Rosenthal Cornhusker Company (Part IV): The Cornbine (

The Rosenthal Cornhusker Company

of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Part 4):

The Cornbine


Brian Wayne Wells

                                                             with the assistance of

Jim McFarlane of Waunakee, Wisconsin

Lyle Sundry of Byron, Minnesota

Gary J. Jones of Owatonna, Minnesota

Jim Esbenshade of Colbert, Oklahoma

John McNamara of Eagle Rock Missouri


Neal Holcomb of Eleva, Wisconsin

As published in the November/December 2001 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

By the end of the Second World War, the trend on North American farms was moving strongly in the direction of mechanical picking of ripe corn rather than husking and shredding the ripe corn.  This trend portended disaster for the Rosenthal Cornhusking Company of Milwaukee Wisconsin, as their only product–the corn husker/shredder–was rapidly becoming obsolete.  As noted earlier, the Rosenthal Company had attempted to combat this trend by making husking/shredding more attractive to the average farmer.  (See the article “The Rosenthal Cornhusking Company: Part III” in the September/October 2001 issue of Belt Pulley.)  As shown, the Company did this by introducing the new, lower-priced Model Steel 4-20 corn husker/shredder.  However, even the Steel 4-20 could not stem the trend toward the picking of corn in the field.

Much less hand-work was involved in mechanically picking corn in the field.  With a tractor and a power-take-off powered cornpicker, ripe corn could be harvested and elevated directly into a wagon.  The wagon full of corn would then be taken to the corn crib and unloaded.  There was no need for time consuming labor in the fields binding and shocking bundles of ripe corn, no need for time consuming labor in the fields loading the bundles onto a wagon for transport to the husker/shredder.  With mechanical picking of corn, all operations could be handled in the field in a single operation.

The Rosenthal Company simply could not introduce another corn picker into a market which was already overcrowded with corn picker manufacturers.  Thus the Company realized that its fortunes were tied to the husking/shredding of corn.  Consequently, if the Rosenthal Company were to survive, it needed to develop a machine that would take the corn husking/shredding process directly to the field, thereby, eliminating the need to bring the corn to the husker/shredder.  In other words, the process of husking/shredding of corn had to become as simple and mechanical as corn picking.  Thus during the Second World War, the engineering department at the Rosenthal Company began to design and build a machine that would do just that.  This machine was called the Cornbine.

The Cornbine was designed as a one-row, pull-type, ripe corn harvester which would husk and shred the ripe corn right in the field.  One model of Cornbine was powered by the power-take-off shaft from the tractor that towed it.  The second model depended on a Wisconsin VE-4, air-cooled, 30 horsepower engine for power.  (Regular readers of the Belt Pulley magazine will remember that the same Wisconsin VE-4 engine was used on the Case NCM baler, one of which was owned by the Hanks family and Wayne Wells of LeRoy, Minnesota [See the January/February 1995 issue of Belt Pulley, p. 31].  The problematic Wisconsin VE-4 flathead engine has been abused by many a user as being the engine that will not start when it is too hot, will not start when it is too cold, leading one to wonder when on God’s green earth the thing would ever start.  We will revisit the Wisconsin VE-4 air-cooled engine in a future article on a Wisconsin powered Massy Harris Clipper combine and in another article on the history of the Wisconsin Engine Company itself.) 

Adequate field testing of the new Rosenthal Cornbine required many different field conditions in key areas throughout the corn belt of the nation.  Consequently, three prototypes of this new machine were made: one was sent to Minnesota, another to Wisconsin and a third to Iowa.  Because Rosenthal wanted the field testing to be performed on actual functioning farms under reallife conditions, arrangements were made through the various Rosenthal dealerships to contact various farmers in their respective sales districts about the possibility of hosting field tests for the Cornbine.  In the case of the Iowa prototype, Rosenthal turned to Mielke Mfg. and Sales Co. of New Hampton (pop. 3,940), in Chickasaw County, Iowa.  As was pointed out in the second article in this series, the dealership with the closest relationship with the Rosenthal Company over the entire state of Iowa was the Mielke dealership.  (See the article “The Rosenthal Cornhusker Company: Part II in the July/August 2001 issue of Belt Pulley, Vol 14, No. 4, p. 16.)

