The 1945 Case Model SC Tractor in Nicollet County, Minnesota
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 the Model SC 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.
The war years from 1941 until 1945 also brought changes to the Case dealership in Mankato, Minnesota as the Cutkowski dealership became a partnership. The “Cutkowski dealership” had begun its existence as the J.I. Case Company dealership. Harry Cutkowski began working at the dealership at mechanic. In 1936, he became the sole proprietor of the dealership. In the years before the entry of the United States into the Second World War, the Cutkowski dealership had made a great reputation for itself all across southern Minnesota and northern Iowa. Now in during the war, Harry Cutkowski took on Earnest Allen Jones as a partner.
Earnest and Vivian Maude (Baldwin) Jones moved to Mankato, Minnesota in 1936 shortly after Harry Cutkowsky had purchased the J.I. Case delaership in Mankato. Prior to moving to Mankato, Minnesota Earnest Jones had been employed as a shipping clerk at the J.I. Company Case Company factory in Racine, Wisconsin. As the shipping clerk at the Racine factory, Earnest had become perfectly aware of the pre-war sales success of the Cutkowsky dealership in Mankato, Minnesota. Thus, when Harry Cutkowsky offered to employ Earnest as the manager of his new proprietorship, Earnest jumped at the chance to manage the successful dealership.
By the time that No. 4911952 arrived at the J.I. Case dealership around New Years Day of 1946, Earnest had become a partner and the dealership was known as the “Cutkowsky and Jones” dealership.
As consistent readers of this blog will remember, in December of 1945, another partnership had been formed to start a J.I. Case dealership in another small Minnesota town. This was the parnership of Duane Wetter and Merle Krinke who were forming a dealership in LeRoy, Minnesota. During December of 1945, Merle Krinke and Duane Wetter were busy 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 Dealership.” contained at this website.) The new dealership of LeRoy Equipment Company was due to open on Tuesday January 29, 1946 and was in drastic need of an inventory of new Case farm tractors and Case farm machinery. Accordingly, the Model SC tractor bearing the serial number 4911952 could have been sent to this new dealership in LeRoy, Minnesota, to help the new dealership get off the ground.
If 4911852 had been sent to the LeRoy Equipment Company dealership, the tractor might have ended up on the Walter and Clarence Hanson farm three miles east of the village of LeRoy. As it was Walter and Clarence Hanson had to wait until sometime after March 10, 1947 for a subsequent Model SC to arrive at the LeRoy Equipment Company to purchase their Model SC tractor.
The Case Main Tractor Works in Racine, Wisconsin was still trying to struggle with the retooling process to convert to production of civilian farm equipment products The Case Corporation was hardpressed for funds. Thus, the decision was made to sent No. 4911952 to the veteran dealership with a big reputation for sales (Cutkowski and Jones dealership in Mankato, Minnesota) rather than to a new startup dealership (the LeRoy Equipment Company in LeRoy, Minnesota) with no reputation at all–yet. Accordingly, No. 4911952 was sent to the Cutkowski and Jones partnershipdealership” located at 202 No. Main Street in Mankato, Minnesota.
Then the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. Like nearly all other manufacturing concerns the Case Company was greatly curtailed in its production of civilian materials including tractors and farm machinery by the government. For the duration of the war all manufacturing was to be directed toward the war effort in Europe and the Pacific.
With the return of peace in September of 1945, production of the tractors had just begun again. J. I. Case Company was still struggling to retool for full time civilian production. On December 26, 1945, shortly after No. 4911952 rolled off the assembly line in Racine, Wisconsin, the Case Tractor Works at Racine, Wisconsin was hit by a labor strike by the United Auto Workers. This labor strike continued for fifteen more months until March 10, 1947.
During the whole period of the strike, the Case Tractor Works was totally closed down and did not produce a single farm tractor. Finally on March 10, 1947 the United Auto Workers and the Case Company signed a new labor collective bargaining agreement and the labor strike ended. Finally, production of farm tractors was begun again at the Case Tractor Works in Racine Wisconsin.
When No. 4911952 arrived at the Cutkowsky dealership just after New Years Days of 1946, the dealership had already been approached by a potential buyer for the little Model SC tractor. This potential buyer was a farmer of a 160-acre farm in Belgrade Township in Ncollet County, Minnesota. This was our Belgrade Township farmer.
Our Belgrade Township farmer’s mother had inherited the 160 acre farm upon the sudden death of her husband (our Belgrade Township farmer’s father) in 1939. Immediately, the total responsibility for the farm fell to our Belgrade Township farmer. Even before the death of his father, our Belgrade Township farmer had already been actively operating a great deal of the work on the farm: planting the crops, spending endless hours cultivating the corn crop and finally harvesting the corn and other crops on the farm, i.e. hay and oats.
The farm was a diversified operation with a Holstein cow dairy operation requiring milking every morning and evening. They sold the whole milk obtained from their “twice-daily” milking of their Holstein dairy herd to the cooperative dairy located just across the Belgrade township boundary line to the north in Oshawa Township.
Our Belgrade Township farmer’s father also had raised pigs for market. The herd of pigs on the farm had consisted of a number of sows of different breeds and largely “cross breeds.” There was usually one boar on the farm at any one time which would be purchased for the job of siring the litters of little pigs that would be born each year. Over the years that our Belgrade Township farmer had grown up on the farm, prior to the recent war, he remembered a succession of different boars on the farm–one after another over the years.
Most sows could be counted on to produce litters of baby pigs for only about three (3) or four (4) years out of their life. Older sows would begin having less pigs per litter until they began to fail getting pregnant at all. Accordingly, our Belgrade Township farmer’s father would have to plan ahead and save out some of the best looking gilts of the various litters over the years to replace some of sows that he was phasing out of the herd because of age.
This meant that the young gilts that were to become the new sows on the farm would be the actual daughters of the present boar. Thus the reason for changing boars every three years or so was to avoid any problems with reduced disease immune resistance and low growth rates that might result from this “in-breeding,” both our Belgrade Township farmer and his father would simply start searching for a new boar. Among the succession of boars on the farm one boar that stood out the most in the memory of our Belgrade Township farmer was a particular red -colored boar. This red boar struck him as a child and stuck in his memory merely because of his red color. This red color stood out in contrast to all the white, black and spotted “black and white” sows on the farm.
During the years that the red boar was on the farm our Belgrade Township farmer use to love the way the boar left his finger prints on all the litters of baby pigs born during those years. All the litters of baby pigs born during those years, usually contained one or two little red pigs. This made the red pigs standout even more in the mind of our Belgrade Township farmer.
As an early teenager, our Belgrade Township farmer had joined the local 4-H club–the “Belgrade Boosters”–and when he chose a 4-H project to show at the Nicollet County Fair–he chose one of the newborn gilts out of one of the litters born that particular year. that had been born that year. Needless to say, the gilt was one of the little red pigs that had captured his imagination at this early date. He also learned about the characteristics of the Duroc breed. He learned that the Duroc pork meat tended to be “redder” in color that the pork meat of other breeds of pig. Additionally, the Duroc meat was regarded as having ” well marbled” fat. The importance of this feature of well marbled fat in Duroc meat will be explained below.
In the years to come during the post-war era the breeder of pigs tended look for pigs that would be thinner in structure than the hugely fat pigs which were commonly produced during the war. These huge pigs were intentionally grown for their fat which could be rendered into lard for baking during the pre-war era. During the Second World War the lard from pork was used for making munitions for the war effort, Thus, fat pigs were desired by the pork buyers in the market. Breeders of pigs responded to this desired feature and raised overly fat hogs for the market.
However, in the post-war market the buyers began to respond to the consumers who now wanted less cholesterol, grease and fat in their food. Now the pork buyers began to look for thinner market hogs that would have less fat. Thus, in the post-war years the breeders of pigs had to make a 180 degree turn in their thinking. Now they tended look for pigs that would be thinner in structure than the hugely fat pigs which were commonly produced during the war.
(Still later in 1987, in the face of a huge decrease in beef [or red meat] consumption in the United States from 69.5 lbs. per person in 1987 to 62 lbs per person in 2003, pork producers spent 7 million dollars to advertise pork as the “other white meat,” seeking a closer association of pork with chicken meat in the mind of the consumer rather than an association with beef–the red meat. In response to this advertising campaign, pork consumption in the United States rose from 45.6 lbs. per person in 1987, to a peak of 49.3 lbs in 1999 before leveling off and dropping to an average of 48.5 lbs. per person in 2003. What was the cause if this fall off jn popularity in pork as a replacement for beef? One answer can be the only reason. However, it may be speculated that as pork became leaner, the meat lost its flavor. This would be consistent with all the complaints which have been frequently heard since 1987 that pork chops simply do not taste the same as they used to.)
Not take long after he joined the Belgrade Boosters 4-H club for our Belgrade Township farmer to learn that the most popular of all the red-colored pig breeds in the United States was the Duroc breed. This placed the correct name on the pigs that until now he had merely been calling “red pigs.” He learned that pigs called simply “Red Hogs” had been introduced into New Jersey in 1812, Breeding and development of the pigs in New Jersey led to a breed that was called “Jersey Reds,” These Jersey Reds pigs were noted for “farrowing” (giving birth to) large litters of baby pigs and the Jersey Reds were known for their rapid ability to gain weight.
In 1823, Isaac Frink bought one red boar out of a litter of 10 pigs owned by Frank Kelsey. The parents of the litter of 10 pigs probably came from England. Frink brought the boar back to his home in Milton in Saratoga County, New York and began a breeding program on his farm. Frank Kelsey had been known locally as the owner of a champion race named “Duroc.” Accordingly, Isaac Frink named the red boar that he had purchased from Frank Kelsey after this horse–Duroc . This is how the whole breed that descended from the combination of Jersey Reds and the New York hers descending from Isaac Frink’s herd came to be called the Duroc breed of pigs.
The American Duroc-Jersey Association was established in 1883 for the registration and improvement of the Duroc Breed. However, at the Worlds Fair of 1893 held in Chicago, Illinois the Duroc breed of pigs created a lot of notoriety, when the first Duroc show was held at the World’s Fair itself. Due to the rapid growth of the Duroc breed following the 1893 Worlds Fair, many more organizations promoting and advertising the Duroc breed sprang up across the nation. Eventually, all these organizations were merged into the United
Prior to his father’s sudden death, our Belgrade Township farmer had been anticipating obtaining a farm of his own and starting farming on his own. Indeed, he had been dating a young girl. Together they had talked of getting married and getting a house of their own . However, at the time of the death of his father, our Belgrade Township farmer and this girl friend had drifted apart. At the time, he suspected that this distance that grew up between he and this girl was brought about by her recognition that our Belgrade Township farmer would be forced into handling the farm of his father and moving into his mother’s house. He did not feel that he could do anything else. So the relationship sort of faded and eventually they each went their own way.
His current wife and he had met and started dating after he had settle into his situation on the farm living in house with his mother and his two bothers. The hre gotten together h, indeed, had moved into the house of his mother, because neither of his two younger brothers was prepared to . However, both of his younger brothers were almost ten years younger than our Belgrade Township farmer and were, at time of their father’s death, much too young to operate the whole farm by themselves. handle the they
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 4911952 lwas shipped to the Cutkowski and Jones Case equipment dealership in Mankato, Minnesota.
This 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:  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.  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.
Brian Ways wa The ne vav. a
for sold arable land was sold on the When the arable land on is farm was sold
was a atTherpA To fu
The The 100° longitude meridian line runs north and south over the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. This longitude line is
Farming in Illinois with the Coop Model E-3 Tractor
(Part 3 of 3 Parts): The Kewanee Belt and Conveyor Company
Brian Wayne Wells
This article remains under construction. From time to time new blocks of text will appear or present blocks of text will be corrected.
Throughout the history of North American agriculture, farmers have been attempting to solve their own problems. Farmers have repeatedly joined together in societies and organization. As noted in a previous article (See the article on this blog entitled “Farming in Illinois with the Model E-3 Tractor Part 1 of 3 Parts: The Farmers Union”) some farmers banded together in organizations like the Grange and the National Farmers Union to 1.) boost the money that farmers received for their crops through cooperative marketing of their crops and 2.) save money through cooperative purchasing of their farm equipment, fuels and other products used in raising and harvesting those crops on the farm.
Local cooperatives engaged in the cooperative marketing of farm crops were usually centered around cooperatively-owned creameries and grain elevators located in small towns across the vast agricultural areas of the United States–the Midwest, the Great Plains, the agricultural South and the Central and Imperial Valleys of California. As time went by, and the local cooperatives began to expand into the cooperative purchasing of products used by farmers, the local cooperatives began to build or purchase their own lumberyards, gasoline service stations and farm implement dealerships which began to sell cooperatively purchased products to their farmer members at reduced prices.
One member of the National Farmers Union who was currently farming in Sterling Township in Whiteside County, Illinois. He was a “true believer” in the value of the cooperatives to the small farmer and tried at all instances to purchase all his supplies from local Cooperatives. Especially, those cooperatives that were connected with the Farmers Union. Our Sterling Township farmer had moved to this farm in Illinois in 1945 from his father’s farm located near Baraboo, Wisconsin. Due to a lack of any local cooperative that sold “COOP” farm machinery and farm tractors, our Sterling Township farmer tended to buy his farm machinery at the Sauk County Farmers Union Cooperative in Baraboo, Wisconsin.
However, there was some farm machinery that was not available through the COOP line of the farm implements marketed by the National Farmers Union. For these pieces of farm machinery, our Sterling Township farmer was required to turn to other private company suppliers. As noted previously, he had purchased an 8-foot hydraulically controlled trailing double disc from a local dealer in Sterling, Illinois. This disc had been manufactured by the Kewanee Manufacturing Company of Kewanee, Illinois. Kewanee, Illinois was situated in Henry County, Illinois, which was located immediately to the south of Whiteside County.
Even though our Sterling Township farmer had been impressed by the hydraulically controlled transportable disc produced by the Kewanee Manufacturing Company, he was not so impressed by the portable farm elevator that was also produced by the Kewaunee Company.
