The Farmall F-12 (Part I): The 1935 Minnesota State Fair
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the May/June 2003 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
When looking at a map, Minnesota appears as a tall state with a narrow “waist” in the middle. In actual fact, this “waist” is important in the geography of the state, as it separates the rich agricultural area of the southern part of the state from the acid, sandy, more marginal agricultural soils of the north. Whereas the land south of the waist is divided between the hardwood forests of southeastern Minnesota and the flat prairies of the southwestern part of the state, the land north of the waist is dominated by soft woods – pine and fir trees. Minnesota is known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” but in actuality, that figure may be closer to 100,000 lakes, with most of the lakes located in the northern part of the state. With the exception of the Red River valley which forms the border between Minnesota and North Dakota, farming tends to become more marginal as one travels north of the waist.
Consequently, the waist of Minnesota forms an important watershed in the state in terms of geography, agriculture and fishing. One of the counties of the waist is Sherburne County. The east border of Sherburne County runs directly north from the Minnesota River at a point just 50 miles northwest of the Twin Cities. From another point on the Minnesota River directly across from the City of St. Cloud (1930 pop. 21,000), the north border of the county extends straight east until it meets the eastern border of the county forming a 90# angle. Thus, with the Minnesota River forming the hypotenuse of the triangular shaped county, Sherburne County appears on the map as a near perfect right triangle, lying along the northern bank of the Minnesota River as it flows southward from St. Cloud to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis (1930 pop. 464,356) and St. Paul (1930 pop. 271,606). Located between these two population centers of the state, Sherburne County was, in the mid-1930s, one of the least populated counties in the entire state. (1930 pop. 9,709). Much of the land of the county was hilly and remained covered with trees–not well suited to agricultural crop growing. Indeed a great portion of Sherburne County would later be set aside by the national and state governments through the establishment of the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge and the Sand Dune State Forrest.
Outside of these two recreational areas, farming in Sherburne County was confined to either the area located along the northern bank of the Minnesota River or the townships in the western part of the county near St. Cloud. The sandy soil of the area of the county along the Minnesota River and U.S. Highway No. 10, which runs roughly parallel to the Minnesota River, was found to be perfect for farming potatoes. Indeed, from about 1890 to the late 1920s, this area was second only to the famous Red River Valley of the North in the production of potatoes in the State of Minnesota. However, the Great Depression which began in 1929 caused many people in the towns of the United States to start growing their own potatoes in their back yards in order to save money during the hard economic times. Thus, the commercial market for potatoes collapsed and potato production in Sherburne County came to a near complete halt. Farmers of the area suffered from the effects of their lack of diversification in their farming operations. They struggled to get into raising corn or other crops in an attempt to save their farms. Specialization in potato production would return to this part of Sherburne County in the 1950s, but in the interim, potatoes in Sherburne County would be grown only on a much reduced scale.
In the other major faming area of the county, near St. Cloud, farmers were also hard hit by the economic effects of the Great Depression. However, this was a dairy producing area. It was a land of rolling hills. The farms were small with irregular shaped fields. Generally, the fields were used for pasturage of dairy cattle. Whatever flat land existed was planted in corn. While this might appear from the surface to be a diversification of the farming operations of the county, it really was not. The small amounts of corn that were raised in this area of the county would generally be used by the farmer on his dairy farm each year to feed his cattle. Thus, during the Great Depression, farmers of this area also suffered from a lack of diversification. The one advantage dairy farmers had over potato farmers of the area was that, while town families may have been able to save money by growing their own potatoes, they could not save money by milking their own cows. Thus, even though butter prices hit a new low of 184 per pound in the summer of 1932 (John D. Hicks, Republican Ascendancy, [Harper Bros.: New York 1960], p. 267) and milk prices did not do well throughout the next year, established farmers were able to hang on until dairy prices returned to acceptable levels again.
