Category Archives: Wheat (Winter wheat) raising

Allis-Chalmers (Part I): Dry-Land Farming in Wyoming

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Allis Chalmers Farming (Part I): Dry-Land Farming

by Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the January/February 2007 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

            Wyoming is divided between the rocky Mountains in the west and the plains of the eastern part of the state.  Ever since the earliest settlers, cattle raising has been a part of the state’s eastern plains.  In the 1870s and ‘80s the cattle industry in Wyoming boomed, as the number of cattle grew from 8,143 head in 1870 to a maximum of 2 million head in 1885. Two counties over which these cattle grazed in the eastern plains of Wyoming were Sheridan and Jonson Counties.

The cattle ranchers were not the only people that were attracted to the Wyoming plains.  In the 1880’s the eastern plains of Wyoming began to attract settlers intent on making a living tilling the soil of the plains to raise marketable crops—especially wheat.  The competition for land and water in the arid environment of the plains of eastern Wyoming, created tension between large cattle ranchers and the farmers who fenced in the open range.  In 1889, this tension exploded into open warfare in what became known as the “Johnson County War.”  While the cattle barons won battles in this conflict, they lost the war.  Wave after wave of settlers coming into eastern Wyoming doomed the large scale cattle ranchers.  Helping the setters was a new federal law passed in the United States congress in 1862—the Homestead Act.

The Homestead Act had

Continue reading Allis-Chalmers (Part I): Dry-Land Farming in Wyoming

Case Farming Part II: Steam Engines and Threshers

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J.I. Case Company Part II: Steam Engines & Threshers

by

Brian Wayne Wells

(As Published in the March/April 2006 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

John Hiniker standing on his restored 80 hp. Case steam engine
John Hiniker standing on his restored 80 hp. Case steam engine

At the age of 23 years, Jerome Increase Case set out from his birthplace and home in Oswego County, New York in the summer of 1842. He had purchased six (6) groundhog threshing machines on credit. He traveled to Wisconsin with the intent of selling the groundhog threshers along the way. Arriving in Racine, Wisconsin, Jerome began to work on his own design for a thresher. In 1844, he rented a small shop on the bank of the river in Racine and began making threshers. This was the beginning of what would become the J.I Case Threshing Machine Company. The Company became one of the leading manufacturers of threshing machines. To power these threshing machines, the company began the manufacture of a sweep-style horsepower in the early 1860’s. (See the article on the Case sweep-style horse-power in the January/February 2006 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) The company soon realized the limitations of the sweep as a power source. This was particularly true as Case began to add innovative improvements to the basic design of their threshers. In 1880 Case introduced the Agitator thresher with the vibrating or agitating separator tables. In 1882, Case installed their patented tubular-style elevator on their threshers. Case developed their own straw stacker for the rear of the thresher which could lift stack the straw from the threshing operation into a tall stack behind the thresher. In 1888, a mechanical grain weigher was added to the top of the grain elevator. By 1893, self feeders were becoming a common part of nearly all Case threshers. These new improvements made the J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company, the leading producer of threshers. However, nearly all of these improvements imposed additional power requirements on the power source powering the thresher. At this time, Case offered threshers in a variety of sizes—one model with a 28 inch cylinder and a 46 inch separating unit, a model with a 32 inch cylinder and a 54 inch separator , a 36 inch x 58 inch thresher and a 40 x 62 model. The largest of the Case sweep-style horsepower—the seven team sweep—could produce up to about 28 horsepower. However, even the smallest of the new Case threshers—the 28 x 46 model—when fully outfitted with the new improvements, required 34 hp. to run at top efficiency. Obviously the sweep style horsepower was hopelessly outdated as a power source for these new threshers. Consequently, the Case Company began to look to a new source of power for their new threshers. The Company began to manufacture of steam engines in 1869. In 1876, the Company introduced its first “traction” steam engine, a steam engine that could move under its own power. From this time forward, the Case Company also became a leading manufacturer of steam engines and particularly traction steam engines. Until the 1890s, the J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company operated out of a singe factory located on Bridge Street in Racine, Wisconsin. Then during the 1890s, this building was torn down and replaced with the “Eagle” Building which became part of a new factory complex of buildings known as the “Main Works.” From the Main Works, the Case Company became a leading manufacturer of both a wide range of steam engines and a wide range of wood-frame grain threshers/separators.

A Wooden Case Thresher Fitted with optional Dakota Elevator
A Wooden Frame Case Thresher Fitted with optional Dakota Elevator

In 1904, Case continued its technological innovations in thresher technology. One of the major shortcomings of wood frame threshers was the threat of fire posed by a wood frame machine working in association with a steam engine sitting next to a highly flammable stack of dry straw. Consequently, the Case Company, in 1904, introduced the first “all-steel” thresher. These threshers were sold side by side with the wood-frame threshers until 1906 when production of the wooden threshers was discontinued.

At the beginning of the 20th century, threshers were very much in demand because settlement of certain areas of the arable land of the Midwest was still ongoing. New farming operations were still being formed. One such area was western Blue Earth County Minnesota. The townships of Lake Crystal, Judson, Garden City, Lincoln and Butternut Valley Townships were organized in western Blue Earth County as settlement came to the area. Right in the middle of these townships was the village of Lake Crystal, Minnesota (1900 pop. 1,215). Located on the boundary between Judson and Garden City Townships the village of Lake Crystal is actually divided between these two townships. The settlement that became the town of Lake Crystal was built around a junction of the east/west Chicago Northwestern Railroad line with another Chicago Northwestern line coming up from Iowa in the south. Continue reading Case Farming Part II: Steam Engines and Threshers

Ellis Keystone’s Horse-powered Tread Mill

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   The Ellis Keystone Single Horse Powered

Tread Mill

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As Published in the November/December 2005 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

The horse was domesticated by early man in about 4000 to 3000 B.C.E. (Before the Common Era). (Encyclopedia Britannica [University of Chicago: Chicago, Illinois] Volume 5, p. 970.) Naturally, at first, the horse was ridden by man. However, around 2500 B.C.E. the chariot was developed. This was the beginning of the use of horses as a source of “draft” power. Draft power was converted for use in agriculture shortly after that time. From that time up to the middle of the twentieth century, the horse was in widespread use in agricultural fields around the world. Draft power provided by animals was a real step forward for agriculture technology and at first, draft horse power served all the needs of the farmer. However, as agriculture became more mechanized, stationary machines were developed to ease labor for mankind.   A different form of power was needed for these station stationary machines. At first, the power for stationary machines was provided by waterfalls or by the wind. However, these power sources depended too much on the whims of nature to be totally reliable as a consistent source of power for stationary machines. At some time in the past, farmers found that a tread mill could be used to capture animal power as a source of “brake” horsepower for stationary machines. The unit of measurement of force of strength necessary to operate these new stationary machines became known as “horsepower” based on the average pulling power of an average draft horse. Typically, the average draft horse was considered as having the “tractive” power to pull 1/8 of its weight for 20 miles traveling at 2.5 miles per hour. (Ronald Stokes Barlow, 300 Years of Farm Implements [Krause Pub.: Iola, Wisc., 2003] p. 24.) Thus, a typical 1,500 pound draft horse could develop 33,000 foot pounds per minute which became defined as one horsepower (hp.). By changing the nature of the power of the average horse from tractive pulling power to a stationary source of power, the treadmill actually improved on the horse’s ability. A 1000 pound horse on a treadmill inclined at a rate of 1 to 4 (an incline of one inch up for every four inches of length) could develop 1.33 hp. A 1600 pound horse on the same tread mill could develop 2.13 hp. (Ibid.) With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, there was an increased need for stationary power sources not only in agriculture but also in industry. The use of the treadmill was improved in design and efficiency. By 1830 the tread mill had become a very practical source of real power for the farm. Single horse treadmills were used on the farm for such tasks as butter churning, grinding feed for livestock, sawing wood and cutting fodder. The single horse treadmill could supply power at a rate of 32 to 36 revolutions per minute (r.p.m.) on the reel shaft. This speed could then be geared up to 96 to 108 r.p.m. on the main shaft and the attached band wheel. (C.H. Wendel, Encyclopedia of American Farm Implements & Antiques [Krause Pub.: Iola, Wisc., 1997] pp. 211 and 213.)

