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The David Bradley Company (Part II): Tractors and Wagons

HISTORY OF THE DAVID BRADLEY COMPANY (PART II):

                                  TRACTORS AND WAGONS

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the November/December 1999 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

The large David Bradley factory works in Bradley, Illinois.

 

By the time Sears Roebuck bought out the David Bradley Manufacturing Company in 1910, the “David Bradley” name was already associated with a wide range of different farm machinery products manufactured at its site in Bradley, Illinois. Nonetheless, the company remained small and relatively unknown outside its local market. Its connection with the Sears mail-order system, however, changed all that. Once David Bradley farm implements were offered to the public through Sears catalogue, David Bradley became a household name across the nation.

After Sears purchased the company, it added a great number of farm implements to the David Bradley line of equipment. Many of these implements were manufactured by other companies and merely sold under the David Bradley name. Soon these implements out-numbered products actually manufactured by the David Bradley Works. Nevertheless, whether made by the David Bradley Works or by someone else and merely sold under the David Bradley name, some products became very popular with farmers. Two examples were the very popular David Bradley garden tractor and the David Bradley farm wagon gear and wagon box. The garden tractor was a product manufactured at the David Bradley Works in Bradley, while the widely-sold David Bradley wagon was an example of one of the products made by another company and sold under the David Bradley name.

The wooden flare box manufactured by David Bradley was painted green as were nearly all makes and models of wagon boxes prior to the Second World War.

In 1938, Sears attempted to add a farm tractor to the David Bradley line. This tractor, called the Graham Bradley, was manufactured by the Graham Paige Motors Corporation and sold Continue reading The David Bradley Company (Part II): Tractors and Wagons

Belle City Manufacturing Company (Part I)

 

The Belle City Manufacturing Company (Part I)

by

Brian Wayne Wells

  with the assistance of

Del Gendner of Grand Prairie, Texas

Joe Thome of Racine, Wisconsin

Bob S. McFarland of Sauk City, Wisconsin

Ed Mortensen of Racine, Wisconsin

and

Gary Oechsner of Fond-du-Lac, Wisconsin

 As published in the May/June 1999 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

Belle City logo and sign from 1930.

 

(NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Brian Wells relates to us that this is a significant article in one very important way: It is the first truly “interactive article” he has written. Brian says that this article could not have been written without the help of Belt Pulley readers who responded to requests for information on the Belle City Company. When all of his usual sources–local public libraries, local and state historical societies–had failed him in his pursuit of information on this company, only the responses from readers made this article possible. Thus, Belt Pulley has becomes a forum of two-way communication–an interactive magazine. We hope this trend will continue and grow. As noted in our last issue, Brian has been attempting to write an article on the Wood Brothers Threshing Company of Des Moines, Iowa. Once again, a search of his usual sources has yielded very little information. Brian relates that he has received some calls and letters from readers with good information; however, he is still looking for material on the corporate history of the Wood Brothers Company.)

In 1878, David Lawton was already the owner of a successful flour, feed and implement store in Racine, Wisconsin, when he started a manufacturing concern called the David Lawton Company. The company was first located at 300 Fourth Street in Racine where it began manufacturing feed cutters for the growing Midwest farm market. The feed cutter, or ensilage and fodder cutter, was a small machine, about the size of a typical fanning mill, made of wood, with a long elevator attached to the rear of the machine which could raise the chopped ensilage up into the barn or silo. (An 1886 advertisement for a feed cutter shows it being powered by a two-horse treadmill. One of these Belle City machines is owned by Paul Coussens of South Bend, Indiana. Paul and his son, Daniel, are currently attempting to restore this very early product of the Belle City line of farm machinery.)

 

An advertisement of Belle City threshers, dating from 1902, which also shows the Belle City ensilage cutter.

 

In 1882, the David Lawton Company merged with the Racine Brake Company to become the Belle City Manufacturing Company, formed under the corporate laws of Wisconsin, with $30,000.00 in capital. David Lawton became President of the new company, with Frank K. Bull, a former owner of the Racine Brake Company, as Vice-President, and L.E. Jones as Secretary/Treasurer. At the same time as he became vice president, Frank Bull was serving as Continue reading Belle City Manufacturing Company (Part I)

The Belle City Manufacturing Company (Part II)

The Belle City Manufacturing Company

                                                                     by

Brian Wayne Wells

                                                     with the assistance of
                                      Del Gendner of Grand Prairie, Texas

                                        Joe Thome of Racine, Wisconsin

                                  Bob S. McFarland of Sauk City, Wisconsin

                                       Ed Mortensen of Racine, Wisconsin

                                                                    and

                                   Gary Oechsner of Fon-du-Lac, Wisconsin

As published in the July/August 1999 issue of 
Belt Pulley Magazine

 

          (NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Brian Wells relates to us that he was able to write the history of the Belle City Company only with the help of the reading public of the Belt Pulley magazine. Thus, this is the first truly “interactive article” Brian has written. We hope this trend will continue and grow. As you know, Brian has been attempting to write an article on the Wood Brothers Threshing Company of Des Moines, Iowa. He is also doing some research on the Rosenthal Cornhusker Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the Electric Wheel Company of Quincy, Illinois. He would appreciate any material on the corporate history of any of these companies.)

