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.
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A McCormick-Deering Little Genius Plow at Work in
Dryden Township, Sibley County, Minnesota
(Part 1 of 2 Parts)
Brian Wayne Wells
(This is a new article that was never published in
Belt Pulley Magazine)
The more a person works at restoration of an old farm tractor or a farm implement the more one begins to ponder the history of that farm implement. One wonders, who originally purchased the farm implement. What kind farming operation was the implement used for? If curiosity is sufficiently aroused the person restoring the tractor or implement may start making telephone calls back to the person who sold the tractor and may start attempting to establish a chain of ownership of the tractor or implement back to the original owner. However, the process of establishing the chain of ownership can be extremely difficult as time passes and memories fade. Furthermore, when purchases of tractors and farm implements are made, as many are, at swap meets and/or auctions and when such purchases are made for cash from individuals unknown, the chain of ownership can be extremely difficult to reconstruct. (Just how difficult it is to start reconstructing the history of a tractor when time passes is described in the two-part series of articles contained in the July/August 2008 and November/December 2008 issues of Belt Pulley magazine which deal with a 1937 Farmall Model F-20 tractor.) Thus, it is often important to collect history of a particular tractor or implement at the point of sale or at least collect telephone numbers to call back at a later date.
Such pondering over the history of the history of a particular implement was particularly true during the restoration of one particular McCormick-Deering Little Genius 2-bottom plow with 14″ bottoms. (The actual restoration of this plow is described in the article carried on page 11 of the September/October 1994 issue of Belt Pulley magazine [Vol. 7, No. 5. This article is called “The McCormick-Deering Little Genius Plow” and has also been posted on this website.) This particular plow was purchased by Mark Wells at the 1993 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet. Luckily, Mark Wells had written down the name and address of the seller of the plow–Larry Hiles of rural Arlington, Minnesota.
Contact was established with Larry Hiles in 1995. Larry Hiles was living in Arlington Township in Sibley County. The homestead was located just south of the village of Arlington. This particular Little Genius plow had been discovered by Larry Hiles parked in the grove of trees that formed the wind break for this homestead. The farm on which the homestead was located had been originally owned by Earl Nagel. While living on the farm, Earl Nagel was actively engaged in farming the land. In about 1956, the homestead on the farm was sold to Raymond Kraels, who was a rural mail carrier. Raymond Kraels was not actively engaged in farming the land. On July 12, 1974, Delmar and Bonnie Mae (Kopishke) Trebesch rented and moved onto the homestead on the Nagel/Krael farm. During the years that the Trebesch family lived on the farm, they had a large garden. The garden was so big that they needed a tractor plow to turn the soil of the garden at the conclusion of each growing season. Accordingly, sometime after moving onto the farm, Delmar Trebesch purchased a McCormick-Deering Little Genius 2-bottom plow at a local farm auction. This was the same McCormick-Deering Little Genius plow that was later sold by Larry Hiles to Mark Wells at the 1993 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet and became known as the “Trebesch plow.”
As described in the article in the September/October 1994 issue of Belt Pulley, cited above, this particular Little Genius plow was fitted with 14 inch bottoms and originally had been a steel wheeled plow fitted with McCormick-Deering’s own “round-spoke” steel wheels. However, the front wheels on this particular plow had been cut down and rims for rubber tires had been welded onto the round spokes of the front wheels. As noted in the above-cited article, although the “furrow wheel” on the right side of the plow had been fitted with a rim for a 6.00 x 16 inch rubber tire, the land wheel on the left side of the plow was fitted with a rim for a 4.75 x 19 inch tire. This seemed a rather odd pairing of tires sizes for the front of the plow. If a farmer were having the steel wheels of the plow cut down to mount rubber tires on his plow, why would he not make the tires on both sides of the plow the same size?
Before the Second World War very few farm implements were sold from the factory with rubber tires. Nonetheless, as noted in the 1994 article, the International Harvester Company (IHC) had been offering the Little Genius plow to the farming public with the option of rubber tires as early as the 1930s. Rubber tires were not a common option on the Little Genius plow in the pre-world War II era. However, during the “pre-war” era, IHC had a contract with the French and Hecht Company (F.& H.) of Davenport, Iowa, to supply rims for all the rubber-tired equipment sold under the McCormick-Deering name. Pursuant to this contract, F.& H. supplied their familiar “round spoke” wheel rims to IHC. When the option of rubber tires were requested on the Little Genius plow, IHC fitted the plow with a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel.
