A McCormick-Deering Corn Binder at Work on the
Irving King Farm
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the January/February 1997 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
As previously noted, necessity is the mother of restoration projects. (“The Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois,” Belt Pulley Vol. 8, No. 4, [July/August 1995] p. 17). The most recent example of this principle was at the August 1995 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show when a one-row, ground-driven McCormick-Deering corn binder was made a part of the machinery collection on the Pioneer Power Showgrounds in time for the threshing show. The LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association plants some corn on their 100-acre site every spring. Part of the corn is cut, bundled and shocked prior to the August show to allow at least some ripening and curing to occur prior to the August threshing show. The corn bundles are then fed into one of the two corn shredders located on the Showgrounds.
The remaining corn which had not previously been bundled and shocked, is cut and bundled at the Show itself. These bundles are immediately fed into the stationary silo fillers as part of the green corn harvest field demonstrations at the Show. Consequently, there was a need to have at least one working corn binder employed prior the Show and to also serve as part of the field demonstrations at the Show itself. (One of these stationary silo fillers at the 1995 Show was the newly re-painted and decaled Model 442 OK silo filler made by the Algoma Manufacturing Co. which was pictured in its unrestored condition in the article on the Algoma Company in the March/April issue of Belt Pulley Vol. 8, No. 1, p.18).
In the years before 1995, a one-row, ground-driven McCormick-Deering corn binder was used to fill this role. However, this binder was sold by its owner over the winter between the 1994 and 1995 Show and had been removed from the Showgrounds. Recognizing the need for a corn binder for the 1995 Show, Glendon Braun, board member of the Association and life-long resident of Tyrone and Sharon Townships, brought another one-row, ground-driven McCormick Deering corn binder to the Showgrounds. Glendon had purchased this binder some years previously from his neighbor, Ralph King. This binder had originally been purchased by Ralph King’s first cousin once-removed, Irving King, of rural LeSueur, Minnesota. The corn binder arrived on the Showgrounds in time for the August 1995 Show.
Every restored farm tractor or machine serves a number of purposes. In the mind of the collector or observer, the machine may call up memories of a similar farm machine from the past. The memory might be of a comparable machine used by the collector or his family in the past or the memory may stem from a fleeting experience with or observation of a similar machine. In this way, the restored farm machine becomes the representative of the machine in the memory of the collector. Because the McCormick-Deering corn binder was a very popular and widely used farm machine, any restored McCormick-Deering binder is sure to bring back memories to many people.
International Harvester was a corporation that was formed in 1903 from the merger of several smaller companies. Among these companies were the Deering, Osbourne, Milwaukee and McCormick companies, each of whom offered corn binders in their product lines. Following the merger, International Harvester continued to offer corn binders under the separate names of Deering, Osbourne, Milwaukee and McCormick. Although differences existed between these corn binders, over the years of their production under the umbrella of the International Harvester Company, these corn binders became progressively more similar. By 1927, when the fiction of separate names was dropped, the various corn binders became very much alike and had a great number of interchangeable parts. In 1927, International Harvester offered corn binders under only one name–McCormick-Deering.
As a representative sample of the McCormick-Deering corn binder at work in the fields of the Pioneer Power Showgrounds, the Irving King corn binder spurs memories in many people. The George and Louise (Schwark) Wells family of LeRoy, Minnesota, used a McCormick-Deering corn binder in their farming operation not only on their rented farm near Chester, Iowa, but they took the binder with them in 1936 when they moved to the 160-acre Moses Crawford farm in LeRoy Township, in Mower County, Minnesota. This binder was horse-drawn but later, after the Wells family purchased a 1929 Farmall Regular in 1939, the corn binder was converted to tractor-pulled model. The corn binder was used in the Wells farming operation to cut and bundle green corn for feeding into the McCormick-Deering Model N silo filler.
