The New Idea Company (Part II): The Model 6A Cornpicker

     The New Idea Company (Part II):

The Model 6A Cornpicker

                    As published in the November/December 1998 issue of

  Belt Pulley Magazine

by

Brian Wayne Wells

 

 

Immediately after the Second World War in September of 1945, a tremendous pent-up demand for power farm machinery was released. After four years of deprivation, the farming public was starved for new farm machinery and buying soon outstripped the supply. This demand presented a good opportunity for all farm equipment manufacturers, pro0vided they were correctly positioned, to take advantage of that market. During the Second World War, the New Idea Company like all United States farm machinery companies found that raw materials for the production of farm machines were in the extremely short supply. As aresult, they experienced reduced sales, which meant reduced profits and consequently reduced capital. Finding itself short of cash at the end of the war, the New Idea Company struggled to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the new post-war world. To raise the necessary capital, the company management determined to sell out to the Avco Manufacturing Company in October of 1945. New Idea became a major sub-division of that new company. This strategy proved successful and New Idea exploded into another period of growth after the war. With a new infusion of capital New Idea introduced their famous trailing mower that same year in 1945. Additionally, Avco/New Idea initiated a $5,000,000 expansion and modernization of its factory facilities.

An aerial view of the New Idea Company factory works located in Cold Water, Ohio from 1940 thru 1945.

 

Just as in the 1920s, following the First World War, when the company experienced tremendous growth based in large part on the sales of one product—the revolutionary Model * manure Spreader—so now, following the Second World War, another period of growth was begun once again based in large part on another single farm implement—the Model 6A two-row, pull-type cornpicker.

As described in the first article in this series(See the previous article on this blog taken from the September/October 1998 issue of Belt Pulley Magazine), New Idea had introduced its revolutionalry two-row cornpicker in 1928 and had modified and improved the cornpicker through various production models until 1930 when the company brought out the Model 6 cornpicker. The Model 6 remained basically unchanged until after the war. It was a popular seller in the pre-war years. During the war, production of the cornpicker was drastically reduced but not ceased altogether. Although galvanized metal was an extremely restricted commodity during the war, New Idea obtained just enough of this precious material to support the very limited production of the Model 6 cornpicker even during the war.

An advertisement of the Model 6 corn picker with the wagon elevator on the side to allow for pulling for long tongue horse-drawn wagons.

 

During the war time production run, New Idea continued to make modifications and improvements to Model 6 cornpicker. The most visible change made to the Model 6 was the installation of a rear-mounted wagon elevator rather than a side mounted wagon elevator. This change was facilitated by the rapid change from horses to farm tractors and farm-tractor wagons on the average North American farm. While the long tongues on horse-drawn wagons prevented horse-drawn wagons from being towed close enough behind the cornpicker for the wagon elevator to reach wagon box. Consequently, horse-drawn wagons could only be towed along side corn pickers with side mounted wagon elevators. (John Deere’s attempt to remedy problem is outlined in the movie “What’s New for 1941”which shows the John Deere Model 952C wagon gear with a steel tongue that could be folded in half to allow the wagon to be towed by a tractor or unfolded into its long position again to be used with horses again. The movie made note that this feature of the Model 952C wagon gear was particularly important “during cornpicking time,” recognizing that wagons with short tongue could be used behind cornpickers with rear mounted wagon elevators. This movie is available on VHS tape or DVD from the Two-Cylinder Club at Tel. No. 1-888-782-2582.

A picture of a side-mounted wagon elevator on an Oliver corn picker working in the field.

 

The rapid growth in the numbers of short-tongue tractor wagons on the average farm meant that a rear mounted wagon elevator could be mounted on cornpickers. This allowed the wagon to be pulled directly behind the husking bed of the cornpicker which was directly behind the tractor. This meant more efficiency in the corn field.

The 1947-1950 New Idea two-row corn picker is identifiable by the exposed gears at the top of the header. This is the Model 6-A corn picker with the rear mounted wagon elevator which can be used only with tractor-drawn wagons with short tongues, like the wagon seen here.

 

With the change to a rear mounted wagon elevator, the designation of the Model 6 cornpicker was changed, in 1950, to the Model 6A cornpicker. Sales of the Model 6A were a stunning success from the very beginning. In each of its first two years in production (1950 and 1951) 6,000 units were built yearly. These production figures far overshadowed the annual sales of any previous or any subsequent model of two-row New Idea cornpicker from 1928 through 1982 (during which time a total of 90,000 two-row machines were built.