William J. Mielke was the owner and operator of the Mielke Mfg. and Sales Co. Although a Case dealer (and later an Oliver dealer) Mielke was also a seller/installer of elevator systems.  William J. Mielke had been, since at least 1925, identifying his dealership heavily with the Rosenthal Company by producing his own Rosenthal advertising.  Ibid.  William J. Mielke was a man of many talents, who had worked alone and then also in conjunction with the Rosenthal Company on a self-feeding attachment for the Rosenthal corn husker/shredder.  Success of the self-feeder with the band cutter was finally achieved in the late 1950s, when Rosenthal introduced the self-feeder and band cutter on the Steel 40 husker/shredder.  (The story of the self-feeder and band cutter will be revisited again in a later article.)  Naturally, then, when the Rosenthal Company pondered the question of who was to host the testing of their Iowa prototype of the Cornbine, the answer was obvious–the Mielke Mfg. and Sales Co.

After being asked by the Rosenthal Company to find a host farm family, the Mielke dealership looked to one of their best customers–John and Catherine (Schmitt) Landreck of rural St. Lucas, Iowa (pop. 194.)  The Landrecks farmed 240 acres in northern Fayette County, Iowa, which neighbored Chickasaw County on the east.  The Landreck family was a large family which eventually included seven girls and four boys.

On their farm, John and Catherine Landreck raised dairy cattle and pigs.  They also had a sawmill and a threshing machine which they used in the neighborhood to do custom threshing.  For years, they has owned a Case “crossmotor” tractor which provided the power for the sawmill and the thresher.  The crossmotor tractor is so named because, unlike conventional tractors with an engine block containing the cylinders aligned from front to rear, the Case crossmotor was built with the engine block and cylinders aligned across the tractor from side to side.  The crossmotor design allowed for the crankshaft to connect directly to the belt pulley of the tractor without any additional gearing.  This was thought to allow more of the horsepower of the engine to be transferred to the belt.  In conventional tractors, gears were required to transfer the power from the crankshaft, which was aligned from front to rear, to the belt pulley axle, which was aligned from side to side on the tractor.

By 1943, when the two Rosenthal engineers arrived on the Landreck farm with the Cornbine, John and Catherine had traded the Case crossmotor in to Mielke’s on the purchase of a new Case Model L tractor.  The Model L was a conventionally designed tractor with the cylinders aligned from front to rear.  Still, the Model L could deliver a maximum of 42.1 horsepower to the belt.  C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests, Crestline Publishing: Oseola, Wisconsin, 1993) p. 114.  Thus the Model L was a very popular tractor for both sawmill and threshing work.  (C.H. Wendel, 150 Years of J.I. Case [Crestline Publishing: Sarasota, Florida, 1991] pp. 269-270.)  In keeping with the attempt by the Rosenthal Company to keep the field tests realistic, the host farmers were asked to use their own tractors to pull the Cornbine in the field.  Thus, throughout the field testing of the Wisconsin-powered Cornbine on the Landreck farm in 1943 and 1944, the Landreck’s Model L.  Two specialized wagons also arrived on the Landreck farm with the Cornbine.  One wagon–a two-wheeled wagon–trailed immediately behind the Cornbine to collect the ear corn.  Behind that was a larger forage wagon which collected the stover.  The Cornbine even saved the shelled corn which was deposited in a bin at the front of the two wheeled wagon.