 

          All through the 1930s, the Belle City Company enjoyed access to the farm equipment market through the distribution and dealership network of the tractor division of the Ford Motor Company. However, with the introduction of the new Ford/Ferguson 9N in 1939, Ford gravitated toward the Woods Brothers Threshing Company of Des Moines, Iowa. Woods Bros., of course, manufactured the famous “Humming Bird” thresher which was offered in the 21″ x 36″, 26″ x 46″, 28 x 46″ and 30″ by 50″ sizes. (Robert N. Pripps and Andrew Moreland, Threshers [Motorbooks International: Osceola, Wisc. 1992] p. 122.) These threshers covered the entire gambit of the small thresher market, and Ford had no further need of the joint venture with Belle City. Thus, after 1938, Belle City was on its own, and had to start advertising independent of Ford.

          At first, Belle City suffered from the lack of the dealership network which it had enjoyed under its contract with IHC during the 1920s and with Ford during the 1930s. Fortunately, however, Belle City had insisted that the slogan “Belle City Built” appear on all its threshers sold by Ford and International Harvester Company. Thus, farmers had become so familiar with seeing that slogan on its threshers that, both during the contract with IHC prior to 1926 and during the joint venture with Ford, farmers began to insist that their threshers be stamped “Belle City Built” if their new thresher had slipped through manufacture without that slogan stenciled on the sides. Consequently, by 1939, when the company had to go it alone as far as advertising, sales, and distribution, Belle City had already succeeded in becoming somewhat of a household name with farmers in the upper midwest.

          Among the advertising possibilities for Belle City was the Wisconsin State Fair held on a 200-acre site in West Allis, Wisconsin. In the years just prior to the Second World War, the Wisconsin State Fair consisted largely of tents. There were very few permanent structures. However, it was a very popular event with Continue reading The Belle City Manufacturing Company (Part II)

The Family’s First New Tractor: The Ford 8N

The Family’s First New Tractor: the Ford 8N

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the March/April 1999 issue of

 Belt Pulley  Magazine         

 

The evening milking was all done and the family had eaten their supper. In the farm house on the hill overlooking the snow-covered fields of western Fillmore County in southeastern Minnesota in January of 1948, Howard and Ethel Hanks sat down with their eldest son Fred to review their farming operation and to make plans for the coming spring. As related elsewhere (See “The Case NCM and a Family’s Crucial Year” in the January/February 1995 issue of Belt Pulley, Vol. 8, No. 1, p. 31. and the article on the Ford/Ferguson 2N in the January/February 1998 issue of Belt Pulley Vol. 12, No. 1.), 1947 had been a critical year for the Hanks family. The spring of 1947 had started with such miserable prospects and had gotten worse as the year progressed because of the unrelenting rain. However, in July the rains had stopped and the rest of the year was almost perfect. As a consequence, the Hanks family had gotten all their crops harvested before the snow started falling on the evening of November 14, 1947.

          Now in mid-January 1948, as the family gathered around the table discussing the upcoming year, the short winter day had ended and it was already dark. Howard lit a lantern and placed it on the table. (Rural Electric Association (REA) service would not reach this area of Beaver Township in Fillmore County until February of 1949). The family realized that their financial position was somewhat more secure than it had been in the previous year, thanks both to the weather and the gamble the family had taken in purchasing a Case NCM baler to perform some custom baling. As noted in a previous article (January/February 1998 issue of Belt Pulley Vol. 12, No. 1.), the baler had been purchased together with a Ford/Ferguson 2N and a series of accompanying Ford/Ferguson implements.

          The Hanks family and Howard and Ethel’s, son-in-law Wayne Wells, had used the 2N and the Case baler to augment their farm income through custom baling of hay and straw in the neighborhood. Howard and Ethel’s 11-year-old son John had driven the 2N around and around many a hay field in the neighborhood. The used Ford\Ferguson 2N and the Case NCM baler that they had purchased in the spring of 1947 had really saved the family from financial ruin. The 2N was a good match for the Case NCM baler in terms of the proper slow speeds for the field. Furthermore, the addition of the Sherman step-up auxiliary unit to the transmission had meant that the little tractor would waste less time in moving the baler and hay racks around the neighborhood, helping the Hanks family complete all the custom baling that the family had contracted that year.

          Now, as Howard, Ethel and Fred sat by the kitchen table, they realized that they would need to do a good deal of custom baling again in 1948 to further consolidate their economic position on the farm. They looked at the potential manpower that they would have available for custom baling and they also looked at their current farm equipment. Although there had been substantial changes in the family over the last year, with three marriages in a single year (Bruce Hanks in April, Lorraine (Hanks) Westfall in June and Marilyn (Hanks) Wells in July), one strong point remained in favor of the Hanks family: the number of people available to help out in the busy summer season. On this particular night in January, Howard and Ethel’s youngest daughter, Hildreth, was not in the house. Currently, she was involved in school activities as a member of the LeRoy High School Cardinal annual staff which involved many meetings after school hours. Hildreth intended to join her brother Bruce at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago in the fall of 1948. In the interim, however, Hildreth would be available to help the family for the summer.

          Wayne Wells, who had originally proposed the idea of purchasing the Case NCM baler to his brothers-in-law Fred and Bruce Hanks, was now farming on his parents’ farm two miles to the west of the Hanks farm. He had owned 1/3 interest in the baler and the Ford/Ferguson 2N tractor together with Fred and Bruce. He had cooperated with the Hanks family during baling season and also with the custom baling they did in 1947 and would do so again in the coming year.  

