protest against monopolistic price-setting powers of both the railroads and the privately-owned grain elevators. The State of Illinois, reacting to protest agitation on the part of the Grange, passed legislation on April 25, 1871 which required the appropriate state to regulate the rates that local privately-owned grain elevators charged farmers for their services. Regulations for the storage of grain by privately-owned grain elevators were promulgated in January of 1872. In June of 1872, a group of elevators including the Munn & Scott grain elevator of Chicago, Illinois, were sued by the State of Illinois for a violation of these regulations regarding terms and rates of grain storage charged. Munn & Scott appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court to test the constitutionality of the Illinois statute allowing the regulation of grain elevators. This case became the landmark case called Munn v. Illinois, (94 U. S. 113 ). The Grange joined the State of Illinois, in the case. The case was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1877. This decision upheld the States of Illinois’ right to regulate the rates that grain elevators could charge for the services they rendered. (More broadly, however, the Munn decision recognized the constitutionality of any state government to regulate any private corporations operating within its boundaries. As such, Munn v. Illinois became the foundation of many areas of law including the state’s right to prevent discrimination against people based on race, sex, age or etc.)
The Grange was limited in geographical scope to the northern states of the nation. In the south, the National Farmers Alliance was the most popular farm protest group. Formed in 1876 in Lampasas, Texas, the National Farmers Alliance was political from the start. The Alliance agreed with the Grange in demanding restrictions on the monopolistic power of the railroads. However, whereas northern farmers protested against the monopoly power of grain elevators to set prices, southern farmers had the same complaints against the monopoly power of cotton brokers, banks and local merchants under the crop-lien system of farming. Under the crop-lein system, local merchants and bankers would loan money, seed and equipment to farmers before spring planting. Collateral on this loan was a lien on the expected crop to be harvested in the fall. Since cotton was the only crop that paid well enough to support the principal and interest on these loans, the merchants and bankers required that only cotton be planted by the farmer. Thus the farmer’s fortunes rose and fell economically, each year, on a single crop—cotton. Thus, under the crop-lien system, the farmer had no ability to diversify his crops to protect himself economically from the risk of a bad cotton price in a particular year. If cotton crop prices failed, the farmer would still have to make payments on the loan and the interest charges on that loan continued to pile up.
State government regulation of monopoly power provided some protection from certain unscrupulous actions taken against the farmer, however, farmers eventually began think about working together to market their farm products. The idea was that all the farmers of a given community would be a member of the organization, or cooperative. In the north, this meant that the farmers would own their own grain elevator. They would all become shareholders in this elevator. The farmers would meet once a year in a shareholders meeting and elect a board of directors to operate the cooperative elevator. The board of directors, in turn, would hire all the officers needed to handle the day-to-day affairs of the cooperative elevator.
In the 1890s many of these farmer-owned cooperatives sprang up across the Midwestern United States. These farmer-owned cooperatives built new grain elevators or purchased old ones and built or purchased dairy creameries. Thus, in many rural communities of the Midwest there was true competition for the farmers products—corn, wheat and milk. These early cooperatives faced a widespread opposition from railroads, grain companies, banks and many newspapers. Shortly after the turn of the century, two significant farm organizations were organized in support of the cooperative movement.
In the south, the Farmers Alliance was broken by the organized and united power of the cotton brokers, the banks and the railroads. Accordingly, in 1902, the National Farmers Union was organized in Point, Texas by Newt Gresham and a number of other farmers. Newt Gresham became one of the main organizers of the Farmer’s Union. Newt Gresham knew how to persevere in the face of adversity. He had been orphaned at the age of 10 years. Thus, at an early age he had become totally self-reliant. He was self-educated, had worked the land for most of his life and became the chief organizer for the Farmers Alliance.
In 1911, another farmers group was formed—the American Farm Bureau Federation was organized in Binghamton, New York. Both of these farm organizations agreed on the benefit of cooperatives to the average farmer. The American Farm Bureau began forming some cooperatives in the 1920s. (Cockshutt: The Complete Story compiled by the International Cockshutt Club, Inc. [American Society of Engineers Press: St. Joseph, Michigan, 1999] p. 78.) These Farm Bureau affiliated cooperatives were located, mainly, in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. Farmers Union cooperatives were mainly located further west (Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas) and extended south as far as Oklahoma and Texas. However the two organizations developed an entirely different philosophy regarding governmental assistance to farmers in distress. The National Farmers Union supported government assistance and government regulation of the farm markets in time of distress. The America Farm Bureau tended to be opposed to all governmental interference in the farm economy.
One of the early cooperatives formed in the Midwest, was the Equity Cooperative Exchange of St. Paul, Minnesota which had been formed in 1908. In 1914, Equity Cooperative built their own grain elevator on the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Paul. However, Equity had trouble finding buyers for its grain because of the discriminatory actions of private grain companies. For example, Equity was denied a seat in the privately-owned Minneapolis Grain Exchange because of this opposition led by the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce. Accordingly, Equity started their own grain exchange—the St. Paul Grain Exchange in 1914.
The free-wheeling free enterprise economy of the 1920s worked against the cooperatives. Equity Cooperative was forced into bankruptcy in the 1920s and in 1926, the Farmers Union Terminal Association took over the assets of Equity, in order to continue the goals of the cooperative movement in North America. True to its Farmers Union philosophy the Farmers Union Terminal Association supported stronger regulations on the inspection of grain and governmental regulation of the weighing and calibration of the scales within elevators to assure honest weighing practices.
The severe economic depression of the early 1930s brought renewed vigor to the cooperative movement in the United States. Farmer-owned cooperatives surged in numbers across the Midwestern states. On June 1, 1938, the Farmers Union Terminal Association re-organized itself as the Grain Terminal Association (GTA).
Leading organizers of the Farmers Union, like Charles C. Talbot founder and president of the North Dakota Farmers Union; Bill Thatcher, a legislative lobbyist for the Farmers Union in Minnesota; and A.W. Richer, now became involved with GTA.
In the early 1930’s, Myron William (Bill) Thatcher became the general manager of the GTA. Over the 30 years that Bill Thatcher served as general manager of the developed contacts and friendships with politicians, including President Franklin Roosevelt, Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace, Senator Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota and Republican Senator Milton Young of North Dakota. Because of the political philosophy of the Farmers Union which tended to support governmental support of farmers in trouble, most of the political contacts that Bill Thatcher generated on behalf of the Farmers Union/GTA tended to be overwhelmingly members of the Democratic Party. Both in 1932 and 1936, the Farmers Union supported Franklin Roosevelt, while the American Farm Bureau did not. Accordingly, the Farmers Union evolved into a traditional major constituency of the Democratic Party similar to the way the AFL (the American Federation of Labor) and the CIO (the Congress of Industrial Organizations) became major constituent parts of the Democratic Party among urban laboring people.
Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County Minnesota (Part V):
The Korean War
Brian Wayne Wells
THIS ARTICLE REMAINS UNDER CONSTRUCTION. PERIODICALLY ADDITIONS WILL BE MADE TO THE ARTICLE. WHEN THE ARTICLE IS COMPLETE THIS PARTICULAR MESSAGE WILL DISAPPEAR.
By the spring of 1950, our Nevada Township farmer had seen the benefits of his attempts to modernize his farming operation. Ever since the summer of 1947 he had been combining his oats and his soybeans with his own Oliver Model 15, Grain Master combine. These machines meant that he now had control over the harvesting nearly all the crops on his farm. He able to harvest his corn, soybeans and oats on his own farm when they were ripe rather than having to wait on custom harvesters to finally reach his farm. Thus, during the last two bountiful years of 1948 and 1949, our Nevada Township farmer had been able to raise the crops on his farm with maximum efficiency. The proof was in the numbers yields of his two cash crops—soybeans and corn—for those two years. The year 1947 had presented problems for the farmers in Mower County, Minnesota, including one particular farmer in Nevada Township in Mower County. This farmer had been attempting to avoid the pitfalls of occasional falling prices and bad crop years by diversifying his farming operation a number of different products and crops on his farm. First he had added a sheep raising operation to his farm. The he had begun raising soybeans during the recent war. Through diversification our Nevada Township farmer had been able to maintain a relatively steady income despite falling prices for some farm products. When some products fell in price, it was likely that other prices would hold steady or even rise to make up the difference.
Then like a bolt out of the blue, on June 25, 1950, the North Korean Army invaded South Korea which started the Korean War. The United States led a United Nation’s effort to resist this invasion. Soybean prices rose to $2.80 per bushel as an average for the month of June and rose to $2.94 per bushel as an average for the month of July, 1950. Corn prices rose to $1.34 per bushel in August 1950 and $1.35 per bushel in September, 1950. However, most surprising to our Nevada Township farmer, as he listened to the local farm reports on KAAL radio at 1480 kc on the dial, broadcasting out of nearby Austin, Minnesota (1950 pop. 23,100), was the increase in lamb prices at the Hormel meatpacking plant in Austin.
