Category Archives: Soybean raising

Oliver Farming in Mower County Minnesota (Part III): After the War

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

After the War

     by

Brian Wayne Wells

 

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In the post-World War II period, the Oliver Farm Equipment Company began experimentation on a proto-type of a new tractor. The experimental tractor was called the XO-121.

The end of the Second World War in September of 1945 brought about sudden changes in the farm equipment market.  During the war, farm equipment companies all across the United States had been severely restricted in the amount of farm tractors and equipment they had been allowed to make.  With the end of the war, these companies were scrambling to re-tool for civilian production.

Through out the rural areas of the United States, farmers, who had been unable to obtain any new farm machinery during now flooded their local farm equipment dealers to buy new farm equipment as it became available.  One of the farmers seeking to modernize his farming operation with new farm equipment was a particular farmer in Nevada Township, in southern Mower County, Minnesota.              As noted earlier (see the previous article in this series of articles “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota [Part II]: Soybeans” contained at the blog on this website), out Nevada Township farmer had in the spring of 1945, joined the growing number of farmers across the United States who were planting soybeans.  Experiments in raising soybeans had been going on for many years prior to the war.  However, only with the massive new demand for plastic for the production of cowlings, turrets and windscreens for modern aircraft for the war effort, did the simple little soybean become a large nationwide farm product.  Accordingly, the price of soybeans rose from its pre-war level of around 90¢ per bushel to a high of $2.10 per bushel in November of 1945.

Our Nevada Township farmer realized the value of diversifying his farming operation into the production of soybeans almost immediately in the fall of 1945.  The growing season of 1945 had proved to be a dry season with insufficient rain for the crops.  Our Nevada Township farmer corn crop had suffered.  He harvested about 1/3 corn less in 1945 than in a normal year because of the dry conditions.  Because the drought seemed to be localized to southern Minnesota, there was no large drop off in production of corn nationwide which might have resulted in higher prices for corn harvested in 1945.  Therefore, our Nevada Township farmer and his neighbors in the drought area of southern Minnesota suffered a double blow.  They did not have much crop to bring to market and the smaller crop they had did not bring a price high enough to offset the reduced volume of crop.  This situation might have put a real strain on his farm income and budget for the coming year, 1946, had it not been for the soybean crop.  The 1945 soybean crop had weathered the dry growing season in better shape than the corn.  As a result, there was only a 9.4% decline in the soybean harvest on his farm.  Furthermore, the price of soybeans actually rose to a new record high level in the fall of 1946.  This higher price was sufficient to offset the loss felt by our Nevada Township farmer to his farm income caused by the drought of 1945.  So the diversification into soybeans had saved the farm income from a loss in 1945.

As he looked to the future, however, our Nevada Township farmer was worried.  Like everyone else, he had come to think of plastics as only a wartime product.  He did not see any peacetime use for plastics.  Thus, he expected soybean prices to fall with the end of the war.  There were, however, reports that the industry was finding new peacetime uses for plastics.  Our Nevada Township farmer was skeptical of these forecasts—thinking them just so much wishful thinking.  However, he could not argue with the fact that the price of soybeans remained high throughout the winter of 1945-1946 and into the early spring of 1946.  Based on this continued high price of soybeans, our Nevada Township farmer determined to plant soybeans again on his farm in the spring of 1946.  However, he remained uneasy about the future of soybeans and as a result he planted only the same amount of acres to soybeans as he had planted the previous spring—in 1945.

In the coming growing season, 1946, our Nevada Township farmer could look forward to having more help on his farm.  His two grown sons had been away at war in the Pacific Theater.  He and his wife were extremely thankful when the war in the Pacific had ended and the news arrived that both sons would be home in time for Thanksgiving.  Accordingly, Thanksgiving of 1945 was glorious.  Our Nevada Township farmer and his wife could not help noticing how the boys had changed.  They were much more mature.  They were no longer boys.  They each had their own ideas about things.  Our Nevada Township farmer now faced some discontent from his sons regarding the farming operation.  His sons wanted to upgrade the farming operation by getting some new tractors and new farm equipment.  His sons encouraged him to trade in both old tractors on a new post-war tractor with electric starting, electric lights, hydraulics, rubber tires and faster speeds.  Our Nevada Township farmer resisted making any new purchases of arm equipment this year.  Despite the continuing high soybean prices, he was still unsure how crop prices would be maintained now that the war was over.  At the end of the First world war in 1918, there had been a severe economic downturn in the economy that had lasted through 1921.  He thoroughly expected another such economic recession following this most recent world war.  Still, he did, however, have one improvement in mind.

The end of the war now meant that rubber was now available for civilian manufacture.  During the winter of 1945-46, after rubber tires became available, again.  Our Nevada Township farmer sought to convert his 1937 Oliver/Hart-Parr Model 28-44 tractor over to rubber tires.  This tractor was old now and, as a standard tractor, was outdated, but it had been his first tractor and he was somewhat partial to it.  He didn’t really want to part with it.  The Oliver Farm Equipment Company had been offering a conversion to rubber tires as a package deal for the Model 28-44 since 1935.  The cost of this package had been $353.00 plus the cost of labor in 1935.  Now in 1946, the price was higher due to inflation.  This was more than our Nevada Township farmer wished to spend, but he did have another idea.  While he did go to Thill Implement to purchase new rims for rubber tires for the front end of the tractor, he jacked up the rear end of his Model 28-44 tractor and removed the steel wheels from the rear of the tractor and loaded them into the back of his 1939 Chevrolet Model JD ¾-ton truck.  He drove the truck with the wheels to the Attlesey Blacksmith Shop in Lyle, Minnesota.  As noted earlier, Harry Attlesey owned this blacksmith shop on the north end of town.  (See the second article in this series of articles “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota [Part II]: Soybeans” contained at the blog on this website.)

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Even though fitted with rubber tires the old Oliver-Hart-Parr Model 28-44 remained a slow tractor–moving at 4.33 mph in road gear.

Over the winter of 1945-1946, however, Harry had been making a good income from cutting the outer steel bands (or “tires”) off of steel wheels of various tractors and welding new open rims for rubber tires onto the centers of those same wheels.  In this way, rubber tires could then be mounted onto the rear tractor wheels.  Harry now did this for the wheels brought to him by our Nevada Township farmer.  He cut the flat-spoke centers out of the steel wheels and welded the centers to the inside of a 28 inch rim which was 12 inches wide.  Each rim was now ready for the mounting of a 12.75 x 28” rubber tire and the corresponding tube. These are the same size of tires that were part of Oliver’s rubber tire upgrade package.  However, the price of cutting down the rear wheels and welding the rims on the centers of those wheels was much less than the Oliver package deal, because he did not have to purchase the new hubs and centers for the rear wheels.  Once the rear wheels with rubber tires were mounted again back on the tractor, the old Model 28-44 tractor surely did ride smooth.  However, the smooth ride seemed to accentuate the extremely slow speeds of the Model 28-44.  Top speed was still only 4.33 miles per hour.

Our Nevada Township farmer had also had the steel rear wheels on his 1935 Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 18-27 (dual wheel) tricycle style tractor cut down and had 38” rims welded on these cut-down centers.  He then mounted 10.00 by 38” rubber tires mounted on the rear of this tractor.  Once again, the ride on the new rubber tires was smooth, but extremely slow.  The top speed of the 18-27 was 4.15 mph.

While the purchase of the “standard” or “four-wheel” style Model 28-44 had allowed our Nevada Township farmer to reduce the number of horses on his farm, the Model 28-44 could not be used for the cultivation of the row crops—corn and soybeans.  Only the purchase of the tricycle-style Model 18-27 in 1943, finally allowed him to totally mechanize his farming operation.  The tricycle style Model 18-27 had been specifically designed for the cultivation of row crops.

However, both of these tractors were “pre-war” tractors and were not fitted with adequate speeds, electric start or hydraulics like the modern post-war tractors that were now being produced by various farm equipment companies.  As his sons continued to agitate about getting a more modern tractor, our Nevada Township farmer began to feel that perhaps he should get another tractor.  He might purchase a new tractor at Thill Implement in Rose Creek, Minnesota (1940 pop. 261).  To hold the price down on a new or used tractor, he might trade the old Model 18-27 (dual wheel) tractor in on the purchase of another tractor.  However, with both sons and himself able to start the field work this coming spring, he knew that he would need a third tractor.

As the winter wore on he began to ponder his need for a third tractor.  As a result, he began to attend the winter auctions again.  Sure enough he found an auction bill that offered a 1941 Oliver Model 70 for sale.  When it was introduced in 1935, the Model 70 had been a very modern looking and streamlined tractor, complete with sheet metal side-curtains covering the engine. However, in 1937, the Model 70 was re-styled to become even more streamlined looking.  The Model 70 at the auction was one of these new “late-styled” Model 70s with a rounded yellow grill with a red nose strip down the center of the grill.

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Extremely colorful in its own right, the “late styled” Oliver 70 tractor was even more colorful when the Oliver mounted two-row cultivator was attached to the tractor.

At the auction, our Nevada Township farmer observed that the Model 70 was fitted with factory-installed rubber tires front and rear, had the optional electrical lights and an electrical starter.  The tractor also had a six-speed transmission with a road gear of 13.44 miles per hour.  He felt that his sons would really enjoy this tractor.  This tractor was as just as good as a new tractor.  It contained many of the same features his sons had been wanting in a new tractor.  However, many other people at the auction also saw the tractor as the equivalent of a new tractor, the price of the tractor was bid up and up.  It was unbelievable.  Considering the high prices that these “used” tractors were now demanding at auction, a person might as well purchase a new tractor.  Nonetheless, compelled by his desire to keep his sons happy so that they might stay on the farm, our Nevada Township farmer stayed in the bidding.  In the end, despite the high price, he became the owner of the tractor.  Now it was time to settle up with the bank clerking the auction.

The current bank in Lyle, Minnesota is in the same building and location as the old Farmers State Bank.
The current bank in Lyle, Minnesota is in the same building and location as the old Farmers State Bank.

The Farmers State Bank of Lyle was clerking the auction.  Indeed 29 year-old Gwenith Gislason, clerk at the Farmers State Bank; and, incidentally, daughter of Alfred Perl Garantz owner of the bank, was present at the auction representing the bank.  Although Gwenith lived in Austin with her husband, C.J. Gislason, she continued to work at her father’s bank in Lyle.  (In a few years, following her parent’s retirement and their move to Pinellas, Florida, Gwenith would take over the reins of ownership of the bank in place of her father.)  The Farmers State Bank in Lyle was the bank at which our Nevada Township farmer did his banking.  He knew Gwenith and her father.  Our Nevada Township farmer was learning that Gwenith was starting to speak with the authority of her father on the bank’s behalf.  Still he preferred dealing with her father, a male who was more closely his own age and, indeed, was older than himself.

In situations like this, Gwenith recognized the problem and graciously deferred to her father and told our Nevada Township farmer that she would okay the financial arrangements concluded at the sale and let our Nevada Township farmer talk with her father at the bank the next time he was in Lyle.  She knew as much about our Nevada Township farmer’s financial situation as did her father—probably more.  She knew her father would no doubt agree with her decision to okay the sale on the spot and would no doubt approve of her charade of deferring to him in this instance.

Accordingly, on these casual arrangements, our Nevada Township farmer settled up with the bank at the auction and went home to his farm.  His sons were excited about the prospect of working with a “new” modern tractor.  The next day, he took his two sons and drove back to the site of the auction.  One of the sons was assigned the task of driving the Oliver 70 back home.  February of 1946 had been colder than usual and this day was no exception.  Although the roads had been cleared of snow there were still large snow drifts in the ditch and on the fields of the farms along the way back to their home farm.  Thus, it promised to be a cold 12-mile ride along back roads to bring the tractor back home.  Even at the top speed of almost 13½ mph the trip would still take almost an hour.  Still his sons argued over who would have the privilege of driving the tractor back to the farm.  This argument was resolved by a flip of a coin.  The eldest son won the toss of the coin and drove the tractor home.

After the cold month of February, March of 1946 was incredibly warm with temperatures up into the 60’s for a good deal of the month and even up into the 70’s during the last full week of the month.  “April showers” are proverbially expected to about “bring May flowers.”  However,owH in April of 1946 showers were a precious commodity.  Indeed the showers were almost non-existent throughout the month of April.  Due to the warm weather and the lack of rain, field work began early that year.  Now with three tractors engaging in the field work that spring, our Nevada Township farmer was able to get all the crops in the ground early that year.  However, his dreams of continuing to work with both of his sons on the farm, was becoming endangered.

Over the winter months, of 1945-1946, the older of his two sons had been leaving the farm on many Friday and Saturday evenings and returning home late at night.  When he did so, our Nevada Township farmer would comment to his wife that their son was “on the prowl” for a woman.  His wife would disagree and contend that their son was only out with his high school friends.  She had a soft spot in her heart for the eldest son and she was in denial about anything that would mean changes in the family.

When the Second World War ended, many families traded in their pre-war cars on the purchase of newer post-war automobiles. Here is a 1941 Chevrolet four-door that our Nevada Township farmer and his wife traded in on a 1947 Chevrolet Sedan.i
When the Second World War ended, many families traded in their pre-war cars on the purchase of newer post-war automobiles. Here is a 1941 Chevrolet four-door that our Nevada Township farmer and his wife traded in on a 1947 Chevrolet Sedan.i

 

In actual fact, the eldest son had been trying to get back together with his buddies that he had known before the war.  He wanted to recapture some of what he had missed during the time he was in the armed forces.  Accordingly, he dressed up in a white shirt and slacks, slipped on his penny-loafer shoes and put on a winter coat and hat and borrowed the family’s new 1946 Chevrolet Sedan to head out to Cresco, Iowa.  Our Nevada Township farmer and his wife had traded in their old 1941 Chevrolet Sedan in to Usem Chevrolet in Austin, Minnesota (1940 pop. 18,307) on this new car.  This new Chevrolet was so new that it still had that “new car smell.”  New as it was, however, the car had been fitted with most one important option for a farm car.  A trailer hitch protruded from the rear bumper and contained a simple hole, through which a drawbar pin could be inserted while hauling a farm wagon to town.

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A 1947 Chevrolet four-door sedan, like the one purchased by our Nevada Township farmer and his wife.

Currently, the eldest son was pursuing one of his fondest memories from before the war.  He was going roller skating in the large roller skating rink in Osage, Iowa.  This was one of the entertainments he had missed the most while he was in the armed forces.

Today the site of the old Cresco roller skating rink is occupied by a fire department building.
Today the site of the old Cresco roller skating rink is occupied by a fire department building.

With the large roller rink and the movie theater, Osage had long been an entertainment hub for the area.  On any Friday or Saturday night, the downtown area of Osage would fill up with cars as young people from all across northern Iowa and southern Minnesota would gather in Osage to go to the roller rink or to see the latest movie that was playing in the Osage movie theater.   Since his return to the community, he had also engaged in his old hobby of looking at the license plates of Iowa cars and note which county, the car was from.  Every Iowa license plate began with one or two digits on the left side of the plate.  These digits identified the county in which the car had been registered.  There were 99 counties in Iowa and the digits on the license plates identified the counties in alphabetical order. Lyle, Minnesota was located right on the state line and so there had always been plenty of Iowa cars around to “identify” as he grew up.  Most commonly there were cars with “66” on the left side of their license plates.  This was Mitchell County located directly across the Iowa border from the town of Lyle and Mower County in Minnesota.  Mitchell County was referred to as “66 County Iowa.”  Neighboring Howard County to the east was “45 County Iowa.”  Cerro Gordo County to the southwest was 17 County and Worth County to the west was 98 County.  Minnesota also had a designation on their license plates.  However, the first digit on the Minnesota license plates referred to the one of the nine U.S. Congressional Districts the car hailed from in Minnesota.  Therefore, identifying Minnesota license plates was just not as much fun as identifying Iowa license plates.  The congressional districts were so large that the eldest son had rarely seen cars from other areas of Minnesota other than 1st Congressional District (where Nevada Township and Mower County were located) with just a sprinkling of cars from the neighboring 2nd Congressional District.  These were the districts that lay along the Iowa border in Minnesota.  Iowa provided a much more varied selection of cars.  Both Minnesota and Iowa required cars to have license plates on both the front and rear bumpers.  Consequently, the eldest son found himself “identifying” Iowa cars among the oncoming traffic in the twilight as he drove down the paved U.S. 218 highway on his way toward Osage.

Once in Osage, the eldest son tried to find parking on State Street in Osage, which was the main street running east and west through town.  When he could not find parking on State Street, due to the glut of cars in Osage on this particular night, he tried 7th Street both north and south of State Street.  The roller rink was located just west of the intersection of State and 7th Street.  He found parking on south 7th Street.  South 7th Street led off into the residential area of Osage and was not as well lit as the commercial area of State Street and north 7th Street.  Nonetheless, he parked the car and walked to the roller rink and paid his 50¢ admission at the door.  Then he went over to the skate rental desk and told them his shoe size and rented skates of that size for another 25¢.  He sat down and took off his favorite “penny loafers” and slipped into the black high top roller skates and pulled on the laces to tighten the skates around his ankles.  He skated over to the skate rental desk and turned in his penny loafers and received a claim check for the shoes.

Then, he started to skate out onto the rink.  Old memories flowed back as he made his way around the floor.  It did not take long to get back into the swing of skating.  He soon found that he could move easily with the music.  The music was played by an electric organ and amplified by speakers around the rink.  Currently, everyone was skating in a counter-clockwise pattern around the skating rink.  He knew that sometime during the night, about half way until closing time the pattern would be reversed and everyone would be required to skate in a clockwise direction for the balance of the evening.

