Coop Farming in Illinois (Part I): The Farmers Union

Coop Farming in Illinois (Part 1):

The National Farmers Union


    Brian Wayne Wells


Throughout the history of North American agriculture, farmers have been attempting to solve their own problems. Farmers have repeatedly joined together in societies and organizations to protect their common economic and political well being. In the United States, one of these attempts of farmers to band together to solve their problems occurred in 1867 with the formation of the National Grange of the Society of the Patrons of Husbandry (or more simply “the Grange). The Grange was formed in the state of Maine in 1867. Following the initial founding of the National Grange, local chapters of the Grange Society sprang up all across the northern rural areas of the nation. At first, Grange meetings were merely social events—community dinners and dances. This was an attempt to solve the problem of loneliness or isolation facing many farm families. However, soon the Grange took a more serious bent and began to protest the political and economic problems faced by farmers.

Founding Hall of the National Society of the Grange in Solon, Maine.

Chief among the concerns of the Grangers was the exploitation of farmers by private grain elevators and the railroad. Usually the local privately-owned grain elevators exercised a near monopoly over the prices that local farmers received for their crops. Often times this price was much lower than the farmer might have received if some competition in the market had been available to the local farmer. However, such competition was usually not readily available to the farmers. Usually there was only a single grain elevator in each local town. To find competing elevators the farmer would have to carry his grain to more distant elevators. Shipping their products to more distant markets was one means by which the farmers might find a higher price for their farm products. Railroads, the primary method of shipping to those distant markets, but usually railroads also had a monopoly over shipping from local small towns. Usually there was only one railroad in each small town. Thus, railroads could charge what ever they wanted for shipping the farmer’s grain. So railroads, along with grain elevators became the targets of farm protest movements.

The individual farmer felt himself being squeezed between the twin monopoly powers of the railroads and their local privately-owned grain elevators. Accordingly, the political program of the Grange developed into a strong protest against monopolistic price-setting powers of both the railroads and the privately-owned grain elevators. The State of Illinois, reacting to protest agitation on the part of the Grange, passed legislation on April 25, 1871 which required the appropriate state to regulate the rates that local privately-owned grain elevators charged farmers for their services. Regulations for the storage of grain by privately-owned grain elevators were promulgated in January of 1872. In June of 1872, a group of elevators including the Munn & Scott grain elevator of Chicago, Illinois, were sued by the State of Illinois for a violation of these regulations regarding terms and rates of grain storage charged. Munn & Scott appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court to test the constitutionality of the Illinois statute allowing the regulation of grain elevators. This case became the landmark case called Munn v. Illinois, (94 U. S. 113 [1877]). The Grange joined the State of Illinois, in the case. The case was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1877. This decision upheld the States of Illinois’ right to regulate the rates that grain elevators could charge for the services they rendered. (More broadly, however, the Munn decision recognized the constitutionality of any state government to regulate any private corporations operating within its boundaries. As such, Munn v. Illinois became the foundation of many areas of law including the state’s right to prevent discrimination against people based on race, sex, age or etc.)

Munn vs. Illinois is argued before the United States Supreme Court.

The Grange was limited in geographical scope to the northern states of the nation. In the south, the National Farmers Alliance was the most popular farm protest group. Formed in 1876 in Lampasas, Texas, the National Farmers Alliance was political from the start. The Alliance agreed with the Grange in demanding restrictions on the monopolistic power of the railroads. However, whereas northern farmers protested against the monopoly power of grain elevators to set prices, southern farmers had the same complaints against the monopoly power of cotton brokers, banks and local merchants under the crop-lien system of farming. Under the crop-lein system, local merchants and bankers would loan money, seed and equipment to farmers before spring planting. Collateral on this loan was a lien on the expected crop to be harvested in the fall. Since cotton was the only crop that paid well enough to support the principal and interest on these loans, the merchants and bankers required that only cotton be planted by the farmer. Thus the farmer’s fortunes rose and fell economically, each year, on a single crop—cotton. Thus, under the crop-lien system, the farmer had no ability to diversify his crops to protect himself economically from the risk of a bad cotton price in a particular year. If cotton crop prices failed, the farmer would still have to make payments on the loan and the interest charges on that loan continued to pile up.

State government regulation of monopoly power provided some protection from certain unscrupulous actions taken against the farmer, however, farmers eventually began think about working together to market their farm products. The idea was that all the farmers of a given community would be a member of the organization, or cooperative. In the north, this meant that the farmers would own their own grain elevator. They would all become shareholders in this elevator. The farmers would meet once a year in a shareholders meeting and elect a board of directors to operate the cooperative elevator. The board of directors, in turn, would hire all the officers needed to handle the day-to-day affairs of the cooperative elevator.

In the 1890s many of these farmer-owned cooperatives sprang up across the Midwestern United States. These farmer-owned cooperatives built new grain elevators or purchased old ones and built or purchased dairy creameries. Thus, in many rural communities of the Midwest there was true competition for the farmers products—corn, wheat and milk. These early cooperatives faced a widespread opposition from railroads, grain companies, banks and many newspapers. Shortly after the turn of the century, two significant farm organizations were organized in support of the cooperative movement.

A cooperatively-owned grain elevator in South Dakota. The farmer cooperative that owns this elevator is affiliated with the Farmers Union. as reflected on the side of the building.

In the south, the Farmers Alliance was broken by the organized and united power of the cotton brokers, the banks and the railroads. Accordingly, in 1902, the National Farmers Union was organized in Point, Texas by Newt Gresham and a number of other farmers. Newt Gresham became one of the main organizers of the Farmer’s Union. Newt Gresham knew how to persevere in the face of adversity. He had been orphaned at the age of 10 years. Thus, at an early age he had become totally self-reliant. He was self-educated, had worked the land for most of his life and became the chief organizer for the Farmers Alliance.

The first organizing meeting of the Farmers Union. Newt Gresham stands second from the right in the back row.

In 1911, another farmers group was formed—the American Farm Bureau Federation was organized in Binghamton, New York. Both of these farm organizations agreed on the benefit of cooperatives to the average farmer. The American Farm Bureau began forming some cooperatives in the 1920s. (Cockshutt: The Complete Story compiled by the International Cockshutt Club, Inc. [American Society of Engineers Press: St. Joseph, Michigan, 1999] p. 78.) These Farm Bureau affiliated cooperatives were located, mainly, in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. Farmers Union cooperatives were mainly located further west (Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas) and extended south as far as Oklahoma and Texas. However the two organizations developed an entirely different philosophy regarding governmental assistance to farmers in distress. The National Farmers Union supported government assistance and government regulation of the farm markets in time of distress. The America Farm Bureau tended to be opposed to all governmental interference in the farm economy.

One of the early cooperatives formed in the Midwest, was the Equity Cooperative Exchange of St. Paul, Minnesota which had been formed in 1908. In 1914, Equity Cooperative built their own grain elevator on the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Paul. However, Equity had trouble finding buyers for its grain because of the discriminatory actions of private grain companies. For example, Equity was denied a seat in the privately-owned Minneapolis Grain Exchange because of this opposition led by the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce. Accordingly, Equity started their own grain exchange—the St. Paul Grain Exchange in 1914.

Active bidding on parcels of grain on the floor of the Minneapolis Grain Exchange in 1939.

The free-wheeling free enterprise economy of the 1920s worked against the cooperatives. Equity Cooperative was forced into bankruptcy in the 1920s and in 1926, the Farmers Union Terminal Association took over the assets of Equity, in order to continue the goals of the cooperative movement in North America. True to its Farmers Union philosophy the Farmers Union Terminal Association supported stronger regulations on the inspection of grain and governmental regulation of the weighing and calibration of the scales within elevators to assure honest weighing practices.

The severe economic depression of the early 1930s brought renewed vigor to the cooperative movement in the United States. Farmer-owned cooperatives surged in numbers across the Midwestern states. On June 1, 1938, the Farmers Union Terminal Association re-organized itself as the Grain Terminal Association (GTA).

Charles C. Talbot, organizer for the National Farmers Union and President of the North Dakota chapter of the Farmers Union in the 1930s.

Leading organizers of the Farmers Union, like Charles C. Talbot founder and president of the North Dakota Farmers Union; Bill Thatcher, a legislative lobbyist for the Farmers Union in Minnesota; and A.W. Richer, now became involved with GTA.

William (Bill) Thatcher (1883-1977) General Manager of the Grain Terminal Assciation

In the early 1930’s, Myron William (Bill) Thatcher became the general manager of the GTA. Over the 30 years that Bill Thatcher served as general manager of the developed contacts and friendships with politicians, including President Franklin Roosevelt, Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace, Senator Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota and Republican Senator Milton Young of North Dakota. Because of the political philosophy of the Farmers Union which tended to support governmental support of farmers in trouble, most of the political contacts that Bill Thatcher generated on behalf of the Farmers Union/GTA tended to be overwhelmingly members of the Democratic Party. Both in 1932 and 1936, the Farmers Union supported Franklin Roosevelt, while the American Farm Bureau did not. Accordingly, the Farmers Union evolved into a traditional major constituency of the Democratic Party similar to the way the AFL (the American Federation of Labor) and the CIO (the Congress of Industrial Organizations) became major constituent parts of the Democratic Party among urban laboring people.

Hubert Humphrey brings Bill Thatcher to the White House in April 1961 to meet President Kennedy.

When the Grain Terminal Association (GTA) was first organized on June 1, 1938, there were 121 local cooperatives that affiliated with GTA.  However the association’s operating capital consisted of a single loan for $30,000.00. The association’s assets consisted of one “terminal” elevator in St. Paul and a branch office in Duluth, Minnesota.

The “big board” at the GTA-owned St. Paul Central Exchange. Note that bids are being taken from the Minneapolis, Kansas City, Winnipeg and Chicago Boards of Trade. The fact that women are “working the boards” with chalk suggests that the picture was taken during the Second World War with most males of working age in the military.

