Category Archives: Farm Equipment Dealerships

Articles including histories of farm equipment dealerships.

Case Farming Part IV: The LeRoy Equipment Company

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J.I. Case Company Part IV:

The Rise of the LeRoy Equipment Company

by

Brian Wayne Wells

              (As Published in the July/August 2006 of the

Belt Pulley Magazine)

Poster advertisement of the new Case dealership in LeRoy, Minnesota
Poster advertisement of the new Case dealership in LeRoy, Minnesota

All farm machinery manufacturing companies depend heavily on their various franchisees and sales staff for the success of the company. The story of the sales component of any company consists of hundreds of small individual stories. The J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company is no exception to this rule. One thread in the continuing story of the sales component of the J.I. Case Company began on a farm in Carroll County, Iowa near the small town of Lanesboro on January 1, 1914. On that day, a second child, another son was born to Otto and Hazel (Coomes) Wetter. This son was named Duane E. Wetter. Duane joined the first born, Maurice, who had been born to the family in 1913. Later in 1916, a daughter, Winifred E., born to the family. The Wetter family operated the farm in Carroll County until 1917 when they purchased another farm in Redwood County, Minnesota.   This farm was located in Woodbury, Township within Redwood County.

Just to the south of Woodbury Township lay Lamberton Township. Here on December 13, 1918, another thread in this same story, began with the birth of a fourth son, Merle to the family of John and Ella (Werner) Krinke. Both of Ella Krinke’s parents had immigrated to the United States from Prussia in Germany. While John’s father, Christian William Krinke, had also immigrated from Germany, his mother, Mary, had been born in Wisconsin. After living in Wisconsin, and near Rochester, Minnesota and near Blue Earth Minnesota, Christian and Mary (Adler) Krinke purchased a 320-acre farm three (3) miles northwest of the town of Lamberton, Minnesota in 1905. This was the farm where John Krinke grew up. In 1910, John and Ella had married. In 1912, a son, Darold was born to the couple. Then another son, Kenneth, was born in 1913. In 1914, upon the retirement of his parents, John and Ella took over total control of the farming operations. Meanwhile the family kept expanding. A third son, Donald was born in 1915. Following the birth of Merle in 1918, two daughters were born, Mildred in 1921 and Ruth in 1922. Finally, two more children, Robert born in 1925 and Betty born in 1929 rounded out the family of two parents and eight children.

On the 320-acre farm, John and Ella raised about 20 acres of rye, and 20 acres of wheat for cash crops. However, the family’s largest crop was about 100 acres of corn. Some of the corn was used as feed for the pigs and the beef cattle they also raised on the farm. However, 40-50 acres of the arable land on the farm had to be designated each year for the raising of oats to feed the many horses they used for power on the farm. As the older sons came of age, they helped their father with the field work. To effectively and efficiently operate this 320 acre farm took a lot of manpower and horsepower. As John’s sons grew up they helped their father with the work on the farm. The family had a five (5) horse hitch and a six (6) horse hitch which they employed when plowing in the fall and the spring. Including riding horses, the Krinke family at one point, owned and operated 22 horses on their farm. Additionally, the family milked 10 to 12 Milking Shorthorn cows twice a day as a part of their farming operations. Kenneth, who is currently living in Lamberton at the age of 93 years, remembers that he and his brothers each had to milk three (3) cows every morning before they headed off to school. The family also raised a substantial herd of Hereford beef cattle. Thus, another large portion of the arable land on the farm had to be set aside just for raising hay for pastures for the dairy cows, the beef herd and the horses.

Besides the substantial help provided by their boys, John and Ella still needed to hire on additional help during the busy threshing season. Sam Marburger, a bachelor farmer also living in Lamberton township had a 28” Altman-Taylor threshing machine and a steam engine that he used in the summer to perform custom threshing for other farmers in the neighborhood. By the time of the mid 1920s, farming had recovered to some degree from the post-World War I recession that had settled over the farming economy in 1921. At this time, John Krinke perceived that the work would progress much smoother during threshing season if the family had their own thresher. Accordingly, he paid a visit to Oscar Wiebold, the local J.I.Case Company dealer in Lamberton. Eventually he signed a purchase agreement for a 22” Case thresher and a crossmotor Case tractor to power the thresher. After a while they also purchased a tractor plow to be able to use the tractor in the fields as well as on the belt. Soon other neighbors were soliciting John and his sons to do the threshing on their farms also. So the family found that they could supplement their farm income with some income from custom threshing in the neighborhood. Later in the 1920s, the Krinke family obtained a Waterloo Boy tractor which was also used to power the thresher.

John continued to plant his corn with the horses and the wire check two-row corn planter. Wire checking meant that a wire with curls or “buttons” placed every 40 inches along the wire was stretched across the entire length of the field. The wire was then attached to a mechanism on the side of the planter. As the horses pulled the planter across the field, the buttons on the wire would cause the mechanism to trip both rows of the planter at the same time. Thus, not only were the rows planted 40 inches apart, but the “hills” of corn were planted 40 inches apart within the rows. This formed a perfect grid of hills in the corn field which allowed the corn to be cultivated “cross-wise” as well as length-wise. Accordingly, not only were all the weeds between the rows dug up and eliminated by the cultivator, but even the weeds between the hills within the rows were removed by “cross cultivating” the corn. Every year, corn farmers tried to cultivate every corn field on their farm three times—the first cultivation was conducted lengthwise, then the corn was cross-cultivated and finally the corn was cultivated once again in a lengthwise fashion. Cultivation of the corn, thus, required a great number of hours (or days) of work during the summer. No wonder then when a mechanical way of speeding up this summertime task was developed, farmers jumped at the chance to employ this newer method of getting the task done.

Exactly for this reason, John Krinke obtained another tractor. This tractor was a tricycle-style Farmall Model F-12 tractor.   Besides moving faster in the field and having more endurance than horses, the F-12 was designed to be fitted with a two row cultivator. Thus, tractor cultivation of the corn could proceed at a rate of two rows at a time or twenty (20) acres in a single day as opposed to a mere six (6) or eight (8) acres a day when cultivating with the horses one row at a time. John Krinke was made aware of his need to save all the time in the fields as he could. In 1934, his oldest son, Darold got married and moved onto a farm of his own. In 1936, his second son, Kenneth did the same. In 1934, Donald had graduated from high school in Lamberton and had entered Minneapolis Business School.

Meanwhile, his fourth son, Merle, was also growing up. After obtaining an eighth grade education in a country school, Merle had enrolled in Lamberton High School for the “short course.” The short course was only three (3) months long and took place in the middle of the winter. The short course was designed for farm students who needed to help their parents on the farm during the spring and the fall of the year. Also attending these short courses at Lamberton High School was Duane Wetter. Although living in separate townships, the Wetter family and the Krinke family had become acquainted with each other at the Methodist Church in Lamberton. Originally, the Wetter’s had been attending another church in the community, but when that church suddenly burned down, they began attending the Methodist Church. In their first year on their new farm in Woodbury Township Otto and Hazel Wetter had added to their family with the birth of another son, Milo in 1918. Later, two more daughters, Zona in 1920 and Donna in 1923, were added to the family. Now during the short courses at Lamberton High School, the children of both families became more closely acquainted. Furthermore, in the fall of 1932 a new teacher moved to Lamberton from Amboy, Minnesota. This new teacher was Robert W. (Bob) Olson.

Bob Olson had a fairly active life. Born in 1893 in Sterling Township in Blue Earth County near the small town of Amboy, Minnesota (1900 pop. 432), Bob had served as a United States Army pilot during World War I. Coming home from the war in late 1918, he enrolled in school at the University of Minnesota and became a teacher. While at the University he met Mabeth Starrett. They fell in love and were married in 1920. Unable to find a teaching job, Bob and Mabeth moved back to the home farm of Bob’s parents in Amboy. Rural living was a new experience for Mabeth, but she soon adapted to life on the farm where she and Bob lived for a number of years. Two children were born to the young couple—a son, Bob S. Olson in 1924 and a daughter, Helen in 1926. Bob helped his father on the large family farm. However, in 1932, Bob was hired to teach an industrial arts class at the High School in Lamberton. Accordingly, Bob and Mabeth and their children moved to Lamberton. Among the students in Bob Olson’s industrial arts class during the winter months of the 1932-1933 school year was Merle Krinke. Although Duane Wetter had graduated from Lamberton High School on the previous June 2, 1932, he may well have met Bob Olson, anyway and Bob Olson might well have had an impact on the life of Duane Wetter. At any rate the lives of Bob Olson and Duane Wetter have some surprising parallels.

