The 1954 Farmall Model Super MTA from South Dakota
Brian Wayne Wells
This article remains under construction. Periodically, new blocks of text will appear in the article and/or current blocks of text will be corrected.
The Farmall M is the very popular tractor that has captured the affection of a great number of the collectors of International Harvester tractors. However, a great number of devotees of the Farmall M, will probably admit that their favorite version of the M is that final iteration of the M series–the Super MTA. This was true in the family of the current author as both he and his brother–Mark Wells have longed since childhood to have a Super MTA of their own. The Wells family did not keep this desire to own a Farmall Super MTA a secret from their friends and aquaintances–including Bill Radil.
Accordingly, when, in December of 2018, Bill Radil of Montgomery, Minnesota decided to sell the Super MTA that he had owned for about eight years, he turned to the Wells family. Bill informed Mark Wells that he offered to give the Wells family the first right of refusal on sale of the tractor. Needless to say, there was no refusal. Rather there was an immediate acceptance of the offer to sell the Farmall Super MTA. Indeed, payment for the tractor was concluded before the end of the month.
Once the sale of the tractor was concluded, the current author instinctively began to research as much of the history of the tractor as he could research. Bill Radil had owned the Super MTA since about 2010. While he did not have a great deal of information about the person who had sold the Super MTA to him, Bill did know the tractor had come from South Dakota.
Because the tractor is a tricycle-style tractor it stands to reason that the tractor must have come from a row crop growing area of South Dakota. The row crop growing area of South Dakota is located in the east part of the state. The western part of South Dakota tends to be too dry and hot in during the summer to grow corn, soybeans and other row crops profitably, This hot and dry climate of the western South Dakota is better suited to the raising of cereal grains like wheat, rye and barley.
Indeed, the states of South Dakota, North Dakota, and, actually, all states down to the Rio Grande River, through which the 100th meridian passes, are divided by the 100th meridian into two major climatic areas. To the west of the 100th meridian the climate tends to be dry and hot in the summer–too hot and dry to be efficient for the raising of row crops like corn, soybeans and editable beans. This makes the most of the area of west of the 100th meridian more suitable for raising for large scale (horizon to horizon) farming of cereal grains like wheat, rye and barley abound. While to the east of the 100th meridian the abundant rain and rich soil tends to be more appropriate for the raising of row crops like corn and soybeans. Indeed, the 100th meridian neatly divides the whole of North America into the row-crop Midwest on the east and the horizon to horizon Great Plains
Actually, in recent times many climate scientists have pointed out that the modern day boundary between the row crop growing area of eastern South Dakota and the drier and hotter wheat growing area of western South Dakota has been moving far east of the 100th meridian because of climate change.
Indeed, the states of South Dakota, North Dakota, and, actually, all states down to the Rio Grande River, through which the 100th meridian passes, are divided by the 100th meridian into two major climatic areas. To the west of the 100th meridian the climate tends to be dry and hot in the summer–too hot and dry to be efficient for the raising of row crops like corn, soybeans and editable beans. This makes the most of the area of west of the 100th meridian more suitable for raising for large scale (horizon to horizon) farming of cereal grains like wheat, rye and barley abound. While to the east of the 100th meridian the abundant rain and rich soil tends to be more appropriate for the raising of row crops like corn and soybeans. Indeed, the 100th meridian neatly divides the whole of North America into the row-crop Midwest on the east and the horizon to horizon Great
Codington County was a typical agricultural community in eastern South Dakota. The United States Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) had reported in their 1940 census that 91.7% of the county land area was taken up by operating farms. There were 1,170 individual operating farms in Codington County the average size of a farm in Codington County was 346.7 acres.
Between, 1941 and 1945, however, World War II had caused substantial changes to farming in Codington County. United States government purchasing of agricultural products to feed the troops in two theaters of war, tended to drive up prices of farm commodities to record high levels. By 1945, although the total land area of the county under operating farms had increased to 95.1%, the number of operating farms in the county had decreased to 1,155 individuals farms. However, the average size of the the individual farm actually increased to 364.1 acres per farm. Obviously, the war had caused a substantial consolidation of farming in Codington County. Farms had been sold and merged with other farming operations resulting in larger individual farms. One might have anticipated that trend toward consolidation would have continued in the post war era. However the 1950, U.S.D.A. agricultural census revealed that the number of individual operating farms in Codington County had the percentage of land area in the county increased slightly to 95.5 %, the number of farms increased to 1,160 farms. Furthermore, the average size of an operating farm in the county in 1950 fell to 360.2acres. These last to facts seem to suggest that the consolidation trend of the war years had been reversed. However, this reversal can probably be explained by the fact that many of the returning veterans of the Second World War were entering farming. Most of these veterans would be taking over their parents home farms. However at least some were starting from scratch and having to purchase their own farms. This would result in a larger number of farms for the period of time immediately following the Second World War.
Just 4 years later, 1954, the percentage of land in Codington County under agricultural production fell to 91.6%. The number of individual farms in Codington County decreased to 1,078 operating farms and the average size of a farm in Codington County had grown to 375.9 acres. The period from 1950 until 1953 was the period of United States involvement in the Korean War. Just as with the Second World War, there was an increase in farm produce commodity prices with the coming of the war. Although the Korean War was actually a military campaign carried out under the United Nations and although many nations sent contingents soldiers to defend South Korea to
The United States had a large contingent of soldiers involved
Although state-wide across South Dakota as a whole there had been a decrease in the number of operating farms from 72,454 farms in the 1940 68,705 farms in 1945 to s the Now in the post-war the the recent war–
Located in the eastern part of South Dakota is Codington County. The population of the county as a whole had been 18,944 in the 1950 census. This was an increase in population of 11.3% from the pre-war, 1940, population figure of 17,014. The United States Department of Agriculture found that in 1940
Along the eastern edge of the county are three (3) townships, running north to south. Of the three the center township is Waverly Township. This township is the home of a particular diversified farming operation of a particular farmer–our Waverly Township farmer.
The county seat and largest City in Codington County is Watertown (1950 pop. 12,699) The population of Watertown had risen 19.6% from the 1940 population of 10,617.
The Owatonna Manufacturing Company’s Production of
Portable Farm Flight-Style Elevators
Brian Wayne Wells
The Owatonna Manufacturing Company was first organized in Owatonna, Minnesota to manufacture farm machinery.
The Dietrich family purchased OMC and in 1928 introduced their flight-style elevator, the “Dietrich” elevator to the line of farm machinery sold by OMC. The improvements of Dietrich elevator over the original elevator manufactured by OMC meant that soon the Dietrich elevator entirely replaced the prior elevators produced under the OMC name.
These elevators were designed as “12-19” flared-style elevators. “12-19 refers to the dimensions of the channel of the elevator. The flights of the elevator that carried the grain or ear corn up to the top of the granary or corn crib operated in the deepest part of the elevator channel which was 12 inches wide. However, 12-19 model elevators are “flared” style elevators. The upper portion of the elevator channel is flared outwards to a width of 19 inches. This flaring of the upper portion of the channel allowed for more grain to be carried upwards in the elevator with less spillage out of the channel onto the ground during operation of the elevator. Such spillage was more common when the elevator was being used for ear corn.
With the start of the corn shelling field demonstration at the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show and especially after the Bruce Freerkson single corn crib was brought to the Pioneer Power grounds in the summer of and later the replacement of the Freerkson single corn crib with the Albert Dozinski double corn crib in the summer of 2012, there arose a need to obtain a means by which the crib on the Pioneer Power grounds could be filled with ear corn in the in the fall to provide ear corn for the corn shelling field demonstration at the Pioneer Power Show in the summer of the following year. Consequently, an elevator was obtained by Tim Krenz and a group of other members.
This flight-style elevator was stle hve g the whole ehchain and fle inner portion of the elevator channel was f was in yo
One particular galvanized flight-style elevator still in use by the members of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association records this change. This 40 foot elevator clearly has the “Dietrich” name decaled or painted on both sides of the channel of the elevator. However, the elevator has a serial number tag that identifies the elevator as an OMC manufactured elevator and bearing the OMC serial number of #16274. Furthermore, the channel of the elevator also bears a second decal which says “Dietrich manufactured by OMC.”
A short time later OMC dropped the name “Dietrich from the galvanized elevators that were manufactured by OMC. One 44-foot OMC elevator bearing the serial number #16841 was used on the farm of Omar Perron of Cannon City Township on the very western edge of the city limits of the City of Faribault, in Rice County, Minnesota.
Omar Arthur Perron was born on November 18, 1885 to Joseph and Marie (Chapdelaine) Perone, a couple of immigrants to Rice County from the French-speaking province of Quebec, Canada. Sometime prior to April 27, 1910, Omar and Florence and their growing family (two sons, Francis, born in 1910 and Lionel Joseph born on February 19, 1911.) moved to the farm in Cannon City Township where Omar would spend the rest of his life. Omar set to work building up his diversified farming operation.
The time the family spent on the farm was a new and exciting time and a happy time until tragedy struck. On February 26, 1911, Florence suddenly died, leaving the family and Omar grief-stricken .
Omar soon realized that his two children (two-year old Francis and 20 month old Lionel ) were in need a mother’s guiding hand. Accordingly, a little over a year after the death of Florence, Omar married Emma Remillard on October 10, 1912. Emma was the daughter of another French-Canadian family from the local Rice County community of Wheatland Township.
The Corn Crib on the Grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association
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.
Starting in the annual show of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association began to demonstrate the farming chore of shelling ear corn. This chore was an annual wintertime event on the diversified farms located in the row-crop farming areas of the Midwestern United States in the era prior to the emergence of corn combines on diversified farms.