One of the townships of the western, dairy area end of Sherburne County was Palmer Township. Farming an 80-acre farm in the northwestern part of Palmer Township was one particular farmer. He had been operating this farm since taking over the operations from his wife’s family. His farm was far enough removed from the Minnesota River and U.S. 10 that it had never been a potato farm. This farm was a dairy farm and had been a dairy farm since his father-in-law had begun farming.
Just as his father-in-law had done before him, he took pride in the small herd of registered, purebred Jersey milking cows that he raised on the farm. The fawn-colored, black-faced Jersey cow is the smallest in stature of all the traditional breeds of dairy cattle—with cows weighing only about 1000 pounds at full maturity. (Sara Rath, About Cows [Voyageur Press: Stillwater, Minn., 1987] p. 23.) (By way of comparison a Holstein cow can weigh around 1,500 pounds at maturity. Ibid. p. 21.)
As a result, Jersey cattle did not produce as great a quantity of milk with each milking as did the popular Holstein cow, but Jersey milk was the richest milk in terms of butterfat content of any of the traditional breeds of cattle. It was a point of pride with our Palmer Township farmer, as it was with other Jersey dairymen, that the golden or yellow colored Jersey milk traditionally contained on average about 5.2% butterfat, whereas Holstein cows traditionally yielded milk with only about 3.23% butterfat. (Encyclopedia Britannica, [Chicago 1976], Vol. 5, p. 425.) Holstein milk was sometimes derogatorily referred to as “blue milk” because it was so low in butterfat content. This fact led to a common joke among dairymen which goes: There was a Jersey dairy farmer talking with a Holstein farmer. The Jersey farmer said that Holstein blue milk was so “thin” that he could drop a dime in a pail of milk from a Holstein and still see the dime through the blue milk. The Holstein farmer replied that he could also see a dime dropped into a pail of Jersey milk–because there was so little milk from an individual Jersey cow that the milk would not cover the thickness of a dime! (an interview with Marilyn [Hanks] Wells in November of 2002.)
Our Palmer Township farmer separated the cream from his milk on his farm with his old Associated Manufacturing Co. cream separator. The cream made up about 15 to 20% of the raw whole milk. (An article called “Selling Cream in Orrock: Memoirs from the Larson Store” by Rollie Larson and printed in Fall 2002 issue of Historically Speaking [Vol 17] newsletter of the Sherburne County Historical Society.) After separation from the rest of the milk, the cream would be transported to the Santiago Cooperative Creamery in the small unincorporated village of Santiago, Minnesota (located in Santiago Township just east of Palmer Township in Sherburne County), about seven miles east of the farm of our Palmer Township farmer. Usually, his wife would take the cream to Santiago in the family’s 1930 Chevrolet Special Sedan.
The farmers’ cooperative creamery at Santiago applied the Babcock test to each batch of cream arriving at the creamery. The Babcock test revealed the percent of butterfat contained in the cream. The creamery then paid each farmer according to the amount of butterfat contained in his cream. This is where the Jersey herd paid for itself. Sometimes 40% of the cream from a Jersey herd was butterfat. Thus a Jersey farmer could end up with 50% more butterfat sold to the creamery than a neighboring farmer milking a herd of the same size made up of Holsteins or Brown Swiss cows. (Ibid., p. 5.) The difference in the amount of butterfat delivered to the creamery per cow, our Palmer Township farmer felt, would make up for the lack of the quantity of milk from the Jersey herd. He felt, in this way, quality was better than quantity. Of course in recent years, quality and/or quantity meant nothing as the price of all dairy products fell to disastrously low levels. Many of his neighbors had quit milking and some had gone bankrupt and lost everything. Our Palmer Township farmer had held on through this difficult time because he had low amounts of debt. He labored hard to keep his debts low. This meant forgoing a lot of new high priced equipment. He knew that the family needed to make use of everything on his farm to keep the farm profitable.
The skim milk was an example. Regarded as only a by-product of the separator, there was no market to sell skim milk. Consequently it was used around the farm to feed the calves, their dog Queenie, the cats and even the pigs. (Ibid. p. 4.) Our Palmer Township farmer and his family, thought skim milk tasted like blue milk or, worse, water-diluted milk. It had no body. They used whole milk and cream for drinking and cooking and liked pure cream for their Post Toasties cereal and oatmeal in the morning.
