Category Archives: Field forage harvesters

The 1954 Farmall Super MTA from South Dakota

The 1954  Farmall Model Super MTA from South Dakota

by

Brian Wayne Wells

           This article remains under construction.  Periodically, new blocks of text will appear in the article and/or  current blocks of text will be corrected.

 

 

The Farmall M is the very popular tractor that has captured the affection of a great number of the collectors of International Harvester tractors.  However, a great number of devotees of the Farmall M, will probably admit that their favorite version of the M is that final iteration of the M series–the Super MTA.  This was true in the family of the current author as both he and his brother–Mark Wells have longed since childhood to have a Super MTA of their own.  The Wells family did not keep this desire to own a Farmall Super MTA a secret from their friends and aquaintances–including Bill Radil.

Accordingly, when, in December of 2018, Bill Radil of Montgomery, Minnesota decided to sell the Super MTA that he had owned for about eight years, he turned to the Wells family.  Bill informed Mark Wells that he offered to give the Wells family the first right of refusal on sale of the tractor.  Needless to say, there was no refusal.  Rather there was an immediate acceptance of the offer to sell the Farmall Super MTA.  Indeed,  payment for the tractor was concluded before the end of the month.

Once the sale of the tractor was concluded, the current author instinctively began to research as much of the history of the tractor as he could research.   Bill Radil had owned the Super MTA since about 2010.  While he did not have a great deal of information about the person who had sold the Super MTA to him, Bill did know the tractor had come from South Dakota.  

 

The 100th Meridian is regarded as the boundary between the Midwestern region of the United States from the drier and hotter Great Plains region.

 

Because the tractor is a tricycle-style tractor it stands to reason that the tractor must have come from a row crop growing area of South Dakota.  The row crop growing area of South Dakota is located in the east part of the state.  The western part of South Dakota tends to be too dry and hot in during the summer to grow corn, soybeans and other row crops profitably,  This hot and dry climate of the western South Dakota is better suited to the raising of cereal grains like wheat, rye and barley.   Actually, in recent times many climate scientists have pointed  out that the modern day boundary between the row crop growing area of eastern South Dakota and the drier and hotter wheat growing area of western South Dakota has been moving far east of the 100th meridian because of climate change.

 

Climate scientists suggest that the actual climatalogical boundary between the Midwest and the Grain Plains of the United States has moved far east of the 100th Meridian. As the above map reveals, for South Dakota the climatological boundary may have already reached the western border of Minnesota.

 

 Indeed, the states of South Dakota, North Dakota, and, actually,  all states down to the Rio Grande River, through which the 100th meridian passes, are divided by the 100th meridian into two major climatic areas.  To the west of the 100th meridian the climate tends to be  dry and hot in the summer–too hot and dry to be efficient for the raising of row crops like corn, soybeans and editable beans.  This makes the most of the area of west of the 100th meridian more suitable for raising for large scale (horizon to horizon) farming of cereal grains like wheat, rye and barley abound.  While to the east of the 100th meridian the abundant rain and rich soil tends to be more appropriate for the raising of row crops like corn and soybeans.  Indeed, the 100th meridian neatly divides the whole of North America into the row-crop Midwest on the east and the horizon to horizon Great 

Codington County was a typical agricultural community in eastern South Dakota.  The United States Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) had reported in their 1940 census that 91.7% of the county land area was taken up by operating farms.  There were 1,170 individual operating farms in Codington County the average size of a farm in Codington County was 346.7 acres.  

 

A county map of South Dakota showing the location of Codington County in the eastern part of the state.

 

Between, 1941 and 1945, however, World War II had caused substantial changes to farming in Codington County.  United States government purchasing of agricultural products to feed the troops in two theaters of war, tended to drive up prices of farm commodities to record high levels.  By 1945, although the total land area of the county under operating farms had increased to 95.1%, the number of operating farms in the county had decreased to 1,155 individuals farms.  However, the average size of the the individual farm actually increased to 364.1 acres per farm.  Obviously, the war had caused a substantial consolidation of farming in Codington County.  Farms had been sold and merged with other farming operations resulting in larger individual farms.  One might have anticipated that trend toward consolidation would have continued in the post war era.  However the 1950, U.S.D.A. agricultural census revealed that the number of individual operating farms in Codington County had the percentage of land area in the county increased slightly to 95.5 %, the number of farms increased to 1,160 farms.  Furthermore, the average size of an operating farm in the county in 1950 fell to 360.2acres.  These last to facts seem to suggest that the consolidation trend of the war years had been reversed.  However, this reversal can probably be explained by the fact that many of the returning veterans of the Second World War were entering farming.  Most of these veterans would be taking over their parents home farms.  However at least some were starting from scratch and having to purchase their own farms.  This would result in a larger number of farms for the period of time immediately following the Second World War. 

Just 4 years later, 1954, the percentage of land in Codington County under agricultural production fell to 91.6%.  The number of individual farms in Codington County decreased to 1,078 operating farms and the average size of a farm in Codington County had grown to 375.9 acres.  The period from 1950 until 1953 was the period of United States involvement in the Korean War.  Just as with the Second World War    

 

Although state-wide across South Dakota as a whole there had been a decrease in the number of operating farms from 72,454 farms in the 1940  68,705 farms in 1945 to  s the Now in the post-war the the recent war–

 

Located in the eastern part of South Dakota is Codington County.  The population of the county as a whole had been 18,944 in the 1950 census.  This was an increase in population of 11.3% from the pre-war, 1940, population figure of 17,014.  The United States Department of Agriculture found that in 1940 

 

 

Along the eastern edge of the county are three (3) townships, running north to south.  Of the three the center township is Waverly Township.  This township is the home of a particular diversified farming operation of a particular farmer–our Waverly Township farmer. 