The GTA buyers in St. Paul and Duluth would buy corn and wheat and other crops from local farm elevators. Largely these local elevators tended to be local farmer-owned cooperative elevators. Many privately-owned elevators refused to deal with the GTA, because they were opposed to the cooperative idea. On other occasions, the GTA would buy crops directly from local farmers. All grain purchased by GTA would be shipped to the St Paul “terminal” grain elevator to be sold. The grain would be sold by the terminal elevator to processors who were willing to bid the highest price for the grain. The GTA could sell the grain in lots of whatever size that would demand the best price. All bidding, sales of the grain and transfer paperwork was conducted in the “trading pit” of the St. Paul Central Exchange.

The “trading pit” in the Minneapolis Grain Exchange where buyers of grain come together to bid on parcels of grain.  By the end of World War II, the privately-owned “for profit” Minneapolis Exchange had real competition from the GTA-owned St. Paul Central Exchange.

By means of the sale of the grain from the local cooperative grain elevator to the cooperatively-owned GTA, farmers received the benefits of an efficient stream-lined transfer of their grain crop from their farm to the “end-user”/processors.  This process which would yield the most money back in the pockets of the individual farmer. At every step of the process of selling his grain crop, the individual farmer could be assured that their crop was being handled by people acting in the interest of the farmers. There was no “middle men” in the process who was seeking to make their own profit out of the sale of the farmer’s grain. Any profits, over and above expenses, made by the GTA or the local cooperative in the transfer of grain would be given back to the shareholders, the individual farmers, in the form of an annual “dividend.”

The weigher of grain at an elevator. Before the organization of the Farmers Union, farmers used to worry that they were being cheated by the weighing of their grain at a privately owned and unregulated grain elevator.

At a local cooperatively-owned grain elelvator, the individual farmer could be assured of accuracy in the weighing of his grain crop, because neither the local cooperative elevator nor the GTA were not working for a profit and had no incentive to consciously cheat individual farmers. This solved one of the main complaints that farmers had about the privately owned grain buying system.

After the truck and grain had been weighed and the farmer and elevator had agreed on the price for the grain. The grain was emptied in a grate in the floor of elevator drive-through.

As noted above, the second major complaint that farmers had about private grain buying system was the high transportation costs of getting the grain to market. There were allegation’s that the railroads used their monopoly position in local communities to exploit the farmers of that locality by charging whatever the railroads wished. GTA recognized this problem and sought to alleviate this problem by seeking alternative means of transporting the GTA grain to the processor.

The Farmers Union founded the St. Paul GTA elevator which tried to negotiate with the railroads to find the cheapest price for shipping Farmers Union members’ grain to the “terminal” or final market. Here a train load of grain moves out of the St. Paul GTA railroad yard, heading for some terminal market.

The GTA terminal elevator in St. Paul was able to use either the railroad connections in St. Paul or the barge facilities along the Mississippi River to transport grain to Chicago, St. Louis or other processing centers.  Furthermore, in 1941, GTA began construction on another grain terminal elevator located in Superior Wisconsin. This elevator allowed GTA to have direct access to in-land shipping port of Duluth/Superior.  Now, in addition to moving grain by either rail or barge from the St. Paul terminal elevator, GTA could move grain by ship to any port on any of the Great Lakes, e.g. Chicago, Detroit or Buffalo.   GTA could move grain from the local elevators to either St. Paul or Superior depending on which mode of transportation from would offer the cheapest rates from the terminal elevator to the various end users.

The Great Northern Railway passes basically east and west through Montana, but there was also a north-south spur of the Great Northern Railway that connected Shelby, Montana with the town of Lewiston, Montana. Thus, both of the new GTA terminal elevators at Shelby and Lewiston were connected by the north south spur. Thus, grain could be moved to either elevator from the other for the trip to Minneapolis, Chicago. and other terminal markets in the east along either the Great Northern Railway or the Northern Pacific Railroad depending on who would offer the cheapest terms.

Also in 1941, construction of GTA terminal elevators in Shelby, Montana and Lewiston, Montana were completed. It may appear odd that GTA built these two terminal elevators so close together and so close to their existing facility at Great Falls, Montana. Shelby is located only 75 miles north of Great Falls, while Lewiston is located only 75 miles east-southeast of Great Falls. However, the true reason for locating these terminal elevators in these municipalities, may have more to do the railroads running through those cities.

The east-west tracks of the Northern Pacific was a chief competitor of the east-west tracks of the Great Northern Railway in the state of Montana.

Tracks of the Great Northern Railway ran east and west through Shelby, Montana. While Lewiston, Montana was served by the Northern Pacific Railway. There was a north-south connecting rail line between Shelby and Lewiston running through Great Falls that was owned by the Great Northern Railway. Consequently, grain, largely wheat, could be gathered from local community elevators all across Montana and the Pacific Northwest, at either the Shelby or the Lewiston GTA terminal elevator. Then, depending on which railroad offered the cheapest rates, the Great Northern or the Northern Pacific, grain could be easily transferred the short distance between Lewiston and/or Shelby. This way the lowest rates for transport of the grain to St. Paul, Minnesota could be obtained by GTA.

Although the small town of Lewistown, Montana, (1940 pop. 5,874) is not pictured in this map, Lewiston is served by the Northern Pacific Railroad. Thus when GTA built another terminal elevator in this small town, GTA was able to access the Northern Pacific railroad as a competitor for the Great Northern Railway as a transporter of their grain to the all major market points in the east.

In addition to working to provide the farmer with fair prices for grain and to provide efficient transportation of that grain to market, GTA also sought to become a processor of grain. In 1942, GTA purchased the Amber Mill in Rush City, Minnesota, and began milling durum wheat into semolina for making pasta products. Most of this durum wheat was raised by farmers who were members of local cooperatives in North Dakota.

Farmer-owned cooperatives were formed around nearly every product raised on the farm–grain, milk and butter, and, according to this picture, also eggs and chickens.

The Second World War, was a time of relatively high farm commodity prices, as the United States government supported armies around the world. GTA prospered and grew during this time. As GTA grew, many local farmer-owned cooperatives began to associate more closely with GTA and actually became “GTA local cooperatives.” Additionally, competition from cooperative elevators caused some hardship on privately-owned elevators, who were trying to make a profit on the buying and selling of grain. Consequently, many privately-owned elevators went out of business or sold out there interests.

The year, 1943 was a big year of growth for the Farmers Union/GTA, as GTA started its own daily radio program which was syndicated to a number of radio stations across the Upper Midwest. GTA also established The Terminal Agency, Inc. in 1943 and began selling Farmers Union Insurance to GTA-affiliated cooperatives and their employees. Later, Farmers Union Insurance was made available to the public at large. Also in 1943, GTA obtained 100 additional local community elevators when they bought the St. Anthony, Dakota and Winter-Truesdell-Diercks grain elevator lines. Along with the local community elevators, GTA also purchased a number of lumberyards in 1943. The purchase of these lumberyards was the first venture by GTA into the retail supply side of the market.

Hybrid corn seed was a hot idem in the 1930s for all retail offerings to the farming public. It was a product that the Farmers Union could not pass up in their retail effort.

Having proved to be useful to the farmer on the market (selling) side by organizing farmers into large selling pools, the farmer through the Grain Terminal Association able get the highest price possible for his products.  GTA now turned its thoughts to in helping the farmer in other ways–especially towards the use of cooperatives on the “buying side” of the farmers economy.  GTA sought provide their farmer/members with products that the average farmer was required to use in his farming operation–grease, oil, kerosene and especially gasoline.  With coming of the tractor to the average farm, fuel and all petroleum products were becoming a substantial part of the expenses of North American farming economy.  GTA reasoned that cooperatives would form a large pool buyers which if organized could demand much lower prices for these  farm expenses.  Thus, the cooperatives set out on the “buying side” to achieve the very lowest price possible for the expense items needed by the farmer.

COOP Oil stations strung up all across the Midwest as the farmers cooperative movement entered the “buying side” of the farmers individual economy and sought to supply their members with with the lowest-cost expense items that the average farming operation needed.

Farmer-owned cooperatives had proven themselves to be a real benefit to farmers selling their farm commodities.   Consequently, it was natural for cooperatives to begin to thinking about expanding into other areas of the market including offering their services to the farmer by entering the market on the supply or retail side. Starting in the 1930s, farmer-owned cooperatives in Indiana began buying lumberyards in various localities to offer building supplies and coal to local farmers and non-farmers alike. Along with all the other expansions they made in 1943, the Grain Terminal Association also purchased a number of lumberyards which they organized under the name Great Plains Supply Company.

Part of the retail offerings of the Farmers Union were gasoline cans made for easy filling of the gas tanks pf modern gas tractors.

GTA planned to buy consumer building supplies in large quantity and, thus, at low costs, and sell those products to their customers at low prices. The lack of a middlemen and the lack of a need to make a profit would make the cooperative lumberyard very competitive with other retailers. The philosophy behind the GTA and all cooperative’s venture into retail sales was “If you can’t get more for what you grow, then pay less for what you need.” (From a pamphlet called “The Beginning: A History of the Farmers Union Grain Terminal Association” p. 5, found on-line under a search for History of the Grain Terminal Association.)

Grease and other lubrication products were a major part of the retail venture of the Farmers Union retail venture.

Soon after entering the retail sector of the market, GTA, like other farmer-owned cooperatives across the nation began retail other consumer products, like tin, fuels, tires, home appliances, furniture, beds, tables and chairs. (From a pamphlet called, “American Farmers and Ranchers: Oklahoma Farmers Union” p. 10, found on-line under a search for History of the Farmers Union.) Some small groups of local cooperatives also banned together and began to selling farm tractors and farm equipment under the “Coop” name.

The beginnings of farm equipment sales under by cooperatives was begun in 1926 when one local cooperative affiliated with the Farm Bureau signed an agreement with the Dunham Company of Berea, Ohio, to sell the “Dunham Cultipacker.” (Cockshutt: The Complete Story, p. 78.) In 1930, pursuant to a contract with the Allis-Chalmers Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, some Allis-Chalmers tractors were marketed through a group of cooperatives. (Ibid.) However, by 1931, the Allis Chalmers Company had decided to drop their contracts with the cooperatives because of a lack of sales.