Since 1944, lamb prices had been languishing around the $7.00 or $8.00 per hundred weight (cwt.) range for market lambs. However, in June 1950, the price of lamb rose to $10.40 per cwt. To take advantage of this spike in lamb prices, our Nevada Township farmer was tempted to sell a great deal of his flock to Hormel’s before the spike in prices disappeared. However, he delayed his decision on this matter. When he had begun raising sheep, he had realized that raising sheep for market was one thing, but he could make more money by raising breeding stock for other sheep farmers. Good breeding ewes (female sheep) could bring 6 or 7 times the price of common market sheep if they had been properly registered and had their papers in order. Registered Purebred Rams (male sheep) could bring even more money than ewes. This led him into raising purebred sheep—purebred Suffolk sheep. (See the previous article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part I]: Suffolk Sheep Raising.”) Soon he was registering his sheep with the National Suffolk Sheep Association (N.S.S.A.) and showing his sheep at fairs like the Mower County Fair in Austin and like the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, Minnesota (1950 pop. 311,349). He had spent many years building his purebred Suffolk flock and was reluctant to sell off all his best ewes to Hormels, if he could make more money raising breeding stock like he used to do during the recent world war. Perhaps this was not a mere spike in the price of lamb. He had struggled along with his purebred stock during the intervening post-war years, always hoping for better days ahead. This might be the start of the “better days” for his purebred flock. If so he did not want to miss the boat by selling off his whole flock to Hormel’s for a quick profit. So he waited.
In July, the average price for lamb rose to $10.90 per cwt., In August, the price rose again, to $11.10 per cwt. and in September, 1950 the price climbed to $12.60 per cwt. Whether the war or more correctly “police action” in Korea was causing the price of lamb to rise or not, the high price of lamb was no temporary apparition. Our Nevada Township farmer did not, however, understand why the military action in Korea was causing this escalation of the price of lamb. He remembered that something like this price rise had happened in 1940 which had caused him to get into the business of raising sheep in the first place. (See the previous article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part I]: Suffolk Sheep Raising.”) At that time, the government had purchased lamb to put in military C-rations. That decision, he remembered had turned out to be disastrous. American soldiers during the recent world war had strongly disliked the lamb in the C-rations. As a result the government had ceased buying mutton in 1944 and the price of lamb had languished. Our Nevada Township farmer could not believe that American soldiers, just five years later, had discovered that they now liked lamb in their C-rations.
Our Nevada Township farmer knew that the United States was the primary western super power in the world concerned with the Pacific Ocean affairs, the United States bore the brunt of armed forces resisting the North Korean invasion of South Korea. The United States supplied about 203,000 troops for the Korean War. Still the resistance to the North Korean invasion of South Korea was officially a United Nations effort, involving not just the United States alone. There were smaller military contingents from twenty (20) other nations around the world fighting in Korea. There were 14,200 British troops, 6,150 Canadian troops, 5,460 Turkish troops, 1,390 New Zealand troops, 1,270 Ethiopian troops, 1,260 Greek troops, 1,120 French troops, 1,070 Columbian troops, 900 Belgian troops, 820 Dutch troops, 300 south African troops, 170 Swedish troops, 105 Norwegian troops, 100 Danish troops, 72 Italian troops, 70 Indian troops and 44 troops from Luxembourg.
Most of the public of the United States did not know immediately that the task of supplying food to all the troop contingents in Korea had been centralized and assigned to the United States Army Quartermaster Corps. Accordingly, the Quartermaster Corps purchased food products on the United States market. This buying created a strong demand for farm products and farm prices rose almost immediately after the June, 1950 invasion. Our Nevada Township farmer was later to learn that while lamb was no more popular among the U.S. troops (and probably not much more popular with the Canadians) than it had been during the Second World War (see the first article in this series of articles called “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota [Part I]: Suffolk Sheep Raising”), lamb did, nonetheless, form a substantial part of the diet of many of the other armed contingents from the other countries fighting in Korea. Thus, meant that Quartermaster Corps needed to purchase substantial amounts of lamb from the United States market. This purchasing by the Quartermaster Corps, our Nevada Township farmer learned, had caused the spike in lamb prices immediately after the North Korean invasion of the south in June of 1950.
Additionally, during the Korean War, the Quartermaster Corp made a conscious effort to supply as many troops as possible with fresh cooked food served in field canteens, rather than relying on C-rations to feed the troops in the field. Consequently, lamb prices in the United States rose dramatically, breaking all previous records. Rising up out of the usual doldrums price range of $7.00 to $8.00 cwt., the market price of lamb shot up to $10.50 cwt. in July of 1950. By December of 1950 the price of lamb had reached $14.80 cwt. and by March of 1951 the price was $18.50 cwt.
Almost immediately our Nevada Township farmer noticed that it was much easier to sell his purebred ewes (female sheep). Traditionally, he would show his prize ewes at the Mower County Fair in early August and again at the Minnesota State Fair which ended on Labor Day in early September. The ribbons he won at these fairs served as advertising for his purebred flock of Suffolk sheep. During and after these fairs, he could expect to sell some of his purebred ewes and bucks or rams (male sheep) as breeding stock to other farmers seeking to improve their flocks. In 1950, he now sold more ewes than he had in any year since 1944. Many farmers, it seemed, wanted to start raising sheep or to increase the size of the small flocks they already had on their farms. This increase in flocks of sheep was reflected in the 1950 Minnesota sheep population figures. To be sure, the 1950 figures reflected another decline of sheep to 571,000 head of sheep. However, this represented only a 1% decline from 1949. The massive decline of sheep populations that had occurred since 1945 had finally reached bottom. Even here in Mower County, the end of the precipitous post-war decline in sheep population was evident as the population of sheep in Mower County declined again in 1950 by only a 2.8% to 10,300 head for the county as a whole. Clearly, better times were ahead for sheep farmers in the Midwest.
The ewes that he sold after the Mower County Fair and the Minnesota State Fair, were not bred ewes. Usually, he released the rams to graze with the ewes even the young ewes after he returned from the State Fair following Labor Day in September. Generally, within thirty (30) days all the ewes would be pregnant. In this way, every ewe in the flock would be bred during the months of September and October. Thus, he could expect that most of the new lambs in his flock would be born in the months of March and April of the next year.
Generally, after Christmas, in January each year there would quite a few organized annual “bred ewe” sales held around the Midwest. These auctions were a good chance to sell even more breeding stock. Since the ewes at these sales were already pregnant, the ewes would usually sell for even more money than the un-bred ewes he sold after the fairs. In 1950, however, our Nevada Township farmer was receiving higher prices for his both his pregnant and non-pregnant ewes, than ever before.
Generally, after Christmas, in January each year there would quite a few organized annual “bred ewe” sales held around the Midwest. These auctions were a good chance to sell even more breeding stock. Since the ewes at these sales were already pregnant, the ewes would usually sell for even more money than the un-bred ewes he sold after the fairs. In 1950, however, our Nevada Township farmer was receiving higher prices for his both his pregnant and non-pregnant ewes, than ever before.
However, there had been a 13% decline in the soybean yield in 1950 in Mower County, but the resulting high price he had received for his soybeans had more than made up for the loss of yield. Thus, in 1950 both sheep and soybeans were helpful additions to 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 in the corn yield in 1947.
Ewes that he sold after the Mower County Fair and the Minnesota State Fair, were not bred ewes. Usually, he released the rams to graze with the ewes even the young ewes after50he returned from the State Fair following Labor Day in September. Generally, within thirty (30) days all the ewes would be pregnant. In this way, every ewe in the flock would be bred during the months of September and October. Thus, he could expect that most of the new lambs in his flock would be born in the months of March and April of the next year.
Generally, after Christmas, in January each year there would quite a few organized annual “bred ewe” sales held around the Midwest. These auctions were a good chance to sell even more breeding stock. Since the ewes at these sales were already pregnant, the ewes would usually sell for even more money than the un-bred ewes he sold after the fairs. In 1950, however, our Nevada Township farmer was receiving higher prices for his both his pregnant and non-pregnant ewes, than ever before.
However, there had been a 13% decline in the soybean yield in Mower County, but the high price he had received for his soybeans had 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 in the corn yield in 1947. Our Nevada Township farmer recognized that once again diversification of his farming operation had saved the day. Specifically, diversification into soybeans appeared to be work not only in drought years like 1945, but also in wet years like 1947.