On his first few visits to the roller rink, he had been attempting to re-capture old times with his male buddies from before the war.  However from the first, he realized that things were not the same as they had been before the war.  Many of his old friends from high school were now married and had their own lives.  So he had begun just going to Osage alone and had been asking girls to skate with around the floor.  At the roller skating rink, over the winter, he met a particular girl from Charles City, Iowa.  He had asked her for a skate around the rink to one song.  That song ended too soon.  So he asked if she wanted another turn around the large rink.  She agreed.  At the conclusion of a couple of more songs, they went to the refreshment stand and he ordered two hot dogs and two Cokes for them to eat.  She asked him if he would prefer a Cherry-Coke with the hot dogs.  He didn’t know what that drink was, but based on her suggestion he was willing to try something new.  So they sat for a while and conversed while they drank their Cherry Cokes and ate their hot dogs.  It seemed so easy to converse with her.  He enjoyed her company.  After eating, they skated some more.  Soon the announcement was made for all skaters to reverse direction.  The eldest son could not believe that half the night had passed already.  Without really knowing it, they had spent most of the night together.

1941 Ford Super Delux Fordor Sedan
A 1940 Ford Super Delux Tudor Sedan

After the last song had been played and the music ceased, he walked her to her car parked on State Street a couple of blocks from the skating rink.  It was her father’s 1940 Ford Tudor Sedan with a license plate indicating that the car was from “34 County Iowa”—Floyd County.  His only prior experience around girls had been in high school at Lyle High School.  Since the war, this part of his life seemed to be part of the distant past.  This girl seemed to be more serious about life than the girls he had known in high school.  Indeed, she was a woman not a “girl.”  She liked to talk about serious things not just conversational chit-chat.  She even seemed serious about roller skating.  Rather than renting skates at the skating rink, she carried her own pair of roller skates to the rink in a little suit case which was specially made for them.  She liked roller skating enough and went to the rink at Osage often enough that she had concluded that she would save money by having her own pair of roller skates rather than renting skates every time—especially now.  Since the end of the war prices were getting ridiculously high.  Renting skates used to be cheaper during the war—now it was a whole 25¢.

He had a good time, but he did not think that the relationship would grow more serious.  He just felt that it was a good friendship.  Nonetheless, when they did on reach her car on that first night of skating, he did inquire whether she would be back at the Osage skating rink next Saturday night and she assured him that she would.

Thus, their friendship went on like this from week to week throughout the winter of 1945-1946.  Early on, the eldest son knew that he could not continue to dominate the family’s new 1946 Chevrolet on the weekends.  Consequently, he made a deal with the Usem Chevrolet dealership in Austin, Minnesota for a used 1939 “pre-war” Oldsmobile Model 80 2-door Business Coupe, which had been sitting on the dealership’s used car lot.  Our Nevada Township farmer had always purchased his cars from the Usem dealership—so it was natural that this was the first place that his eldest son would turn when seeking an automobile.  Our Nevada Township farmer’s eldest son liked the looks of this Model 80 Business Coupe—especially the long narrow hood covering the engine.  The hood was long for a reason.  Underneath the hood was an “in-line” eight cylinder engine.  The “straight eight” engine was standard equipment in all Model 80 Oldsmobile, also standard equipment for the Model 80 was the semi-automatic “Safety” transmission.  Oldsmobile had introduced the “Safety” semi-automatic transmission in 1937.  The salesman at Usem told him that only few of these Model 80 Coupes had been made in 1939.  Indeed, although Oldsmobile had made 158,560 cars in the 1939 calendar year—enough to put the company in seventh among all automobile manufacturers for that year—the company had made only 738 Model 80 Business Coupes in 1939.

1939 Oldsmobile Business Coupe
A 1939 “straight eight,” cylinder Oldsmobile Business Coupe like the one purchased by the eldest son of our Nevada Township farmer.

The salesman at the Usem dealership noted that the “safety transmission” had been improved and made a fully automatic transmission in 1940.  This fully automatic transmission was called the “HydraMatic” transmission and was introduced by the General Motors Company into the Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac cars in 1940.  The salesman commented that most new General Motors (G. M.) innovations were introduced first in the Oldsmobile line of cars before they introduced in the other lines of General Motors cars.  The salesman also advised that it was always wise “to avoid buying a car in the first year of a new innovation.”  It was better to wait a year or two after the innovation had been introduced “to allow the ’bugs’ of the new innovation were worked out.”  In this regard, he noted that by 1939, all the bugs in the Oldsmobile safety automatic transmission had been worked out.  Accordingly, this particular Business Coupe was an especially good deal.

This Business Coupe was still fitted with running boards along both sides of vehicle.  Running boards had ceased being standard equipment on Oldsmobiles in 1939.  However running boards had continued to be optional equipment.  Obviously, the first owner of this car had preferred the option of running boards.

Lacking a rear seat the Oldsmobile Business Coupe was designed for only two people.  This particular Business Coup had been used by a traveling salesman.  The Business Coupe was ideal for traveling salesmen.  With its large straight-8 engine, its large 17 gallon gasoline tank, its automatic transmission and its “wide” 6.50 x 16 inch tires, the Oldsmobile Model 80 Business rode comfortably over long distances.  Additionally, there was ample room behind the seat and in the trunk to hold a great deal of merchandise.  This was the type of car that gave Oldsmobile the image of “the Old Man’s dependable work horse.”  Thus, Oldsmobiles were sometimes referred to as “your father’s Oldsmobile.”

In 1939, the new the Model 80 Business Coupe had sold for $920.00.  Now, the seven year-old car was being offered for a price of $300.00.  The car had a lot of miles on it, which accounted for the relatively cheap price.  To buy the car, our Nevada Township farmer’s eldest son used some of the money he had received in his last paycheck from the Navy to make a down payment on the car.  Then he obtained a loan for the balance from “Mrs. Gisleson” at the Farmers State Bank in Lyle.  In making these arrangements, the eldest son found that everybody was so anxious to help him out, because he was a returning veteran.

The eldest son had never owned a car before the war.  So this was his first car.  When he arrived at home, he carefully washed all the dust of the dirt roads off the car.  It was the beginning of a life-long love of Oldsmobiles.  Consequently, on his first trip to Osage with the Oldsmobile, he was anxious to show his new girl friend the car and take her for a ride.  She obliged and drove around a little in the Oldsmobile before they went to the movie theater.  Movies played at Osage’s theater usually six months or more after they were initially released.  Accordingly, many of the movies they were seeing in late 1945 were movies that had been released during the war.  On this night they saw Spencer Tracy in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, which had first been released on November 15, 1944.  She liked it and thought the movie informative about the war.  He did not much like it.  Probably, because he had been too close to the war to appreciate a war movie.  On another weekend they saw Pan Americana (1945) which had been released on March 22, 1945.  They both liked this movie.  They also saw Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh (1945) released July 14, 1945.  They both also liked this comedy movie.   They also saw State Fair (1945) released on August 30. 1945.  They both liked this Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about the Iowa State Fair.

Back on the farm in Nevada Township in the spring of 1946, field work began earlier than usual due to favorable weather conditions.   The entire month of March was much warmer than normal with temperatures, almost reaching 80ºF in the last week of the month.  Oats were sown into the ground in April and the seedbed was prepared for the corn.  It looked like the corn and soybeans might be planted in May.  However a late season snow storm on the second weekend in May dropped 3 inches of heavy wet snow on the ground, but the temperatures barely got below 30ºF and in the days that followed temperatures reached up to 70ºF.  Thus, the snow lasted for no more than a day before it was all melted.  By the end of May the temperatures were unseasonably warm–85ºF.  Consequently, the temperatures of the soil kept on warming almost in spite of the late season snow.  Accordingly, both the corn and the soybeans were planted before the end of May.

As he had planned in the early spring, our Nevada Township farmer planted the same amount of acreage to soybeans in 1946 as he had in 1945.  Many of his neighbors did the same.  As a result, the total number of acres planted to soybeans in Mower County in 1946 remained the same as it had been the year before.  Although soybean prices had continued at high levels since the end of the war, he was still unsure about the future of this new crop during the post-war era.  His eldest son kept going to Osage nearly every weekend.  The eldest son worked hard during the week to leave time on the weekends for socializing with his new female friend.  He worked in the field during the week and on Saturday but still took his 1939 Oldsmobile south to Osage on Friday or Saturday night every weekend.  Our Nevada Township farmer commented on his energy.

June 1946 proved to be a wet month with a large rain of 1½ to 2 inches each week for the entire month and another 1½ inch rain in the first week of July for good measure.  Barely would the ground dry out and cultivation of the corn and soybeans get started again before another rain would force our Nevada Township farmer and his sons from the fields.  Even with both the Oliver/Hart-Parr 18-27 (dual wheel) and the Oliver Model 70 cultivating in the fields the cultivation of the corn and soybeans occupied most of the summer up until mid-July.  By that time the corn was too tall to be cultivated again and the soybeans were beginning to flower.  Any additional cultivation at this point would do more harm than good for the crops.

Right side view of the mounted cultivator for the Oliver Row Crop Model 70 tractor.
Right side view of the mounted cultivator for the Oliver Row Crop Model 70 tractor.

Following the heavy rain in early-July there was no rain at all until the end of August 1946.  This allowed our Nevada Township farmer and his sons to put up hay, and get the oats windrowed in anticipation of the arrival of their neighbor with his Oliver Model 10 Grainmaster combine to once again do the custom combining of their oat crop.

Also the weather remained bright and shiny for the Mower County Fair which was held from August 5 until August 11, 1946.   As usual the 4-H Exhibits dominated the first two days of the fair.  The Future Farmers of America or FFA Exhibits dominated the second two days of the Fair.  Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer took his prize registered purebred Suffolk sheep to the Fair in Austin on Friday afternoon for the last two days of the Fair which was devoted to the “open class” exhibits.  Attendance at the Fair was down from the previous year.  This was a reflection of polio scare that was gripping the public that summer.  Indeed some county fairs, like the 1946 Freeborn County Fair in neighboring Albert Lea, Minnesota to the west and the 1946 Fillmore County Fair in Preston, Minnesota to the east, had been canceled altogether out of fear of the polio contagion.  Indeed, our Nevada Township farmer would not have to worry about going to the Minnesota State Fair this year since he had already heard over the radio that the 1946 State Fair was being cancelled because of the polio scare.  Accordingly, the Mower County Fair would be the only real opportunity he would have to sell some of his purebred ewes this year.

Despite reduced attendance due to the "polio scare" the 1946 Mower County Fair finished in the "black" financially as reported by Fair Borad memger, P. J. Holland in the Austin Herald newspaper.
Despite reduced attendance due to the “polio scare” the 1946 Mower County Fair finished in the “black” financially as reported by Fair Borad memger, P. J. Holland in the Austin Herald newspaper.

By the end of August, 1946, there still had been no rain.  This late in the growing season, however, no rain was needed as the crops in the field were ripening anyway.  Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer was looking forward to a good harvest with dry crops and dry ground for the tractors and machinery to drive on.  Anticipating a good harvest in the fall, our Nevada Township farmer was again thinking about how to modernize his farming operation.  Late in August, our Nevada Township farmer noticed an auction sale bill in the Austin Daily Herald which contained a one-row corn picker.  He thought he should attend this auction and see how much the corn picker would bring at auction.  All during the war years, he had relied on custom corn picking to get his corn harvested.  Before the war, one of his neighbors had obtained a one-row corn picker made by the Wood Brothers Company of Des Moines Iowa.  This was the farmer that our Nevada Township farmer hired each year to pick his corn.  However, our Nevada Township farmer wanted to be free to do his own picking of the corn on his farm without having to wait on his neighbor to get done with his other customers.

With this thought in mind, our Nevada Township farmer attended the auction.  The corn picker turned out to be an Oliver No. 3 Corn Master corn picker.  The picker was not that old.  Consequently, the price of this corn picker soon rose to nearly the price of a new corn picker.  The end of the war had not brought enough new machinery out on the market to lower the price of used machinery at auction.  Nonetheless, our Nevada Township farmer stayed in the bidding on the corn picker and in the end became the new owner of the No. 3 Corn Master corn picker.  The price was high, but he comforted himself that the ability to pick his own corn on his own schedule would be worth the price of the corn picker.  The price of corn remained high at $1.97 as a average for the whole month of August, 1946.  The weather remained dry and it looked like a good harvest season ahead.

However, during the first week of September it seemed as though the skies opened up and dumped out rain—as a 2½ inch rain fell in the first week of September, This rain was followed by a succession of heavy rains of two ¾ inch rains on consecutive nights, followed by a 1 inch rain on the third night.  Rains continued steadily until Thanksgiving creating difficulty in harvesting the corn and soybeans.  Paradoxically, the 1946 growing season had yielded a good crop because of the sufficient amounts of rain all summer.  The first killing frosts of the season occurred in early October.  Then the rain had stopped.  This allowed the crops to dry down nicely for harvest.  However, the rains started up again and continued periodically through most of November.  At this point the crops were like money sitting in the field.  It should have been an easy matter to simply collect the money—to get the crop out of the field and safely into the shed.  However, these late season rains were making it difficult to get this money out of the field.  Tractors were, continually, getting stuck as his neighbor with the Model 10 Grain Master combine struggled to pull the large combine through the mud of the soybean fields.  Outside of a 2 inch snow which fell late in November and did not last for more than a day, there was no snow until the middle of December.  As soon as the soybeans were harvested, our Nevada Township farmer and his sons struggled to get the corn in the crib.  Because he now owned his own corn picker, he and his sons were able to get the corn safely harvested and in the corn crib before the snows came.

The corn crop across Mower County yielded 40 bushels, which was about 12% less yield per acre then usual.  This loss was almost entirely due to the difficult harvesting conditions in the fall of 1946.  However, soybeans proved to be the best surprise of the post-war era for American farmers.  Demand for plastics during the war had been so strong that soybean production had established a new nationwide record every year following 1941.  Surprisingly, even with the return of peace, and the loss of military contracts for plastics, the supply of soybeans still could not keep up with the growing new peacetime demand for plastics.  As the soybean harvest of 1946 started to come into the market in the late fall of 1946, it looked like another bumper crop of soybeans.  (Indeed nationwide soybean crop figures would reveal that the 1946 soybean crop would set another record, as 203,395,000 bushels came onto the soybean market.)

Just like the previous year, our Nevada Township farmer had made arrangements to have his soybeans combined by his neighbor with the Model 10 Grainmaster combine.  Just like the prior year, he had begun to worry that the soybeans would suffer losses in the field before he could get the soybeans harvested.  (See the second article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment Part II: Soybeans” contained at this website.)  Our Nevada Township farmer still felt the insecurity of having profit and loss on his crop hanging on someone else’s schedule.  This year a great deal rode on getting his soybean crop out of the field and into the shed.  The bumper crop of soybeans that was being harvested nationally should have depressed the price.  However, despite this new record harvest, the price of soybeans still continued to rise dramatically—reaching a phenomenal $3.14 per bushel in November of 1946.  So the “money” that was sitting in the soybean field, un-harvested, was substantially more than in previous years.

Right side view of Oliver Model 10 Grain Master combine
A right side view of the Oliver Model No. 10 combine.

Luckily our Nevada Township farmer’s neighbor soon arrived on the farm with the Model 10 combine and our Nevada Township farmer was able to get his soybeans out of the field.  Our Nevada Township farmer did not waste any time on hauling the soybeans from the field straight to the Hunting elevator in Lyle, Minnesota, where he sold the entire crop at the highest price he had ever seen for soybeans.  Consequently, our Nevada Township farmer added a great deal to his annual income for 1946, solely because of the soybean crop.  The soybeans more than made up for any losses he had suffered in the corn crop and for the losses he had suffered because of his limited chance to advertise and sell his purebred Suffolk sheep due to the cancellation of the Minnesota State Fair.  Thus, diversification of his farming operation had proved itself once again in 1946.

Over the summer of 1946, our Nevada Township farmer’s eldest son had gotten to know the family of his girl friend.  During the 4th of July she had invited him down to Charles City, Iowa to a family reunion at her parents house.  This was his first visit to her parents.  He got the distinct impression that they were looking him over as a future son-in-law.  He thought this was humorous because it did not fit their relationship at all.  However, he had struck up a good relationship with her father.  Her father was an employee at the Oliver Company tractor factory located in right there in Charles City.  It was fun to hear about the production of tractors, like the Model 70 that was being employed on the farm back in Nevada Township.  Her father had a hobby of woodworking.  He did this work in the basement of the house on the weekends and on holidays from work.  Indeed, he had made some of the furniture and cabinetry in their family home.

In October of 1946, the eldest son reciprocated and in invited his girl friend up to Lyle for the Lyle High School homecoming game held on October 11, 1946.  Lyle was playing Lime Springs for the homecoming game.  The game itself was an exciting football game.  The Lyle Lions eventually won the game by a score of 20 to 18.  However, the eldest son was somewhat distracted from the game by the great number of his old high school classmates who were attending the game and who made a point coming over to see him.  He had fun and reminisced about the good times they had in high school.  He was glad to see that she got along well with everybody she met.  Her outgoing personality made him feel proud to introduce her to his high school classmates.  She seemed at home with any group of people.  Once again, he felt a little awkward, because most people they met assumed that they were soon to be married.  Their relationship was just not that type of relationship.

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The victory of the Lyle High School football team over the Lime Springs, Iowa football team in Lyle’s 1946 Homecoming is reported in the Austin Herald daily newspaper.