In 1939, New Idea introduced the Model 7 one-row snapping picker to try and capture what remained of the small cornpicker market. In the post-war world, the market for one-row corn pickers was rapidly declining because of the success of the sales of two-row corn pickers—especially the New Idea Model 6A corn picker.  As a consequence, New Idea sold only 12,000 one-row pull-type corn pickers over the entire run of production of the one-row model.

The one-row Model 7 cornpicker was introduced by the New Idea Company in 1939.

 

Two individual Model 6A cornpickers among those built by New Idea in 1950 left the Coldwater, Ohio, facilities destined for southern Minnesota. One of the first Model 6A arrived in the small town of Adams, Minnesota (1940 pop. 674) on a Milwaukee Railroad train in September of 1950 by way of the New Idea warehouse facility in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Located on the north side of U.S. Highway #56 which cuts straight through the middle of Adams, across the street from the movie theater, was Millenaker Implement. Millenaker’s was a Chrysler/DeSoto/Dodge/Plymouth dealership, but they also owned franchises for Case and New Idea farm equipment. They were the sole distributor of New Idea equipment around the central and southeastern Mower County area. The first arrivals of the new Model 6A cornpicker at Millenaker’s in the previous fall of 1949 had created considerable excitement, with many farmers purchasing a 6A. Now, with Millenakers headed into its second fall with the popular sales item, one more farmer began to show interest in the New Idea 6A cornpicker–this was Mel Anderson of LeRoy, Minnesota.

A picture of the Main Street of Adams, Minnesota. Millenaker Implement can not be seen, but is located just off the right side of the picture next to the to round roof building which can be seen on the extreme right side of the photo.

 

Thirteen miles southeast of Adams, down Highway #56, lay another small town–LeRoy, Minnesota–snuggled up against the Iowa border, where Mel and Irene (Christenson) Anderson farmed an 80-acre farm just east-northeast of town. Just to the north of his 80 was another 80 acres that belong to his father John Anderson. By 1950, Mel was farming both 80-acre farms. Mel was a gregarious person who enjoyed socializing with people and he was always looking for ways to improve his farming operations. These two traits attracted him to farm auctions and showings of new farm equipment. After attending many auctions, he came to know the value of machinery. At these auctions, if he saw a piece of machinery that was going rather cheap, he would buy it with the intention of selling it at a later auction. He was somewhat successful at this and was able to supplement his family income through buying and selling farm machinery. Sometimes he would sell a farm implement to another person at the same auction where he had purchased the particular machine. He was a person in a hurry and did not like to waste time. He also liked to be the first in the neighborhood to try out something new. Thus, it was altogether predictable that Mel would stop in at Millenaker’s in 1950 to have a look at the new Model 6A cornpickers. Mel, like many other farmers, was impressed by the two-row cornpicker that he saw at Millenakers.

This restored Wood Bros. cornpicker is painted gray indicating that it is a pre-1947 corn picker. Meaning before the 1947 Wood Bros. Company contract with Ford/Dearborn Company which meant that Wood Bros. cornpickers would be sold under the Ford/Dearborn name and required that the corn picker be painted “Ford red” in color.

 

Mechanical cornpicking was not new to Mel; he owned a Wood Brothers one-row, pull-type cornpicker which he had purchased together with a neighboring farmer, Wayne Wells, in the fall of 1946. Wayne Wells lived on the 160-acre farm that his parents, George and Louise (Schwark) Wells, had purchased in 1936. The Wells farm was located down the road about 1/4 mile east of Mel and Irene’s building site. Since buying the Wood Brothers picker, all the corn on both the Wells and Anderson farms had been picked mechanically. Additionally, Wayne Wells had used the new Wood Brothers cornpicker to do custom cornpicking in the neighborhood to supplement the family income.

Bros.
This picture might as well have been a picture of Wayne
A. Wells in the autumn of 1946 picking corn in his neighborhood with a Wood Bros. one-row corn picker and a 1942 Farmall Model H tractor. The only difference is that the Anderson/Wells Wood Bros. corn picker was painted gray rather than “Ford red.”