Like Bob Olson, upon graduating from high school, Duane went to Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul to further his education. He attended Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis and studied the new and growing technology of refrigeration. After finishing his studies at Dunwoody, Duane obtained employment at the Minnesota Department of Highways in 1939. That fall, war broke out in Europe. As the war stretched into its second year, United States’ involvement in the war seemed more likely all the time. Even before the United States became involved in the growing world war, Duane joined the war effort by journeying to Winnipeg, Canada, to join the Royal Canadian Air Force (R.A.F.) and became a pilot. He met and married Esther Else. Together they moved off to Sherbrook, Quebec, where Duane became a flight instructor of other prospective fighter pilots. While the couple was living in Sherbook, Esther became pregnant and gave birth to a son, Berwyn. In May of 1944, after the United States had become involved in the world war, Duane and many other American citizens serving as pilots in the Canadian R.A.F. took advantage of the agreement between Canada and the United States to transfer from the R.A.F. to the United States Army Air Corp.   (Following the Second World War, the Army Air Corp would become an independent branch of the armed forces—the United States Air Force.) Thus, Duane was shipped out to Europe as a replacement pilot attached to the 316th U.S. Fighter Squadron of the 324th Fighter Group, stationed in Luneville, France. Thus just like Bob Olson a generation earlier, here was Duane Wetter serving as a pilot for the United States Army Air Corp in a war against the Germans and stationed in France.

Duane was assigned to a Republic Company-made P-47 (Thunderbolt) fighter and began flying combat missions on February 14, 1945. He would end the war as a survivor of seventy five (75) combat flight missions and also would win a number of decorations for valour during his service in Europe. Following the war, Duane stayed on in Europe to become part of the occupation forces stationed at Stuttgart, Germany. Duane was discharged from the military and was finally able to make his way back to Minnesota only in November of 1945.

In the meantime, Bob Olson had also impacted two other students in his short time at Lamberton High School. In the industrial arts class during that school year of 1932-1933 were Donald and Merle Krinke. During the fall and spring months, the Krinke boys were needed by their parents for help on the farm. However, during the “short course” held in during the winter months both Donald and Merle sought to further their education. During the short time that the boys knew Bob Olson in the winter of 1932-1933, Bob Olson made an impression on these boys that lasted far beyond their school days.

At the end of the school year, Bob Olson made a decision to leave teaching and take advantage of a business opportunity in Lamberton. He purchased a franchise from the J.I. Case Company to sell farm machinery in the rural area around Lamberton. This was 1933, starting a business at this time appeared to be a foolish decision. Business activity all across the nation was at a standstill because of the worst economic depression in the history of the United States. Bob’s outgoing personality and business sense were assets for his new business, but the biggest asset to his new business was the improvement in the economy. As 1933 gave way to 1934, the economy started to improve ever so slightly. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief and everybody began spending money again with more confidence in the future. Farmers, began once again to feel that there was a future in their occupation and began to purchase new farm equipment.

Case Model CC left side picture
The Case Model CC tractor was first introduced to the public in 1929. This left-side view of the tractor shows the famous “chicken’s roost” steering bar that was characteristic of many early Case tricycle style tractors.

The dealership was housed together with a hardware store and a plumbing and heating business. However on the farm equipment side of his new business, Bob found that, more and more, that the row crop tractor was the single item of farm machinery that farmers wanted most. This made sense given the fact that corn was the primary crop grown in Redwood County. On average, 37.5% of all farm acreage in the county was growing corn. The second most produced crop in the county was oats—with 26.3% of all farm land in the county growing oats. However, oats and hay were grown on all farms largely as feed for the animals, in particular the horses that were used for power on the farms. If both hay (10.4% of all farm land) and oats were removed from consideration, corn then made up of 59.3% of all “cash crops” grown on the farms of Redwood County.

Small wonder then that Bob Olson found that the Case Model CC row crop tractor was in large demand by the farmers showing up at his new dealership. The row crop tractor was allowing farmers to mechanize all the farming operations on their farm especially the cultivation of corn. This meant that slow animal power could be done away with on the farm altogether. The decline in the number of horses in Redwood County, is shown in the decline in the amount of acreage devoted to oats in the county. In 1925, 123,000 acres of oats were harvested in Redwood County. On average, between 1925 and 1935 108.6 acres of oats were harvested each year in the county as a whole. However, starting in 1936, oats started to decline in importance—from 100,100 acres harvested in 1936; to 87,000 in 1938; to 84,100 acres in 1942 and finally to 79,500 acres in 1944. (To be sure, oat production made a recovery back up to an average of 103,800 acres for the period of time from 1945 to 1955. However this is due to the sudden rise of the egg production in Redwood County during the Second World War. In the immediate, post war period Redwood County became the home for 500,000 chickens who were laying upwards of 100 million eggs each year.)

Early versions of the Model CC Case tractor weighed just 3, 640 pounds and had a maufacturer's suggested price of just $1.025.
Early versions of the Model CC Case tractor weighed just 3, 640 pounds and had a maufacturer’s suggested price of just $1.025.

Bob Olson sold a great number of Model CC tractors in the first years of his dealership. In 1936, he sold a Model CC to John Krinke. This particular Model CC was fitted with rubber tires front and rear on the tractor. Donald Krinke had graduated from Lamberton High School in 1933. In 1936, Merle Krinke also graduated from Lamberton High School. Like Duane Wetter, both of the Krinke boys also headed off to college in Minneapolis. Merle entered Augsburg College and later attended the University of Minnesota just as Bob Olson had done a generation earlier. Following his higher education in Minneapolis and no doubt under the influence, to some degree, of Bob Olson, Donald Krinke sought and obtained a job as the district manager for the J.I. Case Company in the area including Redwood and neighboring counties.

img092
In 1939, Case introduced their “flambeau red” series of farm tractors. This Case Model DC was the top of the line row crop tractor of the flambeau red series.

 

However, in 1940, with war clouds looming, and with the United States involvement in the Second World War looking increasingly likely, the U.S. Congress re-instated the Selective Service draft. Merle Krinke’s number was drawn in the draft lottery and it was a very low number, suggesting that he was soon to be drafted into the military. Not waiting for the draft, Merle quit school and enlisted. Perhaps, the influence of Bob Olson caused him to enlist in the Army Air Corps. The Army Air Corps unit to which Merle was attached was guarding the Panama Canal. Thus, in 1940, well before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Both Duane Wetter and Merle Krinke were involved in the spreading world war.

On December 7, 1941, the United States suddenly became involved in the world war.   Merle re-enlisted and continued his service until 1945. In April of 1944, Merle was, however, permitted a 30 day leave from his military service. During this leave he returned to Lamberton, Minnesota. He had a good reason for wanting to return home at this time. He wished to get married. In the years, that he had known the Wetter family, he was attracted by Duane’s sister, Zona. They had begun seeing each other and writing each other while Merle was away in the service. Now, in 1944, while on his 30 day leave from the Air Corp, Merle and Zona had decided to marry. Thus, on April 8, 1944, they were married. All too soon, however, Merle had to return to Panama. Only at the end of the war in September of 1945 was he allowed to come home for good and resume married life. Upon his return from the military, Merle obtained a job at the the Myhere and Nelson Implement dealership in Montevideo, Minnesota. The Myhere and Nelson dealership owned the J.I. Case Company franchise for the area around Montevideo and surrounding Chippewa County. Montevideo was located on the Minnesota River about 60 miles to the northwest of Lamberton. Merle commuted to his new job while continuing to live in Lamberton. After only a very short time at his new job, in Montevideo, Merle became aware of an opportunity to open a new Case dealership in another town.

With the lifting of the wartime restrictions on the economy of the United States a huge pent-up demand for new farm machinery was unleashed. Having been unable to purchase new farm machinery all during the Second World War, farmers now poured into local dealerships to buy up the machinery that was now becoming available. Furthermore, the prices of farm commodities had reached new highs as the North American farmer attempted to feed the armed forces which were spread around the world. Since the war, the farm machinery manufacturing companies were busy not only making the new machinery as fast as they could get re-tooled from their wartime production for the armed forces, but they were also in a rush to open as many outlets from which to sell the new machinery. Record numbers of new franchises were being sold by all the farm equipment manufacturers. At the Myhere and Nelson dealership in Montevideo, Merle Krinke heard about yet another Case franchise that was being offered to anyone that was willing to start a dealership in the small town of LeRoy, Minnesota (1940 pop. 752). LeRoy, Minnesota is located in the extreme southeastern corner of Mower County, Minnesota. Mower County is situated in the Southeastern part of the state on the Minnesota/Iowa border in fact, the town of LeRoy is located only about ½ a mile from the Iowa border. Continue reading Case Farming Part IV: The LeRoy Equipment Company

The Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the September/October 2004 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

            As the 1890’s drew to a close and the new twentieth century began, there was a feeling in the air that everything was “new.”  (George E. Mowry, The Era of Theodore Roosevelt [Harper and Brothers Pub.: New York, 1958] p. 2.)  Technology had invented a new, efficient source of power—the internal combustion engine.  This new source of power was to revolutionize industry and agriculture.  The public was demanding ever-newer more efficient power sources.  In answer to this growing demand, development of the internal combustion engine evolved from the large bulky engines to engines that were small, efficient and simple to use.  In first years of the new century, a young man from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by the name of Charles H. John, was intrigued with the idea of designing an engine that would meet the power needs of a broad masses of the public.  As opposed to the single-cylinder “hit and miss” engine which were then being popular, Charles favored the multiple cylinder style of engine.  Thus, he set out designing this own version of this type of engine.