Mower County, Minnesota is located on the southern border of the State of Minnesota, adjacent to the State of Iowa. In 1953, Mower County was a predominately rural county. Topographically, Mower County is located in a transition area. Starting in western Mower County and extending into Freeborn County to the west the land becomes very flat. However the land in eastern Mower County and extending east into Fillmore County the land becomes increasingly more hilly. Additionally, the soil itself in the eastern part of Mower County is sandy and is not as rich as the darker humus soil in the western part of the county.
Located in the extreme southwest corner of Mower County was Lyle, Township. Immediately, to the east of Lyle Township was Nevada Township. In 1953, on one particular farm in Nevada Township, lived a man and his wife and one adult son. Our Nevada Township farmer had lived on this farm all his life. Indeed, his parents had owned and operated the farm before him. As he had come of age on the farm, he had gradually taken over more responsibility for the farming operation from his parents. In 1924, he had married his wife and together they had moved into the same large house with his parents. In 1925, when his wife had become pregnant with their son, his parents had decided to officially retire and move into Austin, the county seat of Mower County. Austin (1950 pop. 23,100) was located in the middle of Austin Township, northwest of Nevada Township and straight north of Lyle Township.
Like many farms in the Midwestern United States, the 160-acre farm on which our Nevada Township farmer and his family lived was “diversified farm.” Diversified farming operations were those farming operation that raised a variety of crops and animals rather than specializing in only one crop or one type of livestock. Faced with the typical market fluctuations for the various farm commodities, our Nevada Township farmer, like other diversified farmers sought to avoid “putting all his eggs in one basket.” Rather than growing only one cash crop or raising only one type of livestock on the farm, our Nevada Township farmer raised corn, soybeans, oats and hay. And he milked dairy cows raised pigs, and had about 200 laying hens in his chicken house. In this way, he hoped that if there was a “softness” or decline in the price of one of these commodity markets, the other commodities would help him maintain a near stable cash income for the year.
However, not all of the crops on the farm could be sold for cash. When our Nevada Township farmer had taken over the operation of the farm from his parents, he had used horses, exclusively, for power on the farm. Accordingly, one field on the farm had been set aside for raising hay for the horses and the dairy herd. Another field had to be set aside each year for the raising oats for feed for the horses, cattle, pigs and chickens. Therefore, these crops were not cash crops. These were crops were raised for animal feed only. Corn was, therefore, traditionally the only “cash crop” of the farming operation. However, not all of the corn could be sold.
Some of the mature corn plants were chopped in late August while they were still green and blown into the silo to be fed as “ensilage” to the dairy cows during the winter time. The rest of the corn was allowed to ripen and the ears of the corn were harvested in October or November each year. This ear corn was stored in the corn crib to dry in the cold winter air. In February the dried ear corn would be shelled. Most of this shelled corn would be sold to the Hunting Company grain elevator in the small village of Lyle, Minnesota (1950 pop. 609), located about 9 miles to the southwest of the farm in neighboring Lyle Township.
However, some of the shelled corn had to retained on the farm as animal feed. A large portion of the shelled corn would be ground and fed to the feeder pigs. Grinding the shelled corn in a feed grinder allowed the pigs to digest the corn easier and more efficiently. The concentrated calories in corn quickly brought the feeder pigs up to market weight. Another portion of the corn retained on the farm each year would be fed to the chickens. The calories in corn and the protein in oats would provide a balanced diet for the chickens and kept their egg laying at a maximum. Because chickens have gizzards, which can digest very coarse food, both the shelled corn and the oats could be fed to the chickens without grinding or other processing. A portion of the ear corn retained on the farm was ground in the feed grinder—cob and all—to become feed for the milking cows. Our Nevada Township farmer provided a scoopful of this ground corn to each lactating cow at each milk time. This small amount of ground corn fed to the lactating cows twice a day allowed the extra calories that the cows needed to continue supplying milk. Furthermore, since most of the cows were also pregnant, the additional calories in the ear corn also supported the growing unborn calf the cow was carrying. The cow feed was not as rich in calories as was the pig feed. Our Nevada Township farmer did not want the dairy cattle to become fat—like beef cattle. He wanted a balanced diet. The cobs in the cow feed provided a certain amount of roughage for the cattle. Furthermore, when grinding the ear corn for the cows, our Nevada Township farmer added oats to the ear corn he fed into the grinder. The oats added protein to the cattle’s diet. The milking cows needed the roughage and protein more than they needed concentrated calories. They did not need to put on a great deal of weight like pigs or beef cattle. Even after sufficient corn had been retained on the farm for all these animals, a large amount of shelled corn could be hauled off the farm and sold to the Hunting Company elevator in Lyle. The sale of this remaining corn supplied a large part of the cash income for his farming operation each year.
When our Nevada Township farmer had taken over control of the farming operation from his parents in 1924, horses provided the power for field operations, exclusively. Accordingly, in addition to feeding the cows, pigs and chickens on his farm, a great portion of the oats and hay, he raised on the farm fed the horses he used on the farm. Although the horses were used primarily only in the summer, they had to be fed all year long. He had been aware, for some time, that he could increase the efficiency of his farming operation by mechanizing the power source on his farm. Subsequently in 1940, Our Nevada Township farmer obtained a used 1937 Oliver/Hart-Parr Model 28-44 tractor. This tractor was also called the “3-5 plow tractor.” The Model 28-44 certainly was a great improvement to his farming operation. The tractor performed all the heavy duty field work such as plowing and discing much more quickly than with horses. Previously, these heavy duty field tasks had required the use of four or six horses harnessed together. As time went by, our Nevada Township farmer even began using the Model 28-44 for lighter duty field work. He had shortened the tongue on his Oliver/Superior horse-drawn two-row corn planter so that he could use the tractor to pull the planter across the field in the spring. Our Nevada Township farmer found that he was able to reduce the number of work horses he kept on the farm. Soon the only field task, which he not able to perform with his Model 28-44 tractor was the cultivation of corn. As a “standard” or “four-wheeled” tractor, the Model 28-44 was not configured to be fit with a cultivator. Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer had to retain some of his horses for this single field task—the cultivation of corn.
The cultivation of corn to control weeds was a task that dominated all his summers from June until the latter part of July. Even now in the post-war era, he was still cultivating corn, one row at a time with his horses and horse-drawn one-row cultivator. Cultivating corn was the most time-consuming activity on farm. Hours, days and weeks of time were spent by our Nevada Township farmer riding the cultivator behind the horses watching the tiny shoots of corn pass between the two horses and slip between the two shields positioned on the cultivator to protect the young plants from being covered up by the dirt that was being stirred up by the shovels of the cultivator. Our Nevada Township farmer vowed each spring to cultivate the entire corn field three times before the middle of July. The first time, the corn was cultivated lengthwise. This cultivation attempted to eliminate the weeds between the rows of corn.
Our Nevada Township farmer used the “check-wire” type of planting when he planted his corn each spring. He stretched a wire across the length of the field. Spaced along the wire at every 40 inches was a button. The wire was attached to a tripping mechanism on the side of the corn planter during every trip across the field. As the planter progressed across the field the wire would slide through the tripping mechanism on the corn planter. As each individual button on the wire, the button would cause the planter to trip and both planting units on the two-row corn planter would plant corn seed at that location in the field. Thus, when finished the entire field was planted in a “grid” of 40 inch rows and the individual corn plants within each row would each be 40 inches apart. This grid allowed the corn to be cultivated cross-wise as well as length-wise.
Thus, the first time over the field with the cultivator, our Nevada Township farmer drove the horses and cultivator lengthwise across the field. The shovels dug out all the weeds in between the rows of corn as the cultivator moved along. However, this grid allowed the corn field to also be cultivated in a crosswise pattern. Cross cultivating allowed the cultivator to dig out all the weeds had not been dug out in the earlier lengthwise cultivation—in particular those weeds which were growing up between the corn plants within the rows. Consequently, in addition to the first time lengthwise cultivation of the corn, our Nevada Township farmer always wanted to complete a second cultivation of the corn in a crosswise pattern. Ideally, the corn should be cultivated a third time. Every spring our Nevada Township farmer pledged to cover the corn three times with the cultivator. However, between the slow progress of cultivating with the horses one row at a time and the rainy days which prevented any field work, his plans were usually went awry. Usually by the end of July the corn was too tall to fit comfortably under the frame of the cultivator and besides the corn was already to the “tasselling” stage. Cultivation at this stage would do more harm than good to the corn. Most years, our Nevada Township farmer found that the corn was already too tall before he had finished third cultivation. Thus, our Nevada Township farmer would be forced to cease cultivation of the corn before he was done with the third cultivation.
