The Super Six Company of Minneapolis Minnesota: Tractor-Mounted Hydraulic Loaders for the Modern Farm
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the September/October 1997 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
(This article was also published in an issue of
Antique Power Magazine)
As with so many farm equipment companies, the Super Six Company originated in the machine shed of a farmer who had an idea. The farmer in this case was Leo Pfau who farmed near St. Cloud, Minnesota. Leo Pfau had built a tractor loader for his row-crop tractor on his own farm. In 1945, D.F. Hamacheck became acquainted with Leo Pfau’s tractor loader and realized the potential for manufacturing it for the farm market. D.F. Hamacheck was the owner and operator of Central Motor Sales, a Chrysler-Plymouth dealership in the 900 block of 20th Avenue Northeast in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Together, Leo Pfau and D.F. Hamacheck decided to manufacture and market the tractor loader which was eventually designated the Model 45 loader.
Anticipating the approaching end of the Second World War, D.F. Hamacheck brought together five other investors–Archie Erickson, William (Bill) Olson, W.N. Williams, George Miller and one other person–who along with himself formed the Super Six Manufacturing Company for the purpose of manufacturing Leo Pfau’s loader. The origin of the name “Super Six” is unknown, but probably refers to the fact that the company was originally formed by six investors. The investors correctly foresaw that the end of the war would release a huge demand for farm machines, like tractor loaders, which had been pent up by rationing during the war.
The new company began with the purchase of property at 946 20th Avenue Northeast, directly across the street from Central Motor Sales. (It was suspected by Super Six employees that this site was selected because D.F. Hamacheck wanted to keep an eye on the operations at Super Six!) This site became the offices and shop of the engineering department of the Super Six Company. Jack Mayer was hired on May 21, 1945, to head the engineering department. Bernard (Bernie) Larson, Cliff Merkel, Jim Kruse, Cyril Merkel, Jack Smith, Ed Behrends, Paul Trombley and others were all added to the engineering department prior of 1947. When LeRoy Meyer joined the engineering department on June 11, 1947, the company was already well established. At that time, the sales department of the company was headed by W.L. Murphy and Jack Smith. Carl Hall led the purchasing and purchasing control departments, Joe Grivan headed the machine shop, and Carl Erickson ran the engineering shop.
Manufacturing of the Model 45 loaders began at the Super Six factory located at 4026 Washington Avenue North in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Before too long, however, problems would develop. Farmers soon found that the hydraulic cylinders of the loader, which were connected directly to the axles of the tractor, put a great deal of stress on the castings of the rear axle of the tractor when the loader was lifted. Cracks and breakage of rear end castings and axle housings became an all to common occurrence in the field. The engineering department solved this problem by adding a “length bar” to each side of the loader. This length bar would connect to the axle housings of the tractor, and the cylinders on each side were then connected to the length bar. The stress created during lifting of the loader was then confined to the loader itself, rather than being transferred to the tractor’s rear axle housing. This improved design would be called the Model D-96 loader.
The D-96 went into production in place of the Model 45 prior to 1948. Later, the D-96 was further improved and became known as the Model 48 (or Senior) loader, which stayed in the Super Six line until 1960 and was a very popular design.
The Senior loader was built with a low profile and could fit a wide variety of row-crop tractors, including the Allis Chalmers UC, WC, and WD; the Case CC, DC, and SC; the Coop E-3; the Gamble 30; the Cockshutt 30; the Cockshutt 40-Row Crop; the Farmall H, M, Super MTA-Row Crop, F-20, F-30 and Regular; the John Deere A, B, G, GM, 50, 60, and 70; the Minneapolis-Moline UB, UTU, ZTU, and RTU; and the Oliver 70, 77, and 88. Furthermore, the Senior loader and its Super Six predecessors were somewhat unique for loader designs of the time in that the Senior loader had hydraulic cylinders on each side–unlike the early loader manufactured by the Schwartz Company of Lester Prairie, Minnesota, which had a single hydraulic cylinder in the front of the tractor to lift the loader via short chains attached to the arms of the loader. Additionally, the cylinders on Super Six loaders were located low on the tractor, and they operated parallel to the ground when raising the bucket of the loader. Thus, the bucket was usually the highest point on the tractor when carrying the load in the bucket. The design of the Super Six loaders was, therefore, much improved over the competitive loaders of both Schwartz and the Horn Manufacturing Company of Fort Dodge, Iowa, in that the Super Six loaders could be easily maneuvered in and out of most barns and sheds in the late 1940s and the 1950s. At a time when the interiors of these buildings had been constructed with ceilings no higher than the head of a horse, the low profile of the Senior loader allowed even old buildings to be cleaned with the tractor and loader rather than the pitchfork. (The history of the Horn Company and a discussion of their tractor-mounted loaders is contained in the Winter 1995 issue of the Hart-Parr/Oliver Collector magazine.)