          Besides Fred, young John, and son-in-law Wayne Wells, Howard and Ethel’s second son Bruce would be available during the month of August. While Bruce’s course of study at Moody occupied the entire year, the month of August was summer vacation. Bruce and Mary intended to return to the farm in LeRoy in August of 1948 and for each year after until Bruce graduated. Therefore, Bruce would also be available to help out on the farm for one very busy month of the summer season.  

          Additionally, the Hanks family knew they would probably have to hire some help just as they had in 1947. Accordingly, the family assumed that they would again be hiring Keith Hall, Billy Blade and some other high school age boys from the town of LeRoy to help out at different times during the year when the workload was the heaviest.

          In a review of their farm machinery, the Hanks family began considering the little 2N tractor. While the Ford\Ferguson 2N had served the family well in the previous year, the little gray tractor did have its imperfections. One of the most striking shortcomings of the Ford 2N which was noted by the Hanks family was the awkward arrangement of its operator foot brake pedals. As pointed out in a previous article (January/February 1998 issue of Belt Pulley Vol. 12, No. 1.), the Ford Company designed their tractors to have a low center of gravity. While this was an appealing feature, especially where farming was conducted on steep, hilly fields, the low center of gravity was obtained by having the operator of the tractor straddle the power train, with one foot on the right side and one foot on the left side of the transmission. Like the Ford/Ferguson 9N which had preceded the 2N in production, in addition to the left-side brake pedal being located on the left side of the tractor, the foot clutch of the 9N and 2N was also located on the left side of the tractor. For sharp left turns from a dead stop, the operator was already using his left foot to release the clutch and therefore could not engage the left brake to aid in a turn. This was a definite disadvantage when pulling the manure spreader in the cow yard and positioning it near the barn for loading from the manure carrier, when backing any farm wagons or other farm implements around the yard, or when making sharp turns in the fields while cultivating corn or beans. Additionally, although the Model 2N had been equipped with the auxiliary Sherman Step-Up transmission, the little three-speed transmission was still out of date.

          In the fall and winter months of 1947-1948, Fred was attracted by information about the new Ford tractor–the Model 8N, which had just been introduced. Models of the new red and gray Ford 8N had been on display at Regan’s, the local Ford car and tractor Continue reading The Family’s First New Tractor: The Ford 8N

The Family’s Ford/Ferguson Model 2N

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The Family’s Ford/Ferguson Model 2N

                                                                       by

Brian Wayne Wells

 As published in the January/February 1999 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

The Ford/Ferguson 2N’s stay on the Howard Hanks farm was short. Purchased in the spring of 1947, it was traded in on a new 1948 Ford 8N during the winter of 1947-48. However, it served the family well during a very crucial period in family history. (See “The Case NCM and a Family’s Crucial Year” Belt Pulley January/February 1995, Volume 8, No. 1., p. 31.) By 1947, The Howard and Ethel (Buck) Hanks family had been on their newly purchased 400-acre farm near LeRoy, Minnesota, for only two years. (See “The Wartime Farmall H,” Belt Pulley July/August 1994, Volume 7, No. 4, p. 13). During those two years, the national economy did not cooperate in helping the Hanks family realize much financial gain. As the Second World War ended, there was a general decline in milk prices and prices for pigs, corn, oats and soybeans. It was probably the wrong time to venture out into farm ownership.

Then, too, the rain that had created problems during the harvest season in the fall of 1946 returned unabated in the spring of 1947. The fields and roads were a messy quagmire. The planting of crops was delayed. The Hanks family did not get the last of their soybeans planted until July 6, 1947, and they feared that the crops would not have sufficient time to mature by the time of the first freeze in the fall. The family’s situation was becoming increasingly desperate.

As haying season approached, the Hanks family anticipated storing the loose hay in the barn as they had in past years. They were also planning on cooperating with their new son-in-law, Wayne Wells, during hay season. Wayne Wells was just starting his own farming operation on the 160-acre farm of his parents, George and Louise (Schwark) Wells, located two miles to the west of the Hanks farm. Wayne Wells would be marrying Howard Hanks’ eldest daughter, Marilyn, that summer.

In the early spring, Wayne Wells saw an advertisement for a used Case NCM baler for sale. In addition to modernizing their own hay making operations on the Hanks and Wells farms, Wayne was struck with the idea that the baler could provide the families with an opportunity to earn extra income by doing custom hay and straw baling in the neighborhood. (Wayne had already cooperated with his neighbor Mel Anderson to buy a new Wood Brothers one-row corn picker in the fall of 1946, and had used the corn picker to do custom work in the neighborhood.)

The Case baler was offered for sale by a farmer in Emmetsburg, Iowa. As part of the package deal, the farmer was selling his 1946 Ford/Ferguson 2N. The 2N was also accompanied by a number of Continue reading The Family’s Ford/Ferguson Model 2N

Ottawa Manufacturing Company of Ottawa Kansas

The Ottawa Manufacturing Company of Ottawa Kansas:

The August Reddemann Cross-cut Saw

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the May/June issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

            “As the old saying goes: “Firewood warms you twice; once when you cut it and again when you burn it.”  (Allan A. Swenson, Wood Heat [Fawcett: N.Y., 1979], p. 95.)  In recent years, firewood has taken a backseat to other forms of fuel, e.g., heating oil and natural gas.  However, there once was a time when wood was the only source of fuel available to farm families across the United States.

