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An Allis-Chalmers Two-Row Mounted Corn Picker at Work
by Brian Wayne Wells
(As published in the May/June 2007 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine)
Throughout the 1930’s in southern Minnesota, wheat production was on the decline as a cash crop on the average family farm. (This declining trend in wheat production is alluded to in the article called “The Rinehardt/Christian/Boehne Model E Thresherman Special” contained in the March/April 2007 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) Taking the place of wheat as the primary cash crop on the average farm was corn. Corn was preferred as a cash crop to replace wheat because corn had a dual use on the average family farm. Corn could serve as a cash crop, but could also serve as a feed crop for live stock which could then be sold by the farmer. On the “diversified” farms which were common in southern Minnesota, pigs and/or beef cattle were raised on the farm together with corn and other crops. The perfect ideal of the diversified farm was that when pork prices rose higher than corn prices, the number of pigs could be increased and the corn raised on the farm could shifted quickly to feed for the pigs. Likewise, when pork prices fell in comparison to corn, the pigs might be sold off to save the corn for direct sale on the market.
One county in south-central Minnesota where this dynamic was at work was Nicollet, County. In 1921, Nicollet County farmers had planted and harvested 31,065 acres of wheat. By 1931, this figure had fallen to only 13,800 acres. During the same period of time, total corn acreage in the county had risen from 46,716 acres in 1921 to 62,600 acres in 1931. As one might expect, this increase in corn acreage was also accompanied by a parallel increase in the hogs raised in Nicollet County. In 1929, there were already 51,000 head of hogs in Nicollet County. Over the following decade this number increased by 45.1% to 74,000 head in 1939.
However, whether used as a cash crop or as a feed crop, growing corn plants needed special treatment, not required for small grains like wheat and oats. As a row crop, corn needed much cultivation during the summer months to control weeds that might grow up in the corn field and steal the moisture and soil ingredients that were needed for the corn crop. Long after the development of the internal combustion tractor, cultivation of row crops was still a task that had to be done with horses. The reason was that the first tractors were of a “four-wheel” or a “standard” configuration or design. As such these tractors were unable to straddle the row crops in the field in order to be fitted with any kind of cultivating device. However, in 1924 the “Farmall” tractor was introduced by the International Harvester Company. The Farmall tractor had a “tricycle” design and was specifically designed for cultivation of row crops. The Farmall was able to provide all the power needs of the farm; thus, its name—Farmall. The Farmall was a great sales success from the very beginning. Soon all the other major tractor manufacturers were scrambling to come out with their own renditions of the tricycle style Farmall.
The Allis Chalmers Manufacturing Company was no different. Their first foray into the field of row crop tractors was in 1930 with the introduction of the Model UC tractor. However, production of the Model UC was soon overshadowed following the introduction of the improved Model WC row-crop tractor in 1933. In 1934, the first full year of production, the WC outsold all other Allis Chalmers tractors. The Model WC tractor went on to become a very popular sales item for the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company. There was a huge demand among North American farmers for the Model WC tractor. By 1935, one business located in St. Peter, Minnesota (1930 pop. 4,811), the county seat of Nicollet County, was already trying to position itself to take full advantage of this growing demand within Nicollet County. This business was the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership in St. Peter.
The dealership was born in about 1914, when Henry Bernard Seitzer left his parent’s (William and Mary [Borsch] Seitzer) farm in Oshawa Township, Nicollet County, to seek his future in the county seat. He started a automobile repair garage in St. Peter called the H.B. Seitzer garage. Soon Henry was selling automobiles from his garage. It was an opportune time for him for three major reasons. Firstly, the automobile was just starting to become a popular item with the American public. Henry was getting into the automobile business on the bottom floor at just the right time. Secondly, although, at first, Henry Seitzer was selling cars of all makes and models, he soon signed an exclusive dealership franchise agreement with the Ford Motor Company. In the decade of the 1920s, sales of Ford’s Model T skyrocketed. The Model T was a very inexpensive car to purchase, and everybody wanted one. By signing this agreement in 1915, to sell only to Ford cars and, in exchange, becoming the only Ford dealership in the area, Henry Seitzer was able to ride the immense popularity of the Ford Model T to success in business.
The third major advantage that Henry Seitzer had going for him was that St. Peter was going through a period of strong growth just as the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership was hitting its stride. In particular, in the 1930s, while neighboring LeSueur County had grown by only 6.9% in population between 1930 and 1940 and while neighboring Sibley County had experienced growth of only 4.8% in the same period, Nicollet County had underwent a population growth of 10.5% during the 1930’s. Furthermore, St. Peter, itself, experienced a 22.0% growth in municipal population during this period of time. This rapid growth of population brought even more buyers to the doors of the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership.
Under these favorable conditions, Henry Seitzer’s business began to flourish. In the eleven years from 1916 to 1927, Seitzer’s sold an incredible 1,550 Model T automobiles. With introduction of the Model A Ford in 1928, sales at the H.B. Seitzer continued to be brisk. Just two years into the production run of the Model A, the dealership had already sold 280 Model A cars. (Robert Wettergren, A Little Bit of Heaven in St. Peter [St. Peter, Minnesota 2001] p. 13-14.)
In 1917, Henry felt secure enough in his new business that he could start a family. That year, he married an Oshawa Township girl, Kathryn Austa Boys, daughter of Frank and Mary (Kennedy) Boys. Together they rented a house in St. Peter located at 429 W. Nashua Street.