Throughout the field testing of the Iowa prototype the Rosenthal engineers found that the gear box on the Cornbine was a continuing source of problems.  Thus, three times they replaced the gear box which was located directly under the 30-horse-power Wisconsin engine on the prototype and was connected to the engine drive shaft by rubber belts.  In addition, the engineers were continually cutting and welding on the Cornbine to change various features on the machine.  Needless to say, these interruptions during the busy corn harvest seasons of 1943 and 1944 did not lend themselves to smooth collection of the crop on the Landreck farm.  At the end of the field tests on the Cornbine in 1944, the Rosenthal engineers went back to Milwaukee leaving the Cornbine and the two wagons behind–probably with the intent of returning the next year for more tests.

However, with the end of the war in Europe in May of 1945 and the end of the war in the Pacific in September 1945, the Rosenthal Company decided that they had better go into production with the Cornbine or they would certainly lose a great deal more market share to the corn picker manufacturers when the war-time economic restrictions were lifted.  Thus, the engineers did not return to the Landreck farm in 1945.  Still, the Rosenthal engineers, had learned many things from their testing of the Iowa prototype and they would incorporate them into the production model of their new Cornbine.

Meanwhile, the Iowa prototype itself was abandoned on the Landreck farm where it fell into disuse.  Like an ancient animal that accidentally falls into a tar pit and dies, only to be preserved for discovery years later, the Rosenthal Cornbine remained undisturbed on the Lanreck farm for years.

In the meantime, the Landreck children came of age and began their own adult lives.  One of John and Catherine’s daughters, Lucy, married John McNamara of Oelwin, Iowa (pop. 7,564).  John had grown up on his parents’, Roy and Genevieve (Kauter) McNamara, 180-acre farm in southern Fayette County near Oelwein.  Roy McNamara farmed with a 1927 Model 40-62 Huber in addition to a John Deere Model B (short-frame) on steel wheels which the McNamara’s purchased new in 1936.  The family milked cows, raised hogs and had chickens and turkeys.

In 1985, John and Lucy McNamara moved to Arkansas. Then in 1986 moved to their current home in Eagle Rock, Missouri.  Always interested in farming, John began collecting old farm machinery, obtaining and restoring the same 9,910 pound 1927 Huber Model 40-62 which his family had owned and used in their farming operation.  However, the story of the Iowa prototype of the Rosenthal Cornbine, which his wife’s family had related to him, never left him, and in 1991 he obtained the remains of the Cornbine and one of the two wagons that still existed on the Landreck farm.  (The Landreck farm is now being operated by Lucy’s youngest brother, Roger.)  Currently, John has plans to bring all the pieces of the Cornbine and the wagon back to his home in Eagle Rock, where he intends to restore them.  John continues to search for the other wagon that was brought to the Landreck farm in 1943.  Currently, he is following a lead suggesting that the wagon might still be in existence and where the wagon might be.

Meanwhile, with the lessons they had learned on the Landreck farm with the Iowa prototype, the Rosenthal Company began production of the Cornbine immediately after the Second World War.  A piece of advertising literature from 1948 dealing exclusively with the Rosenthal Cornbine, shows that two models of Cornbine were offered to the public–a Wisconsin-engine powered version and also a power-take-off version.

It was thought that the machine that would save the Company, and husking/shredding in general, had arrived.  However, the Cornbine had a couple of disadvantages: First, the machine was a single-row harvesting machine.  By the early 1950s, two-row corn picking was becoming very popular and one-row corn pickers were being shunted aside in favor of the higher capacity two-row machines.  Secondly, the Cornbine struggled was the fact that in attempting to move the entire process of husking/shredding to the field while the corn was still standing, the Cornbine would sometimes be put to work in the fields where the corn was still somewhat “green.”  Without the time to “sweat” in the bundle or shock, shreddings made by the Cornbine in the field would sometime be too wet for storage in a barn.  Just as with “wet” hay stored in a barn, “green” or “wet” shreddings became a potential hazard for spontaneous fires in the barn.  The answer then was to allow the Cornbine to blow the shreddings on the ground for later collection.  This, of course, would mean another trip across the field after the ripe corn harvest and an attempt to beat the snows of winter.            Operating under these disadvantages, sales of the one-row Cornbine proved to be a disappointment to the Rosenthal Company.