Charles H. John was aided in the development of this engine by A. F. Milbrath.  Following the development of a prototype of their engine the two partners sought to incorporate and on March 12, 1909 they received a corporate charter from the State of Wisconsin which legally incorporated the Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company.  (C.H. Wendel, American Gosoline Engines Since 1872 [MBI Pub. Co.: Osceola, Wisc., 1999] p. 557.)  A.F. Milbrath became the Secretary of the new company.  However; because, like Charles John, A.F. Milbrath preferred to work with his hands he also occupied the position of Mechanical Engineer for the Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company.  In this position, A.J. Milbrath would continue his inventive ways.  In 1916 he would be granted a patent from the United States Patent Office for a magneto coupling that he designed and built.

The Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing  Company operated out of a shop in North Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  However the Company would soon outgrow this facility.  By 1911, the Company was required to purchase a 6-1/2 acre site at 53rd and Burnham Street in West Allis, Wisconsin.  On this new site the company built one of the most modern engine manufacturing plants in the world at the time.  By 1912, the Wisconsin Motor Company was employing about 300 people in this new facility on both day and night shifts making engine to fill purchase orders that were flowing in to the Company.

At first the Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company found that the largest market for their four (4) and six (6) cylinder engines was for installation in heavy construction equipment.  The Bucyrus-Erie Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (formerly [prior to 1893] of Bucyrus Ohio) installed Wisconsin engines in the large cranes and power shovels which they manufactured.

 

An Erie-Bucyrus Company dragline crane working in Erie, Pennsylvania, probably fitted with an engine from Wisconsin Motor Company.

 

Indeed, seventy-seven (77) of these Wisconsin-powered Bucyrus shovels were used on the largest and most famous construction project of the time i.e. the Panama Canal which was completed on August 15, 1914.  (David McCullough, Path Between the Seas: Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914 [Simon & Schuster: New York, 1977] p. 609.)  Wisconsin Motor also supplied engine to the Marion Steam Shovel Company of Marion, Ohio.  Marion was the manufacturer o large power excavators, draglines and shovels.  As their name suggests the company relied primarily on steam as a power source for their construction equipment.  (From the web page on Marion, Ohio, located on the Roadtrip America website on the Internet.)  However, the efficiency of internal combustion engines, supplied by Wisconsin Motor eventually won out over steam power.  By the late 1920’s, the Marion Steam Shovel Company had changed its named to the Marion Power Shovel Company to reflect modern realities.  (Ibid.)  The Marion Company also supplied heavy Wisconsin powered shovels and excavators to the United States Corps of Army Engineers for the mamouth Panama Canal project.  Thus, Wisconsin engines were seen every where on the Canal project under at least two different company names—Marion and Bucyrus-Erie.

 

Former President Theodore Roosevelt at the controls of one of the large Erie-Bucyrus Company cranes in the Panama Canal during his 1909 trip to Panama.

 

The role played by Wisconsin engines in the construction of the Panama Canal, was glamorous and the connection with this huge construction project was used by the Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company for advertising purposes.  Nonetheless, the contracts with construction equipment manufacturing companies were small in comparison to the mushrooming market that was soon to occupy nearly all of the production capacity of the Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company.  This was the automobile market.

The vast number of automobile companies that sprang up in the early 1900s had no time to develop their own engines.  They appreciated the smooth running engines that Wisconsin Motor had available.  Thus, many small, but up and coming, automobile manufacturers looked to Wisconsin as an outsource supplier of engines for their automobiles.  Supplying this new burgeoning market, propelled the Wisconsin Motor Company into period of rapid expansion.  Automobile engines proved to be the most popular market for the Wisconsin Motor Company. Continue reading The Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Massey-Harris Farming (Part II): Arno Schull of Mapleton Minnesota

Massey-Harris Farming (Part II):

Arno Shull of Mapleton, Minnesota

 by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the May/June 2004 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

            Regular readers of the Belt Pulley magazine will remember that Mankato, Minnesota lies at the bend in the Minnesota River Valley where the river makes an abrupt turn from flowing to the southeast and heads north to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  (See the article “The Wilmar Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor [Part 1: The Mankato Implement Company”] at page 16 in the March/April 2002 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  U.S. Highway No. 22 makes its way southward out of Mankato, Minnesota up out of the Minnesota River Valley.  Also as previously noted following Highway 22 south reveals a sudden topographical change in scenery.  (See the article called “The Wilmar Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor [Part 2]” contained in the May/June 2002 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  Almost as though passing through a doorway, one emerges from the hilly tree-covered land of the valley and comes out onto the open prairie.  The prairie is flat as a tabletop and basically treeless except for the clumps of trees that surround the building sites of the farms that dot the scenery.  Out on the prairie, one can see a building site of farms in every direction, even those that are some distance away.  Nine (9) miles south of Mankato, U.S. Highway 22 passes through the small-unincorporated hamlet of Beauford, Minnesota.  Five (5) miles further south, the highway arches eastward around the village of Mapleton, Minnesota (1940 pop. 1070) located in southern Blue Earth County.

            Running directly eastward out of the center of Mapleton is Blue Earth County Road No. 21.  One mile east on County Road No. 21 brought a person to the intersection with County Road 159.  In 1944, one mile south on County Road No. 159 and on the right side of the road, was the farm of Carl F. and Emma (Truebenbach) Schull located on the west side of the road.  Carl Fredrich Wilhem Schull, Jr. had been born in Pommern, Germany to Carl Sr., and Caroline (Papke) Schull on July 31, 1869.  In 1881, when young Carl Fredrich was aged eleven years, the family which consisted of Albert, Henry, Gustav and Caroline in addition to Carl Frederich, immigrated to the United States.  The family first settled in Lime Township of Blue Earth County, just west of Mankato.  Carl Frederich grew up in Lime Township.  As an adult, Carl struck out on his own and moved to his own farm east of Mapleton in 1899.

On October 25, 1899, he married Emma Truebenbach.  They began a family which would eventually consist of six children, George, Fred, Earnest, Rosine, Walter and Arno.  Arno Schull, the youngest child, was born on February 26, 1917.  Most of the corn, oats and hay, they raised in the fields on their 120 acre farm was fed to the herd of Holstein dairy cattle they milked, the pigs that they raised and, of course, the horses that they used in their farming operations.  The older sons grew up, got married started farming operations and families of their own.  Rosine, the family’s only daughter, also married and left the farm.  By 1944, only 27 year old Arno was left on the farm to help his father.  However, in that year life suddenly took a sharp turn for the family when Carl Frederich was struck down by a heart attack while working in the family garden on the morning of Wednesday October 11, 1944.  He died almost immediately.  All responsibility for running the family farming operation, then fell mainly on Arno’s shoulders.  Like most sons on many family farms across the nation at this time, Arno had new ideas on how the farming operation could be improved.  One of his main new ideas was the acquisition of a modern farm tractor.  He knew that by mechanizing farm power rather than relying on the horses, he could save much time and effort in the farming operation.  However, he was unable to purchase a tractor immediately.  Under the economic restrictions in place during World War II, purchase of new farm tractors was drastically curtailed and even the used machinery market was greatly restricted.  Immediately, upon V-J Day on September 1, 1945, signaling the end of the World War, economic restrictions were lifted.  However, the abrupt ending of the government restrictions triggered a period of spiraling inflation through out 1946.  Consequently, government price controls were re-imposed.  Arno had to postpone his dream of having mechanical power on his farm.