The Kewaunee Company had been making portable farm elevators since 1922 when the company purchased a line of portable farm elevators from the Hart Grain Weigher Company of Peoria, Illinois. At this time, the portable elevator made by Kewaunee was a composit of wood and steel construction. In 1926, Kewaunee introduced their “all-steel” elevator. In anticipation of the production the new farm Kewaunee elevator the Kewaunee Company had moved out of its old facilities to a new concrete block building locate on the corner of Park and Commercial Streets in Kewaunee in 1922. However, sales of the new portable Kewaunee farm elevator grew so rapidly that the Company was forced to move to still larger facilities in 1927.
During the first few years on the new farm in Sterling Township, Illinois, our Sterling Township farmer had been forced to borrow a portable elevator from his neighbors merely to move the oat crop from the wagon to his granary and to move the ear corn from the wagons which were coming into the yard to the corn crib. to the to
In 1888 the OwatonnaManufacturing Company was founded in Owatonna, Mnnesota. Farmers soon recognized the OMC paint colors of red and lime green on the grain drills, seeders and balers. In 1928, OMC began making portable farm elevators in 1928 after purchasing the Diedrick Company. Indeed, for a while OMC continued the production of the Diedrich (even under the Diedrich name)
Farmers soon recognized the OMC paint colors of red and lime green on the grain drills, seeders. elevators and and balers.
In 1965, OMC introduced their first “Mustang” skid steer.
In 1997 Mustang was separated from OMC and sold to the Gehl Corporation
OMC, itself was sold to the Manitou Americas Inc. corporation. as being
As the mid-1950s went on, the Cockshutt faced dwindling Meanwhile, the National Farm Machinery Cooperative started losing market share in the farm tractor and machinery market as a result Cockshutt shares return egt. arm
Eventually, our Sterling township farmer traded the COOP Model E-3 tractor, bearing the serial No. 31591, in on the purchase of a newer more powerful Cockshutt tractor. No. 31591 was sold from one owner to another when the tractor ended up in the hands of an owner than sought to made the Model E-3 into a tractor that could be used in professional antique tractor pulling contests. Accordingly, the hydraulics which had been installed on No. 31591 by our Sterling Township farmer under the seat on the operator’s platform. At the same time the tractor was repainted with the red and cream colors to make No. 31591 look like a post-1955 Cockshutt.
Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota (Part III):
After the War
Brian Wayne Wells
The end of the Second World War in September of 1945 brought about sudden changes in the farm equipment market. During the war, farm equipment companies all across the United States had been severely restricted in the amount of farm tractors and equipment they had been allowed to make. With the end of the war, these companies were scrambling to re-tool for civilian production.
Through out the rural areas of the United States, farmers, who had been unable to obtain any new farm machinery during now flooded their local farm equipment dealers to buy new farm equipment as it became available. One of the farmers seeking to modernize his farming operation with new farm equipment was a particular farmer in Nevada Township, in southern Mower County, Minnesota. As noted earlier (see the previous article in this series of articles “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota [Part II]: Soybeans” contained at the blog on this website), out Nevada Township farmer had in the spring of 1945, joined the growing number of farmers across the United States who were planting soybeans. Experiments in raising soybeans had been going on for many years prior to the war. However, only with the massive new demand for plastic for the production of cowlings, turrets and windscreens for modern aircraft for the war effort, did the simple little soybean become a large nationwide farm product. Accordingly, the price of soybeans rose from its pre-war level of around 90¢ per bushel to a high of $2.10 per bushel in November of 1945.
Our Nevada Township farmer realized the value of diversifying his farming operation into the production of soybeans almost immediately in the fall of 1945. The growing season of 1945 had proved to be a dry season with insufficient rain for the crops. Our Nevada Township farmer corn crop had suffered. He harvested about 1/3 corn less in 1945 than in a normal year because of the dry conditions. Because the drought seemed to be localized to southern Minnesota, there was no large drop off in production of corn nationwide which might have resulted in higher prices for corn harvested in 1945. Therefore, our Nevada Township farmer and his neighbors in the drought area of southern Minnesota suffered a double blow. They did not have much crop to bring to market and the smaller crop they had did not bring a price high enough to offset the reduced volume of crop. This situation might have put a real strain on his farm income and budget for the coming year, 1946, had it not been for the soybean crop. The 1945 soybean crop had weathered the dry growing season in better shape than the corn. As a result, there was only a 9.4% decline in the soybean harvest on his farm. Furthermore, the price of soybeans actually rose to a new record high level in the fall of 1946. This higher price was sufficient to offset the loss felt by our Nevada Township farmer to his farm income caused by the drought of 1945. So the diversification into soybeans had saved the farm income from a loss in 1945.
As he looked to the future, however, our Nevada Township farmer was worried. Like everyone else, he had come to think of plastics as only a wartime product. He did not see any peacetime use for plastics. Thus, he expected soybean prices to fall with the end of the war. There were, however, reports that the industry was finding new peacetime uses for plastics. Our Nevada Township farmer was skeptical of these forecasts—thinking them just so much wishful thinking. However, he could not argue with the fact that the price of soybeans remained high throughout the winter of 1945-1946 and into the early spring of 1946. Based on this continued high price of soybeans, our Nevada Township farmer determined to plant soybeans again on his farm in the spring of 1946. However, he remained uneasy about the future of soybeans and as a result he planted only the same amount of acres to soybeans as he had planted the previous spring—in 1945.
In the coming growing season, 1946, our Nevada Township farmer could look forward to having more help on his farm. His two grown sons had been away at war in the Pacific Theater. He and his wife were extremely thankful when the war in the Pacific had ended and the news arrived that both sons would be home in time for Thanksgiving. Accordingly, Thanksgiving of 1945 was glorious. Our Nevada Township farmer and his wife could not help noticing how the boys had changed. They were much more mature. They were no longer boys. They each had their own ideas about things. Our Nevada Township farmer now faced some discontent from his sons regarding the farming operation. His sons wanted to upgrade the farming operation by getting some new tractors and new farm equipment. His sons encouraged him to trade in both old tractors on a new post-war tractor with electric starting, electric lights, hydraulics, rubber tires and faster speeds. Our Nevada Township farmer resisted making any new purchases of arm equipment this year. Despite the continuing high soybean prices, he was still unsure how crop prices would be maintained now that the war was over. At the end of the First world war in 1918, there had been a severe economic downturn in the economy that had lasted through 1921. He thoroughly expected another such economic recession following this most recent world war. Still, he did, however, have one improvement in mind.
The end of the war now meant that rubber was now available for civilian manufacture. During the winter of 1945-46, after rubber tires became available, again. Our Nevada Township farmer sought to convert his 1937 Oliver/Hart-Parr Model 28-44 tractor over to rubber tires. This tractor was old now and, as a standard tractor, was outdated, but it had been his first tractor and he was somewhat partial to it. He didn’t really want to part with it. The Oliver Farm Equipment Company had been offering a conversion to rubber tires as a package deal for the Model 28-44 since 1935. The cost of this package had been $353.00 plus the cost of labor in 1935. Now in 1946, the price was higher due to inflation. This was more than our Nevada Township farmer wished to spend, but he did have another idea. While he did go to Thill Implement to purchase new rims for rubber tires for the front end of the tractor, he jacked up the rear end of his Model 28-44 tractor and removed the steel wheels from the rear of the tractor and loaded them into the back of his 1939 Chevrolet Model JD ¾-ton truck. He drove the truck with the wheels to the Attlesey Blacksmith Shop in Lyle, Minnesota. As noted earlier, Harry Attlesey owned this blacksmith shop on the north end of town. (See the second article in this series of articles “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota [Part II]: Soybeans” contained at the blog on this website.)
Over the winter of 1945-1946, however, Harry had been making a good income from cutting the outer steel bands (or “tires”) off of steel wheels of various tractors and welding new open rims for rubber tires onto the centers of those same wheels. In this way, rubber tires could then be mounted onto the rear tractor wheels. Harry now did this for the wheels brought to him by our Nevada Township farmer. He cut the flat-spoke centers out of the steel wheels and welded the centers to the inside of a 28 inch rim which was 12 inches wide. Each rim was now ready for the mounting of a 12.75 x 28” rubber tire and the corresponding tube. These are the same size of tires that were part of Oliver’s rubber tire upgrade package. However, the price of cutting down the rear wheels and welding the rims on the centers of those wheels was much less than the Oliver package deal, because he did not have to purchase the new hubs and centers for the rear wheels. Once the rear wheels with rubber tires were mounted again back on the tractor, the old Model 28-44 tractor surely did ride smooth. However, the smooth ride seemed to accentuate the extremely slow speeds of the Model 28-44. Top speed was still only 4.33 miles per hour.
Our Nevada Township farmer had also had the steel rear wheels on his 1935 Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 18-27 (dual wheel) tricycle style tractor cut down and had 38” rims welded on these cut-down centers. He then mounted 10.00 by 38” rubber tires mounted on the rear of this tractor. Once again, the ride on the new rubber tires was smooth, but extremely slow. The top speed of the 18-27 was 4.15 mph.
While the purchase of the “standard” or “four-wheel” style Model 28-44 had allowed our Nevada Township farmer to reduce the number of horses on his farm, the Model 28-44 could not be used for the cultivation of the row crops—corn and soybeans. Only the purchase of the tricycle-style Model 18-27 in 1943, finally allowed him to totally mechanize his farming operation. The tricycle style Model 18-27 had been specifically designed for the cultivation of row crops.
However, both of these tractors were “pre-war” tractors and were not fitted with adequate speeds, electric start or hydraulics like the modern post-war tractors that were now being produced by various farm equipment companies. As his sons continued to agitate about getting a more modern tractor, our Nevada Township farmer began to feel that perhaps he should get another tractor. He might purchase a new tractor at Thill Implement in Rose Creek, Minnesota (1940 pop. 261). To hold the price down on a new or used tractor, he might trade the old Model 18-27 (dual wheel) tractor in on the purchase of another tractor. However, with both sons and himself able to start the field work this coming spring, he knew that he would need a third tractor.
As the winter wore on he began to ponder his need for a third tractor. As a result, he began to attend the winter auctions again. Sure enough he found an auction bill that offered a 1941 Oliver Model 70 for sale. When it was introduced in 1935, the Model 70 had been a very modern looking and streamlined tractor, complete with sheet metal side-curtains covering the engine. However, in 1937, the Model 70 was re-styled to become even more streamlined looking. The Model 70 at the auction was one of these new “late-styled” Model 70s with a rounded yellow grill with a red nose strip down the center of the grill.
At the auction, our Nevada Township farmer observed that the Model 70 was fitted with factory-installed rubber tires front and rear, had the optional electrical lights and an electrical starter. The tractor also had a six-speed transmission with a road gear of 13.44 miles per hour. He felt that his sons would really enjoy this tractor. This tractor was as just as good as a new tractor. It contained many of the same features his sons had been wanting in a new tractor. However, many other people at the auction also saw the tractor as the equivalent of a new tractor, the price of the tractor was bid up and up. It was unbelievable. Considering the high prices that these “used” tractors were now demanding at auction, a person might as well purchase a new tractor. Nonetheless, compelled by his desire to keep his sons happy so that they might stay on the farm, our Nevada Township farmer stayed in the bidding. In the end, despite the high price, he became the owner of the tractor. Now it was time to settle up with the bank clerking the auction.
The Farmers State Bank of Lyle was clerking the auction. Indeed 29 year-old Gwenith Gislason, clerk at the Farmers State Bank; and, incidentally, daughter of Alfred Perl Garantz owner of the bank, was present at the auction representing the bank. Although Gwenith lived in Austin with her husband, C.J. Gislason, she continued to work at her father’s bank in Lyle. (In a few years, following her parent’s retirement and their move to Pinellas, Florida, Gwenith would take over the reins of ownership of the bank in place of her father.) The Farmers State Bank in Lyle was the bank at which our Nevada Township farmer did his banking. He knew Gwenith and her father. Our Nevada Township farmer was learning that Gwenith was starting to speak with the authority of her father on the bank’s behalf. Still he preferred dealing with her father, a male who was more closely his own age and, indeed, was older than himself.
In situations like this, Gwenith recognized the problem and graciously deferred to her father and told our Nevada Township farmer that she would okay the financial arrangements concluded at the sale and let our Nevada Township farmer talk with her father at the bank the next time he was in Lyle. She knew as much about our Nevada Township farmer’s financial situation as did her father—probably more. She knew her father would no doubt agree with her decision to okay the sale on the spot and would no doubt approve of her charade of deferring to him in this instance.
Accordingly, on these casual arrangements, our Nevada Township farmer settled up with the bank at the auction and went home to his farm. His sons were excited about the prospect of working with a “new” modern tractor. The next day, he took his two sons and drove back to the site of the auction. One of the sons was assigned the task of driving the Oliver 70 back home. February of 1946 had been colder than usual and this day was no exception. Although the roads had been cleared of snow there were still large snow drifts in the ditch and on the fields of the farms along the way back to their home farm. Thus, it promised to be a cold 12-mile ride along back roads to bring the tractor back home. Even at the top speed of almost 13½ mph the trip would still take almost an hour. Still his sons argued over who would have the privilege of driving the tractor back to the farm. This argument was resolved by a flip of a coin. The eldest son won the toss of the coin and drove the tractor home.
After the cold month of February, March of 1946 was incredibly warm with temperatures up into the 60’s for a good deal of the month and even up into the 70’s during the last full week of the month. “April showers” are proverbially expected to about “bring May flowers.” However,owH in April of 1946 showers were a precious commodity. Indeed the showers were almost non-existent throughout the month of April. Due to the warm weather and the lack of rain, field work began early that year. Now with three tractors engaging in the field work that spring, our Nevada Township farmer was able to get all the crops in the ground early that year. However, his dreams of continuing to work with both of his sons on the farm, was becoming endangered.
Over the winter months, of 1945-1946, the older of his two sons had been leaving the farm on many Friday and Saturday evenings and returning home late at night. When he did so, our Nevada Township farmer would comment to his wife that their son was “on the prowl” for a woman. His wife would disagree and contend that their son was only out with his high school friends. She had a soft spot in her heart for the eldest son and she was in denial about anything that would mean changes in the family.