For some time, our Nevada Township farmer had been aware that if he owned a tricycle-style tractor, he could mechanize his entire farming operation—including the cultivation of corn. He might then have no need for horses at all on his farm. The elimination of horses from the farm would allow our Nevada Township farmer to decrease the number of acres used for raising oats and hay on the farm. Thus, more of the arable acreage on his farm would be available for cash crops. This meant that he could derive more income for his farming operation.
However, in late 1941, about a year and half after he had purchased the Model 28-44 tractor, The United States found itself thrust into the Second World War. Farm machinery of any kind and especially tractors became extremely difficult to obtain. All farm tractor production was severely restricted as the industrial capacity of the United States was funneled entirely to the war effort. Thus, for the duration of the war our Nevada Township farmer was required to continue using just the machinery he had at the beginning of the war.
The war brought about a great number of changes in the rural farm economy. First and foremost were the high prices that farm commodities fetched during the war. The United States government bought a great deal of food stuffs as the government attempted to feed its armed forces stationed around the world. Large government buying in the agricultural products market raised prices of agricultural products across the spectrum. These higher prices created new opportunities for farmers. One such opportunity arose because of the disruption of trade between Australia and Great Britain.
Britain has traditionally been known as a nation of meat eaters. In the pre-war era (before 1939), the average British citizen ate 109.6 pounds of meat. (From a 1949 document, found on the Internet, called “Australia’s Contribution to the British Diet” by R. H. Heywood.) By comparison, the average citizen of the United States ate 82.9 pounds of red meat in 1938. Like the diet of the average United States citizen, most of the meat eaten by the British was beef. However, unlike the United States, the second meat of choice in the British diet was mutton or lamb, while pork was in third place among meats in the British diet. In the United States, pork was second behind beef in popularity while lamb fell far behind chicken and even fish in popularity. (From a United States Department of Agriculture spread sheet called “Red Meat and Poultry per capita availability in the United States” found on the Internet.) Indeed, citizens of the United States ate twice as much chicken and nearly four times as much fish and shellfish as lamb. (Ibid.)
Time was, when Britain raised nearly all the sheep consumed by its own people. However, following 1900, the increase the number of sheep in Great Britain did not keep up with the growing of the population. (“Australia’s Contribution to the British Diet” by R. H. Heywood found on the Internet.) Consequently, lamb and mutton began to be imported—largely from Australia. By 1940, one third of all mutton consumed in Great Britain was imported. (Ibid.) However, the Japanese conquests of large parts of Southeast Asia and the threats to Australia, had a debilitating effect on Australia’s trade with Great Britain. Additionally, what trade left the shores of Australia safely faced another difficulty. The virtual closure of the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea for the duration of the war meant that Australian shipping no longer had access to the Mediterranean “shortcut” to Britain. Trade destined for Britain had to make its way around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa on its way to Great Britain. This added a great deal to the expense to the price of Australian sheep. The price of sheep in the United States began climbing as early as February of 1938. However, in April of 1941, with the German invasion of the Greek mainland and the island of Crete and the resultant threat on British shipping in the Mediteranean, the price of sheep in the United States rose to $6.40 per hundred weight—a price not seen since 1930. Consequently, a niche opened in the sheep market for the American farmer. The Midwest family farm was now able to compete profitably with Australian sheep producers for a share of the large British market.
In 1941, sheep and lamb production in the United States set a new all-time record of 2.3 billion pounds of meat. (From an April 30, 1942 document called “Meat Animals—Farm Production and Income 1935-1941 found on the Internet.) Despite this drastic increase in production of sheep in the United States of America, no glut appeared in the sheep market which might threaten the price. Indeed the price of mature sheep (mutton) continued on a sharp increase—rising from $3.90 per hundred weight in 1940 to $5.10 per hundred weight in 1941 (a 31% increase in just one year). (Ibid.) Spring lamb prices rose from $8.10 per hundred weight in 1940 to $9.58 per hundred weight in 1941 (a 19% increase in one year). (Ibid.) The United States Department of Agriculture estimated that the sheep raisers saw a 27% increase in their income between 1940 and 1941. (Ibid.) After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which drew the United States into the War, mutton prices remained at high levels as the United States put mutton into several C-ration military field kits. (Many people now allege that putting mutton in military C-rations ruined the market for lamb and mutton for an entire generation of Americans. After the war, returning World War II veterans absolutely refused to buy or eat lamb because of bad memories they retained of the mutton in the military field C-rations they had been forced to eat during the war.)
Favorable market conditions in the sheep market were reported over the radio—like WCCO radio out of the Twin Cities. Our Nevada Township farmer began think hard about acquiring a small flock of ewes. He was not alone. Many farmers in his neighborhood were doing the same thing. Indeed, for one farm family over in a neighboring township—Austin Township—sheep raising was already a major part of their farm income. Earl Eugene and Margaret (Stormer) Subra owned a farm containing only 60-acres in Austin Township. While, the Subra family milked some cows and raise some pigs, they virtually made all their cash income from sheep—pure bred Suffolk sheep. Born in 1913, Earl Subra grew up on the farm of his parents William J. and Bertha (Dennis) Subra located in Austin Township. Raised on his father’s farm, Earl had moved to his own farm. In 1931, he and Margaret Stormer were married. Earl began raising Suffolk sheep prior to 1940. He chose Suffolk sheep because of the characteristics of breed.
The Suffolk breed was born as a result of the cross breeding of Southdown sheep with old Norfolk sheep in England. Suffolks are not “wool” sheep. They grow only a moderate amount of wool. They were a breed of sheep known for their black faces and legs, which were free of wool. Suffolk sheep were raised primarily as “meat” sheep. Suffolk ewes (female sheep) were prolific in the production of offspring and were “good milkers.” Suffolk lambs grew rapidly; they had more edible meat and less fat than other breeds. Suffolks have excellent feed conversion characteristics which means that Suffolks have the capacity to actively graze and rustle for feed even on dry range lands. However, this characteristic also means that when Suffolk lambs are raised on high quality feeds, the breed has one of the fastest growth rates of any breed of sheep. Consequently, Suffolk sheep were rapidly becoming the most common breed in the Midwestern United States. (Paula Simmons & Carol Ekarius, Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep [Storey Publishing: North Adams, Massachusetts, 2001] p. 74.)
Earl Subra noted that Suffolks answered the demands of the market at the current time in 1940. Meat, not wool, was the main product that was in demand in the current market. Suffolks had the quality of lean meat that the market demanded. Furthermore, the short five-month (147-153 day) gestation period plus the rapid growth rate of the individual lambs meant that the farmer could make money faster with Suffolks than with other breed of sheep. Earl Subra knew that, drawn by the chance for making a good profit, many farmers would be attempting enter the sheep market by acquiring flocks of their own for the first time. He also knew that many of these farmers would be choosing Suffolks. Accordingly, in addition to raising and selling lambs to the Hormel meat packing plant in Austin, he felt he could also make a profit selling bucks (male sheep) and ewes (female sheep) to those farmers wanting to start their own flocks. In this way he would be working with the rising tide of farmers entering the sheep market. This, Earl Subra thought, was the way he could make a living out of the new situation that was arising.
However, to sell Suffolks to the farmers wishing to start their new flocks, Earl Subra felt that he needed to have a product that would these farmers would buy. If Suffolk sheep had characteristics that would stand out among other breeds of sheep, then the goal should be to raise Suffolk sheep that would adhere closely to those characteristics and avoid any negative characteristics. Indeed, there already was an organization in devoted to promoting the best characteristics of the Suffolk breed by educating Suffolk breeders. This organization was the National Suffolk Sheep Association (N.S.S.A.) which was headquartered in Michigan and later was headquartered in Columbia, Missouri. N.S.S.A. started a registration process by which purebred Suffolks could be registered with N.S.S.A. N.S.S.A. would mail out a certificate of registration to the owner of the individual registered sheep. In order to qualify for registration, both the sire (father) and dam (mother) must also have their own certificates of registration. Theoretically, then every registered purebred Suffolk could be traced back through a paper trail of registration certificates to the original Suffolk sheep which initially defined the breed. Each certificate of registration would document that the individual sheep was direct descendant of these original Suffolk sheep.