 

A township map of Codington County shows three townships along the eastern boundary of the county the center township (here colored in orange) is Waverly Township.

 

The county seat and largest City in Codington County is Watertown (1950 pop. 12,699)  The population of Watertown had risen 19.6% from the 1940 population of 10,617. 

The Wayne A. and Marilyn Wells 1950 Farmall M

The Wayne A. and Marilyn Wells 1950  Farmall Model M

by

Brian Wayne Wells

           This article remains under construction.  Periodically, new blocks of text will appear in the article and/or   current blocks of text will be corrected.

            The International Harvester Company introduced the Farmall Model M as a full-three plow tractor in the autumn of 1939.

In early 1950, Wayne Alwin Wells traded the 1942 Farmall Model had been owned his father George Cleveland Wells, in to the Seese and Oksenan dealership in LeRoy, Minnesota, on the purchase of a Farmall Model M.  The Seese and Oksenan dealership was operating under new management  Prior to 1944, the International Harvester dealership in LeRoy had been owned by Elmer McRoberts.  However, in 1944, Elmer McRoberts had retired and sold the business to the partnership of Kennth Seese and Leonard Oksenan.  Kenneth Seese had previously been living in

Pursuant to the purchase contract of this tractor, the Farmall M bearing the Serial No. 2518137 was delivered to the Wayne Wells farm in eastern LeRoy Township, Mower County, Minnesota on March 1, 1950.  Wayne needed to grind up some feed for the baby pigs which had  just been weaned.  So he immediately belted the new tractor up to the Case hammer mill which was bolted to the floor of the granary on the farm.

A pre-war version of the Case feed grinder. The particular grinder owned by Wayne A. Wells had been bought by his father George Wells some time during the war years. Consequently, the Wells feed grinder had no galvanized feeder or whirlwind  dust collector.  On the Wells feed grinder both the feeder and the whirlwind dust collector were made of simple sheet metal and painted Case Flambeau Red.

 

He then went to the house and got his wife, Marilyn (Hanks) Wells and their one-year old son Brian Wayne Wells (the current author of this article).  He also picked up the little Kodak Brownie camera.  He then took a new picture of his son on the operator’s seat of the new tractor with his wife Marilyn holding young Brian securely in the seat.

Just after the Farmall Model M bearing the Serial No. 218137 was delivered to the Wayne A. Wells farm. the new tractor was put to work grinding pig feed for the newly weaned baby pigs.

 

The Wells family held an auction of all their farm equipment in preparation to moving from the farm in 1964.  At the auction Serial No. 218137 was purchased by Dean Shirbourne.

 

In the years since 1964, Dean Shirbourne continued farming.  Most of the machinery Dean used on his farm was International Harvester farm equipment.  He had other more modern Farmall tractors than the 1950 Farmall M he had purchased at the Wayne Wells farm auction.  Accordingly, he placed the 1950 Farmall M bearing the serial number 2518137 under an International Harvester two-row mounted Model 2MH corn picker.  This picker remained on the 1950 Farmall M until Dean retired from farming in 1993.  Every fall the tractor and mounted corn picker was used to “open” the corn fields on the Shirbourne farm and a couple of Dean’s neighbors.  (John Grass Jr., one particular neighbor of Dean Shirbourne remembers using the 1950 Farmall M on his farm.)

Once the mounted picker on No. 218137 had picked the corn in the “end rows” across both ends of the corn field and once the body of the corn field had been “opened” and divided into “lands,”  Dean Shirbourne brought in his two-row New Idea Model 6A pull-type corn picker to pick the remainder of the corn in his fields.  Recognizing that mounted pickers are not the best pickers for “husking” (removing the husks from the ears of ripe corn), Dean Shirbourne  and his neighbors preferred to use pull-type corn pickers to do the main job of picking their corn fields.  Pull-type corn pickers were respected for their large and very efficient husking beds.  Pull-type pickers had the best chance of getting the harvested corn down to a level of 4% or less “foreign material” (husks) in the ear corn crop.

Husking the corn down to a level of 4% foreign material (husks) was the ideal that farmers strove for in order to store the ear corn in normal corn crib over the winter.  Only a level of 4% or less foreign material in the ear corn would allow the cold dry air of winter to flow relatively unobstructed through the ear corn stored in the corn crib and dry the annual crop of corn sufficiently over the winter from the period of time from the harvest in October or November until February or March, when the ear corn would normally be dry enough to be shelled  and stored in a granary.  To store the ear corn in a corn crib at a level of more than 4% foreign material would invite blockage of the flow of air through the crib and invite mold forming on the ear corn.  and risk  without

Thus, once the corn fields were opened and divided into “lands,” Dean Shirbourne and his neighbors could conveniently use their pull-type pickers on the main body of the corn crop.  Thus each year, the 1950 Farmall M was used only for the short period of time each fall that it took to “open” the corn fields on the Shirbourne farm and on the farms of a few of his neighbors.  During the remainder of the year, the 1950 Farmall M bearing the Serial No. 218137 was stored away with its mounted corn picker in the machine shed on the Shirbourne farm.

Thus, from 1964 until Dean Shirbourne retired from farming in 1993, No. 218137 was used only for a couple of weeks in the autumn of  each year to open the corn fields in preparation of the harvest.  Upon his retirement from farming in the 1990s, Dean Shirbourne gave the 1950 Farmall M, bearing the Serial No. 218137, to his  nephew–Mark Mossyge–who beautifully restored the tractor.

 

 

Continue reading The Wayne A. and Marilyn Wells 1950 Farmall M

The Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the September/October 2004 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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