In actual fact, the eldest son had been trying to get back together with his buddies that he had known before the war. He wanted to recapture some of what he had missed during the time he was in the armed forces. Accordingly, he dressed up in a white shirt and slacks, slipped on his penny-loafer shoes and put on a winter coat and hat and borrowed the family’s new 1946 Chevrolet Sedan to head out to Cresco, Iowa. Our Nevada Township farmer and his wife had traded in their old 1941 Chevrolet Sedan in to Usem Chevrolet in Austin, Minnesota (1940 pop. 18,307) on this new car. This new Chevrolet was so new that it still had that “new car smell.” New as it was, however, the car had been fitted with most one important option for a farm car. A trailer hitch protruded from the rear bumper and contained a simple hole, through which a drawbar pin could be inserted while hauling a farm wagon to town.
Currently, the eldest son was pursuing one of his fondest memories from before the war. He was going roller skating in the large roller skating rink in Osage, Iowa. This was one of the entertainments he had missed the most while he was in the armed forces.
With the large roller rink and the movie theater, Osage had long been an entertainment hub for the area. On any Friday or Saturday night, the downtown area of Osage would fill up with cars as young people from all across northern Iowa and southern Minnesota would gather in Osage to go to the roller rink or to see the latest movie that was playing in the Osage movie theater. Since his return to the community, he had also engaged in his old hobby of looking at the license plates of Iowa cars and note which county, the car was from. Every Iowa license plate began with one or two digits on the left side of the plate. These digits identified the county in which the car had been registered. There were 99 counties in Iowa and the digits on the license plates identified the counties in alphabetical order. Lyle, Minnesota was located right on the state line and so there had always been plenty of Iowa cars around to “identify” as he grew up. Most commonly there were cars with “66” on the left side of their license plates. This was Mitchell County located directly across the Iowa border from the town of Lyle and Mower County in Minnesota. Mitchell County was referred to as “66 County Iowa.” Neighboring Howard County to the east was “45 County Iowa.” Cerro Gordo County to the southwest was 17 County and Worth County to the west was 98 County. Minnesota also had a designation on their license plates. However, the first digit on the Minnesota license plates referred to the one of the nine U.S. Congressional Districts the car hailed from in Minnesota. Therefore, identifying Minnesota license plates was just not as much fun as identifying Iowa license plates. The congressional districts were so large that the eldest son had rarely seen cars from other areas of Minnesota other than 1st Congressional District (where Nevada Township and Mower County were located) with just a sprinkling of cars from the neighboring 2nd Congressional District. These were the districts that lay along the Iowa border in Minnesota. Iowa provided a much more varied selection of cars. Both Minnesota and Iowa required cars to have license plates on both the front and rear bumpers. Consequently, the eldest son found himself “identifying” Iowa cars among the oncoming traffic in the twilight as he drove down the paved U.S. 218 highway on his way toward Osage.
Once in Osage, the eldest son tried to find parking on State Street in Osage, which was the main street running east and west through town. When he could not find parking on State Street, due to the glut of cars in Osage on this particular night, he tried 7th Street both north and south of State Street. The roller rink was located just west of the intersection of State and 7th Street. He found parking on south 7th Street. South 7th Street led off into the residential area of Osage and was not as well lit as the commercial area of State Street and north 7th Street. Nonetheless, he parked the car and walked to the roller rink and paid his 50¢ admission at the door. Then he went over to the skate rental desk and told them his shoe size and rented skates of that size for another 25¢. He sat down and took off his favorite “penny loafers” and slipped into the black high top roller skates and pulled on the laces to tighten the skates around his ankles. He skated over to the skate rental desk and turned in his penny loafers and received a claim check for the shoes.
Then, he started to skate out onto the rink. Old memories flowed back as he made his way around the floor. It did not take long to get back into the swing of skating. He soon found that he could move easily with the music. The music was played by an electric organ and amplified by speakers around the rink. Currently, everyone was skating in a counter-clockwise pattern around the skating rink. He knew that sometime during the night, about half way until closing time the pattern would be reversed and everyone would be required to skate in a clockwise direction for the balance of the evening.
On his first few visits to the roller rink, he had been attempting to re-capture old times with his male buddies from before the war. However from the first, he realized that things were not the same as they had been before the war. Many of his old friends from high school were now married and had their own lives. So he had begun just going to Osage alone and had been asking girls to skate with around the floor. At the roller skating rink, over the winter, he met a particular girl from Charles City, Iowa. He had asked her for a skate around the rink to one song. That song ended too soon. So he asked if she wanted another turn around the large rink. She agreed. At the conclusion of a couple of more songs, they went to the refreshment stand and he ordered two hot dogs and two Cokes for them to eat. She asked him if he would prefer a Cherry-Coke with the hot dogs. He didn’t know what that drink was, but based on her suggestion he was willing to try something new. So they sat for a while and conversed while they drank their Cherry Cokes and ate their hot dogs. It seemed so easy to converse with her. He enjoyed her company. After eating, they skated some more. Soon the announcement was made for all skaters to reverse direction. The eldest son could not believe that half the night had passed already. Without really knowing it, they had spent most of the night together.
After the last song had been played and the music ceased, he walked her to her car parked on State Street a couple of blocks from the skating rink. It was her father’s 1940 Ford Tudor Sedan with a license plate indicating that the car was from “34 County Iowa”—Floyd County. His only prior experience around girls had been in high school at Lyle High School. Since the war, this part of his life seemed to be part of the distant past. This girl seemed to be more serious about life than the girls he had known in high school. Indeed, she was a woman not a “girl.” She liked to talk about serious things not just conversational chit-chat. She even seemed serious about roller skating. Rather than renting skates at the skating rink, she carried her own pair of roller skates to the rink in a little suit case which was specially made for them. She liked roller skating enough and went to the rink at Osage often enough that she had concluded that she would save money by having her own pair of roller skates rather than renting skates every time—especially now. Since the end of the war prices were getting ridiculously high. Renting skates used to be cheaper during the war—now it was a whole 25¢.
He had a good time, but he did not think that the relationship would grow more serious. He just felt that it was a good friendship. Nonetheless, when they did on reach her car on that first night of skating, he did inquire whether she would be back at the Osage skating rink next Saturday night and she assured him that she would.
Thus, their friendship went on like this from week to week throughout the winter of 1945-1946. Early on, the eldest son knew that he could not continue to dominate the family’s new 1946 Chevrolet on the weekends. Consequently, he made a deal with the Usem Chevrolet dealership in Austin, Minnesota for a used 1939 “pre-war” Oldsmobile Model 80 2-door Business Coupe, which had been sitting on the dealership’s used car lot. Our Nevada Township farmer had always purchased his cars from the Usem dealership—so it was natural that this was the first place that his eldest son would turn when seeking an automobile. Our Nevada Township farmer’s eldest son liked the looks of this Model 80 Business Coupe—especially the long narrow hood covering the engine. The hood was long for a reason. Underneath the hood was an “in-line” eight cylinder engine. The “straight eight” engine was standard equipment in all Model 80 Oldsmobile, also standard equipment for the Model 80 was the semi-automatic “Safety” transmission. Oldsmobile had introduced the “Safety” semi-automatic transmission in 1937. The salesman at Usem told him that only few of these Model 80 Coupes had been made in 1939. Indeed, although Oldsmobile had made 158,560 cars in the 1939 calendar year—enough to put the company in seventh among all automobile manufacturers for that year—the company had made only 738 Model 80 Business Coupes in 1939.
The salesman at the Usem dealership noted that the “safety transmission” had been improved and made a fully automatic transmission in 1940. This fully automatic transmission was called the “HydraMatic” transmission and was introduced by the General Motors Company into the Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac cars in 1940. The salesman commented that most new General Motors (G. M.) innovations were introduced first in the Oldsmobile line of cars before they introduced in the other lines of General Motors cars. The salesman also advised that it was always wise “to avoid buying a car in the first year of a new innovation.” It was better to wait a year or two after the innovation had been introduced “to allow the ’bugs’ of the new innovation were worked out.” In this regard, he noted that by 1939, all the bugs in the Oldsmobile safety automatic transmission had been worked out. Accordingly, this particular Business Coupe was an especially good deal.
This Business Coupe was still fitted with running boards along both sides of vehicle. Running boards had ceased being standard equipment on Oldsmobiles in 1939. However running boards had continued to be optional equipment. Obviously, the first owner of this car had preferred the option of running boards.
Lacking a rear seat the Oldsmobile Business Coupe was designed for only two people. This particular Business Coup had been used by a traveling salesman. The Business Coupe was ideal for traveling salesmen. With its large straight-8 engine, its large 17 gallon gasoline tank, its automatic transmission and its “wide” 6.50 x 16 inch tires, the Oldsmobile Model 80 Business rode comfortably over long distances. Additionally, there was ample room behind the seat and in the trunk to hold a great deal of merchandise. This was the type of car that gave Oldsmobile the image of “the Old Man’s dependable work horse.” Thus, Oldsmobiles were sometimes referred to as “your father’s Oldsmobile.”
In 1939, the new the Model 80 Business Coupe had sold for $920.00. Now, the seven year-old car was being offered for a price of $300.00. The car had a lot of miles on it, which accounted for the relatively cheap price. To buy the car, our Nevada Township farmer’s eldest son used some of the money he had received in his last paycheck from the Navy to make a down payment on the car. Then he obtained a loan for the balance from “Mrs. Gisleson” at the Farmers State Bank in Lyle. In making these arrangements, the eldest son found that everybody was so anxious to help him out, because he was a returning veteran.
The eldest son had never owned a car before the war. So this was his first car. When he arrived at home, he carefully washed all the dust of the dirt roads off the car. It was the beginning of a life-long love of Oldsmobiles. Consequently, on his first trip to Osage with the Oldsmobile, he was anxious to show his new girl friend the car and take her for a ride. She obliged and drove around a little in the Oldsmobile before they went to the movie theater. Movies played at Osage’s theater usually six months or more after they were initially released. Accordingly, many of the movies they were seeing in late 1945 were movies that had been released during the war. On this night they saw Spencer Tracy in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, which had first been released on November 15, 1944. She liked it and thought the movie informative about the war. He did not much like it. Probably, because he had been too close to the war to appreciate a war movie. On another weekend they saw Pan Americana (1945) which had been released on March 22, 1945. They both liked this movie. They also saw Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh (1945) released July 14, 1945. They both also liked this comedy movie. They also saw State Fair (1945) released on August 30. 1945. They both liked this Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about the Iowa State Fair.
Back on the farm in Nevada Township in the spring of 1946, field work began earlier than usual due to favorable weather conditions. The entire month of March was much warmer than normal with temperatures, almost reaching 80ºF in the last week of the month. Oats were sown into the ground in April and the seedbed was prepared for the corn. It looked like the corn and soybeans might be planted in May. However a late season snow storm on the second weekend in May dropped 3 inches of heavy wet snow on the ground, but the temperatures barely got below 30ºF and in the days that followed temperatures reached up to 70ºF. Thus, the snow lasted for no more than a day before it was all melted. By the end of May the temperatures were unseasonably warm–85ºF. Consequently, the temperatures of the soil kept on warming almost in spite of the late season snow. Accordingly, both the corn and the soybeans were planted before the end of May.
As he had planned in the early spring, our Nevada Township farmer planted the same amount of acreage to soybeans in 1946 as he had in 1945. Many of his neighbors did the same. As a result, the total number of acres planted to soybeans in Mower County in 1946 remained the same as it had been the year before. Although soybean prices had continued at high levels since the end of the war, he was still unsure about the future of this new crop during the post-war era. His eldest son kept going to Osage nearly every weekend. The eldest son worked hard during the week to leave time on the weekends for socializing with his new female friend. He worked in the field during the week and on Saturday but still took his 1939 Oldsmobile south to Osage on Friday or Saturday night every weekend. Our Nevada Township farmer commented on his energy.
June 1946 proved to be a wet month with a large rain of 1½ to 2 inches each week for the entire month and another 1½ inch rain in the first week of July for good measure. Barely would the ground dry out and cultivation of the corn and soybeans get started again before another rain would force our Nevada Township farmer and his sons from the fields. Even with both the Oliver/Hart-Parr 18-27 (dual wheel) and the Oliver Model 70 cultivating in the fields the cultivation of the corn and soybeans occupied most of the summer up until mid-July. By that time the corn was too tall to be cultivated again and the soybeans were beginning to flower. Any additional cultivation at this point would do more harm than good for the crops.
Following the heavy rain in early-July there was no rain at all until the end of August 1946. This allowed our Nevada Township farmer and his sons to put up hay, and get the oats windrowed in anticipation of the arrival of their neighbor with his Oliver Model 10 Grainmaster combine to once again do the custom combining of their oat crop.
Also the weather remained bright and shiny for the Mower County Fair which was held from August 5 until August 11, 1946. As usual the 4-H Exhibits dominated the first two days of the fair. The Future Farmers of America or FFA Exhibits dominated the second two days of the Fair. Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer took his prize registered purebred Suffolk sheep to the Fair in Austin on Friday afternoon for the last two days of the Fair which was devoted to the “open class” exhibits. Attendance at the Fair was down from the previous year. This was a reflection of polio scare that was gripping the public that summer. Indeed some county fairs, like the 1946 Freeborn County Fair in neighboring Albert Lea, Minnesota to the west and the 1946 Fillmore County Fair in Preston, Minnesota to the east, had been canceled altogether out of fear of the polio contagion. Indeed, our Nevada Township farmer would not have to worry about going to the Minnesota State Fair this year since he had already heard over the radio that the 1946 State Fair was being cancelled because of the polio scare. Accordingly, the Mower County Fair would be the only real opportunity he would have to sell some of his purebred ewes this year.