 

Still, this new two-row New Idea cornpicker offered to do the job of cornpicking in half the time that it took with the one-row Wood Brothers cornpicker. Once again, Mel approached Wayne Wells with a plan to trade the 1946 Wood Brothers cornpicker in on the new 1950 Model 6A New Idea cornpicker that he had seen at Millenakers. Wayne agreed, and they made the deal on the sleek new two-row cornpicker in time to harvest the 1950 corn crop. The New Idea Model 6A cornpicker continued to be employed on the Wells and Mel Anderson farms until 1958 when Mel Anderson sold his interest in the picker to Wayne Wells. The Model 6A picker was then used exclusively on the Wells farm until the Wells family ceased farming in February of 1964.

Wayne Wells, married to Marilyn Hanks (See the article “A Family’s Crucial Year” in the January/February 1995 issue of Belt Pulley, Vol. 8, No. 1, p. 31), cooperated at certain times of the year with Marilyn’s parents Howard and Ethel (Buck) Hanks and her brothers Fred and John Hanks who were engaged in farming the 420-acre Bagan farm located two miles east of the Wells farm. The Hanks family had been mechanically picking corn with a McCormick-Deering No. 3, one-row pull-type cornpicker. (An early model McCormick cornpicker like the No. 3 can be seen on page 66 of 150 Years of International Harvester by C.H. Wendel (Crestline Publishing: Sarasota, Florida, 1980.) In November of 1950, no doubt impressed with the Model 6A after seeing the Anderson/Wells New Idea Model 6A cornpicker in action, the Hanks family, while paying a Sunday social visit to Wayne and Marilyn’s house, saw an advertisement of the Bob Stone Implement dealership of Clarion, Iowa, in the Sunday Minneapolis Tribune for a new Model 6A cornpicker for the low price of $1.350.00. Fred and his father, Howard, decided the time to purchase a new Model 6A was right, so they contacted the Bob Stone Implement dealership and made a deal over the telephone. Consequently, on November 16, 1950, a truck from Bob Stone delivered a new Model 6A to the Hanks farm. The serial number of the Hanks’ Model 6A cornpicker was found to be very close to the serial number of the Anderson/Wells cornpicker, indicating that the two pickers had left the Coldwater facility at about the same time. Indeed, the Hanks picker, with its lower serial number, had been built first.

After some minor assembly of the new cornpicker, the Hanks family was able to put it to work in the field that same fall. The Model 6A cornpicker continued to be used on the Hanks farm until 1978, by which time all corn on the Hanks farm was combined and stored as shelled corn rather than as corn on the cob.

As efficient as the Model 6A was, however, Mel Anderson and Wayne Wells and the Hanks family still had a problem which was common to all owners of pull-type cornpikers: how to “open” their fields without running down a great deal of corn. To “fully open” a field of corn, a farmer would need to harvest the “end rows” and another of the outside rows to allow his pull-type picker to enter the field and begin harvesting without running down any un-harvested corn. The number of rows required to open a cornfield for the old New Idea Model 6, or any other cornpicker with a side-mounted wagon elevator, was four rows on each side–because in an unopened cornfield, the tractor and picker would be running over two un-picked rows. In an unopened field, horses pulling the wagon would be running over two additional rows of unpicked corn. Furthermore, on the second round in an unopened field, although the tractor and Model 6 would be running over the freshly picked rows, the horses and wagon would once again be treading on the unpicked rows. To be sure, after a farmer had opened the field by making a few rounds, he would turn the cornpicker around and go around the field in the opposite direction picking the downed corn. Still, after having been run over once or twice, a significant amount of lost corn from those rows was inevitable.

The design of the Model 6A, with its rear-mounted wagon elevator, was some improvement over the Model 6 in this regard. Mounting the wagon elevator to the rear of the cornpicker meant that the wagon would then trail behind the tractor and cornpicker. Thus, when picking in an unopened field on the first round, there would be only two rows, rather than four rows that would be run over before they could be picked. Still, this resulted in the waste of good corn which needed to be avoided in order for the farmer to make a profit.