Now that the field work on the farm was done for the year, they began to see each other more regularly again meeting in Osage, Iowa.  Sometime before Thanksgiving of 1946, she obtained a job as a bookkeeper for the Gilles Amusement Company in Osage.  The Gilles Amusement Company was owned by William and Theresa (Seibert) Gilles.  Their place of business was located in Osage, only about two blocks from the roller skating rink.  The Gilles Company marketed Wurlitzer wall boxes.  These wall boxes were usually located on the wall at tables in restaurants.  These Wurlitzer wall boxes were connected with a large Wurlitzer juke box which was centrally located in the restaurant.  The wall boxes contained a coin slot and lists of popular songs.  Patrons in the restaurant could simply drop a nickel in the slot of the wall box at their table and press the right keys indexing their favorite song and the Wurlitzer jukebox would begin playing that song.

To facilitate her new job, the eldest son’s new girl friend had moved out her parents’ home and had obtained a room in a boarding house in Osage.  She also had purchased her own car—rather she purchased the 1940 Ford Deluxe Tudor Sedan that had been her parent’s car.  Her parents purchased one of the new 1947 Ford Super Deluxe Fordor Model 73B Sedans from the Charles City Motor Company the local Ford dealership.  The new 1947 Fords were introduced in the fall of 1946 and this new car was one of the first that had been delivered to the dealership.

His new girl friend bubbled over with enthusiasm, when she told the eldest son about her new job.  Working at the Gilles Amusement Company, she had become familiar with the Billboard magazine.  This magazine tried to cover all events in the entertainment industry in the nation—including recent movies and all live shows at state and county fairs across the nation.  Mr. Gilles subscribed to this magazine and, indeed, advertised his Wurlitzer wall boxes in that magazine.  She found that Billboard magazine was fascinating and looked forward to each new issue which arrived in the mail at the workplace.  Mr. Gilles, often, did not have time to read the latest Billboard and encouraged her to read this magazine and tell him anything new that was in the magazine.

Also during the short period of time that she had been living in Osage she had already made some new friends.  One of her closest new friends was a young woman that worked as the stenographer for the Osage theater.  Another of her new friends was a woman that worked as a salesperson at the local music store.  Their employment in the local “entertainment industry” brought them together with a common interest.

She and the eldest son of our Nevada Township farmer continued roller skating on the weekends.  They also continued to see movies at the Osage theater.  In the early in 1945, back during her senior year in high school while the eldest son was away in the Pacific, she had seen the movie Janie, which had been released on September 2, 1944.  This was a movie about the adventures of Janie Conway, a small town “bobbie soxer.”   Joyce Reynolds starred as Janie Conway, the “bobbie soxer.”   She had enjoyed the move a great deal and identified with the character of Janie Conway.  Now, because of her new job, she heard that a  sequel to that movie had just made.  The sequel was called Janie Gets Married which had been released on June 22, 1946.  She wanted very much to see the sequel.  During the fall of 1946, she stayed in regular contact with her friend—the stenographer at the local theater, just to find out when the sequel would be coming to Osage.

Over Thanksgiving our Nevada Township farmer’s eldest son was able to bring his girl friend to Nevada Township to meet his parents.  It was a good time.  The Thanksgiving dinner was tremendous success with turkey, cranberries, home-grown Blue Hubbard squash, home-grown mashed potatoes and giblet gravy—Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.  Thanksgiving was an anniversary of sorts.  Both sons had been home for one whole year.  With the sale of the soybeans having been so successful his father split the profits with his two sons and gave them each a nice big check during Thanksgiving.  He promised that more would come their way when he sold some Suffolk ewes in December and more money when they shelled the corn in February or March of 1947.

With the crops all harvested, our Nevada Township farmer considered his position.  He was starting to feel secure that soybeans could be a major cash crop that could be relied on even in peacetime.  However, he still felt that he needed to control the harvest.  Accordingly, in the winter of 1946-1947, our Nevada Township farmer began to think about using some of the money he had made from the 1946 soybean crop to modernizing his farming operation, once again.  If he could obtain his own combine, he would no longer have to depend on the schedule of hired combines to get his soybean crop harvested.

He was aware that, following the introduction of the small Allis-Chalmers Model 60 All Crop Harvester in 1929 (See the article on this blog entitled “Navy bean farming in Michigan Part III,” contained at this website.), a number of other farm equipment companies, e.g. John Deere, Massey Harris, and Case had introduced their own small combines.  Of course all of these combines had been unavailable during the war.  Now, however, these small combine were all becoming available again.  Furthermore he had, recently, heard that the Oliver Farm Equipment Company was introducing its own small combine—the Model 15 Grainmaster combine.

Oliver Model 15 Grain Master combine 3
The low profile of the Oliver Model No. 15 was a vast improvement over the high profile of previous Oliver combines, like the Model No. 10 combine which would require storage in a tall building with a tall doorway, whereas, the Model No. 15 combine could be stored in a smaller building with a shorter doorway.

During a visit to Thill Implement in Rose Creek in February of 1947, he had seen one of these had one of the new Oliver Model 15 Grainmaster combines in the inventory of the dealership.  Like the previous Grainmaster combines, this new Model 15 was being produced at the old Nichols and Shepherd Company Thresher Works in South Bend, Indiana.  (This Thresher Works was now designated as South Bend No. 1, to differentiate it from South Bend No. 2, the new Oliver Company engine plant.  This new engine plant was built complete with a new foundry and molding works for making the cast-iron blocks of the new Oliver engines.)

The Model 15 Grainmaster was one of the new small “straight through” style of combines that were becoming popular in the post-war era.  The Grainmaster Model 15 had a six-foot cutterbar/feeder and a full-width cylinder positioned directly behind the feeder.  The grain crop was harvested and taken directly into the combine, where it was threshed.  The grain did not have to travel through any 90º turns on its convoluted way through the combining process, as it did with the older style combines like his neighbor’s Model 10 Grainmaster.  Because of this straight thru design, the forward motion of the combine would dump the straw back onto the ground in almost exactly the same location where it had been before the whole process had begun.  Because of this simplicity, the straight-through style combines were more efficient and saved more grain than older style combines.

The salesman at Thill Implement noted that this particular Model 15 combine was one of the new power take-off versions of the Model 15 Grainmaster.  The salesman informed our Nevada Township farmer that, initially, the Model 15 combine had been offered only with its own four cylinder—an engine supplied to Oliver by the Continental Motors Company of Muskegon Michigan.   Fitted with a four-cylinder Continental engine, the Model 15 Grainmaster had a suggested retail price of $1,800.  However, the new power take-off version of the Model 15 carried a suggested retail price of only $1,360.  The particular Model 15 combine that our Nevada Township farmer saw at Thill Implement was also mounted on rubber tires.  These rubber tires added to the modern appearance of the Model 15 Grainmaster.

Our Nevada Township farmer thought of how having a combine of his own would free him from the dependence on all custom combining operations.  He would be able to harvest the soybeans (and his oats) when the crop was at the proper degree of dryness rather than have to wait for his name to work its way to the top of the list of customers for his neighbor’s custom combining operation.  Our Nevada Township farmer had other reasons for liking the Model 15 combine.  One of these reasons was the fact that the Model 15 was a combine with a “low profile.”  Unlike his neighbor’s Model 10 Grainmaster combine, the grain tank on the Model 15 did not depend on gravity to empty its contents into a wagon or grain truck.  Rather the Model 15 was fitted with a special “auger style” tank unloading elevator.  This power unloading elevator, allowed the designers of the Model 15 combine to position the 20-bushel grain tank much lower to the ground.  Consequently, the overall height of the Model 15 combine was greatly reduced from the earlier Model 10 Grainmaster combine.  Because of its low profile, our Nevada Township farmer would not have to build a special shed on his farm simply to store the Model 15.  It would be easy to store this new small combine on his farm.  Accordingly, he signed a sales agreement to purchase an Oliver Model 15 Grainmaster combine.  The sales agreement with Thill Impliment also included the purchase of a new Innes Company windrow pickup attachment.

The new Model 15 combine would not only be used for the soybean crop in the  late autumn, but would also be used to harvest his oat crop in mid-summer.  Accordingly, there was a need for a windrow pickup attachment for the combine.  Unlike the oats and wheat “out west” on the Great Plains, oats in the Midwest could not be harvested as a “standing crop.”  Midwestern states received far more rain, on average, than the western states of the Great Plains.  Accordingly, under normal conditions more grasses and weeds (green material) tended to grow up in the oat fields of the Midwest.  Combining the oats or wheat while standing would allow the “green material” to pass into the combine where the green material would tend wrap around the threshing cylinder of combine, thus, preventing efficient threshing.  The solution to this problem was to cut he grain and all the green material a day or so before combining.  This would allow the green material to dry up completely under the hot summer sun.  Once completely dry and “brown” the formerly “green” weeds and grass would no longer tend to wrap around the cylinder, but rather it would be crushed by the cylinder and then, pass harmlessly through the combine and exit the rear of the combine with the straw.

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Like our Nevada Township farmer, Howard Hanks, from Fillmore County, Minnesota (maternal grandfather of the current author) converted his grain binder into a windrowing machine.

Therefore, in the Midwest, farmers cut their oats and folded the oats into a narrow “windrow.”  Windrowing of the oat would begin before the oat crop was entirely ripened.  The oats would lie in narrow windrow on top of the stubble of the oat field and finish drying.  This last stage of drying in the windrow under the hot summer sum was called “sweating.”    Lying on top of the stubble allowed air to get under the windrow for a thorough and quick drying process.  Windrowing the oats would actually speed up the process of sweating.

To combine the windrowed oat crop, farmers in the Midwest needed to fit their combines with “windrow pickups.”  Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer needed a windrow pickup for his new Model 15 combine.  Oliver made their own standard equipment Oliver-built windrow pickup attachment for the Model 15 combine.  However, the Thill Implement salesman related that instead of fitting the Model 15 combine with the standard equipment pickup attachment made for the Oliver Model 15 combine, the dealership now advised farmers to fit their new combines with a pickup attachment made by the Innes Company of Bettendorf, Iowa.  (An article on the Innes Company of Bettendorf, Iowa was published in the May/June 2005 issue of Belt Pulley magazine and is now posted on the blog section of this website.)  The salesman at Thill Implement related that the Innes Company was a company devoted entirely to the production of their own patented pickup attachment which could be mounted on many modern combines.  The Innes pickup attachment was preferred by the Thill dealership rather than the standard equipment Oliver windrow pickup, because the Innes pickup was not as susceptible to the problem of “wrapping.”

An Oliver combine exhibited at the
An Oliver combine exhibited at the LeSueur Pioneer Power Show with an Innes Company windrow pickup attached.

The standard equipment windrow pickup made by the Oliver Farm Equipment Company had a series of revolving teeth which poked through a “stationary comb.”  As the combine moved ahead along the windrow, the rotating teeth would actually lift the windrow up and over the pickup and into the feeder of the combine.  Sometimes the teeth would pull some of the crop under the stationary comb where the crop would become wrapped around the axle of the pickup to which the teeth were attached.  As the combine worked through out the day, more crop might be pulled under the stationary comb until the pickup became jammed and would not work properly.  The farmer would then have to stop the combine and get down off the tractor and clean the wrapped crop out of the pickup.

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

The teeth on the Innes pickup protruded from a cylinder.  In operation, the whole cylinder of the Innes pickup revolved—not just the teeth.  Accordingly, there was no stationary “comb” which could catch the crop and start a wrapping problem.    Our Nevada Township farmer was familiar with the wrapping problem of windrowed grain crops from watching his neighbor stopping, in the field, to un-plug the pickup of his Model 10 Grainmaster combine.  Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer consented to inclusion of the Innes pickup attachment as a substitute for the Oliver pickup attachment.  He felt that he was now set to take full advantage of oat harvest and  soybean harvest  in 1947.

Over the winter of 1946-1947, our Nevada Township farmer had been disappointed in the sale of his registered purebred Suffolk ewes.  Ever since, 1943, sheep prices at the Hormel meat packing plant, in Austin, Minnesota, had been declining.  Accordingly, farmers had been reducing the size of their flocks of sheep on their farms.  The number of sheep in Mower County had fallen steadily since 1944.  Whereas, in 1945, there had been 17,200 head of sheep in Mower County, one year later in 1946 there were now only 15,000.  (Figures for 1947 would reflect that in the coming year sheep numbers in Mower County would decline still further to 13,600 head.)  No wonder he could not sell any of his prize ewes.  Everywhere, farmers were cutting back on the size of their flocks of sheep.  The reduction in sales of ewes meant that our Nevada Township farmer did have much money to share with his sons.

Additionally, the sale of the 1946 corn crop also proved to be a disappointment.  As always, our Nevada Township farmer allowed the ear corn to dry in the corn crib on his farm all winter long.  Now in late-February of 1947, our Nevada Township farmer made arrangements with Ray Jacobson to shell his corn.  The winter of 1946-1947 had been a mild winter with snow accumulating to about 6 inches which lasted until mid-February, 1947.  The unseasonably warm temperatures of mid-February melted the remaining snow.  Accordingly, Ray Jacobson arrived on the farm one day in late February with his Minneapolis-Moline “Shellmaster” corn sheller mounted on the back of a 1941 Ford “Cab Over Engine” (C.O.E.) Model 1 ½-ton truck with a 134 inch wheelbase.  This corn sheller had also been bought through the Thill Implement dealership of Rose Creek and had been mounted on this Ford truck.  As noted in an earlier article in this series, Thill Implement not only owned an Oliver franchise, but also owned a franchise from the Minneapolis-Moline Company to sell Minneapolis-Moline farm equipment.  Indeed the major reason that John Peter Thill had obtained a Minneapolis-Moline franchise was because he wanted to sell the corn shellers that Minneapolis-Moline made.

Once the truck and sheller were positioned outside the alleyway of the double corn crib, the various sections of the “drag” line were connected to each other and extended the full length of the alleyway of the corn crib.  When the bottom of the cribs were opened, dried ear corn would begin to flow out into the drag which would transport the corn to the sheller.  The sheller itself was powered by the 239 c.i. flat-head V-8 engine in the truck.  Developing 95 hp. this engine was sufficient to power the sheller.  Ray make sure the transmission lever in the truck was in neutral.  Then he would depress the foot clutch and engage the lever directing the power of the truck engine to the sheller.  Then he would slowly release the foot clutch and the sheller came to life.  Then Ray depressed the foot throttle until the cylinder on the sheller was turning at the correct operating speed of 800 rpm. to 815 rpm.  Once he reached this speed he reach over on the dash board of the truck to lock throttle at that speed.

To shell out the entire double corn crib took all day with a break at noon time for dinner when they all went to the house to eat the large meal .  As the ear corn in both sides was shelled out, our Nevada Township farmer stored away enough shelled corn in the granary on the farm to feed the chickens and pigs for an entire year.  Depending on the current price and what he expected the future price to be, our Nevada Township farmer would either sell the rest to the Hunting elevator uptown in Lyle or he might save back more shelled corn to store in the grain bins over the alleyway of his corn crib.  This shelled might be sold at a later date when the price of corn might be higher.  This year he was carefully watching the price of corn.

Last July (of 1946) corn prices had reached a phenomenal $2.17 per bushel.  However, since that time the price had fallen to $1.35 per bushel as an average for the month of January, 1947.  Our Nevada Township farmer thought this decline in the price of corn was part of the long expected decline in all farm prices caused by the end of the war.  He expected that the price of corn would continue to decline in the long-run.  However, February of 1947 revealed a slight rise in prices to $1.49 per bushel.  Thus, our Nevada Township farmer made up his mind to take advantage of this momentary upswing in the price of corn to sell all the corn he could spare just as soon as it was shelled.  Expecting that prices would fall even more over the long term, our Nevada Township farmer felt lucky to catch this temporary increase in price.  However, the price was still not as good as he might have expected and, once again, our Nevada Township farmer did not have as much money to share with his sons as he had expected.  However, he felt sure his sons would recognize that the soybean harvest money had covered for the corn and the sheep.  However, big changes were happening in the mind of his eldest son which would affect his plans.

 

Oliver Farming in Mower County, Minnesota (Part II): Soybeans

Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County Minnesota (Part II): Soybeans

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As noted previously, Mower County in Minnesota is located on the border of Minnesota and Iowa.  (See the previous article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part I]: Suffolk Sheep Raising.”)  One of the middle townships in western Mower County is Nevada Township.  (Ibid.)  Also as previously noted, in 1941 Nevada Township was the home of a particular farmer, who worked a 160-acre diversified a farm with his wife and their two sons.  The typical diversified farm was a farming operation that developed income from a number of different sources, crops, (like corn), along with animals (perhaps raising and selling hogs, raising a flock of laying hens for eggs and/or milking cows to sell the milk).  The idea of diversification was that if one of the products raised on the farm was in a price slump the other products raised on the farm might rescue the owner of the farm by providing some income to allow the family to survive the price slump.

Additionally, as previously noted, in 1942, our Nevada Township farmer added a new product to his diversified farming operation.  In 1942, the United States of America was in its first year of involvement in the world war.  Both of his sons were now away from the farm serving in the Pacific theater in the war.  He was back to handling the farm alone just as he had done when his boys were children.  Farm prices had risen across the board, but the war also created some new opportunities for the American farmer.  Raising sheep for meat had been one of those opportunities.  The price of mutton and lamb had risen in 1941 as the Britain began to buy United States lamb and mutton to replace the product they could no longer get from Australia.  This sudden rise in sheep prices encouraged our Nevada Township farmer to obtain a small flock of Suffolk sheep for his own farming operation.  As sheep prices continued to rise because of the the war and United States government buying of lamb to support its armed forces which were stationed around the world, other farmers sought to obtain or expand their own flocks of sheep.  Our Nevada Township farmer found that he could make more money by registering some of his best ewe lambs and best young rams with the National Suffolk Sheep Association and selling them to other farmers for breeding stock, rather than taking them to directly to market.  Whereas, in 1943, our Nevada Township farmer could make $6.80 per hundred weight (about $9.00 lamb on a 130 pound (lbs.) lamb going to Hormel’s meat market in Austin) he could make three times that amount by holding back the ewe lambs which had the best breed characteristics and selling them as breeding stock to other farmers.