By the end of August, 1946, there still had been no rain. This late in the growing season, however, no rain was needed as the crops in the field were ripening anyway. Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer was looking forward to a good harvest with dry crops and dry ground for the tractors and machinery to drive on. Anticipating a good harvest in the fall, our Nevada Township farmer was again thinking about how to modernize his farming operation. Late in August, our Nevada Township farmer noticed an auction sale bill in the Austin Daily Herald which contained a one-row corn picker. He thought he should attend this auction and see how much the corn picker would bring at auction. All during the war years, he had relied on custom corn picking to get his corn harvested. Before the war, one of his neighbors had obtained a one-row corn picker made by the Wood Brothers Company of Des Moines Iowa. This was the farmer that our Nevada Township farmer hired each year to pick his corn. However, our Nevada Township farmer wanted to be free to do his own picking of the corn on his farm without having to wait on his neighbor to get done with his other customers.
With this thought in mind, our Nevada Township farmer attended the auction. The corn picker turned out to be an Oliver No. 3 Corn Master corn picker. The picker was not that old. Consequently, the price of this corn picker soon rose to nearly the price of a new corn picker. The end of the war had not brought enough new machinery out on the market to lower the price of used machinery at auction. Nonetheless, our Nevada Township farmer stayed in the bidding on the corn picker and in the end became the new owner of the No. 3 Corn Master corn picker. The price was high, but he comforted himself that the ability to pick his own corn on his own schedule would be worth the price of the corn picker. The price of corn remained high at $1.97 as a average for the whole month of August, 1946. The weather remained dry and it looked like a good harvest season ahead.
However, during the first week of September it seemed as though the skies opened up and dumped out rain—as a 2½ inch rain fell in the first week of September, This rain was followed by a succession of heavy rains of two ¾ inch rains on consecutive nights, followed by a 1 inch rain on the third night. Rains continued steadily until Thanksgiving creating difficulty in harvesting the corn and soybeans. Paradoxically, the 1946 growing season had yielded a good crop because of the sufficient amounts of rain all summer. The first killing frosts of the season occurred in early October. Then the rain had stopped. This allowed the crops to dry down nicely for harvest. However, the rains started up again and continued periodically through most of November. At this point the crops were like money sitting in the field. It should have been an easy matter to simply collect the money—to get the crop out of the field and safely into the shed. However, these late season rains were making it difficult to get this money out of the field. Tractors were, continually, getting stuck as his neighbor with the Model 10 Grain Master combine struggled to pull the large combine through the mud of the soybean fields. Outside of a 2 inch snow which fell late in November and did not last for more than a day, there was no snow until the middle of December. As soon as the soybeans were harvested, our Nevada Township farmer and his sons struggled to get the corn in the crib. Because he now owned his own corn picker, he and his sons were able to get the corn safely harvested and in the corn crib before the snows came.
The corn crop across Mower County yielded 40 bushels, which was about 12% less yield per acre then usual. This loss was almost entirely due to the difficult harvesting conditions in the fall of 1946. However, soybeans proved to be the best surprise of the post-war era for American farmers. Demand for plastics during the war had been so strong that soybean production had established a new nationwide record every year following 1941. Surprisingly, even with the return of peace, and the loss of military contracts for plastics, the supply of soybeans still could not keep up with the growing new peacetime demand for plastics. As the soybean harvest of 1946 started to come into the market in the late fall of 1946, it looked like another bumper crop of soybeans. (Indeed nationwide soybean crop figures would reveal that the 1946 soybean crop would set another record, as 203,395,000 bushels came onto the soybean market.)
Just like the previous year, our Nevada Township farmer had made arrangements to have his soybeans combined by his neighbor with the Model 10 Grainmaster combine. Just like the prior year, he had begun to worry that the soybeans would suffer losses in the field before he could get the soybeans harvested. (See the second article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment Part II: Soybeans” contained at this website.) Our Nevada Township farmer still felt the insecurity of having profit and loss on his crop hanging on someone else’s schedule. This year a great deal rode on getting his soybean crop out of the field and into the shed. The bumper crop of soybeans that was being harvested nationally should have depressed the price. However, despite this new record harvest, the price of soybeans still continued to rise dramatically—reaching a phenomenal $3.14 per bushel in November of 1946. So the “money” that was sitting in the soybean field, un-harvested, was substantially more than in previous years.
Luckily our Nevada Township farmer’s neighbor soon arrived on the farm with the Model 10 combine and our Nevada Township farmer was able to get his soybeans out of the field. Our Nevada Township farmer did not waste any time on hauling the soybeans from the field straight to the Hunting elevator in Lyle, Minnesota, where he sold the entire crop at the highest price he had ever seen for soybeans. Consequently, our Nevada Township farmer added a great deal to his annual income for 1946, solely because of the soybean crop. The soybeans more than made up for any losses he had suffered in the corn crop and for the losses he had suffered because of his limited chance to advertise and sell his purebred Suffolk sheep due to the cancellation of the Minnesota State Fair. Thus, diversification of his farming operation had proved itself once again in 1946.
Over the summer of 1946, our Nevada Township farmer’s eldest son had gotten to know the family of his girl friend. During the 4th of July she had invited him down to Charles City, Iowa to a family reunion at her parents house. This was his first visit to her parents. He got the distinct impression that they were looking him over as a future son-in-law. He thought this was humorous because it did not fit their relationship at all. However, he had struck up a good relationship with her father. Her father was an employee at the Oliver Company tractor factory located in right there in Charles City. It was fun to hear about the production of tractors, like the Model 70 that was being employed on the farm back in Nevada Township. Her father had a hobby of woodworking. He did this work in the basement of the house on the weekends and on holidays from work. Indeed, he had made some of the furniture and cabinetry in their family home.
In October of 1946, the eldest son reciprocated and in invited his girl friend up to Lyle for the Lyle High School homecoming game held on October 11, 1946. Lyle was playing Lime Springs for the homecoming game. The game itself was an exciting football game. The Lyle Lions eventually won the game by a score of 20 to 18. However, the eldest son was somewhat distracted from the game by the great number of his old high school classmates who were attending the game and who made a point coming over to see him. He had fun and reminisced about the good times they had in high school. He was glad to see that she got along well with everybody she met. Her outgoing personality made him feel proud to introduce her to his high school classmates. She seemed at home with any group of people. Once again, he felt a little awkward, because most people they met assumed that they were soon to be married. Their relationship was just not that type of relationship.
Now that the field work on the farm was done for the year, they began to see each other more regularly again meeting in Osage, Iowa. Sometime before Thanksgiving of 1946, she obtained a job as a bookkeeper for the Gilles Amusement Company in Osage. The Gilles Amusement Company was owned by William and Theresa (Seibert) Gilles. Their place of business was located in Osage, only about two blocks from the roller skating rink. The Gilles Company marketed Wurlitzer wall boxes. These wall boxes were usually located on the wall at tables in restaurants. These Wurlitzer wall boxes were connected with a large Wurlitzer juke box which was centrally located in the restaurant. The wall boxes contained a coin slot and lists of popular songs. Patrons in the restaurant could simply drop a nickel in the slot of the wall box at their table and press the right keys indexing their favorite song and the Wurlitzer jukebox would begin playing that song.
To facilitate her new job, the eldest son’s new girl friend had moved out her parents’ home and had obtained a room in a boarding house in Osage. She also had purchased her own car—rather she purchased the 1940 Ford Deluxe Tudor Sedan that had been her parent’s car. Her parents purchased one of the new 1947 Ford Super Deluxe Fordor Model 73B Sedans from the Charles City Motor Company the local Ford dealership. The new 1947 Fords were introduced in the fall of 1946 and this new car was one of the first that had been delivered to the dealership.
His new girl friend bubbled over with enthusiasm, when she told the eldest son about her new job. Working at the Gilles Amusement Company, she had become familiar with the Billboard magazine. This magazine tried to cover all events in the entertainment industry in the nation—including recent movies and all live shows at state and county fairs across the nation. Mr. Gilles subscribed to this magazine and, indeed, advertised his Wurlitzer wall boxes in that magazine. She found that Billboard magazine was fascinating and looked forward to each new issue which arrived in the mail at the workplace. Mr. Gilles, often, did not have time to read the latest Billboard and encouraged her to read this magazine and tell him anything new that was in the magazine.
Also during the short period of time that she had been living in Osage she had already made some new friends. One of her closest new friends was a young woman that worked as the stenographer for the Osage theater. Another of her new friends was a woman that worked as a salesperson at the local music store. Their employment in the local “entertainment industry” brought them together with a common interest.
She and the eldest son of our Nevada Township farmer continued roller skating on the weekends. They also continued to see movies at the Osage theater. In the early in 1945, back during her senior year in high school while the eldest son was away in the Pacific, she had seen the movie Janie, which had been released on September 2, 1944. This was a movie about the adventures of Janie Conway, a small town “bobbie soxer.” Joyce Reynolds starred as Janie Conway, the “bobbie soxer.” She had enjoyed the move a great deal and identified with the character of Janie Conway. Now, because of her new job, she heard that a sequel to that movie had just made. The sequel was called Janie Gets Married which had been released on June 22, 1946. She wanted very much to see the sequel. During the fall of 1946, she stayed in regular contact with her friend—the stenographer at the local theater, just to find out when the sequel would be coming to Osage.
Over Thanksgiving our Nevada Township farmer’s eldest son was able to bring his girl friend to Nevada Township to meet his parents. It was a good time. The Thanksgiving dinner was tremendous success with turkey, cranberries, home-grown Blue Hubbard squash, home-grown mashed potatoes and giblet gravy—Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. Thanksgiving was an anniversary of sorts. Both sons had been home for one whole year. With the sale of the soybeans having been so successful his father split the profits with his two sons and gave them each a nice big check during Thanksgiving. He promised that more would come their way when he sold some Suffolk ewes in December and more money when they shelled the corn in February or March of 1947.
With the crops all harvested, our Nevada Township farmer considered his position. He was starting to feel secure that soybeans could be a major cash crop that could be relied on even in peacetime. However, he still felt that he needed to control the harvest. Accordingly, in the winter of 1946-1947, our Nevada Township farmer began to think about using some of the money he had made from the 1946 soybean crop to modernizing his farming operation, once again. If he could obtain his own combine, he would no longer have to depend on the schedule of hired combines to get his soybean crop harvested.
He was aware that, following the introduction of the small Allis-Chalmers Model 60 All Crop Harvester in 1929 (See the article on this blog entitled “Navy bean farming in Michigan Part III,” contained at this website.), a number of other farm equipment companies, e.g. John Deere, Massey Harris, and Case had introduced their own small combines. Of course all of these combines had been unavailable during the war. Now, however, these small combine were all becoming available again. Furthermore he had, recently, heard that the Oliver Farm Equipment Company was introducing its own small combine—the Model 15 Grainmaster combine.
During a visit to Thill Implement in Rose Creek in February of 1947, he had seen one of these had one of the new Oliver Model 15 Grainmaster combines in the inventory of the dealership. Like the previous Grainmaster combines, this new Model 15 was being produced at the old Nichols and Shepherd Company Thresher Works in South Bend, Indiana. (This Thresher Works was now designated as South Bend No. 1, to differentiate it from South Bend No. 2, the new Oliver Company engine plant. This new engine plant was built complete with a new foundry and molding works for making the cast-iron blocks of the new Oliver engines.)
The Model 15 Grainmaster was one of the new small “straight through” style of combines that were becoming popular in the post-war era. The Grainmaster Model 15 had a six-foot cutterbar/feeder and a full-width cylinder positioned directly behind the feeder. The grain crop was harvested and taken directly into the combine, where it was threshed. The grain did not have to travel through any 90º turns on its convoluted way through the combining process, as it did with the older style combines like his neighbor’s Model 10 Grainmaster. Because of this straight thru design, the forward motion of the combine would dump the straw back onto the ground in almost exactly the same location where it had been before the whole process had begun. Because of this simplicity, the straight-through style combines were more efficient and saved more grain than older style combines.
The salesman at Thill Implement noted that this particular Model 15 combine was one of the new power take-off versions of the Model 15 Grainmaster. The salesman informed our Nevada Township farmer that, initially, the Model 15 combine had been offered only with its own four cylinder—an engine supplied to Oliver by the Continental Motors Company of Muskegon Michigan. Fitted with a four-cylinder Continental engine, the Model 15 Grainmaster had a suggested retail price of $1,800. However, the new power take-off version of the Model 15 carried a suggested retail price of only $1,360. The particular Model 15 combine that our Nevada Township farmer saw at Thill Implement was also mounted on rubber tires. These rubber tires added to the modern appearance of the Model 15 Grainmaster.
Our Nevada Township farmer thought of how having a combine of his own would free him from the dependence on all custom combining operations. He would be able to harvest the soybeans (and his oats) when the crop was at the proper degree of dryness rather than have to wait for his name to work its way to the top of the list of customers for his neighbor’s custom combining operation. Our Nevada Township farmer had other reasons for liking the Model 15 combine. One of these reasons was the fact that the Model 15 was a combine with a “low profile.” Unlike his neighbor’s Model 10 Grainmaster combine, the grain tank on the Model 15 did not depend on gravity to empty its contents into a wagon or grain truck. Rather the Model 15 was fitted with a special “auger style” tank unloading elevator. This power unloading elevator, allowed the designers of the Model 15 combine to position the 20-bushel grain tank much lower to the ground. Consequently, the overall height of the Model 15 combine was greatly reduced from the earlier Model 10 Grainmaster combine. Because of its low profile, our Nevada Township farmer would not have to build a special shed on his farm simply to store the Model 15. It would be easy to store this new small combine on his farm. Accordingly, he signed a sales agreement to purchase an Oliver Model 15 Grainmaster combine. The sales agreement with Thill Impliment also included the purchase of a new Innes Company windrow pickup attachment.