Hand shucking sufficient corn rows to open the field was an option, but this again took a lot of valuable time. (Just how much time was saved by mechanical picking over hand shucking was discussed in the first installment of this two-part series of articles on the New Idea Company.) Naturally, then, farmers would seek ways of avoiding any hand-shucking in order to reduce man-hours spent in the fields. Farmers who needed to fill their silo with corn ensilage would be able to cut the end rows and outside rows, and perhaps some rows up the center of each cornfield, to have the cornfields fully-open for the pull-type cornpicker later in the fall. Of course, if the farmer were to use his corn binder for this operation, he would face the same dilemma of running down good corn just to be able to use his corn binder. In the end, he may have to cut the green corn by hand with a machete and load the loose corn onto a wagon to be hauled to the silo filler. In dry years, when the farmers’ pastures began to brown and the cattle were needing food, such loose cut corn could be driven straight to the pasture and fed to the hungry cattle.

The best method of opening cornfields for fall picking, however, was to hire a neighbor with a tractor-mounted two-row picker. This was the situation with Wayne Wells and Mel Anderson. They, along with several other farmers in the neighborhood, would hire Ray Harrington to come over from his farm west of LeRoy to open their cornfields. Ray Harrington had an Allis Chalmers WC and mounted Allis Chalmers two-row corn picker. (One of these “low slung” mounted two-row cornpickers can be seen in the 1952 Allis Chalmers promotional movie, “The New Hybrids” available on VHS video Tape #7 from Keith Oltrogge, P.O. Box 529, Denver, IA. 50622-0529, Tel. [319] 984-5292 or [319] 352-5524.) In addition to picking the end rows and the rows at the sides of the field, a farmer might have the operator of the mounted picker make a couple of passes through the center of the field as well. This would save time and wear and tear on the machinery, as during cornpicking the farmer would not have to drive the 60 to 80 rods across the entire width of the field with the picker not operating just to get started back across the field. Furthermore, with a couple of strips made up through the center of the field, the farmer could cut down on his turn around time at the ends of the rows.

A two-row mounted Allis-Chalmers corn picker mounted on an Allis-Chalmers Model WC tractor like the corn picker and tractor owned by Ray Harrington of LeRoy, Minnesota.

 

To open their cornfields, the Hanks family would hire their neighbor hire Donald McGillivary. Donald McGillvary had a John Deere Model 101 one-row mounted cornpicker which he mounted onto his pre-war “red-face” (meaning the red grilled version built between 1937-1942) Minneapolis-Moline Z. (The John Deere Model 101 semi-mounted cornpicker can be seen on page 326 of John Deere Tractors and Equipment Vol. I 1837-1959, [American Society of Agricultural Engineers, 1988].) To mount the cornpicker on the tractor, Donald McGillivary had to remove the left clamshell-style fender from the Model Z. Once the cornpicker was removed, the right fender did not often go back on the MM Z and, as a result, the tractor often spent a good part of the year with only the right fender on the tractor. During cornpicking season, however, Don McGillivary, always had a shotgun in a burlap bag on the right fender in hopes of shooting a pheasant for supper. Whereas the semi-mounted Model 101 picker offered some advantages over the old McCormick-Deering cornpicker with the side-mounted wagon elevator when opening the fields, it did not offer any advantages over the new 6A cornpicker–the Model 101 was really a side-mounted picker in which the tractor would still run down two rows of corn while picking just one row. Consequently, it was not long before the Hanks family turned to another neighbor, Forrest (Spud) Snyder, to open their cornfields with his John Deere two-row Model 227 mounted cornpicker.

Introduced simultaneously with the cornpicker in 1928 was the New Idea farm wagon. (See the first installment in this two-part series on the New Idea Company in the September/October 1998 issue of Belt Pulley Vol. 11, No. 5., p. 17.) Just as the cornpicker was improved over the years, so too was the wagon gear. Accordingly, when rubber tires became available in the late 1930s, New Idea offered them for the wagon gear as well as their other farm implements. Cosmetic changes were made to the wagon gear in the post-war period which served only to make some wagon gears more unusual and thus more attractive to antique machinery collectors in later years.

When introduced in 1928, the New Idea wagon was fitted with steel wheels.

 

The first New Idea wagon gears that appeared in 1928 bore the traditional New Idea colors–orange with green wheels and hubs. However, beginning in 1949, the wagon gear was painted entirely orange including the hubs and wheels. This paint scheme lasted only one year (through 1950), however. In 1951, New Idea changed to the paint scheme that would remain on wagon gears throughout the rest of the 1950s–the wagon gears were entirely orange with orange wheel rims but with green hubs.

