Soybean Farming in Butternut Valley Township (Part 2 of 2 parts):
The 1944 Farmall Model H Tractor
Brian Wayne Wells
As noted, previously, Butternut Valley Township is located in the extreme northwestern corner of Blue Earth County, Minnesota. (See the first article in this series called “Soybean Farming in Butternut Valley Township [Part 1]” also published in the blog section of this website.) Also, as previously noted, in 1942 Butternut Valley Township was the home of a particular diversified 160 acre family farming operation. Our Butternut Valley Township farer and his wife had lived on this farm since they were married in 1919. As a diversified farming operation, he and his wife milked a Holstein dairy herd, raised pigs and had a chicken flock. They sold milk and eggs off the farm for regular income. Each summer they marketed the pigs they had raised to provide cash income in the summer. In the fields, they raised oats and hay. Originally the oats were raised to feed their horses as well as their chickens and the hay was used to feed both the cows and the horses.
Since obtaining a “used” 1929 Farmall Regular tricycle-style tractor in 1937, he had greatly reduced the number of horses his farm. Thus, he had been able to reduce the number of acres planted to oats and hay each year. The largest crop on the farm was corn. Part of the corn crop was cut in August each year, while it was still green. This corn was then fed into the silo filler and blown into the silo which stood next to the barn. The silage in the silo would be used all winter to feed the dairy herd. The remaining corn would be picked in the late autumn and the ears of corn would be stored in the corn crib. Part of this corn would be shelled and saved to fatten the pigs for market. The rest of the corn would be sold to provide cash income in the winter. Consequently, the corn was a cash crop as well as source of animal food.
Since the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in December of 1941, a new market for plastics had arisen. Soybeans was the main raw product used in making plastics. Accordingly, since 1941,. the market price for soybeans had been soaring. Because he now planted less acres in hay and oats, our Butternut Valley Township farmer decided to plant that extra acreage to soybeans in the spring of 1942. The growing season of 1942 was almost perfect. Both soybeans and corn were bumper crops. Furthermore, the price of these two farm products rose to high levels. Consequently, our Butternut Valley Township farmer had one of his best years in terms of farm income. As a result, he seriously think about upgrading his farming operation by trading the old 1929 Farmall Regular in on the purchase of a new modern farm tractor.
After selling his corn, our Butternut Valley Township farmer was able to pay off all his debts and find that he still had a comfortable balance of funds in the bank. As a result, he again visited the Fesenmaier Hardware dealership. He had heard rumors that more Famall H’s with rubber tires were starting to be manufactured, again, due to the fact that more rubber was starting to be released by the government for civilian production. This time he told the staff at the Fesenmaier dealership to place his name on the list for a rubber-tired Farmall H. However, he told them he only wanted a Farmall H with rubber tires, electric starting and hydraulics. He needed the new tractor now more than ever before.
In the spring of 1943, our Butternut Valley Township farmer increased the amount of acreage he planted to soybeans. He kept waiting for his Farmall H to arrive at the Fesenmaier Hardware dealership. However, very few Farmall Model H tractors arrived at the dealership in New Ulm, Minnesota in 1943 because the manufacturing capacity of the International Harvester Company was still being dominated by government-military contacts. By 1943, ⅔ or 66.6% of the Company’s sales contracts were for military hardware. (Barbara Marsh, A Corporate Tragedy: The Agony of International Harvester p. 71.) Consequently, production of farm tractors by the IHC declined even more. Although already greatly curtailed, production of the Farmall Model H fell off by another 6% in 1943 when compared with the previous year. Rubber pneumatic tires for the Farmall H had been almost totally unavailable since July of 1942. However, starting in July of 1943 rubber tires for the Farmall H started to become available again on a limited basis. (Guy Fay and Andy Kraushaar, Farmall Letter Series Tractors [MBI Publishing Co.: Osceola, Wisconsin, 1998] p. 73.) Thus, the rumors that our Butternut Valley Township farmer had heard in the early spring of 1943, that rubber tires were once again becoming available for Farmall tractors, proved to be a bit premature. Continue reading Soybean Farming in Butternut Township (Part 2 of 2parts)→
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A 1938 Allis-Chalmers Model WC Tractor Bearing the Serial No. 63306 at Work
by Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the July/August 2007 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine)
Ever since it’s introduction in 1933, the row-crop, tricycle design-style Model WC tractor had been a very successful sales item for the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company. As noted, previously, the sales of the Model WC tractor created a real opportunity for various businesses, like the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership of St. Peter, Minnesota. (See the article called the “Allis-Chalmers Two-Row Corn Picker at Work” for the story of the H.B. Seitzer and company dealership, contained in the May/June 2007 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) An even more dramatic example of the Model WC tractor creating business opportunities for local franchise owners, is the story of Albert E. Anderson. It is a story of an immigrant to the United States from Sweden.