Milking and raising Jersey cattle came with an additional cost. The breed also had the reputation of being more emotionally highly strung than other more docile breeds of cattle. (An interview with Marilyn Wells and Sara Rath, About Cows, p. 23.) Thus, milking and working with the herd of Jersey cattle was a more touchy job than it would have been with other breeds of cattle. Our Palmer Township farmer knew that the secret to overcoming this difficulty with the Jersey breed was a patient, calm approach to the cattle. Indeed, the highly-strung cows responded well to good treatment. (Sara Rath, About Cows [p. 23.) He moved slowly among them in the barn while milking and always tried to hum or whistle softly to himself while he moved around the cattle. This way he hoped they would hear his approach and not become startled. At milking time he carried a curry comb with him. Some of the cows liked to be curry combed in certain spots on their back. Some did not like it. He tried to learn the individual personality of each cow and respond with things that would keep them calm. At milking time the calm cows would “let down” their milk faster and more completely.
The old family sheep dog, Queenie, had been trained, from the time that she was a puppy, to bark only when company arrived on the farm and not at any other time. Our Palmer Township farmer knew that a dog was positively counterproductive in a situation with corralled and/or stanchioned cattle. (Heather Smith Thomas, Storey’s Guide to Raising Beef Cattle [Storey Publishing: North Adams, Mass., 1998] p. 24.) With Jersey cattle an untrained dog was a perfect disaster. When anyone in the family went out to the pasture in the summer to round up the cattle for milking time, Queenie walked along side and was did not attempt to chase the cattle. The cattle were walked from the pasture to the barn at their own pace. Now the cows even accepted Queenie in the barn and indeed hardly knew she was there, as she curled up on her bed down at the other end of the barn near the horses and the bull pen or as she drank milk from her metal bowl near the cream separator in the milk parlor.
Our Palmer Township farmer improved his own herd of jersey cows through selective breeding of only the best cows on his farm and by introducing new improved strains into his herd by buying registered purebred Jersey cows and bulls from other Jersey breeders. At the same time, he found that other farmers wanted some of his cattle to improve their herds and, thus, he found that a real market for his cattle was developing. To promote his cattle for sale to other Jersey breeders, our Palmer Township farmer became active in the American Jersey Cattle Association. Created in 1868, this organization sought to educate and encourage farmers in the raising of Jersey dairy cattle. The Association advised developing a herd from only the best of the registered lines of sire (father) and dam (mother) and thus continuing the improvement of the Jersey breed as a whole. The newsletter of the Association repeated the importance of selective breeding toward a cow of greater stature and, thus, a greater quantity of milk. However, in the same breath, the newsletter also jealously guarded the best characteristics of the Jersey breed. They also warned the Jersey farmer against settling for a cow of less average butterfat production just to achieve this higher volume of milk production.
The newsletter also promoted the showing of cattle in 4-H, FFA and “open classes” of the various county fairs as a means to educate local Jersey farmers on the desirable traits of the Jersey cow. Thus, each year our Palmer Township farmer would show his best cattle at the Sherburne County Fair in the county seat of Elk River (1930 pop. 1,026). He also exhibited at the Minnesota State Fair. When attending the State Fair, he would usually take a number of his other cattle along. It was good advertising and would usually lead to a sale of some of his registered yearlings.
Each year, prior to the fair season he would bring the yearling heifers down from the “high pasture” and got them washed, curry combed clipped with the hand clipper so they would be presentable for showing and/or presentable to any potential buyers. The high pasture was located on a wooded hill on the farm and contained a great deal of burdocks and wild plant growth. They always needed a good deal of grooming when they were first brought back down to the farm yard. Furthermore, after having spent all summer up at the high pasture away from human contact they could become somewhat wild. He evaluated the yearlings for Jersey Breed traits as they grazed with the rest of his herd. The exceptional yearlings were taken to the barn where then would receive more attention and would be trained to the halter and show procedures.