Later in the early 1930s, another larger-scale contract was signed between a large group of Farm Bureau cooperatives and B.F. Avery and Son of Louisville, Kentucky. Under this contract, the cooperatives were to market an entire line of Avery farm machinery through individual local cooperatives located in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. (Ibid.)

The Huber Model LC row crop tractors were made by the Huber Manufacturing Company of Marion, Ohio Some of these row crop tractors along with the standard Model S tractor were wholesaled to some small groups of local farmer cooperatives for retail sale to the farming public.

In 1934, another contract was signed with the Huber Tractor Company of Marion, Ohio, to market the “narrow front” (tricycle style) “Model L” tractor and a “four wheel” or “standard” style of tractor called the “Model S” tractor. Huber manufactured both of these tractors with the word “COOP” embossed in the cast iron top of the radiator. (Ibid.)

The Farmers Union Central Exchange, and their affiliated cooperatives, began to market farm tractors in 1935. (The Beginning, p. 2.) At first, GTA and other farmer-owned cooperatives contracted with the Duplex Machinery Company of Battle Creek, Michigan, supply the Central Exchange with three (3) different models of farm tractors which would be marketed by the Exchange through their affiliated local Farmers Union cooperatives under the COOP name.  The first model was the COOP No. 1 tractor.  The No. 1 was a three-wheeled tractor with a single 7.50 x 16 inch rubber tire in the front and two 10.00 x 28″ wheels in the rear.   The 132.7 cubic inch (c.i.)  Waukesha four-cylinder engine could develop 22 horsepower (hp.). , at the drawbar.  The two standard models were known as the Coop Model No. 2 and the Coop Model No. 3. (C.H. Wendel, The Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors [Crestline Publishing: Sarasota, Florida, 1979] pp. 78 & 94).

A COOP No. 1 which was first made by the Duplex Machinery of Battle Creek, Michigan but had been properly decaled indicating that this tractor was intended for sale by a group of cooperatives associated with the Farmers Union.

The first Coop tractor rolled off the assembly line at Duplex factory in March of 1936. The tricycle style No. 1 tractor attracted the most attention because the tricycle design of the tractor allowed the tractor to perform all the field work on the farm—including the cultivation of the row crops.  The Coop Model 1 featured an eight (8)foot turning radius which made the tractor extremely maneuverable in the field while cultivating corn. The 3,300 pound tractor had a transmission that offered speeds from 1.4 miles per hour (mph) up to a road speed of 22.8 mph.

The Coop No. 2 was fitted with 10.00 x 28 inch rear tires and was equipped with a 201.3 cubic-inch Chrysler four-cylinder engine with a 3-1/8 inch bore and a 4-3/8 inch stroke. When tested at the University of Nebraska from October 22, 1936 through November 10, 1936, the Coop No. 2 was found to deliver 22.7 horsepower to the drawbar and 29.44 hp. to the belt. (Cockshutt: The Complete Story compiled by the International Cockshutt Club, Inc. [American Society of Engineers Press: St. Joseph, Michigan, 1999] p. 82.)  This would have placed the COOP No. 2 in the “two plow” class of tractors–capable of pulling two 14 inch bottoms in most soil conditions.  The weight of the COOP No. 2 tractor was 5,000 pounds and had a modern road speed of 18.0 mph.

The Coop Model No. 2 was the middle child of Duplex-made Coop tractors of 1937. Like most middle children the No 2 is often largely overlooked.

The Coop No. 2 was also offered as a row crop model tractor also.  Officially this variant model was called the No. 2A  This row crop edition also had the same 201.3 c.i. six-cylinder Chrysler engine as did the regular standard-style COOP No. 2.  When tested at the University of Nebraska from October 22, 1936 through November 10, 1936, the Chrysler 201.3 c.i. engine was found to deliver 29,67 horsepower (hp.) to the drawbar of the row crop Model 2A and was found to deliver 33.17 hp. to the belt pulley.   The Model 2A COOP  tractor was a fully modern farm tractor which was fitted with a “power take-off” (PTO) shaft at the rear of the tractor located just above the drawbar.  This pto shaft could be used to power the new PTO-powered implements that were coming onto the market and the many more farm implements which  be coming onto the market in the post-World War II era.  The engine of the Model 2A tractor was found to deliver 31.66 hp. to the PTO shaft, 33.17 hp. to the belt pulley and to deliver 29.67 horsepower to the drawbar,   Instead of having only a single front wheel, like the smaller row crop COOP No. 1, the row crop COOP No. 2A had two 6.00 x 16 placed in tandem on a single bolster.  The Model 2A weighed 5,000 pounds featured a modern 5 speed transmission which was actually ahead of its time.  The speeds varied from 2.7 mph. up to 21.3 mph.

Fitted with two 6.00 x 16″ rubber tires in front and 10.00 x 28 tires in the rear the COOP No. 2A represented the largest row crop tractor in the COOP line for 1937.

The Coop No. 3 was identical to the standard No. 2, but was equipped with the 241.5 c.i.  six-cylinder Chrysler engine with a 3-3/8 inch bore and a 4-1/2 inch stroke. The Coop No. 3 was found to deliver 28.75 horsepower (hp) to the drawbar and 37.09 hp to the belt. (Ibid. p. 80.)  This was a full three-plow tractor and as such the No. 3 had larger tires–12.75 x 28 in the rear and 7.50 x 15 inch front wheels.  The CO-OP Model 3 weighed 4,450 pounds and had a five-speed transmission which ranged from 2.7 mph. up to 20.0 mph.

The standard COOP No. 3 was the top of the line of COOP tractors.

Discord between Duplex and GTA led to a canceling of the contract in May of 1938.  In 1938, the cooperatives banded together to start the National Farm Machinery Cooperative  which was also located in Battle Creek Michigan. By controlling the manufacture of the tractor, the cooperatives felt that they could ensure the highest possible quality and the lowest price. “Built for Service—Not for Profit” was the advertising slogan of the tractors.

Farmers from all over the United States were enthusiastic about selling the crops co-operatively to obtain the best price for the products they raised on their farms now began to buy lumber, seed and farm equipment from cooperatives at very competitive prices compared to privately-owned lumberyards, seed dealers and farm equipment dealerships.

In 1951, one of these farmers who was enthusiastic about cooperatives was a particular farmer working a farm in Sterling Township in Whiteside County, Illinois.  Our Sterling Township farmer was actually a relative “newcomer” to the community.  He had actually been born and raised on a farm in Troy Town in Sauk County, Wisconsin. (Troy was not actually “town” as in a settlement of houses. In Wisconsin, the local townships are called “towns.”)

A county map of the State of Wisconsin, showing the location of Sauk County.

Troy Town and indeed all of Sauk County was located in the heart of the Wisconsin River Valley.  The Wisconsin River Valley and the
Fox River Valley located to the east was the heart of the dairy farming industry in  Wisconsin which had made Wisconsin the number one  dairy producing and cheese producing state in the nation.

A Town map of Sauk County Wisconsin. Troy Town is the yellow square on the southern boundary of Sauk County on the lower center part of the map.

Thus, it is entirely predictable that our Sterling Township farmer’s father had a herd of milking cows.  He owned a herd of Brown Swiss milking cows.  The Brown Swiss dairy cow tended to be the tallest and biggest dairy cow of all the six major breeds dairy cows popular in the United States–Holstein, Guernsey, Jersey, Milking Shorthorn, Ayershire and Brown Swiss.  The Brown Swiss breed  is one of the oldest breeds of dairy cattle in the world–having descended from cattle used in the Alps as far back as the Bronze Age.  In the Swiss Alps the cattle can graise in altitude from 3,000 to 8,500 feet above sea level for90 to 115 days out of the year.   (Sara Rath, The Complete Cow [Voyaguer Press : Stillwater, MN, 1998] p. 70.)

A Brown Swiss cow grazes in the Swiss Alps complete with a cow bell around the neck so that the farmer can hear where the dairy herd is even if he cannot see them at the moment.

Imported into the United States by Henry M. Clark, the first herd of Brown Swiss composed of 140 cows and 25 bulls arrived straight from Switzerland in the winter of 1869.  Henry M. Clark “named” some of this first herd.  One bull was predictably named “William Tell.”  Seven of the cows were named “Brinlie,” “Christine,” “Geneva,” “Gretchen,” “Lissa,” “Lucerne” and “Zurich.”  In the United States, the large Brown Swiss cattle was found to be tailor-made for the cheese making state of Wisconsin, having developed a resistance to harsh living conditions–either extremes of cold or of warm weather.

Although Brown Swiss are big cattle sometimes the grow to immense size.

Of the major breeds in the United States, the Jersey cattle produce milk with the most butterfat–5% butterfat.  Holstein dairy cattle produce milk with 3.7% butterfat.  However, Holstein cows can produce up to 14 gallons a day during their lactation period.  Jersey cattle on the other hand produce only about 5 gallons of milk per day during the heaviest part of their lactation period.  While the Holstein breed leads in the production of milk per cow, the Brown Swiss breed occupies a strong second place with 8 gallons produced per day by the average Brown Swiss cow during her lactation period.  This is a “strong” second place, because among the six major dairy breeds third place is occupied by the Milking Shorthorn breed with a daily production of 6 gallons per cow during the lactation period.

Milking time in the barn of a Brown Swiss herd.

Brown Swiss cattle give milk which is also high in protein– 3.84%.  This is second place among the major breeds–behind the Jersey cattle with 4.06% protein and ahead of the third place Guernsey breed with 3.56% protein.  Additionally, the cream in Brown Swiss milk consisted of smaller fat globules  and at the cellular level the fatty acids were connected into longer chains of fatty acids than in other breeds of cattle.  This meant that the cream in Brown  Swiss milk rose more slowly to the top of the milk.  All of this was advantageous in the making of cheese.  Thus, Brown Swiss milk seemed uniquely designed for making cheese.   No wonder then that Brown Swiss herds are found in in most frequency in the state of Wisconsin of all the states in the nation.