The new Model 15 combine would not only be used for the soybean crop in the late autumn, but would also be used to harvest his oat crop in mid-summer. Accordingly, there was a need for a windrow pickup attachment for the combine. Unlike the oats and wheat “out west” on the Great Plains, oats in the Midwest could not be harvested as a “standing crop.” Midwestern states received far more rain, on average, than the western states of the Great Plains. Accordingly, under normal conditions more grasses and weeds (green material) tended to grow up in the oat fields of the Midwest. Combining the oats or wheat while standing would allow the “green material” to pass into the combine where the green material would tend wrap around the threshing cylinder of combine, thus, preventing efficient threshing. The solution to this problem was to cut he grain and all the green material a day or so before combining. This would allow the green material to dry up completely under the hot summer sun. Once completely dry and “brown” the formerly “green” weeds and grass would no longer tend to wrap around the cylinder, but rather it would be crushed by the cylinder and then, pass harmlessly through the combine and exit the rear of the combine with the straw.
Therefore, in the Midwest, farmers cut their oats and folded the oats into a narrow “windrow.” Windrowing of the oat would begin before the oat crop was entirely ripened. The oats would lie in narrow windrow on top of the stubble of the oat field and finish drying. This last stage of drying in the windrow under the hot summer sum was called “sweating.” Lying on top of the stubble allowed air to get under the windrow for a thorough and quick drying process. Windrowing the oats would actually speed up the process of sweating.
To combine the windrowed oat crop, farmers in the Midwest needed to fit their combines with “windrow pickups.” Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer needed a windrow pickup for his new Model 15 combine. Oliver made their own standard equipment Oliver-built windrow pickup attachment for the Model 15 combine. However, the Thill Implement salesman related that instead of fitting the Model 15 combine with the standard equipment pickup attachment made for the Oliver Model 15 combine, the dealership now advised farmers to fit their new combines with a pickup attachment made by the Innes Company of Bettendorf, Iowa. (An article on the Innes Company of Bettendorf, Iowa was published in the May/June 2005 issue of Belt Pulley magazine and is now posted on the blog section of this website.) The salesman at Thill Implement related that the Innes Company was a company devoted entirely to the production of their own patented pickup attachment which could be mounted on many modern combines. The Innes pickup attachment was preferred by the Thill dealership rather than the standard equipment Oliver windrow pickup, because the Innes pickup was not as susceptible to the problem of “wrapping.”
The standard equipment windrow pickup made by the Oliver Farm Equipment Company had a series of revolving teeth which poked through a “stationary comb.” As the combine moved ahead along the windrow, the rotating teeth would actually lift the windrow up and over the pickup and into the feeder of the combine. Sometimes the teeth would pull some of the crop under the stationary comb where the crop would become wrapped around the axle of the pickup to which the teeth were attached. As the combine worked through out the day, more crop might be pulled under the stationary comb until the pickup became jammed and would not work properly. The farmer would then have to stop the combine and get down off the tractor and clean the wrapped crop out of the pickup.
The teeth on the Innes pickup protruded from a cylinder. In operation, the whole cylinder of the Innes pickup revolved—not just the teeth. Accordingly, there was no stationary “comb” which could catch the crop and start a wrapping problem. Our Nevada Township farmer was familiar with the wrapping problem of windrowed grain crops from watching his neighbor stopping, in the field, to un-plug the pickup of his Model 10 Grainmaster combine. Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer consented to inclusion of the Innes pickup attachment as a substitute for the Oliver pickup attachment. He felt that he was now set to take full advantage of oat harvest and soybean harvest in 1947.
Over the winter of 1946-1947, our Nevada Township farmer had been disappointed in the sale of his registered purebred Suffolk ewes. Ever since, 1943, sheep prices at the Hormel meat packing plant, in Austin, Minnesota, had been declining. Accordingly, farmers had been reducing the size of their flocks of sheep on their farms. The number of sheep in Mower County had fallen steadily since 1944. Whereas, in 1945, there had been 17,200 head of sheep in Mower County, one year later in 1946 there were now only 15,000. (Figures for 1947 would reflect that in the coming year sheep numbers in Mower County would decline still further to 13,600 head.) No wonder he could not sell any of his prize ewes. Everywhere, farmers were cutting back on the size of their flocks of sheep. The reduction in sales of ewes meant that our Nevada Township farmer did have much money to share with his sons.
Additionally, the sale of the 1946 corn crop also proved to be a disappointment. As always, our Nevada Township farmer allowed the ear corn to dry in the corn crib on his farm all winter long. Now in late-February of 1947, our Nevada Township farmer made arrangements with Ray Jacobson to shell his corn. The winter of 1946-1947 had been a mild winter with snow accumulating to about 6 inches which lasted until mid-February, 1947. The unseasonably warm temperatures of mid-February melted the remaining snow. Accordingly, Ray Jacobson arrived on the farm one day in late February with his Minneapolis-Moline “Shellmaster” corn sheller mounted on the back of a 1941 Ford “Cab Over Engine” (C.O.E.) Model 1 ½-ton truck with a 134 inch wheelbase. This corn sheller had also been bought through the Thill Implement dealership of Rose Creek and had been mounted on this Ford truck. As noted in an earlier article in this series, Thill Implement not only owned an Oliver franchise, but also owned a franchise from the Minneapolis-Moline Company to sell Minneapolis-Moline farm equipment. Indeed the major reason that John Peter Thill had obtained a Minneapolis-Moline franchise was because he wanted to sell the corn shellers that Minneapolis-Moline made.
Once the truck and sheller were positioned outside the alleyway of the double corn crib, the various sections of the “drag” line were connected to each other and extended the full length of the alleyway of the corn crib. When the bottom of the cribs were opened, dried ear corn would begin to flow out into the drag which would transport the corn to the sheller. The sheller itself was powered by the 239 c.i. flat-head V-8 engine in the truck. Developing 95 hp. this engine was sufficient to power the sheller. Ray make sure the transmission lever in the truck was in neutral. Then he would depress the foot clutch and engage the lever directing the power of the truck engine to the sheller. Then he would slowly release the foot clutch and the sheller came to life. Then Ray depressed the foot throttle until the cylinder on the sheller was turning at the correct operating speed of 800 rpm. to 815 rpm. Once he reached this speed he reach over on the dash board of the truck to lock throttle at that speed.
To shell out the entire double corn crib took all day with a break at noon time for dinner when they all went to the house to eat the large meal . As the ear corn in both sides was shelled out, our Nevada Township farmer stored away enough shelled corn in the granary on the farm to feed the chickens and pigs for an entire year. Depending on the current price and what he expected the future price to be, our Nevada Township farmer would either sell the rest to the Hunting elevator uptown in Lyle or he might save back more shelled corn to store in the grain bins over the alleyway of his corn crib. This shelled might be sold at a later date when the price of corn might be higher. This year he was carefully watching the price of corn.
Last July (of 1946) corn prices had reached a phenomenal $2.17 per bushel. However, since that time the price had fallen to $1.35 per bushel as an average for the month of January, 1947. Our Nevada Township farmer thought this decline in the price of corn was part of the long expected decline in all farm prices caused by the end of the war. He expected that the price of corn would continue to decline in the long-run. However, February of 1947 revealed a slight rise in prices to $1.49 per bushel. Thus, our Nevada Township farmer made up his mind to take advantage of this momentary upswing in the price of corn to sell all the corn he could spare just as soon as it was shelled. Expecting that prices would fall even more over the long term, our Nevada Township farmer felt lucky to catch this temporary increase in price. However, the price was still not as good as he might have expected and, once again, our Nevada Township farmer did not have as much money to share with his sons as he had expected. However, he felt sure his sons would recognize that the soybean harvest money had covered for the corn and the sheep. However, big changes were happening in the mind of his eldest son which would affect his plans.
Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota (Part I):
Suffolk Sheep Raising
Brian Wayne Wells
Mower County, Minnesota is located on the southern border of the State of Minnesota, adjacent to the State of Iowa. In 1941, Mower County was a predominately rural county. Topographically, Mower County is located in a transition area. Starting in western Mower County and extending into Freeborn County to the west the land becomes very flat. However the land in eastern Mower County and extending east into Fillmore County the land becomes increasingly more hilly. Additionally, the soil itself in the eastern part of Mower County is sandy and is not as rich as the darker humus soil in the western part of the county.
Located in the extreme southwest corner of Mower County was Lyle Township. Immediately, to the east of Lyle Township was Nevada Township. In 1941, on one particular farm in Nevada Township, lived a man and his wife and two adult sons. Our Nevada Township farmer had lived on this farm all his life. Indeed, his parents had owned and operated this same farm before him. As he had come of age on the farm, he had gradually taken over more responsibility for the farming operation from his parents. In 1919, he had married his wife and together they had moved into the same large house with his parents. In 1920, when his wife had become pregnant with their eldest son, his parents had decided to officially retire and move into Austin, the county seat of Mower County. Austin (1940 pop. 18,307) was located in the middle of Austin Township, northwest of Nevada Township and straight north of Lyle Township.
Like many farms in the Midwestern United States, the 160-acre farm on which our Nevada Township farmer and his family lived was “diversified farm.” Diversified farming operations were those farming operations that raised a variety of crops and animals rather than specializing in only one crop or one type of livestock. Faced with the typical market fluctuations for the various farm commodities, our Nevada Township farmer, like other diversified farmers sought to avoid “putting all his eggs in one basket.” Rather than growing only one cash crop or raising only one type of livestock on the farm, our Nevada Township farmer raised corn, oats and hay. And he milked dairy cows raised pigs, and had about 200 laying hens in his chicken house. In this way, he hoped that if there was a “softness” or decline in the price of one of these commodity markets, the other commodities would help him maintain a near stable cash income for the year.
Traditionally, corn was the main “cash crop” of the farming operation. However, not all of the corn could be sold for cash. Some of the corn had to be retained on the farm for animal feed. First there were the cattle. In late August, while the corn was still green, a portion of the corn would be chopped and blown into the silo to be fed as “ensilage” to the dairy cows during the winter time. The rest of the corn was allowed to ripen and the ears of the corn were harvested in October or November each year.
Currently, there was a neighbor that did custom corn picking for many farmers in the neighborhood. This neighbor had recently purchased a Wood Brothers Company one-row pull-type corn picker which he used to do the “custom picking in the neighborhood. Our Nevada Township farmer hired this neighbor each year to pick the corn on his farm. (Years later another family living in Nevada Township, the Greg and Anita Ferrell family, might have been neighbors of our Nevada Township farmer. Greg Ferrell is the proprietor of a business dealing in antique tractor parts. With an inventory consisting of a large number of International Harvester and Farmall tractor parts, Greg Ferrell has attracted the attention of a number of collectors of Farmall tractor collectors including the present author, who has purchased a number of parts from Greg for the Wells family’s growing collection of antique tractors in the years since 2016 after meeting Greg at the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet held on April 22, 23 & 24th of 2016 .)
Once the corn was harvested, the ear corn was placed in the corn crib where it was allowed to dry all winter in the cold dry air. In February or March following the harvest the dried most of the ear corn was shelled. A portion of the ear corn retained on the farm and was ground in the feed grinder—cob and all—to become feed for the milking cows. The cobs in the cow feed provided a certain amount of roughage for the cattle. Our Nevada Township farmer provided an additional scoopful of this ground corn to each lactating cow at each milk time. This small amount of ground corn fed to the lactating cows twice a day allowed the extra calories that the cows needed to continue supplying milk. Furthermore, since most of the cows were also pregnant, the additional calories in the ear corn also supported the growing unborn calf the cow was carrying.
Part of the ear corn that was shelled each February or March would be stored in the granary to be used as animal feed on the farm. A portion of the shelled corn would be ground in a feed grinder and fed to the feeder pigs. Grinding the shelled corn in a feed grinder allowed the pigs to digest the corn easier and more efficiently. The concentrated calories in corn quickly brought the feeder pigs up to market weight. Another portion of the corn retained on the farm each year would be fed to the chickens along with some oats. The calories in corn and the protein in oats would provide a balanced diet for the chickens and kept their egg laying at a maximum. Because chickens have gizzards, which can digest very coarse food, both the shelled corn and the oats could be fed to the chickens without grinding or other processing.
Our Nevada Township farmer would blend in some oats when grinding the cow feed. Oats contained less calories and more protein than corn. Accordingly, the cow feed was not as rich in calories as was the pig feed. Our Nevada Township farmer did not want the dairy cattle to become fat—like beef cattle. He wanted a balanced diet. The milking cows needed more roughage and protein than they needed concentrated calories. They did not need to put on a great deal of weight like pigs or beef cattle.
Even after sufficient corn had been retained on the farm for all these animals, a large amount of shelled corn remained. All of this remaining corn would be sold to the Hunting Company grain elevator in the small village of Lyle, Minnesota (1940 pop. 513), located about 9 miles to the southwest of the farm in neighboring Lyle Township. This corn supplied a large part of the cash income for his farming operation each year.
When our Nevada Township farmer had taken over control of the farming operation from his parents in 1920, horses provided the power for field operations, exclusively. Accordingly, in addition to feeding the cows, pigs and chickens on his farm, a great portion of the oats and hay, he raised on the farm fed the horses he used on the farm. Accordingly, one field on the farm had been set aside for raising hay for the horses and the dairy herd. Although the horses were used primarily only in the summer, they had to be fed all year long. Additionally, another field had to be set aside each year for the raising oats for feed for the horses, cattle, pigs and chickens on the farm.
He had been aware, for some time, that he could increase the efficiency of his farming operation by mechanizing the power source on his farm. Subsequently in 1940, Our Nevada Township farmer obtained a used 1937 Oliver/Hart-Parr Model 28-44 tractor. This tractor was also called the “3-5 plow tractor.” The tractor was a “used” tractor, but was only three (3) years old. The Model 28-44 certainly was a great improvement to his farming operation. The tractor performed all the heavy duty field work such as plowing and discing much more quickly than with horses. Previously, these heavy duty field tasks had required the use of four or six horses harnessed together. As time went by, our Nevada Township farmer even began using the Model 28-44 for lighter duty field work. He had shortened the tongue on his Oliver/Superior horse-drawn two-row corn planter so that he could use the tractor to pull the planter across the field in the spring. Our Nevada Township farmer found that he was able to reduce the number of work horses he kept on the farm. Soon the only field task, which he not able to perform with his Model 28-44 tractor was the cultivation of corn. As a “standard” or “four-wheeled” tractor, the Model 28-44 was not configured to be fit with a cultivator. Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer had to retain some of his horses for this single field task—the cultivation of corn.