The corn shelling demonstration at the Pioneer Power Show was initiated by Bill Radil, a member of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association, who was residing at the time in West Concord, Minnesota, when Bill purchased a Minneapolis-Moline Model D corn sheller.
Weighing 1,660 lbs. and with the capacity of shelling 175 to 300 bushels of ear corn per hour, the Model D was the smaller model of the two main corn sheller models manufactured by the Minneapolis-Moline Company headquartered in Hopkins, Minnesota. The larger model corn sheller produced by Minneapolis-Moline was the Model E, which was later improved and re-modeled as the Model EE.
The Bill Radil Model D brought the annual winter-time chore of corn shelling on the typical family-owned midwestern farm to the viewing public at the annual Pioneer Power Association Show held on the last full weekend in August.
However, the demonstration of corn shelling with a Model D corn sheller, complete with its “drag line” could be most accurately presented to the public as an authentic shelling field demonstration only by shelling corn out of a traditional corn crib rather than as a shelling of ear corn dumped from a wagon into the drag line of the corn sheller.
Consequently, Bill Radil found a small “single corn crib” on the farm of a neighbor, Bruce Freerkson in the same West Concord neighborhood in which Bill lived. Bruce and his wife had lived on their farm since about 1996. Before them the farm had belonged to the Albert and Golda (Ebeling) Arndt family. Albert and Golda had moved onto the farm shortly after their wedding in 1935. Although the little single corn crib on the farm was still in use and was filled in the autumn with ear corn that had been picked in the field, the corn crib was probably build at a generation earlier. A 1905 Plat book of Dodge County, Minnesota shows that the family of George W. Tabbett owned the farm. During the early 1900s, the corn on the average family farm in the midwestern United States ripe corn was cut in the autumn and placed in shocks in the field.
Traditionally, corn harvested in the fall of the year, had a moisture content of 22-25%. However, at the time of harvest, the moisture content of the corn could be as high as 28-32%. In order to dry the corn down to the ideal 18% moisture content for shelling the corn had to be exposed to the cold winter air. This could be done by placing the corn in shocks in the corn field. However, all of the corn would eventually have to be hand “shucked” (the removal of the ears of corn from the stalk and the husks.) This was a labor intensive operation that would employ all the members of the family during large portions of the winter. The horses would be hitched up to the wagon or sled and taken to the corn field in the cold winter months to pick up another load of corn shocks to be hand shucking by the family.
During these trips to the corn field to pickup corn shocks for hand shucking, the farmer would carry along a hatchet. In the heart of winter in Minnesota, the ground froze very hard. The hatchet was for chopping loose the bottoms of the corn shocks so that the corn could be loaded on the wagon or sleigh. This chopping of the bottom of the corn shocks was another tedious part of the back breaking job of collecting the corn shocks in the field.
In order to avoid the inconveniences of working in the cold and on the frozen ground of the corn field, the farmer would work hard earlier in the fall to get as much of the corn would be “shucked” as possible. Because this corn was shucked before it had a chance to completely dry in the field, the ears of corn would be stored in a small single corn crib. The by-product of the hand shucking process (the stalks and husks of the corn) would be fed to the cattle and/or pigs on the farm.
Like typical single corn cribs across the midwestern United States, Arndt/Freerkson single corn crib was no wider than eight (8) feet wide to allow the dry winter air to easily pass through the ear corn stored in the crib. This cold and dry winter air passing through the corn crib would finish drying the ear corn to 18% moisture content.
However, a couple of years after the Arndt/Freerkson corn crib had been brought to the Pioneer Power grounds, the storms of the winter and spring of 2009-2010 destroyed the small single Arndt/Freerkson corn crib when it was blown off its rock foundation.
After a couple of years without a corn crib at all at the annual Show, the Pioneer Power Association obtained another corn crib. This time a “double corn crib” was purchased from the Richard Dorzinski family living on a Sharon Township farm located on the south side of Minnesota Highway #26 about a mile east of the site of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Showgrounds. Owned at the time by Richard Francis Dorzinski, the farm had been in the Dorzinski family since Richard’s father, Albert Frank Dozinski, obtained the farm shortly before he was married in 1920. Indeed, Albert Dorzinski may well have built the double corn crib in the 1920s. The double corn crib consists of two eight (8) foot single corn cribs placed about eleven (11) feet apart and both the cribs and the space in between the cribs were covered by the same gambrel roof.
In the summer of 2012, the Dorzinski double corn crib was moved from the Albert and Ida Dorzinski farm to the Pioneer Power grounds. The short trip of about a mile was planned for the same day in 2012 as the move of the larger St. Joseph’s Church from the unincorporated settlement of Lexington, Minnesota to the Pioneer Power grounds. Movement of both building in the same day along Minnesota Route #26 would save money and labor by cutting the power and telephone lines along the route only once rather than twice. Once settled on the grounds, the Dorzinski double corn crib was anchored on top of the cement foundation that had been poured for it and was made ready for filling with corn in the fall of 2012. In the winter of 2012-2013 the Dorzinski corn crib was once again using the winter air to dry ear corn.
Enlargement of the corn crib on the average family farm in the Midwestern United States of America, became much more common in the 1920s because of the development of the mechanical corn picker. Mechanical picking of corn left the corn stalks in the field rather than taking them to the building site. Suddenly, the corn picker made it possible to complete the corn harvest in the Midwestern United States before the snows fell in the winter.
Following the purchase of Dorzinski double corn crib by the Pioneer Power Association, the building was moved from the Dorzinski farm to the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association. There the double corn crib was given a new cement block pillar foundation to house the new double corn crib, brought to the Pioneer Power Showgrounds, was secured to the foundation by anchor bolds. The Association was taking no chances that this new double corn crib would not be blown off its foundation. Then, a cement floor was laid in the alleyway of the corn crib.
This is the corn crib that continues to be used on the Pioneer Power Showgrounds through the present day. In the late autumn of each year, Dave Preuhs, founder of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association fills the corn crib with ear corn that he grows on his own farm. This corn is planted by a six-row corn planter that is not ordinarily used for the regular corn planting on the Preuhs farm. The wide rows of corn planted by the six-row planter allow Dave Preuhs to pick the corn to be stored in the Dorzinski corn crib with a 1974 New Idea Company corn picker fitted with a 3-row corn head made for picking 38 inch rows.
Once in the Dorzinski corn crib the corn crop dries out during the cold Minnesota winters on the Pioneer Power grounds. During the cold Minnesota winters, the cold dry air of winter passing through the wood slats of the Dorzinski corn crib will dry the ear corn down to at least 18% moisture content and will be ready for shelling.
The drying process in the corn crib begins as soon as the ear corn in placed in the shed. That sweet smell of field corn which permeates the air around the newly filled Dorzinski double corn crib in the early autumn is the process of the corn starting to give up its moisture content.
To aid in this process of drying, the efficient Model 737 husking bed of the pull-type corn picker owned by Dave Preuhs reduces the amount of “foreign matter” (husks and stalks) to less than 4% of the ear corn stored in the Dorzinski double corn crib.
Like the alleyways in double corn cribs on diversified farms all across the Midwest, (especially when provided with a cement floor) invites storage of vehicles and farm machinery on the average family farm. Accordingly, the alleyway of the Dorzinski double corn crib has become the winter storage place of the Bill Radil’s 1939 F-20 and the Wells family’s DavidBradley large 126-bushel flare box mounted on a five-ton David Bradley wagon gear. This 1942 wartime Allis-Chalmers tractor and the David Bradley wagon are often used as a part of the corn shelling field demonstration at the annual Pioneer Power Show. (The above-mentioned David Bradley wagon gear and 126 bushel wagon box are taken up as the subject of an article contained at this website called “History of the David Bradley Company (Part II): Tractors and Wagons.”
However, there are some vehicles that should not be stored in the alleyway of the corn crib. As noted above, at picking time, the corn may have a moisture content as high as 32%. Accordingly, when the freshly picked corn is first stored in the corn crib will be very fragrant as the moisture in the ears of corn is leaving the corn and escaping into the cool air of the autumn. If, for instance the family car or the modern farm truck is parked in the alleyway of a freshly filled corn crib, the sweet smell of the corn will permeate the padding of the upholstery of the car or truck. So strong in the fragrance of corn that the fragrance will remain with the car or truck for many years after.
Luckily, as the winter weather sets in, the ear corn would become less and less fragrant until the moisture content of the corn is only 18-15%. At this stage there is only a “dry smell” in the corn crib. At this point the fragrance was largely gone and the family car and/or truck may once again be safely stored in the alleyway of the corn crib.
The typical corn crib should be no wider than eight (8) feet wide to allow the dry winter air to easily pass through the ear corn stored in the crib. However most times, two single cribs were built close to each other and connected with a common gambrel roof. Thus, the crib became known as a “double corn crib.”
As noted above, a double corn crib contains an alleyway between the two single corn cribs, which are joined by a gambrel roof to become a single building. The space above the alleyway might be finished out into grain bins which would store oats until they sold or fed to animals on the diversified farm or for storing soybeans until they were marketed at a nearby grain elevator.
The corn in the Dorzinski corn crib is not shelled out in the late winter or early spring as is the usual practice on diversified family farms all across the Midwestern United States. Rather the corn in the double corn crib continues to be stored until the annual show of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association held on the last full weekend in August each year.
Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County Minnesota (Part V):
The Korean War
Brian Wayne Wells
THIS ARTICLE REMAINS UNDER CONSTRUCTION. PERIODICALLY ADDITIONS WILL BE MADE TO THE ARTICLE. WHEN THE ARTICLE IS COMPLETE THIS PARTICULAR MESSAGE WILL DISAPPEAR.