The job of putting away enough wood for the winter was an onerous task for our ancestors.  In the days before power saws of any sort, families would have to cut and store completely by hand sufficient wood to last out the winter.  Once a tree was felled, the work had only just started.  The farmer and his family would then begin the task of cutting off the brush and small limbs, sawing all the limbs into pieces 16″ to 24″ in length and loading them into a wagon or sled to be hauled to the woodpile near the house.  Gradually, the tree would be reduced to larger limbs and the trunk itself.  This was the point where bowsaws were no longer big enough for cutting up the remainder of the tree, and the family would have to start the hard, tedious process of cutting the large limbs and trunk into manageable pieces with a large two-person saw.

Farm families were constantly striving to find labor-saving methods for performing their farm work.  It is not surprising, then, to find that they were receptive to newer and easier methods of sawing firewood–especially an easier way of sawing the big limbs and the trunk of a tree.  In answer to this need, the Ottawa Manufacturing Company, of Ottawa, Kansas, developed the Ottawa crosscut log saw.

The Ottawa crosscut saw was outfitted with a two and a half or a four horse-power, single-cylinder Ottawa “hit and miss” stationary power unit.  Mounted on two wheels with a frame attached to long handles, the operator would simply use the handles of the Ottawa saw to move the entire unit, just like a wheelbarrel or a two-wheeled cart, to a log lying on the ground, rather than requiring the operator to drag the log to the saw.  Securing the handles on the log at the proper location by the use of cant hooks, the operator would position the blade of the saw to cut off a piece of the log to the desired length.  Next, the operator would turn the wheels of the saw 90 degrees from the transport position to a position parallel to the log.  Then the engine would be engaged, the blade would start moving, and the operator only had to stand back and watch.  The flywheel and pitman of the “hit and miss” engine would push and pull the saw blade back and forth across the log at a rate of up to 140 to 170 strokes per minute.  This certainly was an improvement over crosscutting the entire winter’s supply of wood by hand.

The Ottawa Manufacturing Company was born in 1904 out of the consolidation of other companies owned by the Warner family. Continue reading Ottawa Manufacturing Company of Ottawa Kansas

M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 3): Restoration of the Clark-Christenson Super M and the Jim Ellis 3-bottom McCormick-Deering Plow

The M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 3):

Restoration of the Clark-Christenson 1953 Farmall Super M and the Jim Ellis 3-bottom McCormick-Deering Plow

  by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the March/April 1998 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

            As previously described, the Clark-Christenson Super M (Serial No. 31,634) had spent all of its working life in the community of Blooming Prairie, Minnesota.  (See the article “The M&W Company [PartII]: The Clark-Christenson Tractor” in the November/December 1997 issue of Belt Pulley, Vol. 10, No. 6.)   As you will recall from that article, the Clark-Christenson tractor had sustained a broken bull gear in the rear end of the tractor in 1963, causing a hole to be torn into the underside of the differential housing.  The hole had been fixed by welding, leaving an identifiable scar on the underside of the differential.  In 1992, the tractor was sold and left Blooming Prairie–apparently lost to all those who had any connection with the tractor; in particular, Bill Radil, who had worked with this Super M in the fields in the mid-1980s when he helped out around the Norman Christenson farm.

Over the years, however, Bill Radil, too, had moved from the Blooming Prairie/Hayfield area, and in 1994 was living in Howard Lake, Minnesota.  Because of his continuing interest in antique farm machinery, especially International Harvester machinery, he attended every antique tractor show he could in his area, including the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show in rural LeSueur, Minnesota.  The 1994 Pioneer Power Show brought forth strong, poignant memories for Bill, because his father had died the previous year.  Usually, Bill and his father attended these shows together, but in 1994 Bill returned, this time without his father.  At the 1994 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show, Bill met Wayne Wells, Mark Wells and this author, and participated in the field demonstrations and talked tractors.  After the show, Bill was invited to the Wells house in LeSueur, where he was shown a Farmall Super M which was being overhauled in their garage.  Bill, at that time, was interested in this Farmall to the degree that he was interested in all Farmalls.  However, he soon became more interested when he was told that the Wells family had purchased the tractor from Krampitz Hardware in Blooming Prairie.  As Wayne Wells related that the tractor had come from a brother-in-law of Marvin Krampitz, Bill began to wonder if this tractor might not be the same tractor which he had driven on the Christenson farm.  The point of proof was the welding scar on the underside of the differential left by the broken bull gear.  It was like seeing an old friend from the past.  This was the Clark-Christenson Super M.  The tractor had been sold to Wayne Wells in the summer of 1992 and was taken to LeSueur, where it joined the growing collection of Wells Family Farmalls.  Indeed over the years, the Clark-Christenson Super M has become a favorite of Penny (Ms. Mark) Wells.

When the tractor first arrived in LeSueur, a large part of the restoration had already been accomplished with the overhaul of the engine in 1985 while the tractor was still on the Norman Christenson farm.  At that time, the M&W high compression pistons were removed and replaced by IHC pistons, thus returning the engine to the original configuration it had when the tractor first emerged from the Farmall Works factory in Rock Island, Illinois, in mid-1953.  Removal of the M&W pistons meant a reduction of horsepower from a high of 58 to the original factory rated horsepower of 41.33. (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests [Crestline: Osceola, Wis. 1985], p. 169.)