Prior to 1880, Sweden had been the leading exporter of oats to the England. Oats were important, primarily, as feed for horses. Secondarily, were oats were rolled as oat meal for human consumption. As England industrialized, the country needed more oats to feed the growing non-agricultural, urban sector of the population and to feed the increasing number of horses employed off the farm. For decades, Sweden had filled England’s growing demand for oats. Growing oats for this market had kept money flowing into the provinces of southeastern Sweden best-known for agricultural products. Indeed, oats were in such demand that even the marginal lands of the southwestern provinces of Sweden—like the province of Smalund—were plowed and planted to oats.
However, by 1880 England had begun importing cheaper oats from the United States. The opening of the upper midwest of the United States after the War Between the States greatly expanded the capacity of the United States to become an inexpensive supplier of oats. The price of oats from the United States severely undercut the cost of production of oats in Sweden. Thus, by 1880, Sweden had lost a huge part of its foreign export market in oats to the United States. This created a long term economic recession in rural Sweden. Predictably, the young people of rural Sweden began to look for new economic opportunities outside of Sweden. Emmigration from Sweden, during this time, came largely from southern Sweden and, largely, from those southwestern provinces with more marginal agricultural land. Large numbers of the immigrants from Smalund in Sweden in the 1880s, settled in the State of Minnesota in the United States. Certain parts of southern Minnesota bear a strong resemblance to Smalund in Sweden in terms of climate and soil conditions.
One of those young persons was Albert E. Anderson. Albert had been born in Sweden on November 15, 1884. One of the most consistent and pervasive facts of his early life in Sweden had been the steady flow of friends, neighbors and relatives out of Sweden. Most of these young people left their native land to seek their fortune in the United States of America. If the letters and messages from relatives already living in the United States could be believed, life was bliss in the New World.
Albert had training as a blacksmith. However, the income that he could derive from this vocation in Sweden was so insignificant that he finally decided to leave Sweden for good. Accordingly, Albert sailed to Copenhagen, Denmark to catch the S.S. Oscar II sailing from Copenhagen to the United States. The S.S. Oscar II arrived in New York on April 8, 1909. Sailing past the Statue of Liberty the ship landed at Ellis Island in New York harbor. From the time that he descended the gang plank of the S.S. Oscar and stepped onto the dock on Ellis Island, Al Anderson found everything was strange and new.
As he made his way up the large stone staircase in the central hallway of the Ellis Island facility, Albert was considerably anxious about the medical examinations and other processes he would have to undergo on the island. If he did not pass the physical examination on Ellis Island, he could be sent back to Sweden. Little did he know that by the time that he reached the top of the staircase, his medical examination was largely completed. The meager medical staff on the Island was swamped with the large number of immigrants that landed each day. Consequently, the “medical examinations” of the incoming immigrants were considerably abbreviated and consisted, largely, of the medical staff on Island merely observing the immigrants as they made their way up the long flight of stairs in large central hallway of the main building.