After “culling,” (selling off) the yearlings that showed unsatisfactory breed traits, he would introduce his registered Jersey bull, back into the herd. (This registered purebred bull had the elegant name of “Prince Morgan’s Captain’s Pride III.” However, he was known in the family as “Captain” for short.) Captain’s introduction into the herd in cThis would result in calves being born in the gentle weather of May and/or June. Additionally, the cows would have the very best of grazing on the lower pasture all summer long during their lactation (milking) period. Ideally breeding of the yearlings would take place when the yearling was 15 months or more of age. After about two months of moving with the herd, Buster was moved to high pasture away from the herd for the months of November and December. In January he would be released to the herd again to breed any of the cows that came into heat at that time. This would allow for a fall crop of calves to be born in September and October while the weather was still relatively mild and, generally, an early frost would eliminate all the insects and pests which could present a danger to the young newborn calves.
If things went according to plan, our Palmer Township farmer would find a cow giving signs that birth was near. The cow would be escorted to the barn and placed in the maturity pen where she could be watched closely for any signs of difficulty during delivery. The newborn calf would to stay with it’s mother in the maturity pen for a couple of days following birth to ensure that the newborn calf to get all the rich colostrum milk from its mother. This milk has twice the calories of ordinary milk and is loaded with antibiotics to give the newborn calf a defense against disease and a boost to start life. Colostrum is so valuable that our Palmer Township farmer would occasionally get the new mother into the barn and bring out some of the other calves from the calf pen to nurse the mother along with her own calf. This could be a tricky business. The cow would be put into a stanchion and given silage or hay and some ground corn to distract her so that she would accept the nursing of the additional calf besides her own.
Our Palmer Township farmer would stand along side the foreign calf while it got a share of the colostrum, just to make sure the calf did not get kicked by the cow. When the foreign calf was taken back to the calf pen, it was often noticeable that he would become more spunky. Colostrum could cut down the amount of scouring (diarrhea) the calves might have. The second milking of the udder on the new mother always contained less colostrum than the first. (Heather Smith Thomas, Storey’s Guide to Raising Beef Cattle (Storey Publishing: North Adams, Mass., 1998.) After the second day of milking of the entire udder, the calf was usually weaned and moved to the calf pen, so that the cow could be milked for production.
The weaning was always stressful for the calf and for the cow. This is why our Palmer County farmer preferred spring and early fall calving. In the late spring and summer months, the cows would be let out of the barn following morning milking and could be herded to the lower pasture which would be one of the small fenced fields down the lane some distance from the barn. The gate to the pasture could be closed to keep the cows in the pasture. This would reduce the amount of bawling that the cow might hear from the calf pen. After two or three days the whole weaning process would begin to settle down, the cow would be more calm and the calf would get over his original stress and start to drink skim milk from a bucket. The calf might also begin nibbling the hay that was made available to them all the time in the calf pen. After weaning but before the calf was ten days old, our Palmer Township farmer would have the calves dehorned. This was best done at a very early stage by burning the small horn buttons on the new born calf’s head with a red-hot iron heated in the forge. Our Palmer Township farmer liked all his cattle dehorned. It meant less injury to the other cattle as they nudged each other around the watering tank or silage bunks.
As soon as the calf’s rumen is developed at about nine (9) months of age, it was time to move the heifers out to high pasture. For the calves born in the fall this meant about May or June. At this time the calf pen would be cleaned out and prepared for the next crop of spring calves. Our Palmer Township farmer tried to keep as many cattle out on the pasture as he could. Hay and silage was an expensive form of nourishment for the cattle. Given the size and location of his farm, a major share of feeding costs had to be obtained from that portion of his farm that was non-arable.