A New Idea Company promotional picture which dates from 1954 showing a New Idea 1949 wagon gear and wagon flare box being towed behind a New Idea corn picker in the corn field.

 

In 1950, one of the last of the entirely orange wagon gear came out of the Coldwater facilities.   The serial number of the wagon was 11398 and the lot number was W-108. This wagon gear was destined for the Elgin Church Case dealership in Bethel, Kentucky. Elgin Church moved from his home in Fleming County, Kentucky, to the town of Bethel located in neighboring Bath County. There, Elgin met and married Lillian Arnett in 1942, and together they moved onto Lillian’s parents’ (J.A. and Lucy [Vice] Arnett) farm at 4630 North Highway #11 outside Bethel, Kentucky, where they took over the farming operation. In 1945, Elgin and Lillian obtained a franchise to sell Case farm equipment. They established their business on their farm. They entered the farm implement business at just the right time to catch the entire boom in farm equipment sales which followed the war. By 1949, the Church Implement Dealership had obtained franchises to sell New Holland and New Idea farm equipment as well as Case equipment.

Although inconspicuously located on a secondary highway outside a very small town in eastern Kentucky and operating without a large inventory of farm implements on hand, the Church Dealership nonetheless began to attract statewide, and later nationwide attention. What inventory the Church Dealership did have experienced a fairly rapid turnover. (Indeed, the Church Dealership sold enough farm equipment to win an award as the second largest Case dealership in North America for the year 1976.)

The Church Implement dealership was originally a J. I. Case dealership, however, they also obtained a franchise to sell New Ideal Company farm equipment and it was the sales of the New Idea equipment that really grew the dealership.

 

The Church Dealership was the sole New Idea dealership for a large portion of eastern Kentucky. (T.L. [Turil] Williams of Richmond Kentucky was the New Idea block-person for eastern Kentucky in 1945 and remained the Church dealership’s main contact with New Idea for many years.) A great deal of New Idea equipment was sold through the Church Dealership. So much so that it is reasonable to assume that a particular 1950 wagon gear, like No. 11398, was most probably sold through the Church Dealership in 1950.  Although the original purchaser and the early history of the wagon gear is unknown, we do know that in 1988, No. 11398 was purchased at an auction in Mount Sterling, by Mike Strattton. When purchased in 1988, the wagon gear was fitted with a 16′ hayrack. It seems logical to assume, then, that No. 11398 had been used most of its life as a hay wagon on some eastern Kentucky farm near Mount Sterling supplying hay to numerous horse farms around nearby Lexington, Kentucky. (Ireland Bryant, owner and operator of Sterling Hardware in Mount Sterling, remembers that although there was a lot of New Idea machinery around, particularly New Idea manure spreaders, there was no New Idea dealer or distributor in Mount Sterling. The large amount of New Idea farm equipment was mostly the result of large sales from the Church dealership serving Montgomery County [Mount Sterling] as part of its service area.)

A road map of Montgomery County showing the location of the county seat–Mount Sterling, Kentucky, home of the Church J I. Case dealership.

 

Mike Stratton had journeyed to the Mount Sterling auction from Milton, West Virginia, where he owns Stratton Tractor Sales. Mike and his father–Virgil Stratton–also raise some cattle and grow corn on part of the 40-acre farm near Milton to supplement the family income. To feed the cattle, Mike and his father also raise hay on part of their land. They baled their hay with their 1966 New Holland Model 268 baler. In 1988, the Strattons purchased No. 11398 with its 16′ home-made hayrack to pull behind the New Holland baler.

A map of the State of Kentucky showing the location of Montgomery County.

 

After use on the Stratton farm for about 9 years, Mike Stratton offered the wagon for sale at his dealership. Because the West Virginia Pumpkin Festival in Milton, West Virginia, is held so late in the year–the first weekend in October–the grain that is threshed on the grounds during the Festival must be stored two-and-a-half months from mid-July until that first weekend in October. To save labor and to prevent unduly disturbing the grain, the bundles are loaded onto hayracks and stored under cover until the Festival. The five acres of oats planted by Andy Blackwood in anticipation of the threshing to be done at the 1997 Pumpkin Festival created a need for hayracks. To relieve this need, the author began looking for a hayrack to purchase and noticed one sitting in the yard at Stratton Tractor Sales.