In 1919, Kathyrn’s parents, Fred and Mary Boys, retired from farming, sold their farm in Oshawa Township and bought a house at 311 W. Pine Street in St. Peter. Their 21-year-old son, Russel Boys moved into the Pine Street house. Later they rented part of the large house to Henry and Kathryn Seitzer and their new infant daughter Marjorie. In 1921, Henry Seitzer took his brother-in-law, Russel, into the car dealership as a partner. Signing the agreement with the Ford Motor Company in 1915, the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership located at 311 South Front Street in St. Peter was to become one of the oldest Ford dealerships in the state of Minnesota.
The Model T brought the automobile within the economic reach of the common man. This was a revolution in transportation that drastically changed the face of North America. The Ford Motor Company created another such revolution in the agricultural industry with the introduction of the Fordson farm tractor. Throughout the 1920s, explosive sales of the small 2,710-pound Fordson tractor sent a panic through all the larger more established farm tractor manufacturers and caused them to scramble to introduce newer, smaller, less expensive farm tractors. As the exclusive dealership for the St. Peter area, the H.B. Seitzer dealership was also benefiting from this revolution in agriculture. Prior to 1930 the dealership had also sold 85 Fordsons to the farmers in the St. Peter community. As the corporate ties between the Ford Motor Company and the Wood Brothers Threshing Machine Company grew, the H. B. Seitzer dealership started selling Wood Bros. threshers also. (The history of the Wood Bros. Threshing Machine Company is described in the two part series of articles contained in the November/December 2000 and January/February 2001 issues of the Belt Pulley magazine.)
From the very beginning, however, the rural farming public was demanding a wider range of farm machinery than was available than the Ford Motor Company could offer. To meet this demand, the H. B. Seitzer dealership, obtained a franchise from the Oliver Farm Equipment Company to sell the entire line of Oliver farm implements. Oliver had only recently become a full-line farm equipment company as a result of the merger in 1929 of the Hart-Parr Gasoline Engine Company, the Nichols and Shepard Company, the American Seeding Machine Company and the Oliver Chilled Plow Works Company; into the new corporate entity called Oliver Farm Equipment Company. In the early 1930s, the franchise looked like a good fit for the H. B. Seitzer and Company dealership. The dealership vigorously advertised the Oliver farm equipment and tractors in the St. Peter Herald semi-weekly newspaper which appeared in St. Peter on Wednesday and Friday each week.
With corn raising on the increase in southern Minnesota, H.B. Seitzer and Company placed high hopes in the new Oliver Row Crop tractors which had been introduced in 1930. The dealership strongly emphasized the Oliver Row Crop tractor in their newspaper advertisements. Still, nationwide sales of the Oliver row crop tractors remained disappointing. In 1932, only 298 Oliver row crop tractors were sold. This was followed by only 420 Row Crops nationwide in 1933, only 811 Row Crops in 1934 and 2,460 in 1935. The H. B. Seitzer and Company dealership could not help but notice that the Allis-Chalmers Company was enjoying far greater success with its new row crop tractor—the Model WC tractor. In 1934, in its first full year of production, 3,098 Model WC tractors were sold, nationwide. The next year, 1935, production of WCs reached 10,743, nationwide.
The success of the Allis-Chalmers Model WC tractor, as opposed to the Oliver Row Crop tractor may have been related to price. The suggested retail price of the Oliver Row Crop tractor was $1,005.00. This was the bare tractor with steel wheels. The power take-off was an option that cost an additional $8.00. The suggested retail price of the Allis-Chalmers Model WC tractor, on the other hand, was $747.50. Even when the buyer added rubber tires on the front and on the rear, the price rose only to $925.00. Another reason for the low sales of the Oliver Row Crop tractor may have been the Oliver Company’s insistence on promoting their “Tip-Toe” design of steel wheels in the face of the growing demand for rubber tires on tractors. An H. B. Seitzer advertisement contained in the April 6, 1934 issue of the St. Peter Herald shows that the dealership was continuing to valiantly struggle to point out the advantages of the Tip-Toe rear wheels of the Row Crop tractor.
Eventually, however, the dealership came to the realization that rubber tires was definitely the trend of the future. With that realization, the attention of the dealership turned to the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As early as 1929, Allis-Chalmers had been the pioneer in mounting rubber tires on farm equipment—introducing both the Model U (standard) tractor and the original All-Crop Harvester combine on rubber tires in 1929. Like the Oliver Farm Equipment Company, the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company had also just finished a series of corporate mergers. By purchasing companies like the Monarch Tractor Company of Springfield, Illinois, which was bought in 1928; the LaCrosse Plow Company of LaCrosse, Wisconsin purchased in 1929; the Advance-Rumley Thresher Company of LaPorte, Indiana bought in 1931 and the Birdsell Company of South Bend, Indiana also purchased in 1931, the Allis-Chalmers Company was able to offer a full-line of farm equipment for the buying public. This series of corporate purchases, plus the purchase of the Brenneis Manufacturing Company of Oxnard, California in 1938, provided the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company immediately with additional tractor technology and factory works, a full line of sulky and tractor plows, a full line of threshers and other tillage and planting farm equipment. Thus, when the Allis-Chalmers sales representative showed up in St. Peter in the spring of 1935, to sell a franchise to the H. B. Seitzer and Company dealership; little actual persuasion was needed. Recognizing the advantages offered by the Allis-Chalmers full line of farm equipment, the H. B. Seitzer dealership signed a dealership franchise agreement to sell Allis Chalmers farm equipment. An advertisement in the July 24, 1935 issue of the St. Peter Herald proudly announced that H. B. Seitzer & Company was the new “distributor” of Allis-Chalmers farm equipment for the St. Peter area.
