The PAPEC Company of Shortsville, New York (Part 1)

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The PAPEC Company of Shortsville, New York (Part 1)

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the November/December 1995 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

The 1987 restoration of a PAPEC Model 127 silo filler at Shortsville, New York.
This is the PAPEC Model 127 silo filler that was restored at Shortsville, New York by a group of former employees of the PAPEC Company as described in this article.

The storing of forage in a silo to cure into ensilage became popular in the United States in the 1890s.  To mechanize that process, the stationary silo filler was invented.

Silo fillers started out as complicated machines which chopped bundles of green corn plants and piled the chopped corn into stacks to be elevated into silos.  Eventually, stationary silo fillers were modified and simplified to a single-stage machine which chopped corn into the appropriate size and then blew the ensilage up a large pipe for distribution inside a silo, all in one step.  This was the stationary silo filler as it is most commonly known.

Many small companies sprang up at about the turn of the century to supply the farmers’ demand for these silo fillers.  One of these companies was founded by Billy Hamlin in Lima, New York, in 1901, and was organized with capital from members of the Hamlin family.  Billy Hamlin had originally wanted to name the company the Union Manufacturing Company; however, he found that there were already six other companies with that name in New York State at that time.  Accordingly, he decided on a name that would emphasize the main product manufactured by his company–silo fillers.  The name he created was the Pneumatic and Propeller Ensilage Company.  The only drawback about the name was that it was hard to pronounce and so the name was shortened to the mnemonic P.A.P.E.C., or Papec.

Filling silo with corn ensilage by means of a PAPEC Model K-3 silo filler
A PAPEC silo filler at work.

Billy Hamlin had purchased a Canadian patent for an “ensilage cutter” and set about refining the design cutter to make an improved silo filler.  Thus, in 1901, Papec began production of a model of silo filler based on the Canadian patent, but with substantial improvements.  This model went through other improvements over time and eventually became the Model C silo filler.  However, in 1904, the venerable Model C was phased out of production and replaced with the Model D.  The Model D would remain in production until 1917.

Empire Tool Company building was sold to PAPEC in 1909
This picture was taken prior to 1909 and is actually the workforce of Empire Tool Company of Shortsville, New York, who worked in the Empire Tool Company buildings in the background. However in 1909, the PAPEC Company purchased these buildings from Empire Tool and began making silo fillers at the site.

 

Both the Model C and Model D silo fillers were very popular with farmers.  A 1931 Papec advertisement proudly stated that there was still an active market for knives for the Model C more than 27 years after production had ceased.  A 1944 Papec advertisement made similar statements about the Model D which had been out of production for 27 years.

The Papec Company lost money regularly every year from the time of its founding through 1909.  The shareholders blamed Billy Hamlin for the continual losses and deposed him as president of the company in 1909.  At this stage, three remarkable men were enlisted by the shareholders to get the Company on the right track.  Frank Hamlin, now of Naples, New York, remembers that these three men were unique:  “One was a money man” (George W. Hamlin, father of Frank Hamlim, who became the Treasurer); “one was a good manager” (Ward H. Preston, who would serve as President until 1953); “and the third was an ingenious mechanic” (Fred Bullock, who became the plant manager).  These men were each strong individualists.  (An interesting sidelight is that Fred Bullock was a perennial candidate for governor of New York on the Socialist Party ticket until he became Vice President of Papec, at which time he became a Republican!).  Ward Preston, affectionately called “The Commander” by personnel at the factory, was a colorful personality.  He was a person squarely aimed at getting the job done.  Photographs have captured him on hand in the factory when the 20,000th Papec silo filler was completed in 1949.  On another occasion, in 1931, he was photographed at the occasion of the delivery of the first Papec with a galvanized feeder to a local New York farm.

Ward Preston in forground looking at the front of the feeder before crawling up on top of the feeder
Ward Preston inspects a new Model 127 PAPEC silo filler before crawling up on the feeder and pushing the sides of the feeder further apart by jumping on the feeder.

While looking the new machine over in his barnyard, the new owner was asked how he liked it.  The farmer responded that he felt the end of the galvanized feeder was a little too narrow.  Whereupon, to the surprise of those present, The Commander, even then an elderly man, crawled up into the feeder and jumped up into the air and came down with his feet against both sides of the ends of the feeder–spreading the end of the feeder.  “How’s that?” The Commander asked.  The stunned farmer managed to reply that the improvement to the machine was just fine!

These men were individualists, and by all reasonable expectations the new management should have been rent asunder by conflict between these strong personalities.  However, these three men realized that for Papec Company to survive they would each have to work together.  Each of the three men developed a respect for the others and refrained from interfering with those sections of the company outside their own area of expertise.  The result was a harmonious relationship within the management of the Papec Company.