The stationary grain thresher/separator is one of the labor saving machines developed for agriculture which required brake style power. Development of the thresher started with simple, hand-fed machines to threshing machines with “apron” separating units which could thresh from 35 to 60 bushels per day. (Ibid., p. 336.) These early hand fed threshing machines generally used a single horse or two horse treadmill as a power source. Indeed, the treadmill was so closely associated with hand threshing machines that the horse tread mills were often sold together with threshers as a package deal. Such was the case with the Ellis-Keystone Company of Pottstown, Pennsylvania. The Ellis Keystone Company began as the brainchild of John Ellis from the small community of Ellis Woods, Pennsylvania in Chester County. John was first and foremost an inventor who was thrust into operating his own business. Sometime before 1876, John was engaged in attempting to develop a small hand-fed thresher which would be called the “Champion Grain Thresher.” In 1876, the company was chartered and a factory was built at the corner of Cross and Keim Streets in Pottsville, Pennsylvania for the mass production of the hand-fed thresher and the treadmill. He obtained a patent from the United States Government for part of his new hand-fed thresher on July 1, 1878. He obtained another patent for a different feature of the little thresher on July 25, 1880 and yet a third patent was obtained in October of 1884. Notice of these patents was stenciled onto every thresher made by the Ellis Keystone Company.       Continue reading Ellis Keystone’s Horse-powered Tread Mill

Navy Bean Farming (Part III): The Innes Company

       Navy Bean Farming (Part III): The Innes Company of Bettendorf, Iowa

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the May/June 2005 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

As noted previously, a revolution in edible bean farming occurred in 1937. (See the article called Navy Bean Farming [Part II] in the March/April 2005 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) The effect of that revolution can be seen in the harvest production figures for 1937. Also as noted previously, across the nation that spring, 1,911,000 acres of edible beans were planted. (From the National Agricultural Statistics Service page of the United Sates Department of Agriculture website.) In the fall of that year, 88.7% of this acreage was harvested. (Ibid.) The yield per acre was a record 934 pounds per acre. (Ibid.) This was a 23.7% increase in the average yield of 712 pounds per acre of 1936. After 1937, the average yield never again fell below 800 pounds per acre. (Ibid.) As noted previously, this dramatic and permanent increase in the average yield of navy beans was due in large part to the introduction of the small combine to navy bean harvesting in place of the stationary thresher.

The year 1948 was another revolutionary year in the per acre yield of edible beans. Nationwide, there was a nearly 11% increase in the average per acre yield of edible beans. For the first time the average per acre yield of edible beans rose above 1000 pounds per acre (1,074 pounds per acre). In 1949, the per acre yield rose another 6% to 1,134 pounds per acre. After 1949, despite some growing seasons with adverse weather conditions and mediocre harvests, the average annual yield of edible beans never again fell below 1,100 pounds per acre. If the drastic improvement in the per acre yield of 1937 was the result of the invasion of the combine into the edible bean threshing market, the further drastic improvement in yield in 1948 was the result of the small combine finishing the job of total domination of the edible bean market.

In both cases, the improvement in yield was largely due to the reduction of loss of beans in the harvesting and threshing operation wrought by the combine as opposed to the losses incurred by the stationary thresher method of harvesting and threshing edible beans. The savings in losses were twofold in nature. First, savings in loss of beans were obtained by the fact that combining edible beans resulted in much less “handling” of the beans. Secondly, combining sped up the harvest. Thus, there was less chance of the navy beans being affected by mildew and the resultant discolorization.

As noted earlier, navy beans grown in the state of Michigan composed the largest part of the United States edible bean harvest. In years past, upwards of 80% of the nation’s crop of navy beans were grown in Michigan. Within Michigan, Huron County, lead all other counties in production of navy beans.

The navy bean plant grows to only about 18 inches in height as compared to the 36“ height of a good crop of soybeans. Consequently, every pod of navy beans on the plants in the field becomes important. Thus, whereas the soybean farmer may cut soybeans off at a level 1½ inches above the ground and consider the loss of any pods attached to this 1½ inch stubble left in the field as a very negligible loss, the navy bean farmer, on the other hand, would suffer a considerable loss of yield by leaving 1-½ inch stubble in his navy bean field. Furthermore, prior to the introduction of the first hybrid bush style navy bean variety (the Sanilac variety in 1956), all navy bean varieties were “vining” plants that grew along the ground. Thus, navy beans were harvested by “pulling” the plants. The process of “pulling” involved cutting off the navy bean plants below the ground. Traditionally, this was accomplished with a horse-drawn one-row cultivator fitted with “knives” that would pass under the ground and cut the row of navy bean plants off at the root below the ground. The navy beans vines would then be left lying on top of the ground. After the navy bean crop had been pulled, the farmer would return to the field with a pitch fork and stack, or “cock” the vines into conveniently located piles spaced throughout the field. The vines would, then, await the day that the neighborhood thresher arrived on the farm before they were forked onto the wagon and hauled to the thresher and then forked into the thresher. Each handling of the vines would result in a further loss of beans as the pods either fell off or were cracked open letting the beans fall on the ground. Furthermore, additional handling of the beans occurred if a rain fell while the vines were cocked in the field, as the farmer would have to return to the navy bean field with his pitchfork and turn each pile of navy bean vines to allow the vines to dry thoroughly without mildewing.

Even the navy beans which successfully, made it through the harvesting process were not necessarily saleable. Once delivered to the grain elevator, the navy beans were inspected by hand. All discolored navy beans were removed. Only the pearly white beans that passed inspection were then marketed. Generally, the farmer would “buy back” the discolored, or “cull,” beans from the elevator. Usually, the cull beans were fed to the pigs or other livestock on the farm. The farmer’s purchase of the cull beans paid for the process of hand inspection of the total bean crop. All over Huron County, Michigan, the inspection of the navy bean crop was done by workers hired by the grain elevator. These workers sat at specialized machines designed to allow navy beans to flow past the eyes of the worker. The cull beans would then be removed by worker one bean at a time. (These machines have since been discarded in favor of faster more efficient automatic machines. However, some of the old machines are kept as antiques of a by-gone era. One such machine is, currently, owned by Dave MacDonald of Bad Axe, Michigan. The machine is kept in his garage and is used to entertain visiting children and grandchildren. Today, instead of separating cull beans from good beans this old machine in the MacDonald garage is used to separate red marbles from white marbles.)