This followed the design pattern of the original steel-wheeled Little Genius plow, in which the land side wheel was bigger in diameter that the furrow wheel. The reason for this wheel configuration was that the land wheel was the wheel connected to the clutch of the plow. The clutch on the land wheel was the mechanism that lifted the entire plow out of the ground when the trip rope was pulled at the end of the field. Consequently, it was thought that a larger diameter wheel was needed to provide the traction and leverage necessary to pull the plow out of the ground in some heavy soil conditions where the surface of the ground was slippery. This was the situation when plowing succulent green vegetation (green fertilizer) into the soil. The land wheel rolling along on the vegetation could become slippery from the succulent plant life crushed under the land wheel. Then when the trip rope in pulled the land wheel might slide along the surface of the ground rather than continuing to turn and lifting the plow out of the ground. Accordingly, it was decided that the land wheel should be larger in diameter so as to provide more leverage when the clutch was engaged to pull the plow out of the ground. As a result, the steel-wheeled version of the Little Genius plow was fitted with a 30 inch steel wheel on the land wheel side of the plow and a 24 inch steel wheel on the furrow wheel side of the plow.
Thus, when the optional rubber tires were installed on the Little Genius plow at the factory in Canton, Illinois, the plow was fitted with a land wheel and tire of a larger diameter than the furrow wheel of the plow. During the immediate pre-war era, the 6.00 x 16 inch tire was becoming the most commonly used tire on automobiles. However, the 4.75 x 19 inch tire was also a well-known and popular size tire, it was the size of tire that was used on the very popular Ford Model A car. Thus, the configuration of a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel became the standard configuration for Little Genius plows sold with rubber tires before the Second World War. A 1941 picture of the showroom of the Johnson Bros IHC Dealership of Taylorsville, Illinois bears this out. In the foreground of the picture is a new rubber-tired version of the Little Genius plow with a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel side of the plow.
During the Second World War hardly any rubber was available for civilian use. Consequently, IHC reverted to steel wheels on its new farm equipment. Some time during the Second World War, the contract with F.& H. was terminated and IHC signed another supply contract for rims with the Electric Wheel Company of Quincy, Illinois. The wheels provided by the Electric Wheel Company were “disc-type” wheels. Thus, the “post-war” McCormick-Deering Little Genius plow becomes distinguishable from the “pre-war” Little Genius plow fitted with rubber tires, in that disc-type wheels characterized post-war Little Genius plows and F.& H. round-spoke wheel rims characterized pre-war Little Genius plows fitted with rubber tires. Thus, when cutting down the steel wheels of the Trebesch plow, someone had done a lot of work to make the plow appear as though it came from the factory as a rubber tired plow during the pre-war era.
By 1974, when Delmar Trebesch ended up being the highest bidder on this particular “Little Genius” plow, the increased size of the average farming operation and the larger equipment used on the average farm had definitely made this two-bottom tractor trailing plow into an “antique” from a bygone era. However, there was a time when this particular Little Genius plow had been a new object of attention for a particular farmer looking to modernize his farming operation. Continue reading Egg Raising in Dryden Township, Sibley County Minnesota (Part 1)→
A two-bottom McCormick-Deering Little Genius Plow with 14-inch Bottoms
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the September/October 1994 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
Antique tractor collecting is a fast growing sport. Indeed Hemmings Motor News, who promotes antique car collecting, has called tractor collecting the fastest growing sport in the nation. Old Abe’s News Summer of 1993, Vol. 8, No. 3, p. 3. As our sport grows we also notice that restoration of tractors has recently been accompanied by restoration of farm machinery.
It seems that when tractor restorers get their tractor finished they are often ready to find something to do with the tractor. Witness all the events at the various shows around the nation; i.e., beer barrel roll with a tractor, the slow tractor races, the egg breaking contest and musical chairs with tractors. The Belt Pulley, May/June 1993, Vol. 6, No. 3, p. 26; Green Magazine, October, 1993, Vol. 9, No. 10. Hence it should not surprise anyone that the restoration of farm implements should be now gaining popularity. What better way to put the restored tractor to use than to engage in field work with a restored farm implement.
The most popular starting place for implement restoration is the grain thresher. There are many “threshing” shows around the nation. Nonetheless, there is usually a surplus of tractors for the number of threshers at many shows. Where there is threshing at shows, there will be straw stacks. This has created an opening for restored balers to be operated at the show. Furthermore, shows that own their own land and grow their own grain to be threshed at the show, will offer an opportunity for exhibiters to employ their tractors in the plowing of the fields where the grain has been harvested. Therefore, plows too have become a popular restoration project.
Additionally, tractor advertising has been responsible for some of the popularity of plows as restoration projects. Down through the history of tractor advertising, the power of a tractor has been more often described in terms of the number of plow bottoms that it could pull rather than in terms of the horsepower developed by the engine. As a result, tractor advertising often shows the tractor plowing in typical farm fields. Generally, these pictures are taken from the front of the tractor about 45 degrees to the furrow side of the tractor.