After purchasing the wagon in 1997, the author checked the lot number and the serial number with Wally McDougall (a former employee of the New Idea Company who has retained a great amount of paper records from the Company) and discovered that this particular wagon (No. 11398) was manufactured in 1950. Thus, the wagon was part of the limited number of wagons which had been painted totally orange with orange wheel rims and hubs. This was a particularly happy circumstance, since the author intended to use of the wagon as a bundle wagon at the Pumpkin Festival where the color orange is nearly mandatory! Indeed, it might be hard to convince the average person that No. 11398 was not actually just painted totally orange irrespective of the requirements of a historical restoration precisely, because of the Pumpkin festival.

A 1951 advertisement of the entire line of New Idea farm equipment, including the pull-type sickle bar mower.

 

 

Over the years since the 1950 wagon gear, bearing the serial number 11398 was used as a “flat rack” style  bundle wagon at the West Virginia Pumpkin Festival, the storage of the wagon out of doors had a deleterious effect on the wooden flat rack on the wagon gear.  Eventually, following the retirement of the current author in 2011 and his ability to spend more time in Minnesota working on the collection of tractors and farm machinery that had been collected by the Wells family and in particular after 2014 when the Wells family obtained a warehouse building located at 764 South Elmwood Street just inside the city limits of LeSueur, Minnesota, the thought of restoring the New Idea Company wagon gear with a Larson light-weight basket style bundle wagon.  (The story of the Larson wagon is contained at the article called “The Larson Hay Rack/Bundle Wagon” which was published in the March/April 1996 issue of Belt Pulley magazine contained in this blog.)  Restoration work toward rebuilding a Larson light-weight bundle wagon for the New Idea Company wagon gear bearing the serial number 11398, began in earnest in the summer of 2018 in the warehouse at 764 South Elmwood Street in LeSueur, Minnesota.

 

Just six years after introduction of the New Idea pull-type mower and well into the post-war boom in farm equipment sales, New Idea was again ready to expand their line of farm machinery. In April of 1951, AVCO/New Idea purchased the Horn Manufacturing Company of Fort Dodge, Iowa. (For an early history of the Horn Company, see the       issue of the Hart-Parr/Oliver Collectors Association magazine, Vol. 4, No. 4, p. 20. Readers of that article will remember that Ivan Reddemann still uses the same Horn-draulic loader that his father purchased in 1948. In the spring of 1998, Ivan purchased a Horn 100 bushel wagon box and has become a Horn collector.) The Horn Company had experienced good sales immediately after the Second World War based in large part on production of their farm tractor manure loader–the “Horn-draulic” loader. However, because of the aging design of the Horn-draulic loader, sales slumped, dragging down the profits of the Horn Company. Sagging profits and labor/management difficulties required the owners of the Horn Company to look for a buyer of the company.

Besides the Horn-draulic tractor loader, purchase of the Horn Company brought to the New Idea line of farm equipment the famous Horn 100-bushel, all-metal wagon box. This wagon box was famous because of the contract Horn had with its largest corporate customer, the Sears-Roebuck Company, for the purchase of 10,000 of these all-steel grain boxes to be sold through their catalogue under the David Bradley name.

The third implement added to the New Idea line of equipment by the corporate purchase of the Horn Company was the Horn pull-type, tractor-powered stock shredder. Recognizing the value of these implements, New Idea continued production of all three. The loader was re-designed to take on a more modern look and functionality. The wagon box now became the “New Idea/Horn” wagon box but remained exactly the same except for the New Idea trademark dark green paint (Ditzler 3255 or Sherwin Williams 6780) and orange (Martin Senour 4977) with which the flare box was adorned. However, New Idea retained all the original pinstriping design on the wagon box which was distinctive of wagon boxes which Horn had marketed under their own name.

The Ezee Flow Company fertilizer spreader made before the Ezee Flow Company was sold to the New Idea Company in 1953.

 

During the next two decades, changes occurred at a very fast rate as New Idea sought to keep up with what was happening in the agricultural sector of the United States economy. In 1953, New Idea introduced their two-row mounted cornpicker and their first new larger capacity power-take-off driven manure spreaders. Also in 1953, New Idea purchased the Ezee-Flow Company from Collegeville, Pennsylvania, which added pull-type rubber-tired fertilizer spreaders sized in models from 5 feet to 12 feet wide to the New Idea line.