The tall stature and large size of the Brown Swiss cows all but obscures the persons leading the cows in this show ring.

Brown Swiss cows have a longer gestation period (290 days as compared with 262 days for Holsteins and the other breeds of dairy cattle in the United States, but more importantly the Brown Swiss cattle tend to have quiet docile temperaments.  For farmers working with and around the milk cows on a twice daily basis, this characteristic of the Brown Swiss compares quite favorably with the edgy, high strung and sometimes wild temperaments sometimes exhibited by Jersey and Shorthorn cattle.

Cows of the Brown Swiss breed are extremely mild mannered and gentle in temperament

The Brown Swiss breed’s usual tan color, black nose accompanied by a white ring around the black nose might lead observers to confuse the Brown Swiss cow with a Jersey cow except for the large size of the Brown Swiss cows and for the fact that they have “fuzzy” ears.

The “fuzzy” ears on the cow in this picture resolves the confusion that a viewer of this picture might have over whether this cow is a Jersey or a Brown Swiss. Fuzzy ears are a main characteristic of the Brown Swiss breed.

Our Sterling Township farmer’s father still farmed in Troy town, although, by 1951, his father was beginning to pass off the most of the farming activities to the younger brother of our Sterling Township farmer. His father had always been a “true believer” in farmer owned cooperatives.

He sold all his crops to the farmer-owned  Cooperative elevator located at 399 Railroad Street in Rock Springs, Wisconsin of which he was also a member.  In taking all his crops to Rock Springs he transported his crops 20 miles to the north to avoid selling his crops at the privately-owned Peavy Elevator located 13 miles south, into Dane County, in the town of Waunakee, Wisconsin.

A farmer-owned co-operative Farmers Union grain elevator similar to the one located in Rock Springs, Wisconsin.

Our Sterling Township farmer’s father also belonged to a separate local farmer-owned cooperative creamery.  Our Sterling Township farmer remembered, as a child on the home farm, helping with the milking of the family Brown Swiss dairy herd.  All the milk from the farm was sold to this local cooperative creamery.  Much of this Brown Swiss milk was eventually made into cheddar cheese.

Work goes on everyday in this local farmer-owned creamry as milk is made into cheese.

Our Sterling Township farmer had many good memories of his childhood on the “home farm” in Troy Town.  His father enjoyed taking some of his prize cattle to the week-long Sauk County Fair held in the first full week (Monday to the following Sunday) of July after the 4th of July.  Over his childhood and teenage years, he raised calves which he called “my caIves.”  He had started with a single newborn calf during his teenage years.  His father let  him show the calf in the ring at the county fair in Baraboo, Wisconsin.  In the next year, he showed this next calf as a yearling and also raised another newborn calf.  Thus each year, his little herd of “my cows” grew larger by one newborn calf.

An aerial view of a farm that looks a lot like the childhood home of our Sterling Township farmer.  After his marriage and move to Illinois, his parents continued to live on this farm located in Troy Town in Sauk County near  Baraboo Wisconsin.

Our Sterling Township farmer’s father was a long-term member of the Sauk County Farmers Union Cooperative in Baraboo, Wisconsin and had bought all his Coop farm machinery there. When in the late 1930s, the Sauk County Farmer’s Union Cooperative in Baraboo had started selling Coop tractors at their store located on Lynn Street in Baraboo, our Sterling Township farmer’s father bought a Model 2A tricycle style Co-op tractor in late 1937,  As usual this tractor was fitted with rubber tires in the front and in the rear.  It did not take long for our Sterling Township farmer to appreciate these rubber tires.  During the negotiations on the purchase of the tractor, our Sterling Township farmer could not help thinking, in 1937, that the PTO shaft was an unnecessary luxury.  The PTO shaft was not universal on all “pre-war” manufactured tractors.  However, our Sterling Township farmer would soon be disabused of his doubts about the PTO shaft.

Our Sterling Township farmer’s father bought all the fuels, oil other goods that he used on his farm in Troy Town, from the Cooperative Store on Lynn Street.  He always felt the prices that he paid for these products was lower than he could buy from privately owned dealers. However, even if the prices were merely the same as the prices at privately-owned stores, he knew that more savings would accrue to him at the end of the year.  At the end of each year, he would receive a dividend check from the Sauk County Cooperative which was based on the amount of purchases he had made from the cooperative throughout the year.  Accordingly, at the end of 1937,the same year in which he had purchased this bright red tractor, he really received a nice dividend check from the cooperative.

The Model 2A allowed him to perform all his field work mechanically without the need for horses.  Owners of standard (four-wheeled) tractors could do all the field work in their fields except the cultivation of corn.  Consequently, they would be forced to keep their horses to perform the cultivation of their row crops.  However, because the tricycle styling of the Model 2A, our Sterling Township farmer’s father perform all the field work on his farm without any horses.  He could even cultivate his corn mechanically with the Model 2A tractor, our Sterling township farmer’s father had not needed to worry about keeping any horses on his farm to perform any field work.

The tricycle-style Coop Model 2A had a mere 8-foot turning radius. which made it an excellent cultivating tractor in the cornfield. Fitted with a PTO shaft at the rear, with a road speed of 21.7 mph. with rubber tires front and rear, and, as pictured here, optional electric lighting, the COOP  Model 2A was fitted with many features that would allow this pre-war tractor to remain functional on farms in the post-war era.

As noted above the CO-OP Model 2A was fitted with a PTO shaft which allowed the Model 2A tractor to power all the new farm tractor implements that were expected to come onto the market. Our Sterling Township farmer could not help thinking, in 1937, that the PTO shaft was an unnecessary luxury.  The PTO shaft was not universal on all “pre-war” manufactured tractors.  However, our Sterling Township farmer would soon be disabused of his doubts about the PTO shaft.  The post-World War II era would soon reveal usefulness of the PTO shaft on the tractor.  The fact that the COOP Model 2A tractor was fitted with a PTO shaft, usually had rubber tires front and rear, could be fitted with optional electric lighting and had a high speed road gear meant that the Model 2A already possessed many important features that would become extremely desirable in post war world.  Indeed, because of these advantages, the Model 2A would remain a functioning tractor in the post-war era when so many other pre-war tractors were being traded off in the post-war era because they were slow and regarded as thoroughly inadequate  to function in the post-war era .

This 1937 Model 2A Co-op tractor carried the family into the war years that followed during the early 1940s.  During the war years, the price of all farm crops soared to new heights.  All farmers were scrambling to grow as much corn on their farms as they could. Of course, some of this corn had to be used as animal feed on diversified farms, as our Sterling Township farmer’s father had done on his farm.

He used oats and some corn to feed his dairy herd.  However, he also raised pigs for market and had to feed a great deal of the corn to his feeder pigs, but he and his neighbors did sell the remainder of the corn as a cash crop.  So they were raising more corn and cultivating more corn than in the past. Furthermore, a new row crop—soybeans—had become very popular on farms in southern Wisconsin during the war. This crop also needed to be cultivated. While the family’s neighbors continued to cultivate their row crops with horses—one row at a time—during the war, our farmer was able to cultivate two rows at a time with the Co-op Model  2A and front-mounted two-row cultivator.

The Sauk County Farmers Union in Baraboo, Wisconsin became a very large dealership/seller of Coop farm tractors and farm machinery over the Second World War.

At harvest time, the Model 2A Co-op tractor was not only handy to use in the field, but could even speed the wagons of soybeans and corn down the road to the grain elevator at a top speed of 21. 8 mph.  Our Sterling Township farmer’s father used to brag about the fact that the Coop  No. 2A could save the family from having to buy a truck or a pickup.  This would save wear and tear on the family car—a 1936 Oldsmobile with a hitch attached to the rear bumper.  However, in actual fact the No. 2A was always busy in the field during harvest season and could hardly be used for hauling grain to town.  Thus, during the war, our Sterling Township farmer’s father would end up buying  1-1/2 ton Dodge truck for use on the farm.

Along with the high crop prices that the war had brought about, there was also the economic restrictions imposed on nearly all industrial production for civilian use. Nearly all industrial production was funneled into the war effort for the duration of the war. This meant that during the war very few of his neighbors were able to obtain any new tractors and because of the restrictions on the use of rubber for civilian use any tractors that were available were mounted on steel wheels rather than rubber tires.  Accordingly, what equipment any farmer had at the beginning of the war was the equipment that he would have to use for the duration of the war. Therefore, our Sterling Township farmer’s parents felt that they had obtained an advantage by purchasing the Co-op Model 2A tractor when he did.  His father felt that his support for the cooperative movement had been vindicated by the advantageous position he had occupied during the war.

Our Sterling Township farmer’s father always felt the prices that he paid for these products was lower than he could buy from privately owned dealers. However, even if the prices were merely the same as the prices at privately-owned stores, he knew that more savings would accrue to him at the end of the year. At the end of each year, he would receive a dividend check from the Sauk County Cooperative which was based on the amount of purchases he had made from the cooperative throughout the year.

All during the recent war, our Sterling Township farmer had been working with his father on the home farm. He had been helping as much as he could while attending school. However, since graduating from the high school in Sauk City, Wisconsin in 1943, he had been working full time on the farm. He knew that he wanted to make a life for himself as a farmer, but he had not really been looking for an opportunity to start his own farming operation of his own until in the fall of 1945, when he met a girl from Baraboo, Wisconsin.

On the left side of this photo is a map of Sauk County, showing the location of the City of Baraboo, Wisconsin within Sauk County.

She had just graduated from Baraboo High School the previous June of 1945. Although her family lived on a farm in Excelsior Township over near the village of Rock Springs, Wisconsin, she had not lived all her life in Sauk County. Prior to 1943, she and her family had rented a farm in Hale Township in Warren County, near the town of Kirkwood, Illinois (pop. 747). She still talked frequently and fondly of her childhood years in Illinois before moving to Wisconsin. Indeed. many of her cousins and grade school classmates still lived in Warren County, Illinois.