Having seen many of our favorite tractors in such advertising photos, my brother and I were enthusiastically looking for a plow in the winter of 1992-1993. We dreamed of the pictures that we could take of each other on any of the Farmall tractors owned by our family. These tractors were a 1937 Farmall F-20 (Serial No. 71355), a 1944 Farmall H (Serial No. 173093), a 1945 Farmall B (Serial No. 130161), a 1951 Farmall Super C (Serial No. 116462) and a 1953 Farmall Super M ( Serial No. 31534).
At the April, 1993 LeSueur Pioneer Power Swap Meet we found and purchased a 2-bottom McCormick-Deering Little Genius plow with 14 inch bottoms. This plow had a broken clutch lift mechanism on the land wheel side and was missing both coulters. Nonetheless, the plow was restorable. We saw the plow as a possible match for either the 1937 F-20 or the 1944 H. Originally, the plow had steel wheels, but these had been cut down to be fitted with rubber tires. The furrow wheel was a 6.00 by 16 tire. However, the land wheel was fitted with 4.75 X 19″ rim.
Through the Case\International database and the purchase of another Little Genius “parts” plow from Jim Schultz of LeSueur, Minnesota we were able to replace all the broken or missing parts on the plow.
Originally, I thought that the 4.75 X 19″ land side wheel was an abnormality and had contemplated having the wheel re-cut to fit a 7.00 by 16 tire rim which is pictured in one of the newer (late 1940’s) Owners Manuals for the No. 8, Little Genius plow. Then I saw the 1941 picture of the showroom of Johnson Bros. Implement in Taylorsville, Illinois contained in the November/December 1994 issue of Red Power. (Red Power, November/December 1993, Volume 8, Number 4, p. 18.) In the foreground of that picture is a Little Genius on rubber tires and the land wheel is considerably narrower and taller than the furrow wheel. Both front wheel rims on that plow were spoke type rims. It looked almost exactly like our plow!
Although, our plow wheels were, originally, steel and were cut down to be fitted with rubber tires only after market, the person who cut the wheels down, purposely fitted land side wheel with a 4.75 X 19″ rim. He apparently tried to keep the plow looking like a rubber-tired version of the same plow as it was being sold by International Harvester. We realized the plow as it was now configured was very close to the configuration of rubber-tired plows sold in 1941. We decided to leave the land side wheel just as it existed.
Next we undertook to paint the plow. Like most McCormick-Deering equipment, the Little Genius is painted three different colors. The Farmall red, IH-2150, Martin-Senour 99-4115 or PP&G-Ditzler 71310, was no trouble to find. The blue paint, IH-1150, Martin-Senour 90R-3736, we found easily by using C.H. Wendel’s Notebook. However, the white or cream color presented more of a problem. There has been much discussion of this cream color. The most recent study done by Ken Updike in a recent issue of Red Power. (Red Power, January/February 1994, Volume 8, Number 5, p. 5). In that article he accurately states that there were many names used for the various off-whites or cream colors from 1927 down through 1985. Also none of these paints are available under the names or numbers used today. Additionally, there exist no paint chips of those paints which can be compared with paints available today.
However, we did find strong evidence that the cream color used on the plow and other McCormick-Deering implements is none other than the Cub Cadet white (IH-759-3264) which is currently available from Case/International. We found this by a rather circuitous route.
Although our plow had rubber tires on the front wheels, the trailing wheel was still a steel wheel. I have always enjoyed rubber tires more than steel wheels. (Indeed, a quote from the International Harvester movie, Keep It Moving (1940) represents my feelings. “This is where the fun begins! Up into the driver’s seat and away we go, rolling on rubber!”). Consequently, I wanted to replace the trailing wheel with a rubber-tired wheel. I worked through Matejcek Implement in Faribault and Barneveld Implement in Barneveld, Wisconsin to find a rim for the trailing wheel. There were only five of these rims left at International Harvester dealerships over the entire nation. We obtained the one from Barneveld, Wisconsin. It had been lying around in a warehouse in Barneveld for 20 years. This is a rim that serves no other purpose in the International Harvester line of equipment, other that as a rim for the trailing wheel of the Little Genius plow. We purchased it and when it arrived we found it was painted cream colored. We found this color to be indistinguishable from the white on the hood of our Cub Cadet. We could find no place in the Cub Cadet line of equipment where this rim could be used. The rim was used only as a trailing wheel on the Little Genius. Since the rim had been indoors for all its life we concluded that it was an accurate sample of the cream color for plow wheels.