However, since neither the Allis-Chalmers franchise, nor the Oliver Company franchise were “exclusive” franchises, the H.B. Seitzer dealership held onto the Oliver franchise and became a dealer for both companies. This was a fortuitous combination of franchises for the H. B. Seitzer dealership. The dealership had found that the Oliver plow was superior to the Allis-Chalmers plow. Thus, the company started making package deals to farmer/customers which included the Allis-Chalmers Model WC tractor and the Oliver Plowmaster two-bottom plow.
The economic depression of the early 1930s created havoc with the whole economy of the United States. Many farmers lost their farms altogether. Recovery from the depression was agonizingly slow, but the mid-1930s, farmers throughout the St. Peter community had were starting to feel more secure in their economic situations and were even thinking of modernizing and improving their farming operations. One such farmer was Henry Juberien of Belgrade Township in Nicollet County which was adjacent to the southern border of Oshawa Township. Henry and Emma (Meyer) Juberien operated a 290 acre farm, eleven (11) miles to the west of St. Peter. They lived on the farm with their nine children—Marvin Peter born on September 29, 1915; Anna M. born on December 30, 1916; Louise S. born in December of 1918; Lorna E. born in 1919; Ruth M. born in June 17, 1920; Celia Agnes born in 1923; Henry Albert (nicknamed “Sam”) born on July 22, 1924; Elnor (nicknamed “Babe”) born on November 29, 1925; and Wallace born on December 30, 1929.
The Juberien’s were a big family, but the farm was a large farm with a lot of work to do. In addition to the 80 acres of corn and the other crops they raised on the large farm, the family milked around 25 head of milk cows, raised about 100 hogs and had some chickens. The family also kept thirteen (13) horses to provide the power for the farming operation. Now, in the winter of 1935-1936, Henry’s oldest son, Marvin Peter (nicknamed Jim) had just turned 20 years of age. Henry knew it would not be long before he left the farm to strike out on his own. However, young Henry Albert, or Sam as he was called, was eleven (11) years of age and was starting to be old enough to be of help with chores even if he could not work with the horses yet in the fields in the summer.
Because he felt the pinch of this impending shortage of manpower on his farm, Henry Juberien’s thoughts turned to the purchase of a farm tractor. Mechanized farm power would certainly get the field work done faster and more efficiently. Even young Henry could drive the tractor on some field jobs. The winter of 1935-1936 was very cold and there was a great deal of snowfall all winter. Accordingly, when the winter weather allowed a slight respite during the winter months, the family was more than ready to travel to town to get restocked on groceries. On one of these winter trips to St. Peter, Henry stopped in at the H.B. Seitzer dealership. Henry had known since the summer that Seitzer’s was now selling Allis-Chalmers farm equipment. He had seen the advertisements in the local newspaper—the St. Peter Herald.
When he visited the dealership, he talked with Russel Boyes. The dealership was pushing its most popular sales item—the Model WC row crop tractor. The dealership knew that the sale of any row crop tractor also usually meant the sale of a mounted two-row cultivator for that tractor. Accordingly, Russel reminded Henry that with a row crop WC and two-row mounted cultivator, even Henry’s younger son could cultivate corn at twice the speed of using horses and a one row cultivator. Indeed, Russel said, the WC tractor could do all the field work on average family farm and replace horses entirely on the farm.
The dealership knew that horse-drawn plows could not easily be used with tractor power. Thus, nearly every farmer that walked into the dealership to purchase his first tractor, would also have to purchase a tractor plow. Accordingly, the sale of a tractor usually involved a package deal which also included not only a mounted two-row cultivator, but also included the sale of a appropriate tractor plow. The Allis-Chalmers Company’s suggested retail price for the model WC tractor on steel wheels was $747.50 with steel wheels and $925.00 when fitted with optional rubber tires. There were also suggested retail prices not only for the tractor but also for the cultivator and the plow. As a package deal, however, greater discounts could be made available in the suggested retail price of each part of the package such that the overall package price would be made very attractive to the farmer/buyer. Russel Boys was now outlining just such a package deal for Henry Juberien. As noted above, the dealership had been favoring the inclusion of an Oliver plow in these package sales, because of the Oliver plows better reputation among farmers. (This practice of including an Oliver plow in the package sales to farmers despite the make of tractor being sold, was continued by the dealership into the post-World War II period of time. In 1947, the H. B. Seitzer dealership sold a rubber-tired Oliver A-100 Plowmaster two-bottom plow with 14 inch bottoms to Alton Jacobson of Oshawa Township in Nicollet County. As related in another article this plow would eventually be purchased by the late Wayne A. Wells, father of the current author and would be restored by the Wells family and become come a permanent exhibit at the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association. [See the article called “The Oliver Plowmaster A-100 Plow” contained in the Summer of 1995 issue of the Hart-Parr Oliver Collectors Magazine, p. 8.] Alton Jacobson purchased the Oliver Plowmaster for behind his Allis-Chalmers Model WC tractor which had also been purchased from the H.B. Seitzer dealership. The Model A-100 Plowmaster was widely considered a superior plow to any other plow on the farm machinery market. [Indeed, the current author has often times found that the Alton Jacobson plow has a considerably easier draft that any of the comparable McCormick-Deering two-bottom plows with 14 inch bottoms, which the current author’s family has restored and used on the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association.])