The Clark-Christenson Super M was afflicted with two typical Farmall problems.  The first such problem was that the hole in the bottom of the clutch pedal which fits around the clutch/brake pedal shaft had worn to a slightly oblong shape, causing the clutch pedal to wobble from side to side.  (This continues to be a common problem with many old Farmall M’s even today.  If the hole becomes very pronounced, the pedal will no longer against the operator’s platform like it is supposed to do when the clutch is engaged.  Instead, the clutch pedal will miss the platform entirely and slide along the side of the platform.)  This problem plagued the Clark-Christenson Super M.  To prevent the clutch from missing the platform, someone had bolted a piece of metal to the operator’s platform to “catch” the clutch pedal.  However, this piece of metal protruded out past the side of the platform.  To really fix the problem and to restore the tractor to its original appearance, this piece of metal was removed.  Then the clutch pedal was also removed, and the hole in the pedal was welded shut and a new hole re-drilled to the proper size of the shaft by neighborhood machinist and Pioneer Power board-member Glendon Braun also of LeSueur.  Additionally, not only had the hole in the clutch pedal on the Super M become worn, but the clutch/brake shaft had also become worn.  To alleviate this problem, Glendon Braun also welded the clutch/brake shaft to build up the diameter of the worn spot on the shaft.  Then he re-turned the shaft on a lathe to bring it down to its proper size again.  (The removal of the clutch pedal and clutch/brake pedal shaft from the Clark-Christenson Super M conducted in April of 1994 can be seen in the second hour portion of Tape # 10 of the International Harvester Promotional Movie Collection.)

The second typical Farmall problem which beset the Clark-Christenson Super M was a leaky radiator core.  Engine vibration on most vehicles will cause stress and cracks to develop in the radiator core.  However, this problem appears to be more pronounced in the “lettered” (M, H, B, etc.) Farmall tractors as compared with other models of tractors, and even as compared with the “F-series” Farmalls.  When the radiator on the Clark-Christenson tractor was removed and taken to the radiator experts at LaBelle’s LeSueur Alignment Inc. in LeSueur, they declared the bottom of the radiator to be so full of holes that it was comparable to “Swiss cheese.”  Years of hard work had taken its toll on the radiator of the Clark-Christenson tractor.  Accordingly, a whole new radiator was ordered from Central Tractor Company in Des Moines, Iowa.  (Installation of the new radiator on the Clark-Christenson Super M during the Christmas holidays of 1994 can be seen in the second hour portion of Tape #12.)

Restoration of the Clark-Christenson Super M also included the purchase and installation of a new belt pulley, because the original rockwood fiber (or paper) pulley was not on the tractor when it was sold to Wayne Wells.  (IHC had contracted with the Rockwood Manufacturing Company to make paper pulleys for its Farmall lettered series and later model tractors.  For the history of the Rockwood Manufacturing Company, see page 14 of the March/April 1997 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  Since belt pulleys for all tractors are a necessity around the LeSueur Pioneer Power grounds because of the great amount of belt work that is performed in the field demonstrations, a 13″ eight-bolt Rockwood fiber pulley was found and purchased for the Clark-Christenson Super M at the 1993 Swap Meet.  (See the author selecting and mounting the pulley on the Clark-Christenson Super M in the second hour portion of Tape #5 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies collection.)

Another step taken in the restoration of the Clark-Christenson Super M was to remove all the fluid from the tires.  Calcium chloride may be very useful for ballast on working tractors, but it is very destructive of the wheel rims.   For this reason, it is a bane to antique tractor restorers.  However, because this tractor, even once it was fully restored, was intended for use in the plowing demonstrations at the Pioneer Power Show grounds, compensation had to be made for the lack of weight previously supplied by the fluid in the tires.  To accomplish this, two pair of rear wheels weights, each weighing 145 pounds, were obtained from Bill’s Repair in Plato, Minnesota, for the Clark-Christenson Super M.  Even if both sets of wheel weights were added to the Super M, they would not offset all the weight of the fluid removed from both rear tires.  In this case, however, only one pair of the rear wheel weights was installed on the Clark-Christenson Super M immediately; the second pair was held in reserve in case the plowing demonstrations at the 1995 Pioneer Show proved the need for a second pair. (Installation of the first pair of wheel weights can be seen in the second hour portion of Tape #12 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies.)

As previously noted, there had been much criticism of the disc brakes of the Super-series Farmall tractors.  One source of the problems with the disc brakes is that the balls inside the actuating discs become rusty and corroded.  (See the discussion of Farmall disc brakes in “Wartime Farmall H” on pages 15-17 of the July/August 1994 Belt Pulley, Vol. 7, No. 4.)  By 1992, the Clark-Christenson tractor was also having problems with its disc brakes.  Thus, all four of the asbestos-lined discs were replaced, and the actuating disc of each brake was disassembled and cleaned.  An actuating disc is composed of two halves which enclose three balls mounted on inclines on the inside of the actuating discs.  When the brakes are applied, only half of the actuating disc moves in relation to the other half, causing the balls to roll up the inclines.  This action spreads the two halves of the actuating disc and causes them to rub against the asbestos-lined discs which are attached to the counter shaft of the transmission of the tractor.  This, then, stops the tractor.  This is especially true of tractors which are stored outside and exposed to the elements.  After separating the two halves of the actuating discs on the Clark-Christenson tractor and cleaning the insides of the actuating discs and the balls, the brakes were reassembled.  (Part of this process is captured on video tape in the second hour portion of Tape #12 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies.)