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Bridge leading to the PAPEC factory over the river in Shortsville, New York.

            Papec began to make money.  For the next 45 years (until 1954) Papec prospered through the sale of silo fillers and forage equipment.  During this long period of growth, the company lost money for only three years–one year immediately following World War I and for two years during the depression.

It was a long period of growth for Papec.  By 1909, the Papec Machine Company had outgrown their facilities in Lima, New York, and had moved to another location in Shortsville, New York.  Shortsville was located about 25 miles to the east of Lima.  In Shortsville, the Papec Machine Company purchased the old Empire Grain Drill Works building site located near the Canandaigua outlet which flowed through Shortsville.  In the early 1800s, the Empire Grain Drill Works had depended on water from the outlet as the source of power for the site.  (Of course, by 1909, the building had long since been connected to electric power.)  The building site contained a 300-foot-long foundry building and was a good site for the future expansion of Papec.

The Bridge over the river in Shortsville, NY leading to the old Empire Tool Company factory which became the PAPEC factory in 1909.
The Bridge over the river in Shortsville, NY leading to the old Empire Tool Company factory which became the PAPEC factory in 1909.

As the years went by, improvements were made to Papec silo fillers.  Eventually Papec offered a line of silo fillers of different sizes including the Models F, H, and O.  An advertising booklet dating from about 1931 promotes the Papec Model R and Models 81, 127 and 158.  The model numbers of the last three silo fillers correspond to the area of the opening of the throat in square inches:  e.g., the Model 81 had a throat size of 6-3/8″ x 12-3/4″, for a total of 81 square inches; the Model 127 had a throat size of 8-1/2″ x 15″, for a total of 127 square inches; and the Model 158 had a throat size of 8-1/2″ x 18″, for a total of 158 square inches.  The Model R had a throat size of 6-1/8″ x 10-1/8″ throat, for a total of 62-plus square inches.

The Company also made Model N, L and K hay choppers which were identical to the Models 81, 127 and 158 silo fillers, respectively, except the hay choppers were reinforced with heavier construction at certain points to allow for the difficult task of handling dry crops.  Additionally, Papec expanded into the manufacture of the Model 8 and Model 10 Feed Cutters and 13-inch and 16-inch hammermills.  By 1944, the large Model 158 silo filler had been discontinued, and the Model 127 became the largest silo filler built by Papec.

The whole Papec product line was painted with a complicated color scheme, including red, black, and two shades of green, with yellow stenciling or decals.  Originally, the sides of the feeding table of the Papec silo fillers were wooden.  Papec painted these red.

Meanwhile, other improvements were introduced into the line of silo fillers.  In about 1928, Papec discontinued the use of cast iron belt pulleys and contracted with the Rockwood Pulley Company of New York City to supply all the belt pulleys for Papec silo fillers.  Therefore, about from 1928 on, the Rockwood fiber pulley was used exclusively on all Papec silo fillers.  In 1931, Papec introduced a new style of feeding table for their silo fillers and hay choppers.  This new feeding table had galvanized sides so that only the floor of the feeding table remained wooden.  The galvanized feeding table was made standard equipment on the Models 81, 127 and 158 silo fillers.  Only the Model R continued to have a wooden feeding table.  By 1944, however, Model R had been converted from the wooden feeder to the galvanized feeder to match the rest of the Papec line of silo fillers.