Super Six loaders were designed to be powered hydraulically. Considering the fact that Allis-Chalmers offered hydraulics only in 1948 and Case only in 1952, the Super Six Company seemed to be writing off a large portion of the market by producing hydraulic loaders exclusively. To solve this problem, the Super Six Company developed a strong relationship with the Char-Lynn Company, also from Minneapolis, Minnesota, which was becoming a leading manufacturer of hydraulic pumps for tractors. Thus over the years, Super Six and Char-Lynn sold many pumps and loaders together for farmers owning tractors without hydraulics. In the early years of Super Six, 75% of all loaders sold included a Char-Lynn hydraulic pump in the sale. Most of the Char-Lynn pumps sold in combination with the loaders were Char-Lynn’s most popular model–the model that fit directly onto the power takeoff of the tractor. The relationship between the companies was so close that the decals for both companies were designed by the same advertising agency.
The model Senior loader was followed by a similar design made for smaller tractors. This model was called the Junior and was intended to fit the Allis-Chalmers C, the Case VAC, the Farmall B, and similar small row-crop tractors. The bulk of these tractors did not have factory installed hydraulic systems and would have to depend on Char-Lynn pumps or some other auxiliary system of hydraulics which could be retrofitted to the tractor. In the end, the Junior loader was never a very popular design and was removed from production by the company.
Both the Senior and Junior loaders were designed with lift-arms which pivoted on a shaft attached to the tractor by mounting brackets located just behind the front wheels. The pivot shaft was held at its position just under the frame of the tractor by two mounting brackets at which the lift occurred. When the bucket was raised, this point was the center of an arc made by the bucket. On smaller tractors, such as the Allis-Chalmers C or CA, Case VC or VAC, or the Farmall B or C, the center of this arc–the pivot shaft location–was located closer to the ground than on larger tractors. According to former Super Six engineer LeRoy Meyer, when the bucket was down, the Junior loader would extend too far out in front of the tractor. When the bucket was raised to a useful height, the bucket was too close to the front of the tractor and would tend to dump the bucket load on the front grill of the tractor.
Both the Senior and Junior loaders were designed for row-crop tractors only. For those farmers who had standard tread or adjustable wide-front tractors, the Super Six Company developed the Atlas and Master loaders. The boom-arms on these loaders were bent so that they would fit over the front axle of the tractor. Although the pivot points of the loaders were located at a position between the engine and the gas tank of the tractor, the overall profile of the loader was low because the pivot points were raised only enough to allow the booms to clear the front axle of a wide-front tractor.
The loaders of the Super Six line were painted a very bright red and marketed through wholesalers around the nation with Super Six decals. The shade of red paint used was very close to Farmall red (IHC-2150, PPG-Ditzler 71310 or Martin-Senour 99-4115). Some of the wholesale organizations were J.A. Woodhouse in upstate New York; R.C.Cropper in Macon, Georgia; Lindsay Bros. of Minneapolis, Minnesota; and the Stover Company in Indiana. Also, some Super Six loaders were sold under the David Bradley name through the Sears and Roebuck catalogue.
In 1947, Super Six Senior and Master loaders were taken to Canada to be mounted on Massey Harris tractors and demonstrated for officials of the Massey-Harris Company. Chief Engineer Jack Mayer went with the Super Six delegation on this trip which proved to be the beginning of a very successful relationship with the Massey-Harris Company. In 1948, Super Six began selling its line of loaders at Massey-Harris retail outlets in Canada. Sold under the name “Super Six” through the large Canadian retail network of Massey-Harris dealerships, Super Six gained wide exposure to the Canadian farm market.