The inspection of navy beans at the elevator had serious consequences for the navy bean farmer . A navy bean farmer could find that 50% of his crop was lost through discolorization. Discolorization was caused by mildew. It was bad enough that the navy bean vines grew so close to the ground, but the hand cocking of the navy beans in the field left the vines lying on the ground and susceptible to mildew. A rain falling on the cocked beans would add even more exposure to mildew.

No wonder then that the combine became so popular in the navy bean fields. The harvesting process was reduced to “pulling” the beans two rows at a time with a tractor. The tractor mounted bean puller would fold the two rows into a single windrow lying on top of the ground. After pulling the entire field of navy beans the farmer would then return the next day, or maybe even the same day to combine the navy beans. As a result there was very little “handling” of the beans. Additionally, after the navy bean vines were “pulled,” the vines spent very little time on the ground in a windrow, exposed to rain and weather, before being threshed by the combine. Thus, mildew and discolorization would have less chance to form on the navy beans.

As noted earlier, the Allis Chalmers All-Crop harvester was the pioneer small combine that led the way in crowding the stationary thresher out of the navy bean field. (See the article called “Navy Bean Farming in Huron County [Part II]: The All Crop Harvester” contained in the March/April 2005 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) The All Crop Harvester was introduced in 1935. Although by 1947, the suggested retail price of an All Crop Harvester had risen to $885.00 farmers continued to flock to their Allis Chalmers dealers to purchase the little orange combine. The Allis Chalmers Company was turning out 150 All Crop Harvesters per day at the LaPorte, Indiana plant, just to keep up with the huge demand. This was the peak year of production for the All-Crop Harvester. Allis Chalmers had a 40% share of the small combine market. (From the 1954 Allis Chalmers promotional movie called “The All-Crop Story” available on VHS video tape from Keith Oltrogge, Post Office Box 529, Denver, Iowa 52622-0529. Telephone: [319] 984-5292.)

Just one indicator of the role the All Crop Harvester played in this revolutionary change in farming in Huron County, Michigan, was the number of Allis Chalmers dealerships that sprang up all across Huron County. First was the H.A. Henne & Son of Bay Port, Michigan. As noted earlier, although addressed 8982 Henne Road, Bay Port; the Henne dealership was actually located in McKinley Township, 1½ miles east of the city limits of Bay Port. (See the article, cited above, called “Navy Bean Farming in Huron County [Part II]) Henry A. Henne and his son, Floyd, organized this Allis Chalmers dealership business in 1932.

Meanwhile, the privately owned grain elevator in the small town of Ruth, Michigan, had re-organized itself as a farmer owned co-operative elevator in 1933. In 1938, the Ruth Cooperative Elevator also obtained a franchise to sell Allis Chalmers farm equipment and Roman Booms began his long tenure as the chairman of the board of the cooperative. (Roman Booms is mentioned in this capacity in the book called Plow Peddler written by Walter M. Buescher [Glenbridge Pub. Ltd.: MaComb, Illinois, 1992] p. 100.) Over the years, the machinery dealership side of Ruth Co-operative employed a number of local citizens including LaVern Hanselman as service manager and Earl Edwards as parts manager. Also in 1938 Harold Leese obtained an AllisChalmers dealership franchise. Harold established the dealership on the 60 acre farm that he and his wife, Gertrude (Champagne) Leese owned in Gore Township. Located on Kaufman Road, near the village of Port Hope, the Leese farm was just one mile north of the country school/Gore Township Hall on route #25. In 1940, Al Bowron and his son, Harold, started the Al Bowron and Son dealership in the county seat of Huron County—Bad Axe, Michigan. These new dealerships and, indeed, all the Allis Chalmers dealerships in Michigan were served by the AllisChalmers warehouse and branch office at Toledo Ohio. Personnel from the Toledo Branch Office including Ed Howe, Branch Service Manager, often traveled to the individual dealerships to provide any assistance required by the new dealerships.

The post-World War II era, brought forth a new generation of farmers who had new ideas about farming. One of the young farmers walking into the Henne dealership to inquire about the an All-Crop Harvester in 1947 was John Prich. John was the second son of George Prich, of rural Bach, Michigan. As noted earlier, the 80 acre Prich farm was located in Brookfield Township in Huron County. (See the article, cited above, called “Navy Bean Farming in Huron County [Part II].) John’s older brother, George Jr., took over the farming operations from their father, George Sr., on the home farm. Although he continued to live at home, John Prich struck out on his own and started renting and farming what land he could find in the neighborhood. He raised wheat, oats, sugar beets and of course, navy beans. In addition to the horses, John and his brother George Jr. shared ownership of an unstyled model A John Deere tractor as a source of power in their respective farming operations. The tractor had rubber tires and, thus, the Model A could be driven down the public roads to the fields that John rented in the neighborhood. For planting his wheat and oats John and his brother used a 9-foot grain drill made by the Ontario Drill Company of Despatch, New York. This grain drill contained fifteen planting units. By closing off some of the holes in the bottom of the grain box of the drill, John could also use the Ontario grain drill to plant his navy beans in 30-inch rows.

Just like their father, both John Prich and his brother, George Jr., employed the Kuhl family for threshing their crops. Bill Kuhl Sr. lived on a farm north of Bath, Michigan in Huron County. Along with his sons, Bill Jr., Floyd, Don and Robert, Bill Kuhl owned a 36” x 62” Keck and Gonnerman thresher which they used to do custom threshing in the neighborhood. To power the large Kay-Gee thresher, the Kuhls owned a 30-60 Model S two-cylinder Oil Pull tractor manufactured by the Advance-Rumley Thresher Company of La Porte, Indiana. (The Kuhl family has continued to maintain an interest in Oil Pull tractors to this day. Carol Kuhl, daughter of Floyd Kuhl, later married Duane J. Deering, now of Unionville, Michigan in Huron County. Duane purchased, restored and currently owns a 1929 Model X 25-40 Oil Pull tractor.)

However, in the late fall of 1947, John Prich was able to withdraw from the hand labor and responsibilities involved in stationary threshing when he contracted with Heene Implement in Bay Port, Michigan, for the purchase of an Allis Chalmers All-Crop Harvester. Thus, John Prich became one of the 20,825 purchasers of an Allis Chalmers Model 60 All Crop Harvester combine in 1947. The combine purchased by John Prich was not fitted with any windrow pickup at all. It was too late in the season to use the All-Crop Harvester for the harvest of 1947. Consequently, John returned to Heene Implement in the summer of 1948 to purchase a windrow pickup for the new combine. From their experience the Heene Implement dealership knew that the Innes pickup made by the Innes Company of Bettendorf, Iowa , was superios to any of the Allis Chalmers windrow pickups. Therefore, John purchased a new Innes stiff finger windrow pickup from Heene Impliment in the summer of 1948 for the price of $95.00. (John Prich still has the receipt from this purchase made more than 55 years ago.