A registration fee was assessed by N.S.S.A. for each and every registration. Farmers therefore tended only to register the best examples of Suffolk sheep in their flocks. Farmers would register only those sheep that were intended to keep as “breeding stock.” Any sheep intended for market would not registered. Usually all those sheep with lesser breed characteristics were sent to market. These sheep might be purebred sheep, but they were non-registered purebreds. Suffolks of unknown origin might look very good as far as breed characteristics, but because no paper trail of registration certificates could be assembled to show how they were connected to the original Suffolks, these sheep could never be registered, no matter how good they looked as far as breed characteristics. These sheep are known as “grade” sheep. The intended result of this registration process was that registered purebreds with their papers in good order would bring more money at any sale of breeding stock than either grade sheep or unregistered purebreds.
The N.S.S.A. sponsored judging shows of registered purebred Suffolk sheep to educate sheep growers on the best characteristics of the Suffolk breed. The N.S.S.A. also promoted the “open class” sheep judging contests at the various state and county fairs around the nation. Usually 4-H and FFA classes were also judged at these county and state fairs. These judging contests were open only to members of the 4-H or FFA. However, the “open class” show, which was open to sheep growers of all ages. Within the open class competition, there were many different sub-divisions according to the breed of sheep. Within each of these breed sub-division, only registered purebred sheep of that particular breed could be entered. These judging competitions and shows were attempts to educate and sharpen the eye of individual breeders as to fine points of the breed. The N.S.S.A. defined and evaluated exact standards as to the ideal Suffolk sheep. Judges at county and state fairs around the nation were provided a “score card” which evaluated the various features of the Suffolk sheep and how many points were to be allowed for each feature. The total number of points was 100 points of which 35 points were set aside for the rear legs alone.
Even prior to 1939, Earl Subra had been working on developing a flock of Suffolk sheep that reflected superiority in any number of individual features. Soon his ewes and rams were winning a number of blue ribbons at the Mower County Fair which was held in the first week of August each year. Earl also began to make a name for himself at the Minnesota State Fair. Soon breeders from outside the Midwest, and even from Canada, were searching him out to purchase rams and ewes from the Subra flock. These other breeders saw traits in the Subra sheep that they wished to include in the blood lines of their own flocks. Consequently, Subra sheep were sold far and wide and Earl Subra became quite famous among Suffolk breeders across the nation.
Accordingly, when our Nevada Township farmer began to think seriously about obtaining a flock of sheep for his own farm, he though of the Subra farm located in the next township to the west. Accordingly, in the fall of 1941, after watching the dramatic increase in the price of sheep over the summer (reaching $7.10 per hundred weight in August of 1941), our Nevada Township farmer purchased eight (8) purebred Suffolk ewes from Earl Subra in September of 1941 and brought them to his farm. He hoped that adding sheep to his farming operation would be another diversification of the farming operation and the farm income. He hoped this diversification would further strengthen his family’s financial position.
When our Nevada Township farmer bought the eight registered ewes, Earl Subra supplied him the corresponding N.S.S.A. registration certificates for each individual sheep. Each registration certificate contained a registration number and was signed by the Suffolk breed secretary—Clare Williams of Michigan. The registration number was matched to a number on a metal tag in the ear of the respective sheep. On the registration certificate, were the registration numbers of both the sire (father) and dam (mother) of the particular sheep. If needed, our Nevada Township farmer could use these sire and dam registration numbers to call the breed secretary and trace the registrations of the sire and dam back in time.
Introducing the ewes to his farm for the first time required that some changes be made to the farm. The farm on which our Nevada Township farmer and his family lived was established in a series of concentric circles, each area fenced off from the next larger circle. The immediate area around the house contained the lawns, the outhouse, dog house and family garden. This was the inner yard. A legal term for this area is “the curtilage.” The next largest encircled area included most of the rest of the building site of the farm, the grove, the orchard and the windbreak running along the north and west sides of the building site. This area was also called the “yard,” but the term was meant to be used in a larger sense than the mere curtilage around the house. The area behind the barn was fenced off from the yard to keep the cows out of the yard. Likewise the areas on either side of the hog house were fenced off to keep the pigs out of the yard and the chicken yard next to the hen house was fenced off to keep the chickens out of the yard. All animals were kept out of the yard except the family dog and any cats from the barn. These animals were actually encouraged to patrol the yard and keep rodents under control. However, the yard was intended to be the main home for the small flock of sheep that he was now acquiring.
One of the benefits of a flock of sheep would be the fact that they would keep the grass and weeds in all area of the yard under control. This would save labor and time that the family had, in the past, spent trying to keep these areas mowed and trimmed. This was one of the advantages that our Nevada Township farmer looked forward to about having sheep on the farm. However, there were also disadvantages. One of the most important disadvantages was that all the fences around the yard had to be improved and reinforced. Sheep were curious and would explore every portion of the area they occupy in order to find vegetation to eat. First, the fence between the yard and the cartilage needed to be made more secure to keep the sheep from invading the cartilage and most importantly out of the family garden. In the garden, the sheep could make quick work of the young succulent plants the family was trying to grow there. The lawns inside the cartilage would continue to be mowed by the family, just as in the past. Likewise the fences around the outside of the yard needed to be strengthened to prevent the sheep from getting into the fields where the farm crops were being raised.
Additionally, our Nevada Township farmer needed to take special precautions to protect the sheep. He installed a gate across the driveway of his farm. This was to keep the sheep from getting out onto the road and being struck by cars and/or trucks. Also he obtained an old baby chick brooder house at an auction in his neighborhood. The old brooder house was in fairly good shape with a shingled roof to repel rain and wooden siding for warmth in the winter and three windows along the back of brooder house to let in light. These windows could be closed in the winter to keep the sheep warm and opened in the summer to let in the cool breezes on summer nights. Our Nevada Township farmer wanted to convert this brooder house into a sheep shed for his farm. The brooder house was mounted on four “six inch by six inch” wooden beams which ran the full length of the small building. These beams acted as skids and allowed the building to be towed along on the ground by a tractor or team of horses. Because the auction had been held not far from his farm, our Nevada Township farmer used his Oliver/Hart-Parr Model 28-44 tractor to drag the little building back to his own farm.
A secure sheep shed was needed to protect the sheep at night. The worst predator for sheep on the typical Midwestern farm is the domesticated dog. With the master and family gone to bed, their pet dog might slip away from his homestead in search of excitement. Dogs will band together at night and chase and attack anything that runs. Sheep habitually seek flight from danger by running every time they are chased. Although thoroughly domesticated as pets, dogs will, nonetheless, refert to their wild nature and join together in packs at night to chase and kill the fleeing sheep. Most times these are pet dogs from neighboring farms. Our Nevada Township farmer knew that owners of these dogs, his own neighbors, will passionately deny that their dog ever leaves their own farm, much less has ever killed any sheep. They just could not believe it about their family pet. The neighbors would continue in their denials even when shown wool caught in their teeth the next morning, following any such attack.
Our Nevada Township farmer surely could not afford to lose one of these expensive purebred ewes due to a dog attack that could have been prevented. Accordingly, the only way to avoid problems with neighborhood dogs was to lock the flock up in a secure sheep shed every night. Thus, locking the sheep in the sheep shed became the last chore that our Nevada Township farmer completed every evening after the milking was done. Although this chore was usually done after dark when the mid-day heat was past, the fall of 1941 was warmer than usual. Consequently, on these warm nights, the sheep resisted going voluntarily into the sheep shed. They preferred sleeping outside on the ground rather than being locked up in the sheep shed. Accordingly, it took a little effort to round them up and get them into the sheep shed.
Our Nevada Township farmer made some improvements to the sheep shed/brooder house by nailing a couple of one inch by four inch boards to the inside frame of the windows. These boards were nailed over the lower portion of each window in the brooder house no higher than the height of an average mature sheep. These boards would prevent the windows from being accidentally broken by sheep moving boisterously about inside their new sheep shed during the night. By protecting these windows from breakage, the windows could be closed in the winter for warmth and opened in the summer to catch the cool summer night breezes.
In one corner of the sheep shed, our Nevada Township farmer fixed a little hay rack to hold a single bale of hay. With the “killing frost” expected any day, our Nevada Township farmer knew that soon he would have to feed the ewes hay to replace the vegetation that would no longer be available to the sheep after the frost. He also built a little frame on the floor of another corner of the sheep shed. This little frame was just the right size for a salt block. On the next trip to Lyle, our Nevada Township farmer reminded himself that he would have to pick up a block of iodized salt at the Hunting elevator.