By the spring of 1950, our particular farmer in Nevada Township located in Mower County Minnesota had realized the benefits of his attempts to modernize his farming operation. Ever since the summer of 1947 he had been combining his oats and his soybeans with his own Oliver Model 15, Grain Master combine. This machine meant that he now had control over the harvesting nearly all the crops on his farm. He able to harvest his corn, soybeans and oats on his own farm when they were ripe rather than having to wait on custom harvesters to finally reach his farm. Thus, during the last two bountiful years of 1948 and 1949, our Nevada Township farmer had been able to raise the crops on his farm with maximum efficiency. The proof was in the numbers yields of his two cash crops—soybeans and corn—for those two years. The year 1947 had presented problems for the farmers in Mower County, Minnesota, including our particular farmer in Nevada Township in Mower County. This farmer had been attempting to avoid the pitfalls of occasional falling prices and bad crop years by diversifying his farming operation a number of different products and crops on his farm. First he had added a sheep raising operation to his farm. The he had begun raising soybeans during the recent war. Through diversification our Nevada Township farmer had been able to maintain a relatively steady income despite falling prices for some farm products. When some products fell in price, it was likely that other prices would hold steady or even rise to make up the difference.
Then like a bolt out of the blue, on June 25, 1950, the North Korean Army invaded South Korea which started the Korean War. The United States led a United Nation’s effort to resist this invasion. Soybean prices rose to $2.80 per bushel as an average for the month of June and rose to $2.94 per bushel as an average for the month of July, 1950. Corn prices rose to $1.34 per bushel in August 1950 and $1.35 per bushel in September, 1950. However, most surprising to our Nevada Township farmer, as he listened to the local farm reports on KAAL radio at 1480 kc on the dial, broadcasting out of nearby Austin, Minnesota (1950 pop. 23,100), was the increase in lamb prices at the Hormel meatpacking plant in Austin.
Since 1944, lamb prices had been languishing around the $7.00 or $8.00 per hundred weight (cwt.) range for market lambs. However, in June 1950, the price of lamb rose to $10.40 per cwt. To take advantage of this spike in lamb prices, our Nevada Township farmer was tempted to sell a great deal of his flock to Hormel’s before the spike in prices disappeared. However, he delayed his decision on this matter. When he had begun raising sheep, he had realized that raising sheep for market was one thing, but he could make more money by raising breeding stock for other sheep farmers. Good breeding ewes (female sheep) could bring 6 or 7 times the price of common market sheep if they had been properly registered and had their papers in order. Registered Purebred Rams (male sheep) could bring even more money than ewes. This led him into raising purebred sheep—purebred Suffolk sheep. (See the previous article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part I]: Suffolk Sheep Raising.”) Soon he was registering his sheep with the National Suffolk Sheep Association (N.S.S.A.) and showing his sheep at fairs like the Mower County Fair in Austin and like the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, Minnesota (1950 pop. 311,349). He had spent many years building his purebred Suffolk flock and was reluctant to sell off all his best ewes to Hormels, if he could make more money raising breeding stock like he used to do during the recent world war.
Perhaps this was not a mere spike in the price of lamb. He had struggled along with his purebred stock during the intervening post-war years, always hoping for better days ahead. This might be the start of the “better days” for his purebred flock. If so he did not want to miss the boat by selling off his whole flock to Hormel’s for a quick profit. So he waited.
In July, the average price for lamb rose to $10.90 per cwt., In August, the price rose again, to $11.10 per cwt. and in September, 1950 the price climbed to $12.60 per cwt. Whether the war or more correctly “police action” in Korea was causing the price of lamb to rise or not, the high price of lamb was no temporary apparition. Our Nevada Township farmer did not, however, understand why the military action in Korea was causing this escalation of the price of lamb. He remembered that something like this price rise had happened in 1940 which had caused him to get into the business of raising sheep in the first place. (See the previous article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part I]: Suffolk Sheep Raising.”) At that time, the government had purchased lamb to put in military C-rations. That decision, he remembered had turned out to be disastrous. American soldiers during the recent world war had strongly disliked the lamb in the C-rations. As a result the government had ceased buying mutton in 1944 and the price of lamb had languished. Our Nevada Township farmer could not believe that American soldiers, just five years later, had discovered that they now liked lamb in their C-rations.
Our Nevada Township farmer knew that the United States was the primary western super power in the world concerned with the Pacific Ocean affairs, the United States bore the brunt of armed forces resisting the North Korean invasion of South Korea. The United States supplied about 203,000 troops for the Korean War. Still the resistance to the North Korean invasion of South Korea was officially a United Nations effort, involving not just the United States alone. There were smaller military contingents from twenty (20) other nations around the world fighting in Korea. There were 14,200 British troops, 6,150 Canadian troops, 5,460 Turkish troops, 1,390 New Zealand troops, 1,270 Ethiopian troops, 1,260 Greek troops, 1,120 French troops, 1,070 Columbian troops, 900 Belgian troops, 820 Dutch troops, 300 south African troops, 170 Swedish troops, 105 Norwegian troops, 100 Danish troops, 72 Italian troops, 70 Indian troops and 44 troops from Luxembourg.
Most of the public of the United States did not know immediately that the task of supplying food to all the troop contingents in Korea had been centralized and assigned to the United States Army Quartermaster Corps. The Quartermaster Corps purchased the food products they needed from the United States market. Because of the various international contingents fighting in the Korean War, the Quartermaster Corps had to buy a wide variety of food products–including lamb. This buying created a strong demand for farm products and farm prices rose almost immediately after the June, 1950 invasion. Our Nevada Township farmer could not understand why lamb prices rose with all the other farm prices. Surely, lamb was no more popular among the U.S. troops (and probably not much more popular with the Canadians) than it had been during the Second World War (see the first article in this series of articles called “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota [Part I]: Suffolk Sheep Raising”). As a result he felt the rise in lamb prices was a temporary spike that would not last long. Only later did he become aware that the palates of many of the international soldiers fighting in Korea preferred lamb as a part of their diet. This meant that Quartermaster Corps needed to purchase substantial amounts of lamb from the United States market. This purchasing by the Quartermaster Corps, our Nevada Township farmer learned, had caused the rise in lamb prices immediately after the North Korean invasion of the south in June of 1950.
Additionally, during the Korean War, the U.S. Army began the policy of serving fresh hot meals to their troops rather than cold C-rations. servingQuartermaster Corp made a conscious effort to supply as many troops as possible with fresh cooked food served in field canteens, rather than relying on C-rations to feed the troops in the field. Consequently, lamb prices in the United States rose dramatically, breaking all previous records. Rising up out of the usual doldrums price range of $7.00 to $8.00 cwt., the market price of lamb shot up to $10.50 cwt. in July of 1950. By December of 1950 the price of lamb had reached $14.80 cwt. and by March of 1951 the price was $18.50 cwt.
The rise in the market price lamb had an immediate effect on our Nevada Township farmer. He noticed that it was much easier to sell his purebred ewes (female sheep). Traditionally, he would show his prize ewes at the Mower County Fair during the first full week in August and again at the Minnesota State Fair which ended on Labor Day in early September. The ribbons he won at these fairs served as advertising for his purebred flock of Suffolk sheep. During and after these fairs, he could expect to sell some of his purebred ewes and bucks or rams (male sheep) as breeding stock to other farmers seeking to improve their flocks. In 1950, he now sold more ewes than he had in any year since 1944. Many farmers, it seemed, wanted to start raising sheep or to increase the size of the small flocks they already had on their farms. This increase in flocks of sheep was reflected in the 1950 Minnesota sheep population figures. To be sure, the 1950 figures reflected another decline of sheep to 571,000 head of sheep. However, this represented only a 1% decline from 1949. The massive decline of sheep populations that had occurred since 1945 had finally reached bottom. Even here in Mower County, the end of the precipitous post-war decline in sheep population was evident as the population of sheep in Mower County declined again in 1950 by only a 2.8% to 10,300 head for the county as a whole. Clearly, better times were ahead for sheep farmers in the Midwest.
The ewes that he sold after the Mower County Fair and the Minnesota State Fair, were not bred ewes. Usually, he released the rams to graze with the ewes even the young ewes after he returned home to the farm from the State Fair following Labor Day in September. Generally, within thirty (30) days all the ewes would be pregnant. In this way, every ewe in the flock would be bred during the months of September and October. Thus, he could expect that most of the new lambs in his flock would be born in the months of March and April of the next year.
Generally, after Christmas, in January each year there would quite a few organized annual “bred ewe” sales held around the Midwest. These auctions were a good chance to sell even more breeding stock. Since the ewes at these sales were already pregnant, the ewes would usually sell for even more money than the un-bred ewes he sold after the fairs. In 1950, however, our Nevada Township farmer was receiving higher prices for his both his pregnant and non-pregnant ewes, than ever before.
This was fortunate, because the summer of 1950 had been a dry growing season. Thus, our Nevada Township farmer suffered a 13% decline in the soybean yield in 1950 in Mower County. The , but the resulting high price he had received for his soybeans had more than made up for the loss of yield. Thus, in 1950 both sheep and soybeans were helpful additions to the family income. Not only did the high price of soybeans save them from a loss in income caused by the low soybean yield, it also helped recover some of the losses in the corn yield in 1947.