Henry found the price that Russel Boyes was offering for the package deal was hard to refuse. Accordingly in the winter of 1935-1936, Henry signed a sales agreement with the H. B. Seitzer and Company dealership for a Model WC tractor, the Oliver plow and the Allis-Chalmers mounted cultivator. Henry took delivery on the tractor and machinery. The Model WC tractor arrived on the Juberien farm with 5.25 inch by 17 inch rubber tires mounted on French and Hecht round-spoke rims in the front and 11.25 inch by 24 inch rubber tires mounted on appropriate-sized French and Hecht round spoke rims on the rear of the tractor. As the Operator’s Manual stated, the WC was designed to operate on “distillate, tractor fuel or low octane gasoline.” The tractor was fitted with a 15 gallon fuel tank to hold the low-octane fuel. However, the tractor was intended to be started on gasoline with an octane level of 70 or higher. There was a separate much smaller gasoline tank located just ahead of the large fuel tank which held the high octane gasoline for starting.
Henry Juberien put the tractor to work on his farm starting in spring of 1936 and continued to employ mechanized power on his farm through the following years. The Juberien family did not get rid of all the horses on the family farm when they purchased the Model WC. However, the family did significantly reduce the number of horses on their farm.
The years of the late 1930s, were filled with international and domestic events of great significance for United States agriculture. Domestically, as noted above, the economy of the United States had been improving in the mid-1930s. This improvement in the economy convinced some of the economic advisers in the Roosevelt Administration that the depression was finally over. Specifically, Hans Morganthau, the Secretary of the Treasury was one of those so convinced and he urged President Roosevelt to cut back government “New Deal” supports for the economy. In June of 1937, the President did just that by removing certain price supports for the economy. However the economy proved to be too weak to support itself and by August, 1937, another recession had ensued. Farm prices reflected this economic downturn. Corn prices fell from their high of $1.37 per bushel in April of 1937 to a mere 46¢ per bushel in October and November of 1937.
Internationally, on July 7, 1937 a small seemingly insignificant shooting occurred at the Marco Polo Bridge just outside of Peking China. The shooting escalated into a skimish between the Chinese Army and the armed forces of Japan. Although the only casualty was a single missing Japanese soldier, the “Incident at the Marco Polo Bridge” was used by Japan to serve as a pretext for their invasion of China—thus setting off the Sino-Japanese War. The United States had been concerned about the growing territorial ambitions of Japan in the Pacific region. However, the Incident at the Marco Polo Bridge really alerted the Roosevelt Administration and the American public at large to the growing danger. Following the Incident polls in the United States reflected that 74% of the public now sympathized with the Chinese in the war that followed, while only 2% if the public sympathized with the Japanese. This did not mean that American public supported military involvement in what became known as the Sino-Japanese War. The American public was still overwhelmingly for non-involvement or isolation from foreign entanglements. Still there was large support in the American public for aiding the Chinese. Hans Morganthau was among the strongest advocates for aid to China. Indeed, he has been described as being “desperate” in his sense of urgency for such aid. (Barbara W. Tuchman, Stillwell and the American Experience in China [Macmillan Press: New York, 1971] p. 240.) It is quite ironic to consider why the Treasury Secretary would be so adamant about aid to China while the opinion of Cordell Hull Secretary of State was much more “neutral” in his approach to the China problem. Why did the Secretary of the Treasury concern himself so strongly with an international problems which should properly be part the portfolio of the Secretary of State? One reason might be that Secretary Morganthau saw the domestic economic advantages of aid to China very clearly. Food aid to China might raise farm prices and pull the economy out of the recession that had started in August of 1937. The United States was still a largely rural country. As such, farm prices still had a big effect on the economy as a whole. General Joseph W. Stillwell put it rather bluntly when he said that the United States should “aid herself” by helping China. (Ibid. pp. w240-241.) Immediately following the Incident at the Marco Polo Bridge exports of foodstuffs by the United States showed a dramatic rise. In July of 1937, grain companies in the United States had exported $5.92 million dollars worth of “crude” (unprocessed) foodstuffs abroad. In the very next month, August, this export figure rose to $13.12 million dollars—almost three times as much. Exports of unprocessed foodstuffs continued to rise throughout the rest of 1937 and into 1938. By May of 1938, United States was exporting $34.14 million dollars worth of unprocessed foodstuffs. Arrangements made by Secretary Morganthau resulted in Export-Import Bank extending 25 million more dollars worth of loans to China in December of 1938, to allow China to purchase even more from the United States.
Farmers across the nation began raising more crops. In Nicollet County in 1937, Henry Juberien and his neighbors raised a total of 2,824,000 bushels of corn for the county as a whole—up from only 1,547,000 bushes the year before—1936. After a slight decline in production due to the weather in 1938, Nicollet County raised a bumper crop of 3,109,000 bushes of corn in 1939.