In 1943, the previous owner and landlord of the farm which her family rented had died. Attracted by the high war time prices for land, the wife and children of the deceased landlord had decided to sell the farm. Accordingly, her family had been forced to move off the land and they moved to Wisconsin and settled on the farm in Excelsior Township. She spent her last two years of school at the high school in Baraboo, the county seat of Sauk County. She had hated to leave all her friends in Illinois. At first she had found it hard to break in to the new high school in Baraboo, but she had surprised herself by developing new friendships and obtaining some degree of popularity in her new high school class. She had never realized how outgoing she could actually be.

Our Sterling Township farmer’s parents’ 1936 Oldsmobile. The family car that he used to court his girl friend.

Our Sterling Township farmer had dated his girl friend throughout the fall and winter of 1943-1944. He used the family’s 1936 Oldsmobile to drive the nine (9) miles to Baraboo on most Saturday nights to see her.  However, the old 1936 car  was becoming quite old and rusted out.  His father, had long ago decided to trade the car in on a newer model, but the war was still going on and all civilian auto manufacturing was forestalled until the end of the war.  Then  in early 1945, with the end of the war in sight, the government began to loosen the economic war time restrictions on civilian car production.  The Oldsmobile Division of the General Motors Company became the first corporate  entity to actually introduce their new post-war automobiles intended for the civilian market in early 1945.  Our Sterling Township farmer’s father grabbed the opportunity to purchase a new Oldsmobile.  He ordered one of the new Oldsmobile Model 66 four-door sedans, the instant they were introduced in 1945.

The new 1946 Olsmobile, introduced in early 1945 was really a warmed over version of the 1942 Oldsmobile, the last Oldsmobile made before manufacture for the civilian auto market was curtailed by governemnt wartime restrictions.

Our Sterling Township farmer’s parents allowed him to use the new car to continue dating his girl friend.  This allowed our Sterling Township farmer to delay the expense of getting a new car of his own.  Throughout 1945, our Sterling Township farmer and his girl friend dated.  They  made tentative plans to marry. He had even met her parents and she had met his parents over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays of 1945.  However, they did not announce any definite plans to their parents or anyone. They really did not have any plans. They talked of the future in a desultory manner. They both wanted to set up farming on some farm their own. Indeed, our Sterling Township farmer feared that she was only half involved in marriage plans. Furthermore, ever since graduating from Baraboo High School in the spring of 1945, his girl friend had been dreaming of moving back to Illinois to be near her cousins and extended family.

One day in February of 1946, while they were shelling all the ear-corn in the corncrib on his father’s farm in Troy Town Wisconsin, our Sterling Township farmer was taking a load shelled corn to the cooperative grain elevator in Rock Springs, Wisconsin. In years passed, he might have used the COOP Model 2A  tractor and the  wagon to make this trip to the elevator.

However, during the war, his father had obtained a used 1939 Dodge 1-½ ton Model TF-37 truck which he was driving on this day. The Dodge truck made the trip to the elevator much faster than tractor and the ride was much warmer in the Winter weather than driving the tractor and wagon.  Furthermore, the truck carried a much larger load of grain than the the old double box wooden wagon.

.A 1939 one and a half ton Dodge truck with a grain box installed on the back.

Upon reaching Rock Spring, he pulled around the corner and onto the street where the elevator was located and in saw a long line of farm trucks waiting to pull onto the scales in the alleyway of the elevator and be weighed. It certainly looked like everybody had the idea of selling grain or shelled corn on this exact day.  Our Sterling Township farmer pulled the old 1939 Dodge 1-½ ton truck up into his position at the end of the line and got out to see if there were any neighbors that he knew in the line and to talk with the elevator workers that he knew.

race to market
Sometimes the line up of trucks and wagons full of grain or shelled corn at the elevator would become quite long.

As each truck pulled into the elevator and was weighed our Sterling Township farmer would return to his truck and move the Dodge forward one place in line. Once each truck had been weighed, the driver of the truck would back up the truck up and allow a lift frame to be moved into position on the floor in front of the front wheels of the truck. The driver of the truck would then pull the truck ahead until the front tires of the truck rested in the carriage of the lift.

A typical alleway in a small town grain elevator showing two grates in the floor through which grain would be dumped from wagons and trucks.

At this point, the tailgate of the truck would be located directly over a heavy wooden door in the floor of the alleyway of the grain elevator. This door would now be opened revealing a grate covering a hole in the floor. Now, the tailgate in the rear of the truck could be opened and the shelled corn would begin to flow out of the grain-box on the truck. The shelled corn would fall down through the grate in the floor. Under the grate, a large auger would begin to move the shelled corn underground off to another site where a series of augers and elevators, all enclosed in sheet metal housing, would lift the shelled corn high above the series of grain storage silos of the Cooperative. Another auger moved the shelled corn, inside a sheet metal tube, along the top of the series of grain silos and would deposit the shelled corn in the proper silo. Once in the silo, the shelled corn would be stored by the Sauk County Farmers Union  Cooperative until the corn had been sold to a GTA terminal elevator. Then the grain would be loaded up into the grain hauling railroad cars of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul (the Milwaukee Road) Railroad for transport to its destination.

Once the shelled corn had ceased flowing out the back of the truck on its own, the elevator worker would walk over to the lift controls in the alleyway of the elevator and pull a lever that operated the overhead winch. This winch was connected to four cables which were connected to the four corners of the lift frame on the floor which was now under the front wheels of the truck. The overhead winch would simultaneously begin winding up all four of the cables connected to the frame on the floor under the front wheels of the truck. This would raise the frame and the front end of the truck, causing the shelled corn to once again start flowing out the tail gate of the grain box on the back of the truck. This system of raising the front end of trucks or wagons made unloading quick and easy without a great deal of manual labor.

The lift inside the alley way of a local elevator lifting the front end of a truck to empty the grain or shelled corn out of the rear of the truck and down into a opening on the floor where the grain will be elevated into a a grain silo at the elevator.

Something occurred on this day that had a major effect on the future of our Sterling County farmer. In future years he would look back on this particular day in wonder. It was almost as if it were planned that there would be a long line at the elevator on this particular day.   While waiting at the elevator for the trucks in front of him to be unloaded, our Sterling Township farmer walked into the office at the elevator to stay warm.  Better that than wasting gas in the truck by running the engine just to keep warm. There was nothing new in this. He had done this many times before.

Although he had no good reason at all for doing so, he  perused some of the notices on the bulletin board of the elevator office.  He had never really shcwn interest in notices on any billboard previously. However, on the bulletin board he saw a particular announcement of a farm more sale in Illinois.  At first he scanned the notice with little interest. It seemed odd that a farm sale in Illinois should be advertised clear up here in Wisconsin. However, then he thought he should write down the address and telephone number of the real estate firm handling the sale and show the information to his girl friend. Even this had not seemed to be significant. He did not even know, at the time, where the farm was located in Illinois. Illinois was a big state and this farm could be anywhere in the state. He merely thought that she would get a good laugh out of the notice—nothing serious.

They had another date on the following Saturday night. When he told her about the sale bill, she was surprised and excited about the prospect—much more seriously interested than he had anticipated. She insisted that he call the telephone number as soon as possible on Monday morning. In the telephone call, he learned that the farm was located in Sterling Township in Whiteside County, Illinois.

Whiteside County is hilighted on this map of Illinois, showing the county’s location on banks of the Mississippi River along the western boundary of Illinois.

The owner was anxious to sell the farm. The renter of the farm had already moved off the farm and was living in Chicago and working at the Armour and Company meat packing plant near the Union Stockyards located in Chicago. The owner of the land told them that he had originally wanted to sell the farm and transfer the land on March 1, 1946, but arrangements could not be worked out quickly enough. So he had rented the land to a neighboring farmer. This rental contract which was due to end on March 1, 1947. The owner expressed the wish to honor the rental contract to the end. Consequently, the arable land would not be available until March 1, 1947. However, the owner stated that the building site on the farm was available in case our Sterling Township wanted to move into the house and the building site on the farm a year ahead of time.

The Carnegie Library in
Baraboo, Wisconsin, as seen in the winter.

With this information, his girl friend went to the local Carnegie public library located at 230 4th Avenue in Baraboo and found that Whiteside County was in northern Illinois and only about 100 miles from her old home near Kirkwood in Warren County. She became quite animated about making plans to attempt to purchase the farm. She wanted to find out the price of the land and find some way to arrange financing for the farm.

It struck  our Sterling Township farmer as being the height of audaciaousness,  to pick up and leave his home state for a future in another state which at the time seemed so far away.  He was reluctant to leave the rich land of the Wisconsin River Valley and he was worried about the size of debt that they would be piling up just to purchase the farm. However, the enthusiasm of his new fiancé was contagious. The more that he thought about the farm, however, the more the thought began to appeal to him. He had many new ideas that he wanted to try in farming. On his own farm he would he would be able to had do things just as he pleased with no interference. He began to catch her enthusiasm.

A map of Whiteside County showing the location of the townships of the county. Sterling Township is on upper right side of the the map. The twin towns of Sterling and Rock Farlls are on either side of the Rock River which can be seen running diagonally across the county toward the Mississippi River on the western (left side) border of Whitside County.

One benefit of this whole thing was the warm glow that our Sterling County farmer felt from the fact that she now seemed fully engaged in making more precise plans about their marriage. He no longer sensed any reticence on her part about their future relationship. No longer did he have that nagging fear that he might lose her in the end. That was a welcome relief. Indeed she wanted to plan a wedding for June of 1946 and wanted to move into the house on the farm and start setting up house on the farm before they took over the whole farm.