Ewes that he sold after the Mower County Fair and the Minnesota State Fair, were not bred ewes. Usually, he released the rams to graze with the ewes even the young ewes after50he returned from the State Fair following Labor Day in September. Generally, within thirty (30) days all the ewes would be pregnant. In this way, every ewe in the flock would be bred during the months of September and October. Thus, he could expect that most of the new lambs in his flock would be born in the months of March and April of the next year.
Generally, after Christmas, in January each year there would quite a few organized annual “bred ewe” sales held around the Midwest. These auctions were a good chance to sell even more breeding stock. Since the ewes at these sales were already pregnant, the ewes would usually sell for even more money than the un-bred ewes he sold after the fairs. In 1950, however, our Nevada Township farmer was receiving higher prices for his both his pregnant and non-pregnant ewes, than ever before.
However, there had been a 13% decline in the soybean yield in Mower County, but the high price he had received for his soybeans had more than made up for the loss of yield. Once again soybeans had saved the family income. Not only did the high price of soybeans save them from a loss in income caused by the low soybean yield, it also helped recover some of the losses in the corn yield in 1947. Our Nevada Township farmer recognized that once again diversification of his farming operation had saved the day. Specifically, diversification into soybeans appeared to be work not only in drought years like 1945, but also in wet years like 1947.
Mower County, Minnesota is located on the southern border of the State of Minnesota, adjacent to the State of Iowa. In 1953, 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 1953, on one particular farm in Nevada Township, lived a man and his wife and one adult son. Our Nevada Township farmer had lived on this farm all his life. Indeed, his parents had owned and operated the 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 1924, he had married his wife and together they had moved into the same large house with his parents. In 1925, when his wife had become pregnant with their son, his parents had decided to officially retire and move into Austin, the county seat of Mower County. Austin (1950 pop. 23,100) 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 operation 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, soybeans, 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.
However, not all of the crops on the farm could be sold for cash. When our Nevada Township farmer had taken over the operation of the farm from his parents, he had used horses, exclusively, for power on the farm. Accordingly, one field on the farm had been set aside for raising hay for the horses and the dairy herd. Another field had to be set aside each year for the raising oats for feed for the horses, cattle, pigs and chickens. Therefore, these crops were not cash crops. These were crops were raised for animal feed only. Corn was, therefore, traditionally the only “cash crop” of the farming operation. However, not all of the corn could be sold.
Some of the mature corn plants were chopped in late August while they were still green 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. This ear corn was stored in the corn crib to dry in the cold winter air. In February the dried ear corn would be shelled. Most of this shelled corn would be sold to the Hunting Company grain elevator in the small village of Lyle, Minnesota (1950 pop. 609), located about 9 miles to the southwest of the farm in neighboring Lyle Township.
However, some of the shelled corn had to retained on the farm as animal feed. A large portion of the shelled corn would be ground 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. 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. A portion of the ear corn retained on the farm was ground in the feed grinder—cob and all—to become feed for the milking cows. Our Nevada Township farmer provided a 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. 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 cobs in the cow feed provided a certain amount of roughage for the cattle. Furthermore, when grinding the ear corn for the cows, our Nevada Township farmer added oats to the ear corn he fed into the grinder. The oats added protein to the cattle’s diet. The milking cows needed the roughage and protein more 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 could be hauled off the farm and sold to the Hunting Company elevator in Lyle. The sale of this remaining 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 1924, 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. Although the horses were used primarily only in the summer, they had to be fed all year long. 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 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.
The cultivation of corn to control weeds was a task that dominated all his summers from June until the latter part of July. Even now in the post-war era, he was still cultivating corn, one row at a time with his horses and horse-drawn one-row cultivator. Cultivating corn was the most time-consuming activity on farm. Hours, days and weeks of time were spent by our Nevada Township farmer riding the cultivator behind the horses watching the tiny shoots of corn pass between the two horses and slip between the two shields positioned on the cultivator to protect the young plants from being covered up by the dirt that was being stirred up by the shovels of the cultivator. Our Nevada Township farmer vowed each spring to cultivate the entire corn field three times before the middle of July. The first time, the corn was cultivated lengthwise. This cultivation attempted to eliminate the weeds between the rows of corn.
Our Nevada Township farmer used the “check-wire” type of planting when he planted his corn each spring. He stretched a wire across the length of the field. Spaced along the wire at every 40 inches was a button. The wire was attached to a tripping mechanism on the side of the corn planter during every trip across the field. As the planter progressed across the field the wire would slide through the tripping mechanism on the corn planter. As each individual button on the wire, the button would cause the planter to trip and both planting units on the two-row corn planter would plant corn seed at that location in the field. Thus, when finished the entire field was planted in a “grid” of 40 inch rows and the individual corn plants within each row would each be 40 inches apart. This grid allowed the corn to be cultivated cross-wise as well as length-wise.
Thus, the first time over the field with the cultivator, our Nevada Township farmer drove the horses and cultivator lengthwise across the field. The shovels dug out all the weeds in between the rows of corn as the cultivator moved along. However, this grid allowed the corn field to also be cultivated in a crosswise pattern. Cross cultivating allowed the cultivator to dig out all the weeds had not been dug out in the earlier lengthwise cultivation—in particular those weeds which were growing up between the corn plants within the rows. Consequently, in addition to the first time lengthwise cultivation of the corn, our Nevada Township farmer always wanted to complete a second cultivation of the corn in a crosswise pattern. Ideally, the corn should be cultivated a third time. Every spring our Nevada Township farmer pledged to cover the corn three times with the cultivator. However, between the slow progress of cultivating with the horses one row at a time and the rainy days which prevented any field work, his plans were usually went awry. Usually by the end of July the corn was too tall to fit comfortably under the frame of the cultivator and besides the corn was already to the “tasselling” stage. Cultivation at this stage would do more harm than good to the corn. Most years, our Nevada Township farmer found that the corn was already too tall before he had finished third cultivation. Thus, our Nevada Township farmer would be forced to cease cultivation of the corn before he was done with the third cultivation.
For some time, our Nevada Township farmer had been aware that if he owned a tricycle-style tractor, he could mechanize his entire farming operation—including the cultivation of corn. He might then have no need for horses at all on his farm. The elimination of horses from the farm would allow our Nevada Township farmer to decrease the number of acres used for raising oats and hay on the farm. Thus, more of the arable acreage on his farm would be available for cash crops. This meant that he could derive more income for his farming operation.
However, in late 1941, about a year and half after he had purchased the Model 28-44 tractor, The United States found itself thrust into the Second World War. Farm machinery of any kind and especially tractors became extremely difficult to obtain. All farm tractor production was severely restricted as the industrial capacity of the United States was funneled entirely to the war effort. Thus, for the duration of the war our Nevada Township farmer was required to continue using just the machinery he had at the beginning of the war.
The war brought about a great number of changes in the rural farm economy. First and foremost were the high prices that farm commodities fetched during the war. The United States government bought a great deal of food stuffs as the government attempted to feed its armed forces stationed around the world. Large government buying in the agricultural products market raised prices of agricultural products across the spectrum. These higher prices created new opportunities for farmers. One such opportunity arose because of the disruption of trade between Australia and Great Britain.
Britain has traditionally been known as a nation of meat eaters. In the pre-war era (before 1939), the average British citizen ate 109.6 pounds of meat. (From a 1949 document, found on the Internet, called “Australia’s Contribution to the British Diet” by R. H. Heywood.) By comparison, the average citizen of the United States ate 82.9 pounds of red meat in 1938. Like the diet of the average United States citizen, most of the meat eaten by the British was beef. However, unlike the United States, the second meat of choice in the British diet was mutton or lamb, while pork was in third place among meats in the British diet. In the United States, pork was second behind beef in popularity while lamb fell far behind chicken and even fish in popularity. (From a United States Department of Agriculture spread sheet called “Red Meat and Poultry per capita availability in the United States” found on the Internet.) Indeed, citizens of the United States ate twice as much chicken and nearly four times as much fish and shellfish as lamb. (Ibid.)
Time was, when Britain raised nearly all the sheep consumed by its own people. However, following 1900, the increase the number of sheep in Great Britain did not keep up with the growing of the population. (“Australia’s Contribution to the British Diet” by R. H. Heywood found on the Internet.) Consequently, lamb and mutton began to be imported—largely from Australia. By 1940, one third of all mutton consumed in Great Britain was imported. (Ibid.) However, the Japanese conquests of large parts of Southeast Asia and the threats to Australia, had a debilitating effect on Australia’s trade with Great Britain. Additionally, what trade left the shores of Australia safely faced another difficulty. The virtual closure of the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea for the duration of the war meant that Australian shipping no longer had access to the Mediterranean “shortcut” to Britain. Trade destined for Britain had to make its way around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa on its way to Great Britain. This added a great deal to the expense to the price of Australian sheep. The price of sheep in the United States began climbing as early as February of 1938. However, in April of 1941, with the German invasion of the Greek mainland and the island of Crete and the resultant threat on British shipping in the Mediteranean, the price of sheep in the United States rose to $6.40 per hundred weight—a price not seen since 1930. Consequently, a niche opened in the sheep market for the American farmer. The Midwest family farm was now able to compete profitably with Australian sheep producers for a share of the large British market.