These years also brought changes in the Juberien family. Two daughters, Lorna E. and Celia Agnes were both married in 1937. Lorna married Jess Hanson from Mankato, Minnesota (1930 pop. 14,038) and young Celia married Newell Wilbur Peterson, also of Mankato, Minnesota. Both young couples moved off to Mankato to start their new lives. The next year, Henry’s oldest son, Marvin Peter married Alice Maureen Loeffler and they moved to a farm near Eagle Lake, Minnesota (1930 pop. 222) in Blue Earth County to the south of Nicollet County. Henry had expected this for some time, Marvin Peter’s assistance around the farm would be missed. However, young Henry Albert or “Sam” was now 15 years of age and was starting to become a great help around the farm. He was able to drive four horses and the 5-foot disc in the field while the WC was kept busy doing work in some other field. Even more importantly, one spring after Marvin Peter had left the farm, Henry Juberien was hospitalized and was unable to plant the corn on the home farm himself. Thus, Henry turned to his second oldest son to ask him to get the corn planted on the home farm.
This was not as easy as one might expect because the corn had to be planted by wire-check. After the seed bed had been prepared in the field to be planted, a long wire was stretched across the field. The wire had wire knots or buttons spaces every 36 inches along the wire. The wire would be attached to a tripping mechanism on the side of the two-row horse-drawn corn planter. As the planter moved across the field, every button on the wire sliding through the mechanism would automatically cause both planting units on the two row planter to trip simultaneously—thus planting hills of corn every 36 inches across the field. Because the rows on the planter were 36 inches apart, the file would be planted in a square grid pattern with the each hill of corn 36 inches from the hill in the rows on either side and 36 inches from the hill immediately ahead and immediately behind within same row. By driving the planter very straight across the field and by keeping the wire as tight as possible, the hills of corn should be as straight crosswise as they were lengthwise. Farmers worked hard at this, because as soon as the corn sprouted above the ground the quality of their “check” in the corn field would become very noticeable to all the neighbors as they drove by—and the neighbors would drive by! It was neighborhood sport to drive around and check out the neighbor’s “check planting job.”
Once the planter reached the opposite end of the field, the horses and the planter were turned around. A control lever on the planter disconnected the wire from the side of the planter as the 180º turn to make the trip back across the field. At his point, the operator dismounted from his seat on the planter and went the very end of the field where the stake and tightener holding the wire on this end of the field. The stake needed to be moved over and secured in the ground behind the planter new position. Henry Juberien knew that the stake needed to be moved without pulling unduly on the wire.
Thus, from his hospital bed, Henry Juberien advised his second son, “Don’t do like the neighbors, and try to sling the wire over for the next crossing of the field. That will result in a crooked cross check pattern. Just pull the stake at the end of the field and move the stake to its new location behind the corn planter, connect the wire to the planter and let the planter pull the wire over as you start back across the field.”
Next spring, on May 12, 1939, Henry and Emma’s oldest daughter, Anna, married Albert Precht of Courtland, Minnesota (1930 pop. 260). The marriages of his children reminded Henry and Emma of the passage of time. Life was good. They were now seeing their own children mature and start lives of their own. This was the real rewards of their life’s work.
The high production of corn Nicollet County in the years 1937, 1938 and 1939 was matched by the farmers across the nation. As a consequence, despite the rise in demand created by the aid to China, the price of corn did not rise dramatically. Even with the outbreak of war in Europe and the new obligations placed on the farmers to feed Britain as well as China, the price of corn remained around 70¢ per bushel all through 1940. Only with the sudden entry of the United States in the war with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the resultant need to need not only foreign nations but United States armed forces in Europe and in the Pacific, did the price of corn begin a dramatic rise. Now United States farmers were encouraged to pull out all the stops and raise crops “from fence row to fence row” as the United States attempted to meet the new demands. In Nicollet County the total acreage devoted to corn rose steadily from 53,000 acres in 1940, to 55,900 acres in 1941, to 61,100 acres in 1942, and to 64,100 acres in 1943. In the last two years of the war, new records were established for the number of acres devoted to corn with 74,100 of corn in 1944 and 75,000 acres in 1945. In 1944, a new over-all record of total county wide corn production was established when 3,630,900 bushels of corn were produced in Nicollet County as a whole. Nationwide, production of corn also reached new levels. However, despite the abundance of corn reaching the market, the price of continued to climb to new heights of $1.18 per bushel in May and June of 1944. Demand remained ahead of supply all during the war years despite the huge amount of production of farm crops for the war effort.
With the Model WC tractor Henry Juberian had mechanized all the field work involved in plowing, preparing seed bed, planting and cultivating of the 80 acres of corn that the family traditionally planted every year. However, the real bottleneck in the corn crop was the actual harvesting of the crop. The Juberien family “hand shucked” their corn crop every year. Before he got married and moved off the farm, Marvin Peter was the family’s best and fastest hand shucker. When he was still at home, Marvin Peter could take a wagon to the corn field at 8AM and return to the yard with a wagon filled with 50 bushels of corn by 11AM. After dinner he would take the empty wagon to the field again at 1PM and return three (3) hours later with another 50 bushel wagon load of corn. Even Henry was envious of his son’s speed in hand shucking corn. Serious as it was, hand shucking or “corn husking” had, nonetheless, been turned into a competitive sport in the 1920s. Local contests were held to recognize the fastest corn husking champions. State contests were then held to allow the local champions to compete against other, in order to crown a state-wide champion. In 1924, the first national championship corn husking contest was held to allow various state champions to compete against each other for a national championship title. Perhaps the fact that Marvin Peter Juberien had been born and raised in Belgrade Township, may have caused him to become very good at corn husking. Belgrade Township was, after all, the home of Bert Hanson, Nicollet County champion corn husker for the years 1926, 1927, 1929 and 1931 was also from Belgrade Township.