(As published in the March-April 1996 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)
Threshing shows are appealing because of the opportunity they offer to step back into the past. At these shows, most public attention is usually given to the threshing machines being powered by an un-styled tractor of the pre-World War II era as opposed to a styled tractor from the post-war era. When un-styled tractors are used, amateur photographers can often position themselves away from the crowd and take pictures that look like they could have been taken in the 1930s. Anything that adds a 1930s touch to a threshing scene will appeal to the public.
Generally, at the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show in LeSueur, Minnesota only modern hayracks built for hauling bales have been employed for hauling bundles of grain to the threshers. These hayracks, with their rubber tires and lack of side supports and front standards, are of a design that definitely date from the post-World War II baled-hay era. In recent years, one touch that added authenticity to the threshing scene at the LeSueur Show, was the bundle wagon built by Dennis Waskovsky of Faribualt, Minnesota. The Waskovsky bundle wagon, with its steel wheels, side supports, and front and rear standards, was a definite addition to the show. Because it was the only authentic bundle wagon at the LeSueur Show, the Waskovsky wagon was moved from thresher to thresher to allow authentic photos to be taken.
Currently, there is a definite need for more “pre-war” style bundle wagons. To make the matter even more urgent, the Waskovsky wagon was heavily damaged at the 1995 Show when a strong gust of wind picked it up and flipped it over on its top. Although Dennis Waskovsky is rebuilding the bundle wagon, interest was kindled for the addition of other genuine bundle wagons. One such bundle wagon which could be built is the “Larson wagon.”
Not much is known about Mr. Larson, the man who designed the wagon. Indeed, even Mr. Larson’s first name has been lost over the period of time since he was last contacted by members of the Hanks family in 1935.
The Larson wagon had a good reputation in Faribault county and southern Blue Earth County, Minnesota, as being a very strong and dependable hayrack/bundle wagon. Building a Larson wagon would not only serve to add authenticity to the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show, but would preserve another small part of the history of rural Faribault and Blue Earth Counties.
The story of the Larson wagon first intersects with the family of Fred Marshall Hanks starting in 1919. Fred Marshall Hanks had farmed his parents’ farm in Verona Township, Faribault County, near Winnebago, Minnesota, since the untimely death of his father on January 11, 1916. Indeed, he had gradually taken over more and more of the operation of the farm long before that time. He had married Jeanette More Ogilvie from Pilot Grove Township in Faribault County on October 13, 1889, and together they moved into the Hanks farm house with his parents. They had a son, Howard Bruce Hanks, on October 7, 1895. Three other sons would follow: John Stanley, on July 27, 1902; Harlan David, on February 21, 1905; and Kenneth Warner, on December 16, 1908. The Hanks family operated a diversified farm, like most others in Verona Township, raising oats, wheat, corn, and hay. The livestock consisted of a milking herd, sheep, hogs, and chickens. Fred Marshall’s father was a master at woodworking, and put this skill to work in a profitable way, building many of the barns in Verona Township and the surrounding area. In 1900, the Hanks family purchased the 40-acre Baldwin farm which bordered the Hanks farm to the east and moved the Baldwin barn to the Hanks farm building site where it became the “bull barn.” The Baldwin house was also moved to the Hanks farm where it became a woodworking shop.
Fred Marshall was not interested in woodworking, as was his father. His interest was consumed in farming. He loved farming and was constantly looking for ways to improve his methods of farming. In 1900, as he began to assume more responsibilities of the farm, Fred Marshall gradually began changing the dairy from a cross-bred herd to a purebred Polled Shorthorn herd, schooling himself on the proper traits to develop in an animal for purebred livestock. A 1904 advertising card (which still exists in the possession of Fred’s son Harlan Hanks) shows that by 1904 Fred Marshall was not only raising his own stock, but was selling purebred Polled Shorthorn cattle and purebred Duroc hogs to other farmers in the area. By 1910, his reputation had grown to the point that buyers of purebred cattle and/or purebred hogs showed up on the Hanks farm on a regular basis from across the nation to buy breeding stock.
One day in 1919, a farmer by the name of Larson, from Frost, Minnesota, arrived on the Hanks farm to buy one of the purebred Polled Shorthorn bulls. During the conversation, Mr. Larson divulged that he had devised a new design for a horse-drawn hayrack/bundle wagon. His “Larson” hayracks were made with curved pieces of metal which served as supports for the sides of the hayrack. These metal supports connected the sides of the hayrack with the floor.
The sides of earlier hayrack/bundle wagon had been supported by 2 x 4 vertical pieces of wood which were attached to the floor of the wagon. When this design was found to be too flimsy, diagonal pieces of wood were added to the vertical sides, connecting the sides to the floor at two separate locations about a foot from the outside edge, thus making the wagon stronger because of the triangle that was formed by the support with the floor of the wagon. However, these diagonals interfered with the men working inside the hayrack unloading loose hay or bundles of wheat or oats with a pitchfork. The solution to this problem, followed by some hayrack designs, was to have the vertical side supports protrude beneath the level of the floor of the hayrack and to connect the triangulation diagonals from the bottoms of the vertical side supports to the underside of the floor of the hayrack. The bothersome diagonals were then under the floor of the rack. This was a better design, but still farmers found that the side supports interfered with any work that had to be done under the wagon, such as removing a wheel on the wagon gear to grease the axle. The metal supports in the Larson-designed hayrack were the key to the design that made the Larson hayrack/bundle wagon unique. They eliminated the need for any triangulation support either above or beneath the floor of the hayrack. This made for a much lighter and cleaner designed hayrack.
Based on this design with the metal supports, Mr. Larson made hayracks for use on his own farm. His neighbors, having seen the benefits of his design, had requested that he build hayracks of the same style for them or that he provide them with the metal supports so that they could build the hayracks themselves. As a consequence, the Larson design became quite popular around the Frost area of Faribault County. Continue reading The “Larson” Bundle Wagon→
Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4
A McCormick-Deering Little Genius Plow at Work in
Dryden Township, Sibley County, Minnesota
(Part 1 of 2 Parts)
Brian Wayne Wells
(This is a new article that was never published in
Belt Pulley Magazine)
The more a person works at restoration of an old farm tractor or a farm implement the more one begins to ponder the history of that farm implement. One wonders, who originally purchased the farm implement. What kind farming operation was the implement used for? If curiosity is sufficiently aroused the person restoring the tractor or implement may start making telephone calls back to the person who sold the tractor and may start attempting to establish a chain of ownership of the tractor or implement back to the original owner. However, the process of establishing the chain of ownership can be extremely difficult as time passes and memories fade. Furthermore, when purchases of tractors and farm implements are made, as many are, at swap meets and/or auctions and when such purchases are made for cash from individuals unknown, the chain of ownership can be extremely difficult to reconstruct. (Just how difficult it is to start reconstructing the history of a tractor when time passes is described in the two-part series of articles contained in the July/August 2008 and November/December 2008 issues of Belt Pulley magazine which deal with a 1937 Farmall Model F-20 tractor.) Thus, it is often important to collect history of a particular tractor or implement at the point of sale or at least collect telephone numbers to call back at a later date.
Such pondering over the history of the history of a particular implement was particularly true during the restoration of one particular McCormick-Deering Little Genius 2-bottom plow with 14″ bottoms. (The actual restoration of this plow is described in the article carried on page 11 of the September/October 1994 issue of Belt Pulley magazine [Vol. 7, No. 5. This article is called “The McCormick-Deering Little Genius Plow” and has also been posted on this website.) This particular plow was purchased by Mark Wells at the 1993 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet. Luckily, Mark Wells had written down the name and address of the seller of the plow–Larry Hiles of rural Arlington, Minnesota.
Contact was established with Larry Hiles in 1995. Larry Hiles was living in Arlington Township in Sibley County. The homestead was located just south of the village of Arlington. This particular Little Genius plow had been discovered by Larry Hiles parked in the grove of trees that formed the wind break for this homestead. The farm on which the homestead was located had been originally owned by Earl Nagel. While living on the farm, Earl Nagel was actively engaged in farming the land. In about 1956, the homestead on the farm was sold to Raymond Kraels, who was a rural mail carrier. Raymond Kraels was not actively engaged in farming the land. On July 12, 1974, Delmar and Bonnie Mae (Kopishke) Trebesch rented and moved onto the homestead on the Nagel/Krael farm. During the years that the Trebesch family lived on the farm, they had a large garden. The garden was so big that they needed a tractor plow to turn the soil of the garden at the conclusion of each growing season. Accordingly, sometime after moving onto the farm, Delmar Trebesch purchased a McCormick-Deering Little Genius 2-bottom plow at a local farm auction. This was the same McCormick-Deering Little Genius plow that was later sold by Larry Hiles to Mark Wells at the 1993 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet and became known as the “Trebesch plow.”
As described in the article in the September/October 1994 issue of Belt Pulley, cited above, this particular Little Genius plow was fitted with 14 inch bottoms and originally had been a steel wheeled plow fitted with McCormick-Deering’s own “round-spoke” steel wheels. However, the front wheels on this particular plow had been cut down and rims for rubber tires had been welded onto the round spokes of the front wheels. As noted in the above-cited article, although the “furrow wheel” on the right side of the plow had been fitted with a rim for a 6.00 x 16 inch rubber tire, the land wheel on the left side of the plow was fitted with a rim for a 4.75 x 19 inch tire. This seemed a rather odd pairing of tires sizes for the front of the plow. If a farmer were having the steel wheels of the plow cut down to mount rubber tires on his plow, why would he not make the tires on both sides of the plow the same size?
Before the Second World War very few farm implements were sold from the factory with rubber tires. Nonetheless, as noted in the 1994 article, the International Harvester Company (IHC) had been offering the Little Genius plow to the farming public with the option of rubber tires as early as the 1930s. Rubber tires were not a common option on the Little Genius plow in the pre-world War II era. However, during the “pre-war” era, IHC had a contract with the French and Hecht Company (F.& H.) of Davenport, Iowa, to supply rims for all the rubber-tired equipment sold under the McCormick-Deering name. Pursuant to this contract, F.& H. supplied their familiar “round spoke” wheel rims to IHC. When the option of rubber tires were requested on the Little Genius plow, IHC fitted the plow with a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel.
This followed the design pattern of the original steel-wheeled Little Genius plow, in which the land side wheel was bigger in diameter that the furrow wheel. The reason for this wheel configuration was that the land wheel was the wheel connected to the clutch of the plow. The clutch on the land wheel was the mechanism that lifted the entire plow out of the ground when the trip rope was pulled at the end of the field. Consequently, it was thought that a larger diameter wheel was needed to provide the traction and leverage necessary to pull the plow out of the ground in some heavy soil conditions where the surface of the ground was slippery. This was the situation when plowing succulent green vegetation (green fertilizer) into the soil. The land wheel rolling along on the vegetation could become slippery from the succulent plant life crushed under the land wheel. Then when the trip rope in pulled the land wheel might slide along the surface of the ground rather than continuing to turn and lifting the plow out of the ground. Accordingly, it was decided that the land wheel should be larger in diameter so as to provide more leverage when the clutch was engaged to pull the plow out of the ground. As a result, the steel-wheeled version of the Little Genius plow was fitted with a 30 inch steel wheel on the land wheel side of the plow and a 24 inch steel wheel on the furrow wheel side of the plow.
Thus, when the optional rubber tires were installed on the Little Genius plow at the factory in Canton, Illinois, the plow was fitted with a land wheel and tire of a larger diameter than the furrow wheel of the plow. During the immediate pre-war era, the 6.00 x 16 inch tire was becoming the most commonly used tire on automobiles. However, the 4.75 x 19 inch tire was also a well-known and popular size tire, it was the size of tire that was used on the very popular Ford Model A car. Thus, the configuration of a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel became the standard configuration for Little Genius plows sold with rubber tires before the Second World War. A 1941 picture of the showroom of the Johnson Bros IHC Dealership of Taylorsville, Illinois bears this out. In the foreground of the picture is a new rubber-tired version of the Little Genius plow with a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel side of the plow.
During the Second World War hardly any rubber was available for civilian use. Consequently, IHC reverted to steel wheels on its new farm equipment. Some time during the Second World War, the contract with F.& H. was terminated and IHC signed another supply contract for rims with the Electric Wheel Company of Quincy, Illinois. The wheels provided by the Electric Wheel Company were “disc-type” wheels. Thus, the “post-war” McCormick-Deering Little Genius plow becomes distinguishable from the “pre-war” Little Genius plow fitted with rubber tires, in that disc-type wheels characterized post-war Little Genius plows and F.& H. round-spoke wheel rims characterized pre-war Little Genius plows fitted with rubber tires. Thus, when cutting down the steel wheels of the Trebesch plow, someone had done a lot of work to make the plow appear as though it came from the factory as a rubber tired plow during the pre-war era.
By 1974, when Delmar Trebesch ended up being the highest bidder on this particular “Little Genius” plow, the increased size of the average farming operation and the larger equipment used on the average farm had definitely made this two-bottom tractor trailing plow into an “antique” from a bygone era. However, there was a time when this particular Little Genius plow had been a new object of attention for a particular farmer looking to modernize his farming operation. Continue reading Egg Raising in Dryden Township, Sibley County Minnesota (Part 1)→
Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4
An Allis-Chalmers Two-Row Mounted Corn Picker at Work
by Brian Wayne Wells
(As published in the May/June 2007 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine)
Throughout the 1930’s in southern Minnesota, wheat production was on the decline as a cash crop on the average family farm. (This declining trend in wheat production is alluded to in the article called “The Rinehardt/Christian/Boehne Model E Thresherman Special” contained in the March/April 2007 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) Taking the place of wheat as the primary cash crop on the average farm was corn. Corn was preferred as a cash crop to replace wheat because corn had a dual use on the average family farm. Corn could serve as a cash crop, but could also serves as a feed crop for live stock which could then be sold by the farmer. On the “diversified” farms which were common in southern Minnesota, pigs and/or beef cattle were raised on the farm together with corn and other crops. The perfect ideal of the diversified farm was that when pork prices rose higher than corn prices, the number of pigs could be increased and the corn raised on the farm could shifted quickly to feed for the pigs. Likewise, when pork prices fell in comparison to corn, the pigs might be sold off to save the corn for direct sale on the market.