In 1941, sheep and lamb production in the United States set a new all-time record of 2.3 billion pounds of meat. (From an April 30, 1942 document called “Meat Animals—Farm Production and Income 1935-1941 found on the Internet.) Despite this drastic increase in production of sheep in the United States of America, no glut appeared in the sheep market which might threaten the price. Indeed the price of mature sheep (mutton) continued on a sharp increase—rising from $3.90 per hundred weight in 1940 to $5.10 per hundred weight in 1941 (a 31% increase in just one year). (Ibid.) Spring lamb prices rose from $8.10 per hundred weight in 1940 to $9.58 per hundred weight in 1941 (a 19% increase in one year). (Ibid.) The United States Department of Agriculture estimated that the sheep raisers saw a 27% increase in their income between 1940 and 1941. (Ibid.) After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which drew the United States into the War, mutton prices remained at high levels as the United States put mutton into several C-ration military field kits. (Many people now allege that putting mutton in military C-rations ruined the market for lamb and mutton for an entire generation of Americans. After the war, returning World War II veterans absolutely refused to buy or eat lamb because of bad memories they retained of the mutton in the military field C-rations they had been forced to eat during the war.)
Favorable market conditions in the sheep market were reported over the radio—like WCCO radio out of the Twin Cities. Our Nevada Township farmer began think hard about acquiring a small flock of ewes. He was not alone. Many farmers in his neighborhood were doing the same thing. Indeed, for one farm family over in a neighboring township—Austin Township—sheep raising was already a major part of their farm income. Earl Eugene and Margaret (Stormer) Subra owned a farm containing only 60-acres in Austin Township. While, the Subra family milked some cows and raise some pigs, they virtually made all their cash income from sheep—pure bred Suffolk sheep. Born in 1913, Earl Subra grew up on the farm of his parents William J. and Bertha (Dennis) Subra located in Austin Township. Raised on his father’s farm, Earl had moved to his own farm. In 1931, he and Margaret Stormer were married. Earl began raising Suffolk sheep prior to 1940. He chose Suffolk sheep because of the characteristics of breed.
The Suffolk breed was born as a result of the cross breeding of Southdown sheep with old Norfolk sheep in England. Suffolks are not “wool” sheep. They grow only a moderate amount of wool. They were a breed of sheep known for their black faces and legs, which were free of wool. Suffolk sheep were raised primarily as “meat” sheep. Suffolk ewes (female sheep) were prolific in the production of offspring and were “good milkers.” Suffolk lambs grew rapidly; they had more edible meat and less fat than other breeds. Suffolks have excellent feed conversion characteristics which means that Suffolks have the capacity to actively graze and rustle for feed even on dry range lands. However, this characteristic also means that when Suffolk lambs are raised on high quality feeds, the breed has one of the fastest growth rates of any breed of sheep. Consequently, Suffolk sheep were rapidly becoming the most common breed in the Midwestern United States. (Paula Simmons & Carol Ekarius, Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep [Storey Publishing: North Adams, Massachusetts, 2001] p. 74.)
Earl Subra noted that Suffolks answered the demands of the market at the current time in 1940. Meat, not wool, was the main product that was in demand in the current market. Suffolks had the quality of lean meat that the market demanded. Furthermore, the short five-month (147-153 day) gestation period plus the rapid growth rate of the individual lambs meant that the farmer could make money faster with Suffolks than with other breed of sheep. Earl Subra knew that, drawn by the chance for making a good profit, many farmers would be attempting enter the sheep market by acquiring flocks of their own for the first time. He also knew that many of these farmers would be choosing Suffolks. Accordingly, in addition to raising and selling lambs to the Hormel meat packing plant in Austin, he felt he could also make a profit selling bucks (male sheep) and ewes (female sheep) to those farmers wanting to start their own flocks. In this way he would be working with the rising tide of farmers entering the sheep market. This, Earl Subra thought, was the way he could make a living out of the new situation that was arising.
However, to sell Suffolks to the farmers wishing to start their new flocks, Earl Subra felt that he needed to have a product that would these farmers would buy. If Suffolk sheep had characteristics that would stand out among other breeds of sheep, then the goal should be to raise Suffolk sheep that would adhere closely to those characteristics and avoid any negative characteristics. Indeed, there already was an organization in devoted to promoting the best characteristics of the Suffolk breed by educating Suffolk breeders. This organization was the National Suffolk Sheep Association (N.S.S.A.) which was headquartered in Michigan and later was headquartered in Columbia, Missouri. N.S.S.A. started a registration process by which purebred Suffolks could be registered with N.S.S.A. N.S.S.A. would mail out a certificate of registration to the owner of the individual registered sheep. In order to qualify for registration, both the sire (father) and dam (mother) must also have their own certificates of registration. Theoretically, then every registered purebred Suffolk could be traced back through a paper trail of registration certificates to the original Suffolk sheep which initially defined the breed. Each certificate of registration would document that the individual sheep was direct descendant of these original Suffolk sheep.
A registration fee was assessed by N.S.S.A. for each and every registration. Farmers therefore tended only to register the best examples of Suffolk sheep in their flocks. Farmers would register only those sheep that were intended to keep as “breeding stock.” Any sheep intended for market would not registered. Usually all those sheep with lesser breed characteristics were sent to market. These sheep might be purebred sheep, but they were non-registered purebreds. Suffolks of unknown origin might look very good as far as breed characteristics, but because no paper trail of registration certificates could be assembled to show how they were connected to the original Suffolks, these sheep could never be registered, no matter how good they looked as far as breed characteristics. These sheep are known as “grade” sheep. The intended result of this registration process was that registered purebreds with their papers in good order would bring more money at any sale of breeding stock than either grade sheep or unregistered purebreds.
The N.S.S.A. sponsored judging shows of registered purebred Suffolk sheep to educate sheep growers on the best characteristics of the Suffolk breed. The N.S.S.A. also promoted the “open class” sheep judging contests at the various state and county fairs around the nation. Usually 4-H and FFA classes were also judged at these county and state fairs. These judging contests were open only to members of the 4-H or FFA. However, the “open class” show, which was open to sheep growers of all ages. Within the open class competition, there were many different sub-divisions according to the breed of sheep. Within each of these breed sub-division, only registered purebred sheep of that particular breed could be entered. These judging competitions and shows were attempts to educate and sharpen the eye of individual breeders as to fine points of the breed. The N.S.S.A. defined and evaluated exact standards as to the ideal Suffolk sheep. Judges at county and state fairs around the nation were provided a “score card” which evaluated the various features of the Suffolk sheep and how many points were to be allowed for each feature. The total number of points was 100 points of which 35 points were set aside for the rear legs alone.
Even prior to 1939, Earl Subra had been working on developing a flock of Suffolk sheep that reflected superiority in any number of individual features. Soon his ewes and rams were winning a number of blue ribbons at the Mower County Fair which was held in the first week of August each year. Earl also began to make a name for himself at the Minnesota State Fair. Soon breeders from outside the Midwest, and even from Canada, were searching him out to purchase rams and ewes from the Subra flock. These other breeders saw traits in the Subra sheep that they wished to include in the blood lines of their own flocks. Consequently, Subra sheep were sold far and wide and Earl Subra became quite famous among Suffolk breeders across the nation.
Accordingly, when our Nevada Township farmer began to think seriously about obtaining a flock of sheep for his own farm, he though of the Subra farm located in the next township to the west. Accordingly, in the fall of 1941, after watching the dramatic increase in the price of sheep over the summer (reaching $7.10 per hundred weight in August of 1941), our Nevada Township farmer purchased eight (8) purebred Suffolk ewes from Earl Subra in September of 1941 and brought them to his farm. He hoped that adding sheep to his farming operation would be another diversification of the farming operation and the farm income. He hoped this diversification would further strengthen his family’s financial position.
When our Nevada Township farmer bought the eight registered ewes, Earl Subra supplied him the corresponding N.S.S.A. registration certificates for each individual sheep. Each registration certificate contained a registration number and was signed by the Suffolk breed secretary—Clare Williams of Michigan. The registration number was matched to a number on a metal tag in the ear of the respective sheep. On the registration certificate, were the registration numbers of both the sire (father) and dam (mother) of the particular sheep. If needed, our Nevada Township farmer could use these sire and dam registration numbers to call the breed secretary and trace the registrations of the sire and dam back in time.
Introducing the ewes to his farm for the first time required that some changes be made to the farm. The farm on which our Nevada Township farmer and his family lived was established in a series of concentric circles, each area fenced off from the next larger circle. The immediate area around the house contained the lawns, the outhouse, dog house and family garden. This was the inner yard. A legal term for this area is “the curtilage.” The next largest encircled area included most of the rest of the building site of the farm, the grove, the orchard and the windbreak running along the north and west sides of the building site. This area was also called the “yard,” but the term was meant to be used in a larger sense than the mere curtilage around the house. The area behind the barn was fenced off from the yard to keep the cows out of the yard. Likewise the areas on either side of the hog house were fenced off to keep the pigs out of the yard and the chicken yard next to the hen house was fenced off to keep the chickens out of the yard. All animals were kept out of the yard except the family dog and any cats from the barn. These animals were actually encouraged to patrol the yard and keep rodents under control. However, the yard was intended to be the main home for the small flock of sheep that he was now acquiring.
One of the benefits of a flock of sheep would be the fact that they would keep the grass and weeds in all area of the yard under control. This would save labor and time that the family had, in the past, spent trying to keep these areas mowed and trimmed. This was one of the advantages that our Nevada Township farmer looked forward to about having sheep on the farm. However, there were also disadvantages. One of the most important disadvantages was that all the fences around the yard had to be improved and reinforced. Sheep were curious and would explore every portion of the area they occupy in order to find vegetation to eat. First, the fence between the yard and the cartilage needed to be made more secure to keep the sheep from invading the cartilage and most importantly out of the family garden. In the garden, the sheep could make quick work of the young succulent plants the family was trying to grow there. The lawns inside the cartilage would continue to be mowed by the family, just as in the past. Likewise the fences around the outside of the yard needed to be strengthened to prevent the sheep from getting into the fields where the farm crops were being raised.