However, during this period of time, changes were occurring in Arno’s personal life.  He attended a dance for young people held in the nearby town of Butterfield, Minnesota, (1940 pop. 511.)  At this dance, he met Lois Dreeszen, who was a local grade school teacher in the Butterfield Public School.  Lois Dreeszen had been born to the family of Roy and Florence (Groschens) Dreeszen of Aitken, Minnesota (1940 pop. 2062.) on June 16, 1925.  Following graduation from high school, Lois entered Mankato State Teachers College in the summer of 1944.  Ordinarily, the State of Minnesota required two years of college training to qualify for a teacher’s certificate in order to become a grade school teacher.  Because of the high demand for school teachers at the time, Mankato State Teachers College had a course of instruction by which a person could obtain a two-year teacher’s certificate by attending college for one summer, an entire school year and the next summer.  This was the program in which Lois Dreeszen enrolled in June of 1944.  Following this course of study, Lois accepted a teaching position in Butterfield, Minnesota in the fall of 1945.  However, after meeting Arno Shull at the dance they fell in love and were married on June 6, 1946.  Accordingly, Lois ceased her teaching career after the single school year and she moved to the Shull farm with Arno and became a homemaker.  Arno and Lois also started a family which eventually included three sons, James born on October 24, 1947, Glenn born on October 5, 1948 and Curtis born on November 12, 1950, and a daughter Lynette born on November 14, 1953.  (As noted elsewhere, the current author’s mother, Marilyn [Hanks] Wells, graduated from Mapleton High School in Mapleton, Minnesota, in June of 1944.  [See the article called “The Papec Company of Shortsville, New York: Part II” on page 17 of the January/February 1996 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.]  Marilyn, too, enrolled at Mankato State Teachers College in June of 1946.  There she met and became close friends with Lois Dreeszen.  Over the years, Marilyn and Lois remained in close contact and, consequently, the children of the Schull family and the present author, and his siblings became and remain close friends.)

Young farmers like Arno Schull of Mapleton, Minnesota were part of the same exact demographic group that was being studied by farm tractor manufacturers.  One of these tractor manufacturers was the Massey-Harris Company Ltd. of Racine, Wisconsin.  Massey-Harris was rather late in getting into the tractor market.  Indeed as noted in the previous article in this series, the company had tried three times to find a tractor design that would be a popular sales item with the farming community.  As noted in the previous article, only in 1928, when the Massey-Harris Company acquired the rights to manufacture and sell the Wallis tractor was the company successful in entering the tractor market in a major way.  The Wallis tractor was a very advanced design of tractor.  The Wallis tractor was the first tractor designed with an entirely enclosed power train.  This was the famous U-frame design that was first introduced on the Wallis Cub tractor in 1913.  (Michael Williams, Massey-Ferguson Tractors [Blandford Press: London, 1987] p. 29.)  The enclosed power train was so popular that soon all the other tractor manufacturers would copy this design for their own tractors.

The Massey-Harris Company continued the production of the Wallis Model OK (also known as the Model 20-30) tractor.  Indeed Massey-Harris expanded their tractor line by adding the smaller Wallis Model 12-20 to the line of tractors offered by the company.  By 1936, the company had modified the design of the Model 12-20 to make their first row-crop tractor—the Challenger tractor.  (C.H. Wendel, Massey Tractors [Motorbooks International Pub.: Osceola, Wisc., 1992] p. 50.)  Besides being a row-crop tractor, the Challenger contained several improvements over the Model 12-20.  The Challenger had a four-speed transmission as opposed to the three-speed transmission of the Model 12-20.  (Michael Williams, Massey-Ferguson Tractors, p. 35.)  The Challenger was able to deliver 26.21 horsepower to the belt.  (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Farm Tractor Tests [Crestline Pub.: Osceola, Wisc., 1993] p. 99.)  While the Model 12-20 delivered only 20.32 horsepower to the belt.  (Ibid., p. 66.)

Nonetheless, the Massey-Harris Company realized that the design of the Challenger was really a mere modification of the same tractor design that had been developed in 1913.  Thus, the design was badly out of date in the late 1930s.  Consequently, Massey-Harris engineers set to work on a totally new design for a row-crop tractor.  In 1938, the Company went into production with this radically new design.  The tractor was called the Model 101 Junior.  The power unit for the new Model 101 Junior was outsourced by Massey-Harris.  The company signed a supply contract with the Continental Motors Company of Muskegan, Michigan, for purchase of sufficient numbers of Continental’s four-cylinder Model WFA “Red Seal” engines for installation into the new 101 Junior tractors that were being built at Massey’s Racine, Wisconsin, tractor manufacturing facility.  Testing of the Model 101 Junior at the University of Nebraska on May 22 through May 26, 1938 revealed that the Continental-powered 101 Junior delivered 19.44 horsepower to the drawbar and 27.57 horsepower to the belt.  (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Farm Tractor Tests p. 131.)  The 101 Junior was a radical departure from all previous Wallis/Massey-Harris designs.  The tractor was fitted with a mechanical lift under the seat for raising the cultivator.  The operator need only step on a pedal on the operator’s platform to raise and/or lower the cultivator with this mechanical lift.  Battery power, a generator, electric lights, electric starter and rubber-tires were widely popular options available on the 101 Junior.  Not only was the Model 101 Junior a modern row-crop tractor, but also it was “styled” in the modern fashion with extensive sheet metal covering the radiator and power train.  In the late 1930s nearly every other tractor manufacturing company was exploring “styled” designs for their tractors.  Industry leaders, International Harvester and John Deere did not introduce their line of “styled” tractors until 1939.  Thus, the 101 Junior moved the Massey-Harris Company to the forefront of modern tractor design a year ahead of the competition.  Also in 1938, Massey-Harris introduced the larger Model 101 Senior with a six-cylinder Chrysler engine.  In 1942, the company also introduced the smaller Model 81 row-crop tractor.  These tractors were also styled tractors.  Nevertheless, the two-plow 101 Junior proved to be the most popular selling tractor in the Massey Harris line of tractors.  Even with the wartime restrictions in place, Massey-Harris sold 34,668 Model 101 Junior tractors from 1938 until the end of 1945 of this number 27,371 were the row-crop version of the tractor.  In 1940, the 124 cubic inch Continental engine in the Model 101 Junior was replaced by a 140 cubic inch Continental engine.  In 1942, this engine was replaced by the 162 cubic inch Model MFB Continental engine.

With the end of the Second World War, the huge pent-up demand for new farm tractors and farm machinery was unleashed.  However, the farming public was demanding larger tractors with conveniences like hydraulic power and a wider range of speeds.  In answer to this demand, the Massey-Harris Company updated the Model 101 by adding a 5th gear to the transmission of the Model 101 Junior.  In 1948, the mechanical lift of the 101 Junior gave way to the new hydraulic system for lifting the cultivator.  This hydraulic system consisted of a hydraulic cylinder located under the operator’s seat which would raise or lower the rockshaft to which the cultivator was attached.  This hydraulic system was such a popular option with Massey-Harris farmers that Massey-Harris offered the hydraulic cylinder and appropriate linkages as a kit that could be purchased for retrofitting onto Massey-Harris tractors originally fitted only with the mechanical lift.

The changes made to the 101 Junior were significant enough to require a change in the model number of the new tractor.  Accordingly, the Massey-Harris Model 30 tractor was born in 1946.  However, production of the Model 30 in any sort of large numbers began only in 1947.  (From the Belt Pulley Serial Number Index, p. 24.)  The Model 30 tractor was manufactured in either a kerosene or a gasoline version and in either a standard or a row crop style.  (From the Production Records located on the “Unofficial Massey-Harris Home Page on the Internet.)  The Model 30 continued in the role of best selling tractor in the Massey-Harris line until 1949.  A role previously occupied by the Model 30’s most immediate and direct ancestor, the Model 101 Junior.  From 1946 until 1951, over 29,000 Model 30 tractors were built and sold.  (Ibid.)

Just like the late-model 101 Junior, the new Model 30 was fitted with a Continental “Red Seal” Model MFB 162 cubic inch engine.  When tested at the University of Nebraska, the Model 30 developed 20.64 horsepower at the drawbar and 30.09 at the belt pulley.  (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Farm Tractor Tests, p. 147.)  Design of the Model 30 provided for a fifth gear in the transmission.  As noted above, from 1948 onwards, a new hydraulic system was integrated into the design of Model 30 tractor.  Thus, the Model 30 was well adapted to the farming needs of the post-World War II economy and sales of the Model 30 reflected this fact.  Another change that was made to the 1948 Model 30, was somewhat cosmetic in nature.  The throttle control lever was moved from its former position on the right side of the steering column behind the steering wheel to a new position between the legs of the operator.