In a picture in the second article on the Papec Company in the January/February 1996 issue of Belt Pulley magazine, a Deering corn binder–largely identical to the later McCormick-Deering corn binder–can be seen in operation in a field of sorghum on the John T. Goff farm near Mapleton, Minnesota. This Deering corn binder was owned by the Howard and Ethel (Buck) Hanks family and used on the Goff farm while they rented that farm. The binder was moved to the Bagan farm near LeRoy, Minnesota in 1945 when the Hanks family purchased that farm.
Maynard Lawrence remembers that his parents, Dean and Carrie (Schafer) Lawrence, used a McCormick-Deering corn binder on their Pilot Grove Township farm in Faribault County, near Winnebago, Minnesota. Dean and Carrie Lawrence and their two oldest sons, Delmar (born April 6, 1914) and Virgil (born July 10, 1916), had moved from the Gatskill farm in Adams County near Corning, Iowa, in 1923. In Minnesota, they settled on the historic David Ogilvie farm. When the Lawrence family moved to Minnesota, their livestock rode in a freight train which arrived at the little railroad junction town of Wells, Minnesota (1920 pop. 1,894). Living on the 160-acre Ogilvie farm, Dean and Carrie had two more sons, Ronald (born December 26, 1925) and Maynard (born January 8, 1928). The Lawrence family purchased a new horse-drawn McCormick-Deering corn binder in the late 1920s following the consolidation of the names in 1927. Always seeking to employ modern methods in his farming operation, Dean Lawrence purchased a new Farmall F-12 in 1934. Their horse-drawn corn binder was immediately converted to a tractor-drawn machine and continued to be used in the Lawrence family farming operation for many more years.
Besides serving as representative of some other machine, each restored tractor or farm machine has its own history. Sometimes the history of a machine is not known and may be impossible to discover. When the history of a particular machine is known, the restoration of that machine becomes all the more fascinating to the people restoring it. The Irving King corn binder is particularly interesting in this regard, not only because its history is known, but also because the corn binder is a “neighborhood machine.” This particular binder was used in the fall of 1958 and the fall of 1959, binding up corn on the Ralph King farm which is a mere stone’s throw from the Pioneer Power Showgrounds where it is currently being used. Therefore, when the binder is cutting corn during the field demonstrations at the Showgrounds, it is working on almost the same land where is was used in 1958 and 1959. Furthermore, the Irving King farm, where the little binder spent its life prior to 1958, is also located in Sharon township across the road from the current Ray Allen Schwartz farm south of LeSueur, not far from the Pioneer Power grounds.
Irving King was a bachelor farmer living on his own 80-acre farm south of LeSueur, Minnesota, in the late 1920s. He purchased the present one-row horse-drawn McCormick-Deering sometime in the late 1920s after the 1927 consolidation of the names. The binder was purchased from the Jack Clifford International Harvester dealership in LeSueur, Minnesota. (Consistent Belt Pulley readers will remember that the Jack Clifford dealership in LeSueur was sold to Paul Meyer in 1941. See the article: “History of a Thresher” in the May/June, 1994 issue of Belt Pulley, p. 19). The binder was used on the Irving’s diversified farm to cut some of the ripened corn in the fall for the corn shredder. Corn shredding was a popular method of harvesting part of the farmer’s ripe corn in the LeSueur area. Shredding part of the ripe corn crop allowed the farmer to save some of the corn stalks from the corn crop for livestock feed or bedding. The corn shredder would be parked near the barn and the bundles of corn were fed into it by a crew of men. The corn shredder would strip the ears of corn from the stalks and elevate the ears into a wagon. The stalks and husks are then shredded and blown directly into the hayloft of the barn. (The Rosenthal Steel 40 corn shredder employed at the Pioneer Power Show each year provides the public demonstrations of this very popular, but by-gone method of harvesting corn.) The rest of the corn crop on the farm would be hand-husked in the traditional manner.