As well as being a chance to meet and compete with other Jersey herd farmers, the annual August trip to the State Fair grounds in St. Paul was an excellent vacation for the whole family–two daughters and two boys in that order. The adventure would start each year when the big 1930 International A-6 truck was brought up onto the lawn where it would be washed down and cleaned inside and out. The truck was then loaded with fresh hay from the hay mow of the barn and tied down securely on the rack above the cab of the truck. Also the family tent and poles and all the family’s bedding would be placed on the rack over the cab together with the hay and feed for the cattle. All this would be secured with ropes. The family would stay in the campgrounds at the State Fair. New straw would be placed in the bed of the truck for the cattle that were headed to the fair.
Care would be taken to secure partitions in the truck bed for each cow. In this way they would be unable to step on each other or kick one another during the trip down to St. Paul to the Fairgrounds. It was worrisome traveling with the cattle, because of the fear of injury that could damage the value of one of his registered cows. However, the smoothness of U.S. #10 greatly aided the ride for the cattle. Usually they would stand calmly in their partition quietly eating a some of the hay provided for them as they journeyed down to St. Paul. The weather was suddenly cooperating. After having ranged from the 70s up to the upper 90’s all during July making even the night time uncomfortable, suddenly in late August the temperature during the day rose to only the upper 60°s or 70° degrees Fahrenheit. Night time temperatures were dipping down to 50° (Minneapolis Daily Maximum and Minimum Temperatures for 1935 from the Internet). Indeed it would seem almost cool when sleeping in the tent at night. It was going to be a marvelous time.
Now in late August of 1935, as the truck drove out of the driveway of the farm for the short mile long journey to U.S. #10, our Palmer Township farmer would look back at the farm and wave at the neighbor who would be taking care of the chores in the family’s absence. Riding in the cab of the truck with him, as usual, was his second oldest daughter. His wife would be driving the family’s 1930 Chevrolet Special Sedan. This car was one that his wife especially enjoyed because it was maroon in color and was fitted with stylish clear-lacquer finished, natural-colored, wooden-spoke wheels. The Special Sedan series had a steamer truck in the rear. To make room for the steamer trunk, the spare tire that was usually mounted on the rear end of a regular 4-door Chevrolet Sedan was mounted on the front fender on the driver’s side of the car on the Special Sedan series. (George H. Dammann, 75 Years of Chevrolet [Crestline Pub.: Osceola, Wis., 1992] p. 87.) Thus the Special Sedan took on a European look and appeared to be a much longer car than the regular Sedan.
Our Palmer Township farmer had purchased the car as a second-hand car at an auction. However, once the car was home on the farm his wife had appropriated it and insisted that it be kept clean and well maintained. Today, the car, steamer trunk and all, was loaded to the top with the family’s other camping necessities. The car was pulling the two-wheeled trailer with “Captain,” the bull, aboard. Jersey bulls are sometimes likely to be more vicious than bulls of other breeds. (Sara Rath, About Cows [Voyageur Press: Stillwater, Minn., 2000] p. 23.) Even with his nose ring in place, Buster did have his temperamental moments when he became a handful. After reaching U.S. #10 our Palmer township farmer signaled his wife to pass the truck so he could follow her and keep an eye on Captain during the trip.
Sherburne County had been blessed by the fact that, ever since 1920, the portion of U.S. Highway #10 that ran through Sherburne County had been paved with concrete. Indeed the road had been paved all the way down to Anoka. In 1921, the section of the road leading northwestward from Sherburne County to the City of St. Cloud had been paved. By 1928 all sections of No. 10 between St. Cloud and St. Paul had been paved. (Information provided from the Minnesota Department of Highways Library.) Thus, all four of the leading towns in Sherburne County, the county seat of Elk River (1930 pop. 1026), Big Lake (1930 pop. 417), Becker (1930 pop. 214) and Clear Lake (1930 pop. 242) were all linked with a smooth concrete highway. The road also encouraged the population of the county to shop in communities outside their own immediate neighborhood.