As noted in an earlier article in this series, a Cornbine bearing the Serial No. 22855 was delivered to the Arthur S. Young Implement and Service Company in Kinser, Pennsylvania.  (See “The Rosenthal Cornhusker Company: Part III” in the September/October 2001 issue of Belt Pulley.)  As related in that article, Serial No. 22855 was a Wisconsin engine-powered version of the Cornbine.  It was purchased by Milt Esbenshade of Paradise, Pennsylvania, in 1952.  By use of the Cornbine, Milt Esbenshade was able to modernize his farming operation by simplifying the task of ripe corn harvesting.  No longer did bundles have to be cut, bound and shocked in the field and then loaded onto a wagon the hauled to a stationary machine for corn husking.  Now the whole process could be accomplished in the field by pulling two wagons behind the Cornbine.  Milt could still save the shreddings for bedding for his cattle, just as he had while using the stationary cornhusking/shredding machine.  Milt was happy to find that the task of pulling two wagons and the Cornbine across the field could be accomplished by his 1948 John Deere B.  Although delivering only 19.04 horsepower to the drawbar (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests [Crestline Books: Oseola, Wisc., 1993], p. 138), the John Deere B had sufficient horsepower to pull the Cornbine and the two wagons with their ever-growing load, because the powering of the Cornbine was accomplished by a Wisconsin VE-4 engine.

Milt found that the one-row capacity of the Cornbine was no real handicap on his 130 acre farm.  So, too, did a number of Milt’s neighbors, who kept Milt busy performing custom work with the Cornbine in the neighborhood, especially considering the fact that they could collect the additional by-product of the shreddings.  Milt often found, that in the early fall, the ripe corn would be too green for immediate storage in the barn and so he would blow the shreddings out onto the ground.  After the shreddings had dried, Milt would send one of his growing sons to the field with the Allis Chalmers PTO-driven side-rake to rake the shreddings into a windrow.  Although side-rakes are designed for use in hay fields where the ground is traditionally unfurrowed, Milt Esbenshade found that the PTO-driven Allis-Chalmers rake made a nice job of gathering all the shreddings into a windrow for baling even on the uneven “corn hilled,” stubble ground of a corn field.  In 1952, he attempted to bale the shreddings with his 1947 Roto-Baler.  He found, however, that the Roto-Baler did not have an adequate pickup to get all the shreddings.  Thus, in the following years, Milt used a Model 77 New Holland baler.  He found that the wire finger-style pickup of the Model 77 did a much better job of scouring the ground for all the shreddings in the windrow.

As the season wore on, Milt found that the Cornbine could be used as it was intended with two wagons hitched behind for direct collection and storage of the shreddings as wells as the ear corn.  Milt would use his Allis-Chalmers forage blower to unload the forage wagons and blow the shreddings into the barn where they would be used throughout the winter as bedding for the cattle.  As to the legendary problem with the Wisconsin engine not re-starting after stalling, Milt did not experience any real trouble with his VE-4 air-cooled engine.  Part of the reason for this was probably because his engine was mounted on a machine used in the fall of the year during cold weather.  Thus the engine would never get too hot.  Another important reason may have been one discovered by Milt Esbenshade, himself.  Milt Esbenshade had learned through experience that use of 30 SAE weight oil would solve the problem of the engine not re-starting when warm, even on warm days in the fall.  (It should be noted that the Instruction Manual for the Case NCM Baler recommended the use on only 20 SAE weight oil for winter use and 10 SAE weight oil in extremely cold weather.)  As noted above, the Wisconsin VE-4 engine was discussed in “The Case NCM and a Family’s Crucial Year” in the January/February 1995 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.  Readers of that article will note that Ed Bredemeier, a past board member of the J.I. Case Collectors Association and former Case dealership owner from southeastern Nebraska, noted that the trouble with the Wisconsin engine was that when hot, the combination of the short (32 inch) stroke of the VE-4 engine and the thin oil on the walls of the cylinders when the engine was hot did not allow the cylinders to get a full charge of gasoline/air mixture in the cylinders until the engine had cooled somewhat.