By 1947, the Innes name was becoming quite well known in the navy bean farming areas of Michigan. The Innes Company of Bettendorf, Iowa, actually began in 1914 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as the brainchild of George Innes. George and his wife, Edith, were happily living in Philadelphia which at that time was a bustling city of 1,549,008 (1910 census). Thus, Philadelphia was, at the time, the third largest city in the United States. George Innes was of Scottish ancestry and had an inquisitive mind. He could not stop thinking about how to improve things. Toward this end he used his ability to think in mechanical terms to try many new inventions. On December 12, 1914 a son, Donald, was born to George and Edith. The Innes family would eventually have three boys with the addition of Robert and Brainard Innes to the family.

Perhaps it was the restlessness of George’s inventive mind or the social changes that were being wrought on the United States economy in the post-World War I era, but in 1923, George and Edith moved out of Philadelphia to settle in the town of Bettendorf, Iowa (1920 pop. 2,178). Bettendorf is the smallest of four cities which all border each other at the confluence of the Rock River and the Mississippi River. These four cities, Rock Island and Moline, Illinois, and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa are commonly referred to as the “Quad Cities” because of their close proximity to each other. Adapting himself rather quickly to the rural Midwestern community to which he had decided to settle, George was soon at work on a new invention.

As noted earlier, combines, especially small combines, were just making there appearance in the Midwestern part of the United States. (See the article called “Navy Bean Farming (Part II) in the March/April 2005 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) The “combine” had originally developed in California. A big bulky apparatus, the combine was profitable for use only in the “horizon to horizon” farming of the western states. Use of combines in the diversified farming areas of the Midwest, had to await development of the small combine, starting with the Allis-Chalmers All-Crop Harvester. (Ibid.)

Unlike the western states, combining of oats and other small grains in the Midwest could not easily be accomplished by harvesting the grain as it stood in the field. Generally the grain needed to be cut and laid into windrows to allow the grain to “sweat” as it would in the shock and to allow any extraneous “green” material to wither and dry up and pass through the small combine in an easier manner. (Jeff Creighton, Combines and Harvesters [Motorbooks International: Osceola, Wisc, 1996] pp. 69 and 113.)

To allow the grain to sweat and dry properly, it was generally suggested that grains be cut into wind rows, leaving stubble 6” to 8” tall. (From the “Operating Manual for the John Deere 12A Combine,” p. 80.) “A stubble of this height will allow free circulation of air under the windrow.” (Id.) With stubble of this height and with the windrow resting on top of the stubble, the feeder unit of the combine containing the cutter bar, could easily be slid under the windrow and the harvesting of the grain could be accomplished without the need of any special pickup attachment. However, in reality the stubble would not always be of this height and, in reality, the windrow might well be resting on or near the ground and on top of the stubble. Thus, need required the invention of a windrow pickup attachment. (J.R. Hobbs, writer for the Green Magazine has written a nice history of the development of windrow type of grain harvesting and the development and patenting of the “traveling combine” and the pickup by the Hovland brothers of Ortley, South Dakota in 1907, and the in the article called “Amber Waves of Grain Laid Down by John Deere Windrowers.” J.R. Hobbs also reflects on the improvements that were made to the technology of the windrow style of combining in 1926 and 1927 by Helmer Hanson and his brother. This article is contained in the July, 2003 issue of Green Magazine.)

Typically, before mounting the windrow pickup to the feeder unit of the combine, both the reel used in standing crops and the sickle in the cutter bar were removed. The most common pickup attachment that evolved and became universalized throughout the industry generally consisted of rows of wire teeth set on an axle. The teeth protruded through slots in a stationary piece of sheet metal. The teeth would pick up the windrow and raise it up into the feeder unit. The stationary piece of metal would “comb” the windrow off the pickup attachment and allow the windrow to proceed into the feeding unit of the combine. The combing action of the stationary portion of the pickup was intended to prevent the teeth from hanging on to the straw in the windrow and causing the windrow to wrap around the axle of the pickup attachment. Despite the partial success of the combing action of the typical windrow pickup, “wrapping” of the windrow around the pickup attachment remained a problem. This is problem that caught George Innes’ attention.

Sometime after moving to Bettendorf, Iowa, George began working on a new type of pickup attachment. The Innes designed pickup consisted of a metal cylinder which contained a number of holes. Inside the cylinder was a shaft to which stiff metal teeth were attached. Because the shaft was not located in the very center of the cylinder, but rather was located “off-center” to the front inside the cylinder, the stiff teeth attached to the off-center shaft emerged and withdrew from the slots in the cylinder as the cylinder turned. Both the axle to which the teeth were attached and the metal cylinder in the Innes designed windrow pickup would revolve at the same speed. With each revolution of the cylinder the teeth would protrude out of holes of the cylinder to full extension to pickup the windrow and then withdraw back into the cylinder as the cylinder continued to revolve bringing the windrow up to the feeding unit. Combing action in the Innes designed windrow pickup was eliminated by this extension and withdrawal of the teeth into the cylinder as the cylinder revolved. Thus, the Innes design greatly reduced “wrapping” of the grain around the pickup. The design of this cylinder style of windrow pickup was and would remain George Innes’ greatest invention.

George Innes, determined to mass produce and market his new pickup for the farming public. In this endeavor, George received some help from his son, Donald. Donald Innes graduated from Augustana College located in neighboring Rock Island, Illinois and in 1937 joined with his father in an attempt to manufacture and market the new pickup in mass numbers. Toward this end George and Donald Innes, incorporated the Innes Company in 1938 to manufacture his new pickup attachment. Although located in the state of Iowa, the Innes Company was incorporated as a Delaware Corporation to take advantage of the tax benefits and other benefits traditionally accorded Delaware corporations. (Harry G. Henn and John R., Alexander, Laws of Corporations (West Pub.: St. Paul, Minn., 1983) pp. 187-189.) Incorporation under the laws of Delaware was a common practice for many corporations. However, since the corporation’s manufacturing facilities were to be located in Bettendorf, George filed Articles of Business Activity with the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office on February 7. 1938. On this original document the Company reported $10,000 as initial “startup” capital. About a year and a half later, on September 7, 1940 the company was reporting capital of $84,000. The Company obtained a manufacturing site located in rural Bettendorf. The new company was thus able to take advantage of the excellent railroad connections that the Quad Cities enjoyed—especially the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway which served the Quads to the east and to the west. The new Innes factory site came alive with activity. The Company chose dark blue as their trademark color. Soon the dark blue Innes pickups were pouring out of the factory. Each pickup was carefully packaged up and loaded onto waiting boxcars for shipment to all parts of the nation. Continue reading Navy Bean Farming (Part III): The Innes Company

Threshing with the Volkart Brothers in Beaver Township, Fillmore County, Minnesota

Threshing with the Volkart Brothers in Beaver Township, Fillmore County, Minnesota

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the September/October 1995 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

Younger brother, Fredrick Volkart feeding bundles of oats into the large 42 inch x 62 inch Case thresher. n the Volkart Bros. farm in 1948
Younger brother, Fredrick Volkart feeding bundles of oats into the large 42 inch x 62 inch Case thresher on the Volkart Bros. farm in 1948

Like most young men, Erhardt and Fred Volkart were anxious to strike out on their own.  In the early 1890s, the two boys were living with their parents Henry and Katherine (Wenig) Volkart, who were renting the Pollard farm (now the Dean Hamlin farm) in the “old town” area north of the village of LeRoy, Minnesota (1890 pop. 523). After saving money for the purchase of their own farm, Erhardt (nicknamed Hard) and Fred Volkart purchased a 160-acre farm in Beaver Township, located in Fillmore County on the border with Mower County.  They were also able to buy another 160 acres just across the road to the west in Mower County.  This second piece of land was without a building site and was covered with timber and pasture land, therefore not much of the land was arable.  It was Fred’s dream that some day he would build a house and building site in the timber on this piece of land; however, that would never happen.

