A McCormick-Deering “Little Genius” Plow in Dryden Township (Part II)
Brian Wayne Wells
This article is the second part of a two-part series of articles which was not published in the Belt Pulley magazine.
In 1940, as previously noted, a particular farmer and his wife were engaged in diversified farming on a 160 acre farm in Dryden Township in Sibley County, Minnesota. (See the first article in this series called “A McCormick-Deering ‘Little Genius’ Plow in Dryden Township [Part I]” contained in the January/February 2009 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) Also as noted previously, our Dryden Township farmer had used the money received from the unusually large “bumper” corn crop of 1939 to purchase a used 1935 Farmall Model F-20 tractor, a two-row mounted cultivator and a new two-bottom McCormick-Deering “Little Genius” No. 8 plow with 14 inch bottoms from his local International Harvester Company (IHC) dealership—Thomes Brothers Hardware located in Arlington, Minnesota (1930 pop. 915).
Since its introduction in 1928, the Little Genius plow had become one of the most popular tractor trailing plows sold in the North America. The Little Genius plow replaced an earlier McCormick-Deering plow called the “Little Wonder.” The Little Wonder had proved to be a disappointment to IHC and to farmers that used the plow. Because of its light construction and because of the lack of clearance under the frame, the Little Wonder had trouble plowing in any kind of soil conditions especially in fields with any trash on the surface of the ground. The Little Wonder tended to clog up in trashy conditions and never seemed to adequately turn the soil over the way a mold board plow should. The Little Wonder was such a bad plow that farmers used to say that it was “‘little wonder’ that the plow was able to plow at all.”
Continued production of the Little Wonder threatened to permanently ruin the International Harvester Company’s reputation as a plow manufacturer. Introduction of the “Little Genius” plow turned all of that around, however. In reaction to the criticism of the Little Wonder plow, the Little Genius plow was designed to be a much heavier plow. Furthermore, the Little Genius was unmatched in clearance under the frame. The Little Genius could handle a great deal of trash without clogging. Additionally, the bottoms of the Little Genius plow were more sharply angled to assure a complete roll over of the soil and to completely bury trash that was lying on the surface of the ground. Thus, the Little Genius tended to work well in fields with a lot of trash on the surface of the ground. However, the sharp angle of the bottoms of the Little Genius plow meant that the plow had an increased load or draft as the plow was pulled across the field. Thus, the Little Genius plow needed to be matched to tractors with more horsepower than mold board plows designed with a less angle to their bottoms—such as the Oliver A-series Model 100 Plowmaster.
Our Dryden Township farmer was pleasantly surprised at the low price that Thomes Bros. offered for the purchase of the used 1935 F-20 tractor, the new cultivator and the new Little Genius plow. So, in the early spring of 1940, he signed the sales agreement with the Thomes Bros. Hardware dealership to purchase the tractor, plow and cultivator. Our Dryden Township farmer was anxious to get into the fields with the tractor and new plow and so he took immediate delivery of the tractor and plow. The winter of 1939-1940 was colder than normal with more than the usual amount of snow. Accordingly, it looked as though, the spring field work would be delayed because of the large amount of snow.