Additionally, our Nevada Township farmer needed to take special precautions to protect the sheep. He installed a gate across the driveway of his farm. This was to keep the sheep from getting out onto the road and being struck by cars and/or trucks. Also he obtained an old baby chick brooder house at an auction in his neighborhood. The old brooder house was in fairly good shape with a shingled roof to repel rain and wooden siding for warmth in the winter and three windows along the back of brooder house to let in light. These windows could be closed in the winter to keep the sheep warm and opened in the summer to let in the cool breezes on summer nights. Our Nevada Township farmer wanted to convert this brooder house into a sheep shed for his farm. The brooder house was mounted on four “six inch by six inch” wooden beams which ran the full length of the small building. These beams acted as skids and allowed the building to be towed along on the ground by a tractor or team of horses. Because the auction had been held not far from his farm, our Nevada Township farmer used his Oliver/Hart-Parr Model 28-44 tractor to drag the little building back to his own farm.
A secure sheep shed was needed to protect the sheep at night. The worst predator for sheep on the typical Midwestern farm is the domesticated dog. With the master and family gone to bed, their pet dog might slip away from his homestead in search of excitement. Dogs will band together at night and chase and attack anything that runs. Sheep habitually seek flight from danger by running every time they are chased. Although thoroughly domesticated as pets, dogs will, nonetheless, refert to their wild nature and join together in packs at night to chase and kill the fleeing sheep. Most times these are pet dogs from neighboring farms. Our Nevada Township farmer knew that owners of these dogs, his own neighbors, will passionately deny that their dog ever leaves their own farm, much less has ever killed any sheep. They just could not believe it about their family pet. The neighbors would continue in their denials even when shown wool caught in their teeth the next morning, following any such attack.
Our Nevada Township farmer surely could not afford to lose one of these expensive purebred ewes due to a dog attack that could have been prevented. Accordingly, the only way to avoid problems with neighborhood dogs was to lock the flock up in a secure sheep shed every night. Thus, locking the sheep in the sheep shed became the last chore that our Nevada Township farmer completed every evening after the milking was done. Although this chore was usually done after dark when the mid-day heat was past, the fall of 1941 was warmer than usual. Consequently, on these warm nights, the sheep resisted going voluntarily into the sheep shed. They preferred sleeping outside on the ground rather than being locked up in the sheep shed. Accordingly, it took a little effort to round them up and get them into the sheep shed.
Our Nevada Township farmer made some improvements to the sheep shed/brooder house by nailing a couple of one inch by four inch boards to the inside frame of the windows. These boards were nailed over the lower portion of each window in the brooder house no higher than the height of an average mature sheep. These boards would prevent the windows from being accidentally broken by sheep moving boisterously about inside their new sheep shed during the night. By protecting these windows from breakage, the windows could be closed in the winter for warmth and opened in the summer to catch the cool summer night breezes.
In one corner of the sheep shed, our Nevada Township farmer fixed a little hay rack to hold a single bale of hay. With the “killing frost” expected any day, our Nevada Township farmer knew that soon he would have to feed the ewes hay to replace the vegetation that would no longer be available to the sheep after the frost. He also built a little frame on the floor of another corner of the sheep shed. This little frame was just the right size for a salt block. On the next trip to Lyle, our Nevada Township farmer reminded himself that he would have to pick up a block of iodized salt at the Hunting elevator.
Since dogs only chased sheep in the night time hours, the arrival of early morning brought safety for the sheep. Accordingly, the sheep could be let out of the sheep shed even before sunrise each morning. Knowing how the sheep disliked being locked up in warm weather, our Nevada township farmer wanted to let the ewes out of the sheep shed as soon as possible in the morning. Accordingly, he made sure that his first chore in the each morning was to walk out to the sheep shed and open the door of the shed to let the sheep out for the day. On his way to the sheep shed, he made his way up the small hill in the back of the house to the windmill. At the based of the windmill, our Nevada Township farmer unlatched and turned the crank connected to one of the four legs of windmill. This crank was connected to a cable which ran up the leg of the tower to the head of the windmill located at the top of the tower. Unlatching the crank and loosening the crank allowed the vane of the windmill to swing loose and bring the wind wheel of the windmill around to face the direction of the wind. Then the wind wheel began to turn and draw water up out of the ground. Ordinarily, the water would be drawn up to a pipe that lead to an underground cistern. Because this cistern was buried underground on the small hill, this cistern was actually at a higher level than the house and the barn on the farm. Accordingly water could flow by means of gravity through an underground pipe down to the house and through another underground pipe to the barn. Being underground the cistern was protected from freezing in the winter. Therefore, the cistern and gravity provided “running water to both the house and the barn on the farm. However, by turning a valve at the base of the pump jack, water could be diverted from flowing to the underground cistern and would be pulled by the windmill to the top of the pump jack where the water would flow out the pump jack and fill a tub that was sitting on top of the ground outside wooden fence that surrounded the base of the windmill. This tub was the watering tank for the sheep.
Sheep needed fresh water available to them at all times. Fresh water was important to sheep for a number of reasons. Unlike cattle who can drink water of a wide variety of temperatures, sheep need water of 50°F in order to stay cool during hot weather. Water also aided the transportation of nutrients around the body of the sheep and aided in the removal of waste matter from the body. Additionally, water was required for some of the chemical reactions that were occurring inside the bodies of the sheep and water helped keep the cells of the bodies of the sheep hydrated and healthy. The water now pouring out of the pump jack was of the correct temperature and came from a well that was around 300 feet deep and, thus, was fresh and free of any unhealthy bacteria that might be found in surface water. After being locked up all night, the sheep came out of the shed in the morning and headed straight for their water tank. Throughout the day they would find their way back to their water tank for another long drink.
After drinking water, the sheep would begin grazing. Because they were exclusively planter eaters, the sheep would have to graze most of the day just to gather enough grass and plant life to sustain them. The stomach or rumen of the individual sheep was divided into chambers or individual stomachs. The rumen is designed to allow the sheep their graze for a couple of hours until their first stomach was full. Then, they would lie down for about an hour to “chew their cud.” During this process the “cud” or partially digested material in the first stomach would be regurgitated a mouthful at a time back up into the mouth for re-chewing. After the cud had been sufficiently re-chewed, the cud would be re-swallowed into the second (regular stomach) and make its way through the regular digestive tract of the sheep. Mouthful by mouthful the cuds would be chewed, until the first stomach was empty.
Cattle have the same type of digestive, however, sheep are much more efficient than cattle. Any weed seeds that are ingested by cattle will pass through the entire digestive tract and will be discarded on the ground with the manure. After the manure, has dried out and been incorporated into the soil, the individual weed seed may start growing again. However, individual weed seeds will not survive the digestive system of the average sheep. Accordingly, weeds that depend on seeds for propagation will not survive in any sheep yard like weeds in a cow pasture. Only those plants that propagate from growth of the roots will survive in a sheep yard.
The Suffolk ewes grazed the outer yard and the grove and kept the grass and weeds under control much more efficiently than our Nevada Township farmer could ever have done the lawn mower or the scythe, even if he had had the time to do that chore. They even ate the grass and weeds down around the old abandoned machinery that was parked in the grove. Evidence of the sheep’s recent grazing location could be seen in the little round marble-sized balls of fresh sheep manure, that could be seen around the yard. Our Nevada Township farmer always felt that these little “marbles” of dung were neater and less messy than the “cowpies” of cattle. Additionally, sheep manure was more valuable than cow manure. Indeed, sheep manure, was richer in soil nutrients than any other manure on the farm. Sheep manure has almost twice the nitrogen content of horse manure and more than twice the nitrogen found in cow manure. Accordingly, when he cleaned out the sheep shed once a year, our Nevada Township farmer spread the sheep manure on the garden rather than taking it to the fields with the barn manure.
Nonetheless, having sheep in the outer yard took some adjustment of the family’s daily habits. In the past, they might leave the granary door open as they moved back and forth from granary to the chicken house carrying pails of oats to feed the chickens every morning. Now they had to be aware that the sheep were constantly watching for an opportunity for a chance to steal into the granary to get a few mouthfuls of shelled corn. The family had to remember to close the granary door every time they made the short trip to the chicken house with pails of oats and corn for the chickens. In the past the various gates to the inner yard might be left open for the better part of the day. Not any longer. The sheep seemed intent on taking any opportunity to invade the inner yard. Having done so, they would not content themselves with eating the grass on the lawn, which might have been acceptable. Instead, the sheep would head straight to the “salad bar”—the family garden— where they could eat all the tender young tops of the carrots or the rows of young, green lettuce plants or the English pea plants or the bean plants. In a very short time the sheep could destroy the family garden. Indeed, they were hesitant to leave even under threat of a family member running to the garden with a stick in hand or the rapid approach of the family dog, sent to “sic ‘em.” They would watch the approach of the threat with one eye cocked toward the approaching threat. Their bodies would be leaning toward the gate like a sprinter ready to start a race but still they would continue to eat as fast as they could to get every last mouthful before they were forced to run for the gate as fast as they could go. Everywhere the family went in the yard, un-noticed eyes of the sheep were watching for any opportunity to pass through an open door or open gate into some forbidden area. Once these patterns of behavior were adopted by the family members, the sheep began to find their niche on the farm.