Breeders were always trying to improve the breed characteristics of their flocks.  Toward this end breeders might purchase good quality purebred ewes to improve the breed characteristics of their flock.  However, by purchasing a single purebred ram, sheep farmers knew that they could influence half the genes of their flock, because a single ram would be the sire (father) of all the lambs born to the flock.  Accordingly, breeders would pay even more for a young ram than they would for individual ewes.  Thus, organized ram sales became popular as an annual event.  Usually these rams sales were held in early June each year.  One of the nation’s foremost ram sales was the Midwest Stud Ram Sale held in Omaha, Nebraska.  Our Nevada Township farmer drove his 1939 Chevrolet Model JD ¾-ton truck to Omaha with a few sheep to sell.

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The 1939 3/4 ton Chevrolet truck of the JD Master series

He had purchased the Chevy truck from Usem Chevrolet in nearby Austin, Minnesota (1940 pop. 18,306).  Usem’s was a full-line dealership offering cars from all five divisions of the General Motors Company and both Chevrolet and GMC trucks.  The dealership had been founded by Edward G. and Edith Usem.  Born in Ukraine in Russia in 1907, Edward had immigrated to the United States with his parents and settled in Austin, Minnesota in the early 20th Century.  Edward had grown up in Austin and been involved in the car business since the 1920s.

Originally, the truck was fitted with a light stake bed for hauling cargo.  Almost immediately, our Nevada Township farmer took the truck to the Harry Attlesey blacksmith shop in Lyle, Minnesota (1940 pop. 513), for a new heavier bed to be installed on the truck.  Harry D. and Isabel (Webber) Attlesey owned this blacksmith shop on the north end of Lyle on U.S. #218.  Harry Attlesey had operated this blacksmith shop since moving to town in 1932.  Harry Attlesey designed and built a tight grain box bed for the new ¾ ton Chevy truck that replaced the loose-fitting stake-bed that on the Model JD ¾ truck.  Indeed the new bed on the back of the truck was not just a grain box.  It also had a series of heavy racks that mounted on top of the sides of the grain box.  These racks were tall enough to allow our Nevada Township farmer to safely haul livestock, even cattle and horses, in the bed of the truck.

This truck was just the thing for making the trip to Omaha.  Sales of the best young purebred rams and ewes was, he felt, maximized and fully diversified the profit that he received from his flock of sheep.  As noted previously, the profits that he had received from his flock of sheep had allowed him to purchase a used 1935 tricycle-style Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 18-27 tractor at an auction in February of 1943.

The 1935 Oliver/Hart-Parr (dual wheel) Row Crop tractor, like the model that our Nevada Township farmer purchased at an auction in his neighborhood in February of 1943.

 

Only in 1944 did the price of lamb decline.  This decline in the sheep market was the result of the army’s decision in mid-1944 to drop the unpopular “Mutton Stew and Vegetables” unit from the C-ration menu and replace it with the “Beef Stew and Vegetables” unit.  (See the C-ration entry under Wikipedia on the Internet.)  The effect of this decline in the price of sheep was felt immediately as farmers, reduced the number of sheep on their farm or sold off their flocks entirely.

In 1945, the number of sheep across the whole state of Minnesota stood at 995,000 head.  In Mower County the sheep population was 17,500 head in 1945.  The number of sheep in neighboring Fillmore County, to the east of Mower County, stood at 30,500 head.  In 1946, the number of sheep in the whole state of Minnesota the number of sheep fell to 846,000 head as the total number of sheep in Mower County fell to 15,000 head and fell to 26,000 head in Fillmore County.  In the post-war years the population of sheep in Minnesota continued to decline and hit a bottom in 1950 with only 571,000 sheep in the entire state of Minnesota, 10,300 head in Mower County and 18,400 head in Fillmore County.

Young soybean plans planted in a row in the field

 

However, as the war progressed, another farm product was continuing to increase in importance—the soybean.  Our Nevada Township farmer started to hear about soybeans as a profitable farm product over WCCO radio out if Minneapolis.  Research into the soybean had been going on since the early 1900s.  This research discovered a great uses for the simple soybean.  (See the unpublished article, called “Soybean Farming with a Farmall H in Butternut Valley Township”  written by Brian Wayne Wells regarding soybean processing in Mankato, Minnesota.  This article can be seen on this website.)  However, a real economic market for soybeans had never been found until the recent World War.  Now soybeans were used to make plastics which were used in the cowlings and wind screens of the thousands of aircraft that were being turned out by American industry for the war effort.

Soybean prices in World War II rose because of the plastics used in combat airplane windscreens. Although a direct shot would pierce the safety glass of these safety glass windscreens the safety glass would not shatter and cause injury to the air crew just as a result of flying glass.

 

In 1940, nation-wide production of the soybeans was limited to just 78,045,000 bushels.  However, by 1943, that production figure had grown to 190,133,000 bushels.  Right here in Mower County, Minnesota, our Nevada, Township farmer had seen his neighbors increase their soybean acreage from 17,800 acres in 1941 to 38,000 acres in 1944.

As the acreage in Mower county increased, our Nevada Township farmer found that large fields of growing soybeans were becoming a more common sight as he drove around the neighborhood.

 

Farmers were not reducing the number of acres they devoted to corn.  Indeed, the number of acres of corn planted in Mower County rose from 88,100 in 1941 to 121,000 acres in 1944.  Where were all these extra arable acres coming from?  To be sure, farmers were now placing in production land they had previously considered unprofitable land.  It was part of the national patriotic drive to plant crops from “fence-row to fence-row” to help the war effort.  However, it was also true that farmers were raising less hay and oats than they used to raise.  In Mower County, farmers devoted 100,300 acres to oats, in 1942 oat acreage in the county fell to 89,000 acres in 1942 and fell still further to 61,800 acres in 1944.  Similarly, the acreage devoted to hay fell from 87,100 acres in 1940 to 54,900 acres in 1943.  Both hay and oats are raised as animal food on the average Midwestern farm—a primary food for horses.  Consequently, the reduction of acreage allotted to hay was the result of farmers mechanizing the power source in their farming operations and reducing the number of horses on their farms.  Of course, farmers still needed some hay and oats for the other livestock they raised on their farms, but clearly, Mower County farmers were growing less hay and oats and turning to soybeans as a replacement crop on their farms.

Our Nevada Township farmer had watched soybean production in Mower County set new historical records of production each year from 1941 until 1943 without diversifying into the production of soybeans.  His mind had been already occupied with his current diversification—into sheep raising.  Sheep raising was the bird in the hand.  The promise behind the raising of soybeans was the two birds in the bush.  Our Nevada Township farmer felt in the spring of 1944 that he should clasp closely onto the bird in the hand and neglect the two in the bush.  However, throughout 1944, the price of soybeans continued its slow steady to climb upwards, reaching $2.05 per bushel as a monthly average for each of the months of October, November and December 1944.  So large was the demand for soybeans that, no glut on the market was created when another nationwide record—192,121,000 bushels of soybeans came onto the market in late 1944.  Indeed, this large supply of soybeans did not even dent the high prices that soybeans were bringing.

The high price of soybeans in 1944, finally, caused our Nevada Township farmer to change his mind.  He decided to plant soybeans on his farm in the spring of 1945.  Many of his neighbors reached the same decision.  Accordingly, in the spring of 1945 Mower County farmers planted a record 51,500 acres in soybeans—up from 38,000 acres in 1944.  This was an increase of 35.5% in soybean acreage in just one year.

Like corn, soybeans was a “row crop.”  Soybeans would be planted in rows 40 inches apart, just like corn.  Back in the winter of 1940-1941, our Nevada Township farmer had purchased a new Oliver-Superior No. 9B tractor-drawn corn planter to replace his old Oliver Superior Model No. 5 horse-drawn corn planter which was getting completely worn out.  He had purchased the new No. 9B corn planter from Thill Implement, the local Oliver Farm Eauipment dealership located in Rose Creek, Minnesota, (1940 pop. 261.)  This turned out to be a fortunate turn of events for two reasons.  First, since the United States’ entry into the World War as a result of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, any new farm machinery had been impossible to get due to the wartime manufacturing restrictions.  Secondly, although our Nevada Township farmer had purchased the Model 9B corn planter to plant corn, this planter could with very little adjustment be converted over to the planting of soybeans.  Should he now decide to go into raising soybeans, he could use this new planter to continue planting his corn in the same wire check 40 inch row format as he had been doing with his old No. 5 and he could also use the same planter to drill his soybeans in 40 inch rows.

Oliver corn planter
The Model 9 Oliver-Superior corn planter could be easily be converted from “check planting” of corn to “sowing” soybeans in rows.

Ever since he had obtained his first tractor in February of 1940—a used 1937 Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 28-44 tractor “3-5 plow tractor”—our Nevada Township farmer had been busy shortening the tongues on a lot of his horse-drawn farm equipment so that he could use the tractor doing as much of the field work on his farm as possible.  (See the first article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County Part I: Purebred Suffolk Sheep Raising” published on this website.)  Accordingly, he had purchased the new Model 9-B planter with the shortened tractor hitch rather than the longer horse-drawn hitch.  Now with minimal adjustments he could convert his No. 9B corn planter from a corn planter which would wire check corn in a 40 inch by 40 inch grid across the field to a “drill” which could plant (or drill) soybeans in 40 inch rows.

In preparation to plant soybeans our Nevada Township farmer opened the seed containers on his Model 9B corn planter and removed these corn plates from each container and replaced then with soybean planting plates. bottom

 

One of these minimal adjustments was to swap the corn planter plates for the bottom of the seed containers to soybean plates.  These soybean plates would allow the planting of soybeans in a continuous stream in the rows rather than “check” planting in hills within the rows, like corn.  The soybean plants did not have to be spread 40 inches apart in “hills” within the rows like corn.

These at the soybean plates that our Nevada Township farmer installed in his Model 9B planter in order to sow his first crop of soybeans in 1944.

 

Thus, he would not have to stretch the check wire across the length of the field when drilling soybeans as he did when he “wire-check” planted his corn.  Instead, soybeans were “drilled” into the rows.  Rather than releasing seeds into the open trench only when the planting units were “tripped,” he could simply adjust the No. 9 planter so that reach planting unit on the No. 9 planter would “sow” a continuous stream soybeans into the small trenches that were opened by the two furrow openers on the planter.  In this way the seeds and later the soybean plants might be only four inches apart within the row.

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The Oliver-Superior Model 9D planter. With the proper planting plates at the bottom of each cylindrical seed box the Model 9D could be made to sow two rows of soybeans each time across the field.

Our Nevada Township farmer needed to purchase a new pair of planter plates for the No. 9B planter.  He did not, currently, have the planter plates that would allow the No. 9 planter to drill soybeans.  Back in 1941, he did not have any idea that he would be using the Model 9B planter for anything other than planting corn, so he had obtained only corn plates when he had purchased the new planter.  The planter plates were circular cast-iron plates that were placed at the bottom of the two cylindrical seed “boxes” or seed containers on the No. 9 planter.  On planting day, the seed boxes were filled with seed.  As the planter moved across the field the furrow openers at the front of each planting unit on the No. 9 planter would open a trench in the ground about 2 inches deep.  The wheels on the planter would power a shaft connecting both planting units on the No. 9 planter.  This shaft would turn the planter plate at the bottom of each seed box.  As they revolved, the slots on the edge of the planter plate would select individual seeds from the seed box and drop them in a tube which led to the lower part of each planting unit.  There the seeds would be released into the small trench that had been opened by the furrow openers.  Corn plates selected individual seeds at a rate that would allow only three seeds to be selected for every 40 inches of progress the No. 9 made as it moved across the field.  Because soybeans were planted only 4 inches apart, soybean plates would need to supply 10 soybean seeds for the same 40 inches of progress that the planter moved across the field.  The plates needed to turn faster and gather more seed.  Thus, a different style of planter plate was needed for the No. 9 planter for use in soybeans.

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

Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer made a trip to the Thill Implement dealership in Rose Creek, Minnesota to purchase these new plates.  He made this trip early in the year.  Ever since United States’ involvement in the war, he had learned that nothing should be taken for granted.  Nothing was predictable.  Simple parts like new plates for a planter may have to be ordered.  This would take time.  He wanted all his equipment ready when the field work started.  He could not afford delays while he waited on parts.  Besides in March of 1945, he and his wife were anxious to find a reason (any reason) to get off the farm for a little while.

The winter of 1944-1945 had been basically snowless until a series of snow storms in mid-January, 1945 combined to deposit about 4-to-8 inches of snow on the ground.  Cold temperatures which persisted mid-until March of 1945 would not allow the snow to melt.  Thus, chores like the daily hauling the manure to the field had become cold, laborious jobs even using one of the tractors.  (In addition to the 1937 Model 28-44 standard tractor, our Nevada Township farmer had obtained a 1935 tricycle-style Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 18-28 tricycle-style tractor in late February of 1943.  [See the prior article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County Part I: Purebred Suffolk Sheep Raising” published on this website.]  It was the Model 18-28 tricycle-style “row crop” tractor that allowed our Nevada Township farmer to mechanize every field task on his farm and eliminate the need for horses on his farm.)

Fighting the snow and trying to keep up with the chores on his farm all winter had given our Nevada Township farmer and his wife a bad case of “cabin fever.”  Accordingly, when the weather became unseasonably warm in late March, 1945, and the snow had melted, our Nevada Township farmer and his wife were more than willing to leave the farm for a short while.  They got into their old 1941 Chevrolet sedan and drove the 12 miles north to visit his local Oliver Farm Equipment dealership—Thill Implement  of Rose Creek, Minnesota.  Rose Creek (1940, pop. 261) was located in center of Windom Township.  Windom Township was the township located immediately adjacent to Nevada Township’s northern border.

 

 

The Thill Implement dealership had been originally founded by John Peter and Marie (Lindsay) Thill in 1938.  Born in Chicago, Illinois, on August 17, 1895, John Peter, at the age of seven-years of age, had moved with his parents, Nicholas and Margaret Thill, in 1903, to a farm located in Windom Township about three (3) miles north of Rose Creek.  Growing up on this farm, John Peter had met Marie Lindsay.  In 1916, they had fallen in love and were married.  They started a family on January 1, 1918 with the birth of Robert Lindsay Thill.  In 1921, a daughter, Dorothy Thill was born to the couple and, finally, in 1925, a second son, John (Jack) Thill Jr, was born.

John Thill Jr. took over operating the Thill Implement dealership from his father–John Peter Thill.

 

John Peter and Marie established their own farming operation and operated the farm through the hardest years of the Great Depression and when the economy started to recover in 1938, John thought he saw an opportunity to gain some extra income by starting a farm tractor dealership in the town of Rose Creek.  Mechanical power on farms was in its infancy, but tractors were already replacing horses on farms at a furious rate.  It already seemed that tractor power was the wave of the future.  Perceiving a large demand for Minneapolis-Moline corn shellers, John Peter Thill obtained a franchise from the Minneapolis-Moline Company of Hopkins, Minnesota.  However, John Peter soon obtained second franchise from the Oliver Farm Equipment Company of Charles City, Iowa, because he had been very impressed by the easy draft of Oliver plows.

Thill Implement in Rose Creek obtained a franchise to sell Minneapolis-Moline corn shellers as well as the entire line of Oliver farm equipment.
Thill Implement in Rose Creek obtained a franchise to sell Minneapolis-Moline corn shellers as well as the entire line of Oliver farm equipment.

In its first year in business, Thill Implement had no building for its dealership.  Thus, Thill Implement dealership began as a few new tractors parked under a under a shade tree in Rose Creek.  Only in 1939 was John Peter able to obtain an old grocery store building in Rose Creek, and convert it to a dealership building.  At the same time as he operated the dealership, John Peter Thill also continued his farming operation.  It was this farm that caused a close relationship to arise between Thill Implement and the Oliver Farm Equipment Company.

The Oliver Farm Equipment Company had been formed in a merger of four companies in 1929–the Hart-Parr Tractor Company of Charles City, Iowa, the American Seeding Company of Richmond, Indiana, the Oliver Chilled Plow Works of South Bend, Indiana and the Nichols and Shepard Company of Battle Creek, Michigan.  Since 1929, more companies had been purchased by and merged into the new Oliver Company.  Thus, by 1939, the Oliver Company was a large sprawling corporation with factories spread all across the nation.

Among the oldest and most distinguished of these companies under the Oliver corporate umbrella was the Hart-Parr Tractor Company.  The Hart-Parr Company had been the first company to mass produce an internal combustion engine-powered farm tractors starting in 1903.  Following the merger in 1929, the new corporate headquarters for the sprawling Oliver Farm Equipment Company was established in Chicago, Illinois.  However, much of the research and management staff dealing with tractor production remained in Charles City, Iowa, the old home of the Hart-Parr Company.  Indeed much of this staff was composed of former Hart-Parr employees and, whatever isolated tractor manufacturing operations were contained in other companies involved in the merger (Nichols and Shepard for an example) were eventually consolidated in Charles City.