As noted above, Massey-Harris manufactured 3,438 gasoline-fueled row-crop Model 30 tractors in 1948.  These tractors were shipped from the Racine, Wisconsin factory to the network of Massey-Harris dealerships spread throughout North America.  Some of these gasoline-fueled row-crop Model 30 tractors made in 1948 were shipped to the W.J. Nelson Implement dealership in Amboy Minnesota, (1940 pop. 576).

Amboy was located on Minnesota Route 30 which passed east and west through town.  Just outside of town to the west, lie the intersection of Route 30 and U.S. Route 169.  Small as Amboy was, it is quite surprising to note that in 1948, the town contained farm machinery dealerships offering nearly every brand name of tractor and/or every brand name farm equipment across the whole United States.  Because of the heavy preponderance of farm equipment retailers, the small town of Amboy became known as the “Farm Machinery Capitol of Southern Minnesota.”

The W.J. Nelson Dealership was founded in Amboy in 1919 by William J. (Bill) Nelson. Bill Nelson had been born in Vernon Center, Minnesota in 1892.  Vernon Center (1940 pop. 355) is another Blue Earth County town, was located just five miles north of Amboy on U.S. Route #169.  In June of 1918, a year before founding his dealership, Bill had married Frieda Deljen.  Frieda was the daughter of John and Ernestine (Benzel) Deljen of rural Mapleton Township.  Together they would eventually have a family of two sons, Roger and Willard Nelson, and a daughter, Glee Helen.

The Nelson Dealership obtained the franchise to sell Allis-Chalmers, farm equipment and tractors, and the franchises to sell Packard cars and Dodge trucks and cars.  The dealership did well and later, sometime after 1929, Bill Nelson obtained a franchise to sell the tractors and implements manufactured by the Oliver Farm Equipment Corporation of Charles City, Iowa.  It is not known, precisely, when Bill Nelson obtained a franchise to sell Massey-Harris farm equipment, but it could well have been immediately after the Massey-Harris Company purchased the rights to produce the Wallis tractor in 1928.  (See the previous article in this series in the March/April 2004 issue of Belt Pulley magazine for the story of this purchase.)

The wartime economic restrictions placed on the nation’s manufacturing companies during the Second World War severely restricted the amount of farm machinery that the W. J. Nelson Dealership could obtain and sell to the farming public.  However, once the war was over the wartime restrictions were lifted.  The demand for farm machinery, which had been pent up for the nearly four years, during the United States’ involvement in the Second World War, came bursting into the market place.  Anticipating the flood of new business, the W.J. Nelson Dealership moved, in 1946, from their location in the center of the business district in Amboy to the intersection of Minnesota State Route 30 and United States Route 169 on the west edge of town.  In their new location, the dealership began another period of tremendous growth based on the new post-war tractors and farm machinery available from the Massey-Harris Company—particularly the new two-plow Model 30 Massey-Harris tractor.

Under normal free market conditions individual farmers are faced with a two-edged sword.  On the one hand they hope for a bumper crop to bring to market.  On the other hand bumper crops usually result in surplus products in the market and result in low prices.  Thus, a large bumper crop can be as bad as a small crop for the farmer’s economic survival.  Since 1941, farmers had been encouraged to raise as much crop as they could to support the war effort.  The federal government had provided a financial incentive for farmers to raise a great deal of farm commodities.  (From a Columbia Encyclopedia article called “Agricultural Subsidies” (2001) found on the Internet.)  By setting very high government subsidized price supports for various farm commodities, the government removed one of these problems facing individual farmers.  Thus, during the war Arno Schull and his neighbors worried less about the threat of a bumper crop resulting in low prices.  Instead they concentrated only on raising as much crop as they possible could and getting as much of that crop to the market as possible.

When the war ended, the high price supports were left in place as the United States attempted to feed war-torn Europe, through the Marshall Plan.  Thus, thanks to government price supports, farm commodity prices remained relatively high throughout 1947 and 1948.  Arno Schull knew that he would be assured a relatively high price for his crops, especially corn, at harvest time if only he could get enough of the crop to market.  Now if only weather would cooperate.

However, in southern Blue Earth County, Minnesota, the outlook for the weather in the fall of 1946 did not look good.  The rains began in the fall of 1946 and did not stop.  (Regular readers of the Belt Pulley magazine will remember the effect of the rain in 1946-1947 on another family in the article called “The Case NCM Baler and a Family’s Crucial Year” in the January/February 1995 issue of Belt Pulley p. 31.)  The constant rains continued into the spring and early summer of 1947.  Because of the extremely wet spring and summer of 1947, spring planting that year was badly delayed.  Hopes for a decent crop were rapidly fading.  With the late planting, it was feared, the growing season would just not be long enough to allow the crops to mature.

Fortunately, the rains eased somewhat in July of 1947, but still, there did not seem to be enough time to allow the corn to mature.  As the fall progressed, Arno was pleasantly surprised to see that the harvest season remained unseasonably warm and dry.  Furthermore, the drying weather continued well into the winter months.  This happy circumstance allowed Arno’s corn to fully mature and allowed him to get all the corn picked and safely stored away in the corncrib.  The corn not used on the farm was shelled and sold in the spring.  With the income from the corn and milk from his farm, Arno made a decision to mechanize his farm.

As noted above, the lifting of the wartime economic restrictions at the end of the war set off a period of intense inflation.  (Harry S. Truman, Year of Decisions [Doubleday & Co.: Garden City, New York, 1955] p. 488.)  By December of 1945, the wartime restrictions and price controls were re-instituted in an attempt to control inflation.  Only in July of 1947 were the wartime economic restrictions finally lifted.  (Ibid.)

Now in the spring of 1948, Arno Schull finally felt the time was right to obtain a tractor.  He visited his local his local Massey-Harris dealership—the W.J. Nelson Dealership in Amboy, Minnesota—and signed a purchase agreement for a new Massey-Harris Model 30 tractor.  The purchase agreement also included a Model 34 Massey-Harris mounted cultivator with spring trip teeth.

Because of the delay in the harvesting of the crops in the fall of 1948, Arno had not completed all of the fall plowing on his farm.  Now in the spring of 1948 warm weather arrived sooner than usual.  Even in early April, the temperatures during the day were in the high 70s.  For plowing with the new tractor, Arno had purchased a McCormick-Deering Little Genius two-bottom tractor plow with 16” bottoms.  The Model 30 tractor handled this plow well even in the hard black gumbo soil of Mapleton Township.  Arno was pleased to note that plowing in the spring of 1948 proceeded at a much quicker pace than would have occurred had he been forced to continue farming with the horses that year.  No longer did he have to stop at the end of the field each time across the filed to rest the horses.

The warmer temperatures in 1948 continued throughout the spring.  May 1948 was unseasonably warm as temperatures reached 90 degrees.  (Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Daily Maximum/Minimum Temperatures for 1948 located on the Internet.)  Thus, spring planting was completed early, unimpeded by the weather.  The corn sprang up out of the ground in the warm weather and, soon, Arno was back in the cornfield with the Model 30 and the mounted Model 34 cultivator.  For this first cultivation of the corn, Arno attached the shields to the cultivator.  The shields protected tender shoots of corn from being covered up and crushed by the large clods of gumbo soil that were rolled up by the cultivator shovels.

The temperatures during the month of June in 1948 were actually cooler than the temperatures had been in May with temperatures reaching no higher than the low 80s for most of the month.  (Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Daily Maximum/Minimum Temperatures for 1948 located on the Internet.)  Thus, the initial cultivating of the young corn was almost a pleasure.  Nearly every day during the month of June of 1948 a short rain occurred.  (Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Daily Rainfall Amounts for 1948 located on the Internet.)  However, the rains were usually less than 2 to 3 tenths of an inch.  This was just enough to keep the corn growing properly, but not enough to prevent him from doing his fieldwork.

As the Model 30 and the cultivator approached the end of the field, Arno slowed the Model 30 tractor a little more with the throttle located between his legs on the operator’s platform.  Then he pulled on the hydraulic control lever also located between his legs just behind the throttle.  The pipes linking the front cultivator units with the rear cultivator unit which passed between the fenders of the operator’s platform on either side of the operator’s seat of the Model 30 tractor, moved forward and the shovels of the Model 34 cultivator were lifted out of the ground just before the front wheels of the tractor passed over the first of the eight (8) end rows planted at each end of the field.  Arno touched the right brake to bring the front end of the tractor around to be aligned with the next two rows of uncultivated corn.  Then he pushed ahead on the hydraulic control lever and the cultivator shovels were dropped into the ground and then he readjusted the throttle to a half-way position on the quadrant and the tractor headed out across the field again.  The whole turn could be accomplished without even disengaging the clutch.  Arno was pleasantly surprised with the progress he was making on the cultivation of the corn, cultivating two rows at a time with the tractor as opposed to cultivating only one row at a time with the horses.  He appreciated the fact that he did not have to raise the cultivator by use of hand levers at the end of the rows.  The cultivator was effortlessly and quickly raised by the tractors hydraulic system.