The time was right for buying land.  The United States economy was just emerging from the Panic of 1893.  This recession was the worst in United States history up until that time, but by 1896, however, the rural areas of the nation were starting to come back to life.  Indeed, the rural economy would come roaring back!  Propelled by the growing influence of the young nation in the world economic markets and the resultant increase in exports of agricultural products to those markets, farm prices began to increase in 1896 and kept climbing in 1897.  By 1897, commentators were stating that agriculture in the United States was entering a “new age” of prosperity.  (Harold U. Faulkner, Politics, Reform and Expansion: 1890-1900, [Harper Brothers Publishers: New York, NY, 1959] p. 60.)  It was the start of a period of relative prosperity which would be called the “golden age” of American agriculture and would extend all the way to 1921.

Older brother, Erhardt (nicknamed "Hard") Volkart stands on the top of the 40 x 62 inch Case thresher on the Volkart Bros. farm in 1948.
Older brother, Erhardt (nicknamed “Hard”) Volkart stands on the top of the 40 x 62 inch Case thresher on the Volkart Bros. farm in 1948.

Like their neighbors in Beaver township, the Volkart Brothers operated a diversified farming operation involving crop rotation which included the small grains of wheat and oats.  For the threshing of their small grains, Fred and Erhardt would collaborate with their neighbor to the west, Matt and Doretta (Spencer) Klassy.  At that time, the Klassys farmed the 400-acre Bagan farm which bordered the Volkart farm to the east.  (The Bagan farm is described in an article by Fred Hanks, “Survivors from the Past,” January/February 1994 Belt Pulley, Vol. 7, No. 1, p. 14.  The Bagan farm would eventually be sold to Howard Hanks, father of Fred Hanks and grandfather of the author, in 1945.)

Almost immediately the boys set about improving their farming operation.  In 1896, Hard and Fred built a new barn on their farm.  Later they added other buildings to the site.  Sometime after 1904, when J.I. Case introduced its new line of all-steel threshers, the Volkart Brothers, together with Matt Klassy, purchased one of the new Case all-steel threshers.  They also obtained a steam engine for powering the thresher.  Matt Klassy and later his son Frank became the engineers of the threshing crew, responsible for the operation and care of the steam engine.  Even after Matt Klassy sold the Bagan farm in 1908 and moved to another farm 2-1/2 miles to the west of the Volkart farm, the Klassys and the Volkarts continued to thresh together.

The huge Model 35-70 Minneapolis tractor weighed 22,500 pounds (lbs.) and actually made the ground shake when it passed along the road at its travelling speed of 2.1 mph.
The huge Model 35-70 Minneapolis tractor weighed 22,500 pounds (lbs.) and actually made the ground shake when it passed along the road at its travelling speed of 2.1 mph.

Sometime after the turn of the century, Hard and Fred’s mother, Katherine, died and their father moved to the Volkart farm to stay with his sons.  Later on, another brother, Henry Jr., moved to the farm with his new bride Frieda (Linde) Volkart where they were to raise seven children: George, born in 1912; Wilber (nicknamed Webb), born in 1914; Grace, born in 1916; Raymond (nicknamed Bud), born in 1918; Lorrie, born in 1922; Gerald, (nicknamed Gett and a long time Belt Pulley subscriber until his recent death), born in 1924; and Beverly, born in 1926.  One day while on the farm, the owner of an 80-acre piece of wooded land to the east of the Volkart farm, and directly across the road north of the Bagan farm, approached Henry Jr., offering to sell his land.  Henry Jr. offered him a “low ball” price of $10 per acre, expecting that the seller would walk away.  To Henry’s surprise, the seller immediately accepted the price and the Volkarts found themselves farming yet more land in addition to doing the neighborhood threshing.

On the extreme right side of this picture can be seen the un-styled John Deere Model G owned by Gaylord Aspel in the summerf of 1948.
On the extreme right side of this picture can be seen the un-styled John Deere Model G owned by Gaylord Aspel in the summerf of 1948.

For many years the Volkart/Klassey threshing ring became the only ring in the neighborhood.  However, in later years, another smaller threshing ring was started in the neighborhood by John Anderson.  John, and later his son Mel Anderson, used a Case 28″ x 46″ thresher.  Farmers of the neighborhood were either part of one ring or the other.  One of the farmers in the Vokart ring was Gaylord Aspell.  His son Jim Aspell of LeRoy, Minnesota, is nearly the only person left with first-hand memories of threshing on the Volkart crew.  Members of the ring, who formed the crew during threshing season, looked forward to bringing the thresher to the Volkart home place because it was well known in the neighborhood that Henry Jr.’s wife Frieda was a good cook.

Steam power had its short-comings.  Steam engines spewed forth a constant flow of hot cinders which created a real fire hazard during threshing season.  Furthermore, steam engines required constant attention and manpower to maintain a proper head of steam.  To alleviate the potential for fire and to modernize their farming operations, the Volkarts sought to replace their steam engine with a fuel-powered tractor.  In 1914, B.F. Avery introduced a 25-50 model kerosene-powered tractor.  Sometime after the introduction of this tractor, the Volkart Brothers bought one.  The 25-50 was advertised as being able to pull a five or six-bottom moldboard plow at the drawbar in addition to supplying ample horsepower at the belt.  (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests Since 1920, [Crestline Publishing: Sarasota, Florida 1985] p. 25.)

A restored 1919 Model 25-50 Avery Tractor which looks like the Volkart’s 1914 Avery tractor.

 

With the addition of the 80 acres purchased by Henry Jr., which needed to be cleared and plowed for the first time, the Volkart Brothers reasoned that the Avery could help out a great deal with the plowing of this virgin soil as well as some of the hard pasture soil on the “home place.”  Accordingly, they purchased a 5-bottom Avery plow with the 25-50 tractor.

1914 Avery Company advertisement showing the Avery 25-50 tractor pulling a six bottom plow.

 

Although the 25-50 was a good tractor while it was running, it proved to be a reluctant starter in any season.  Webb Volkart, currently of LeRoy, Minnesota, was an adolescent while the family farmed with the Avery.  He remembers that ether had to be poured into the cups on each of the four cylinders, and then the engine was turned by pulling a large lever attached to the flywheel.  Once started, however, and placed on the belt for the threshing machine, the tractor worked like it was made for belt work–which indeed it was!