Milt Esbenshade continued to use the Wisconsin VE-4 powered Cornbine No. 22855 until 1958, when he finally surrendered to the trend toward corn pickers and purchased a used Dearborn-Wood Bros. one-row Model WB-1-P corn picker, for the 1958 harvest season.  However, in 1959, he purchased a used a Massey Harris self-propelled corn picker with a four-cylinder engine.  This corn picker, with a wagon trailing along directly behind, allowed Milt to open his fields and those of his neighbors without running down any rows of corn as would happen with a pull-type corn picker.  He continued to use this corn picker until 1973.  Today, the Rosenthal Cornbine No. 22855 sits unused on the Esbenshade farm which is now operated by Milt’s youngest son, John.

Meanwhile, shortly after 22855 had been shipped out Pennsylvania, another Rosenthal Cornbine bearing Serial No. 22971 rolled out of the Rosenthal manufacturing facilities in plant in West Allis, Wisconsin.  This Cornbine was loaded onto a train and sent to Eau Claire, Wisconsin (1950 pop. 30,058).  There No. 22971 was off-loaded and taken by truck to Miles Supply dealership in the unincorporated settlement of Allan, Wisconsin.

As noted in Part III of this series of articles, Wisconsin was the state where the greatest number of corn husker/shredders were sold by the Rosenthal Company.  Part of the reason for this may well have been because Rosenthal was a Wisconsin company.  However, another reason surely was the desire of dairy farmers to squeeze every last bit of food value from the corn crops they raised on their farm.

Dairying within the State of Wisconsin is generally centralized along two river valleys–the Wisconsin River Valley and the Fox River Valley.  The Wisconsin River is located in the middle-western part of the state, where it flows generally to the south and eventually empties into the Mississippi River at Prairie du Chen, Wisconsin, (1950 pop 5,392).  The Fox River, on the other hand, is located in the eastern part of the state outside of the water shed of the Mississippi.  It flows northward and into the Green Bay area of Lake Michigan near the city of Green Bay (1950 pop. 52,735).

Eau Claire is located on the Chippewa River in the western part of the state.  Like the Wisconsin and Fox River Valleys, the gently rolling hills of Chippewa River Valley makes it another great dairy producing area.  Because the sides of these hills are not suited for extensive row crops, hay is, generally, grown there.  Indeed, hay is a staple in the production of milk.  Hay is a maintenance food, not meant for putting weight on animals in a hurry.  Hay is an extension of the pasture.  Dairy cows feed predominately on pasture in the summer and hay in the winter.  Forage, either hay silage or corn silage, may be added to the diet of dairy cows in the winter, but the expensive ground corn, obtained from the ripe corn harvest will only be fed to cows during their lactation stage–while they are generating milk–and will probably be measured out to the cows during actual milking time.

Although a great portion of the corn raised on the average dairy farm finds its way into silos which populate every farm in dairy land, some of the corn will be harvested when the corn is entirely ripe, in order to provide the extra protein needed by cows while they are lactating.  Flat ground on which row crops, like corn, can be efficiently raised is at a premium in Chippewa River Valley.  This is the economic realities of the great dairy farming areas of Wisconsin.