Keeping the outer yard clear of weeds and overgrown plant life was just one of the benefits of the sheep, but our Nevada Township farmer also wanted to earn cash income from the sheep. Although sheep have wool which can be sold as a product on the market, this did not amount to much in Suffolk sheep. Suffolk sheep had only a moderate amount of wool. They were primarily “meat sheep” not “wool sheep.” The most money could be made from the sheep by the sale of their lambs. Lambs which are fed a supplement of rolled oats and corn could reach market weight in as little as five months. To be ready for the market in August or September, 1942, the lambs would have to be born in early spring—March or April of 1942—rather than in the late spring—May or June of 1942. Lambs born in March and April would have the advantage of not having to contend with flies and other insect pests during their early life, as would lambs born in May and June. From breeding until lambing, ewes have a five month gestation (pregnancy) period. Thus, in order to have lambs in March, the ewes would our Nevada Township farmer needed to allow a ram to graze with the ewes as early as early as October in 1941.
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.
Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4
Potato Farming in No. Dakota: The 1937 F-20
Brian Wayne Wells
(As published in the July/August 2008 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine)
It began like so many other purchases of antique farm machinery. The late Wayne A. Wells purchased a Farmall Model F-20 at the 1992 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet. Wayne paid for the tractor by means of a check. Wayne had the habit of making virtually all purchase transactions by means of a check—a habit that has been inherited and is carried on to further extremes by his son, the current author. Future events would prove how extremely fortunate it was that the purchase was made by means of a check.
This particular F-20 was missing its serial number tag. However, the serial number imprinted on the frame of the tractor was 71355. The tractor was fitted with two 6.00 X 16 inch car tires mounted on IHC cast iron drop-center, or demountable, rims in the front. One of the first improvements to the tractor was to replace these old car tires with two new 5.50 X 16 inch tri-rib tires. No. 71355 was also fitted with 13 X 36” rubber tires mounted on IHC cast-iron demountable rims in the rear. The rear tires were in extremely bad shape and in April of 1993 they too were replaced with brand new tires.
No. 71355 was only the second tractor to be restored by Wayne Wells, (the first tractor to be restored was the 1945 Farmall B bearing the serial number 130161, which is mentioned in the article called “Farmall B: Second Tractor on the Farm, but First in the Heart” contained in the November/December 1993 issue of Belt Pulley), both Wayne and his two sons, Mark and the current author, were anxious to parade the tractor at the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show to be held on the last weekend in August 1992. Accordingly, No. 71355 was painted prior to any overhaul of the engine being performed. (Indeed, a very “smoky” but painted, No. 71355 can be seen being driven by Mark Wells in the parade at the 1992 LeSueur Show in the second hour portion of Disc/Tape No. 1 of the International Harvester Promotional Movie collection.
The current author can be seen in the same movie driving the same 1945 Farmall B mentioned above, just ahead of No. 71355 in the parade.) The badly needed engine overhaul of No. 71355 was conducted in large part over Christmas of 1992. (Some of this work performed on No. 71355 over that Christmas was filmed and can be seen on the second hour portion of Disc/Tape No. 2 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies.) In April of 1993, No. 71355 was pulled and started for the first time following the engine overhaul. (This procedure of pulling No. 71355 with the 1945 Farmall B in April of 1993 can be seen on the second hour portion of Disc/Tape #5 of the International Harvester Promotional movie collection.)
As the restoration of No. 71355 proceeded, history of the tractor was examined. Nothing of the actual history of No. 71355 was known. Consequently, the history of the tractor was a topic of speculation. Ordinarily a telephone call to the seller of the tractor would have been the starting point for the research into the history of the tractor. However, time had passed since the purchase of No. 71355 in April of 1992 and the canceled check bearing the name of the seller of No. 71355 was placed away in storage with the financial papers of the Wells family. With the check used for payment on the tractor not readily at hand, the seller’s name was not available and not even a beginning could be made as to researching the actual history of the tractor. Only the features of the tractor itself could be used as clues as to the tractor’s past. Luckily, the particular and unique features of No. 71355, reveal a good deal about the tractor.
First and foremost was the “tricycle type” design of No. 71355. The tricycle design positioned the front wheels of the tractor close together. This configuration allowed the tractor to work in crops which were planted in rows as narrow 30 inches apart. As a tricycle “row crop” tractor, both front wheels of the tractor were attached to a single bolster. Thus, both front wheels shared a single pivot point. This type of steering is called “fifth wheel” type of steering and is different than the “automotive type” steering found in “standard” or “four-wheel” designed tractors in which each wheel has its own pivot point located at the “journal” for that particular wheel. The fifth wheel type of steering allowed the tricycle designed tractor to turn much more sharply than the automotive type steering. Thus, the tricycle design and the ability to turn very sharp corners made No. 71355 ideally suited for row crop farm work.
A second feature of No. 71355 that provided a clue as to its history was the optional high-speed road gear that had been installed in the standard transmission of No. 71355. Standard equipment on the Farmall Model F-20 was a four-speed transmission with speeds of 2⅜ miles per hour (mph) in first gear, 2¾ mph in second gear, 3¼ mph in the standard third gear and 3¾ in fourth gear. (See the tractor specifications of the F-20 in the IHC Data Book #1: 1900 to 1940 by Alan C. King at page 24.) However, in the transmission of No. 71355, the standard equipment 3¼ mph third gear had been replaced by the optional 28-tooth gear which resulted in a speed of 7.07 mph. (See the 28-tooth “high speed” sliding gear listed as part No. 20700D on page 124 of the F-20 Parts Catalog—TC-13-A.)
Consequently, this optional “3rd gear” became the “new road gear” and really was the new “4th gear.” This was a factory installed option on No. 71355, as evidenced by the fact that the numbers embossed on the base at the shifter lever of the tractor, which reflected the shifting pattern for the gear shift lever, actually had the “3” and the “4” reversed to accurately portray the new gear shift pattern given the installation of this new optional road gear. (Oscar H. Will and Todd Markle, Collector’s Originality Guide: Farmall Regular and F-Series [Voyaguer Press: St. Paul, Minnesota, 2007] p. 68.)
Installation of this optional road gear was made available only on those F-20s which were fitted with rubber tires. (Ibid. p. 72.) Accordingly, it was determined that No. 71355, rolled off the assembly line at the Farmall Works in Rock Island, Illinois, fitted with factory-installed rubber tires. However, when No. 71355 was manufactured in the second week of December, 1936, the tractor could not have been fitted with the same 36 inch cast-iron wheels with demountable rims that are now mounted on the rear of tractor. Only in March of 1937, (beginning with the particular F-20 with the serial number 79522) did F-20 tractors begin to be fitted with these International Harvester-made cast-iron demountable rear wheels and rims for rubber tires. (See the F-20 Parts Book page 207.) Prior to March of 1937, IHC relied on an outsource contract, they had signed with the French and Hecht Company of Davenport, Iowa, to supply all the rear wheels for all their rubber-tired tractors.
Likewise, the IHC cast-iron demountable drop-center rims, currently, mounted on the front wheels of No. 71355, could not have been mounted on the tractor when the tractor was first built and sold. IHC began using their own demountable drop center rims for rubber tires on the front wheels only in January of 1938 beginning with the particular F-20 tractors bearing the serial number 109127. (See page 175 of the F-20 parts book.)
Prior to that time, IHC again relied on its contract with the French and Hecht Company to supply round-spoke rims for all F-20 tractors fitted with 5.50 X 16” rubber tires in the front. (A French and Hecht round-spoke rim is pictured on page 174 of the F-20 parts book.) Accordingly, when No. 71355 rolled out of the Farmall Works in Rock Island, Illinois, the tractor did so with rubber tires mounted on French and Hecht round-spoke wheel rims on the front as well as the rear.
Some time after No. 71355 was initially purchased, the tractor was fitted with an auxiliary transmission manufactured by the Heisler Manufacturing Company of Hudson, Iowa. This auxiliary transmission was located on the power train of the tractor in the open space between the clutch housing on the engine and the standard transmission. The Heisler auxiliary transmission provided a high range to all the standard speeds of the transmission—in fact doubling the number of speeds available to the tractor.
The Heisler Manufacturing Company made three different models of auxiliary transmissions for the Farmall F-20. Model number HT-2033 auxiliary transmission would increase the speed of the F-20 tractor by a factor of 2.32 to 1 because of the gear ratio of the auxiliary transmission. Heisler model number HT-2034 featured a gear ratio of 2.1 to 1 and Heisler model number HT-2035 featured a gear ratio of 1.99 to 1. The reason for the Heisler Company offering the three different auxiliary transmissions was that the rubber-tired F-20 was offered to the public with different sizes of rubber tires for the rear. The Heisler Company knew that the size of the rear tires would greatly alter the speeds of any tractor. The particular model of Heisler auxiliary transmission added to No. 71355 was model HT-2033 with the 2.32 to 1 gear ratio. The addition of the Heisler Model HT-2033 supplemental transmission to No. 71355, with its optional high speed road gear and with 36” rubber tires in the rear, would have added high range speeds of 5.22 mph in first gear, 6.38 mph in second gear, 7.59 in third gear and 16.4024 mph in fourth gear. These were hardly necessary or even desirable speeds for field work. Indeed, they all seemed to be road speeds. Indeed, the Heisler Company specifically warns against installation of an auxiliary transmission on any F-20 tractor which already has already been fitted with the optional high-speed road gear in the standard transmission. Continue reading Potato Farming in North Dakota with a 1937 F-20 (Part I)→
Raising Poland China Hogs (Part II): The 1936 Farmall Model F-30
Brian Wayne Wells
(As published in the September/October 2008 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine)
As noted previously, Waseca County is located in the flat plains of southern Minnesota. (See the article called “Raising Poland China Hogs in Waseca County” in the May-June 2008 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) The soil of these plains is a dark, rich, gumbo-type of soil. This type of soil is perfect for raising corn. One of the lesser populated townships in Waseca County is Byron Township. Byron Township is located on the southern boundary of Waseca County. As noted previously, one particular farmer in Byron Township was celebrating the Christmas holidays of 1935 with his parents and other family members when the great Christmas Eve snow storm of 1935 struck. The storm isolated the family on the farm for a number of days before the roads were cleared enough for travel off the farm. (Ibid.)