One county in south-central Minnesota where this dynamic was at work was Nicollet, County. In 1921, Nicollet County farmers had planted and harvested 31,065 acres of wheat. By 1931, this figure had fallen to only 13,800 acres. During the same period of time, total corn acreage in the county had risen from 46,716 acres in 1921 to 62,600 acres in 1931. As one might expect, this increase in corn acreage was also accompanied by a parallel increase in the hogs raised in Nicollet County. In 1929, there were already 51,000 head of hogs in Nicollet County. Over the following decade this number increased by 45.1% to 74,000 head in 1939.
However, whether used as a cash crop or as a feed crop, growing corn plants needed special treatment, not required for small grains like wheat and oats. As a row crop, corn needed much cultivation during the summer months to control weeds that might grow up in the corn field and steal the moisture and soil ingredients that were needed for the corn crop. Long after the development of the internal combustion tractor, cultivation of row crops was still a task that had to be done with horses. The reason was that the first tractors were of a “four-wheel” or a “standard” configuration or design. As such these tractors were unable to straddle the row crops in the field in order to be fitted with any kind of cultivating device. However, in 1924 the “Farmall” tractor was introduced by the International Harvester Company. The Farmall tractor had a “tricycle” design and was specifically designed for cultivation of row crops. The Farmall was able to provide all the power needs of the farm; thus, its name—Farmall. The Farmall was a great sales success from the very beginning. Soon all the other major tractor manufacturers were scrambling to come out with their own renditions of the tricycle style Farmall.
The Allis Chalmers Manufacturing Company was no different. Their first foray into the field of row crop tractors was in 1930 with the introduction of the Model UC tractor. However, production of the Model UC was soon overshadowed following the introduction of the improved Model WC row-crop tractor in 1933. In 1934, the first full year of production, the WC outsold all other Allis Chalmers tractors. The Model WC tractor went on to become a very popular sales item for the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company. There was a huge demand among North American farmers for the Model WC tractor. By 1935, one business located in St. Peter, Minnesota (1930 pop. 4,811), the county seat of Nicollet County, was already trying to position itself to take full advantage of this growing demand within Nicollet County. This business was the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership in St. Peter.
The dealership was born in about 1914, when Henry Bernard Seitzer left his parent’s (William and Mary [Borsch] Seitzer) farm in Oshawa Township, Nicollet County, to seek his future in the county seat. He started a automobile repair garage in St. Peter called the H.B. Seitzer garage. Soon Henry was selling automobiles from his garage. It was an opportune time for him for three major reasons. Firstly, the automobile was just starting to become a popular item with the American public. Henry was getting into the automobile business on the bottom floor at just the right time. Secondly, although, at first, Henry Seitzer was selling cars of all makes and models, he soon signed an exclusive dealership franchise agreement with the Ford Motor Company. In the decade of the 1920s, sales of Ford’s Model T skyrocketed. The Model T was a very inexpensive car to purchase, and everybody wanted one. By signing this agreement in 1915, to sell only to Ford cars and, in exchange, becoming the only Ford dealership in the area, Henry Seitzer was able to ride the immense popularity of the Ford Model T to success in business.
The third major advantage that Henry Seitzer had going for him was that St. Peter was going through a period of strong growth just as the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership was hitting its stride. In particular, in the 1930s, while neighboring LeSueur County had grown by only 6.9% in population between 1930 and 1940 and while neighboring Sibley County had experienced growth of only 4.8% in the same period, Nicollet County had underwent a population growth of 10.5% during the 1930’s. Furthermore, St. Peter, itself, experienced a 22.0% growth in municipal population during this period of time. This rapid growth of population brought even more buyers to the doors of the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership.
Under these favorable conditions, Henry Seitzer’s business began to flourish. In the eleven years from 1916 to 1927, Seitzer’s sold an incredible 1,550 Model T automobiles. With introduction of the Model A Ford in 1928, sales at the H.B. Seitzer continued to be brisk. Just two years into the production run of the Model A, the dealership had already sold 280 Model A cars. (Robert Wettergren, A Little Bit of Heaven in St. Peter [St. Peter, Minnesota 2001] p. 13-14.)
In 1917, Henry felt secure enough in his new business that he could start a family. That year, he married an Oshawa Township girl, Kathryn Austa Boys, daughter of Frank and Mary (Kennedy) Boys. Together they rented a house in St. Peter located at 429 W. Nashua Street.
In 1919, Kathyrn’s parents, Fred and Mary Boys, retired from farming, sold their farm in Oshawa Township and bought a house at 311 W. Pine Street in St. Peter. Their 21-year-old son, Russel Boys moved into the Pine Street house. Later they rented part of the large house to Henry and Kathryn Seitzer and their new infant daughter Marjorie. In 1921, Henry Seitzer took his brother-in-law, Russel, into the car dealership as a partner. Signing the agreement with the Ford Motor Company in 1915, the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership located at 311 South Front Street in St. Peter was to become one of the oldest Ford dealerships in the state of Minnesota.
The Model T brought the automobile within the economic reach of the common man. This was a revolution in transportation that drastically changed the face of North America. The Ford Motor Company created another such revolution in the agricultural industry with the introduction of the Fordson farm tractor. Throughout the 1920s, explosive sales of the small 2,710-pound Fordson tractor sent a panic through all the larger more established farm tractor manufacturers and caused them to scramble to introduce newer, smaller, less expensive farm tractors. As the exclusive dealership for the St. Peter area, the H.B. Seitzer dealership was also benefiting from this revolution in agriculture. Prior to 1930 the dealership had also sold 85 Fordsons to the farmers in the St. Peter community. As the corporate ties between the Ford Motor Company and the Wood Brothers Threshing Machine Company grew, the H. B. Seitzer dealership started selling Wood Bros. threshers also. (The history of the Wood Bros. Threshing Machine Company is described in the two part series of articles contained in the November/December 2000 and January/February 2001 issues of the Belt Pulley magazine.)
From the very beginning, however, the rural farming public was demanding a wider range of farm machinery than was available than the Ford Motor Company could offer. To meet this demand, the H. B. Seitzer dealership, obtained a franchise from the Oliver Farm Equipment Company to sell the entire line of Oliver farm implements. Oliver had only recently become a full-line farm equipment company as a result of the merger in 1929 of the Hart-Parr Gasoline Engine Company, the Nichols and Shepard Company, the American Seeding Machine Company and the Oliver Chilled Plow Works Company; into the new corporate entity called Oliver Farm Equipment Company. In the early 1930s, the franchise looked like a good fit for the H. B. Seitzer and Company dealership. The dealership vigorously advertised the Oliver farm equipment and tractors in the St. Peter Herald semi-weekly newspaper which appeared in St. Peter on Wednesday and Friday each week.
With corn raising on the increase in southern Minnesota, H.B. Seitzer and Company placed high hopes in the new Oliver Row Crop tractors which had been introduced in 1930. The dealership strongly emphasized the Oliver Row Crop tractor in their newspaper advertisements. Still, nationwide sales of the Oliver row crop tractors remained disappointing. In 1932, only 298 Oliver row crop tractors were sold. This was followed by only 420 Row Crops nationwide in 1933, only 811 Row Crops in 1934 and 2,460 in 1935. The H. B. Seitzer and Company dealership could not help but notice that the Allis-Chalmers Company was enjoying far greater success with its new row crop tractor—the Model WC tractor. In 1934, in its first full year of production, 3,098 Model WC tractors were sold, nationwide. The next year, 1935, production of WCs reached 10,743, nationwide.
The success of the Allis-Chalmers Model WC tractor, as opposed to the Oliver Row Crop tractor may have been related to price. The suggested retail price of the Oliver Row Crop tractor was $1,005.00. This was the bare tractor with steel wheels. The power take-off was an option that cost an additional $8.00. The suggested retail price of the Allis-Chalmers Model WC tractor, on the other hand, was $747.50. Even when the buyer added rubber tires on the front and on the rear, the price rose only to $925.00. Another reason for the low sales of the Oliver Row Crop tractor may have been the Oliver Company’s insistence on promoting their “Tip-Toe” design of steel wheels in the face of the growing demand for rubber tires on tractors. An H. B. Seitzer advertisement contained in the April 6, 1934 issue of the St. Peter Herald shows that the dealership was continuing to valiantly struggle to point out the advantages of the Tip-Toe rear wheels of the Row Crop tractor.
Eventually, however, the dealership came to the realization that rubber tires was definitely the trend of the future. With that realization, the attention of the dealership turned to the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As early as 1929, Allis-Chalmers had been the pioneer in mounting rubber tires on farm equipment—introducing both the Model U (standard) tractor and the original All-Crop Harvester combine on rubber tires in 1929. Like the Oliver Farm Equipment Company, the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company had also just finished a series of corporate mergers. By purchasing companies like the Monarch Tractor Company of Springfield, Illinois, which was bought in 1928; the LaCrosse Plow Company of LaCrosse, Wisconsin purchased in 1929; the Advance-Rumley Thresher Company of LaPorte, Indiana bought in 1931 and the Birdsell Company of South Bend, Indiana also purchased in 1931, the Allis-Chalmers Company was able to offer a full-line of farm equipment for the buying public. This series of corporate purchases, plus the purchase of the Brenneis Manufacturing Company of Oxnard, California in 1938, provided the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company immediately with additional tractor technology and factory works, a full line of sulky and tractor plows, a full line of threshers and other tillage and planting farm equipment. Thus, when the Allis-Chalmers sales representative showed up in St. Peter in the spring of 1935, to sell a franchise to the H. B. Seitzer and Company dealership; little actual persuasion was needed. Recognizing the advantages offered by the Allis-Chalmers full line of farm equipment, the H. B. Seitzer dealership signed a dealership franchise agreement to sell Allis Chalmers farm equipment. An advertisement in the July 24, 1935 issue of the St. Peter Herald proudly announced that H. B. Seitzer & Company was the new “distributor” of Allis-Chalmers farm equipment for the St. Peter area.
However, since neither the Allis-Chalmers franchise, nor the Oliver Company franchise were “exclusive” franchises, the H.B. Seitzer dealership held onto the Oliver franchise and became a dealer for both companies. This was a fortuitous combination of franchises for the H. B. Seitzer dealership. The dealership had found that the Oliver plow was superior to the Allis-Chalmers plow. Thus, the company started making package deals to farmer/customers which included the Allis-Chalmers Model WC tractor and the Oliver Plowmaster two-bottom plow.
The economic depression of the early 1930s created havoc with the whole economy of the United States. Many farmers lost their farms altogether. Recovery from the depression was agonizingly slow, but the mid-1930s, farmers throughout the St. Peter community had were starting to feel more secure in their economic situations and were even thinking of modernizing and improving their farming operations. One such farmer was Henry Juberien of Belgrade Township in Nicollet County which was adjacent to the southern border of Oshawa Township. Henry and Emma (Meyer) Juberien operated a 290 acre farm, eleven (11) miles to the west of St. Peter. They lived on the farm with their nine children—Marvin Peter born on September 29, 1915; Anna M. born on December 30, 1916; Louise S. born in December of 1918; Lorna E. born in 1919; Ruth M. born in June 17, 1920; Celia Agnes born in 1923; Henry Albert (nicknamed “Sam”) born on July 22, 1924; Elnor (nicknamed “Babe”) born on November 29, 1925; and Wallace born on December 30, 1929. Continue reading Allis-Chalmers (Part III): The Two-Row Mounted Corn Picker→
All farm machinery manufacturing companies depend heavily on their various franchisees and sales staff for the success of the company. The story of the sales component of any company consists of hundreds of small individual stories. The J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company is no exception to this rule. One thread in the continuing story of the sales component of the J.I. Case Company began on a farm in Carroll County, Iowa near the small town of Lanesboro on January 1, 1914. On that day, a second child, another son was born to Otto and Hazel (Coomes) Wetter. This son was named Duane E. Wetter. Duane joined the first born, Maurice, who had been born to the family in 1913. Later in 1916, a daughter, Winifred E., born to the family. The Wetter family operated the farm in Carroll County until 1917 when they purchased another farm in Redwood County, Minnesota. This farm was located in Woodbury, Township within Redwood County.
Just to the south of Woodbury Township lay Lamberton Township. Here on December 13, 1918, another thread in this same story, began with the birth of a fourth son, Merle to the family of John and Ella (Werner) Krinke. Both of Ella Krinke’s parents had immigrated to the United States from Prussia in Germany. While John’s father, Christian William Krinke, had also immigrated from Germany, his mother, Mary, had been born in Wisconsin. After living in Wisconsin, and near Rochester, Minnesota and near Blue Earth Minnesota, Christian and Mary (Adler) Krinke purchased a 320-acre farm three (3) miles northwest of the town of Lamberton, Minnesota in 1905. This was the farm where John Krinke grew up. In 1910, John and Ella had married. In 1912, a son, Darold was born to the couple. Then another son, Kenneth, was born in 1913. In 1914, upon the retirement of his parents, John and Ella took over total control of the farming operations. Meanwhile the family kept expanding. A third son, Donald was born in 1915. Following the birth of Merle in 1918, two daughters were born, Mildred in 1921 and Ruth in 1922. Finally, two more children, Robert born in 1925 and Betty born in 1929 rounded out the family of two parents and eight children.