About 1926, the Volkart Brothers and Matt Klassy heard about a Minneapolis 35-70 fuel powered tractor and a 40″ x 62″ thresher which were being offered for sale by a farmer in McIntyre, Iowa.  The Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company (MTM) had introduced the 35-70 as the largest tractor in a new line of fuel-powered tractors in 1912.  This huge four-cylinder tractor was one of the largest tractor ever built.  The Model 35-70 was truly big!  It weighed 22,500 lbs and delivered 70 horsepower to the belt.  John Grass Jr., of LeRoy, Minnesota, remembers that when the 35-70 lumbered past at its travelling speed of 2.1 mph, you could feel the ground shake!

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The Minneapolis 35-70 tractor purchased by the Volkart Brothers and Frank Klassey, seen here in 1948 powering the 40 x 62 inch Case thresher on the Volkart Bros. farm.

One of these Model 35-70 tractors is currently owned by Frank and Betty Sticha of New Prague, Minnesota, and can be seen powering the Melounek and Deutsch sawmill on the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association.  (It can be seen at the beginning of the Second Hour portion of Tape #1 of the International Harvester Promotional movies powering the sawmill and can also be seen at the very end of the same tape, as it was the final exhibit in the parade at the Pioneer Power 1992 Show.)  Although most tractors seem to shrink in size from the childhood memories that one has of the same tractors, the Minneapolis 35-70 still seems every bit as big and awesome now as it does in the childhood memories of the author.

The Volkarts and Matt Klassy purchased the huge tractor and drove it the 16 miles home to the Volkart farm–a trip that must have taken all day.  They recognized that the Minneapolis was not a tractor designed for drawbar work in the field; therefore, no attempt was made to use the Minneapolis for plowing as had been done with the Avery.  The Minneapolis was reserved for belt work each year on the huge Case 40″ x 62″ thresher which came with the tractor.

An Aerial view of the Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company factory in Hopkins, Minnesota.

 

Although Case did make a 44″ x 66″ thresher, only a handful of these machines were ever built. For all practical purposes, the 40″ Case machine was the largest thresher available to farmers.  Generally, these large threshers were found in the western grain-belt states of the Dakotas and Montana.  Smaller threshers were generally employed on the diversified farms of the row-crop areas like southeastern Minnesota.  The Volkart Brothers were attracted to the thresher because of the double wing extensions on the feeder and the reputation that the thresher had of being impossible to overload.

A double-wing style of feeder attached to a smaller (36 inch) Case thresher.

 

At that time, stack threshing was common in the LeRoy area.  After cutting and binding the wheat, the farmer would haul the bundles to a central location where the threshing would occur and construct a stack of bundles.  Building the large stack was a technique that had to be learned.  A proper stack would repel the rain and allow the grain to cure, or “sweat,” nearly as effectively as the grain might have done in the small shocks in the field.  The stacks were built just far enough apart to allow the feeder of the thresher to be inserted between the piles so that bundles could be “pitched” into the feeder from both piles simultaneously.  With sufficient wheat or oats, the farmer would build stacks in two rows so that the thresher could be moved ahead in a straight line to the next pair of large stacks once the first pair of stacks was gone.  The bundled grain would then wait on the threshing day.  The advantage of large stacks was that the fields would be cleared of the small grains so that the “under-crop” of hay which may have been planted with the small grain could be allowed to grow unhindered by the shocks as the farmer waited for the thresher to arrive on his farm.

Because stack threshing was typical in the LeRoy area, the Volkart Brothers realized that the double wing attachment to the thresher would be especially useful.  The double wing attachment consisted of two extensions which could be swung out at 90 degree angles on either side of the feeder.  This was a great advantage for stack threshing.  In order to repel rain, stacks were built with a slight downward slope on the outside of the stack.  This meant that the sides of the stack could be slippery for the man or men standing on top of the stack pitching bundles into the feeder.  The double wing attachment to the feeder on threshers basically extended the “feeder” out to the center point of the stack.  The men on the stack could then stand in one place near the center of the stack and place the bundles gently on the wing, rather than “pitching” them into the feeder from the edge of the stack.  The chain apron in the wing would glide the bundles along to the feeder where the bundles would be swallowed up by the thresher.

In 1928, Matt Klassy and his son, Frank,purchased a large 25-45 Case tractor like this tractor which has been converted to a road building roller or packer.

 

In 1928, the Volkarts and Matt Klassy sold the Avery tractor and the 5-bottom plow.  With their share of the proceeds, Matt Klassy and his son Frank bought a Case cross-motor 25-45.  The tractor was called “cross motor” because the engine was mounted on the tractor with its crank shaft parallel to the axles of the tractor.  The cross motor style of tractors were discontinued by Case in 1929 in favor of the more conventional “in-line” engine tractor with the crank shaft of the engine perpendicular to the axles of the tractor which required the conventional-style differential for the rear end of the tractor.

Foremost in the new line of Case tractors for 1929, all of which were equipped with the in-line engine and the differential-style rear end was the Case Model L.  With their share of the proceeds, the Volkart Brothers bought a new Case Model L tractor along with a three-bottom Case plow.  (For 1929, Case had abandoned the light green, dark green, and red color scheme of the cross motor tractors in favor of the gray color with bright red wheels; however, Case continued its old three-color scheme for their implements.)

A pair of Case Model L tractors on rubber tires with rubber-tired Case plows at an antique tractor show.

 

The Volkart’s Case Model L and Case plow operating in the fields would have presented a picture very similar to the beautiful color photo of Herb Wessel’s 1938 Model L and Case Centennial plow on the cover of the September/October 1994 issue of Belt Pulley.  (Readers of Old Abe’s News will recognize another picture of the Herb Wessel Model L and Case plow on page 19 of the Winter 1993 issue of Old Abe’s News.)  The Volkarts found that the Model L could walk right along with the three 16″ bottom plow even in the hardest of old pasture soils.  There was good reason for this ability.  The Model L delivered  30.02 horsepower to the drawbar.  (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests, p. 63.)  Although the Model L also delivered 44.01 hp. at the belt (nearly as much as the old Avery), the Volkart Brothers never put the Model L on the belt with the 40″ Case thresher.  That duty remained exclusively for the huge Minneapolis.

On June 5, 1929, Matt and Doretta Klassy’s son, Frank, married Esther Lamon and started farming on another farm adjoining his father’s farm.  Because of the ample storage space available on this new farm, the Minneapolis and the thresher came to be stored on the Frank Klassy farm.  Every year, then, the thresher and Minneapolis would travel the 2-1/2 miles down the county and township roads to the Volkart farm after the threshing had been completed on the two Klassy farms.  The route allowed the driver plenty of time to think, given the 35-70’s travelling speed of 2.1 mph.  On these slow trips between farms during threshing season, a little boy (the author) on the Wayne Wells farm would hear the huge tractor and thresher coming down the road, and he would have plenty of time to run to the front yard to see them passing.

These trips were so slow between the various farms of the threshing ring that Webb Volkart remembers one of the men on the crew would start off on the trip to the next farm while the rest of the crew ate dinner.  Then when another member of the crew had finished his dinner, he would drive off in a car to relief the driver of the Minneapolis so that the tractor and thresher could proceed to the next farm without any interruptions.