Oliver Tractor Works factory in Charles City in 1948
An Aerial view of the Oliver Farm Tractor Works factory in Charles City, Iowa.

The Charles City plant was located 35 miles south of Rose Creek.  Actually, the driving distance to Charles City was 43 miles because John Peter Thill could drive  6 miles west on County Road #4 to pick up U.S. Highway #218.  But the drive was pleasurable because once having reached U.S. #218 was the remaining drive to Charles City was on a smooth concrete paved road.  The new Thill Implement dealership was fortunate in this close proximity to Charles City, Iowa, because over the years, Thill Implement developed a strong relationship with the managerial staff at the Charles City plant.  The benefits of this relationship flowed both ways.  The Charles City engineering staff found that they could count on John Peter readily agreeing to offer land on his farm on which to test their new Oliver tractors.  John Peter agreed to allow these tractor tests and demonstrations to be conducted on his farm because of the public attention these tests and demonstrations attracted.  This public attention was the best possible advertisement for Thill Implement.

Recent public attention by area farmers was directed toward the demonstrations of “row crop tractors.”  These row crop or tricycle style tractors were specifically designed for cult**ivation  of corn and other row crops.  This was the last remaining field task on the average Midwestern farm that was still done by horses.  The entire line of tractors offered to the farming public by the Hart-Parr Tractor Company had been “standard” or “four-wheel” style tractors.  These standard tractors had wheels set at fixed tread widths.  Thus, the tractors were suited for every farm field job except cultivation of row crops.  However, Hart-Parr had been researching and developing a tricycle-style “row crop” tractor at the time of the merger in 1929.  In 1930, Hart-Parr (now the Oliver Company) introduced their new Oliver /Hart-Parr Row Crop Model 18-28 tractor.  This was the Oliver Farm Equipment Company’s first row crop tractor.  This tractor had adjustable tread width for the rear wheels and a single front wheel.  The front wheel attached to a single bolster, like a child’s tricycle.  This “fifth-wheel” type of steering by means of a single bolster allowed the tricycle–style tractor to turn very sharply in the field while cultivating corn and/or other row crops.

The Oliver/Hart-Parr Model 18-28 Row Crop tractor emerged from the energy developed from the 1929 corporate merger that formed the Oliver Farm Equipment Company.  The Model 18-28 was the first Oliver tricycle style tractor.

 

Substantial changes were made to the Model 18-28 tractor and the following year, in 1931, a new improved Oliver Model 18-27 tricycle style tractor replaced the 18-28 Hart-Parr Row Crop tractor.  This new Model 18-27 was designated “dual wheel” to emphasize its most obvious difference from its single-front wheeled predecessor.

The Oliver/Hart-Parr Model 18-27 (dual wheel) Row Crop tractor as a much improved replacement of the first Oliver/Hart-Parr row crop tractor–the Model 18-28 Row Crop tractor.

 

The 18-27 (dual wheel) tractor featured differential foot brakes for each rear wheel.  These differential brakes allowed the tractor operator to apply the brake to the appropriate wheel to assist in turning the 180° turns at the end of the rows while cultivating corn and other row crops.  The 18-27 (dual wheel) also featured a full pressure oiling system and a oil filter.  This helped prolong the life of the four-cylinder engine.  The 18-27 (dual wheel) remained in production from 1931 until 1936.  The peak of annual production of the tractor was reached in 1935, when 748 individual Model 18-27 (dual wheel) tractors were turned out at the Charles City plant.  It was one of these 748 tractors that our Nevada Township farmer had purchased as a used tractor in late-February of 1943.

An advertisement of the newly improved Oliver Row Crop tractor which was designated as the Model 80 Row Crop.

 

In 1936, the Model 18-27 (dual wheel) row crop tractor was replaced with the Oliver Model 80 row crop tractor.  (When the new four cylinder Model 80 tractor was tested at the University of Nebraska from May 16 through May 26, 1938, using low-octane distillate fuel, the results showed that the Model 80 delivered 23.32 horsepower [hp.] to the drawbar and 35.24 hp. to the belt pulley.  [See C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests: Since 1920 (Motorbooks International Pub.: Oseloa, Wisc., 1985) p. 95.])

In 1936, the Oliver Farm Equipment Company again upgraded their Row Crop tractor. This tractor was designated as the Oliver Model 80 Row Crop tractor.  This particular Model 80 was made in 1939. 

 

The unstyled Model 80 was a new tractor, but it was Oliver’s other new (and smaller) row crop tractor that was to become especially important to Thill Implement and other Oliver dealerships across the Midwestern section of the United States.  In 1935, the Oliver Company, introduced their new, revolutionary and very popular smaller tractor—the Model 70.  The Model 70 was offered in a variety of formats—the “standard” style, the “industrial” style and row crop style.  However, the most common format of Model 70 was the row crop version.  Externally, the Oliver Model 70 was unique among tractors on the market.  The tractor was painted dark green with orange accents and red wheels.  When introduced in 1935, the Model 70 had been “styled” with a sheet metal hood, grill and side curtains covering the engine entirely.  During the initial period of production, the Model 70 was offered to the public equipped with a Waukesha four-cylinder engine.

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The “early styled” Model 70 was the first tractor in the Oliver Company line of farm tractors to by “streamlined” with sheet metal. The early styled Model 70 was produced from 1935 until 1937 and was fitted with a four-cylinder engine manufactured by the Waukesha Motor Company of Waukesha, Wisconsin.

However, in 1937, the Model 70 was further improved and “streamlined.  The streamlining gave the Model 70 an even more sleek appearance.  The new improved Model 70 was offered to the public with optional rubber tires, electric start and electric lights.  However, the must unique feature of the new 1937 Oliver Model 70 was the tractor’s new 6-cylinder engine.  The new 6-cylinder engine featured in the new Oliver Model 70 had been researched and developed by the Oliver Company, itself.  The engine was now in full production at Oliver’s South Bend No. 2 Works in South Bend, Indiana.  When this new six-cylinder Model 70 was tested at the University of Nebraska from August 23 until August 29, 1940, the new 6-cylinder engine in the Model 70 delivered 22.72 horsepower (hp.) to the drawbar and 30.37 hp. to the belt pulley.  (See C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests: Since 1920 [Motorbooks International: Oseola, Wisc., 1985] p. 128.)

From the very first, the row-crop style Model 70 tractor led all other models of Oliver tractors in sales.  The tricycle style row crop version of the Model 70 itself, actually, outsold all the other styles and models of Oliver tractors.  During the first two years of production the 4-cylinder Model 70, Oliver made and sold 684 row crop versions of the Model 70 in 1935 and 8,042 row crop versions in 1936.  When the new 6-cylinder Oliver Model 70 was introduced in 1937, sales of the row crop Model 70 rose to 10,915 Model 70 row crop tractors.  By contrast, only 14 Model 80 tractors were built and sold in 1937.

When the Thill Implement opened in 1938, the national economy was just recovering from the recession of 1937-1938.  This recession had caused a downturn in business nationwide.  This business slowdown also affected the Oliver Farm Equipment Company as the company produced only 780 Model 70 row crop tractors in 1938.  However, Thill Implement was able to sell enough of these popular tractors to weather the recession.  In 1939, with the recession over, the Oliver Company produced 7,860 Model 70 row crop tractors.  Thill Implement supported itself on the back of strong sales of the Model 70 until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor involved the United States in the Second World War.  From that point on production of the Oliver Model 70 dwindled to only 1,070 row crop tractors in 1943.  Not because of any lack of demand for the Model 70, rather the decline in production was caused by the scarcity of raw materials for making the tractor.  All raw products for civilian production were now being severely restricted by the United States government and directed to production for the war effort. Thus, production of tractors and large farm implements by all farm manufacturers was severely curtailed by the war effort.  During the middle of the war, even the manufacture of repair parts were restricted by the war effort and it was hard for farmers to obtain any repair parts from their local dealerships.  Farmers found that even parts for the tractors and farm machinery they already owned were in short supply.

Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer did not know what to expect when he visited Thill Implement in February of 1945.  He did not know whether the corn planter plates he wanted would be in stock or whether he would have to order the parts and then wait on the delivery of the parts some weeks in the future.  However, our Nevada Township farmer was pleasantly surprised to learn that now in the spring of 1945 with the end of the war was in sight, the United States economy had grown to the level that it was able to meet the vast demands of the war and simultaneously meet some of the demands of civilian economy.  Thus, while in the spring of 1945, new Model 70 tractors remained in very short supply, our Nevada Township farmer was assured that Thill Implement had the planter plates in stock.  The salesman behind the repair parts counter at Thill Implement  took no more than a couple of minutes to walk back into the parts bins behind the counter and emerge with two of the particular planter plates for the Oliver-Superior Model 9 planter which he had requested.  The salesman reminded our Nevada Township farmer of another part he would need to convert his corn planter into a soybean drill.  This was a small link that connected between the frame of the planter and the tripping mechanism on the planter.  This link would disable the tripping mechanism so that the shaft turning the soybean plates would operate continuously.  This would allow the soybeans to be drilled in a steady stream along the row rather than being planted in hills planted in the row.

The salesman related that there had been big demand for these soybean plates and the link over the last few weeks.  Because of this demand, Thill Implement had ordered and received a large number of the soybean planter plates and conversion parts for all of the older Oliver-Superior planters.  It seemed that everyone was planting soybeans this year.  Indeed, the salesman reported that he had heard over KATE radio from nearby Albert Lea, Minnesota, (the county seat of neighboring Freeborn County) that preliminary news reports of spring planting in Freeborn County from the Extension Service of the United States Department of Agriculture found that soybean acreage was up by 20% this spring over the year before.  (In Mower County the results would eventually reveal a more staggering figure.  The Mower County Extension Service would report that the number of acres planted in soybeans in Mower County in the spring of 1945 would be up 35.5 % over the previous year.)

Having obtained the proper planter plates for his Model 9 planter, our Nevada Township farmer was ready for the spring field work well before the winter weather warmed sufficiently for him to get into the fields.  Warmer than usual weather in late-March helped dry and warm the soil in his fields.  Thus, spring field work could begin in April, earlier than usual.  The oats were drilled first.  However, this year, our Nevada Township farmer drilled only part of the field in oats.  Since obtaining the Oliver Row Crop Model 18-28 (dual wheel) tractor, two years before, he had totally mechanized the power sources on his farm.  Although he had retained one team of horses on his farm out of a feeling of tradition, he really had no need to employ horses in any aspect of his field operations—including the cultivation of row crops.   Thus, with far fewer horses on his farm he no longer needed a large quantity of oats on the farm as he had done in the past.  Accordingly, the remainder of the oat field was worked up and left unplanted for the time being.  This was the area on the farm where he would plant the soybeans.

Before planting his new crop of soybeans, however, he needed to plant his corn.  Corn was traditionally planted prior to soybeans.  While corn can be planted in ground that is between 50º to 55ºF in temperature, soybeans required soil temperatures of 55ºF to 60ºF in order to prosper.  It turned out that there was no need to worry, this year.  The sunshine of early May, 1945 warmed the ground sufficiently, such that our Nevada Township farmer could start planting his soybeans immediately after he had finished planting his corn in mid-May.

Dramatic world news was broadcast in May of 1945, as Germany surrendered and the war in Europe came to an end.  This was good news, but our Nevada Township farmer and his wife still had their eyes on the war in the Pacific, where both of their sons were serving.  The war in the Pacific was still in progress.  For him and his wife the really big news, they wanted, was to hear that the war in the Pacific had ended.  This would mean the safe return of their two sons.  However, our Nevada Township farmer could not help being anxious over the end of the war.  What would happen to the prices of both corn and soybeans with the return to peace.  In particular, he wondered if it was the wrong time to expand into soybeans—a crop that seemed to be so closely tied to war production.  Still he had already obtained the soybean seed from the Hunting elevator in Lyle, Minnesota.  It was too late to turn back now.  He might as well proceed as planned and accept the risk.

Consequently, after wire-check planting his corn, our Nevada Township farmer unscrewed the thumb screw in the back of both planter seed boxes and tipped the boxes forward.  The cylinder-shaped seed boxes were hinged in the front, which allowed the box to be tipped forward until all the contents of each seed box could be poured out.  This way he removed the seed corn that had been left in the boxes at the conclusion of the corn planting.  Then, he removed the corn seed plate at the bottom of each seed box and replaced the corn plate with the new soybean plate that he purchased at Thill Implement.  Next, he had attached the small metal link he had purchased from Thill Implement which converted the planter into a soybean drill by disabling the tripping mechanism on the planter.

The control lever on the Oliver-Superior two-row corn planter that shifted the planter from planting corn to sowing soybeans
The control lever on the Oliver-Superior two-row corn planter that shifted the planter from planting corn to sowing soybeans

This link held the tripping mechanism in abeyance and allowed seeds to flow down both planter units continuously, rather than being released periodically along the row only when the planting unit was “tripped.”  This way the soybeans would be drilled into the rows rather than planted in hills within the rows like the corn.  Finally, our Nevada Township farmer greased the moving parts of the planter at every location where there was a grease zerk.  Thus, the planter was all ready to go the next morning, when he completed the milking and the other morning chores.

All he needed to do was to climb up into the operator’s seat of the Model 18-28 and drive the tractor and planter to the field.  The long dry spell at the beginning of May had allowed our Nevada Township farmer to get all his corn planted and now it looked as though weather would continue to hold while he planted his soybeans.  Indeed in the back of his mind was a worry that the dry weather spell might portend a dry growing season.

The sacks of soybean seed he had purchased were accompanied by a small packet of “inoculant.”  The inoculant was a black powder which acted as a natural fertilizer for the soybeans, encouraging early sprouting and growth of the soybeans after the seed was in the ground.  On planting day, our Nevada Township farmer poured the seed out of the sacks into his “triple box” wagon.  Then he opened the packet of inoculant and poured the contents of the packet over the pile of soybeans in the wagon.  Then he shoveled the soybeans to mix the inoculant evenly throughout the entire pile of soybean seed.  He hitched the wagon to his 1937 Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 28-44 tractor and drove it to the oat field.  The oats, with only a month’s worth of growth so far, appeared like a light green fuzz just visible on the surface of the ground– on the portion of the field that had been drilled in oats, but they had not yet completely covered the ground with green color.  Our Nevada Township farmer parked the wagon and the Model 28-44 tractor at the end of the field on the portion of the field where the new growth of oats were starting to grow.  Then he walked back to the homestead and started up his other tractor—the Oliver Row-Crop Model 18-28 (dual wheel)—and hitched this tractor up to his Oliver/Superior Model 9 corn planter.

Once in the field, he pulled the planter up to the rear of the wagon and loaded each seed box with soybeans.  Then he lined the planter up with the end of the field and released the row marker on the side of the planter.  This row marker was set to make a small mark in the dirt as he moved along.  He would follow this mark with the front wheels of his tractor on his return trip across the end of the field.  In this way he could be sure that the spacing between all the rows remained at 40 inches.  He would drill eight rows of soybeans across the end of the unplanted portion of this field.  These eight “end rows” would allow him room to turn around at the end of the field when cultivating the soybeans.  Before he went very far, however, he dismounted the tractor seat and went around behind the planter and uncovered a portion of the rows he had just planted.  He checked to see if the seeds were actually being correctly planted in the rows.  He found that everything was performing the way it should and the soybeans were being planted about two inches under the surface and the seeds were being placed about 4 inches apart within the rows.

Before making his first trip across the length of the field, our Nevada Township farmer “topped off” each seed box with soybean seed.  He wanted to be sure he could make a full trip across and back without running out of seed.  Additionally, while he was at the far end of the field he wanted to drill eight more end rows across the far end of the field as he had done at this end of the field.  He knew that the seed in each seed box would be used up at a much faster rate than when he had planted his corn.  Then he released the row marker on the side of the planter facing the unplanted portion of the field.  When he returned from the other side of the field he would be using the row marker on the opposite side of the planter.  Then he would fill the seed boxes and proceed again to cross the length of the field.  In this manner he completed the planting of his first soybean crop.

In late-May, after the soybeans had been planted, there were several light rains.  None of the rains, individually, delivered more than ¾ of an inch of rain and taken together all the rains were still insufficient for the crops, especially the corn.

EPSON MFP image
The Oliver Row Crop Model 18-27 with its mounted two-row cultivator worked as well on soybeans as the tractor did on corn.

Cultivation of the corn and soybeans to prevent weeds from competing with the crop for moisture and soil nutrients is important in any year.  However, this year, with less moisture to go around, cultivation of the row crops was even more crucial.  Unlike corn, however, soybeans did not have to be “cross cultivated.”  Our Nevada Township farmer tried to cultivate his corn lengthwise and then cross wise and then re-cultivate lengthwise.  He tried to cultivate the soybeans twice.  Among the periodic rains of mid-June through early-July, none really measured up the good soaking series of rains that were needed to give a boost to the row crops.  All the crops suffered from a lack of rain.  However, the corn seemed to be the hardest hit by the drought conditions.  The individual corn plants began to appear as little spike plants as the leaves of the individual corn plants curled up to preserve moisture under the hot July sun.  The soybeans were somewhat stunted in their growth.  Yet the individual soybean plants seemed to be bearing up better under the dry conditions.