In March of 1946, they made their first trip to Illinois, to take a look at the farm.  His parents allowed him to take the new 1946 Oldsmobile Model 66 on the trip.  His father said that he would use the 1939 truck to run any errands that he might have in town.  Our Sterling Township farmer’s girl fiance checked in with her cousins. Her female cousins were excited about the prospect of her return to the area. One of the cousins was actually working in the burgeoning town of manufacturing town of Sterling, Illinois. She invited our Sterling Township farmer’s fiancé to stay with her during the visit. The cousin also offered to make arrangements for our Sterling Township farmer, himself, to stay with two of her brothers who had also moved up from Warren County to work at the Northwestern Steel and Wire Company foundry in Sterling.

A sign at the office of the Northwestern Steel and Wire factory in Sterling, Illinois.

Upon reaching Sterling, they contacted the owner of the farm, who gave them a tour of the farm including the building site and the house. The farm had a beautiful building site.  The building site was actually removed from the gravel county road by a long driveway. Our Sterling Township farmer liked the idea of the privacy and lack of noise they might expect from this homestead that was removed from the road. However, now in the spring with the melting snows and the recent rains and the driveway was hard to negotiate because of the mud. The house was large enough for them and any future additions they might have to the family. Furthermore, the house had some modern features that they liked. The large house was heated in the wintertime by a large coal-fired boiler located in the basement of the home. The boiler provided hot water heat which made it way by a series of pipes to radiators located in every room in the house. This would provide much more even heat throughout the house. There would no more getting up in a freezing cold bedroom upstairs on a cold winter’s morning and dressing quickly to run down stairs to huddle over the kitchen stove to warm up.

This is an aerial view of a farm that looks much like the new Illinois farm of our Sterling Township farmer.

While staying with his fiancé’s cousins, during this trip, he had almost immediately hit it off with these two brothers. They were fun to be around and he became very close with to them. It was thru them that he heard about a job that was open at Northwestern Steel. He immediately applied for this job. He thought he might raise some money to buy some things that he might need for the farm.  He was actually was quite surprised by the fact that he got the job and by the fact that he would have abruptly start work. He, now, really needed to get back to the owner of their land to take possession of the house.  He really had no provisions for any other permanent place to live. He also had no car to get back and forth to work other than his parents new 1946 Oldsmobile.  It was almost dizzying, just how fast changes were occurring.  Still, he and his fiancé reveled in the idea of a new life together in this—their new home town .

While they were on this short vacation to Sterling Illinois, the couple shopped for an engagement ring and actually purchased a new ring from in a jewelry store in Sterling, Illinois.  One day, while our Sterling Township farmer was out working at his new job at Northwestern Steel and Wire, his fiancé and her cousins went out shopping in Sterling for a wedding dress.  She followed the tradition that groom was not to see her wedding until she walked down the aisle at the church on the wedding day.  These cousins would more than likely be her “ladies in waiting” and brides maids for the wedding and so they volunteered to keep the dress hidden at their house until the wedding.

When our Sterling Township farmer’s parents heard about the new farm and about how their son had already gotten a job in Sterling, they were anxious to see the new farm and help him and his fiancé settle in.

Some family members had expressed concern that the old pre-war truck may not make it all the way to Sterling with the farm tractor on board, but our Sterling Township farmer’s father sought to quiet all their concerns by stating that some loads of shelled corn that he had carried in the bed of the truck were probably heavier than this currently anticipated load of farm machinery.

This, then, is how they had come to be married in his fiancé’s childhood church in Kirkwood, Illinois during June of 1946 and set up housekeeping in their own house on their own farm in Sterling Township in Whiteside County in Illinois in June of 1946 even before they could start working the land.   .

The wedding had been the big event of the season for the family.  However, having already purchased the new automobile in 1945, our Sterling Township farmer’s father presented another surprize to the famly in late 1946.  He bought one of the new orange painted Model E-3 COOP tractors that had just been delivered to cooperatives all across the Midwestern United States.

When first introduced the Model E-3 COOP tractor had black lettering on both sides of the orange painted tractor to properly identify the tractor as a Model E-3 COOP tractor.  This E-3 is fitted with two pair of wheel weights on the rear wheels.  However, the tractor is also fitted with an “after-market” Easy-Ride Company operator’s which does not allow the tractor to be equipped with the under-seat hydraulic system and accompanying three-point hitch which became available as an option for all new Cockshutt/CO-OP Model 30/Model  E-3 from 1952 forward and could be obtained as an after-market kit for all Model 30/Model E-3 tractors made prior to 1952.

There had been rumours all during 1946 that a new COOP tractor was going to be introduced.  For our Sterling Township famer’s father this was big news, like most farmers during the recent war, our Sterling Township farmer’s father, had been starved for new machinery.  He badly wanted to upgrade the farm machinery on his Troy Town farm.  However, the economic measures during the recent war had prevented the manufacture of any new farm machinery.  Consequently, these rumors of new tractors was big news.  He had been  wanting a new tractor  for some time.

After the wedding of our Sterling Township farmer,  our Sterling Township farmer’s father and younger brother these rumors began to obtain more credence and confirmation from the staff at the Sauk County Farmers Union Cooperative in Baraboo, Wisconsin.   Our Sterling Township farmer’s father and younger brother purchased one of the a new orange painted Coop tractors.

An advertisement of the Cockshutt Farm Equipment Company–the new supplier of tractors to the cooperatives of the Midwest.

From the first first day of production at the Brantford Works–October 7, 1946–a large number of the Model 30 Cockshutt tractors  were painted orange and sent to the United States to be sold by cooperatives all around the United States under the “COOP” name.  Indeed the Cockshutt Company had great expectations about the possibility of breaking into the new United States market that the Cockshutt officals made certain to take a picture of the very first orange painted Model E-3 tractor that rolled off the assembly line on October 7, 1946.  This picture has been preserved by the company.

During the Second World War the Cockshutt factory in Brantford, Ontario, was busy making wings and undercarriages for British bombers like the famous Mosquito bomber.

For the Cockshutt Company and all Canadian manufacturing concerns, the Second World War actually began on September 3, 1939–with the British declaration of war on Germany–because Canada was a member of the British Commonwealth.  During the war the Canadian government imposed wartime restrictions on Canadian manufacturing which basically ended all civilian production and required all industrial effort to be channelled into the war effort.

Under these wartime restrictions,  the Cockshutt Company was extremely limited in its production of farm equipment.  Only a small part of the production of farm implements was regarded as being part of the “war effort.”  However, most of the corporate effort was funnelled toward the manufacture of wings and landing gear for the British bomber aircraft–including the famous Mosquito bomber.  (American Society of Agricultural Engineers, Cockshutt: The Complete Story, [International Cockshutt Club Inc.: St. Joseph, Michigan, 1999] p. 14.)   The Company also produced artillery carriages and artillery shells.

The British Mosquito bomber the Cockshutt Company made the wings and under carriage for this airplane.

The Second World War effected an extraordinary surge of development in the industrial productive capacity of Canada.  (Bartlet Brebner, Canada: A Modern History [University of Michigan Press: Ann Arbor, 1970]  p. 471.)  Despite the lack of any civilian production, the war time production imposed a concentration on engineering and innovation caused the Cockshutt Company that led the Company become confident in their skillful application of the high technology to the problems the Company faced.  Accordingly, the Company became confident in their ability to design and manufacture its own tractor.  Before 1946, the Cockshutt Farm Equipment Company had never made any of the tractors they marketed and sold under the “Cockshutt” name.   Instead, all of the tractors that Cockshutt had marketed were tractors made by other farm tractor manufacturing companies. The  Duplex Machinery Company of Battle Creek, Michigan, mentioned above, was only one of the manufacturers that that made tractors for the Cockshutt Farm Equipment Company.  At various times in the past, the Cockshutt Company had turned to the  Allis Chalmers Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Hart-Parr/Oliver Company of Charles City, Iowa, and the Huber Manufacturing Company of Marion. Ohio, to supply Cockshutt with the tractors they needed.

The new confidence in the field of high technology acquired by  the Cockshutt Company during the war emboldened the company to move ahead into the production of their own farm tractor.  The company intended to design a tractor that would embody all the most advanced features.  The company did not want the design or unique features of their tractor to leak out to competing tractor manufacturing companies.   Therefore, as early as 1943, as the Cockshutt Company began to hold secret meetings on the design and  production into their own farm tractor.  Significantly, however, these meetings of Cockshutt officials were not held in Canada.  Instead the meetings were held in Cleveland, Ohio, in the United States.  Besides secrecy there were perhaps  two other reasons for meeting in the United States.

In the past, Cockshutt had manufactured and sold a line of farm implements that were  confined tailored to the Canadian market.  The company had largely ignored the huge farm market to the south–the United States.  However, now, as they planned for the manufacture of their own farm tractor, Cockshutt knew that the would have enter the farm tractor market in the United States-to make the overall sales of the new tractor a profitable success.

Additionally, holding the secret meetings in the United States and, especially, in Cleveland, Ohio would bring the company into closer proximity with the Ohio Famous Cultivator Company located in Bellevue, Ohio.  (A history of the Ohio Famous Cultivtor Company is contained in the article at this website called “Farming with a  COOP Model E-3 Tractor in Illinois [Part II]: The Kewanee Company.”)  Cockshutt had worked together with the Ohio Company previously in past, but would come to play a larger role with the Ohio Company in the future.

Cockshutt put its tractor–the Cockshutt Model 30–into production  at Cockshutt’s factory Works in Brantford, Ontario in Canada on October 7, 1946.   The Model 30  tractor was advertised as a 2-3 plow tractor.  To power the new tractor, Cockshutt turned to the Buda Engine Company of Harvey, Illinois, in the United States.

A Buda Engine Company logo dating from 1920.

The Buda Company had initially been founded in Buda, Illinois, in 1881 by George Chalender.  Initially the Company set about making switches, switch stands and signaling equipment for the railroads.  However, in 1910 the company introduced its first gasoline.  Production of engines for boats, trucks and other industrial,  applications, soon became the main product of the Buda Company.  Later a line of diesel engines were introduced by the company.  These diesel engines were designed with Buda’s own Lavona style cylinder head, diesel fuel injection pumps and nozzles.  Thus, the diesels were called “Buda-Lavona” diesels.  In 1953, the Buda Engine Company was sold to the Allis-Chalmers Company and the Buda-Lavona diesel was renamed the “Allis-Chalmers diesel.”