In the United States, the Massey-Harris (USA) retail organization was a separate entity from the Massey-Harrris retail organization in Canada, and it was not until 1950 that a demonstration of the Super Six line of loaders was organized in Delevan, Wisconsin, for the officials of Massey-Harris (USA). Super Six sales representative Alec Scott was one of the organizers of the Delevan demonstration which resulted in a long-term contract between the Super Six Company and Massey-Harris (USA) whereby Super Six would supply Massey-Harris (USA) with loaders to be repainted Massey-Harris red (Martin-Senour 90R-3743) and decaled with the name Massey-Harris. Massey-Harris Company (USA) contracted with Super Six for three loader designs: the Atlas loader (to be sold as the Massey-Harris No. 1 loader); the Master loader (to be sold as the Massey-Harris No. 10 loader); and the Senior loader (to be sold as the Massey-Harris No. 5 loader). The lighter weight Atlas, or Massey-Harris No. 1 loader, was to be matched with the Massey Harris Model 30 and Model 22 tractors. The heavier Master, or Massey-Harris No. 10 loader, would be matched to the wide front or standard Massey-Harris Model 44 and the Massey-Harris Model 55 tractors. The Senior, or Massey-Harris No. 5 loader, would be matched with the row-crop versions of Massey-Harris Model 44 and Model 30 tractors. (The Massey-Harris No. 10 loader can be seen on a Massey-Harris 55 in a picture on page 116 of C.H. Wendel’s book called Massey Tractors.)
The Massey-Harris Company in the United States and in Canada became the largest single customer of Super Six loaders and would remain so even after the merger of Massey-Harris and Ferguson and the Massey-Harris line of equipment was phased out in 1958 by the new combined entity–the Massey-Ferguson Company.
Following the initiation of its long-term contract with the Massey-Harris Company, Super Six changed the color of all of its loaders to Massey-Harris red–even the loaders sold under the Super Six name. This color change was done to simplify the manufacturing process.
From the very first, the Super Six Company recognized the importance of advertising at fairs and shows. One of the largest agricultural fairs in the nation at that time was the Minnesota State Fair located in St. Paul, very close to the Minneapolis factory and headquarters of the Super Six Company. Thus, the company sought a lot on the fairgrounds to advertise its loaders. For the first couple of years, Super Six shared a site at the fair with the company’s Minnesota distributor–Lindsay Bros. Company. (Minnesota State Fair visitors will remember that Lindsay Bros. occupied a site on Wright Avenue on “Machinery Hill” at the fairgrounds.) However, due to a shortage of space at the Lindsay Bros. site, Super Six moved around the corner and up Cooper Street, one block south of the John Deere Tower on Machinery Hill. This site had been used by the Jacobs Windmill Company; consequently, there was a windmill permanently installed on the site. To best utilize the windmill to advertise Super Six loaders, signs were attached to the upper portion of the tower, and at the very top a Super Six sign revolved in the wind. Working at the fair site in shifts throughout the nine days of the Fair, it became the task of one of the Super Six employees to crawl to the top of the windmill and attach the signs at the beginning of the fair and then to crawl to the top again at the end of the fair to take the signs down again.
In about 1952, Jack Mayer, Chief Engineer at Super Six Company, found that many other loader designs were raising the pivot point of the booms. The raised pivot point allowed the bucket to reach higher at full extension without having the bucket stick out in front of the tractor too far when in the lowered position. Realizing the advantages of the raised pivot points, Jack set about to redesign the Atlas and Master models to raise the pivot points.