Despite the excitement caused by the sporting events, corn husking on the average family farm was a very labor intensive operation which required the services of everybody in the family working on cold days in the corn field. The 1938 International Harvester Company movie called “Party Line” contained on Disc/Tape #4 of the International Harvester Promotional Movie Collection, points out that the average farmer spent nine (9) times the amount of time hand shucking an acre of corn as the time he will spend plowing, preparing the seed bed, planting, and cultivating that same acre of corn–combined.
Henry Juberien’s ability to “get the corn cribbed” was being diminished as time went by as more of his children left the farm to start their own lives. During the war, two more daughters of the Juberian household were married—Ruth married Cletus Phillips of Mankato Minnesota in 1941. Cletus and Ruth settled in Mankato. On December 27, 1944, Henry and Emma’s youngest daughter, Elnor J. Juberien married Roland “Butch” Engel. Together they settled on a farm in Nicollet Township of Nicollet County. Now with the end of the Second World War in 1945, only their two youngest sons, 18-year old Henry Albert and young 16-year old Wallace, were living at at home on their parents farm. Plus Henry and Emma were now 54 years and 57 years of age, respectively. They were getting older just as Henry was losing his “help” on the farm. However, Henry and Emma were not thinking of retirement. Instead, he was still thinking of ways in which he and his sons could improve their farming operation.
Henry Juberien and all corn farmers across the Midwest needed some way to reduce the amount of hand labor spent, in the corn field in the fall each year, gathering the corn crop. The Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company had been working on this problem and in 1939 just before the recent war, the Company had introduced its Model 33 mounted two-row corn picker. The Model 33 was specifically designed to fit on the row-crop Model WC tractor. Only a few of the Model 33 mounted corn pickers were sold in the period of time before United States government imposed manufacturing restrictions on most farm machinery for war effort. During the war all farm machinery was severely restricted. Accordingly, the Model 33 cornpicker was largely unavailable for the entire period of time until V-J (Victory over Japan) Day on September 2, 1945. When the wartime manufacturing restrictions were lifted, at the end of the war, and the economy was converted back to the peacetime production of farm machinery, a huge pent-up demand for new farm machinery was released. Corn pickers was one of the farm machines that the farmers were snapping up in large numbers. When production of the Model 33 corn picker was recommenced again in 1947, it proved to be a very popular seller in the post-war environment at the suggested retail price of $745.00. Optional motor shields, which fit on the tractor to prevent dried corn stalks from coming into contact with the hot tractor engine and causing a fire, were available for $8.00 a pair.
Part of this tidal wave of farmers visiting their local farm machinery dealership was Henry Juberien. Consequently, Henry traveled to St. Peter to see about one of the new Allis-Chalmers mounted corn pickers. This time, however, Henry did not stop at H. B. Seitzer Company at its usual location in St. Peter. Changes had occurred in the Seitzer business. Although, the H.B. Seitzer and Company retained its original name and continued to be the Ford Motor Company car dealership for the St. Peter area operating out of the same address at 311 South Front Street, the farm equipment franchises (Allis-Chalmers, Oliver etc.) had all been spun off from into a separate corporate entity. This separate entity was incorporated as the Seitzer Implement dealership and since January 1, 1948, had been operating out of a building located in the 100 block of Minnesota Avenue in St. Peter. The new dealership was under the management of Mark Seitzer, Henry Seitzer’s youngest son. An advertisement contained in the January 2, 1948 issue of the St. Peter Herald announced the change and, in addition to serving as the authorized Allis-Chalmers dealership, the new business promised to offer top-notch overhauls, tune-ups and service on all makes of tractors. Seitzer Implement also noted that they had the ability to come to the farm pick up the tractor, perform the work on the tractor at the dealership and then deliver tractor back to the farm.
After visiting the new dealership, Henry Juberien signed a sales agreement to purchase one of the new Model 33 mounted pickers. The Model 33 corn picker had been designed and built just for the Model WC tractor. The main part of the picker consisted of both snapping roll units the chains and elevators that lifted the ears of corn to the rear hopper and then the wagon elevator which loaded the corn into the wagon. Henry found that this entire main unit was simply attached to the tractor by backing the WC up to the Model 33 so that the rear hoper fit snugly on the rear of the tractor and the two snapping units protruded under the high rear axles on either side of the WC. The power take-off was then attached and then the entire picking unit could be attached and raised. By simply attaching the sheet metal divider snout to cover the front wheels and attaching the sheet metal gathering snouts on either side of the picker, Henry was ready for the field.
The Allis-Chalmers Company had, thoughtfully, provided a hole in the very front of the snout of the corn picker, which lined up with the starting-crank coupler shaft in the front-end support tractor. The Allis-Chalmers Company also provided a starting crank extension with every corn picker. Also included, was pair of clips which could be bolted to the left fender. Thus, the starting crank extension could be stored on the inside of the left fender with the regular starting crank. With the extension attached to the starting crank. Then, by sticking the elongated crank in the hole in the snout to reach back to the starting crank coupler shaft, Henry could start the to start the engine without removing the snout of the picker. He did this now.