The green painted parts and green wheels on this Ezee Flow fertilizer spreader betray the fact that this particular fertilizer spreader was actually made after the 1953 merger of Ezee Flow and the New Idea Company.

 

In 1956, New Idea presented the new semi-mounted parallel-bar side-rake. This rake could be mounted to any tractor with a three-point hitch and was made for gently creating windrows out of swathes of hay at modern tractor speeds of up to 8 miles an hour. Two years later in 1958, New Idea brought out its new pull-type, parallel-bar, side-delivery rake. This rake incorporated all the same features of the semi-mounted rake but was available as a trailing implement which could be pulled by any tractor with a regular drawbar. Also in 1958, the Company brought out its first forage unloading wagon. (In 1967, this line of forage wagons was reintroduced with substantial new improvements.) In 1959, New Idea introduced their new hay conditioner.   This was followed in 1964 by the new Cut-ditioner.

By way of improvement of their corn harvesting equipment, New Idea brought out the new line of Superpickers in 1962. These new cornpickers were built for larger capacity non-stop, non-plug cornpicking. These Superpickers, both mounted and pull-type, came with optional shelling or grinding units available.   One year later, in 1963, New Idea purchased the Uni-tractor line of self-propelled equipment (cornpickers, forage harvesters, corn combines and grain combines) from the Minneapolis Moline Company. For the first time, New Idea had a “tractor” in its line of farm equipment. This was the first power source that New Idea had offered to the public since they had purchased the Sandwich Company with its line of single-cylinder “hit and miss” stationary power units for use with the Sandwichcorn shellers and other machines around the farm. (See the early history of the Sandwich Manufacturing Company in the July/August 1998 issue of the Belt Pulley magazine, Vol. 11, No. 4, p. 16.) In 1968, a rotary snow plow was added to the Uni-tractor system. In 1969, this line of Uni-tractor equipment was again expanded to include a Tool carrier which got the New Idea Company into the area of seedbed preparation for the first time. In 1969, a forage blower was introduced by the Company.   Meanwhile, improvements continued to be made to the manure handling line of equipment, as in 1971 four new models of liquid manure spreaders were produced for the first time. In 1973, this was followed by their first New Idea liquid manure agitator/loader. With the increasing concern over pollution and the continued suburanization of the United States’ living style, New Idea introduced four different sizes of quiet battery-powered lawn tractors. The lawn tractors came with their own line of 35 attachments and accessories which made the lawn tractors available for a great variety of tasks around the home other than lawn mowing.

Meanwhile, the various physical plants of the New Idea Corporation were going through their own transformations. The factory complex at Coldwater was continually expanded until the company had 33 acres under roof. Improvements were made at the 23-acre site located near Fort Dodge, Iowa, obtained from the Horn Company.   Production of mowers, side rakes and elevators was continued at the Sandwich, Illinois, factory site until 1955 when the old outdated facility was closed and production of these implements was transferred elsewhere.

Eventually, however, the decrease in the farm equipment market caught up with New Idea, and in 1982, all cornpicker production was ceased. In 1984, the end came for the Company. What remained was sold to the White Farm Equipment Company. Today, restorers of New Idea Company equipment are able to obtain some Parts Books and Owners Manuals from AGCO at 1500 No. Raddant in Batavia, Illinois 60510-1370, Tel. (708) 879-3300. However, another important source is Wallace (Wally) McDougal of W. McDougall and Associates, located at Wycoff Building, Suite 210, P.O. Box 229, Celina, Ohio 45822-0229, Tel. (419) 586-4839.

As yet, restorers of New Idea farm equipment have not organized into an official group for promotion of antique New Idea equipment. This is the tragedy shared by all short-line equipment. Only through shared resources and information of organized groups will memories of old farm machines manufactured by various companies be preserved. This tragedy is especially poignant in the case of the New Idea Company because of the large role it played. Indeed, toward the end of its life as a corporate entity, the wide variety of machines offered to the farming public scarcely qualified the New Idea Company to be known as a “short-line” company. It is hoped that this company, which touched so many lives, will be honored by official recognition by a group of restorers and becoming a featured brand name at some of the larger shows around the nation.

One thought on “The New Idea Company (Part II): The Model 6A Cornpicker”

  1. Very interesting. My Dad had a Superpicker mounted on a Super M -TA. Later we bought a Uni -Machine. I also farmed and had several Uni-machines.

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