As the years went by, changes occurred in the Volkart family.  Henry and Frieda’s oldest son George married Beatrice Hall and moved off the Volkart farm and onto his own farm south of LeRoy.  Beatrice (Bee) Volkart still lives in the LeRoy community and has become a historian of the Volkart family, collecting many dates and much written material on the Volkarts and their ancestors.  Their second son, Wilbur (Webb) married Ruby Whiteside on March 26, 1943, then he served in the Armed Forces in the Second World War.  Upon his return from the military in November of 1945, he lived on the Volkart home farm for only about one year before he moved into the town of LeRoy to go to work at the John Deere dealership which was owned by the local Farmers Cooperative.  His parents, Henry Jr. and Frieda, and the rest of their family, also moved to town.  Once again, as it had been in the beginning some 50 years before, the farm was being operated solely by Earhardt and Fred Volkart.

During that period of time, changes had also occurred in the method of harvesting small grains which would doom the large threshers, such as the Volkart thresher.  Farmers began to seek tractors for cultivating their row crops.  Farm equipment companies obliged by producing smaller general purpose tricycle-type tractors.  For threshing, this meant that farmers began to seek smaller 22″ and 28″ threshers that could be powered by these smaller row-crop tractors.  Although the threshing rings still existed, there was a trend toward more numerous and smaller rings with smaller threshers.  With smaller rings, the grain on each farm could be threshed sooner after it had been cut; thus the shocks would not have to stay in the fields as long, and interference with the under-crop of hay would be held to a minimum.This meant the demise of stack threshing in favor of shocking the grain in the fields.

Image result for All Crop Harvester Model 60
The introduction of the Allis-Chalmers All-Crop Harvester in 1928 really spelt the beginning of the end of stationary style threshing grains.

 

However, the real threat to big threshers, and indeed all threshers, came with the introduction of the Allis Chalmers All-Crop Harvester in 1929.  (C.H. Wendel, The Allis Chalmers Story, [Crestline Publishing, Sarasota, Florida 1988], p. 65.)  The small combine was popular from the beginning.  Even as late as the 1950s, despite stiff competition from John Deere, Massey-Harris, Case and International Harvester, one out of three sales of pull-type combines in the nation was an All-Crop Harvester.  (See the Allis-Chalmers promotional movie “Get More, Make More with the 66 Combine” [1957], available from Keith Oltrogge, Box 529, Denver, Iowa 50622-0529, Telephone: (319) 984-5292.)

An advertisement of the new  Allis-Chalmers Model 60 All-Crop Harvester small combine.

 

This nationwide trend toward combines became pronounced in the period of time following the Second World War, as more farms sought the freedom and independence offered by a combine.  The wheat and oats could be harvested when the grain was ripe, rather than having to “wait on the whole neighborhood” to have grain threshed.  One of the first combines in the LeRoy neighborhood around the Volkart farm was the John Deere No. 7 combine brought to the area by Howard Hanks, who moved onto the Bagan farm in 1945.  (This combine is pictured in the article “Wartime Farmall H” in the July/August 1994 Belt Pulley, Vol. 7, No. 4, p. 13.)

By 1948, threshing with the Volkart’s 40″ Case thresher powered by the Minneapolis 35-70 was enough of an anachronism that it began to attract the interest of all of the neighbors as a sight that was slowly passing from the scene of North American agriculture.  Busy as he was on the Bagan farm with harvesting in 1948 (See the article “Deering and McCormick Grain Binders” in the May/June 1995 issue of Belt Pulley, Vol. 8, No. 3, p. 16), Howard Hanks was sufficiently motivated to get his camera and take pictures of the thresher and Minneapolis tractor operating on the Volkart farm.  In 1976, two of these pictures were published in the LeRoy Independent newspaper along with a story on threshing in the LeRoy area.  These pictures reveal that horses were still being employed during threshing season on the Volkart farm as late as 1948.  Furthermore, the article indicates eight bundle wagons, either pulled by horses or by tractors, were needed that day to keep a steady flow of bundles into the thresher.  Webb Volkart remembers that in earlier years, when the thresher had been set up a substantial distance from the field, up to 16 bundle wagons were needed to keep operations going smoothly at the thresher.

The Volkart brothers sold out their farming operation in the Fall of 1951 and moved into the town of LeRoy, Minnesota, where they lived the remainder of their days with their brother George and his wife Lil (Hansen).  Following the Volkart sale, Frank Klassy and his wife Esther (Lamon) bought a McCormick-Deering 28″ x 46″ thresher in 1952 to do their own threshing, but after two years of farming, Frank put his farm in the Soil Bank government program for ten years and practiced his other profession as a carpenter.  When his farm came out of the Soil Bank in 1964, he rented the farm to the families of John Grass Sr. and Frederick Bhend; however, he continued to live on the farm until his death in 1994.

The story of the Volkart thresher conveniently coincides with the story of the changes that occurred in harvesting of small grains throughout the nation during the first half of the twentieth century, and is similar to that of a great number of farm families.  The fact that part was captured on film helps preserve another chapter in the long history of American agriculture.  It should serve as a lesson to us all about the necessity of saving old pictures and negatives.  Even the most mundane of pictures will, in the future, be very important.

The Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois

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Wagons and Truck Bodies:

The History of the Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the July/August 1995 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

Restored Anthony wagon box on a home-made wagon gear ready to go to the field
The restored Anthony wagon box on a home-made gear is ready to go to the field.

Just as necessity is the mother of invention, so too necessity gives birth to a lot of restoration projects.  At the 1994 LeSueur Pioneer Power Show, my father Wayne Wells, brother Mark Wells, and I took on the assignment of operating the Paul Meyer/Wallace Bauleke 22″ McCormick-Deering thresher as a field demonstration on the Pioneer Power grounds near rural LeSueur, Minnesota.  (The Paul Meyer/Wallace Bauleke thresher was the subject of the story “History of a Thresher” contained in the May/June 1994 Belt Pulley, Vol. 7, No. 3, p. 19.)  Only my father had previous experience with setting up, leveling, belting and operating a thresher.  Nonetheless, with the help of other members of the Pioneer Power Association, including Doug Hager, Bill Radill, Jimmy Brandt and Dave Preuhs, we got the thresher correctly belted and running.  During the Show, the thresher proved to be a smooth-running and efficient thresher.

There was, however, one big problem we faced at the Show:  there was a definite shortage of grain wagons for all of the threshers that were running.  We could not use the modern-style gravity flow grain boxes because they were too tall to fit under the grain elevators of the old threshers.  Furthermore, the use of modern equipment around old threshers detracted from pictures that we all wanted to take during the Show.  The only answer was to find an old grain-box wagon and restore it for use at the Show during the field demonstrations.

Thus, in the late fall of 1994, Wayne Wells attended the Fahey Auction at Belle Plaine, Minnesota.  This auction, which is held several times a year, has become a regular event for old machinery buffs of the area.  At the auction, Wayne Wells found and purchased a nondescript, but heavy-duty, all-steel, flare-type wagon box without a running gear.

EPSON MFP image
The Anthony wagon box purchased by Wayne Wells is brought to the grounds of the Pioneer Power Association transported on a hay rack.

Closer inspection of the box revealed the name Anthony stamped into the rear panel of the wagon just above the tail gate.  Following the auction, Wayne Wells transported the Anthony wagon box to the grounds of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association aboard a hay rack.  On the grounds the Anthony wagon was stored under a shelter located on the grounds through the winter of 1994-1995.  Restoration of the Anthony wagon box began the following spring of 1995.