Following the repair of the clutch and disc brakes and the installation of the new radiator and wheel weights,  the tractor was painted and decaled in time for the 1996 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show which hosted the summer convention of Chapter 15 (the Minnesota State Chapter) of the International Harvester Collectors Association.           The 1996 show was a great success, and the Clark-Christenson tractor was used regularly during the field demonstrations.  Following the show, the Clark-Christenson Super M became popular with the volunteer workers on the grounds, as it started easily and could accomplish tasks around the grounds.  (The tractor can be seen working on the grounds and participating in field demonstrations in the second hour portion of Tapes #5 and #6 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies).

Like so many other shows, the LeSueur Pioneer Power Show features a parade of machinery each day.  Not only is the parade an opportunity for exhibitors to show off their tractors, but also other restored machinery if each tractor pulls a restored farm implement in the parade.  Over the years, an increasing number of farm implements have been restored, just as have tractors.  As a means of gathering and storing data on all the tractors participating in its parades, the Pioneer Power Association currently enjoys a computerized system which was developed by Pioneer Power member Kathy Klaseus.  This system eases the registration process each year for members and repeat exhibitors at the Show.  All information about any given tractor is held on the computer from year to year, and any exhibitor who has attended in former years will merely notify the registration booth that a particular repeat tractor has once again been brought to the current Show.  In this way, all information on that tractor will be retrieved from the computer and printed out for the parade announcer.  In addition, each computer entry has a comment section.  This section is an excellent means by which additional information can be listed either about the tractor or about any particular implement that the tractor may be towing in the parade.  Consequently, implements may also be recognized by the parade announcer.  To avoid having to make changes to the comment section for each exhibit each year, members tend to pull the same implements with the same tractor year after year.  Thus, tractors tend to be identified with a particular implement during the parade.  Each tractor restoration, then, is not really complete until the proper implement has been found which can be associated with a particular tractor.  Given the work history of the Clark-Christenson Super M, that implement had to be a plow, but which plow?  As previously noted, the Clark-Christenson tractor had pulled a four-bottom plow with 14″ bottoms on the Clark farm, and later pulled a 4-16″ plow on the Christenson farm.  As the reader will recall from the previous issue of Belt Pulley magazine, the Clark Christenson Super M was fitted with M&W high compression pistons during the time it worked on the Clark and Christenson farms.  However, since the tractor had been overhauled and re-fitted with the standard IHC pistons in 1985, the tractor would have less horsepower than it had while working on the Clark and Christenson farms.  Moreover, the gumbo soil of LeSueur County was more difficult to plow than the more sandy soil of southern Dodge and Steele Counties where both the Clark and Christenson farms were located.  Additionally, even if the 1953 Clark/Christenson Super M were currently fitted with M&W pistons, it would have a difficult time pulling a four-bottom plow on the Pioneer Power Showgrounds.  Now, with the original equipment returned to the Super M, the Clark-Christenson tractor needed a proper sized plow.  International Harvester had originally advertised the Super M as a 3-plow tractor.  Therefore, it was felt that a McCormick-Deering three-bottom plow with 16″ bottoms would be the proper plow for the Clark/Christenson Super M.  With the help of Bill Radil, the author located just such a plow owned by Jim Ellis.  Continue reading M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 3): Restoration of the Clark-Christenson Super M and the Jim Ellis 3-bottom McCormick-Deering Plow

M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 2): The Clark-Christenson Super M

The M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 2):

The Clark-Christenson 1953 Farmall  Model Super M

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the January/February 1998 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

            In the early 1950s, M&W Company parts for Farmall tractors became so immediately popular that farmers would often require their local International Harvester dealer to install these parts on their new Farmall tractor as part of the sales agreement.  One such tractor, a 1953 Farmall Super M (Serial No. 31,634), would eventually make its way to Srsen Bros. where, in the Spring of 1954, George Clark, a farmer from rural Claremont, Minnesota (1950 pop. 426), and his 14-year-old daughter, Sharon, would see it and make a deal on the tractor.

George Joseph Clark was the third “George Clark” to operate the Clark family farm in Ripley Township, seven miles south of Claremont, Minnesota.  It all began when his grandfather, George Ezekiel Clark Sr., was given a 160-acre farm by the United States government in recognition of his service in the Illinois militia during the American Civil War.

George Ezekiel Clark Sr. operated the Dodge County farm together with an adjacent 80-acre farm which was homesteaded in the name of his wife, Harriet (Jeffers) Clark, until the farming operation passed to his son, George Ezekiel Clark Jr., and his wife, Mary Alice (Steele) Clark.  George Jr. and Mary Alice had nine children, the sixth of whom was George Joseph Clark, who was born on November 3, 1908.  Life was fairly typical for George Joseph and his eight brothers and sisters until the sudden death of their father in 1917.  Pulling themselves together to deal with the hard times, Mary Alice and her children continued operating the large family farm.  However, as the older children came of age, they struck out on their own.  In early 1939, George Joseph married Evelyn O’Leary and moved to northern Minnesota.  Two years later, they returned to Ripley Township in Dodge County and rented a farm near the home farm where George’s mother and some of his brothers and sisters still lived and worked the land.  In 1948, George Joseph’s mother moved to the city of Rochester, Minnesota (1940 pop. 26,312), and the home farm was rented out.  In 1950, George Joseph made the decision to move back to the home of his birth and childhood, and in 1952 George Joseph and Evelyn contracted to buy the Clark home farm.