Heading back across the field with the new tractor and cultivator, Arno could hear the excited calls of the Killdeers who were tending their nests, which were built directly on the ground in the corn field.  He could see the adult Killdeers feigning broken wings in attempt to draw attention away from their nests which were now filled with unhatched eggs.

Early July 1948 saw the return of very hot weather as the mercury climbed to temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  (Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Daily Temperature Amounts for 1948 located on the Internet.)  The unseasonably mild days of June were left behind.  Furthermore, the first two weeks of July saw no rain whatsoever.  (Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Daily Rainfall Amounts for 1948 located on the Internet.)  As he cultivated his corn for the second time in July, Arno worried that the corn would be stunted in growth by the lack of water.  However, as he cast his eyes over to the oat field, he could see that the oats were ripening nicely in the intense heat and dry weather.  With income he had received from the milk, the pigs and sale of some of the excess corn not used as feed, Arno had revisited the Nelson Dealership to purchase a Massey Harris pull-type “Clipper” combine.  (The story of this combine will be included in the next article in this series on Massey-Harris farming.)  Soon he would be returning to the fields with the new combine to harvest the oats.

The rains returned in late July and continued into August of 1948, just as he was attempting to harvest the oats.  (Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Daily Rainfall Amounts for 1948 located on the Internet.)  Luckily these periodic ½ inch rains did not ruin his oat crop which was lying in windrows waiting to be harvested.  The thirsty corn, however, lapped up all the moisture that the rains could supply.  The Massey Harris Model 30 tractor had speeded up the process of cultivation of the corn and also had allowed him to get the combining of the oats completed without damage from the rains.  By the time of the large 2” rain storm which struck in mid August all the grain was safely under cover.

With the oats already harvested, the corn to tall for any more cultivating and the ground too wet for any other type of field work, it was a good time for Arno to catch up on a little of his favorite hobby—fishing.  After the cows had been milked in the evenings of mid-August he was able to get away in the family car to go fishing for Blue Gills at his favorite fishing spot—Cottonwood Lake, a small fishing lake located on the Landsteiner farm not far from his own farm.

The Massey-Harris Model 30 tractor helped Arno Schull get his corn crop raised and harvested.  Thus he was able to take full advantage of the supported commodity prices of 1948.  By the year 1949, the war-torn agricultural economies of Europe and Asia had recovered.  Those countries ceased buying United States food products.  Surpluses of grain began to build up and farm prices declined.  The year 1949 was a year to merely be endured and 1950 looked much the same from the outset.  However on Sunday June 25, 1950, North Korean Troops crossed the 38th parallel on the divided Korean Peninsula and invaded South Korea.  (Joseph C. Goulden, Korea: The Untold Story of the War [Times Book Pub.: New York, 1982] p. 50.)  By Friday June 30, the United States was already mobilizing troops to defend South Korea.  (Ibid., p. 109.)  In September of 1950, the federal government re-instituted war time restriction on wages, prices and, credit and brought back wartime rationing of consumer goods and farm equipment.  (Harold Underwood Faulkner, American Economic History [Harper & Row Pub.: New York, 1960] p. 717.)

However, anticipating greater need for food around the world, United States farm commodity prices once again rose.  (See the Columbia Encyclopedia article called “Agricultural Subsidies” cited above.)  Once again farmers sought to expand and modernize their farming operations.  The effects of this new demand were felt at farm equipment dealerships around the nation.  After a short dip in sales in 1949, the Nelson Dealership, once again, noticed a strong demand for farm equipment starting in late 1950 spurred by the demands of the Korean War.  Since October of 1949, Bill Nelson had been retired from active management of the dealership.  Management of the dealership was not in the hands of Bill’s sons, Willard W. and Roger J. Nelson.  Despite the re-introduction of restrictions on the manufacture of farm equipment, Willard and Roger still had less trouble obtaining farm machinery than their father had had during the Second World War.  Other Massey Harris dealerships across the nation shared these experiences.  One dealership in particular was the Pimper Dealership of Howells, Nebraska (1950 pop. 784).

Like the W.J. Nelson Dealership, the Pimper Dealership had been established in the years immediately following the First World War—in 1919 or 1920.  Founded by Al Pimper, the dealership started as a “battery station” serving the Howells community.  The Howells battery station supplied electrical batteries for the home electric generating systems that were in use in some residences and on some farms.  (Regular readers of the Belt Pulley will remember that a home electric generating system using Excide batteries was used on the John T. Goff farm near Mapleton, Minnesota.  [See the article called “The Papec Company of Shortsville, New York: Part II” on page 16 of the January/February 1996 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.])

Al Pimper married Beatrice Chudomelka of rural Dodge, Nebraska.  She was the daughter of Don Chudomelka who presided over a variety of activities on his farm north of Dodge.  The Chudomelka farm was a busy place with a dance hall, a roller skating rink and a scale for weighing truckloads of grain.  Every building on the Chudomelka farm was covered in corrugated metal.  Thus, the farm became known as “Tin City.”  In addition to operating the dance hall, operating an ice skating rink in the winter and doing custom weighing of grain for the neighborhood, Don and his two sons operated their own farm and also found time to do custom threshing in the neighborhood with their own Case steam engine and large Case thresher.

Settling in Howells with her new husband Beatrice traded one busy situation for another as the Pimper Dealership sought to supplement the battery business and obtained the franchises to sell cars for the Ford Motor Company, the Maxwell Motor Company of Detroit Michigan and to sell the Whippet car and the Willys/Knight car for the Willys-Overland Company of Toledo, Ohio.  When the Maxwell Motor Company became the Chrysler Corporation in the middle of 1925, the Pimper Dealership became a sales outlet for Chrysler cars.  Later, in 1935, as the Ford Motor Company sought to build a sales network composed of exclusive dealerships, the Pimper Dealership lost their Ford franchise.

In the late 1920’s probably 1929, the Pimper dealership obtained a franchise to sell farm machinery for the Oliver Farm Equipment Company.  This was the Pimper Dealership’s first excursion into the farm equipment market.  However, it was not until the Pimper Dealership obtained the franchise to sell Massey-Harris farm machinery in the late 1930s that the dealership really found its notch.  Al Pimper was aided in the successful dealership by a number of different factors.  First, his son, Al Pimper Jr., who had been born in 1923 was now of high school age.  During his time out of school, Al Jr. was employed in the parts department at the dealership.  Additionally, the Pimper Dealership developed a good working relationship with the Massey-Harris Branch House in Omaha, Nebraska, and with Larry Dimig, the District Manager.  This favorable relationship assured the Pimper Dealership of sufficient amounts of tractors and machinery to keep its inventory full at all times.  At times the dealership ordered six or seven railroad carloads of machinery at one time from the Branch House.

Just like the W.J. Nelson Dealership, the Pimper Dealership experienced ups and downs in sales in the post World War II era.  In 1951, with high prices for farm commodities fueled by the Korean War, the Pimper Dealership was once again selling Massey-Harris tractors and farm equipment.  One of the 4,118 Model 30 tractors manufactured by the Massey-Harris Company in 1951 was the Model 30 bearing the Serial No. 15095.  Number 15095 was shipped from the tractor factory at Racine, Wisconsin, to the Branch House in Omaha, Nebraska.  Larry Dimig placed No. 15095 on a trainload of machinery destined for the Pimper Dealership.  Accordingly, No. 15095 arrived in Howells, Nebraska, in the early spring of 1951, on board a Chicago and Northwestern Railroad flatcar with some other Massey Harris farm equipment sent from the Branch House in Omaha.  The tractor did not spend long in the inventory of the Pimper Dealership before it was sold to Joe Vogel, a local farmer in rural Howells.  Joe and Catherine (Becker) Vogel operated a 40-acre farm near Howell’s Nebraska, the family of Joe Vogel, was raising pigs, milk cows and some chickens.  Most of the arable land of the farm was used to produce corn and alfalfa which was used to feed the animals on the farm.  By 1951 their son, Gilbert had married Marilyn Molacek and had started taking over the farming operations from his father.  The family already had a John Deere Model B with a tractor plow and a mounted two-row cultivator.  Thus, when the Massey-Harris Model 30 was purchased the purchase contract did not include a tractor plow or a cultivator as might have been expected.  Joe Vogel appreciated the fact that the tractor was fitted with hydraulics and purchased a Duncon hydraulic loader to mount on the Model 30.