On this particular morning in late August of 1935, the paved road made for a delightful trip down to the State Fairgrounds. Cruising along at 40 mph, there was no dust stirred up by the six cylinder Chevrolet as it pulled the two-wheeled trailor down U.S. #10. Our Palmer Township farmer and his daughter rolled down the windows and let the clean clear air roll in. As always they kept an eye out for the series of little red Burma Shave signs they always read on their way to the Twin Cities. Despite the fact that his daughter was beginning to feel “too grown up” for the same old jokes, she nonetheless read aloud the signs as they appeared in series. The first sign read “He played” then a another sign a short distance down the road read “a sax” another read “had no B.O.” then “But his whiskers scratched” and then “so she let him go.” Every series ended with a sign that read “Burma-Shave.” (from “Burma Shave Slogans” on the Internet.) On their return trip from the Twin Cities they would, of course, read the series of Burma Shave signs that appeared on the other side of the road: “You’ll love your wife,” then “you’ll love her paw” “you’ll even love” “your mother-in-law” “if you use” “Burma Shave.” (Ibid.)
Riding past the fields of potatoes on either side of U.S. #10, our Palmer Township farmer related to his daughter, as he had on nearly every trip they made together down U.S. #10 that the potato fields just weren’t as plentiful as they had been when he was young. She had always been very interested in the dairy herd and everything else that her father was interested in. She was his helper around the farm and, clearly, she was her father’s girl.
Arriving at the Fairgrounds, he was encouraged to see a great number of exhibitors already at the Fair and unloading livestock. Although dairy cattle entries remained lower than normal, total numbers of beef cattle exhibits for the year 1935 would prove to be up from the year before. Additionally, the poultry exhibits was to prove unusually high in numbers of entries for 1935. (Minnesota State Fair: The History and Heritage of 100 Years [Argus Publishing Company: 1964] p. 186.) This was certainly gratifying after last year’s Fair. The summer of 1934 had been a season of drought and high temperatures. (Downtown Minneapolis Daily Maximum and Minimum Temperatures for 1934 from the Internet.) Thus, there had been diminished numbers of livestock and horticultural exhibits at the Fair in 1934. (Minnesota State Fair: The History and Heritage of 100 Years, p. 186.) However, now it looked as though, except for the lagging dairy exhibits things were getting back to normal.
While the family would be staying at in the tent in the camp grounds at the Fair, our Palmer Township farmer would set up one of the families cots near his cattle to keep an eye on them through out the night. His daughter had often volunteered to stay in the barn with her father to help watch the cattle. He had always refused her request in years past. It just didn’t seem decent to have his daughter sleeping in the barn. However, this year he consented and a second cot was set up in the vacant stall which contained all feed and supplies. In order avoid confusion, each exhibiter learned paint all his pitch fork and gear with certain identifying colors. Our Palmer Township farmer had adopted the colors of black on red. All his equipment including the cots were marked with these colors. His large equipment box was painted red with his name and address and “Registered Purebred Jersey Cattle” emblazoned in black on the front and again on the top of the wooden box.
In the morning, he and his daughter awoke, folded up the bedding and the cots and began the chores on a much smaller scale than usual, feeding the cattle and milking the lactating cows that he had brought with him. The State Fair management had set up a system by which the milk produced by the cattle at the Fair would be tested and sold to a Twin Cities creamery. Once the chores were all done, our Palmer Township farmer accompanied his daughter across the Fairgrounds up machinery hill to where the Farm Bureau campgrounds were located just outside the northeast gate of the Fairgrounds. He could not help hoping that the hired help was getting along all right with the chores at home.
Just before the gate, leading to the campground, they passed the huge International Harvester tent. Everything was still closed up at the exhibit tent. It was still early in the morning. Around the tent were shiny new gray Farmall F-20s, F-30s and International 10-20 standard tractors all with their bright red wheels and some with new rubber tires mounted on French and Hecht round-spoke rims both front and rear. A sign outside the entrance to the tent reminded him that the first of four shows inside the big tent would begin at 9:00 AM. This show was one of the highlights at the Fair each year for the whole family. They would have to hurry and get cleaned up and have breakfast and be back inside the grounds for that first show.