Although New York was the fourth largest dairy producing state in the nation, the first three dairy states (Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan) were located a considerable distance from Shortsville.  Because forage equipment was used predominately by dairy farmers, Papec needed to find some way of marketing their product to their richest target:  dairy farmers in the upper midwest and Canada.  In Canada, Papec arranged for the Cockshutt Plow Company Limited to serve as wholesaler and distributor for the Canadian provinces.  Cockshutt had wholesale warehouses at Truro, Nova Scotia; Moncton, New Brunswick; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; Montreal, Quebec; Smiths Falls and Brantford, Ontario; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; and Edmonton, Alberta.  Additionally, Cockshutt had a string of dealerships which were served by these wholesale facilities.  By this single agreement, Papec was positioned to reach nearly every dairy farmer in Canada with sales and service.  The export market was served by Papec facilities at 1 Park Avenue in New York City.  In the United States, Papec established its own Papec wholesale outlets in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Kansas City, Kansas.  As to the remainder of the United States, however, Papec depended on individual wholesaling contracts.  Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho were served by a contract with John Deere Plow Company, whereby Papec would be marketed through the John Deere dealerships in those states.  The John Deere Company and Deere family brother-in-law C.C. Webber, had formed the wholesaling firm of Deere and Webber Company located at 800-828 Washington Avenue North in Minneapolis, which served as the wholesaler for John Deere equipment in Minnesota.  As a result of Papec’s contract with Deere and Webber, Papec equipment was offered for sale at every John Deere dealership in the state of Minnesota.   In Pennsylvania, Papec contracted with Landis Brothers at the corner of North Queen Street and Walnut Street in Lancaster to serve as wholesaler of Papec equipment for the whole state of Pennsylvania.  Brown County Warehouse Company, located at 501 Liberty Street in Green Bay, served the important state of Wisconsin.  Michigan was served by Western Michigan Storage Company, located at 128-138 Coldbrook Street Northeast in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In the rest of the nation, Papec sought to make individual contractual arrangements with dealerships.  John Deere dealerships frequently offered the best opportunity as a potential outlet for Papec equipment, because the John Deere line of farm equipment did not include a stationary silo filler.  (Don Mcmillan and Russell Jones, John Deere Tractors and Equipment, Vol. I [New York, N.Y.: American Society of Engineers Press: 1988], p. 272).  As noted in John Deere Tractors and Equipment, the John Deere Company did not get into the manufacture of forage equipment until 1936 with the introduction of their first model of ensilage field harvester.    Consequently, until they began manufacturing their own field harvester, John Deere dealerships were inclined to contract with Papec to supplement the line of John Deere equipment offered by their dealerships.

Once the distribution network had been arranged, Papec needed to insure sufficient transportation to get their products to the wholesaling agents across the nation.  According to Tim Record, historian of the Shortsville/Manchester area of New York State, Shortsville was excellently served by the New York Central Railroad and the small LeHigh Valley Railroad.  However, Papec most often used the Vanderbilt-owned New York Central lines to get their machines to their intended markets.

As farming operations modernized after World War II and filling silo changed from the use of silo fillers to the use of field harvesters, Papec gradually phased out production of the stationary silo filler in favor of production of field forage harvesters.  The ease of handling corn chopped in the field and bringing it to the silo by forage wagon was doing away with the technology of binding corn, just as surely as grain combines had done away with the process binding small grains and feeding the bundles into a thresher.

The Papec Corporation recognized the direction in which the market for farm forage equipment was headed and started manufacturing forage wagons in 1946. They also began manufacturing their own Papec field harvester.  However, even with Papec’s extension into the area of field forage harvesters, the company was still in a period of decline.  The whole farm machinery market was dwindling.  Furthermore, whereas John Deere had wanted to co-operate with Papec in selling stationary silo fillers, John Deere had long been working on their own design for a field forage harvester and no longer had any interest in working with Papec for the sale of either the stationary silo filler or the Papec field forage harvester.

The year of 1949 proved to be the high water mark for earnings and profits for the Papec Corporation.  After 1954, sales and profits continued to sag throughout the remainder of the 1950s and 1960s.  The Company was headed into a long period of decline.  At its peak in 1950, Papec employed 300 people.  Among the long-term employees at Papec were Glen Brackett and Harold Lyon, who were both employed in the engineering department.  In the 1920s and early 1930s, Ken VanSickle worked as a draftsman, Carl Dudley served as plant superintendent, and Harry Sheet also worked at Papec.  In later years, Wayne Holtz and Randy Woodhams served as superintendent and John Kolberg served in the paint department.  Paul Bailey and Paul Sleight also worked at the Shortsville, New York, plant of the Papec Company.

In 1950, the PAPEC Company manufactured the 20,000th silo filler and the event was recognized by "the Old Commander"--Ward Preston.
In 1950, the PAPEC Company manufactured the 20,000th silo filler and the event was recognized by “the Old Commander”–Ward Preston.

In 1953, “The Commander”–Ward Preston–announced his retirement effective as of November 1.  He also announced that Frank Hamlin would be taking over the operation of the Company.  Frank Hamlin, who despite being the son of one of the founders of the company, had started with the Company as a laborer in the sheet metal department.  Over the years he had been groomed by “The Commander” to take over the Company.  Now, at 47 years of age, after 25 years of employment in various positions in the Company–and, incidentally, the largest shareholder of stock in Papec–Frank Hamlin became the President of the Company.

After financial losses in 1968, 1969, and 1970, Papec was sold in 1972 to the Lansdowne Steel and Iron Company of Morton, Pennsylvania.  Papec went through a corporate down-sizing under the management of Landsdowne Steel.  However, this did not save Papec from continual decline, and in November of 1979, all manufacturing ceased.  In February of 1981, Landsdowne closed down all the facilities in Shortsville.  After attempting to make a profit selling replacement parts, Papec closed down all operations in April of 1981.  While lying vacant, the historic old building at the Shortsville site–which had originally been the home of Empire Drill Works–was destroyed by fire.