Normally, the soybeans grew to about three feet in height and bushed out to cover completely the 40 inch space between the rows.  This year as the dry season continued the soybeans were not as luxurious as Mower county farmers had seen in the past, yet by late-July of 1945, the soybeans were starting to flower.  Our Nevada Township farmer ceased his cultivation of the soybeans just as flowering of the soybeans began.  Disturbing the soybeans at this stage with further cultivation, risked knocking off a great number of flowers on the individual soybean plants.  Less flowers would mean less seed pods, which would greatly reduce the per-acre yield of the soybean crop.  Consequently, our Nevada Township farmer stopped cultivation of the soybeans when before flowering started.  From that time on the soybeans were on their own in competing with the weeds.  Only one good rain occurred in August, 1945, as the dry conditions continued throughout the whole month.  By early September of 1945, the soybeans leaves had changed color to brilliant yellow as the crop began to ripen.

September of 1945, brought the long awaited news that the war in the Pacific had ended with the surrender of Japan.  Our Nevada Township farmer’s two sons would soon be heading home.  It was great news.  However, our Nevada township farmer had some trepidation to see what the end of the war would mean for farm crop prices.  Corn prices had already fallen from their wartime high of $1.22 per bushel in May of 1945 to $1.16 per bushel in September of 1945.  Our Nevada Township farmer was pleasantly surprised that prices had not fallen more during that time.  However, he suspected that prices were being buoyed by the prospect that there would be a poor harvest of corn in the fall of 1945 because of the drought during the growing season.  His own corn looked pretty bad.  However, soybean prices, on the other hand fell off by only a nickel from their steady wartime price of $2.10 per bushel in September of 1945 to $2.05 per bushel in October of 1945.  Our Nevada Township farmer noticed that the soybeans appeared in better condition as the harvest neared.

The first killing frost of the season occurred in the last days of September, which caused the leaves on the soybean plants turn brown and then to fall off the plant altogether. With no leaves, the plants were just sticks protruding up out of the ground to a height of about two feet.  Off these sticks were branches of the original plant.  Every branch was heavy with dark brown pods.  Each pod generally held three soybeans.  The dark brown color of the pods indicated that the soybeans were ready for harvesting.  Inside the pods, the soybeans were drying more and more as each day passed during the hot dry summer growing season.  The optimum moisture content for harvesting of soybeans was 14%.  Harvesting soybeans at a higher moisture content would risk mold on the soybeans.  These soybeans were called “rubbery” soybeans because of their rubber-like consistency.  Rubbery soybeans would develop mold and spoil before they could be sold.  Harvesting soybeans at a lower moisture content than 14% would cause a great number of the individual soybeans to split in two during the harvesting process.

Our Nevada Township farmer had no combine of his own to harvest the soybeans, so he hired a neighbor to come over and combine the soybeans for him.  The neighbor had obtained an Oliver Model 10 “Grainmaster” combine prior to the war.  The Grainmaster combine was manufactured in the old Nichols and Shepard factory on the 40 acre site at Marshall and Michigan Streets in Battle Creek, Michigan.  However, during the Second World War, 37% of the work performed by the Oliver Farm Equipment Company was taken up with fulfilling government contracts.  The resources needed for the production of combines was almost non-existent.

Right side view of Oliver Model 10 Grain Master combine
The Oliver Model 10 Grainmaster combine was a “pre-war” combine recognizable because of its high profile caused by the high gravity style unloading grain tank.

Accordingly, Grainmaster combine production was severely restricted.   Thus with no combines available during the war, this neighbor had virtually, the only combine in the neighborhood.  The neighbor had almost no competition for the custom combining soybeans around the neighborhood.  Consequently, this neighbor was now kept very busy doing custom combining of soybeans around the neighborhood and he had a long list of customers.  Our Nevada Township farmer would have wait for the combine to arrive on his farm.  This put him in a bind.  He knew that it was necessary that he get as much of his soybean crop harvested before the soybeans dried out to 12% moisture content or less.  At 12% moisture content the mere threshing of the soybeans would cause excessive splitting of the soybeans.  Split soybeans could not be processed as efficiently as whole soybeans.  Consequently, he would be “docked” in the price he received at the Hunting Elevator for his beans if there was an excessive amount of splitting in the crop that he delivered to the elevator.

The danger was that, as he waited for the combine to arrive on his farm, the soybeans could dry out to only 8% to 10% moisture content.  At this level of dryness, soybeans would tend to split in half with any form of rough handling.  So, here he was, stuck waiting for the custom combine to arrive on his farm.  He felt he was losing money on his new crop with every day that passed.

While he waited, our Nevada Township farmer made arrangements to have his corn picked.  As usual, this was done by another neighborhood farmer who had a corn picker who performed custom corn picking in the neighborhood.  There were many such farmers in the neighborhood, who were available for custom corn picking.  Thus, it was much easier to get the corn picked without the long wait.  Consequently, our Nevada Township farmer was able to harvest his corn and get it in the crib in October before the soybeans were harvested.  As predicted, the corn was a poor crop.  Since 1938, farmers in the area had been using “certified hybrid” seed which was purchased from seed corn dealers rather than some of their own shelled corn to plant in the spring.  The result had been an improvement in the number of corn plants that sprouted from each hill and an increase in the size of the ears that were produced by those corn plants.  This meant an improve yield of bushels per acre in production on the average farm in Mower County.  Consequently, whereas prior to 1938, farmers in Mower County had averaged about 34.1 bushels per acre, in the years from 1938 until last year, 1944, Mower County farmers had averaged 45.4 bushels per acre.  This was the “new norm” and represented a 33.1 % increase in yield per acre or more simply a one-third increase in profits for the average farm because of the use of certified seed corn.

As he counted up the 1945 corn harvest, however, our Nevada Township farmer found that the yield of corn in 1945 was considerably less than normal.  Across Mower County the average yield of corn per acre in 1945, was only 32 bushels per acre.  This was 29.1% less than the new norm yield.  Corn was usually stored in the corn crib on the farm until February of the next year when it had a chance to thoroughly dry in the cold winter air.  Usually in February the corn in the crib would be shelled out and sold to the Hunting Elevator.  Accordingly, the income from corn was usually obtained in February.  Usually, this was one of the big payoffs from his farming operation.  The income derived from corn was used to pay off big annual debts in the farming operation.  This year, our Nevada Township farmer knew that this substantial income received in February would be reduced by about 30%.  That created a big hole in the family finances.  Under usual circumstances, one might expect that the scarcity of corn coming onto the market as a result of the poor harvest, might drive the price of corn up.  In such a case the farmer might be able to recover more income because he would receive more for each bushel of corn he sold, even if he had less than the normal number of bushels to sell to the elevator.  However, in 1945, the reduced demand for corn as the United States armies came home and the fact that the drought conditions was a local phenomenon rather than a nationwide epidemic meant that the price of corn did not rise.  Our Nevada Township farmer was faced with the fact that he would have 30% less crop to sell and he would receive any additional money for that crop on a per bushel basis than he had the previous year.

Finally in November of 1945, the combine arrived on the farm of our Nevada Township farmer.  Our Nevada Township farmer could finally harvest his first soybean crop.  Earlier in November of 1945 the weather had turned colder than usual and the ground had frozen.  Furthermore, an inch and a half of snow fell in the early November.  Luckily, however, the weather warmed enough to allow the soybeans to be harvested by the middle of November.  By this time our Nevada Township farmer’s two sons had made it back to the United States from the war in the Pacific.  They were now back on the farm and were able to help get the crop harvested and hauled straight to the Hunting Elevator.  On top of the problem of dried and split soybeans, our Nevada Township farmer also worried about the timing of his crop coming to the Hunting Elevator.  He was worried that the price of soybeans would fall as more and more of the soybean crop came onto the market across the nation.  WCCO radio out of Minneapolis/St. Paul had reported that the 1945 harvest of soybeans appeared to be a new record harvest.  (This report would later be substantiated by the Department of Agriculture, who would officially report that 193,167,000 bushels of soybeans would be harvested in 1945, setting another new record for the fifth straight year.)  Our Nevada Township farmer worried that the price of soybeans would fall as more of this large harvest came to market.  If the price fell too much, he would have to store the soybeans on the farm to wait for a higher price.  He needed to get as much for the soybeans as he could to offset the losses he expected in February from the sale of his corn.

The Model 10 Grainmaster combine, used by the neighbor, was a large combine, weighing 5,950 pounds.  This combine was really just a portable threshing machine with a ten-foot cutter bar protruding out the right side of the combine.  At ten-feet (120 inches), the cutter bar was wide enough to comfortably harvest three rows of soybeans (planted in 40 or 42 inch rows) with each pass across the field.  This was the configuration of the Model 10 combine in the field.  However, the combine in this configuration was too wide for transport down the road or even through the narrow gates into the fields of the typical post-war farm.  Thus, the cutterbar/feeder was built to be detached from the combine.  Mounted on its own auxiliary transport wheels, the cutterbar/feeder could be towed behind the combine for transporting down the road and through the gates of the individual soybean fields.  This meant that as the neighbor transported the Model 10 combine from farm to farm in the neighborhood, he appeared somewhat as a train moving down the narrow country roads of Nevada Township.

To pull the combine the neighbor used his own 1936 Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 70 Row Crop tractor.  This tractor was the early “streamlined” Model 70’s which contained a Waukesha-made four-cylinder engine.  The neighbor had purchased this Model 70 as a used tractor from Thill Implement of Rose Creek.  This particular tractor was fitted rubber tires front and rear, which was a convenient feature for a tractor involved in custom farming.  Model 70 tractors fitted with rubber tires at the factory were usually also fitted with the optional six-speed transmission including a road gear allowing the tractor to cruise along at 13¼ miles per hour (mph).  This speed certainly hastened the tractor’s ability to move from farm to farm as he towed the Model 10 Grainmaster combine around the neighborhood to harvest the soybean crop.  Additionally, rubber tires on the tractor were becoming a necessity.  The steel lugs on steel-wheeled tractors naturally tore up and ruined the surfaces of graded roads.  As a consequence, county and local governments were starting to ban all tractors with steel lugs from operating on the public roads.

When the neighbor pulled into the farm of our Nevada Township farmer with his “long train,” he immediately headed out of the yard and down the lane to the soybean field.  He pulled the long train into the soybean field where, he began to unhooked the cutterbar/feeder from the rear of the combine and moved it around to its operating position on the right side of the combine.  This whole process of setting up the combine was conducted right on top of the soybean plants located near the gate of the field.  Our Nevada Township farmer cringed as he saw the maneuvering around was running down some of the soybean plants.  Disturbing these dried soybean plants allowed some of the dried pods to crack open and the soybeans inside to fall out onto the ground.  This was a waste of the crop that would reduce the per acre yield of the soybean harvest, but it seemed unavoidable.

Once the cutterbar/feeder was attached to its operating position and all the chains, belts and rubberized aprons were back in place, the neighbor started the four-cylinder Continental engine on the Grainmaster combine.  Once the engine was warmed up he engaged the clutch on the combine and everything on the combine can alive and began to work.

The neighbor adjusted the combine header to a height as low to the ground as possible so that the cutter bar would “shave” the ground leaving a stubble of no more than 1½ inches above the surface of the ground.  He wanted to get all the soybean pods into the combine—even the lowest hanging pods, which may only be about 2 inches above the ground.  The frozen ground was actually a help in this attempt to get as close to the ground as possible.  The skids under the cutterbar/feeder would ride along harmlessly on top of the frozen ground.  Had the ground not been frozen, the skids and the cutterbar might have plunged into the soft ground.  Dirt and mud would then have been picked up and gotten into the combine.

Oliver Model 10 Grain Master Combine front view
The Oliver Company Model No. 10 combine with its 5-batt reel mounted over the cutter bar.

Over the cutter bar of the Grainmaster combine was a reel which consisted of five (5) “bats” that were long enough to reach entirely across the cutter bar.  The cylindrical reel rotated a little faster than the anticipated forward speed of the combine.  As the reel turned each of the five bats would sweep down over the cutter bar and bend the soybean plants over the cutter bar as they were being cut.  This would assure that all of the cut beans plants would fall safely onto the header where a series of rubberized canvas aprons (or drapers) would carry the soybean plants across the platform of the header and up the to the feeder where they would then be fed into the cylinder where the actual threshing of the crop took place.  For harvesting soybeans, the neighbor had slowed the speed of the cylinder down from around 1400 revolutions per minute (rpm), the speed used for threshing wheat and/or oats, to a speed of 700 rpm for gentle threshing of the soybeans.  Once threshed the soybeans fell through the grain screens to the grain pan at the bottom of the No. 10 Grainmaster combine.  There an elevator would pickup the soybeans and carry them to the top of the 50 bushel grain tank located at the very top of the combine.  This grain tank was a gravity flow tank.  Therefore the tank needed to be located above the level of wagons or grain truck beds.  As a consequence, the grain tank gave the No. 10 combine a very high profile.  Indeed, the overall height of the combine from the ground to the top of the grain elevator was in excess of 12 feet.  Usually a very high shed with a high door needed to be built to house the No. 10 Grainmaster combine on farm of every farmer that owned one of these tall combines.

Oliver Model 10 Grain Master combine unloading inO
An Oliver Model No. 10 combine unloading its grain tank into a waiting truck with a grain box.

Once in operation in the field, the No. 10 Grainmaster offered unsurpassed efficiency in the threshing and separation of all crops including soybeans.  However, getting the field “open” enough for efficient operation was another matter.  First the end rows of the near end of the field had to be combined.  The neighbor steered the Model 70 tractor so that the front wheels rolled down the pathway between the first two rows nearest the fence.  The left rear wheel of the tractor passed along in the space between the first row and the fence.  During this first pass across the end of the field only the third, four and fifth rows of soybeans were harvested.  The first two rows nearest the fence were not harvested, but rather were straddled by the tractor pulling the combine.  The soybeans in these rows were disturbed which resulted in further losses of soybeans on the ground as the tractor and the hitch of the combine passed over the dried soybean plants.  Once he reached the side of the field with the front end of the tractor almost touching the fence along the side of the field, the neighbor needed to back the tractor and combine up and turn it around so that he proceed the opposite way across the end of the field.  The process backing the large bulky combine around meant that some more soybean plants were run over by the tractor and combine.

On the return trip back across the field, the neighbor was able to harvest the two rows near the fence, the same rows he had driven over on the first turn across the end of the field.  He reached the other side of the field and turned around to harvest the three remaining rows of the end rows on the near end of the field.  Once all the end rows were harvested, our Nevada Township farmer could drive his Model 28-44 Oliver tractor and his double box wagon onto the stubble of the near end of the field.  Before attempting to combine the long lengthwise rows of the soybean field, the neighbor pulled the combine over near the wagon and stopped.  He, then, dismounted his tractor and walked back to the grain bin of the combine and lowered the chute of the combine over into the wagon.  He then raised the lever of the door of the grain tank and all the soybeans began flowing out of the grain tank and dropping into the wagon box.  The neighbor wanted to empty the 50-bushel grain tank before he headed across the length of the soybean field.  Once reaching the far end of the field, the neighbor would harvest the end rows of the far end before returning to the near end again.  He wanted to make sure he started out with an empty grain tank to be sure that he could make it all the way back with out overflowing the grain tank.

As he headed out across the length of the field, he, again, steered the tractor down the first two rows and harvest only the third, fourth and fifth rows from the fence.  After combining the end rows on the far end of the field, the neighbor made his way down the opposite side of the field harvesting the third, fourth and fifth rows from the fence on that side of the field.  With a very full grain tank he made it once again to the near side of the field.  After emptying the grain tank again he reversed his direction around the field and harvested the two rows nearest the fence that he had run over with the tractor on his first lengthwise round of the entire field.  Now with plenty of room to turn around at both ends of the field the neighbor could complete the harvesting of the soybean crop at top efficiency, without running down any more rows of soybeans.  With every return to the near end of the field, the neighbor would empty his grain tank before heading out again on another trip across the field.

Much as he had worried over the price of soybeans, our Nevada Township farmer was pleasantly surprised to find that the price of soybeans had not fallen.  Indeed the price of soybeans in November had risen to $2.10 per bushel.  Consequently, our Nevada Township farmer hauled his whole soybean crop straight from the field to Hunting elevator in Lyle, Minnesota.  He and his sons were busy hauling the wagon loads of soybeans out of the field with the tractors.  In the yard, the wagon was hitched to his car the soybeans were driven to Lyle.  To prevent the any delays in the harvesting, our Nevada Township farmer also made arrangements with a couple of neighbors with trucks to help haul the crop straight from the field to the Hunting elevator.

Our Nevada Township farmer and his neighbors found that the amount of their soybean crop had been reduced somewhat because of the dry weather conditions during the growing season.  However, this reduction in yield for soybeans was not as serious as it was for corn.  The average per acre yield of soybeans fell to 12 bushels per acre in Mower County as a whole.  This was not as high as the 14 bushels per acre in 1944, nor as high as the 15 bushels per acre county-wide average in 1943.  However, both 1944 and 1943 had been exceptional years for growing soybeans.  In each of those years, Mower County farmers had set a new record for production of soybeans.  Since 1941, the average soybean yield per acre in Mower County had been 13.25 bushels per acre.  Accordingly, despite the dry growing season, the 1945 soybean harvest was only 9.4 % less than the normal harvest.  Clearly, soybeans could sustain dry weather condition better than corn.  This decline in the yield did not prevent Mower County farmers from setting another new record for total production for the third year in a row, with 618,000 bushels of soybeans produced in 1945.

Furthermore, as noted above, when our Nevada Township farmer sold his soybeans he received about $2.10 per bushel for his soybeans.  Thus, the soybean crop largely filled the hole in his yearly budget created by the poor corn harvest.

Thus, soybeans had saved the day on our Nevada Township farmer’s farm.  In 1945, soybeans proved their worth as a cash crop on a diversified farm—a cash crop which could save the family budget when the major cash crop failed.  In his very first year of raising soybeans our Nevada Township farmer had seen the advantage of diversifying his farming operation to include the cash crop of soybeans.  Diversification of his farming operation had worked the way it was supposed to work.