Since dogs only chased sheep in the night time hours, the arrival of early morning brought safety for the sheep. Accordingly, the sheep could be let out of the sheep shed even before sunrise each morning. Knowing how the sheep disliked being locked up in warm weather, our Nevada township farmer wanted to let the ewes out of the sheep shed as soon as possible in the morning. Accordingly, he made sure that his first chore in the each morning was to walk out to the sheep shed and open the door of the shed to let the sheep out for the day. On his way to the sheep shed, he made his way up the small hill in the back of the house to the windmill. At the based of the windmill, our Nevada Township farmer unlatched and turned the crank connected to one of the four legs of windmill. This crank was connected to a cable which ran up the leg of the tower to the head of the windmill located at the top of the tower. Unlatching the crank and loosening the crank allowed the vane of the windmill to swing loose and bring the wind wheel of the windmill around to face the direction of the wind. Then the wind wheel began to turn and draw water up out of the ground. Ordinarily, the water would be drawn up to a pipe that lead to an underground cistern. Because this cistern was buried underground on the small hill, this cistern was actually at a higher level than the house and the barn on the farm. Accordingly water could flow by means of gravity through an underground pipe down to the house and through another underground pipe to the barn. Being underground the cistern was protected from freezing in the winter. Therefore, the cistern and gravity provided “running water to both the house and the barn on the farm. However, by turning a valve at the base of the pump jack, water could be diverted from flowing to the underground cistern and would be pulled by the windmill to the top of the pump jack where the water would flow out the pump jack and fill a tub that was sitting on top of the ground outside wooden fence that surrounded the base of the windmill. This tub was the watering tank for the sheep.
Sheep needed fresh water available to them at all times. Fresh water was important to sheep for a number of reasons. Unlike cattle who can drink water of a wide variety of temperatures, sheep need water of 50°F in order to stay cool during hot weather. Water also aided the transportation of nutrients around the body of the sheep and aided in the removal of waste matter from the body. Additionally, water was required for some of the chemical reactions that were occurring inside the bodies of the sheep and water helped keep the cells of the bodies of the sheep hydrated and healthy. The water now pouring out of the pump jack was of the correct temperature and came from a well that was around 300 feet deep and, thus, was fresh and free of any unhealthy bacteria that might be found in surface water. After being locked up all night, the sheep came out of the shed in the morning and headed straight for their water tank. Throughout the day they would find their way back to their water tank for another long drink.
After drinking water, the sheep would begin grazing. Because they were exclusively planter eaters, the sheep would have to graze most of the day just to gather enough grass and plant life to sustain them. The stomach or rumen of the individual sheep was divided into chambers or individual stomachs. The rumen is designed to allow the sheep their graze for a couple of hours until their first stomach was full. Then, they would lie down for about an hour to “chew their cud.” During this process the “cud” or partially digested material in the first stomach would be regurgitated a mouthful at a time back up into the mouth for re-chewing. After the cud had been sufficiently re-chewed, the cud would be re-swallowed into the second (regular stomach) and make its way through the regular digestive tract of the sheep. Mouthful by mouthful the cuds would be chewed, until the first stomach was empty.
Cattle have the same type of digestive, however, sheep are much more efficient than cattle. Any weed seeds that are ingested by cattle will pass through the entire digestive tract and will be discarded on the ground with the manure. After the manure, has dried out and been incorporated into the soil, the individual weed seed may start growing again. However, individual weed seeds will not survive the digestive system of the average sheep. Accordingly, weeds that depend on seeds for propagation will not survive in any sheep yard like weeds in a cow pasture. Only those plants that propagate from growth of the roots will survive in a sheep yard.
The Suffolk ewes grazed the outer yard and the grove and kept the grass and weeds under control much more efficiently than our Nevada Township farmer could ever have done the lawn mower or the scythe, even if he had had the time to do that chore. They even ate the grass and weeds down around the old abandoned machinery that was parked in the grove. Evidence of the sheep’s recent grazing location could be seen in the little round marble-sized balls of fresh sheep manure, that could be seen around the yard. Our Nevada Township farmer always felt that these little “marbles” of dung were neater and less messy than the “cowpies” of cattle. Additionally, sheep manure was more valuable than cow manure. Indeed, sheep manure, was richer in soil nutrients than any other manure on the farm. Sheep manure has almost twice the nitrogen content of horse manure and more than twice the nitrogen found in cow manure. Accordingly, when he cleaned out the sheep shed once a year, our Nevada Township farmer spread the sheep manure on the garden rather than taking it to the fields with the barn manure.
Nonetheless, having sheep in the outer yard took some adjustment of the family’s daily habits. In the past, they might leave the granary door open as they moved back and forth from granary to the chicken house carrying pails of oats to feed the chickens every morning. Now they had to be aware that the sheep were constantly watching for an opportunity for a chance to steal into the granary to get a few mouthfuls of shelled corn. The family had to remember to close the granary door every time they made the short trip to the chicken house with pails of oats and corn for the chickens. In the past the various gates to the inner yard might be left open for the better part of the day. Not any longer. The sheep seemed intent on taking any opportunity to invade the inner yard. Having done so, they would not content themselves with eating the grass on the lawn, which might have been acceptable. Instead, the sheep would head straight to the “salad bar”—the family garden— where they could eat all the tender young tops of the carrots or the rows of young, green lettuce plants or the English pea plants or the bean plants. In a very short time the sheep could destroy the family garden. Indeed, they were hesitant to leave even under threat of a family member running to the garden with a stick in hand or the rapid approach of the family dog, sent to “sic ‘em.” They would watch the approach of the threat with one eye cocked toward the approaching threat. Their bodies would be leaning toward the gate like a sprinter ready to start a race but still they would continue to eat as fast as they could to get every last mouthful before they were forced to run for the gate as fast as they could go. Everywhere the family went in the yard, un-noticed eyes of the sheep were watching for any opportunity to pass through an open door or open gate into some forbidden area. Once these patterns of behavior were adopted by the family members, the sheep began to find their niche on the farm.
Keeping the outer yard clear of weeds and overgrown plant life was just one of the benefits of the sheep, but our Nevada Township farmer also wanted to earn cash income from the sheep. Although sheep have wool which can be sold as a product on the market, this did not amount to much in Suffolk sheep. Suffolk sheep had only a moderate amount of wool. They were primarily “meat sheep” not “wool sheep.” The most money could be made from the sheep by the sale of their lambs. Lambs which are fed a supplement of rolled oats and corn could reach market weight in as little as five months. To be ready for the market in August or September, 1942, the lambs would have to be born in early spring—March or April of 1942—rather than in the late spring—May or June of 1942. Lambs born in March and April would have the advantage of not having to contend with flies and other insect pests during their early life, as would lambs born in May and June. From breeding until lambing, ewes have a five month gestation (pregnancy) period. Thus, in order to have lambs in March, the ewes would our Nevada Township farmer needed to allow a ram to graze with the ewes as early as early as October in 1941.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 partsbut 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.
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.
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 their¾ 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 WellsSouth.com) 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 WellsSouth.com.)
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 WellsSouth.com.) 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.
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.
Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4
Raising Poland China Hogs in Waseca County, Minnesota (Part I)
Brian Wayne Wells
(As published in the May/June 2008 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine)
The soil of Waseca County is black, rich, fertile and flat—very flat. The deciduous forests of southern Wisconsin, called the “big woods,” extended into southern Minnesota up to a point about thirty-miles to the east of Waseca County. Everything to the west of the big woods, including Waseca County flat prairie land. Although the land is flat as a tabletop just like the Great Plains further the west, the climate of Waseca County is not at all dry like the climate of the Great Plains. Indeed, in a normal year, Waseca County will be bathed with 34.7 inches of rainfall. (From the Waseca page of the city-data.com web site on the Internet.) The combination of very rich soil and abundant moisture makes Waseca County ideal for raising corn. A healthy crop of corn requires about 22 inches of rain per year. As a result of this abundant rainfall and rich soil, Waseca County traditionally produces corn yields that nearly double the national average yield per acre. In 1921, for example, when the national yield per acre of corn was 27.8 bushels per acre, the yield in Waseca County was 46 bushels per acre. (From the National Agricultural Statistics Service [N.A.S.S.] webpage of the United States Department of Agriculture [U.S.D.A.] website.)
The three townships along the southern boundary of Waseca County from east to west are New Richland Township, Byron Township and Vivian Township. A person driving down any dirt road the within these townships in 1935, would see corn fields on both sides of the road, broken only by the driveways leading to the homesteads of the people living along that particular road. For nearly every mile that a person traveled down that country road, the person would find another crossroad. The crossroads usually indicated the boundary of another section of land. Moving ahead into the next section of land the person would once again find corn planted in the fields on both sides of the road. The only variation in this pattern was the fields of oats and hay. Corn was the primary cash crop of farmers of Waseca County. Oats and hay were not cash crops. Almost all oats and hay raised on the average farm in 1935 was used on the farm—primarily to feed the horses that were needed for the field work in the summer.