Corn shredding was a way to save yet another by-product from at least some of the corn crop. Indeed, the bedding and feeding value of shredded corn stalks was so appreciated that following the hand-husking of the corn, some farmers would bind and shred these empty corn stalks for additional feed and/or bedding.
Binding of corn for shredding usually began the second week in September. The corn would cure in the shocks until October when the corn would be shredded. Corn shredding, like grain threshing required a large crew of workers. During corn shredding and at other times throughout the year, Irving cooperated with his brothers Leland and Howard, who were also both bachelors and living together on a farm about a mile south of Irving’s farm. Even with the large crew, shredding of corn was a long ordeal which would usually last throughout October and November. Sometimes corn shredding would not be complete until December.
Horses provided much of the power on the Irving King farm as was the case on so many farms of the 1920s and 1930s. However, Irving upgraded his farming operation by obtaining a new Case LA standard tractor. Later, in 1940, he purchased his first row-crop tractor–a new 1940 Farmall B–and a 235 two-row cultivator. The Farmall B was a three-wheeled version with a single front wheel and was also purchased at Clifford’s. As shown in the 1939 movie Farmall B and Equipment on Tape 2 of the International Harvester Movie collection, the Farmall B was introduced in 1939 as the “best little tractor on three wheels” and seems to have been offered only in the single-front-wheel configuration for the first couple of years of its production. Irving found that the Farmall B was a very handy little tractor. Not only was the Farmall B used for cultivating, but Irving soon began to convert his horse drawn machinery to be pulled behind the B. By the fall of 1940, the tongue on the little McCormick-Deering corn binder had been shortened up and fitted with a hitch for the drawbar of the B. After the conversion of the binder to tractor-power, the 1940 Farmall B was used exclusively to pull the corn binder on the Irving King farm. The Farmall B is ideally fitted to the corn binder. Indeed the Farmall B was originally advertised as being ideally suited to this task. In a sight which must be very much reminiscent of the B and the corn binder on the Irving King farm , there is a scene at the end of Farmall B and Equipment in which a three-wheeled B can be seen pulling a ground-driven McCormick-Deering binder in a corn field.
The Irving King binder is also a valuable addition to the farm machinery collection on the Showgrounds because its condition. Having had very good care over the years since its original purchase in the late 1920s and having been stored indoors all of its life, the Irving King binder was in very good condition when it was sold in 1958 to Irving’s cousin, Ralph King.
In 1958, Ralph King had just taken over the farming operation of the 80-acre family farm from his parents, John and Hattie (Dressel) King. Ralph and his wife, Carol (Wanner) King, still live in the same house in which Ralph was raised.
Ralph was born on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1927, as part of the first set of triplets ever delivered in ImmanuelHospital in Mankato, Minnesota. The other infants in the set of triplets were a boy named Roy (named after Dr. Roy M. Andrews who delivered the triplets) and a girl named Runette. When the triplets returned to the King home from the hospital, they joined two older sisters, Mary Louise (born on May 25, 1922) and Ruth (born on April 3, 1925); however, Roy died after only two months at home, leaving Ralph as the only boy in a family of girls.
As the years went by, Ralph became old enough to help his father with the milking and chores. The day began early on the King farm. Without fail, every morning John B. King would awaken Ralph at the stoke of 5:00 AM on the mantel clock in the dining room of the King house. Ralph would then get up, get dressed and go downstairs and out of the house toward the barn to help his father with milking the cows by hand and with the other morning chores. After chores, they would return to the house where Ralph’s mother, Hattie, would have breakfast ready. Hattie was known in the neighborhood for her homemade bread and her home canned dill pickles. Coming back into the house after milking, Ralph might find the house full of the smell of his mother’s bread baking in the oven.
Over the years, the regularity of this schedule was rarely changed. On only one memorable occasion in the middle of husking season did Ralph find himself awakened after what seemed to be an unusually short night, get dressed and finish all the chores and return to the house, only to find that his father had accidentally awakened Ralph at 4:00 AM by miscounting the number of strokes from the clock. Ralph and his father had to wait an hour for it to be light enough to get back to husking or hand picking the corn in the corn fields that day!