Incidentally, the Cub Cadet white was also indistinguishable from the cream color of the wheels on the toy plow offered by Ertl in its Precision Series. Apparently, the Ertl Company engineers had reached the same conclusion regarding the correct shade of cream/white for McCormick-Deering equipment. Furthermore, it is the opinion of Clarence Griep, long time employee of the Parts Department of the H & W Dealership of New Prague, Minnesota and Larson Implement in Northfield, Minnesota that the Cub Cadet white is the same color as the cream color of the past.
Furthermore, there was a letter to the editor from Dave Brink in the March/April 1994 issue of Red Power. Red Power, March/April 1994, Volume 8, Number 6, p. 6. This letter contained a response to the Ken Updike article noted above. Dave Brink pointed out that VanSickle Paint Manufacturing Company of Lincoln, Nebraska is still offering an “International White” to be used on the impliment wheels of McCormick-Deering equipment. VanSickle is a company that dates from 1907. They are a long time supplier of paint to Tractor Supply Company and other retail farm stores. They may evev have been one of the original suppliers of paint to the Internaional Harvester Company for the painting of original equipment. When the author contacted Dave Van Eck at VanSickle, the author learned that the present shade of cream/white offered by VanSickle as its International White has not changed in history of the company. Moreover, the present International White is also sold for the Cub Cadet white to be used in restoring Cub Cadets. VanSickle also sent the author a paint chip card. The chip of the VanSickleInterntional White matches not only the Cub Cadet White we have purchased from Case/International but also matches the color of the rim of the trailing wheel on our Little Genius plow.
If Cub Cadet white has always been the color of the wheels of McCormick-Deering equipment, why then does the Cub Cadet white seem so bright in comparison to the memories that people have of this color. Indeed the author, himself has recollections of this cream color being much darker and more yellow. The reason for this discrepancy may lie in the differences between the formulas of the paints used in the past as opposed to today’s paints.
The Nitrocellulose lacquer paints used in the 1930’s, 1940’s and early 1950’s did not stand up to the weather as well as the enamel paints used today and, therefore, the darker cream or yellowish color of the wheels on the plows may have resulted from the rapid aging of the paint. Furthermore, cream is the worst offender because it shows age much faster that the other colors. This aging could have occurred even on new machinery prior to the sale at the dealership. Therefore, the new implement would appear to have a darker shade of cream color even as the new implement appeared at the dealership! There is a good discussion of tractor paints in the book How to Restore Your Farm Tractor, by Robert Pripps. Robert N. Pripps, How to Restore Your Farm Tractor, (Oseola, Wisconsin: Motorbooks International 1992) pp. 147-149.
If the cream color used by International Harvester all down through the years were the same color why were there so many different names for this paint? We don’t have an answer to this but, we know that International Harvester did engage in multiple names in at least one other occasion.
The Farmall F-12 has a power lift system which fit under the seat of the tractor. In the 1936 International Harvester promotional movie, Quickest On, Quickest Off, (1936) this lift system is shown in operation and the system is called the “power lift system.” However, just one year later in the movie, Practical Magic (1937) the system is called “the hydraulic lift system. These two systems are indistinguishable from each other in all the literature that the author has been able to locate. To add to the confusion this same single system is called the hydraulic/power lift system in the Parts manual for the F-12 and F-14.
Because International Harvester used these two names interchangeably to describe the same lift system for the F-12, we think it entirely reasonable, in the absence of contradictory evidence, to suppose that the various names used by International Harvester for the cream white color were different names for the same shade of white. Therefore, we conclude, despite even our own reservations that the Cub Cadet White, IH-759-3264, or Ditzler 8665 is the proper color for a wheels of a Little Genius plow, as that plow would have looked when it came out of the factory. The only difference will be that modern acrylic paints will mean that once the plow is repainted, will retain this like-new look for many years and not yellow with age.
We are able to put the plow to use in the fields at the LeSueur Pioneer Power site, preparing the grounds for planting of the next year’s winter wheat. When we do so using the 1937 F-20 we see, hear and smell the same experiences that our grandfather, George C. Wells might have experienced with his 1931 Regular in years 1939 through 1942. When we use the 1944 H we envision Wayne Wells plowing on the Wells farm with the Wells family 1942 H, (mentioned in The Belt Pulley, November/December 1993, Vol. 6, No. 6, p. 30) which replaced the 1931 Regular or we envision our other grandfather, Howard Hanks or our uncles Fred or Bruce Hanks “busting sod” for the first time on the Bagan farm at Le Roy, Minnesota in the early fall of 1944 with the Hanks family 1942 H. (The Belt Pulley, January/February 1994, Vol. 7, No. 1, p. 14.) For a while we can walk in the shoes of those people at those times in the past.
Belt Pulley Magazine Articles by Brian Wayne Wells