The Model 30 tractor functioned well on the Schull farm in 1948 and during the following years.  It was the sole tractor on the farm until 1956 when Arno purchased a new Massey-Harris Model 333 tractor.  Although a row crop tractor, this particular Model 333 was fitted with an adjustable wide front end and had the optional three-point hitch.  These two features would keep the Model 333 a useful part of the farming operations through the 1970s.  Indeed, the present author used the Model 333 to cultivate corn with a six-row rear mounted cultivator on the Arno Schull farm the in summer of 1970.  Meanwhile, the Model 30 continued as a second tractor on the farm.  When the tractor became so worn out, in the early 1960s, that it needed major work done to it, Arno and his oldest son, James, purchased another Model 30 from a junkyard and combined the two tractors to make a single tractor.  The restored Model 30 continued on the Schull farm for many more years.

Likewise, No. 15095 continued working on the Vogel farm.  Frequent use of the Duncon loader on No. 15095 created pressure on the front wheels of the tractor and required the Vogels to replace the wheel bearings and other parts on the front end of the tractor.  However, this was the extent of the major repairs that No. 15095 required during its working life.  In 1982, No. 15095 was sold to John Mlnarik.  (John Mlnarik is the father of Glen Mlnarik who has long served as a national board director of the International Harvester Collectors Association.)  John Mlnarik had operated an International Harvester dealership in Howells, Nebraska and now lived in retirement in nearby Dodge, Nebraska.  In 1992, John Mlnarik advertised No. 15095 for sale and the tractor was purchased by Fred Hanks of LeRoy, Minnesota.  No. 15095 was fully restored and painted in the summer of 2003 in anticipation of the August 26-29, 2004 Le Sueur County Pioneer Power Show.  As previously noted the 2004 Pioneer Power Show will host the national summer convention of the Massey-Harris Collectors.  No. 15095 will be present along with many other Massey-Harris tractors and farm machinery.  Just as the restored No. 15095 stirs memories of other Model 30 tractors which have played a part in North American agriculture, so too will the other Massey-Harris farm equipment surely stir memories of the past with the many attendees at the Show.  For a trip down memory lane be sure to be there and reminisce.

Massey-Harris Farming (Part I): The Oltrogge Family of Waverly, Iowa

                   Massey-Harris Farming (Part I):

The Oltrogge Family of Waverly, Iowa

by

Brian Wayne Wells

 As published in the May/June 2004 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

German immigration to the United States began as a trickle in the 1830s, but by the period of time from 1846 to 1855, German immigration had reached a peak when more than a million Germans emigrated into the United States.  (Maldwyn Allen Jones, American Immigration [University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1960] p. 110.)  More than half of the German immigrants coming to the United States at this time moved to the Upper Mississippi and Ohio River valleys.  (Id., p. 118)

Arriving at the end of this wave of German immigration in 1856 was a 36-year old young man, William Frederich Oltrogge (known as Frederick or Fred), and his 34-year old wife, Sophia.  Together with their two daughters, Sophia ages 6 years and Caroline age 2, they had boarded a ship for the United States.  The Oltrogge family had been originally from Hessen, or the State of Hess, in the west central part of Germany near the large city of Frankfort.  The Rhine River formed the western boundary between Hess and the Prussian Province of Rhineland.  The Kingdom of Bavaria which lay to the south of the State of Hess.

The reasons that Frederick and Sophia brought their family to this country are not known.  However, some clues might be found in the facts surrounding the immigration of the Oltrogge family.  The fact that the Oltrogge family came to the United States with a group of people they had known in the State of Hess and the fact that immediately upon their arrival, in 1856, they establishing a Lutheran congregation and then a year later in 1857, they erected the St. John’s Maxfield Lutheran Church, suggests that there may have been a religious motive in their immigration to Iowa.

During this period of time Germany was not yet a unified nation.  Instead the German speaking lands were divided into a patchwork of small kingdoms and princely states.  These small states were constantly warring against each other for one reason or another.  However, Martin Luther and the Reformation of 1520 and the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) had the effect of further splitting the German states along religious lines.  The states of the northern part of Germany became predominately Protestant (Lutheran), while the southern states remained Roman Catholic in religious persuasion.

The State of Hess was one of the middle states of Germany—not part of the predominately Lutheran north, nor part of the mainly Catholic southern part of Germany.  As a consequence, the people of Hess were, themselves divided in religious affiliation—65 to 68% Protestant and 26 to 32% Roman Catholic.  (James K Pollack and Homer Thomas, Germany in Power and Eclipse [MacMillan & Co. Pub.: London, 1952] p. 442.)  Ever since the Reformation, there had been religious unrest between the Catholics and the Protestants in Germany.  This unrest was especially prevalent in the middle states of Germany where the population was fairly evenly split between the Catholic and Protestant religions.  The State of Hess was no exception.  However, not only were the protestant families leaving Hess, but so too were the Roman Catholic families.  One notable Catholic example was Adolphus Busch, who left the State of Hess and immigrated to St. Louis, Missouri in 1857.  Adolphus Busch later became one of the founders of the Anheiser-Busch Brewery Company of St. Louis, Missouri.  (Peter Hernon and Terry Ganey, Under the Influence: The Unathorized Story of the Anheuser-Busch Dynasty [Avon Books: New York, 1991] p. 22.)

However, besides religious reasons, there may have been political reasons, which may have caused the Oltrogge and Busch families to leave the State of Hess.  There had long been unrest in the Germany over the very fact that the various German speaking states were divided into so many small political units.  There had been much agitation in favor of a unified German State.  However, there was much disagreement of dispute arose over the form the new unified Germany would take.  In 1848, all across the German speaking lands, uprisings in favor of more democratic freedoms and constitutions had arisen.  These revolts had been bloodily suppressed by the conservative rulers of the various German states.  One such crisis broke out in the State of Hess and threatened in 1850 to become a war involving some of the states neighboring Hessen.  (Marshal Dill Jr., Germany: A Modern History [University of Michigan Press: Ann Arbor, 1970] p. 120.)  Historians used to believe that the suppression of the uprisings of 1848 was a major cause of the German emigration to the United States in the early 1850’s.  They believed that tide of emigration consisted of disappointed liberals and democratic reformists.  Recently, however, theory has been challenged.  Modern historians now hold that the emigrating Germans were “little concerned with politics and with revolution not at all.”  (Marcus Hansen quoted in American Immigration by Maldwyn Allen Jones, cited above, p. 110.)

In actual fact, despite all the trappings, it may well have been plain economic motives that brought the Oltrogge family to Iowa.  For there were economic motives aplenty.  There had been poor harvests in the lands along the Rhine River for a number of years.  (Maldyn Allen Jones at p. 110 and Hernon and Ganey, Under the Influence:The Unauthorized Story of the Anheuser-Busch, p. 22.)  The vast open spaces of land and the virtually unlimited opportunity for land ownership in the upper Midwest of the United States compared quite favorably to the dismal future prospects that appeared to be waiting them in Germany.    (Robert P. Howard, Illinois: A History of the Prairie State [Eerdmans Pub. Co.: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1972] p. 222.)

Whatever the reason, Frederick and Sophia Oltrogge moved with their family onto a 240-acre piece of land in Section 1 of Jefferson Township in Bremer County Iowa.  The early years of settlement were mostly taken up with building the house and barn and, as noted above, the neighborhood church in adjacent Maxfield Township.  It was hard work, settling in the new land.  However, they were not alone.  The whole neighborhood was involved in the same struggle to tame the land and carve out a niche for themselves on the prairie.

In 1856, Iowa was still a frontier state having entered the union only 1846.  (Leland L. Sage, A History of Iowa [Iowa State University Press: Ames, 1974] p. 91.)  Large portions of the state were still inhabited by bands of Dakota (Sioux) people.  Indeed, one year after the arrival of the Oltrogge family, 1857, saw the uprising of the Wahpeton Sioux against the increasing flood of white settlers that were coming into Iowa.  This uprising has become known as the Massacre of Spirit Lake.  (Ibid., p, 107-108.)  However, the settlers kept coming even after the uprising.  The town of Jefferson City (now called Denver, Iowa) sprang up three miles to the south of Oltrogge farm.  By 1875, the Jefferson township schoolhouse had been built in the center of Section 2 just one mile west of the Oltrogge farm.  Slowly, the community was growing.  The size of the Oltrogge family also grew with the addition of a third daughter Anna Justine Wilhelmine born on April 4, 1858, another daughter Anna born on April 12, 1861 and a son William Frederick born on October 2, 1863.  Named for his father, the younger William Frederick was called William to distinguish him from his father who was called Fred or Frederick.  Like his older sisters, Sofia, Caroline and Anna just two years before, William, too, was confirmed in the St. Johns Maxfield Church in 1877.