This 1938 advertisement of the line of Buda-Lavona diesel engines made by the Buda Engine Company shows the long stroke that is characteristic of Buda engines.   (The Buda diesel featured in this advertisement has a 4-7/8 inch stroke  as opposed to a 3-1/2 inch  bore.

By 1919, the Buda Engine Company had moved from Buda, Illinois to the Chicago-suburb of Harvey, Illinois where they had production facilities at 15450 Commercial Avenue in Harvey, Illinois.

A Co-op front-mounted four-row Model 1034 cultivator was made by the Cockshutt Company for the Co-op Model E-3/Model 30 tractor.  This four-row cultivator went on sale in  Canada and the United States in early 1952.

with a four-cylinder valve-in-head 153 cubic inch engine which was made by the Buda Engine Company of Harvey, Illinois, with 5.50 by 16 inch rubber tires in the front and 10.00 by 38 inch rubber tires on the rear.  However, the tractor reflected many of the new state of the art innovations of technology that Cockshutt had developed during the war.

One of these innovatiions was the  “independent live power take off”  which was fitted on the Model 30 as standard equipment.  Thus, Cockshutt became the first tractor in the world to have an independent live power take-off.  However, Cockshutt was first by only a few months.  Later, in 1947 the Oliver Farm Equipment  Company introduced their new Model 88 the first of the “Fleetline” tractors which would also feature the independent power take-off.   y were The power take-off (PTO) was a shaft that protruded from the rear of the transmissioin of the tractor just above the drawbar.  The PTO was a method by which power implements like grain combines and hay balers could powered by while working in the field.  The independent live power take-off is distinguished from the regular transmission PTO, because the independent PTO allowed the tractor operator to depress the clutch on the tractor which would stop the forward motion of the tractor but allowing the power take-off to keep running at normal speed.  This allowed the tractor operator to avoid having the tractor and combine or hay baler push ahead by momentum into a clump in the windrow and clog the operation of the combine or baler.  If the tractor operator happened to see a clump in the windrow in the field which he knew might plug the conbine or baler, he could easily stop the forward motion of the tractor and then slowly ease the tractor  ahead through the clump a little at a time and avoid clogging the combine or baler.

One of the new post-World War II small PTO-driven combines which worked well with the new independent PTO of the Cockshutt Model 30 tractor.

Additionally, the Model 30 tractor was also introduced with 4-speed transmission.  However the transmission also had a high and low range.  This meant that the tractor actually had an 8-speed transmission.  Accordingly, the Cockshutt Model 30 had a range of speeds which ran from  1.65 mph., 2.4 mph., 2.75 mph., 3.3 mph., 4.0 mph., 5.5 mph., 6.5 mph., 12.0 mph.

The Model 30/Model E-3 Cockshutt tractor was tested at  the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Nebraska from May 21, 1947 through June 3, 1947 and was found to be able to deliver 21.68 horsepower to the drawbar and 28.10 horsepower to the belt pulley.

The Cockshutt Model 30 was painted red with a cream white color on the front and rear wheel rims.  This view shows the Cockshutt decals on the side of the food on the tractor.

As noted above, linked together with the decision to manufacture their own tractor, the Cockshutt Company also determined that they would need to expand their marketing into the great market to the south–the United States.  Previously, the Cockshutt Company   had  avoided the huge market that was immediatley to the south–the United States.  Fortunately, coincident with the company’s was entrance into the marketing of their own tractor, there arose two promising opportunities arose which would aid in marketing.  The first marketing opportunity was the Gambles hardware store chain in the United States.  Gambles-Skogmo was a small chain of hardware stores that began in Fergus Falls, Minnesota but was now headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Use of hardware stores may seem an odd selection for a retail outlet network to sell farm tractors, but hardware stores had actually been an important outlet for the sale of farm tractors in the pre-World War II era in the United States.

Furthermore, the  Gambles-Skomo store chain was quite popular in the rural and small towns of the midwestern United States.  The agreement between Gambles and Cockshutt apparently required that only the decals on the side of the hood would need to reflect

This picture shows a closeup of the left side of the hood of a “Farmcrest” tractor which was in reality a Cockshutt Model 30 tractor with “Gambles/Farmcrest” decals on the sides of the hood.

However the second possible retail outlet in the United States that seemed to hold the most auspicious opportunity to market the new Cockshutt Model 30 within the United States also arose in 1946.  This was the possibility of selling the Model 30 as a COOP Model E-3 tractor sold through the many cooperatives throughout the United States.  This network of cooperatives, known asthe National Farm Machinery Cooperative,  was a much wider and more numerous retail network.

As they rolled off the assembly line at the Cockshutt Works factory in Brantford, Ontario, the COOP tractors were actually identical to the Cockshutt tractors.  However, the contract between Cockshutt and the National Farm Machinery Cooperative (NFMC) stipulated that every  Cockshutt Model 30 tractor was supplied to  NFMC  1.) must be identified as a COOP Model E-3 tractor including  decals on both sides of the hood which identified the tractor as such.

When first introduced the Model E-3 COOP tractor had black lettering on both sides of the orange painted tractor to properly identify the tractor as a Model E-3 COOP tractor.  This Model E-3 tractor has been fitted with two pairs of wheel weight on the rear wheels.

Also as a part of the identification of the tractor NFMC required that the “nose strip” in the centerof the front grille of the tractor be changed from bearing the word “COCKSHUTT” to the word ” COOP.   2.) The contract also required that the tractors be painted entirely orange.

Clearly NFMC wanted something to set their Model E-3 tractor apart from the Cockshutt  Model 30 tractor.  However, just, why the the orange color was selected is a mystery, but orange color may have been derived from NFMC’s  close relationship with the Ohio Famous Cultivator Company of Belevue, Illinois.  (As noted below, a history of the  The Ohio Company is contained in the article on this website called “Farming with a COOP Model E-3 in Illinois [Part II]: The Kewanee Company.”)  As noted in that history, the Ohio Famous Cultivator Company was a “short line” manufacturer of farm implements.  (The term “short line” refers to the fact that the Ohio Company was not a “full line” manufacturing company, in other words the company did not did not manufacture or sell farm tractors as a part of their line of farm machinery.

The Ohio Company consistently painted their implements orange with black lettering.  Indeed the advertising of the Ohio company directed  potential cutomers to “look for the implement that were painted orange and black.”

A sign advertising the line of farm implements made by the Ohio Famous Cultivator Company which points to the fact that Ohio Implements were paqinted orange in color with black highlights and lettering.

Other than the orange color and the decals of the Model E-3 tractor there was really very little that would distinguish the Model E-3 tractor from the Cockshutt Model 30.  The COOP tractors and the Cockshutt tractors were identical in all respects right down to the bearing the same serial number tags.  Indeed, the serial number tag of every Model E-3 COOP tractor continued to identify the tractor as a Model 30 Cockshutt tractor.

Thus if a modern day restorer of a Model E-3 wishes to identify a particular unpainted or a re-painted tractor as a COOP E-3 or as a Cockshutt Model 30 tractor, the restorer has only one way to identify the particular tractor.  All the tractors that rolled off the assembly line at the Cockshutt Works in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, were fitted with a “nose strip” in the center of the grille on the front of the tractor.  However, all those tractors that were painted orange and were intended for sale in the United States as COOP tractors were fitted with a orange-painted nose strip which had the word “CO-OP” pressed into the nose strip, the letters of which were painted black.

This black and white photo shows the nose strip of the CO-OP Model E-3 with the word CO-OP written from top to bottom on an orange nose strip with the letters highlighted in black.

On the other hand all the tractors which rolled off the assembly line at the Cockshutt Works in Brantford, Ontario, which were intended for sale in Canada as Cockshutt Model 30 tractors were painted red and cream white and had nose strip in the center of the grill which bore the word “Cockshutt.”

The “nose strip” in the center of the front grille of the Cockshutt tractor clearly shows the word “Cockshutt” on the nose strip.

However, the modern restorer of an unpainted or repainted tractor, will be hard-pressed to identify the particular tractor if the nose strip has been  removed or has been changed.  The COOP tractors bore the same serial number tags as had  that had merely been repainted from the grille–which said COOP on all the orange painted tractors as opposed to the nose original red and cream white Cockshutt colors to the COOP orange color.

The last two months of the year 1946 was pretty much of a test  for the Cockshutt Company.  The new Cockshutt Model 30 was introduced only on October 7, 1946 and the company watched as the two retail outlet networks–the Gamble/Skogmos and the National Farm Machinery Cooperative began selling the Model 30 in tyhe new United States market.   The Company was intensely interested in how the sales of the Model 30 (or rather Model E-3) would go in the United States.  Indeed, even during the very first day of production in October of 1946 one very first Model 30s that rolled off the assembly line at Cockshutt’s  Brantford, Ontario, factory works was painted orange and properly decaled and desinated as the first COOP Model E-3 tractor.  Note was made of this first orange Model 30 or now Model E-3 tractor was made and a picture was taken of this first Model E-3

One of first Cockshutt Model 30 tractors that came off the assembly line at the Branford, Ontario, Canada on October  , 1946.  This tractor has been painted orange and has been, properly, decaled as a Co-op Model E-3 and, thus, is destined for shipment and potential sale in the United States.

It probably was not  the tractor in this that ended up in the hands of our Sterling Township farmers hands, but it certainly was one of the first Model E-3 tractors to be assembled at the Cockshutt Works in late 1946 or early 1947 that was loaded up one of the railroad flat cars of the Canadian National Railroad that was sitting in the rail yard next to the Cockshutt Company’s Brantford Works.

The Model E-3 tractor was a 2-3 plow tractor fitted with a four cylinder 153 cubic inch (c.i.) engine made by the Buda Engine Company of Buda, Illinois.

A 153 cubic inch Buda Engine Company engine in this Co-op Model E-3 is, here, being overhauled.