Soybean Farming in Butternut Township (Part 2 of 2parts)

++__________Soybean Farming in Butternut Valley Township (Part 2 of 2 parts):

The 1944 Farmall Model H Tractor

by

Brian Wayne Wells

Fuzzy newly formed seed-pods of the soy-bean plant
Fuzzy newly formed seed-pods of the soy-bean plant

As noted, previously, Butternut Valley Township is located in the extreme northwestern corner of Blue Earth County, Minnesota.  (See the first article in this series called “Soybean Farming in Butternut Valley Township [Part 1]” also published in the blog section of this website.)   Also, as previously noted, in 1942 Butternut Valley Township was the home of a particular diversified 160 acre family farming operation.  Our Butternut Valley Township farer and his wife had lived on this farm since they were married in 1919.  As a diversified farming operation, he and his wife milked a Holstein dairy herd, raised pigs and had a chicken flock.  They sold milk and eggs off the farm for regular income.  Each summer they marketed the pigs they had raised to provide cash income in the summer.  In the fields, they raised oats and hay.  Originally the oats were raised to feed their horses as well as their chickens and the hay was used to feed both the cows and the horses.

Diversified farming in Butternut Valley Township, Blue Earth County, Minnesota.

 

Since obtaining a “used” 1929 Farmall Regular tricycle-style tractor in 1937, he had greatly reduced the number of horses his farm.  Thus, he had been able to reduce the number of acres planted to oats and hay each year.  The largest crop on the farm was corn.  Part of the corn crop was cut in August each year, while it was still green.  This corn was then fed into the silo filler and blown into the silo which stood next to the barn.  The silage in the silo would be used all winter to feed the dairy herd.  The remaining corn would be picked in the late autumn and the ears of corn would be stored in the corn crib.  Part of this corn would be shelled and saved to fatten the pigs for market.  The rest of the corn would be sold to provide cash income in the winter.  Consequently, the corn was a cash crop as well as source of animal food.

Image result for Cattle eating silage in a trough 1940s
A Holstein dairy herd being fed corn silage from a silo.

 

Since the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in December of 1941, a new market for plastics had arisen.  Soybeans was the main raw product used in making plastics.  Accordingly, since 1941,. the market price for soybeans had been soaring.  Because he now planted less acres in hay and oats, our Butternut Valley Township farmer decided to plant that extra acreage to soybeans in the spring of 1942.  The growing season of 1942 was almost perfect.  Both soybeans and corn were bumper crops.  Furthermore, the price of these two farm products rose to high levels.  Consequently, our Butternut Valley Township farmer had one of his best years in terms of farm income.  As a result, he seriously think about upgrading his farming operation by trading the old 1929 Farmall Regular in on the purchase of a new modern farm tractor.

The gray Farmall with red-colored wheels.

 

After selling his corn, our Butternut Valley Township farmer was able to pay off all his debts and find that he still had a comfortable balance of funds in the bank.  As a result, he again visited the Fesenmaier Hardware dealership.  He had heard rumors that more Famall H’s with rubber tires were starting to be manufactured, again, due to the fact that more rubber was starting to be released by the government for civilian production.  This time he told the staff at the Fesenmaier dealership to place his name on the list for a rubber-tired Farmall H.  However, he told them he only wanted a Farmall H with rubber tires, electric starting and hydraulics.  He needed the new tractor now more than ever before.

Wartime advertisement of the Farmall Model H.

 

In the spring of 1943, our Butternut Valley Township farmer increased the amount of acreage he planted to soybeans.  He kept waiting for his Farmall H to arrive at the Fesenmaier Hardware dealership.  However, very few Farmall Model H tractors arrived at the dealership in New Ulm, Minnesota in 1943 because the manufacturing capacity of the International Harvester Company was still being dominated by government-military contacts.  By 1943, ⅔ or 66.6% of the Company’s sales contracts were for military hardware.  (Barbara Marsh, A Corporate Tragedy: The Agony of International Harvester  p. 71.)  Consequently, production of farm tractors by the IHC declined even more.  Although already greatly curtailed, production of the Farmall Model H fell off by another 6% in 1943 when compared with the previous year.  Rubber pneumatic tires for the Farmall H had been almost totally unavailable since July of 1942.  However, starting in July of 1943 rubber tires for the Farmall H started to become available again on a limited basis.  (Guy Fay and Andy Kraushaar, Farmall Letter Series Tractors [MBI Publishing Co.: Osceola, Wisconsin, 1998] p. 73.)  Thus, the rumors that our Butternut Valley Township farmer had heard in the early spring of 1943, that rubber tires were once again becoming available for Farmall tractors, proved to be a bit premature. Continue reading Soybean Farming in Butternut Township (Part 2 of 2parts)

Case Farming Part V: Decline of the LeRoy Equipment Company

J.I. Case Company Part V:

The Decline of the LeRoy Equipment Company

by

Brian Wayne Wells

 (As Published in the September/October 2006 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)

During the post-World War II period, the Case Model DC tractor remained the most popular selling tractor of the entire Case line of tractors. However with the labor strike which happened at the Main Works factor in Racine Wisconsin, the LeRoy Equipment Company was unable to obtain any tractors for the inventory of their dealership
During the post-World War II period, the Case Model DC tractor remained the most popular selling tractor of the entire Case line of tractors.

As noted previously (see the article called J.I. Case Company Part IV: the Rise of the Le Roy Equipment Company contained in the July/August 2006 issue of Belt Pulley Magazine), two newly discharged veterans of the Second World War formed a partnership to accept the business opportunity of starting a new Case Company dealership in the small town of LeRoy, Minnesota (1940 pop. 752).  Before the war, LeRoy, Minnesota had been the home of a Case dealership called the “LeRoy Equipment Company.”  However, during the Second World War, the dealership had disbanded.  Now the J. I. Case Company wanted to re-establish the “LeRoy Equipment Company” in order to take advantage of the expected boom in post-war demand for modern farm machinery.  Two veterans, Merle Krinke and Duane Wetter, both originally from the small town of Lamberton located in western Minnesota, had expressed interest in this business venture.

Duane and Merle had known each other at Lamberton High School.  Furthermore, ever since April 8, 1944 when Merle Krinke married Duane’s sister, Zona Wetter, Duane and Merle had been brother-in laws.

Merle had been discharged from the Army Air Corp at the end of the war in the Pacific in September of 1945.  Since that time, Merle had been employed at the Myhere and Nelson Implement dealership, a local  Case franchise dealership in Montevideo, Minnesota.  Montevideo was a small town located on the South Dakota border with Minnesota, northwest of Lamberton.  It was at Myhere and Nelson that Merle had first heard about the opportunity of starting the dealership in Le Roy.

During the war, Duane Wetter had served as a decorated fighter pilot in U.S. Army Air Corp and had flown 75 combat missions in the European theater.  Since the end of the war in Europe in May of 1945, he had been stationed in Stuttgart Germany as part of the U.S. occupation forces.  He was discharged in November of 1945.  Scarcely had he returned to his wife and young son in Minnesota, than he was asked to make the decision to join in a partnership with Merle and move off to LeRoy with his whole family.  Le Roy was located in the southeastern corner of Mower County, just ½ mile from the Iowa border.  This was a long way from Lamberton, Minnesota.  Nonetheless, a decision about the starting the dealership in LeRoy, Minnesota needed to be made as soon as possible by the two veterans.  They would re-establish the dealership under the name “LeRoy Equipment Company” to take advantage of the good will that had been formed by the pre-war dealership of the same name.  Continue reading Case Farming Part V: Decline of the LeRoy Equipment Company

Case Farming Part IV: The LeRoy Equipment Company

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J.I. Case Company Part IV:

The Rise of the LeRoy Equipment Company

by

Brian Wayne Wells

              (As Published in the July/August 2006 of the

Belt Pulley Magazine)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Behlen Manufacturing Company (Part III): 1975–The Soybean Year

The Behlen Manufacturing Company (Part III):

1975 – The Soybean Year

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the January/February 2003 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

As noted previously, the 1938 McCormick-Deering Farmall F-20, bearing Serial No. 127631, had been modernized with the mounting of 10” x 38” rubber tires on the rear of the tractor and by installation of a supplemental transmission called the High Speed Gear Box manufactured by the Behlen Manufacturing Company of Columbus, Nebraska.  (See “The Behlen Company Part II” in the November/December 2002 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.  Vol. 15, No. 6.)  It is unclear as to who may have originally purchased No. 127631; however, it may well have been Lloyd Rhoton, owner and operator of a large 240-acre farm north of Stewartville, Minnesota.

What is known with certainty about the history of No. 127631 begins with a story about a young couple, Wendel and Vandy Newman, living on a farm about 120 miles to the west/southwest of Stewartville Minnesota in Clay County,Iowa.  Wendel Newman had been born and raised in Dixon County, located in northeast Nebraska, before moving to Clay County, Iowa.  On January 26, 1947, he married Vandy Blatchford.  Wendel had accepted a job as a hired hand on the farm of Carl Madson near the small town of Webb, Iowa (pop. 167), located in Clay County.  Carl Madson raised Palamino horses.  His farm was the home of the Grand Champion stallion called Golden Dude.  While living in a house provided for them on the Madson farm, Wendel and Vandy gave birth to their son Bob Newman on January 6, 1949.  Continue reading Behlen Manufacturing Company (Part III): 1975–The Soybean Year

The PAPEC Company of Shortsville, New York (Part 2): A Model 127 PAPEC Silo Filler at Work

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The PAPEC Company of Shortsville, New York (Part 2):

A Model 127 PAPEC Silo Filler at Work

by

 Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the January/February 1996 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

This is a PAPEC Model127 silo filler that was restored by former employees of the PAPEC factory in Shortsville, NY. in 1987.
This is a PAPEC Model127 silo filler that was restored by former employees of the PAPEC factory in Shortsville, NY. in 1987.

            By 1931, the Pneumatic and Propeller Ensilage Company, or Papec for short, was well established at its site in the small up-state town of Shortsville, New York. Model 158, Model 127, Model 81 and Model R Papec stationary silo fillers, as well as various models of hay choppers and hammermills, were rolling out of the Papec facilities in Shortsville. (For a history of the Papec Company, see the November/December, 1995 issue of Belt Pulley, Vol. 8, No. 6.)

            One particular Model 127 Papec stationary silo filler complete, with its shiny new color coat of red, black and two shades of green paint, a Rockwood pulley, and a galvanized feeder, rolled out of the Papec’s Shortsville, New York, facility in early 1931. By prior arrangement with Deere and Webber Company, wholesale distributor of Papec equipment in Minnesota, this particular silo filler was equipted with an optional large pulley for use with tractors with a high rpm. belt pulley. The Model 127 was “knocked down” (KD’ed) or taken apart, into its component parts and put in a waiting boxcar of the New York Central Railroad destined for Beske Implement of Minnesota Lake, Minnesota. The New York Central steam locomotive pulled the train containing the boxcar with the KD’ed silo filler out of Shortsville, through Buffalo, New York, across Pennsylvania’s Erie Triangle, and into the broad plains of Ohio and Indiana, arriving at the end of the New York Central line in Chicago, Illinois. Once in Chicago, the boxcar with the KD’ed silo filler was transferred to another train on the Chicago-Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad for the next phase of the trip to Minnesota. On the Chicago-Milwaukee and St Paul line, the silo filler made its way north to Milwaukee, across Wisconsin to La Crosse, and into southern Minnesota to the little junction town of Wells (1940 pop. 2,517). At the Wells junction, the boxcar with the silo filler was connected to the train that was headed north to Mankato. The first stop on that railroad line was the town of Minnesota Lake, Minnesota (1940 pop. 526). At this stop, the Model 127 Papec silo filler was unloaded onto a truck for the short trip to the Beske Implement dealership, where the KD’ed Papec silo filler was put back together by the employees. The silo filler was soon sold to two area farmers, John T. Goff and Ernest More, of Mapleton, Minnesota (1940 pop. 1070).

            Beske Implement was a very old John Deere dealership, founded by Gus Beske in about 1912. Gus Beske operated the dealership until his son, Woodrow W. Beske, took over its operation upon Gus’ retirement. Minnesota Lake was a small town, serving a rural area which included the larger town of Mapleton, Minnesota. South of Mapleton was the farm of John T. Goff. The picturesque Goff farm was known in the surrounding neighborhood as “the farm with the round barn.” John T. Goff (or “John T.” to friends and associates) had built the round barn to ease the feeding of livestock. The milking cows were placed in stanchions in a circle in the barn. All calf pens were located in the center of the barn. Hay was fed to the calves and cattle from the center of the barn.

A very tall man, himself, John T. Goff takes a break from binding his very tall crop of sorghum on his farm in Mapleton Township, Blue Earth County, Minnesota in 1937.
A very tall man, himself, John T. Goff takes a break from binding his very tall crop of sorghum on his farm in Mapleton Township, Blue Earth County, Minnesota in 1937.

Continue reading The PAPEC Company of Shortsville, New York (Part 2): A Model 127 PAPEC Silo Filler at Work

The Wartime Farmall Model H Tractor

The Wartime Farmall Model H Tractor

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the July/August 1994 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

EPSON MFP image
The picture, taken in the autumn of 1947, shows the George Wells 1942 H is in the foreground hitched to the wagon and the Howard Hanks 1942 H in the background hitched to the John Deere Model 7A combine.

If the experience of our family is any clue, the Farmall H seems to occupy a unique position in the history of tractor-powered farming.  There seems to have been a great number of H’s built and sold during the Second World War.  However, following the war, and especially into the 1950s, they seem to have been very quickly replaced by tractors which could handle three-bottom plows and four-row cultivators.  Production figures seem to support this conclusion, indicating that production of the H fell off after 1950.  Red Power March/April, Vol. 7, No. 6.

The Farmall H was introduced in 1939 and, although the tractor continued in production through 1952 and into 1953, it seems to have served as the primary tractor on a lot of farms for only the very short period of time from 1940 to 1946.  After this time the H was relegated to a secondary role on the farm.  The primary role was taken by three-plow tractors, like the Farmall M.  As has been pointed out in prior articles, Antique Power, November/December, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 15-16, farmers in 1939 were at first reluctant to buy the Farmall M because of the reputation of the F-30.  The F-30 had a reputation for bulkiness, awkwardness and being hard to handle.  Because the M was thought to be the successor to the F-30, sales of the M were not all that they could have been in the early years of production.  This may have inflated the sales of the H which was the successor to the very popular F-20.

At any rate, there were a great number of H’s purchased during the Second World War.  Indeed a great number of these wartime H’s are still around today.  The wartime H’s usually stand out because they are fitted with rear wheels which have been cut down from old steel wheels.  As many readers will know, although the H was sold with rear rubber tires prior to the war (notice the reprint of a picture of the showroom of Johnson Brothers Implement in Taylorsville, Illinois, taken in 1941, which is included in the November/December 1993 issue of Red Power, Vol. 8, No. 4, p. 18), during the war the rubber shortages meant that many tractors were once again commonly manufactured with steel rear wheels.

Both sides of the author’s family owned a Farmall H during the war and continued to use the H as the primary row-crop tractor on their respective farms in the same LeRoy, Minnesota neighborhood for a short period of time following the war.  As noted in prior articles, The Belt Pulley January/February 1994, Vol. 7, No. 1, p. 14,  the Howard Hanks family moved to the LeRoy, Minnesota area in March of 1945 to purchase a 400-acre farm in Beaver Township of Fillmore County.  This farm was known in the area as the Bagan farm; however, in 1945 the farm was owned by A.E. Rehwaldt.  He sold the “Bagan” farm to the Howard Hanks family.  Though the farm would be legally transferred on March 1, 1945, the agreement was actually reached in the late summer of 1944.  The family moved down to the farm and stayed about 10 days in August of 1944 to do some fall plowing.

Albert E. Rehwaldt also owned a 1942 Farmall H which he wanted to sell.  He had purchased this tractor in 1942 under the regulations of the wartime Office of Price Administration (O.P.A.).  He had paid $800.00 for the H.  Under O.P.A. regulations he was prohibited from re-selling the tractor for more than the original cost of the tractor.  Therefore, because the original cost of the tractor was $800.00 in 1942, he was prohibited from selling the H at more than $800.00.  Even as a used tractor, the H was worth more than $800.00 in 1944.

One way for a seller to get a better price for his tractor under the regulations of the O.P.A. was to offer the tractor as part of a contract price for a farm.  The price of the tractor would be submerged in the total price of the package deal for the farm.

In this way the 1942 Farmall H was purchased by the Howard Hanks family in the fall of 1944 together with the Bagan farm.  It was the family’s first row-crop tractor.  With the McCormick-Deering 238 cultivator that came with the H, the family would now be able to cultivate two rows at a time.  The H had an electric starter, electric lights, and the Lift-All hydraulic which was common to Farmalls introduced in 1939.  This 1942 H had steel wheels on the front as well as in the rear.  However, in the fall of 1944, while still living on the Goff farm in Mapleton, Minnesota, the family went shopping in Mankato, Minnesota.  There in Mankato the Hanks boys happened to find a couple of drop center wheels and matching rims for rubber tires for the front end of the Farmall H.  These wheels and rims were purchased and installed on the 1942 H during the spring of 1945.