Any individual immigrant that appeared to have trouble climbing the flight of stairs would be pulled aside for further medical tests. Clearly, Albert Anderson passed his “medical examination” and was leaving Ellis Island much sooner than he expected. As previously arranged, he started out of New York and headed straight westward toward Verona Township in Faribault County in Minnesota where he expected to meet some of his family members and old neighbors from his old community in Sweden. Albert hoped to put his experience as a blacksmith to work in the small growing settlement of Huntley, Minnesota located in Verona Township. Shortly after arriving in Huntley, Albert established a hardware business in a building in the small un-incorporated settlement that was Huntley.
Within the first few years in Huntley, Albert Anderson met a young lady, named Phoebe G. Skabrud. They fell in love and were married in 1914. In August of 1915, Phoebe gave birth to a son, Paul C. Anderson. Their family was completed by the birth of a daughter, Florence Phoebe, born on November 10, 1917; and finally a son, Albert Elden, born in 1921.
When the 1920 United States Census taker showed up in Huntley, Minnesota, on January 22, 1920, he listed Al Anderson’s primary language as “Swedish.” However, in Huntley, Al Anderson was not alone. The Census report listed a number of heads of household within the settlement of Huntley that also spoke Swedish. Additionally, the Census report indicated that, in 1920, Al Anderson was already occupied as a “merchant” in the “farm machinery” business. One would have to surmise that Al Anderson knew enough English to not only make himself understood in English, but could actually make a successful sales pitch to English-speaking customers. By the time of the 1930 United States Census, Albert Anderson’s occupation was listed as a “proprietor” of a business described as a “hardware/farm implement” business.
As shown previously, the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company, in the mid-to-late 1930s, engaged in a campaign to build up and extend its nationwide sales network. (See the history of the Distel Oil Company dealership described in the article called “The Rinehardt/Christian/Boehne Allis-Chalmers Model E Threshermans Special Tractor” in March/April 2007 issue of Belt Pulley magazine and the history of the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership described in the article called “The Allis-Chalmers Two-Row Corn Picker at Work” contained in the May/June 2007 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) This campaign was carried on by Allis-Chalmers sales representatives scouring the countryside of the Midwest looking for local businesses that would be willing to become Allis-Chalmers franchise dealers. When the sales representatives arrived in Faribault County sometime in the mid-1930s, they must have found the Al Anderson hardware store, which already had a long history of serving as a local farm machinery sales outlet, an attractive prospect. For his part, Al Anderson knew that by becoming an authorized Allis Chalmers dealer, he would be able to sell farm tractors along with all the other farm machinery he already was offering to the farming public of his community. Al Anderson realized that, by accepting the offer of an Allis Chalmers dealership, he would suddenly become “full line” farm equipment dealership. Furthermore, Al knew that the Model WC row-crop tractor was a very popular sales item. As noted in a previous article, sales of the Model WC tractor had been explosive since the tractor had been introduced in 1933. (See the article called “An Allis-Chalmers Two-Row Mounted Corn Picker at Work” contained in the May/June 2007 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) Nation-wide, sales of the Model WC had reached 17,914 tractors in 1936.
Last year in 1937, nation-wide sales nearly doubled and rose to 29,006 despite the recession of 1937. This was a record year for the production of the Model WC by the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company. This was an average of 2,417 model WC tractors per month throughout 1937. So far in 1938, sales of the Model WC were starting to pick up again as the effects of the 1937 recession started to wear off. However, production of the Model WC tractor was suspended while the Allis-Chalmers Tractor Works in West Allis, Wisconsin was being re-tooled for introduction of the 1938 Model WC tractor.
Because of the spectacular sales of the Model WC tractor, Al Anderson agreed to become the local Allis-Chalmers franchise dealership for Huntley, Minnesota. He would sell the Allis-Chalmers line of farm equipment out of his hardware store in Huntley, Minnesota. The sales area covered by his new franchise would include, not only Verona Township where Huntley was located, but included the much larger area of western Faribault County and eastern Martin Counties in southern Minnesota.
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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→
Belt Pulley Magazine Articles by Brian Wayne Wells