Passing through the northeast gate they both received a stamp on the back of their hands, so that he could re-enter without repaying. They noticed, as they passed that there was already a short line of men forming waiting to get into the men’s bathroom to shower. There was also another short line of women lining up to use the women’s showers. If they did not hurry there would not be any hot water left. Already the St. Paul Pioneer Press paperboys were making the rounds of the camp grounds hawking papers with “Another beautiful day at the Fair. Get your paper here. Get your Pioneer Press. Get them while they last.” After grabbing a towel and a fresh set of clothes and making his way to the showers with the two young boys, he returned to find his oldest daughter already showered and was cooking while her mother and second daughter were showering. The smell of the canvas tent, the sun rising in the east, the newspaper boys and breakfast of ham, eggs and potatoes with a cup of coffee–these were the experiences of camping out at the Fair that stayed with a person throughout the year.
After breakfast the whole family made their way back through the gate and headed directly to the International Harvester tent in time for the 9:00 show. The band on the small stage struck up a fanfare to announce the beginning of the show. The show that year in 1935, heavily emphasized the little F-12 row-crop tractor. The new Quick-Attachable system of the F-12 and implements was demonstrated by means of a contest in which young boys–aged 12 to 15 years would detach and attach mowers and cultivators in just seconds. (Actual scenes of this event occurring at the Indiana and Illinois State Fairs can be see in the 1936 movie, Quickest On and Quickest Off on Tape #1 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies. Additionally, see the article “Quickest On and Quickest Off” in the November/ December 1994 issue of Belt Pulley Vol. 7, No. 6, p. 20.)
Our Palmer Township farmer had been watching the development of farm tractors ever since he had been a youngster on his parents farm. Tractors had decreased in size over his lifetime and the prices for these tractors had fallen dramatically. Tractors had been designed to do all the heavy work on the farm while leaving the lighter duties to the horse. Our Palmer Township farmer, knew, however, that with his small farming operation, with his small herd of registered purebred Jersey cattle, tractors would have to be a whole lot more flexible to be worked profitably on his farm. He recognized that the introduction of the Farmall Regular had been a substantial improvement in the creation of a tractor that could truly perform all the activities on a farm. Now in 1935, our Palmer Township farmer was still balking at the initial price of the descendent of the Farmall Regular–the Farmall F-20. The base suggested retail price of the F-20 on steel wheels was–$895.00. (C.H. Wendel, 150 Years of International Harvester [Cretline Pub.: Osceola, Wisc., 1981] p. 316.) This price was for the tractor alone. Our Palmer Township farmer reasoned that the tractor would be just the start. A farmer with a row crop tractor would need a new tractor plow and a mounted cultivator before he could begin to use the tractor on his farm in a profitable way.
It was the introduction of the Farmall F-12 in 1933 which really attracted the interest of our Palmer Township farmer. In 1933 only 25 F-12 tractors had been built. Thus only last year, at the 1934 Minnesota State Fair, at the show in the International Harvester tent, did he have his first real look at the new little tractor. Over the last year, F-12’s had begun to show up at Dingman Hardware, the local International Harvester franchise holder in Clear Lake, Minnesota (pop. 285). With its single front-wheel the F-12 was made for cultivation of row crops.
The F-12 was, however, an odd little tractor, compared with other tractors offered to the farming public in 1935. Whereas the Farmall F-20 and F-30 model tractors had Zenith Model K5 updraft carburetors, the F-12 was fitted with one of International Harvester’s own Model A-10 down-draft carburetor with a 1” diameter throat. The choke for the carburetor was located on the left side of the engine on the tractor and was counter intuitive in operation by being the direct opposite of any choke our Palmer Township farmer had ever seen before. To restrict the flow of air into the carburetor the operator pushed the choke rod in. To allow free flow of air to the carburetor for normal operation the choke rod was pulled.