One of the pictures included with this article shows this 1942 Farmall H in the fall of 1945 with its new wheels and rubber tires on front.  The H is hitched to the  John Deere No. 7 combine.  The picture shows Howard Hanks’ second son (now Reverend) Bruce Hanks preparing to attach the header to the No. 7 combine in preparation for the 1945 soybean harvest.

img203
Bruce Hanks stands near the Model 7A John Deere combine owned by his father, Howard Hanks. The combine is hitched to the Hanks family 1942 Farmall Model H tractor in the fall of 1945. Although the front wheels have been switched to rubber tires as described in this article, but the rear wheels are still the original steel wheels that came on the tractor when new.

In 1946, both the rear wheels of the Farmall H and the wheels of the No. 7 combine were cut down and fitted with rubber tires.  This was necessary because the Hanks family had used the John Deere No. 7 combine to do custom combining in their old neighborhood around the Goff farm in Mapleton in the fall of 1944.  Now they looked forward to supplementing the family income with the same type of custom work in the neighborhood around the Bagan farm.  The combine and H would be on the road between farms; therefore, rubber tires were a much needed improvement.  The task of cutting the steel wheels down to be fitted with rims for rubber tires was performed by Joe and Earl Lamon, blacksmiths in the town of LeRoy, Minnesota.

As compared with the picture of the 1942 Hanks Farmall Model H in the autum of 1946 which has been attached to this article above, this picture of the same 1942 Hanks Farmall H taken a year later during the soybean harvest of the autumn of 1946 reveals that the tractor has been repainted and properly decaled and has had the rear wheels cut down and mounted with rubber tires.
As compared with the picture of the 1942 Hanks Farmall Model H in the autum of 1946 which has been attached to this article above, this picture of the same 1942 Hanks Farmall H taken a year later during the soybean harvest of the autumn of 1946 reveals that the tractor has been repainted and properly decaled and has had the rear wheels cut down and mounted with rubber tires.

Many of the wartime H’s were cut down and fitted with rubber tires in this manner to extend the usable life of the tractor in modern farming operations.  Anyone who has driven one of these H’s will remember that the process was never perfect and usually resulted in the wheels having a slight wobble which became noticeable at high speeds.  The drop center rims for rubber tires on the rear as well as the front was a preferred solution because they were perfectly round and did not wobble at high speeds; however, cutting down of steel wheels was a cheaper alternative.

Although the H had always been a five-speed tractor, when the steel-wheeled version was ordered, International Harvester installed a cap screw on the operator’s platform near the gearshift lever, which would prevent the tractor from accidentally being shifted into 5th gear.  This resulted in the steel-wheeled H being a four-speed tractor with a top speed of 5-1/8 mph.  C.H. Wendel Nebraska Tractor Tests, p. 122.  Custom farming required that tractors and machinery be moved from farm to farm in a hurry.  Transport time was wasted time.  To be sure, the 5-1/8 mph speed was an improvement over the only other tractor owned by the family when they moved to the Bagan farm, a 1931 John Deere D.  (This John Deere D is pictured elsewhere.  Antique Power, May/June 1994, Vol. 6, No. 4, p. 22.)  The two-speed 1931 D had a top speed of 3-1/4 mph, (C.H. Wendel Nebraska Tractor Tests, p. 60).  Still, the H was painfully slow on the road, so it was a noteworthy day when the rubber tires were finally mounted on the back in the spring of 1946 and the cap screw on the platform could safely be removed!  Suddenly the top speed of the tractor was increased by more than three times to 16-1/8 mph!

At times, the Hank’s Farmall H performed tasks which were not strictly related to farming operations.  In April of 1947, Bruce Hanks was getting married and leaving the farm.  It had been a wet spring and the roads were in bad shape. The wedding took place on April 2, 1947 at the Little Brown Church in Nashua, Iowa.  (This is the church that inspired the hymn “Little Church in the Wild Wood” where so many weddings have been held.)  After the wedding was over and the bridal party was ready to head out on the honeymoon, it was discovered that some of the luggage had been left back at the house on the Bagan farm in LeRoy.  Howard Hanks headed out after the ceremony in his 1936 Plymouth.  The last mile over the township road (called the “rabbit road south” so as not to be confused with the “rabbit road north!”) leading to the house from the U.S. 56  was so muddy that he did not think he would make it.  However, he did pull up into the yard and did retrieve the luggage.  Rather than set out again in the car he started up the 1942 H which was now outfitted with rubber tires and the fifth gear, and while driving with one hand and holding the luggage with the other, Howard brought the luggage to the corner of U.S. 56 and the rabbit road south where the bridal party awaited their luggage and the start of their honeymoon.  Admittedly, this is an unusual task for a farm tractor, but the Farmall H had saved this most important day!

EPSON MFP image
Prior to electrification of the Hanks farm in late 1949, the 1942 H was used to power the table saw.

As the Farmall H headed back toward the farm on the afternoon of April 2, 1947, Howard Hanks must have been looking out over the fields of the farm with some foreboding.  The economic difficulty caused by the general decline of farm prices following the war would, in 1947, be further intensified by the wet spring which would continue on into the summer.  1947 was beginning to look like a year of crisis for the Hanks family.  Just at they had contracted to make payments on the 400 acre farm (large by comparison for the times) prices and now the weather seemed to be conspiring against their success on the new farm.  The story of the year of 1947 is, however, another story for another time.

The 1942 Farmall H played the leading role on the Hanks farm for the critical year of 1947 and continued to serve in this role until 1951 when it was traded off for a new 1951 Massey-Harris 44 and a four-row cultivator.  This Massey-Harris 44 is described and pictured elsewhere.  The Belt Pulley, July/August 1993, Vol. 6, No. 4.  The Hanks farming operation had moved to three-bottom plow and four-row capacity farming.  At this level of capacity the H was outmoded.

As mentioned above, the author’s father Wayne Wells farmed in the same LeRoy neighborhood.  Wayne Wells’ father George Cleveland Wells had purchased a 160-acre farm only two miles to the west of the Bagan farm in 1936.  George and Louise Schwark Wells and their three sons Floyd, Donald and Wayne, and one daughter Winnefred, moved from a rented farm in Chester, Iowa in the spring of 1936.  George Cleveland Wells was farming 160 acres with a 1931 Farmall Regular which had been purchased in the late fall of 1939.  It had been retrofitted with rubber tires in the front to aid in steering; however, it still had steel wheels in the rear.  George’s No. 2 son Donald Wells (later a fighter pilot in the Navy, now from Seattle and currently restoring a Farmall C and a McCormick grain binder) had been assigned the cold and day-long task in the late fall of 1939 of driving the Regular from the purchase site southwest of LeRoy to the Wells farm northeast of LeRoy.  This was a distance of some 15 to 20 miles.  Although the Regular had rubber tires on the front, the steel lug wheels on the rear meant that Donald had to take all the back roads and stay off the cement and asphalt highways.  This further lengthened the trip.  At the same time, the Wells family had purchased a new John Deere Model 82 two-bottom plow for use with the Regular.

In 1942, a new Farmall H had been ordered by a neighbor, Mel Anderson, under the regulations of the O.P.A.  However, when it arrived he had decided not to buy the tractor.  Mel then offered to let George Wells buy the H in his place.  (The only picture that exists of the George Wells 1942 Farmall H is the picture at the top of this article.)  Because it was known that obtaining a tractor was becoming an arduous task, even in that first year of the Second World War, George Wells knew that he had better act while the opportunity was open.  Therefore, three years after purchasing the Regular the Wells family decided to trade off the 1931 Regular and the McCormick Deering Model 229 cultivator (C.H. Wendel 150 Years of Intenational Harvester, p. 101) on the purchase price of this new Farmall H while the opportunity presented itself.

Brian Wells & 1944 Famall H plowing 4th picture August 1993
The current author plows with No. 173093 on the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Assoc.

The George Wells 1942 H was a very good tractor.  It had lights, an electric starter, and the Lift-All hydraulic system.  Furthermore it had factory-mounted drop center rims for rubber tires on the front as well as the rear.  The tractor was accompanied by a two-row model 238 International Harvester cultivator.    This tractor was a big improvement over the Regular in that it had the worm gear type of steering on top of the steering column.  Driving the H was a much safer proposition than the Regular with its bevel gear type of steering which frequently caused the steering wheel to break loose from the operator’s grasp upon hitting a rock with the front tires.  When driving the Regular, you always made sure your thumb was on the outside of the steering wheel!  Also, the Regular was not the tractor for installing a steering knob on the steering wheel!

The Wells family found that the H was a good match for the newly acquired Model 82 John Deere two-bottom plow.  No. 3 son Wayne Wells used the H when he took over the family farm in 1947 following George’s retirement and move into LeRoy.  This H served as the only tractor on the Wayne Wells farming operation until 1950 when it was traded for a new Farmall M, a new three-bottom Little Genius plow (Wendel p. 229), a new six-foot McCormick-Deering Model 25 mower and a new 438 four-row cultivator.  Together with a used Model 112 four-row corn planter, also purchased in 1950, the Wells family moved to four-row and three bottom capacity farming.  Consequently, the day of the Farmall H had passed for both the Wells and Hanks family farming operations.

However, fond memories remain of farming with the Farmall H in the years during and immediately following the Second World War.  The Wells family is currently restoring a 1944 Farmall H (Serial No. 173,093).  It helps us capture some of the sights and sound of farming as conducted by both sides of our family during the period of time from 1942 until 1951 when the Farmall H was the leading row-crop tractor on both farms.

Wayne A. Wells, on left, attaching the hitch of the trailer, purchased No. 173093 on the extreme left side of the picture from Fred Netz, on the right holding the Oliver plow.
Wayne A. Wells, on left, attaching the hitch of the trailer, purchased No. 173093 on the extreme left side of the picture from Fred Netz, on the right holding the Oliver plow.

No. 173093 was purchased from Fred and Jan (Miner) Netz of Traverse Township in Nicollet County, Minnesota. Fred and Jan Netz were teachers  in the Nicollet Public School system, in Nicollet, Minnesota.  However they also worked a small farm in traverse Township where they raised  cattle and had a large garden.  They used No. 173093 on their farm to till the garden and to put up hay for the winter to feed their cattle.

jan-netz-raking-hay-on-the-netz-farm-with-the-1944-farmall-n-serial-no-173093-and-catching-a-few-rays
Jan Netz raking hay on the Fred and Jan (Miner) Netz farm in Traverse Township, Nicollet County, Minnesota.
Jan Netz "catches some rays in a bikini while raking hay on the Fred and Jan Netz farm.
Jan Netz “catches some rays in a bikini” while raking hay on the Fred and Jan Netz farm.

The 1944 H (serial No. 173,093) purchased by the Wells family in the summer of 1993, however, differs from the 1942 H’s owned by the Wells and Hanks families in the late 1940s in that the current 1944 H has the optional disc brakes which International Harvester offered.  This option is rare enough that some observers have thought that this 1944 tractor was actually a Super H.  The disc brakes on the 1944 H are quite different in outward appearance than the disc brakes which were offered standard on the Super series of Farmalls.  The pictures included with this article show this difference.

The 1944 disc brakes used on No. 173093 are quite different from the disc brakes used on the Super series Farmalls manufactured in the 1950s. However, the linkage for the disc brakes appear quite similar to the linkage for the band brakes.
The 1944 disc brakes used on No. 173093 are quite different from the disc brakes used on the Super series Farmalls manufactured in the 1950s. However, the linkage for the disc brakes appear quite similar to the linkage for the band brakes.

However, working mechanism of both the optional disc brakes offered before 1953 and the standard equipment disc brakes offered after that date operate by the same means.  As the brake pedal is applied, the balls inside the actuating disc are forced up a little incline, following a path.  As this occurs, the balls cause the two halves of the actuating disc to spread apart and rub against the asbestos-lined discs which are attached to the counter shaft of the transmission.  This slows the tractor.

The Farmall disc brakes have had a bad reputation with farmers and tractor restorers dating from the time they first came out as standard equipment on the Super series of the Farmalls in 1953.  The problems with disc brakes seem to fall into two categories.  One problem seems to involve the glazing over of the surfaces of the asbestos-lined discs.  Mel Duerst, who was a mechanic at the Thompson (later Phillipson) International Harvester Implement dealership in New Glarus Wisconsin in the 1950s, reports that many of the first disc brake models had problems due to operator’s riding the brakes and glazing over the asbestos surfaces.  Mr. Duerst, who now lives in Sheridan, Wyoming, remembers that it became official International Harvester policy to warn operators against riding the brakes on the new Super series tractors.  He feels that the disc brakes should be as effective as the old band brakes were under normal circumstances.

Charles (Dick) Smith used the new Super M’s in the early 1950s for plowing on his farms located in western Iowa near Red Oak.  On one hillside portion of his land plowing created problems for the tractor operator.  To keep the tractor plowing straight around the slope required the operator to ride the brake of the Super M’s until the brake housings became discolored and smoked from the excess heat.  Mr. Smith dismantled the disc brakes on his Super M’s each night after this hard usage to clean up the actuator, roller balls and the paths followed by the balls when the brakes were engaged.  He humorously injects that he became pretty familiar with the disc brakes during this period of time!  He acknowledges that plowing on the hillside areas was abnormally rough on the braking system of his Super M’s.  He also concurs that under normal conditions the disc brakes should be as effective as the older band brakes.  For the restorer, the problem of glazed asbestos surfaces of the discs is solved by various methods of roughing up the surface of the asbestos pads on the discs.

The other problem common to disc brakes is that they have a tendency to lock up.  This problem appears to be caused by dirt and rust building up inside the actuating discs of the brake.  The dirt and rust interfere with the balls in the actuating discs rolling back to the released position when the brake pedal is released.  Rust is created inside the actuating discs when the tractor is left exposed to the elements for a good portion of its life.  This problem should not create difficulty for restorers, however, as most restored tractors tend to be stored inside out of the elements.

One other cause of the disc brakes locking up is that the balls inside the actuating discs will create a slight depression in the path the ball is supposed to follow when the brake pedal is released.  The ball gets stuck in the depression and the brake is locked.  The process of creating the depression is called brinelling and is described in an article by Lester Larson in a recent issue of Antique PowerAntique Power, January/February 1994, Vol. 6, No. 2, p. 16.

mark-testing-1944-h-on-cyril-miller-dynamometer
Mark Wells, brother of the current author, tests the horsepower of No. 173093 on the dynamometer owned by Cyril Miller, seen in the background in a cowboy hat. This picture was taken at the 1994 Pioneer Power annual show.

It also seems that the lack of adjustment of brakes will lead to problems with disc brakes.  The Owner’s Manual for the Farmall H instructs the owner to adjust brakes so that free movement of the pedal is limited to only 1-1/2″.  Farmall H Owners Manual, p. 59.  As a boy growing up on the Wells farm in the 1950s, the author remembers few tractors which were adjusted to this standard.  With band brakes, proper adjustment was not so crucial.  If the operator kept pressing down on the pedal, sooner or later the brakes would engage.  However, as noted above, the disc brakes are operated by balls following a path inside the actuating discs.  If the brakes were not fully engaged by the time that the balls reached the end of the path, further pressing on the brake pedal would be meaningless.  The message to restorers is that proper adjustment of brakes is much more important for disc brakes than for band brakes.

In about 2003 the Wells family agreed to let the 1944 H become a working tractor as a part of the Melounek-Deutsch Saw Mill on the grounds of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association.   As such the 1944 Farmall bearing the serial No, 173093 was fitted with a buck saw which is used for cross cutting “slab” wood (a by product of sawing logs into lumber) into useable pieces for burning in the numerous steam engines located around the grounds during the August show.

The Melounek-Deutsch sawmill in its new building on the grounds of the LeSueur county Pioneer Power Association in 1983.
The Melounek-Deutsch sawmill in its new building on the grounds of the LeSueur county Pioneer Power Association in 1983.

In the years since this article was originally written, No. 173093 with its “buzz” saw, or “buck saw,” mounted on the front continues to be employed by the “Sawmill gang” on the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association to reduce the slab wood by-product of the sawmill.  Indeed just prior to the 2016 August Show on the Pioneer Power grounds, the current author and Mark Wells, brother of the current author had a chance to work with the sawmill gang cutting up slab wood with No. 173093 and its buzz saw and putting the resulting fire wood into the Anthony wagon box mounted on the Ralph Nash homemade wagon gear which was another restoration project of the Wells family.  (The story of the Anthony wagon is told in the article on the Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois which is also contained on this website.)

In the absence of No. 173093, the Wells family purchased another 1946 Farmall H which had been part of a fleet of tractors owned by the Campbell Soup Company of  Napoleon, Ohio.  This tractor bears the serial No. 219955.  It is intended that this tractor will be changed to make it look like the George Wells  1942 Farmall H shown at the top of this article.  Toward this end, a pair of non-adjustable front wheels were purchased in the town of Charm, Ohio in the Amish Colonies in October of 2013.  Over that winter of 2013-2014, the older standard equipment seat of No. 219955 was renovated and in the summer of 2014 No. 219955 was transported to Minnesota to be stored in the new Wells family workshop located at 764 Elmwood Street in LeSueur.

Closeup of the grill of No. 215599 reveals a very faint numeral "7" on the side of the grill which betrays the tractor's history as a fleet tractor for the Campbell
Closeup of the grill of No. 215599 reveals a very faint numeral “7” on the side of the grill which betrays the tractor’s history as a fleet tractor for the Campbell Soup Company.

During the summer of 2015 a new wiring harness, battery box and a new muffler were added to No. 219955 and the tractor began to look a lot more like the George Wells 1942 Farmall H.  This is the role that this tractor this tractor is currently playing.  However, the does have its own interesting history as a member of a fleet of tractors owned and operated by the Campbell Soup Company of Napoleon, Ohio.  Accordingly, an additional article is being planned for the actual history of No. 219955.