The Clark farming operation included raising oats, wheat, barley, and corn.  Livestock included chickens, geese, pure-bred Columbia sheep, hogs, and 30-40 milking cows.  By now, George and Evelyn had a family of five children; Sharon (December 1939), Kay (1941), Mary Jean (1942), Judy (1946), Steven (1950).  A sixth child, Jenny, would be born in 1955.  The whole family was involved in the farming operation; Evelyn milked the cows, and the four oldest daughters all helped their father in the fields and around the farm.  George often said that his four daughters could do anything that four boys could do.

George always tried to stay modern in his farming operation.  In this, he was supported and often encouraged by Evelyn.  Indeed, it may have been Evelyn who suggested many of the improvements made to the Clark farming operation.  The Clark family started farming with a 1941 Farmall H with its factory-installed rubber tires.  By 1944, George had purchased a new Farmall M from the Srsen Bros. IHC Dealership in Blooming Prairie (1940 pop. 1,442).  (Dealership records still in the possession of Jim Srsen indicate that the sale of this Farmall M [Serial No. 74276] to George Clark occurred on May 15, 1944.)  In the late 1940s, George obtained a Farmall F-20 and an Oliver to supplement the field work.  In about 1946, even before moving to the home place, George had his hay baled, rather than storing it loose in the haymow.  His brother-in-law, Carl Keller, was originally hired to do the baling with his new McCormick-Deering automatic wire-tie baler; later, George obtained his own McCormick-Deering automatic twine-tie baler.  Sharon was assigned the task of driving the Farmall M that pulled the baler in the field during hay season.  Also, in 1946, George purchased a McCormick-Deering Model 2-M two-row mounted corn picker to fit on the Farmall M.  With this new picker, he could “open” his own corn fields during the fall harvest.  He also retained his older New Idea Model 6-A 2-row pull-type corn picker which could then be used in the “opened” corn fields without running down any rows of unharvested corn.

Prior to 1950, all of the harvesting of small grains on the Clark farm had been accomplished by threshing as a part of the neighborhood threshing ring together with the Drache family and George’s brothers, most of whom were farming on other neighborhood farms.  However, in 1950, George purchased a used Allis-Chalmers All-Crop harvester and started combining all of his small grains rather than participating in the threshing ring.

Improvements in farming practices were advertised everywhere during the early 1950s, but none of these methods of advertising was more entertaining for the families in Ripley Township than that which occurred at the Srsen dealership when they hosted Pancake Days.  The Clark family, along with many other rural families, would drive to Srsen’s on one cold wintery February Saturday to have a look at the latest IHC farm machinery, to enjoy the free food, and to see some IHC promotional movies.  Srsen’s shop would be temporarily cleared out, and new 2 x 8 pine planks would be placed on 5-gallon paint cans to form seats.  When the lights of the shop were turned off, the shop would become an improvised theater.  For young farm children, Pancake Days would be the greatest day of the year–except for Christmas–all the free pancakes and milk that one could eat and a chance to see free color movies of farm equipment.

            Srsen Brothers IHC dealership originally opened for business in 1918 when brothers Al and Louie Srsen obtained franchises to sell the McCormick and Deering lines of farm equipment.  Srsen Brothers signed two separate franchise contracts–one for McCormick and one for Deering–even though both lines of equipment were produced by the same company–International Harvester.  Although the merger of these two companies had occurred in 1903, two distinct lines of equipment were independently maintained until the 1930s.  Accordingly, until 1930, it was still possible to buy a Deering grain binder as opposed to a McCormick grain binder.  Srsen’s also obtained franchises to sell cars–first, Willys-Overland cars, and then, in 1925, a Chrysler/Plymouth franchise.  When Al and Louie retired, Al’s son, Hubert (Hoob) Srsen, took over the dealership.  Over the years, Konard Wold became a loyal and faithful employee at the business and later came to own part of the business.  Also employed at various times at Srsen were Harold Severson, Karl Harding, Ron Janning, Joe Lynard, Elmer Srock, Martin Nelson and Harold Hillson.

Improvements in farming operations were also given a great boost when on September 5 and 6, 1952, Wasioja Township in Dodge County hosted the National Soil Conservation Days and Plow Matches, also know as “Plowville 1952.”  Agreements were made with Kasson/Dodge Center area farmers–Henry Snow, Donald Delzer, George Holtrof, Arnold Scherger, Clarence Jorgenson, and Roy Gossard–to have their combined farms used for this event.  Plowville was a huge event that attracted 100,000 to 150,000 people who came to see the latest in farm equipment, particularly large scale plowing.  Because 1952 was also a presidential election year, it was inevitable that major politicians would be attracted to Plowville as a means to court the farm vote.  Both General Dwight Eisenhower, the Republican presidential candidate, and Governor Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic presidential candidate, showed up on September 6 and used this forum to present their respective positions on agricultural issues.  (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mandate for Change [Doubleday: Garden City, N.Y., 1963], p. 57;  James Bartlow Martin, Adlai Stevenson of Illinois, [Doubleday: Garden City, N.Y., 1976], p. 667.)  This became the only time in history that two candidates for the presidency spoke from the same platform on the same afternoon.  Minnesota’s Republican Governor C. Elmer Anderson, running for re-election, appeared and escorted General Eisenhower.  More than twenty-five years later, Plowville was described as the “greatest event in Dodge County history.”  (Harold Severson, Dodge County: 125 Years of History, [Mantorville, Minn. 1979], pp.96-106.)  Plowville 1952 created much excitement about plowing, and the publicity was widespread.  George and Evelyn and the whole Clark family attended.