On this hog farm, Christmas was an important time for the farming operation because it was “farrowing time” for the registered purebred Poland China sows that were owned by our Byron Township farmer. He was pleased to see that each of his sows had given birth to a large litter of baby pigs during this farrowing season. Furthermore, the sows and baby pigs all seemed to be adjusting well to each other. The Poland China sow is known to be a good mother to her pigs, but, as noted in the previous article, our Byron Township farmer had made the decision last summer (1935) to enlarge his breeding stock by adding four new bred gilts. He now had twelve sows and twelve litters of baby pigs rather than a mere eight litters of previous years. The four new gilts were “first time mothers.” Our Byron Township farmer always worried about the emotional reaction of first-time mothers to their first litter of pigs, but now in the weeks following the holidays, he could see that even the young gilts were getting along well with their baby pigs.
The farrowing season kept our Byron Township farmer busy with chores in the hog house. The whole hog house was divided into separate pens as each of the twelve “families” had their own pen. Each sow had to be fed and watered in her own pen twice a day. As the baby pigs became larger and were able to get around relatively independently, there was less chance of them being, accidentally, laid on and crushed to death by their mother or by the other large sows. Accordingly, the partitions separating each mother and their litters could be removed and the sows and their litters could be allowed to interact with each other. Feeding and watering would be more communal and could be simplified to take less time. Nonetheless, the “hog house chores” of feeding and watering remained a twice-a-day activity.
Having enlarged his breeding stock by 50%, our Byron Township farmer would now have 50% more feeder pigs to raise than in previous years. Thus, our Byron Township farmer knew that he would be busier this year than ever before—especially, once the springtime field work began. Currently, our Byron Township farmer had two Farmall Regular tractors available to him on his farm. Although one of the Farmall Regulars actually belonged to his father, who lived on a separate farm building site located about a ½ mile away. His father still regularly helped with the day to day farming activities. They had purchased both of these Farmall Regulars in 1928 with the intent of speeding up their summertime work of cultivating the corn. Now when they went to the field in the summer with the cultivators mounted on both tractors, they could cover a lot of ground in a short time. However, they had purchased the two tractors seven years ago. His father was not as able to do manual labor around the farm as he had in the past. After all, his father had actually retired and sold the farm to our Byron Township farmer seven years ago.
This last August at the 1935 Minnesota State Fair, while the family was making their annual trip to show the pigs at that fair, our Byron Township farmer had been intrigued by what he saw at the large International Harvester Company exhibit on “Machinery Hill” on the fairgrounds. The 1935 State Fair was his first real chance to see the full line of tractors that the International Harvester Company was now offering to the farming public. In July of 1931, International Harvester had introduced a new larger Farmall tractor (Oscar H. Will & Todd Markle, Collector’s Originality Guide: Farmall Regular and F-Series [Voyaguer Press: St. Paul, Minnesota, 2007] p. 51). When tested at the University of Nebraska from October 9 through October 23, 1931, the new larger Farmall was shown to deliver 20.27 horsepower (hp.) to the drawbar and 30.29 hp. to the belt pulley. Because of its belt horsepower rating, the tractor became known as the Farmall 30, or the F-30 for short.
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 serve 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→
In 1924, a revolution occurred in the design of farm tractors. This revolution had started with the introduction by the International Harvester Company of the Farmall tractor in 1924. The Farmall was a “row crop” tractor advertised specifically as the tractor that could “do everything on the farm except the family budget” (a quote from the movie “Practical Magic” on Tape/DVD #3 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies). Soon every tractor manufacturer was introducing their own version of the row crop tractor. The J.I. Case Company’s first entry into the row crop tractor market was the Model CC tractor, introduced in 1929. The Model CC contained an engine with a 3 7/8 inch bore and a 5 ½ inch stroke. Tests of the 4,240 lbs. Model CC at the University of Nebraska, conducted on September 10, 1929, found that the tractor produced 28.79 hp. at the belt pulley and 17.88 hp. at the drawbar. The Case Model CC tractor was a tricycle-style of tractor. Although the Model CC had two wheels in front, the two wheels were positioned close together. This configuration became a standard for row crop tractors and was called the “narrow front end” or “tricycle” design of farm tractors. The front wheels of the typical tricycle tractor, like the Case Model CC tractor, could fit in the pathway between two rows of corn or other row crops planted 30 or 40 inches apart.
It was this very ability of the Model CC to cultivate corn that attracted a particular farmer living in Stockholm Township in Wright County, Minnesota. He and his wife operated a 160-acre farm on which they raised oats and hay for his horses, some summer wheat, which they sold, and corn, part of which was used feed and part of which was sold as a cash crop. Our Stockholm Township farmer had eight or nine sows on their farm which, each winter, gave birth or farrowed to about 80 baby pigs. He raised the baby pigs until they reached their ideal market weight of 260 pounds. Given the losses from early death and disease among the baby pigs he would generally end up with 65 to 70 pigs ready for market in the late summer. In the final weeks before market the feeder pigs ate voraciously through the corn. Nonetheless, our Stockholm Township farmer could make a pretty good estimate of the amount of corn that he would need to “finish out” the feeder pigs. In a normal year, he would be able to hire his neighbor who had a large corn sheller to come to his farm and shell out all the ear corn in his corn cribs. He would do this in about February or March each year. He would have that part of the shelled corn that he would not need for the pigs, hauled straight to the Cooperative elevator in Cokato immediately after shelling to be sold. In a normal year, the price of corn would reach the peak of its annual cycle in these winter months.
with the assistance of
Del Gendner of Grand Prairie, Texas
Joe Thome of Racine, Wisconsin
Bob S. McFarland of Sauk City, Wisconsin
Ed Mortensen of Racine, Wisconsin
Gary Oechsner of Fon-du-Lac, Wisconsin
As published in the July/August 1999 issue of Belt Pulley Magazine
This article remains under construction. Periodically, blocks of new text and media (pictures) may appear and/or the current blocks of text will appear modified or corrected with new information.
(NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Brian Wells relates to us that he was able to write the history of the Belle City Company only with the help of the reading public of the Belt Pulley magazine. Thus, this is the first truly “interactive article” Brian has written. We hope this trend will continue and grow. As you know, Brian has been attempting to write an article on the Wood Brothers Threshing Company of Des Moines, Iowa. He is also doing some research on the Rosenthal Cornhusker Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the Electric Wheel Company of Quincy, Illinois. He would appreciate any material on the corporate history of any of these companies.)
At two stages during its history as a farm machine manufacturer, the Belle City Manufacturing Company of Racine, Wisconsin enjoyed a network of sales outlets. From 1909 until 1926, Belle City licensed the International Harvester Company to sell Belle City and New Racine threshers, which were made by the Belle City Company. This opened up the entire IHC sales network to Belle City. However, in 1926, IHC termiinated the contract with Belle City and started making their own line of McCormick-Deering threshers. The termination of the contract left Belle City without an effective outlet for its threshers. To be sure, Belle City had been selling some threshers to the tractor division of the Ford Motor Company during the 1920s. However, now with the termination of the IHC contract, Belle City sought to double down on their efforts to get into a closer relationship with Ford. This effort proved successful and, thus, Belle entered into a period of there history which historians have labelled the “Golden Age of the Belle City Manufacturing Company.”
All through the 1930s, the Belle City Company enjoyed access to the farm equipment market through the distribution and dealership network of the tractor division of the Ford Motor Company. However, with the introduction of the new Ford/Ferguson 9N in 1939, Ford gravitated toward the Woods Brothers Threshing Company of Des Moines, Iowa. Woods Bros., of course, manufactured the famous “Humming Bird” thresher which was offered in the 21″ x 36″, 26″ x 46″, 28 x 46″ and 30″ by 50″ sizes. (Robert N. Pripps and Andrew Moreland, Threshers [Motorbooks International: Osceola, Wisc. 1992] p. 122.) These threshers covered the entire gambit of the small thresher market, and Ford had no further need of the joint venture with Belle City. Thus, after 1938, Belle City was on its own, and had to start advertising independent of Ford.
At first, Belle City suffered from the lack of the dealership network which it had enjoyed under its contract with IHC during the 1920s and with Ford during the 1930s. Fortunately, however, Belle City had insisted that the slogan “Belle City Built” appear on all its threshers sold by Ford and International Harvester Company. Thus, farmers had become so familiar with seeing that slogan on its threshers that, both during the contract with IHC prior to 1926 and during the joint venture with Ford, farmers began to insist that their threshers be stamped “Belle City Built” if their new thresher had slipped through manufacture without that slogan stenciled on the sides. Consequently, by 1939, when the company had to go it alone as far as advertising, sales, and distribution, Belle City had already succeeded in becoming somewhat of a household name with farmers in the upper midwest.
Note that the advertising literature above indicates that the Belle
City Company was building an entire line of farm machines which the Company was offering to the farming public. Among the advertising possibilities for Belle City was the Wisconsin State Fair held on a 200-acre site in West Allis, Wisconsin. In the years just prior to the Second World War, the Wisconsin State Fair consisted largely of tents. There were very few permanent structures. However, it was a very popular event with Continue reading The Belle City Manufacturing Company (Part II)→
Belt Pulley Magazine Articles by Brian Wayne Wells