A PAPEC silo filler at work in hay.
A PAPEC silo filler at work in hay.

Fortunately for restorers of Papec implements, in 1981 the entire parts inventory owned by Papec was purchased by the Randy Hale family of Shelbyville, Tennessee, who then formed J.H. & R. EnterprisesJ.H. & R. Enterprises, located at 1049 Madison Street, Shelbyville, Tennessee  37160-3621, Telephone: (615) 684-9737, offers parts books for sale on the old stationary silo fillers, and by use of these books, Papec parts can still be ordered for stationary silo fillers, or any of the other Papec machines, by the original Papec part numbers.  For the restorer of Papec farm equipment, this source for replacement parts is invaluable.  However, there is one shortcoming.  In the late 1950s, Papec changed its Company colors from the complicated two shades of green, red, and black with yellow lettering, to the simpler yellow with black lettering.   From this point on, even the replacement parts for the older Papec equipment were painted yellow or black.  Therefore, the parts in the inventory of J.H. & R. provide no clue as to the shade of green paint used on the old Papec stationary silo fillers because all of these replacement parts are painted yellow or black, reflecting the Company’s newer colors.  There seems to be no Company records which would help the restorer of Papec machines discover the right shade of paints.  The only clue as to the correct paint shade seems to be a 1987 restoration of a Model 127 silo filler performed by several former Papec employees in Shortsville, New York.

In 1987, Shortsville celebrated its Centennial.  In celebration of Papec, the town’s dominant employer until the 1970s, some of the former employees of Papec and other interested townspeople restored a Papec Model 127 silo filler.  Involved in the restoration were the Mayor of Shortsville Francis (Cap) Walker, his wife Ann Walker, who served as village historian, former Papec employees Paul Bailey, Paul Sleight, Harold Lyons, Wayne Holtz, Randy Woodhams and John Koberg, as well as Jim Tobey, Bill Fox and John Liberty.

The silo filler selected by the Shortsville group had a small Rockwood pulley.  The silo filler was in very good shape and did not need much repair.   It did, however, need to be repainted and re-stenciled.  Working from memory, the former Papec employees used a regular gloss or semi-gloss black for the wheels.  Farmall Red (IHC #2150, PPG-Ditzler #71310 or Martin-Senour #99-4115) was used for the cast iron feed roller housing and the frame and shafts supporting the knife sharpening wheel.  A regular silver paint was used on the galvanized portion of the feeder.  As for the two shades of green, Cap Walker, who works at the local hardware store, spent one evening with the former Papec employees in the project at the hardware store mixing batches of the store’s collection of Benjamin Moore paints to get the most accurate shades of green.  Resulting from that evening session was the conclusion that the lime green color used on the axles and frame is Benjamin Moore Impervo Enamel #420.  Working from a color photo of the restored Model 127, the author found that this shade of lime green is most closely represented by Martin-Senour #274A (Signal Green).  The dark olive green is Benjamin Moore, Morse House Paint #110-43, (Essex Green).  The author found this color to most closely match Martin-Senour #281A.  Cross-indexing of paints to Martin-Senour paint numbers means that these shades of paint will be readily available to restorers across the nation at their local NAPA auto parts stores.

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The complicated color scheme of the PAPEC silo filler is clearly evident in this picture of the Model 127 restored in Shortsville, New York by members of the retired work force in 1987.

The 1987 restoration of the Model 127 Papec in Shortsville, New York, may be the final word we ever have on the exact shades of paint used on early Papec equipment.  Since 1987, all of the former employees of Papec involved in the restoration project have died.  Furthermore, as time goes by, the restored Papec in Shortsville will become even more important.  Not only will it serve as a research tool for restorers, but it will stand as a permanent monument to all those men and women who labored in the design, manufacture and sale of the Papec line of equipment.