Perhaps Plowville influenced him, or perhaps he was impressed by the new Super line of tractors which he had seen at a recent Pancake Days celebration, but by the Spring of 1954, George Clark was in the market for a more powerful tractor and a bigger plow.  Consequently, George and his daughter Sharon got into the family’s 1952 Chevrolet and travelled to Blooming Prairie to the Srsen Bros. IHC dealership.

At Srsen Bros., George was met by Hoob Srsen.  When George expressed interest in one of the new Farmall Super M’s, Hoob showed him a new 1953 Farmall Super M that was part of the inventory of tractors the dealership had on hand.  This Super M was No. 31,634.  Continue reading M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 2): The Clark-Christenson Super M

M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 1)

The M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 1)

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the November/December 1997 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

From the time of its introduction by International Harvester in August of 1939, the McCormick-Deering Farmall M was a very popular tractor.  For a tractor design which pre-dated World War II, the Farmall M had some surprisingly modern features, such as the integral Lift-All hydraulic power lift system, electric lights, electric starting and the comfortable hydraulic, or Monroe, coil spring operator’s seat.  All of these features were optional, but they were so commonly added to the M that they came to be regarded almost as regular equipment.  Partly because of its popularity, the International Harvester Company (IHC) changed the design of the Farmall M very little over the years and consequently, by 1945, the M was beginning to show its age.  In 1945, the Second World War came to an end and with the end of the war many young veterans of that war returned home with the intent of starting a farming operation of their own.   These returning veterans threatened to change the buying habits of the farming public in the United States.   They were a whole new element in the farm tractor buying public.

Wars have a way of changing the consumer’s tastes in a variety of unforeseen ways.  IHC officials well-remembered how, at the end of the First World War, a small little tractor by the name of Fordson knocked IHC out of its position as the biggest seller of tractors in the United States domestic market.  In 1918, veterans returning from the First World War wanted small tractors to start their farming operations on a small scale.  The Fordson answered the market demand perfectly, and consequently Ford led the way in sales throughout most of the 1920s.  IHC spent most of that decade trying to catch Ford with the introduction of International 10-20 tractors.

 

Henry Ford’s little tractor known as the “Fordson” was introduced in 1917 as the “tractor even small farmers could afford.” The Fordson created a revolution in favor of small tractors which could be sold cheaply.

 

Following the end of the Second World War in 1945, IHC executives vowed not to be caught off base again.  They anticipated that the veterans returning from this war would once again create a market for small tractors.  Therefore, the company introduced the Farmall Cub and spent a great deal of corporate effort on the design, manufacture and advertising of the Cub and its line of equipment.

 

 

 

Additionally, the company also anticipated that the end of the war would release the pent-up consumer demand for large, durable consumer goods such as refrigerators and freezers.  Wishing to cash in on this consumer demand, IHC opened, in 1946, a plant, test kitchen and experimental laboratory facilities in Evansville, Indiana, for the production of a full line of refrigeration equipment including dehumidifiers and air conditioners.  Soon the Evanston facility was producing 200 chest-type freezers per day.  (Barbara Marsh, A Corporate Tragedy, The Agony of International Harvester [Doubleday: Garden City, N.Y., 1985], pp. 74 and 102.  Although out of print for a number of years, a second edition of this book is now being sold for $29.95 from Binder Books, Scott and Cyndi Satterlund, P.O. Box 230269, Tigard, OR 97281-0269, Tel: (503) 684-2024, FAX: (503) 684-3990, Email: sac@binderbooks.com, Home page: www.binderbooks.com.)

The diversion of capital and research money into the new Cub tractor and into the refrigeration component meant that less money was available for improvement in the design of large tractors in the International Harvester line, like the Farmall M.  Company officials did not worry about this because the M was selling quite well and they did not see the market for large tractors growing after the war.  This assumption proved to be a mistake.  Some writers (like Barbara Marsh, cited above) now feel that this miscalculation was an important one that eventually led to the dramatic downfall of IHC in 1985.

            International Harvester, along with many other companies, had misread the minds of the World War II vets who were returning to the farm.  Unlike World War I veterans, the returning veteran of the Second World War found that the whole world had changed.  Back at home on the farm there had developed a race for horsepower in the tractor market.  Economic conditions in the United States would no longer allow a young farmer to start farming with small tractors and equipment.  Instead, he must start with big equipment to survive in the new post-war economy.

Even IHC’s 2-plow Farmall H, which had sold well during the war (See “The Wartime Farmall H” contained in the July/August 1994 issue of Belt Pulley), was now regarded as a small tractor.  Sales of the H fell off dramatically as the returning veterans looked to bigger 3-plow tractors, like the Farmall M, to do farming.  Indeed, the market demand for large tractors did not stop with the 3-plow-size tractors; farmers were demanding even larger tractors.  Furthermore, they were demanding a variety of different options to make their farming operations easier and more efficient (i.e., live power take-off’s [PTO], live hydraulics, a wider range of tractor speeds, etc.).

The need for improvements to correct some of the shortcomings of the Farmall M created a niche in the market for production of third-party, add-on attachments for the Farmall M.  This opportunity was not lost on some people.  One person who saw the glaring need was Art Warsaw.  Continue reading M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 1)

Super Six Company of Minneapolis Minnesota

The Super Six Company of Minneapolis Minnesota: Tractor-Mounted Hydraulic Loaders for the Modern Farm

by

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. Continue reading Super Six Company of Minneapolis Minnesota