The headlights on the Massey-Harris Models 30, 44 and 55 tractors were located on the fenders and did not interfere with the booms of the Super Six loaders. However, the Massey-Harris 22 presented a problem in that its headlights jutted out from the sides of the tractor just ahead of the gas tank. In this location, the lights interfered with the booms of the No. 1 loader; therefore, removal of the headlights was necessary before mounting the loader. (An Atlas loader mounted on the Massey-Harris 22 with the headlights removed can be seen in the 1950 Massey-Harris movie World of Power available from Keith Oltrogge, P.O. Box 529; Denver, Iowa 50622-0529, Telephone (319) 984-5292. The viewer will note that the Massey-Harris 22 in the movie had been equipped for lights because the brackets can still be seen on the sides of the tractor.) In about 1952, Massey-Harris contracted with Super Six to design and build another loader specifically for the Massey-Harris Model 22 tractor as well as its successors, the Mustang and the Colt, which were introduced in 1952. The position of the headlights on the Massey-Harris Mustang and Colt was left unchanged from the 22, and therefore presented the same problems as did the Atlas loader on these tractors. This loader, when built, was sold by Massey-Harris as the No. 2 loader and would feature the newly raised pivot point design. The loader, although made by Super Six, would be sold only by Massey Harris. (A picture of the No. 2 loader can be seen in an advertisement from Massey-Harris pictured on page 115 of C.H. Wendel’s book–Massey Tractors.)
Meanwhile, Wayne and Marilyn (Hanks) Wells, who owned 160 acres about three miles northeast of LeRoy, Minnesota, were running a diversified farming operation which included dairy, hogs, and chickens. In the summer of 1954, Wayne would improve the dairy operation on the farm by adding a milking parlor to the dairy barn. This milking parlor contained three milking stanchions. All of the old stanchions in the barn were removed and the entire space was converted into a holding area for the milking cows, a calf pen, and a shelter for pregnant cows. This greatly increased the area of the barn to be cleaned. No longer were there gutters to be cleaned out every day; rather, the entire area of the barn would be left until spring and cleaned once a year. During the initial planning for the milking parlor addition, it was realized that the spring cleaning of the barn would be a task well beyond the scope of a pitchfork! Therefore, Wayne began to look around for a manure loader that could be mounted on his 1950 Farmall M (bearing the serial number 218137).
Wayne became aware that Marzolf Implement, an Allis-Chalmers dealership in Spring Valley, Minnesota, had a used loader that would fit many different models of row crop tractors. And so just as the finishing touches were being made to the milking parlor, Wayne took his five-year-old son, Brian (the present author), and drove five miles to Spring Valley, Minnesota. At that time, Marzolf Implement was located near a little creek that ran through the center of town. Marzolf’s used machinery lot was on the opposite side of the creek from their building. There, among the weeds in the used machinery lot, they found a used Massey-Harris No. 5 loader, one of the Senior loaders manufactured by Super Six that had been sold to Massey-Harris (USA). With very little conversion, the loader could be made to fit the Wells family’s Farmall M. Thus, the loader was purchased. All Super Six loaders were designed to disassemble easily into relatively small parts for shipping. This feature was especially appreciated when it came time to fit the loader into a small, two-wheeled trailer owned by the Wells family. The loader’s boom arms and bucket were disconnected from the length arms and cylinders, and the whole loader was put into the trailer.
Once the loader was taken back to the Wells farm, the loader was modified only slightly to fit the Wells’ Farmall M. Over the next several years it was used with the Farmall M on a regular basis to clean the barn. Once the tractor muffler had been removed, the highest point on the tractor and loader was the operator’s head and the steering wheel. The tractor fit nicely into the low ceiling barn on the Wells farm. In 1959, the chicken house on the Wells farm was modified to allow access for the tractor and loader to ease the cleaning of that building. Only the old hog house remained inaccessible to the tractor and loader. The hog house seemed to defy any reasonable plan of modification to permit access of the tractor and loader.
Eventually, Wayne would find many other uses for the loader. He used his electric welder to construct a large snow bucket to aid in snow removal in the wintertime. Later, Wayne found that this snow bucket was built too big for the lifting capacity of the loader, as the hydraulic cylinders could not lift the bucket when it was full of snow. Nonetheless, after some practice, he soon learned how to pile up snow with the loader by dumping the bucket before it became totally full.
Because the Massey-Harris/Super Six loader was one of the first loaders in the neighborhood, many neighbors requested use of the loader. Marilyn’s parents, the Howard Hanks family, having settled on the Bagan farm in the same neighborhood, also borrowed the loader and Farmall M on occasion to clean manure out of the north side of their barn. The M and the loader were also used to help raise the rafters at the new Presbyterian Church that was built by the congregation at LeRoy, Minnesota, in 1959-1960.