Additionally, the belt pulley of the F-12 ran in a counter-clockwise fashion. This was backwards from most other tractors sold in 1935. This meant that while a twist in the belt was needed for any other tractor powering any belt driven piece of equipment, no twist was needed for the F-12 to power the same implement and vice versa. Furthermore, the belt pulley was continuously turning while the tractor was running and the clutch was engaged. To stop the belt pulley, the foot clutch had to be depressed so that the clutch was disengaged. This was a disadvantage because it meant that every time the operator wanted to change gears, shifting to the next gear was delayed while the operator waited for the pulley to slow down sufficiently to allow the gears of the transmission to mesh correctly. Still our Palmer Township farmer was impressed by the fact that the F-12 was a row crop tractor with the capability of performing all the farming operations on the farm. He noticed that the F-12s being exhibited this year at the State Fair included quite a number of tractors with two front wheels rather than the single front wheel that had appeared on all previous F-12s he had seen. Since mid-1935 starting with serial number 35340, International Harvester had offered the option of two front wheels on the F-12. This option was immediately popular with buyers and soon nearly all F-12s offered to the public had two wheels in front rather than the single front wheel. Our Palmer Township farmer tended to favor two wheels because in front because it made the F-12 to appear more uniform with the F-20 and F-30 which came with two wheels in front as standard equipment. More importantly he found the retail price of $607.50 for the basic tractor was within his price range. (Ibid.) Especially, since he had had profitable time at the State Fair. During the last days of the Fair he had sold a few of his registered purebred cows and yearlings. Further more he had extended invitations to a couple of other buyers to come out to his farm following the Fair to take a look at the more of his stock of Jersey cattle. This promised even more sales. It surely seemed as though the economy was getting back on track after the barren years of the immediate past.
After supper in the camp grounds on the night before leaving the Fair, our Palmer Township farmer took the whole family back onto the Fairgrounds for a ride on the large merry-go-round. He said the ride for the whole family was a treat to celebrate their profitable time at the Fair. However, the family knew that he would never miss taking the family to the carousel at least once during the Fair. It was an annual tradition. This was the huge carousel built on the Fairgrounds in 1914 by Austin McFadden. It was advertised as the world’s largest carousel. Every horse on the carousel was hand carved and was unique. It was easy to remember a favorite horse from childhood. Our Palmer Township farmer on his favorite horse in the very first fall of the carousel’s existence in 1914 when he was a child. Later he had taken his future wife to the Fair and they had ridden on the carousel together. To this day he always sought out the same old horse. (This old carousel closed in 1988. However, a group of St. Paul citizens raised the necessary funds to purchase the carousel and restore it at a new site in Como Park in St. Paul, where it once again reopened in the spring of 2000 to the public. Children of all ages, including the present author have gone to Como Park to once again ride their favorite horse at its new location.)
On the way home from the Fair, the old International truck a good deal emptier than it was when they headed out to the Fair, our Palmer Township farmer joked with his daughter that if the sales kept up they would not have any cows left to milk. With the profits of the sale of his yearlings and some of his cows, our Palmer township farmer acquired an F-12 bearing the serial number 65999 in the spring of 1936.
No. 65999 had rolled off the assembly line at the International Harvester Company’s Tractor Works factory in Chicago shortly before noon on Friday, March 27, 1936. The same day the tractor was loaded on a flat bed railway car and shipped out the same day to the International Harvester branch house located in St. Paul, Minnesota. Later the tractor was sent to Dingman Hardware in Clear Lake, Minnesota, pursuant to the request for an F-12 tractor from that local IHC franchise dealership.
The purchase of the little dark gray tractor with it’s four red wheels also included a 2-bottom Little Genius No. 8 trailing plow with 12” bottoms and a Model 215H two-row cultivator. The plow was even more colorful than the tractor–with its red beams and levers, white wheels and blue mold boards. The cultivator, too, was basically red with blue shanks and shovels. Knowing how she would react, he joked with his wife that he was tempted to store the plow and the cultivator in the garage to protect them from the elements and leave their Chevrolet outside. However, he did find room in the crowded machine shed that allowed him to continue to store all his functioning farm machinery indoors. Thus, No. 65999, like thousands of other F-12s all across the nation began its life on farm replacing the horse in nearly every farming task.