One particular Eau Claire county farmer lived in Clear Creek Township.  He had been raising a great deal of hay on his 320-acre farm.  Some of his hilly land was still covered with white pine, red pine, jack pines, red oaks and maple trees that had once covered nearly all of Wisconsin and inspired the stories contained in the “Little House in the Big Woods,” the first volume in the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingals Wilder.  The actual setting for this book was located only 60 miles to the southwest of the farm of our Clear Creek Township farmer, on the shores of Lake Pepin on the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota.  Our Clear Creek Township farmer’s own children had become eminently knowledgeable about the entire series of Little House books ever since grade school.  The wooded acres of his farm formed a valued resource in the mind of our Clear Creek Township farmer.  His family still burned wood in the farm house and he remembered from his childhood on this same farm during the depression that his father had once sold some timber out of the wooded area for extra income that had helped the family hang on to the farm in the worst part of the depression.  He felt that he might still be able to sell some of the timber from his wooded areas to supplement the family income if milk prices fell unexpectedly.  With the ending of the Second World War he knew that times would be changing, and our Clear Creek Township farmer knew that unexpected changes in milk prices may well be expected as part of the changing market conditions.  His large dairy herd provided too much of a percentage of the family farm income for him to feel comfortable with that prospect.  He needed to diversify his income.

Forestalled from any large diversification into pigs, beef, lambs or chickens because of the farms limited ability to produce the high calorie weight-gain producing feed that such animals would need, our Clear Creek Township farmer knew that his farming operation would need as much diversification as he could possibly obtain.  Thus, the wooded portions of the farm provided the only real hope for any kind of diversification from the farms basic dairy operation.  As a result, he did not let his wooded areas be pastured.  This let the small trees and saplings develop which would eventually replace the older mature trees which would be sold off for timber.  In this way, he knew that the wooded areas of the farm would always offer source of extra income and provide some diversification of his business so that he would not have to ride up and down solely on the fortunes of the milk prices.  In later years, our Clear Creek Township farmer would support the provisions of the Agriculture Act of 1954 and the extension of that program under the Eisenhower Administration in 1956.  (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mandate for Change [Doubleday and Company: Garden City, New York, 1963] p. 558.) This program became popularly known as the Soil Bank program where cultivated acres were set aside as idle acres for a period of up to ten years.  This program also contained provisions for a Conservation Reserve which encouraged the planting and maintaining of woodlands.  (Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower: The President [Simon and Schuster: New York, 1984] p. 299.)  Our Clear Creek Township farmer would find this portion of the bill which would eventually become law in 1956 most encouraging.

However, in the summer of 1952, our Clear Creek Township farmer was worried about more immediate problems.  He had been using the same old Rosenthal corn husker/shredder that his father had used during the war.  Like most young farmers who had returned from the war as a veteran full of hope for the future and ideas for improvement of the farming operations on the family farm.  He might have been an excellent prospect for a corn picker salesman.  Many farmers after the war were turning to corn pickers.  However, he had realized, that with the limited amount of corn the farm was able to produce each year there was a compelling need to derive all the value he could from the ripe corn crop.  This included the use of the shreddings as feed for his dairy herd.  For this reason, our Clear Creek Township farmer was attracted by the idea of the Cornbine.  A machine that promised all the benefits of corn picker, but would allow the shreddings to be saved along with the ripe ears of corn.  He had heard about the Cornbine from his local farm machinery dealer, Ira D. Miles of the Miles Supply dealership. Miles Supply was located in the unincorporated settlement of Allan, Wisconsin, which was located very close to his farm in Clear Creek Township.  It was a very old dealership which had been founded in 1917.  The building in which the dealership was located had originally been a grocery store in neighboring Pleasant Valley Township.  In 1916, with an eye toward, expanding his business into the sales of farm equipment, Ira Miles had moved the grocery store, building and all, to the location in Allan and obtained both a John Deere and an International Harvester franchise. In 1927, he dropped the International Harvester franchise and John Deere became Ira’s main line of farm equipment.  However, he continued as the franchisee of a number of different short line companies including the Rosenthal Cornhusker Company.  Additionally he developed a service and repair department for the dealership later employing Kermit Holcomb as a mechanic.  Another Clear Creek Township farmer, Harold Glander (now living in retirement at 91 years of age) remembers that Miles Supply became the main supplier of farm equipment for a wide area around the Chippewa River Valley.