Henry walked to the left side of the tractor and reached over the left rear wheel to remove the hand crank and the special hand crank extension from the clips that held the crank and the extension securely to the inside of the left fender. Ordinarily, on a “cold start” in the winter time with the corn picker mounted he would have to open the right side motor shield which covered the carburetor side of the engine. This would allow him access to the carburetor choke while cranking the engine at the front of the tractor. However, the WC had been running already this morning so this was a warm start and he did not need to choke the engine to start the tractor.
When operating with the Model 33 corn picker, the wagon was pulled directly behind the tractor. Thus, the wagon rolled along the same two-rows of corn stalks that had just been picked by the corn picker. When operating a pull-type corn picker, the tractor would run over the two rows of corn stalks immediately adjacent to the two rows (or sometimes single row) which were being picked by the pull type picker. So long as the two rows that the tractor ran over had already been picked, everything was fine. However, the first few rounds in the corn field were intended to “open” the corn field. To open the corn field, the eight “end rows” to be harvested. Then the picker would pick the rows at the edge of the corn field to get to the other end of the field and pick the end rows at the other end of the field. To complete the “opening” of the corn field, the corn picker would pick two rows across the middle of the field at various locations over the width of the field. This divided the field into “lands” or sections of un-harvested corn. Having the field divided into lands would shorten the turn around at the end of the field. This would save time and also wear and tear on the equipment as the tractor pulled the picker over the bumpy and possibly frozen ground. Attempting to open a corn field with a pull-type picker would inevitably result in running down two unpicked rows with each initial crossing of the field or the harvesting the end rows. To be sure the pull type picker could be turned around the driven back across the field and pick the two “downed” rows. However, it was inevitable that the corn in the downed rows would have a number of ears missing—the ears having been knocked off by all the disturbance of being run over. With a one-row corn picker, the situation was even worse. Half of the un-picked rows, which were run down by the tractor, would actually be run over twice before they could be picked by the one-row picker.
As a mounted two-row corn picker the Model 33 was tailor made for opening corn fields. Both the tractor and the wagon which was towed immediately behind the picker, passed only over the two-rows that had just been picked. Thus, Henry merely, engaged the tractor’s PTO, by reaching down with his left hand to pull a lever located by the gear shift lever. The Model 33 came to life with activity as Henry engaged the clutch and moved the tractor around to line up with the first two end rows in the near side of the corn field. He was able to pick all the end rows on the near side of the field. Then he made his first trip across the field on one side of the field near the fence. Once he reached the far end of the field, he picked all the end rows on the far end of the field. Now he could move with impunity around both ends of the field. Full wagons could be unhitched and the picker could be moved around and hitched up to empty wagons at the ends of the field; and, in 1948, Henry needed to change wagons frequently. It was a bumper year for the corn crop. Farmers in Nicollet County produced a new record of 4,023,000 bushels of corn county-wide. Furthermore, Nicollet County farmers actually grew this record producing crop on 3.9% less acreage than they had planted the year before—in 1947. Of course, 1947 had been a very wet year. The weather in 1948 had been perfect. However, another big reason for obtaining more corn from less acreage was the continuing trend toward the use of dry commercial fertilizer in corn. Commercial fertilizers had been largely unavailable during the war. Now in the post war era, farmers were buying commercial fertilizers with a vengeance. In 1948, Nicollet County also set a new record yield of 62 bushels per acre county-wide. As a result, Henry Juberien found that he hardly complete a full round before he would have to change wagons.
To make picking even more convenient, Henry now started up across the field about one-third of the way into the field from the fence. Then he picked another two rows about two-thirds of the way across the field. With the field dived into “lands” of un-picked corn like this, Henry could avoid wasting time at the ends of the field either making the impossibly sharp turn around to pick the next two adjacent rows or to make the long drive to the opposite end of the field every time to make the return trip back across the field. The Model 33 corn picker was sure handy at opening a field of corn. However, there were short-comings with the Model 33 which became evident as Henry Juberien put the new Model 33 in the field in the first fall. Although the Model 33 was intended as a picker/husker—the upper part of the snapping rollers of the Model 33 were to serve as husking rollers, one was rubber and the other was steel, Henry and his sons, Henry Albert and Wallace, found that the Model 33 left an unacceptable amount of husks on the ear. Ear corn is stored in a corn crib where it supposed to dry thoroughly in the cold winter air. The air will move through the slats on a woodens corn crib or through the wire-mesh of a round corn crib and will travel through the air spaces between the ears of corn and dry the whole crib full of corn. To dry properly in a corn crib, the amount of husk in the crib should be 4% or less. A high percentage of husk in the corn crib will tend to obstruct the air flow through the ear corn in the crib and cause the corn to retain moisture and begin to mold. The Model 33’s husking system did not remove anywhere near the amount of husks from the corn to reach the 4% or less threshold. Consequently, a year later, or about 1949, Henry Juberien purchased a New Idea Model 6A two-row pull-type corn picker. Regular readers of the Belt Pulley magazine will remember that the Model 6A was an extremely popular item during the post-World War II era. (See the article called “The New Idea Company [Part II]: The Model 6A Cornpicker” contained in the November/December, 1998 issue of Belt Pulley magazine located at page 26.) The Model 6A was widely recognized as the best corn picker on the market during this time, exactly because of the picker’s clean husking. The New Idea Model 6A corn picker boasted an elaborate husking bed made up of eight (8) rubber and steel husking rollers. In action, the large capacity elevator on the Model 6A corn picker would carry all the freshly snapped and un-husked ears of corn to a series of parallel chutes located on the upper end of the tilted husking bed. There, the ears would drop down into one of the series of chutes and be channeled, length-wise and in single file into a particular path across the husking bed. Two-spinning rollers operated together on every particular path across the husking bed. The two rollers would spin each ear of corn in the path across husking bed and quickly snatch off the husks covering the ear. A series of powered paddle wheels located over the husking bed held each ear of corn against the husking bed to aide in the removal of the husks. Once removed from the ear, the husks would be deposited on a conveyor located under the husking bed and would be moved along the conveyor to be deposited on the ground behind the right wheel of the picker. In this location, adjacent to the next unpicked row, the moisture absorbing nature of the husks would provide some traction benefits for the right rear tractor wheel on the next round. In extremely muddy conditions the husks would make no difference in the traction needed for that wheel. However, in only slightly wet conditions the husks might help the way a little straw might help with traction. All in all, the Model 6A corn picker was a marvel to watch in operation. (The current author still maintains that the best location for watching the husking bed in operation, on the Model 6A corn picker, was from his favorite childhood location—the front of the corn wagon being towed by the picker.)