In December 1949, the Cockshutt line of tractors was enlarged when the larger Cockshutt Model 40 went into production.  Later, in February of 1952  the smaller Cockshutt Model 20 was added to the line of farm tractors.  Finally, in December of 1952 the Cockshutt tractor line was completed by the addition of the Cockshutt Model 50 tractor.

Ever since his father had purchased his Co-op Model E-3 tractor in the fall of 1946, our Sterling Township farmer had been impressed by the looks of the Co-op Model E-3, with its orange paint, its sleek new look, with a “rounded nose” grill and a smooth sheet metal hood leading back to a “bullet” shaped gas tank.

Knowing that our Sterling Township farmer was living a life of a bachelor in the farm house, his mother determined to travel alone with her husband on this trip and do some house cleaning. She gathered a few cleaning supplies and other household items to take to Sterling. As to the distance that he had to drive with the truck, from Baraboo, Wisconsin to Sterling, Illinois, her husband reminded them that the Model TF-37 was the heavy duty model of the Dodge 1- ½ ton truck. He said, “It may take me longer to get to Sterling, but you don’t have worry about a breakdown on the way. The engine in that old truck is the 228 cubic inch “big six” heavy duty engine. It will make it through anything we are liable run into even with the tractor on board.”

A Dodge flathead six-cylinder engine similar to the engine in the 1939 one and a half ton truck.

Our Sterling Township farmer’s father and mother headed out in the truck with the tractor on board reached Sterling, Illinois in the afternoon of the same day. When they reached Sterling they found that their son was still at work.  So they waited for him to finish his  shift at Northwestern Steel and Wire, when they met him near the entrance to the parking lot as he drove out with their 1946 Oldsmobile. Then met him at they followed his son out of Sterling and onto the gravel county road which led north into Sterling Township toward the new farm, where our Sterling Township farmer had been living.  Still wet from a recent rain the driveway  was a slippery mess. However, the old Dodge truck successfully made it down the long driveway to the building site. Together he and his son, our Sterling Township farmer dove the Dodge truck into the ditch beside the driveway and backed the rear end of the truck up against the driveway. Now with the driveway and the bed of the truck at roughly at the same level they could easily back the tractor off the bec of the truck and onto the driveway and drive it to the machine shed where it could be stored.

The next morning after our Sterling Township farmer was pleasantly reminded of old times as he woke up to smell of his mother’s breakfast cooking on the stove. His mother had gotten up early to fix breakfast.  After eating breakfast our Sterling Township farmer headed off to town for his shift at Northwestern Steel and Wire. His father then drove the old Dodge truck into Sterling to the business of Thomas McCue and Sons. He had been directed to this business as a place where he could buy some gravel for the driveway of the farm. He also made arrangement with a local dump truck driver to haul the gravel to the farm. He knew that it would take more than one load of gravel but he hoped to have the whole driveway graveled with the “screened river gravel” sold by McCue before his son returned home from work that evening. After each load, our Sterling Township farmer’s fatherstarted the  It wlasa . find somehad and st

While they were on this short vacation to Sterling Illinois, the couple shopped for an engagement ring and actually purchased a new ring from in a jewelry store in Sterling, Illinois.

This, then, is how they had come to be married in his fiancé’s childhood church in Kirkwood, Illinois during June of 1946 and set up housekeeping in their own house on their own farm in Sterling Township in Whiteside County in Illinois in June of 1946 before they could start working the land.   Accordingly, our Sterling Township farmer would keep his job at the Northwestern Wire and Steel for as long as he could keep the job up to the spring of 1947 when he expected to get into the fields on his own farm for the first time.

Even after theiOver the next year until March 1, 1947, our Sterling township farmer and his, now, wife were visited by both his and her parents who would drive down from Baraboo. Both families did what they could to help the young couple get started on the new farm. They supplied the couple with old furniture that they either had or obtained from neighborhood farm sales and auctions in Baraboo. and bfather and mother who would the

Our Sterling Township farmer was attracted by the modern styling of the new Cockshutt-made Coop tractors.   rcand line s eThis e 200 cubic inch ewith made in   red The .

Now as part of their wedding present to our Sterling Township farmer, they gave their used Model 2 tricycle style Coop tractor to our Sterling Township farmer along with the matching two-row cultivator. This is how our Sterling Township farmer and his wife had gotten their start in farming on their new farm in Whiteside County, Illinois.

. ,      Our Sterling Township farmer had obtained much of his philosophy regarding the Farmer Union and their affiliated farmer-owed cooperatives from his father. His father had experienced high prices for farm products during the Second World War. The reason for these high prices was the fact that the United States government was feeding the armed forces fighting in two major theaters in the war.  Farmers, generally, were extremely anxious about the end of the war. They strongly felt that there might be an economic recession at the end of the war, just as there had been at the end of the First World War in 1919 through 1921. Of course, nobody could justify a continuation of the war with the accompanying loss of young men simply to  continue the high wartime prices for farm products.  Still, farmers remained apprehensive about the future.  The Farmers Union officially, felt that the trade relations between the United States and all the allied nations should remain just as they were  N, nonetheless.

During the war, the United States also sold aid and foodstuffs to the country’s allies in the war effort—Britain, France, China and the Soviet Union. Immediately at the end of the war, this aid was continued because of the need for our allies to reconstruct their countries following the devastation war. This was particularly true of the Soviet Union which had borne the brunt of the war against Nazi Germany and had suffered greatly because of the Nazi invasion and occupation of large portions of their country by the Germans. Much of the pre-war agricultural land in Ukraine had been overrun by the Germans. Thus, for most of the war, this land was unavailable for agricultural production. Crop yields in Soviet Russia, for the entire period of time from 1940 until 1945, were off by a whole 50%. (Warren B. Walsh, Russia and the Soviet Union [University of Michigan Press; Ann Arbor, 1958] p. 516.) Numbers of cattle in the country were reduced by 16% over pre-war levels. Even worse, numbers of pigs were reduced by 64% from pre-war levels. (Ibid. p. 526.) Clearly, At first aid and assistance to Soviet Russia from the United States was a trickle. However by 1943, once the United States got their wartime industry going, the aid and assistance to the Soviet Russia became a flood. From 1943 until the end of the war in 1945, Soviet Russia received 11 billion dollars worth of aid and assistance from the United States.

In the pre-war era, America by and large was suspicious of the new communist government that had been formed in Soviet Russia as a result of the Russian Revolution in 1917. Diplomatic relations between the United States and Soviet Russia had never been established with the new government in Russia flowing the Bolshevik coup of November 7, 1917.  Only November 21, 1933 were diplomatic relations been restored. However, because of their position as allies during the Second World War, relations between the two countries warmed. Polls taken in the United States in 1943, just as the flood of aid and assistance was starting to flow toward Russia, indicated that 45% of the American public thought that Soviet Russia was helpful toward obtaining world peace. From that point on until the end of the war in 1945, this feeling of cooperation between the United States and Soviet Russia grew, until in 1945, polls were indication that 55% of the American public felt the Soviet government was aiding the United States in obtaining world peace.  This is what our Sterling Township farmer believed too.  Small farmers in North America needed to have the United States trading with as many countries as possible around the world and to have that trade involve peace time goods–especially food stuffs–in order to maintain a stable economic situation.

This was an official political position of the National Farmers Union.  However, this political position within the Farmers Union was eroding as world events unfolded.  First, the Mao tse-tung’s  Chinese Revolution succeeded in throwing the Nationalist Chinese government off the mainland on October 1, 1949 and confining it to the island of Formosa.  More popular support within the Farmers Union for  world trade with all nations was eroded by these events in China. Then on June 25, 1950, North Korean troops crossed the 38th parallel on the Korean peninsula.  In response, President Truman sent U.S. troops to defend South Korea.  Suddenly, the young men of the United States were back at war in Asia.  All support within the Farmers Union evaporated for world trade with the former World War II allies.  (Bruce E. Field, Harvest of Dissent, The National Farmers Union and the Early Cold War [University of Kansas: Lawrence, 1998].  

However, as time went by during the post-war era,  the United States government seemed to be going out of its way to alienate its own wartime allies, especially, the Soviet Union.  The Soviet Union had suffered the most of any allied country during the war.  Now at the end of the war the United States started its great program to get Europe back on its feet following the devastation of the war–the Marshall Plan.  Yet the Soviet Union was forbidden from taking part in the Marshall Plan. Then the United States sided with Great Britain in the Civil War in Greece, merely to stabilize Britain’s position in its former colony–Greece.  Then the Truman Administration initiated aid to Greece and Turkey under the “Truman Doctrine.”  However, the main “aid” that went to these countries under the Truman Doctrine was military aid, which offered the farmers of the United States very little income.

In the presidential election of 1948, President Truman was not expected to win another term as president.  However, Truman’s spunky “whistle stop” give-’em-hell campaign, Truman pulled off the most unexpected surprising  in the history of the United States to that time.  (The Truman victory in 1948 was second only to the startling upset victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.)  Farmers across the midwest of the United States, were a large part of Truman’s electoral majority.  Our Sterling Township felt that these farmer were deceiving themselves by supporting Truman.  He continued to support Henry Wallace, the third party Progressive candidate who actively supported

statwhich  is seemed to our Sterling Township farmer to be nothing more than a conscious attempt  en

3 thoughts on “Coop Farming in Illinois (Part I): The Farmers Union”

  1. I would love a good copy of the article and photo of the charter members of the farmers union… I have another photo from the same time with the 11th man… Owen Pinkney Pyle.

    1. Dear Devin:

      I would love to add any pictures that you have, and would be willing to share. I could add any pictures and or information to the article on the Farmers Union. Toward that end, my E-Mail address is: As you may have seen from the note at the beginning of the article, this article is not yet complete.

      Sincerely yours,

      Brian Wayne Wells

    2. I got the photo on-line and a copied it. I was google search under the term “Farmers Union history.” I do not have a list of who the men are in the picture. Perhaps you could help me out with this.

      Sincerely yours,

      Brian Wayne Wells

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