On the 320-acre farm, John and Ella raised about 20 acres of rye, and 20 acres of wheat for cash crops. However, the family’s largest crop was about 100 acres of corn. Some of the corn was used as feed for the pigs and the beef cattle they also raised on the farm. However, 40-50 acres of the arable land on the farm had to be designated each year for the raising of oats to feed the many horses they used for power on the farm. As the older sons came of age, they helped their father with the field work. To effectively and efficiently operate this 320 acre farm took a lot of manpower and horsepower. As John’s sons grew up they helped their father with the work on the farm. The family had a five (5) horse hitch and a six (6) horse hitch which they employed when plowing in the fall and the spring. Including riding horses, the Krinke family at one point, owned and operated 22 horses on their farm. Additionally, the family milked 10 to 12 Milking Shorthorn cows twice a day as a part of their farming operations. Kenneth, who is currently living in Lamberton at the age of 93 years, remembers that he and his brothers each had to milk three (3) cows every morning before they headed off to school. The family also raised a substantial herd of Hereford beef cattle. Thus, another large portion of the arable land on the farm had to be set aside just for raising hay for pastures for the dairy cows, the beef herd and the horses.
Besides the substantial help provided by their boys, John and Ella still needed to hire on additional help during the busy threshing season. Sam Marburger, a bachelor farmer also living in Lamberton township had a 28” Altman-Taylor threshing machine and a steam engine that he used in the summer to perform custom threshing for other farmers in the neighborhood. By the time of the mid 1920s, farming had recovered to some degree from the post-World War I recession that had settled over the farming economy in 1921. At this time, John Krinke perceived that the work would progress much smoother during threshing season if the family had their own thresher. Accordingly, he paid a visit to Oscar Wiebold, the local J.I.Case Company dealer in Lamberton. Eventually he signed a purchase agreement for a 22” Case thresher and a crossmotor Case tractor to power the thresher. After a while they also purchased a tractor plow to be able to use the tractor in the fields as well as on the belt. Soon other neighbors were soliciting John and his sons to do the threshing on their farms also. So the family found that they could supplement their farm income with some income from custom threshing in the neighborhood. Later in the 1920s, the Krinke family obtained a Waterloo Boy tractor which was also used to power the thresher.
John continued to plant his corn with the horses and the wire check two-row corn planter. Wire checking meant that a wire with curls or “buttons” placed every 40 inches along the wire was stretched across the entire length of the field. The wire was then attached to a mechanism on the side of the planter. As the horses pulled the planter across the field, the buttons on the wire would cause the mechanism to trip both rows of the planter at the same time. Thus, not only were the rows planted 40 inches apart, but the “hills” of corn were planted 40 inches apart within the rows. This formed a perfect grid of hills in the corn field which allowed the corn to be cultivated “cross-wise” as well as length-wise. Accordingly, not only were all the weeds between the rows dug up and eliminated by the cultivator, but even the weeds between the hills within the rows were removed by “cross cultivating” the corn. Every year, corn farmers tried to cultivate every corn field on their farm three times—the first cultivation was conducted lengthwise, then the corn was cross-cultivated and finally the corn was cultivated once again in a lengthwise fashion. Cultivation of the corn, thus, required a great number of hours (or days) of work during the summer. No wonder then when a mechanical way of speeding up this summertime task was developed, farmers jumped at the chance to employ this newer method of getting the task done.
Exactly for this reason, John Krinke obtained another tractor. This tractor was a tricycle-style Farmall Model F-12 tractor. Besides moving faster in the field and having more endurance than horses, the F-12 was designed to be fitted with a two row cultivator. Thus, tractor cultivation of the corn could proceed at a rate of two rows at a time or twenty (20) acres in a single day as opposed to a mere six (6) or eight (8) acres a day when cultivating with the horses one row at a time. John Krinke was made aware of his need to save all the time in the fields as he could. In 1934, his oldest son, Darold got married and moved onto a farm of his own. In 1936, his second son, Kenneth did the same. In 1934, Donald had graduated from high school in Lamberton and had entered Minneapolis Business School.
Meanwhile, his fourth son, Merle, was also growing up. After obtaining an eighth grade education in a country school, Merle had enrolled in Lamberton High School for the “short course.” The short course was only three (3) months long and took place in the middle of the winter. The short course was designed for farm students who needed to help their parents on the farm during the spring and the fall of the year. Also attending these short courses at Lamberton High School was Duane Wetter. Although living in separate townships, the Wetter family and the Krinke family had become acquainted with each other at the Methodist Church in Lamberton. Originally, the Wetter’s had been attending another church in the community, but when that church suddenly burned down, they began attending the Methodist Church. In their first year on their new farm in Woodbury Township Otto and Hazel Wetter had added to their family with the birth of another son, Milo in 1918. Later, two more daughters, Zona in 1920 and Donna in 1923, were added to the family. Now during the short courses at Lamberton High School, the children of both families became more closely acquainted. Furthermore, in the fall of 1932 a new teacher moved to Lamberton from Amboy, Minnesota. This new teacher was Robert W. (Bob) Olson.
Bob Olson had a fairly active life. Born in 1893 in Sterling Township in Blue Earth County near the small town of Amboy, Minnesota (1900 pop. 432), Bob had served as a United States Army pilot during World War I. Coming home from the war in late 1918, he enrolled in school at the University of Minnesota and became a teacher. While at the University he met Mabeth Starrett. They fell in love and were married in 1920. Unable to find a teaching job, Bob and Mabeth moved back to the home farm of Bob’s parents in Amboy. Rural living was a new experience for Mabeth, but she soon adapted to life on the farm where she and Bob lived for a number of years. Two children were born to the young couple—a son, Bob S. Olson in 1924 and a daughter, Helen in 1926. Bob helped his father on the large family farm. However, in 1932, Bob was hired to teach an industrial arts class at the High School in Lamberton. Accordingly, Bob and Mabeth and their children moved to Lamberton. Among the students in Bob Olson’s industrial arts class during the winter months of the 1932-1933 school year was Merle Krinke. Although Duane Wetter had graduated from Lamberton High School on the previous June 2, 1932, he may well have met Bob Olson, anyway and Bob Olson might well have had an impact on the life of Duane Wetter. At any rate the lives of Bob Olson and Duane Wetter have some surprising parallels.
Like Bob Olson, upon graduating from high school, Duane went to Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul to further his education. He attended Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis and studied the new and growing technology of refrigeration. After finishing his studies at Dunwoody, Duane obtained employment at the Minnesota Department of Highways in 1939. That fall, war broke out in Europe. As the war stretched into its second year, United States’ involvement in the war seemed more likely all the time. Even before the United States became involved in the growing world war, Duane joined the war effort by journeying to Winnipeg, Canada, to join the Royal Canadian Air Force (R.A.F.) and became a pilot. He met and married Esther Else. Together they moved off to Sherbrook, Quebec, where Duane became a flight instructor of other prospective fighter pilots. While the couple was living in Sherbook, Esther became pregnant and gave birth to a son, Berwyn. In May of 1944, after the United States had become involved in the world war, Duane and many other American citizens serving as pilots in the Canadian R.A.F. took advantage of the agreement between Canada and the United States to transfer from the R.A.F. to the United States Army Air Corp. (Following the Second World War, the Army Air Corp would become an independent branch of the armed forces—the United States Air Force.) Thus, Duane was shipped out to Europe as a replacement pilot attached to the 316th U.S. Fighter Squadron of the 324th Fighter Group, stationed in Luneville, France. Thus just like Bob Olson a generation earlier, here was Duane Wetter serving as a pilot for the United States Army Air Corp in a war against the Germans and stationed in France.
Duane was assigned to a Republic Company-made P-47 (Thunderbolt) fighter and began flying combat missions on February 14, 1945. He would end the war as a survivor of seventy five (75) combat flight missions and also would win a number of decorations for valour during his service in Europe. Following the war, Duane stayed on in Europe to become part of the occupation forces stationed at Stuttgart, Germany. Duane was discharged from the military and was finally able to make his way back to Minnesota only in November of 1945.
In the meantime, Bob Olson had also impacted two other students in his short time at Lamberton High School. In the industrial arts class during that school year of 1932-1933 were Donald and Merle Krinke. During the fall and spring months, the Krinke boys were needed by their parents for help on the farm. However, during the “short course” held in during the winter months both Donald and Merle sought to further their education. During the short time that the boys knew Bob Olson in the winter of 1932-1933, Bob Olson made an impression on these boys that lasted far beyond their school days.
At the end of the school year, Bob Olson made a decision to leave teaching and take advantage of a business opportunity in Lamberton. He purchased a franchise from the J.I. Case Company to sell farm machinery in the rural area around Lamberton. This was 1933, starting a business at this time appeared to be a foolish decision. Business activity all across the nation was at a standstill because of the worst economic depression in the history of the United States. Bob’s outgoing personality and business sense were assets for his new business, but the biggest asset to his new business was the improvement in the economy. As 1933 gave way to 1934, the economy started to improve ever so slightly. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief and everybody began spending money again with more confidence in the future. Farmers, began once again to feel that there was a future in their occupation and began to purchase new farm equipment.
The dealership was housed together with a hardware store and a plumbing and heating business. However on the farm equipment side of his new business, Bob found that, more and more, that the row crop tractor was the single item of farm machinery that farmers wanted most. This made sense given the fact that corn was the primary crop grown in Redwood County. On average, 37.5% of all farm acreage in the county was growing corn. The second most produced crop in the county was oats—with 26.3% of all farm land in the county growing oats. However, oats and hay were grown on all farms largely as feed for the animals, in particular the horses that were used for power on the farms. If both hay (10.4% of all farm land) and oats were removed from consideration, corn then made up of 59.3% of all “cash crops” grown on the farms of Redwood County.
Small wonder then that Bob Olson found that the Case Model CC row crop tractor was in large demand by the farmers showing up at his new dealership. The row crop tractor was allowing farmers to mechanize all the farming operations on their farm especially the cultivation of corn. This meant that slow animal power could be done away with on the farm altogether. The decline in the number of horses in Redwood County, is shown in the decline in the amount of acreage devoted to oats in the county. In 1925, 123,000 acres of oats were harvested in Redwood County. On average, between 1925 and 1935 108.6 acres of oats were harvested each year in the county as a whole. However, starting in 1936, oats started to decline in importance—from 100,100 acres harvested in 1936; to 87,000 in 1938; to 84,100 acres in 1942 and finally to 79,500 acres in 1944. (To be sure, oat production made a recovery back up to an average of 103,800 acres for the period of time from 1945 to 1955. However this is due to the sudden rise of the egg production in Redwood County during the Second World War. In the immediate, post war period Redwood County became the home for 500,000 chickens who were laying upwards of 100 million eggs each year.)
Bob Olson sold a great number of Model CC tractors in the first years of his dealership. In 1936, he sold a Model CC to John Krinke. This particular Model CC was fitted with rubber tires front and rear on the tractor. Donald Krinke had graduated from Lamberton High School in 1933. In 1936, Merle Krinke also graduated from Lamberton High School. Like Duane Wetter, both of the Krinke boys also headed off to college in Minneapolis. Merle entered Augsburg College and later attended the University of Minnesota just as Bob Olson had done a generation earlier. Following his higher education in Minneapolis and no doubt under the influence, to some degree, of Bob Olson, Donald Krinke sought and obtained a job as the district manager for the J.I. Case Company in the area including Redwood and neighboring counties.
However, in 1940, with war clouds looming, and with the United States involvement in the Second World War looking increasingly likely, the U.S. Congress re-instated the Selective Service draft. Merle Krinke’s number was drawn in the draft lottery and it was a very low number, suggesting that he was soon to be drafted into the military. Not waiting for the draft, Merle quit school and enlisted. Perhaps, the influence of Bob Olson caused him to enlist in the Army Air Corps. The Army Air Corps unit to which Merle was attached was guarding the Panama Canal. Thus, in 1940, well before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Both Duane Wetter and Merle Krinke were involved in the spreading world war.
On December 7, 1941, the United States suddenly became involved in the world war. Merle re-enlisted and continued his service until 1945. In April of 1944, Merle was, however, permitted a 30 day leave from his military service. During this leave he returned to Lamberton, Minnesota. He had a good reason for wanting to return home at this time. He wished to get married. In the years, that he had known the Wetter family, he was attracted by Duane’s sister, Zona. They had begun seeing each other and writing each other while Merle was away in the service. Now, in 1944, while on his 30 day leave from the Air Corp, Merle and Zona had decided to marry. Thus, on April 8, 1944, they were married. All too soon, however, Merle had to return to Panama. Only at the end of the war in September of 1945 was he allowed to come home for good and resume married life. Upon his return from the military, Merle obtained a job at the the Myhere and Nelson Implement dealership in Montevideo, Minnesota. The Myhere and Nelson dealership owned the J.I. Case Company franchise for the area around Montevideo and surrounding Chippewa County. Montevideo was located on the Minnesota River about 60 miles to the northwest of Lamberton. Merle commuted to his new job while continuing to live in Lamberton. After only a very short time at his new job, in Montevideo, Merle became aware of an opportunity to open a new Case dealership in another town.
With the lifting of the wartime restrictions on the economy of the United States a huge pent-up demand for new farm machinery was unleashed. Having been unable to purchase new farm machinery all during the Second World War, farmers now poured into local dealerships to buy up the machinery that was now becoming available. Furthermore, the prices of farm commodities had reached new highs as the North American farmer attempted to feed the armed forces which were spread around the world. Since the war, the farm machinery manufacturing companies were busy not only making the new machinery as fast as they could get re-tooled from their wartime production for the armed forces, but they were also in a rush to open as many outlets from which to sell the new machinery. Record numbers of new franchises were being sold by all the farm equipment manufacturers. At the Myhere and Nelson dealership in Montevideo, Merle Krinke heard about yet another Case franchise that was being offered to anyone that was willing to start a dealership in the small town of LeRoy, Minnesota (1940 pop. 752). LeRoy, Minnesota is located in the extreme southeastern corner of Mower County, Minnesota. Mower County is situated in the Southeastern part of the state on the Minnesota/Iowa border in fact, the town of LeRoy is located only about ½ a mile from the Iowa border. Continue reading Case Farming Part IV: The LeRoy Equipment Company→
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→
Threshing with the Volkart Brothers in Beaver Township, Fillmore County, Minnesota
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the September/October 1995 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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, 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.)
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.
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” , available from Keith Oltrogge, Box 529, Denver, Iowa 50622-0529, Telephone: (319) 984-5292.)
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.
Belt Pulley Magazine Articles by Brian Wayne Wells