8 thoughts on “The PAPEC Company of Shortsville, New York (Part 1)”

  1. Very interesting reading. I always liked our Papec forage Harvesters on our farms. (McDonnell Dairy Farms)……after going to work for John Deere Company in Syracuse,Memphis,Dallas,Moline,Atlanta…etc etc I finished my 30 years with John Deere with 80 million+ in sales.
    Ran my own J.D. junk yard in Conyers,Ga….started the North Ga. 2 cyl. club, and restored 25+ 2 cylinder tractors…..3 of which were used in TV movies produced outside Atlanta.
    Made 2 brothers J.D. dealers in 70s…..and placed my Father in several JD Dealerships in CA.TN and Florida. Oh, I owned 3 JD stores in NY and FL.
    At McDonnell farm dairiesin Baldwinsville,NY we once bought an early JD ensilage cutter….one of their first attempts to make their own and quit Papec. It was almost a joke…the chopped material exited the machine by a chain/paddle elevator requiring a second tractor pulling a wagon next to the harvester. Don Howard of Canandaigua took it in trade saying he never saw one like it…(we believed it was a 1936-7 JD piece)…for the next 17 years we used upto 16 JD tractors in our operations….and ONLY Papec Forage Harvesters. You explained why we found a Papec knife grinding machine at a JD Dealership we bought in Earlville,NY.
    Papec was good quality equipment…..and the few times I visited the Shortsville factory for needed parts….I was always treated very professionally.
    I am almost 72 now but talk/email old JD dealers/employees all over the country that I remember……
    I could never understand why JD Co.never purchased Papec Machine Co. for it’s needed harvesting equipment line. Would have saved them a lot of money and time and higher market share. They did it with so many other companies…Hell, even the first JD tractor was a result of the Waterloo Boy Co. in 1918…and paid in cash!…..
    My Question is this…Why did John Deere Company have such a sudden and severe fallout with Papec?…(late 40’s?)….
    John Deere Company even had their own Gentleman’s Agreement IE:( Ford/Ferguson 1937-8)…with Caterpillar out of San Francisco and other western branches of Cat.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings…I’m almost 72 now so I figure I can get away with them. Live here in quiet Arkansas now….(Where JD Co. still owns 5,000+ acres of woodlands…for their old wagon business!!!)

    P.S.
    Have witnessed JD company rise to the heap of Ag. Equipment companiesin last 50 years….as many faltered or were bought out.
    JD is still the biggest and richest…and that’s why they stayed #2 to IH for so long…its not about sales…its PROFIT!

    Dave McDonnell
    870-378-7721
    Pocahontas, AR. 72455

  2. Dear Dave:

    You may take notice that I have added some pictures to the two articles on the PAPEC Company. I will add more as I am able to gather them and get them on-line.

    Brian Wayne Wells

  3. Brian..

    My wife and I are Ranchers in the East Texas area. We have numerous old barns on our Ranch with a few of them we are concerned about falling in on us. However, I went up into the loft just yesterday and found a piece of equipment that had Papec on the side of it. It appears that you load from the loft and get the grain are whatever from the ground floor of the barn. It has one handle on each side ( possibly to hold sacks in place ) and one lever in the middle to shift from side to side.

    I have no idea what this is.. I am in my mid 60’s and never seen one of these.

    I can send you some pictures if you would like.

    Please advise.

    1. My first job out of graduating high school was a stenographer at the Papec Machine Co., where I could walk to work and go home for lunch. Frank Hamlin was Pres., young George Hamlin, V.P.
      Don McCarthy engineering, Bob Ogden, also. Mr. Delaney in charge of sales & Bob McClure in charge of sales districts. I worked mainly for Bob McClure. They were all very professional men and I worked there 2 years, then moved on. It was a great place to work in the office. Loved your writing. Found things that I never knew. I still live in Shortsville, NY…
      Thank you… When I started to work at Papec, I never had heard of any of their machinery. It was all new to me!!

      1. I would love to talk with you over the telephone. As you know, these articles are now on-line and are able to be updated at any time. Many more people read these articles now than ever read them as they were originally published in the a “Belt Pulley” magazine. Most of the names you mention are familiar to me, but I would love to add any stories that you may have about these people to the article.

        My telephone numbers are (571) 502-1994 and (703) 671-6241. I would love to talk with you.

        Brian Wayne Wells

  4. I have the same silo filler right here in my yard. Was thinking of selling for scrap metal. If anyone is interested please call. 570-906-7964

  5. This is fascinating. In 1952, my dad had a Massey 44, neighbor had a Papec Chopper, both had stake dump trucks. They worked with a young farmer, just starting out. For three weeks in the fall, they worked to fill their silos, I could stay home from school, if I worked pulling corn silage out of the trucks. I would often sneak to the house to check scores on World Series games. I remember when they would open the chopper housing to remove and sharpen blades. I never know Papec was built in Shortsville. But, one time, we needed a part and I went to Don Howard’s dealership. I shook his hand! His collection of new and used and really used equipment was enormous. I was a farm boy in Tyre, NY. Now I retired and living in Colorado. But, this summer, I will come back to find Don .Howard’s lot. Thanks for keeping history alive! Ed Saunders

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