The Juberien family like many other farm families was sold on the Model 6A corn picker’s clean picking ability. However, the horsepower requirements of the Model 6A were beyond the capabilities of the Allis-Chalmers Model WC tractor. Consequently, the same year that the Model 6A was purchased, Henry Juberien and his sons purchased a larger and more powerful tractor—an Allis-Chalmers Model WD tractor. The new WD had a maximum drawbar horsepower rating of 32 hp.—as opposed to a maximum of 24 hp. at the drawbar for the Model WC tractor. The new WD tractor had all the muscule necessary to power the Model 6A, but the new tractor was also handy to use on the 6A and other power take-off (PTO) equipment for another reason. Unlike the Model WC tractor the Model WD tractor featured two-stage hand/foot clutch. This feature allowed the operator of the WD tractor to pull half way back on the hand clutch and disengage the forward speed of the tractor without disengaging the PTO of the tractor. Although not a “live power” feature which would become common on later models of tractors, this hand clutch feature had the same advantages of a live power option. When the large two-row New Idea Model 6A corn picker moved into some thick corn, Henry and/or his sons needed only to pull back half-way on the hand clutch to stop the forward movement of the tractor and the corn picker without stopping the operation of the picker itself. The picker could then be allowed to clear itself of corn before the hand clutch could be pushed forward to allow the tractor to move forward again. In this way the Model 6A could inch through a heavy spot in the corn. Over the years, this feature proved itself to be a worthwhile feature—especially in bumper crops of corn, like the harvest of 1952, when Nicollet County farmers averaged 62 bushels of corn per acre and the county as a whole produced a new record 4,154,000 bushels of corn in total production.
Because of the clean picking ability of the Model 6A, the pull-type corn picker was used for all the picking on the Juberien farm, except the picking that was required to open the individual corn fields on the farm. For this job the Model 33 mounted corn picker was retained by the Juberien family. Like wise, the more powerful engine of the Model WD tractor and the modern, convenient features of the new tractor, made the WD much more useful around the farm than the old WC. As the years went by the Model 33 was left mounted on the old WC tractor year around. The old tractor and mounted picker were used only once a year, to open the corn fields to allow the pull-type Model 6A to be used in the field without the need of running down any corn on the initial rounds.
As the years passed, changes occurred in the Juberien corn farming operation as corn combines replaced the picking of corn by the ear. Soon the old WC and the Model 33 corn picker were forgotten in the back of the machine shed. Henry Albert married and moved from the farm in 1957. That same year, the youngest Juberien son, Wallace, also married Gladys Birr. Wallace and Gladys took over the farming operation on the Juberien farm. Unfortunately, Wallace became ill with cancer and died on October 26, 1981. The home farm was rented out to support Henry and Emma in retirement. An auction of all farm machinery was held. Only the Model WC and the mounted picker were withheld from the sale. Some time later, Gladys married Jim Erickson. Jim worked as a truck driver for the Hiniker Cab Company of Mankato, Minnesota. Also working for the Hiniker Company was Gene Germscheid of Madison Lake, Minnesota, member of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association and an antique tractor enthusiast with a particular interest in Allis-Chalmers tractors. Talking with Gene, Jim Erickson happened to mention the WC and the mounted two-row corn picker. Gene was interested and eventually purchased the old Allis-Chalmers tractor and corn picker. He took the tractor back to his farm in Washington Township, LeSueur County, near Madison Lake, Minnesota. There he restored the tractor and corn picker. Gene showed the WC with the corn picker at the annual show of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association—particularly the 1994 show which featured Allis-Chalmers tractors and farm equipment. (At the 1994 show, the current author first saw the WC tractor with the corn picker and took extensive pictures of the machine.) Since that time the tractor and corn picker has been sold by Gene Germscheid to another collector in Henning, Minnesota.
The LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association will once again be featuring Allis-Chalmers equipment at it 2007 annual show held on August 24-26, 2007. We hope to see you there.
(Postscript: This article is dedicated to James Mathew [Jim] Juberien who died prematurely on March 3, 2007. Jim Juberien was a nephew of Henry Juberien and first cousin to Marvin Peter Juberien and Wallace Juberien and all their siblings. The current author worked with Jim Juberien when he drove a bulk milk truck for the St. Peter Creamery in 1969-1970. Jim was the regular driver during the week and the current author was the relief driver on the weekends.)