Relying only on corn as a cash crop was risky. If the corn market went “soft” and corn prices fell, the farmer would lose money. Traditionally, diversification was the method used by farmers to avoid, or mitigate, the effects of “soft markets.” This was usually accomplished by decreasing the amount of corn raised on the arable land of the average farm and devoting that land to a second cash crop. Traditionally, wheat was raised as a secondary cash crop. However, the amount of acreage devoted to wheat each year had been declining in Waseca County for a long time. Currently, the amount of wheat raised each year was only about a quarter of the amount of corn raised in Waseca County. The most popular method of diversification used on the farms of Waseca County was to raise pigs. The rationale was that when corn prices fell, the farmer could feed the corn to pigs on their farm. Then they could sell the pigs. Provided that pork prices did not decline together with the corn prices, the farmer might still be able to make a profit despite the low corn prices.
One particular farmer in Byron Township in south central Waseca County, had this principle of diversification imprinted on his mind for most of his young life. Originally, his grandfather had “homesteaded” this 160-acre “home” farm. Our current Byron Township farmer’s father had taken over the farming operation from his parents in 1895. Like their neighbors, they needed to devote 35 acres to pasture for their small herd of dairy cows, 30-35 acres to hay and 35 acres to oats. The balance of the arable land, approximately 45 to 50 acres was devoted to corn. The crops were rotated from field to field each year to avoid depleting the soil with any one crop.
A portion of the corn used on this farm had traditionally been used for raising and fattening pgs for market. However, the balance of the corn not needed for feed was sold to the grain elevator in New Richland in the winter of each year. The income derived from the sale of the corn crop made up a substantial portion of the cash income of the farming operation, milking the cows and selling cream to the local creamery in New Richland provided the family with a regular income on a year-around basis. Thus, the dairy operation represented another form of diversification of the farm income.
However, on our Byron Township farmer’s farm, it had always been the pig operation that provided the real diversification and alternate cash income when corn prices were low. All through the 1920s, the price of corn, cycled regularly from an average annual low of $.75 per bushel to an average annual high of $1.19 per bushel. Likewise, during the 1920’s, the wholesale price of hogs had cycled on an annual basis from an average low of $8.29 per hundred weight up to $11.21 per hundred weight.
Generally, the corn in the corn crib was shelled out in February or March each year. After filling the granaries to feed the pigs for the rest of the year, the remainder of the shelled corn could be taken to the grain elevator in New Richland straight from the sheller and sold. This provided the family with the major portion of their winter income on the farm. The feeder pigs generally reached their market weight in July or August and, thus, could be sold at that time. This provided the family with the major income in the summer. This was the pattern of life that our Byron Township farmer knew as he grew up on his parent’s farm.
Gradually, over the years, as our Byron Township farmer grew up into an adult, his father relinquished more and more of the daily decision making regarding the farming operation to him. It became a true partnership. Basically, our Byron Township farmer agreed with his father on the course of the farming operation. His father had been raising pigs for years. Our Byron Township farmer had always been interested in the hogs. However, the hog operation took on a whole new importance on his mind when he began showing pigs at the Waseca County Fair.
His very first pig that he had raised and shown at the county fair had been one of the newborn pigs from one of the litters born to his father’s crossbred sows. That first pig was memorable because the pig had won a blue ribbon at the Fair that year. Winning the blue ribbon had been more the result of more luck than of skill on his part. Still he had been hooked. That blue ribbon perked his interest at an early age to find out all he could about the most profitable ways of raising pigs.
Over their lives, hogs gain 3000% of their own birth weight. (Sara Rath, The Complete Pig [Voyageur Press: Stillwater, Minn., 2000] p. 78.) Furthermore, only a short amount of time required for raising the baby pigs for market—generally five to seven months. Combining this rapid weight gain with the short gestation period of three months, three weeks and three days from breeding until “farrowing” (giving birth), made the hog operation on the average farm the most profitable part of the farming operation. (Kelly Klober, Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs.[Storey Pub. Co.: North Adams, Mass., 1997] p. 22.) This rapid turn-around in time from initial investment until profit in hogs compared with the nine month gestation period in cattle and then the nearly two years needed to bring feeder cattle up to their market weight. (See the article called “A 1931 Farmall at Work in Mower County, Minnesota” in the March/April 2008 issue of Belt Pulley magazine for a description of a small beef operation on a diversified Midwestern farm.) Our Byron Township farmer and his father both knew that this very rapid turn-around combined with fact that an average sow would farrow a litter usually contained ten baby pigs could generate a great deal of income for the farming operation and be a real “mortgage lifter.” It all depended on getting the baby pigs successfully raised to their full market weight. Proper management was the key. It all started with the mother sow.
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.
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.
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.
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→
Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4
An Allis-Chalmers Two-Row Mounted Corn Picker at Work
by Brian Wayne Wells
(As published in the May/June 2007 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine)
Throughout the 1930’s in southern Minnesota, wheat production was on the decline as a cash crop on the average family farm. (This declining trend in wheat production is alluded to in the article called “The Rinehardt/Christian/Boehne Model E Thresherman Special” contained in the March/April 2007 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) Taking the place of wheat as the primary cash crop on the average farm was corn. Corn was preferred as a cash crop to replace wheat because corn had a dual use on the average family farm. Corn could serve as a cash crop, but could also serves as a feed crop for live stock which could then be sold by the farmer. On the “diversified” farms which were common in southern Minnesota, pigs and/or beef cattle were raised on the farm together with corn and other crops. The perfect ideal of the diversified farm was that when pork prices rose higher than corn prices, the number of pigs could be increased and the corn raised on the farm could shifted quickly to feed for the pigs. Likewise, when pork prices fell in comparison to corn, the pigs might be sold off to save the corn for direct sale on the market.
One county in south-central Minnesota where this dynamic was at work was Nicollet, County. In 1921, Nicollet County farmers had planted and harvested 31,065 acres of wheat. By 1931, this figure had fallen to only 13,800 acres. During the same period of time, total corn acreage in the county had risen from 46,716 acres in 1921 to 62,600 acres in 1931. As one might expect, this increase in corn acreage was also accompanied by a parallel increase in the hogs raised in Nicollet County. In 1929, there were already 51,000 head of hogs in Nicollet County. Over the following decade this number increased by 45.1% to 74,000 head in 1939.
However, whether used as a cash crop or as a feed crop, growing corn plants needed special treatment, not required for small grains like wheat and oats. As a row crop, corn needed much cultivation during the summer months to control weeds that might grow up in the corn field and steal the moisture and soil ingredients that were needed for the corn crop. Long after the development of the internal combustion tractor, cultivation of row crops was still a task that had to be done with horses. The reason was that the first tractors were of a “four-wheel” or a “standard” configuration or design. As such these tractors were unable to straddle the row crops in the field in order to be fitted with any kind of cultivating device. However, in 1924 the “Farmall” tractor was introduced by the International Harvester Company. The Farmall tractor had a “tricycle” design and was specifically designed for cultivation of row crops. The Farmall was able to provide all the power needs of the farm; thus, its name—Farmall. The Farmall was a great sales success from the very beginning. Soon all the other major tractor manufacturers were scrambling to come out with their own renditions of the tricycle style Farmall.
The Allis Chalmers Manufacturing Company was no different. Their first foray into the field of row crop tractors was in 1930 with the introduction of the Model UC tractor. However, production of the Model UC was soon overshadowed following the introduction of the improved Model WC row-crop tractor in 1933. In 1934, the first full year of production, the WC outsold all other Allis Chalmers tractors. The Model WC tractor went on to become a very popular sales item for the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company. There was a huge demand among North American farmers for the Model WC tractor. By 1935, one business located in St. Peter, Minnesota (1930 pop. 4,811), the county seat of Nicollet County, was already trying to position itself to take full advantage of this growing demand within Nicollet County. This business was the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership in St. Peter.
The dealership was born in about 1914, when Henry Bernard Seitzer left his parent’s (William and Mary [Borsch] Seitzer) farm in Oshawa Township, Nicollet County, to seek his future in the county seat. He started a automobile repair garage in St. Peter called the H.B. Seitzer garage. Soon Henry was selling automobiles from his garage. It was an opportune time for him for three major reasons. Firstly, the automobile was just starting to become a popular item with the American public. Henry was getting into the automobile business on the bottom floor at just the right time. Secondly, although, at first, Henry Seitzer was selling cars of all makes and models, he soon signed an exclusive dealership franchise agreement with the Ford Motor Company. In the decade of the 1920s, sales of Ford’s Model T skyrocketed. The Model T was a very inexpensive car to purchase, and everybody wanted one. By signing this agreement in 1915, to sell only to Ford cars and, in exchange, becoming the only Ford dealership in the area, Henry Seitzer was able to ride the immense popularity of the Ford Model T to success in business.