EPSON MFP image
Wayne A. Wells inspects the Anthony wagon box after its arrival on the grounds of the Pioneer Power Association in the winter of 1994-1995..

(An Anthony flare-type wagon box identical to the Wayne Wells wagon box is pictured in the beautiful cover photo of the March/April 1995 issue of Belt Pulley magazine being towed by an Oliver 77 and an Oliver Model 2 Corn Master corn picker.)  We knew very little about the Anthony wagon, and since we wanted to restore the wagon box and paint it the proper color, we had to do some research into the Anthony Company.

A 1949 Oliver Promotional Picture of the Field Research Crew picking corn with an Anthony wagon attached to the picker
A promotional photo showing the Oliver field research crew working with a Model 2 corn picker being powered by an Oliver Model 77 tractor, picking corn in the bumper crop of corn in the autumn of 1949. The wagon being towed by the corn picker is however, an Anthony wagon. The Oliver Company had yet to partner with the Electric Wheel Company of Quincy, Illinois, for the joint manufacture of the “Oliver-Electric” wheel gear and wagon boxes.

 

The Anthony Company was founded in 1917 by William Anthony, Paul Heflin and Mark Anthony, primarily for purposes of building truck bodies and hoists for trucks.  Initial capital for the Company was supplied by the founders and by means of a small loan from the Union National Bank of Streator, Illinois.  They began production of dump truck bodies at the factory of the L.P. Halladay Company located on Hickory Street in the city limits of Streator, Illinois.

An Aerial view of the Anthony Company factory in Streator, Illinois taken inb the 1940s. This shows the railroad connection with the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad.

Their product line positioned the Anthony Company to take full advantage of the strong demand for heavy equipment required for the building and repairing of roads and highways in the 1920s.  The Company grew rapidly and soon was serving markets in Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South America, the British Isles, and Australia.  The Anthony Company quickly outgrew its facility on Hickory Street, and in 1920 they moved their operations to another location on the north end of Baker Street.  This 12.2-acre complex on Baker Street was conveniently adjacent to the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad.

Inside the machine shop at the Anthony Company factory at Streator, Illinois
The roomy new machine shop at the Baker Street facility purchased by the Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois. This factory would later become known as rthe Anthony Company’s Plant #1.

 

The new location allowed the Company to grow and to become a leader in the nation in the production of truck bodies.  The Anthony Company was fortunate in having an extremely talented and dedicated work force.  Ralph Burt, Cecil Worrels, Gene Dapogny and Carl Bole all served as sales managers over the years.  Mark Anthony, son of company founder William Anthony, served as head of the export department.

William Anthony, the founder of the Anthony Company in Streater, Illinois.

Over the years Joseph Barrett served as general manager, John Lyons served as treasurer of the Company, and Ned Whitson and later Robert Hamilton served as plant managers.  Richard Fuller was superintendent of commercial products, James Wallif was superintendent of military products, and Ronald Durham headed the print department.  Herbert Dakin and later Lyle Mustered served as head of the Engineering Department.  Patrick McClernon was contract administrator, William Borglin was manager of the costs department, Carl Tapley was purchasing agent, Leroy Whyowski was director of quality control, and Larry Torres was production control manager.  Later, William Hall served as the head of a ten-person computer department at the company.  An article in the June 24, 1968, Streator Times-Press reported that in 1968, 81-year-old Paul Heflin was still reporting to work at the Anthony Company to perform his duties as secretary of the corporation.

Inside the main part of the Anthony Company factory at Streator, Illinois in 1947
The Anthony Company depended on the population for Streator, Illinois, for a loyal, steady, reliable and talented work force.

 

Herbert Dakin was another long-term employee of the Anthony Company.  Working as the head designer for the engineering department, he designed the famous telescoping-style of hydraulic hoists for dump trucks.  Development of the telescoping hoist effected a revolution in the trucking business.  (Although Herbert Dakin died in 1975 at the age of 86, his granddaughter, Leslie Poldek, continues to keep memories of the Anthony Company alive as librarian of the Streator Public Library.)  In the early 1940s, Frank Novotney, sales manager for the Anthony Company, designed the first hydraulic lift gate.  Lift gates were folding platforms which fitted to the rear ends of trucks.  These platforms would hydraulically raise and lower from street level to the level of the bed on the truck.  This would allow the driver of the truck, unassisted, to load and unload very heavy equipment.  The lift gate became one of the Company’s most popular products.

Anthony Company Plant in Streeter Illinois
The Anthony Company Plant located in Streator, Illinois in 1963.

Like other companies during World War II, the Anthony Company was restricted to the manufacture of only those products which were needed for the war effort.  The United States Government, however, contracted with the Anthony Company for the production of all kinds of truck bodies for the United States Armed Forces.  One of their largest contracts called for them to produce dump truck bodies for the building of the Alaskan Highway project.  During this contract, the work force broke all known production records for the manufacture of the largest single fleet of heavy duty dump truck bodies.  The Company and its work force was awarded the Army-Navy “E” (Excellence) award for the manufacture of wartime materials.

The Anthony Company of Streator Illinois faced layoffs and cut backs until the Marshall Plan was announced in June of 1947
As the Second World War ended the Anthony Company faced layoffs and cutbacks as they faced the sudden end of military war contracts and a difficult transition to a peacetime economy.

In 1945, just as the Second World War was ending, amid rejoicing that the “boys would soon be coming home,” there was a feeling of uncertainty about the future.  This feeling was based on clear memories of the end of the First World War which had caused a sudden 15% inflationary spike in prices followed by a recession in the spring of 1920.  (Grieder, William, Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country [Simon and Schuster: New York, NY, 1987], pp. 289-290.)  Typically, at the conclusion of a war, businesses were forced to find other markets for their goods or to re-tool for the manufacture of new products more fitted to peacetime economy.  All too often businesses could not adjust to the new economic conditions, thus throwing their workers into unemployment.

In 1945, this fear was a sour note sounded amidst the celebration!  Several small companies, which had been forced by the War Production Board to produce only products for the war effort, now found their situation desperate as they scrambled to find a niche in the civilian peacetime economy.  One of those companies was the Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois.  Indeed, the atmosphere at the Anthony Company was gloomy as they faced the return to peacetime economy.  There was no current large peacetime demand for truck bodies, nor was there any foreseeable circumstances that offered any hope of a large demand for truck bodies in the future.

The post-war era caused some anxiety among the workforce of the Anthony Company until the Marshakll Plan was announced in ajune of 1947
Fear of the post-war economy and the suden loss of government contracts created anxiety among the workforce of the Anthony Company in 1946.

 

However, on June 5, 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall gave the commencement address at Harvard University.  The speech was used as an opportunity to announce a new Truman Administration proposal for United States aid to be sent to Europe to assist post-war recovery.  (David McCullough, Truman, [Simon and Schuster: New York, NY 1992], pp. 562-563.)  This program, eventually to be called the Marshall Plan, envisioned a mobilization of the whole productive capacity of United States agriculture to fend off starvation in Europe and to help get the European economy moving again.

Dump truck bodies were a second early success for the Anthony Company in the post-war era.

Continue reading The Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois