Category Archives: J. I. Case Company

Articles that include Case farm equipment.

A 1945 J. I. Case Company Model SC Tractor in Belgrade Township, Nicollet County, Minnesota

The 1945 Case Model SC Tractor in Nicollet County, Minnesota

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 J. I. Case Company Model SC tractor.

The J. I. Case Company introduced their first tricycle-style tractor—the Model CC tractor in 1929.  The CC weighed 4,240 lbs. (pounds) and produced 27.37 hp. (horsepower) to the belt pulley and 17.33 hp. to the drawbar.  The CC was advertised as a tractor that could pull a two-bottom plow with 14 inch bottoms.  So the Model CC could perform all the heavy tillage work in the fields of the average farm, just like the “four-wheel” or “standard” tractors that Case had offered the farming public before 1929.  These four-wheel tractors could do all the field work on the farms of North America except one field task–the cultivation of row-crops.  Thus, even with a standard type tractor, the North America farmer could get rid of a large number of horses on the farm that were required for heavy tillage and seed-bed preparation in the Spring of each year.  However, the farmer would have to retain  enough horses necessary for cultivation of the row-crops on the farm.  With the introduction of “row crop” or tricycle style tractors, the North American farmer was able to purchase one of these row crop tractors, like the Case Model CC.  Then, the farmer would then be able to get rid of all the horses on his farm and farm in a fully mechanized way.  Thus, the Model CC could be used to provide all the power on the farm to perform all the field work over the whole growing season.

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

 

The most unique feature about all the Case Model CC was the steering rod than located outside the hood of the tractor on the left side of the tractor.  This rod extended along the left side of the tractor to the front wheels  the tractor.  Because this looked like a convenient place for the chickens, on the farm, to roost during the night, this rod became popularly known as “chicken’s roost.”   Over the entire production from 1929 until 1939, 29,824 Model CC tractors were made.

A left side view of the Case Model CC tractor, showing the unique “chickens roost” style steering rod which was a famous feature of Case tractors.

 

In 1939, the CC was “styled,” modernized and the engine was upgraded in horsepower to a full 32.92 hp. at the belt pulley or the and 24.39 hp. at the drawbar. The tractor was re-designated as the new Case Model DC-3 tricycle style tractor.  Instead of being painted gray like the Model CC, the Model DC-3 was painted a reddish-orange color that the J. I. Case Company called “Flambeau Red.”  The DC-3 had a new Case-built engine with a 3-7/8 inch bore and a 5 ½ inch stroke, was commonly fitted with 11.25 by 38 inch rubber tires and weighed 7,010 lbs. Case advertised the DC-3 tractor as a “full three-plow  tractor.”  This meant that the DC-3 could pull a three–bottom plow even with 16 inch bottoms in most plowing conditions.   By 1944, the suggested retail price of the DC was $1,270 as mounted on rubber tires.  During the entire production run of the Model DC-3 from 1939 until 1955, 54,925 DC-3 tractors were manufactured by the J.I. Case Company, or about 3,433 Model DC-3’s per year.

The Case Model DC-3 tractor replaced the Model CC in the Case line of row-crop tractors in 1939. 

 

With the introduction of the DC-3 and the phasing out of the Model CC tractor there was a vacancy in the “two-plow” class of tractors within the J. I. Case Company tractor line.   Accordingly, in 1940, one year after the introduction of the DC-3, the J.I. Case Company introduced the Model SC tractor. The Model SC weighed 4,200 lbs., was fitted with a 2.7 liter four-cylinder engine with a 3 ½ inch bore and a 4 inch stroke which  delivered 21.62. hp to the belt pulley and 16.18 hp. to the drawbar.  The Model SC was painted Flambeau Red to match the Model DC-3 and retained the hand clutch, the same “chicken’s roost” style steering rod of the Model CC and the Model DC-3 and retained the 11.25 by 38 inch rear rubber tires of the Model DC-3.  However, the Model SC could be purchased for a much lower price than the DC-3.  Many farmers took advantage of this price difference to purchase the Model SC tractor and the Model SC tractor became the best-selling tractor of the Case Flambeau Red line of tractors.  Over its shorter production run (from 1940 until 1955), a total of 58,991 Model SC tractors (or about 3,933 Model SC’s per year) were produced and sold by the company—this is a total of 4,066 more SC’s produced by the Case Company than the total number of DC-3 tractors produced over the longer production run of the DC-3.  In other words from 1940 until 1955. there were about 500 more SC tractors produced each year than there were Model DC-3 tractors during the same period of time.

Among the tractors that flowed out of the J.I. Case Main Works in Racine, Wisconsin and arrived in local Case dealerships across the nation, was the two-plow Case Model SC tractor. In the years before the Second World War and in the immediate post-war years the Model SC actually outsold the larger DC-3 Case tractor.

 

Of course not every year of the production run from 1940 until 1955 was like the next.  History intervened, during this period of time, in the form of the Second World War, history from 1939 until 1955.  Involvement of the United States in the Second World War dated from the surprise bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 by the Japanese Imperial forces.  Following the Pearl Harbor attack, most heavy industrial companies, like the J. I. Case Company were required by the United States government to join the war effort, as the country fought a desperate war in two separate theaters of operations (Europe and the Pacific).  Production of civilian goods gave way to production for the war effort.  However, it took some time for the various companies to be assigned their government military contracts and to start producing wartime materials. For the Case Company production of farm tractors at their factory located in Racine, Wisconsin tapered off somewhat gradually in favor of war materials for the war effort.  The factory at Racine was called the “Main Works.”  During the war, the “Main Works” became involved in the production of bombs and artillery shells, doors for the Sherman tank and parts for the B-26 bomber.

The limited amount of tractors that were produced during the war, rolled off the assembly line at the Main Works were assigned a serial numbers in sequence regardless of the model. There are no separate serial numbers for the S-series, the D-series or the V-series tractors.  The first two numbers of any Case tractor serial number designates the year in which the tractor was assembled at the Main Works.  Even these first two numbers are hidden in some obscurity.   If the first two numbers of a particular are 44, this does not mean the tractor was produced in 1944.  Four years must be subtracted from the first two numbers of every serial number to arrive at the actual production year of the tractor.  Thus, the digits of “44,” in the serial number example cited above, stand for 1940—not for 1944.

 

 

Accordingly, in the fifth year of its production run , a particular Model SC rolled aff the assembly line at the Main Works bearing the Serial Number 4911952.  The first two digits of this particular serial number indicate that the tractor was manufactured at the Main Works in 1945.  Since production in the year 1945 began with the serial number 4900001.  Production of the Model SC with the Serial No. 4911952 must have been produced rather late in the year, 1945.  Indeed a good guess might be that it was produced in December of 1945.  As consistent readers of this blog will remember, in December of 1945, the partnership of Duane Wetter and Merle Krinke were buying property in the small town of LeRoy, Minnesota to establish what would become the local Case dealership called the “LeRoy Equipment Company.”  (See the two part series of articles called “The Rise and Decline of the LeRoy Equipment Dealorship.”

Production of the Model SC Case continued until 1954.  Over the full production run of the Model SC tractor, from 1940 until 1954, a total of 58991 individual SC tractors were made.

The Model SC tractor bearing the Serial Number lwas shipped to the Case dealership in Mankato, Minnesota and eventually sold to a particular farmer operating a farm in western Belgrade Township about 3 or 4 miles to the north of North Mankato on County Road #8 in Nicollet County Minneota.  This was the farm of our Belgrade Township farmer.   Sold into bankruptcy and No. 4911952 was sold to an auction house in Mankato kept No. 4911952 inside a storage shed or garage until an auction was held a couple months later.  At the auction, Ken Weilage purchased No. 4911925 and a couple of other tractors and took the tractors to his 5-acre hobby farm located on the east side of the Hwy. #169 between Mankato and St. Peter, Minnesota.

This hobby farm had originally been a working farm but in the 1960s the arable land of the farm was surveyed and separated from the building site of the farm.  The arable land was then sold to a neighboring farmer and the building site was sold to man who worked as a financial services manager named Ken Wielage (Tel: [507] 625-4810), who also had a hobby of collecting and restoring old farm tractors.  At this stage, No. 4911952 went through its first repainting and restoration.  Once the restoration was complete, the tractor was driven by Ken Weilage in a number of parades.  In about 1990 the tractor was sold to group of about ten (10) neighbors, who all lived along Washington Boulevard on the shore of Lake Washington, near the village of Madison Lake, Minnesota.  This group of neighbors included John Pfau, the owner of a number of Taco John restaurant franchised in Mankato, St. Peter and New Ulm and was the person who actually found the tractor was for sale by Ken Wielage, the late Ernie Weber, Gordon Strusz (at 4524 Washington Blvd. Madison Lake, Minnesota and Tel. [507] 243-3380); Ray Dumbrowski; and  John D. Jacoby who became the person who was most involved with the operation storage and repair of the tractor for the last 20 years.  At first, Washington Boulevard was a gravel rode.  The neighbors used No. 4911952 to pull an old steel-wheeled grader up and down Washington Boulevard to grade and maintain the road and the tractor was used twice a year to put the neighbors docks in Lake Washington in the spring and pulling the docks out of the waster in the autumn.

In 2013 through 2015 No. 4911952 was displayed on the Mike McCabe farm as a tractor for sale and there was seen by the current author in April of 2015 was and purchased for the Wells Family Farms collection of restored tractors. No. 4911952 is currently undergoing its second restoration.

 

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

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

The 1944 Farmall Model H Tractor

by

Brian Wayne Wells

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

The gray Farmall with red-colored wheels.

 

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

Wartime advertisement of the Farmall Model H.

 

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

Case Farming Part V: Decline of the LeRoy Equipment Company

J.I. Case Company Part V:

The Decline of the LeRoy Equipment Company

by

Brian Wayne Wells

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case Farming Part III: The Model CC Tractor

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J.I. Case Company Part III: Model CC Tractor

by

Brian Wayne Wells

            (As Published in the May/June 2006 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

            In 1924, a revolution occurred in the design of farm tractors.  This revolution had started with the introduction by the International Harvester Company of the Farmall tractor in 1924.  The Farmall was a “row crop” tractor advertised specifically as the tractor that could “do everything on the farm except the family budget” (a quote from the movie “Practical Magic” on Tape/DVD #3 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies).  Soon every tractor manufacturer was introducing their own version of the row crop tractor.  The J.I. Case Company’s first entry into the row crop tractor market was the Model CC tractor, introduced in 1929.  The Model CC contained an engine with a 3 7/8 inch bore and a 5 ½ inch stroke.  Tests of the 4,240 lbs. Model CC at the University of Nebraska, conducted on September 10, 1929, found that the tractor produced 28.79 hp. at the belt pulley and 17.88 hp. at the drawbar.  The Case Model CC tractor was a tricycle-style of tractor.  Although the Model CC had two wheels in front, the two wheels were positioned close together.  This configuration became a standard for row crop tractors and was called the “narrow front end” or “tricycle” design of farm tractors.  The front wheels of the typical tricycle tractor, like the Case Model CC tractor, could fit in the pathway between two rows of corn or other row crops planted 30 or 40 inches apart.

Case Model CC & Gordie Hahn # 1
Gordie Hahn standing at the controls of his restored 1936 Case Model CC tractor.

It was this very ability of the Model CC to cultivate corn that attracted a particular farmer living in Stockholm Township in Wright County, Minnesota. He and his wife operated a 160-acre farm on which they raised oats and hay for his horses, some summer wheat, which they sold, and corn, part of which was used feed and part of which was sold as a cash crop. Our Stockholm Township farmer had eight or nine sows on their farm which, each winter, gave birth or farrowed to about 80 baby pigs. He raised the baby pigs until they reached their ideal market weight of 260 pounds. Given the losses from early death and disease among the baby pigs he would generally end up with 65 to 70 pigs ready for market in the late summer. In the final weeks before market the feeder pigs ate voraciously through the corn. Nonetheless, our Stockholm Township farmer could make a pretty good estimate of the amount of corn that he would need to “finish out” the feeder pigs. In a normal year, he would be able to hire his neighbor who had a large corn sheller to come to his farm and shell out all the ear corn in his corn cribs. He would do this in about February or March each year. He would have that part of the shelled corn that he would not need for the pigs, hauled straight to the Cooperative elevator in Cokato immediately after shelling to be sold. In a normal year, the price of corn would reach the peak of its annual cycle in these winter months.Case Model G feed grinder

Continue reading Case Farming Part III: The Model CC Tractor

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

Case Farming Part I: Sweep-Style Horsepowers

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J.I. Case Company Part I: Sweep-Style Horsepowers

by

Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the January/February 2006 issue of

                         Belt Pulley Magazine)

           Food, clothing and shelter are well known as the three basic requirements of human beings. Agricultural is generally concerned with the production of the raw materials i.e. plants and animals, that become the food for mankind. To a lesser degree, agriculture also is concerned with the production of raw materials for clothing for mankind e.g. cotton and wool. To a still lesser degree, agriculture may be said to be involved in one of the most basic building materials used in providing shelter for mankind i.e. wood. This is especially true in recent days when forests are replanted after harvest in preparation for another harvest of trees in the future.

Just as the development of the mechanical thresher/separator revolutionized the threshing small grains, so too did the sawmill revolutionize the lumber industry. In the early days of the settlement of the upper Midwest of the United States and Canada, homes were made from logs. However, a log house had a tremendous tendency to shrink or “settle” over the years. This settling was especially pronounced in the first couple years after the construction. Settling meant that windows and doors would not remain square and, thus, tight fitting doors and windows were impossible in traditional log homes. Only frame-built houses would allow for tight fitting windows and doors. As civilization came to the Midwest with more people settling in the towns and on the farms of the Midwest, the frame house became the rule in home construction.

This tremendous growth of frame house got under way in the period following the War Between the States—the golden age of American agriculture. This boom in frame built housing created a vigorous demand for sawn lumber. Thus saw mills sprung up all over the Midwest. Usually, these sawmills were located at the falls of a particular river. This would allow the sawmill to use the power generated by the falling water and a water wheel to power the saw. Additionally, the river would be used as a transportation medium for the logs as lumber camps cut the native timber of the watershed up river from the sawmill and floated the logs down the river to the sawmill. The water might be captured by a dam on the river just above the sawmill to provide a reservoir of water to power the sawmill through any dry spells. This “mill pond” above the sawmill also served as a storage place for all the logs that came floating down the river.

The wood most in demand for building construction was pine. Pine is a straight grained, light but strong wood. It is easily worked with a handsaw and/or a plane. Furthermore, it tends to maintain its proper dimensions and shape,once it had been properly seasoned. (Robert C. Nesbit and William F. Thompson, Wisconsin: A History [University of Wisconsin: Madison, 1989] p. 297.)   However, pine was not available in all areas of the United States.

Because of these desirable characteristics, pine could be transported a considerable distance and compete economically with any lumber found locally in any hardwood community. (Ibid.) Any person that has tried to hammer a nail into a “native” hardwood board will recognize why this is true. Pine tree forests were discovered to be most abundant in two belts of land in the United States. First was the wide belt of land that reached from New England through the Great Lakes area, with Lake Erie representing the southern most fringe of this belt, and extending on to present-day northern Minnesota. (Ibid.)   Secondly, there was the Southern pine wood belt which started in eastern North Carolina (Hugh Talmage Lefler & Albert Ray Newsome, North Carolina: The History of a Southern State [University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, 1973] pp. 100-101.) and arched to the south and including nearly all of South Carolina (David Duncan Wallace, South Carolina: A Short History [University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, 1951] pp. 3-4.)southern Georgia ( Kenneth Coleman & et al. A History of Georgia), northern Florida (Charlton W. Tebeau, A History of Florida [University of Miami Press: Coral Gables, Florida, 1971] pp. 42 & 52.), southern Alabama and southern Mississippi (Nollie Hickman, Mississippi Harvest: Lumbering in the Longleaf Pine Belt 1840-1915 [Paragon Press: Montgomery, Alabama 1962] pp. 3-11].

scene-of-an-early-american-sawmill

Lumbering of the northern pine woods began in Maine and followed the virgin forests of this band of land westward. The market for all this lumber was south of this belt where civilization in the form of towns and farms arose along the upper Ohio River valley during the early nineteenth. The cities of Pittsburg, Cincinnati, Louisville and Evansville were all build with pine wood harvested from the northern pine woods.

Scene from an early American steam- powered sawmill.
Scene from an early American steam- powered sawmill.

Continue reading Case Farming Part I: Sweep-Style Horsepowers

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

The Case Model NCM Baler and a Family’s Crucial Year

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The Case Model NCM baler and a Family’s Crucial Year

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the January/February 1995 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

Editorial Note

The following article was published in three different magazines.  Each version of the article approached the story of the 1947 wet year in a different way.  Accordingly, there are important differences in each version of the story and, therefore, each version has been included in this reproduced here for the reader to study these differences.

Case color advertisement 2

            As related in an earlier article, the Howard Hanks family had moved to LeRoy, Minnesota from Mapleton, Minnesota in 1945.  “The Wartime Farmall H,” Belt Pulley, July/August 1994, Vol. 7, No. 4, p. 13.  They had purchased the big 400-acre Bagan farm five miles east of LeRoy, Minnesota.  The payments on the newly-purchased farm were a big concern.  The expense involved with moving a family from a renting operation to ownership of a farm was no small matter.  Then there were the usual expenses entailed in raising a large family.  Furthermore, three of the oldest Hanks children were planning to be married in 1947.  What the family needed was a period of normalcy to consolidate their financial position; however, as 1946 ended, it looked as though the family was not going to get that period of normalcy.  The Second World War had ended and prices for farm products had fallen.  On the other hand, wartime price controls had ended and farm equipment prices immediately climbed.  Then, too, there was the weather.

The fall of 1946 harvest season was very wet.  The family had to borrow a Farmall M which belonged to Reuben Jacobson just to pull the big John Deere No. 7 combine through the soggy soybean fields.  The Hanks’ 1942 Farmall H, with its new cut down steel rear wheels which were now fitted with rims and rubber tires, was unable to pull the combine as it had in the fall of 1945.  The Reuben Jacobson Farmall M had wheel weights and fluid in the tires and thus was used to harvest soybeans on the home farm, as well as for all of the custom work.

img029
The rains started in the fall of 1946. During the fall harvest that year the Hanks family had to borrow a Farmall model M tractor to pull the large John Deere No. 7 combine through the mud of the soybean field that year.

 

The rain continued throughout the fall of 1946, and in the spring of 1947 it started again with a vengeance.  By the time of the first wedding that year (Bruce Hanks and Mary Keller on April 2), the ground was a quagmire.  Even the roads were a mess, and the farm tractors were employed to help negotiate these roads.

More rain came all through the spring and early summer.  Field work had to be delayed to the point where the situation began to look grim.  By the time of the second family wedding that year (Lorraine Hanks and Robert Westfall on June 25), it was clear that even the garden had failed because of the continuing rain.  As with most families of the time, gardening was not a mere hobby, but was a real source of food for the family.  The failure of the garden meant that household expenses would be just that much higher for the summer and for the following winter.

The oldest son, Fred Hanks, who had been serving in the United States Army in Italy, arrived home just in time for the second wedding on June 25.  He was shocked to find that the soybeans were not yet entirely planted, even at this late date!  The family did not complete planting soybeans until July 6.  They felt as though planting soybeans so late in the season would be a waste of time and money, and 1947 was showing every sign of being a make-or-break year for the family.  In addition, they were counting on the income that would be derived from custom combining in the neighborhood, and prospects for that income were not good unless the rain stopped.

The third family wedding that year (Marilyn Hanks and Wayne Wells) was held on July 12.  Howard and Ethel Hanks, parents of the bride, were hosting the reception at their house on the Hanks farm.  Ethel Buck Hanks, mother of the bride, was distressed that she did not have any crystal or a matched set of glassware to make the reception dinner a formal affair, and the family’s dire straits held no promise that there would be money for even such a small luxury as this.  However, Howard went uptown and negotiated with the proprietor of the hardware store to borrow a set of gobbets and a matching set of sherbet stemware.  This crystal would be used for the reception, then packaged up again and returned to the store.  Ethel was extremely pleased with the goblets and sherbet stemware when Howard brought it home several days prior to the wedding.  Ethel carefully unpacked the goblets and sherbet stemware and washed each piece in preparation for the wedding reception.  She loved the beautiful glassware and wished that she could keep the goblets and the sherbets for the weddings in the family that she knew were coming up.  However, she knew that the glassware was only borrowed from the hardware store and the glassware would have to be returned.  Accordingly, following the wedding reception, she carefully washed each piece, wrapped it and sadly placed it back into the box for the journey back to town.

The new son-in-law, Wayne Wells, had taken over the farming operation on the 160-acre farm owned by his father, George Wells, which was two miles to the west of the Hanks farm.  Wayne Wells and the Hanks family were planning to cooperate in some farming activities, i.e., corn planting and haying.  They anticipated putting the loose hay in the barn as they had in past years; however, Wayne, who had been thinking of new ways to improve the efficiency of the farming operation, explored the possibility of baling the hay for storage in the barn.  He also saw the possibilities of doing custom baling in the neighborhood.  Many of the same farmers who paid to have their oats and soybeans combined may also pay to have their hay and straw baled.  Since there were very few pickup balers in the neighborhood, the Wells and Hanks families would have a monopoly on the whole market.  Furthermore, with daughter Hildreth, age 17, and son John, age 12, still living at home on the Hanks farm, Bruce and Mary living on the Tony Machovec farm about 1/2 mile south of the Hanks farm, and with Fred’s return from the Army, there would be more than sufficient people to outfit a baling crew and still keep up with the chores.

J.I. Case advertised their new Model NCM baler as the “modern way to befter hay.” Rather than storing hay loose in the barn, the new method harvested and stored hay in the form of square bales.

The Hanks family was receptive to the suggestion of purchasing a baler in hopes of earning extra income from custom baling.  Later, they saw an advertisement for a used Case NCM baler.  In the middle of the rainy summer, it seemed like a gamble considering all of the other pressing concerns.  However, as the old saying goes, “You have to spend money to make money.”  They decided to act.

A Case Model NCM hay baler.

Continue reading The Case Model NCM Baler and a Family’s Crucial Year