In 1936, John King purchased a new model John Deere A. This tractor was used for all the farming operations on their farm. During corn shredding season, the John Deere A powered the Rosenthal Steel 40 corn shredder which the King family owned. This Rosenthal Steel 40 was identical to the Rosenthal corn shredder now used on the LeSueur Pioneer Power grounds, except that the King’s Rosenthal did not have the optional self-feeding attachment. Therefore, a worker had cut the strings on each bundle of corn and feed the corn into the shredder by hand.
After John King retired from farming in 1958, Ralph took over the responsibilities of the farming operation on the King farm. Corn shredding gave way to mechanical picking of the entire corn crop in 1960. Consequently, the little McCormick-Deering binder was rarely used after the 1959 season. In the early 1980s, the binder and the 1936 John Deere A were sold to Glendon Braun. (The John Deere A came to be named “Ol’ Ralphie” and is still used on the Glendon and Eldon Braun farms.) During all this time, the corn binder continued to be stored indoors, and when it was brought to the Showgrounds in the summer of 1995, some of the original paint on the binder was still apparent.
On the Showgrounds the binder has become the object of restoration plans. In the future, the binder may be re-painted according to the color scheme outlined in the International Harvester paint committee decisions obtained from the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives. Decaling and/or stenciling of the lettering on the corn binder may also be undertaken. The binder may be pulled in the parade held on the Showgrounds each day of the August Pioneer Power Show.
A permanent registration system for the exhibits in the parade has been devised by Kathy Klasseus. This system is a computerized and will allow each exhibit to be correctly identified by the parade announcer as the exhibit passes the announcer’s stand. All the registered exhibits are stored on a computer. This saves much time in registering tractors for the parade each year. Furthermore, each entry in the computerized registration system contains a “comment” section which is available for additional notations about each exhibit–perhaps a description of the implement being towed by a particular tractor. Because of the permanent nature of the registration system, care must be taken to attach the same tractor to the same implement for each parade each year. Therefore, particular tractors tend to became permanently linked with particular implements for purposes of the parade at the Show. One particularly appropriate tractor to be linked with the Irving King corn binder would be the 1945 Carl Pinney Farmall B (Serial No. 130,161) now owned by Wells Family Farmalls. With the exception of the lack of a single front wheel, the Carl Pinney Farmall B pulling the McCormick-Deering corn binder would look very much like the unit that Irving King would have taken to the corn fields in early 1940s to bind up the corn for the corn shredder.
Whether the Irving King binder is working in the field demonstrations at the Showgrounds or being paraded at the LeSueur Pioneer Power Show each year, it is certain that it will stir many people to memories of their own experiences with a similar McCormick-Deering corn binder.
One corn shredder is a small wooden two-roll International Harvester owned by Kenny Schultz. It can be seen in the Second Hour portion of Tape #3 of the IHC movie collection, operating at the 1988 Show and being powered by Eldon Braun’s 1925 [spoker] John Deere D. The other corn shredder is a Model 40 all-steel [called a “Steel 40”] four-roll Rosenthal corn shredder, currently owned by Doug Pfarr. Kenny Schulz can be seen near the end of the second hour portion of Tape #11 of the International Harvester Movies collection, throwing corn bundles into the self-feeder of the Rosenthal Steel 40 which is being powered by an Monty Braun’s Allis-Chalmers WD-45 at the 1994 Show. The self-feeder on this late-model Rosenthal is an optional attachment not commonly found on corn shredders.
David and Mary (Reid) Ogilvie, David’s brother James and Helen (Cherry) Ogilvie, Andrew and Jeanette More, and Archibald and Anne Cardle are celebrated locally as the original 1858 settlers of PilotGroveTownship and indeed were among the first settlers of rural southern Minnesota.