On February 12, 1965, Fred Hanks, now living on the Bagan farm, purchased the loader from the Wells family. At this time, the versatility of the Super Six loader became apparent. Occasionally, the loader was mounted on Fred Hanks’ 1951 Massey-Harris 44, but the loader was more frequently mounted on the 1945 John Deere A (All Fuel) tractor that the family owned. The 1945 John Deere A and a 1949 John Deere A (purchased later) were most commonly used with the Massey-Harris No. 5/Super Six loader until Fred Hanks bought a new John Deere Model 45 loader in 1974 to fit their 1970 John Deere 4020.
Currently, the old Massey-Harris No. 5/Super Six Senior loader remains on the Hanks farm in a grove. It has not been used since 1974 when the new John Deere loader was purchased. Recently, however, the venerable old loader has become the focus of attention as a potential restoration project. The loader may be fitted with reconditioned cylinders and repainted in the workshop on the original Bagan farm or in the workshop on the Robin Hanks farm, one mile southeast of the original Bagan farm. Because of the versatility designed into Super Six loaders, it would easily fit any one of the family’s restored row-crop tractors.
Over the years, changes occurred in the line of loaders offered by the Super Six Company. Although the new loader designs with the high pivot points introduced in 1952 (the 2000-lb. capacity Hi-Boy and the 3000-lb. capacity Chief) were intended to replace the 800-lb. capacity Atlas and the 2000-lb. capacity Master, a piece of 1954 literature shows that the low pivot point loaders were still being offered by Super Six at that time. Eventually, however, the high pivot point design became the design of choice of all loader manufacturers, and all other designs disappeared.
Although Massey-Harris merged with Ferguson in 1953, Massey-Harris continued as a separate line of equipment within the new company until 1958. In 1958, however, a whole new line of tractors was introduced under the name Massey-Ferguson and a decision was made by Massey-Ferguson’s management to begin making its own loaders. Accordingly, Massey-Ferguson did not renew their contract with Super Six after 1958.
Nonetheless, Super Six continued to sell loaders under its own name and continued to occupy its site at the Minnesota State Fair until 1960, when they were sold to the Daffin Corporation of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the parent company of the Farmhand Company. Daffin Corporation reduced its line of Super Six loaders to two designs: the Model 119, which was an improved version of the Chief loader; and the Model 120, which was the upgraded version of the Champ loader. These loaders continued to be sold by Daffin, or Farmhand, as “Super Six” loaders for a few years after 1960. A price list dated April of 1965 reveals that at that time the Daffin company was still selling all the parts necessary for the entire line of Super Six loaders. Other changes occurred along the way, however. LeRoy Meyer, long-time employee in the engineering department at the Super Six Company, accepted a job in the engineering department of the Schwartz Manufacturing Company of Lester Prairie, Minnesota.
Under the Daffin Company, the color of the “Super Six” loaders was changed from Massey-Harris red (which had continued to be the official color of the loaders even following the expiration of the Massey-Harris contract in 1958) to the bright red that matched the machinery in the Farmhand line. The shade of Farmhand red is also very close to Farmall red. In a sense, the Super Six loaders were returning to their original color. Later, however, the Models 119 and 120 loaders were completely merged with the loaders offered in the Farmhand line of equipment and all residuals of the Super Six Company disappeared entirely. Nonetheless, restorers of Super Six loaders can still contact Farmhand, Inc., at Grinnell, Iowa, Telephone (515) 236-6571, regarding the availability of any parts which may still be obtainable for the various models of Super Six loaders.
Although the Super Six Company may not be an active company anymore, there are many Super Six loaders still around the countryside, laying out in groves around the nation, each one waiting to be found by a farm equipment restorer. Restoration of these loaders would not only add to the flood of memories that people feel when they see them, but will also serve as a continuing signpost of the company that made the loader. There can be no better tribute to the memory of the Super Six Company than restoration of one of its loaders.
One of these restored Super Six loader is the Model “Senior” that has been restored and mounted on a 1939 Farmall F-20 which is currently owned by Raymond and Marie (Fink) Barker of Fort Scott, Kansas. This F-20 and the Model Senior loader was originally owned by Marie Barker’s father A. G. Fink, who farmed near the town of Moran, Kansas in neighboring Allen County, Kansas.