It was at Miles Supply that our Clear Creek Township farmer, first saw one of the Cornbine that Rosenthal had introduced.  He noted from the literature that was available on the Cornbine, that the machine was available in a power take-off driven format as well as the Wisconsin engine powered format.  Because he had just purchased a new three-plow WD Allis Chalmers in 1950, he was inclined toward purchase of the power take-off driven model.  Developing 23.56 horsepower at the drawbar, his WD had sufficient horsepower to power the Cornbine and pull the two wagons needed for collecting the ears of corn and the shreddings processed by the Cornbine in the field.  (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests (Crestline Publishing Co.: Osceola, Wisc., 1993) p. 158.)  Furthermore a power take-off model of Cornbine allow the him to avoid the task of starting an engine that had been stored for an entire year.  He knew that starting engines for the first time after one entire year of storage was a time consuming task that could be avoided with power take-off driven equipment.  Additionally, he already a Wisconsin Model VE-4 15 horsepower engine mounted on his Gehl Bros. field forage harvester and, thus, he did not have particularly fond memories working with that particular Wisconsin VE-4 engine.

After some negotiation with the Ira Miles over the terms, our Clear Creek Township farmer signed a contract.  The bright red-painted PTO-driven Cornbine (Serial No. 22971) with its black rims and new rubber tires arrived at Chicago Northwestern freight depot in Eau Claire just a few days later.

Our Clear Creek Township farmer put the Cornbine to work on the ripe corn harvest in the fall of 1952.  He learned in the years that followed that he must plan to harvest his ripe corn as late in the season as he could to allow the corn stalks to thoroughly dry out.  However, waiting for that killing frost late in the season also had its faults also.  The longer he waited into the fall, the more risk there was of an early snow coming to Wisconsin.  If the snow came he would be prevented from harvesting his corn until spring.  As a consequence he sometimes was compelled to started harvesting the ripe corn before the stalks had thoroughly dried.  Early in the season he. removed the blower pipe for the shreddings and the hitch for the shreddings wagon.  Thus, he would allow the shreddings to be blown onto the ground.  The shreddings would then be raked up into a windrow with his John Deere Model 594LW (low wheel) rubber-tired side rake which had also been recently purchased from Miles Supply.  Then our Clear Creek Township farmer would remove the corn head from his Gehl chopper and mount the windrow pickup to the chopper and drive down the lane to the corn field on his farm to pickup the windrows of shreddings.

When he purchased the Gehl chopper in 1947, the Gehl salesman had convinced him that the wave of the future, in the post-war world, was the dry storage of chopped hay in the hay mow of his barn.  Thus, almost on an impulse, he had consented to including the windrow pickup attachment in the sales contract for the purchase of the Gehl chopper along with the mower bar attachment and the row-crop corn head attachments to the Gehl chopper.  Almost immediately after the chopper was delivered to his farm, our Clear Creek Township farmer realized that the purchase of the windrow attachment was probably a mistake.

Very soon following the Second World War the storage of loose hay, whether chopped or not, in the hay mow of the barn was rapidly becoming the thing of the past.  Baling of hay was a much more efficient way of storing hay for his dairy herd.  Consequently, the windrow pickup had remained virtually unused in the machine shed for the years up to 1952.  Thus, it was almost with a sense of relief that our Clear Creek farmer realized that since the purchase of the Cornbine, he now had a use for the windrow pickup for the Gehl chopper.