The third major advantage that Henry Seitzer had going for him was that St. Peter was going through a period of strong growth just as the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership was hitting its stride. In particular, in the 1930s, while neighboring LeSueur County had grown by only 6.9% in population between 1930 and 1940 and while neighboring Sibley County had experienced growth of only 4.8% in the same period, Nicollet County had underwent a population growth of 10.5% during the 1930’s. Furthermore, St. Peter, itself, experienced a 22.0% growth in municipal population during this period of time. This rapid growth of population brought even more buyers to the doors of the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership.
Under these favorable conditions, Henry Seitzer’s business began to flourish. In the eleven years from 1916 to 1927, Seitzer’s sold an incredible 1,550 Model T automobiles. With introduction of the Model A Ford in 1928, sales at the H.B. Seitzer continued to be brisk. Just two years into the production run of the Model A, the dealership had already sold 280 Model A cars. (Robert Wettergren, A Little Bit of Heaven in St. Peter [St. Peter, Minnesota 2001] p. 13-14.)
In 1917, Henry felt secure enough in his new business that he could start a family. That year, he married an Oshawa Township girl, Kathryn Austa Boys, daughter of Frank and Mary (Kennedy) Boys. Together they rented a house in St. Peter located at 429 W. Nashua Street.
In 1919, Kathyrn’s parents, Fred and Mary Boys, retired from farming, sold their farm in Oshawa Township and bought a house at 311 W. Pine Street in St. Peter. Their 21-year-old son, Russel Boys moved into the Pine Street house. Later they rented part of the large house to Henry and Kathryn Seitzer and their new infant daughter Marjorie. In 1921, Henry Seitzer took his brother-in-law, Russel, into the car dealership as a partner. Signing the agreement with the Ford Motor Company in 1915, the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership located at 311 South Front Street in St. Peter was to become one of the oldest Ford dealerships in the state of Minnesota.
The Model T brought the automobile within the economic reach of the common man. This was a revolution in transportation that drastically changed the face of North America. The Ford Motor Company created another such revolution in the agricultural industry with the introduction of the Fordson farm tractor. Throughout the 1920s, explosive sales of the small 2,710-pound Fordson tractor sent a panic through all the larger more established farm tractor manufacturers and caused them to scramble to introduce newer, smaller, less expensive farm tractors. As the exclusive dealership for the St. Peter area, the H.B. Seitzer dealership was also benefiting from this revolution in agriculture. Prior to 1930 the dealership had also sold 85 Fordsons to the farmers in the St. Peter community. As the corporate ties between the Ford Motor Company and the Wood Brothers Threshing Machine Company grew, the H. B. Seitzer dealership started selling Wood Bros. threshers also. (The history of the Wood Bros. Threshing Machine Company is described in the two part series of articles contained in the November/December 2000 and January/February 2001 issues of the Belt Pulley magazine.)
From the very beginning, however, the rural farming public was demanding a wider range of farm machinery than was available than the Ford Motor Company could offer. To meet this demand, the H. B. Seitzer dealership, obtained a franchise from the Oliver Farm Equipment Company to sell the entire line of Oliver farm implements. Oliver had only recently become a full-line farm equipment company as a result of the merger in 1929 of the Hart-Parr Gasoline Engine Company, the Nichols and Shepard Company, the American Seeding Machine Company and the Oliver Chilled Plow Works Company; into the new corporate entity called Oliver Farm Equipment Company. In the early 1930s, the franchise looked like a good fit for the H. B. Seitzer and Company dealership. The dealership vigorously advertised the Oliver farm equipment and tractors in the St. Peter Herald semi-weekly newspaper which appeared in St. Peter on Wednesday and Friday each week.
With corn raising on the increase in southern Minnesota, H.B. Seitzer and Company placed high hopes in the new Oliver Row Crop tractors which had been introduced in 1930. The dealership strongly emphasized the Oliver Row Crop tractor in their newspaper advertisements. Still, nationwide sales of the Oliver row crop tractors remained disappointing. In 1932, only 298 Oliver row crop tractors were sold. This was followed by only 420 Row Crops nationwide in 1933, only 811 Row Crops in 1934 and 2,460 in 1935. The H. B. Seitzer and Company dealership could not help but notice that the Allis-Chalmers Company was enjoying far greater success with its new row crop tractor—the Model WC tractor. In 1934, in its first full year of production, 3,098 Model WC tractors were sold, nationwide. The next year, 1935, production of WCs reached 10,743, nationwide.
The success of the Allis-Chalmers Model WC tractor, as opposed to the Oliver Row Crop tractor may have been related to price. The suggested retail price of the Oliver Row Crop tractor was $1,005.00. This was the bare tractor with steel wheels. The power take-off was an option that cost an additional $8.00. The suggested retail price of the Allis-Chalmers Model WC tractor, on the other hand, was $747.50. Even when the buyer added rubber tires on the front and on the rear, the price rose only to $925.00. Another reason for the low sales of the Oliver Row Crop tractor may have been the Oliver Company’s insistence on promoting their “Tip-Toe” design of steel wheels in the face of the growing demand for rubber tires on tractors. An H. B. Seitzer advertisement contained in the April 6, 1934 issue of the St. Peter Herald shows that the dealership was continuing to valiantly struggle to point out the advantages of the Tip-Toe rear wheels of the Row Crop tractor.
Eventually, however, the dealership came to the realization that rubber tires was definitely the trend of the future. With that realization, the attention of the dealership turned to the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As early as 1929, Allis-Chalmers had been the pioneer in mounting rubber tires on farm equipment—introducing both the Model U (standard) tractor and the original All-Crop Harvester combine on rubber tires in 1929. Like the Oliver Farm Equipment Company, the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company had also just finished a series of corporate mergers. By purchasing companies like the Monarch Tractor Company of Springfield, Illinois, which was bought in 1928; the LaCrosse Plow Company of LaCrosse, Wisconsin purchased in 1929; the Advance-Rumley Thresher Company of LaPorte, Indiana bought in 1931 and the Birdsell Company of South Bend, Indiana also purchased in 1931, the Allis-Chalmers Company was able to offer a full-line of farm equipment for the buying public. This series of corporate purchases, plus the purchase of the Brenneis Manufacturing Company of Oxnard, California in 1938, provided the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company immediately with additional tractor technology and factory works, a full line of sulky and tractor plows, a full line of threshers and other tillage and planting farm equipment. Thus, when the Allis-Chalmers sales representative showed up in St. Peter in the spring of 1935, to sell a franchise to the H. B. Seitzer and Company dealership; little actual persuasion was needed. Recognizing the advantages offered by the Allis-Chalmers full line of farm equipment, the H. B. Seitzer dealership signed a dealership franchise agreement to sell Allis Chalmers farm equipment. An advertisement in the July 24, 1935 issue of the St. Peter Herald proudly announced that H. B. Seitzer & Company was the new “distributor” of Allis-Chalmers farm equipment for the St. Peter area.
However, since neither the Allis-Chalmers franchise, nor the Oliver Company franchise were “exclusive” franchises, the H.B. Seitzer dealership held onto the Oliver franchise and became a dealer for both companies. This was a fortuitous combination of franchises for the H. B. Seitzer dealership. The dealership had found that the Oliver plow was superior to the Allis-Chalmers plow. Thus, the company started making package deals to farmer/customers which included the Allis-Chalmers Model WC tractor and the Oliver Plowmaster two-bottom plow.
The economic depression of the early 1930s created havoc with the whole economy of the United States. Many farmers lost their farms altogether. Recovery from the depression was agonizingly slow, but the mid-1930s, farmers throughout the St. Peter community had were starting to feel more secure in their economic situations and were even thinking of modernizing and improving their farming operations. One such farmer was Henry Juberien of Belgrade Township in Nicollet County which was adjacent to the southern border of Oshawa Township. Henry and Emma (Meyer) Juberien operated a 290 acre farm, eleven (11) miles to the west of St. Peter. They lived on the farm with their nine children—Marvin Peter born on September 29, 1915; Anna M. born on December 30, 1916; Louise S. born in December of 1918; Lorna E. born in 1919; Ruth M. born in June 17, 1920; Celia Agnes born in 1923; Henry Albert (nicknamed “Sam”) born on July 22, 1924; Elnor (nicknamed “Babe”) born on November 29, 1925; and Wallace born on December 30, 1929. Continue reading Allis-Chalmers (Part III): The Two-Row Mounted Corn Picker→
Belt Pulley Magazine Articles by Brian Wayne Wells