In this way the even the shreddings from an early harvest of ripe corn could be saved.  They would be dry enough to be stored with his hay crop in the walled off portion of the hay mow of his barn.  Our Clear Creek farmer really preferred those years, when the killing frosts came early when the Cornbine could be used as in a single operation to collect the shreddings with at the same time as the ears were harvested.       Because of his specialized reliance on dairy and his inability to diversify in any meaningful way, our Clear Creek Township farmer was hard pressed economically by the early 1960s.  Everywhere in agriculture there was a drive toward specialization and large size.  Dairy, it seemed was leading the way.  Dairy herds needed to be much larger.  No longer was there an attempt to feed the herd from the crops raised on the farm.  More and more the trend was toward purchasing of the cattle feed for the dairy herd.  Consequently, in 1965, our Clear Creek Township farmer sold out his farming operation and held an auction of his farm machinery.  The old Rosenthal Cornbine Serial No. 22971 was purchased at that auction by another farmer from neighboring Pleasant Valley Township–Henry (Tiny) Sires.  Tiny had a small beef cattle operation.  He raised his own corn however, once again, not sufficient amounts to fatten all of his cattle.  As a consequence, part of his feeding program involved the purchasing of supplemental feed off the farm for finishing his beef herd.  Additionally, Tiny also felt the need to save every thing he could from the ripe corn harvest including the shreddings to stretch out his cattle feeding dollar and save on the amount of expensive supplemental “high growth” feed he would have to purchase.  He found that the Cornbine  was just the machine that would allow him to do this.  Tiny Sires used the Cornbine until 1981 when he sold out his farming operation and also held an auction in the spring of 1981.  Once again the old Rosenthal Cornbine No. 22971 was purchase by a new owner–Gene Mathews, of Washington Township, which borders Clear Creek Township to the north in Eau Claire County, Wisconsin.

Gene Mathews is a collector of antique machinery who operates a dairy farm located on Highway #53 about five miles south of Eau Claire.  He restored and still shows a 1916 Rosenthal Model No. 1 stationary corn husker/shredder.  Although Gene is a collector/restorer of farm machinery, he likes to see his old farm machinery put to use.  Consequently, he demonstrates the old Rosenthal No. 1 corn husker/shredder at various shows, so that the public is able to actually see the process of corn husking/shredding for themselves.  To power the Rosenthal No. 1 at shows, Gene occasionally uses a 1913 8 hp. Ingeco stationary gasoline engine owned by a good friend, Neal Holcomb of Eleva, Wisconsin (son of Kermit Holcomb, noted above as a mechanic at Miles Supply).  The 1913 Ingeco engine owned by Neal Holcomb was manufactured by the International Gas Engine Company of Cudahy, Wisconsin.

As mentioned in a previous article in this series, the Rosenthal Company advertised in 1914 that it Model No. 1 needed a power source of only 6 to 8 horsepower to be operated successfully. (See the July/August 2001 issue of Belt Pulley at p. 16.)  According to Pat (Bennett) Mathews, wife of Gene Mathews, the most recent demonstration of the 1916 Model No. 1 on Labor Day weekend 2001 in the field across Highway 53 from the Mathews’ farm, the 8 hp. stationary engine once again showed itself able to more than adequate to handle the job of powering the two-roll Model No. 1 corn husker/shredder.

Thus, with his experience with the Model No. 1, Gene recognized that the Rosenthal Cornbine would be a very collectable item, when he saw that No. 22971 was for sale at the Tiny Sires auction.  Gene attended the 1981 auction and purchased No. 22971.  He took the Cornbine home to his farm.  In 1981, he saved a few rows of his corn crop to test out No. 22971.  He found the Cornbine to be in good shape and needing only a greasing up prior to putting the Cornbine to work on the remaining three acres of corn that he left in the fall of 1981.  While using No 22971 in the fall of 1982, Gene broke the pitman for the mower in the Cornbine.  Gene was abe to fashion a pitman from an old hickory pick-axe handle and No. 22971 continued with the harvest.  Indeed, the broken pitman was the only major repair that No. 22971 has needed since Gene obtained the Cornbine.  In the years since, Gene has continued to save a few rows of corn each year, in order to operate either the Cornbine or to bind the ripe corn to feed into the Rosenthal Model No. 1.  In 1996, Gene finished restoring and repainting No. 22971.

Besides being demonstrated frequently on the Mathews farm, the two Rosenthal machines owned by Gene Mathews, are exhibited at the Chippewa Valley Antique and Model Club annual show held in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  This show is yet another event that helps the general public become aware of the way in which ripe corn harvesting was conducted in the past.  The Rosenthal stationary husker/shredders and the Cornbine are sure to be examples of this by-gone era.


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