The community continued to make progress.  A public road was eventually built directly though the center of Section 1 and 2 of Jefferson County which passed just south of the Oltrogge farmstead.  The 240-acre Oltrogge farm consisted of 160 acres located north of this road and 80 acres located south of the road.  Some time prior to 1875 another house was built on the 80 acres located south of the road.

As William grew up, he developed a real interest in the family farming operation.  The farm contained a dairy operation, with about 30 head of Holstein cattle being milked at any one time.  The family also raised about 200 to 300 pigs and 500 chickens.  Approximately half of their arable land was planted in corn.  Since they did not have a silo on their farm, they built a bunker for storing corn silage.  A portion of their corn was harvested as green corn silage; the remainder of the corn was harvested when ripe.  Much of the ripe corn was stored on the farm and fed to the pigs, chickens and dairy cattle.

On October 12, 1887, just ten (10) days after his 24th birthday, William married Anna Steege, an 18-year old girl from a neighboring farm.  Eventually they had a family that included Louis Wilhelm Johann Heinrich born on June 1, 1890, Amanda born in 1891, John born in 1892, Herman Heinrich Friedrich William born on May 23, 1893 and Hilda born on April 8, 1895.  Gradually, William took over the operations of the family farm from his father.

Under William Oltrogge’s management several improvements were made to the farming operation.  In the summer of 1897, he negotiated with the Borden & Selleck Co. of Chicago, Illinois for the purchase of a Howe Scale Company weighing scale for installation in the granary on the farm.  A letter dated July 30, 1897 from the company headquarters located at 48 and 50 Lake Street in Chicago and signed by H. Borden, president of the company informed William that although building plans for the scale could be forwarded immediately, actual construction of the scales would be delayed until October.  When installed in the covered alleyway of the granary, the 8ft. by 14 ft. platform of the scale had the ability to weigh an entire wagon load of grain or ear corn.

In 1916, a new barn was built specifically to house the teams of horses that the large farming operation required.  This horse barn was built as a separate building rather than being attached to the main cow barn.  Some time during the First World War, William mechanized the milking of the dairy herd.  He built an engine house which was attached to the granary located about fifty (50) feet away from the barn.  In the engine house was a 2 ½ horsepower Fairbanks-Morris stationary engine.  This kerosene-powered “hit and miss” engine was belted to a vacuum pump which, in turn, was connected to an underground pipe that ran to the barn.  The Fairbanks engine was started at the beginning of morning and evening milking and supplied the vacuum necessary to power the Universal-Coop milkers which William now used to milk his herd of cows.

Changes were also happening in the family.  The year 1913 saw the passing of William’s father, Frederick Oltrogge at the age of 83 years.  On March 18, 1914, Louis Oltrogge, William’s oldest son, married Hilda Kohagen from the local community.  Following their marriage they struck out on their own and purchased a 240 acre farm which was adjacent to the original Oltrogge farm on the northwest corner of the home farm.  In the summer of 1915, the Oltrogge family purchased their first automobile—a 1911 Model Kissel.  Besides being a convenience for the family members the car greatly shortened the amount of time that it took to deliver the separated cream to the Co-operative Creamery in Artesian, the little unincorporated settlement located ½ a mile to the east of the home farm.

Additionally, young Herman began to take up the decision-making authority with regard to the farming operation as William now in his 50’s began to think about retiring.  On May 3, 1917 Herman married Millie Kohagen, a sister of Hilda.  To make room for the new family on the main farm, William tore down the old house located south of the road and built a new house on that site.  William, then, moved into this new house and left the main house on the north side of the road for Herman and Millie.

Like his father, Herman was always seeking ways in which to improve the farming operation.  Indeed, Herman was even more inclined toward this idea of modernizing the farm.  In 1920, Herman, remodeled the house on the main farm.  In the early 1920s, the Interstate Power Company stretched an electric power line along the road between Olewyn, Iowa and Waverly, Iowa.  The power line followed the path of the road that would become State Route #3 along the edge of Readlyn, Iowa, and passing the Oltrogge farm.  Interstate offered farm owners along the path of the power line the right to hook up to the power line at an affordable price.  The Oltrogges accepted the offer from Interstate and electrified their farm.  Now with electricity in the barn, the family hooked the vacuum lines which extended to all the stanchions in the barn to an electrically powered vacuum pump located in the barn itself.  No longer was there a need for the vacuum lines extending underground to the barn all the way from the engine house.

However, Herman Oltrogge was aware that the most significant improvement in farming was the farm tractor which could fully mechanize the power on the farm.  Indeed, in the winter of 1917-1918, Herman’s brother, Louis, had purchased a new Model 15-25 Lauson tractor.  Herman had seen, first-hand how the steady power of the Lauson tractor compared favorably to the use of animal power for performing heavy farm work.  Consequently, by the Spring of 1920, Herman had purchased a 1919 Model International Harvester Titan 10-20 Model tractor.  This tractor was one of the post-1919 Titans which had the full length fenders which covered both rear wheels down to the drawbar.  Herman used the Titan and a three-bottom John Deere Model No. 5 plow, to do his spring plowing in 1920.

The Titan was not only intended for all the heavy work around the farm, but was also intended to supply power to the belt.  In 1920, the, Oltrogge’s also purchased a Sprout-Waldron feed grinder/burr mill.  (Keith Oltrogge, William’s great –grandson, is a Certified Public Accountant, practicing in nearby, Denver, Iowa, still owns and lives on the family farm and still has this 1920 Sprout-Waldron burr mill on the farm.)  Herman thought that the burr mill and the belt power provided by the Titan would speed up the processing of the animal feed on the farm.

Although the Titan was Herman’s first tractor, he never talked about it much.  It may well have been that he was dissatisfied with the Titan tractor.  It is not hard to find reasons for dissatisfaction with the Titan.  Regular readers of the Belt Pulley will remember a 1920 Model Titan tractor was purchased in 1927 by Clarence Rodning of St. Peter, Minnesota to mechanize his farming operation.  (See the article “Farming with an International 10-20 Titan” in the May/June 1996 issue of Belt Pulley magazine, p. 16.)  Among the other problems, the Titan was hard to start.  Indeed, Lee Klancher in his short book on International Harvester Farmall devotes five pictures to the Titan and the process involved in starting the Titan.  (Lee Klancher, Farmall Tractors [Motorbooks, Intl. Pub.: Osceola, Wisc., 1995] pp. 17 through 24.)  Additionally, due to the fact that the Titan was a two-cylinder tractor with both cylinders connected in parallel to the crankshaft, the pistons moved forward and back in the sleeves together rather than in an alternating two-cylinder pattern like John Deere tractors.  Thus, even though the pistons were counter-weighted to reduce vibration in the tractor, the Titan had a tendency to “lope” or rock back and forth when powering a belt driven machine.  This loping on the part of the tractor sent waves down through the belt and causing the burr mill to shake in time to the waves on the belt.  Herman discovered this shortcoming of the Titan when he used the tractor on the belt to power the new Sprout-Waldron burr mill he had purchased.  Herman was dissatisfied with the Titan and in 1923, he traded the Titan in to the dealership of Coddington and Laird in Waverly, Iowa, (pop. 600) toward the purchase of new four-cylinder Wallis Model OK tractor.

The Model OK had only been introduced in 1922 by the J.I. Case PlowCompany.  (C.H. Wendel, 150 Years of Case [Crestline Pub.: Osceola, Wisc., 1991] p. 18.)  The J.I. Case Plow Company of Racine Wisconsin should not be confused with the J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company which was also located in Racine, Wisconsin.  The Case Threshing Machine Company was maker of the Case tractor.  Although founded by the same people as the Threshing Company, the J.I. Case Plow Company had always been a separate corporate entity.  In 1919, J.I. Case Plow Company was merged with the Wallis Tractor Company of Cleveland, Ohio and, thus, Henry M. Wallis became the new president of the company which bore the name J.I. Case Plow Company.  Inevitably, once the J.I. Case Plow Company was controlled by persons no longer associated with the Threshing Company, disputes arose over the use of the name “Case” by the Plow Company.  A decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court allowed both companies to use the name “Case” under limited conditions.  (Ibid., p. 17.)  By the time the that the decision of the Wisconsin Supreme Court was handed down, the Case Plow Company had already been purchased by the Massey-Harris Company of Ontario, Canada.  Immediately, after the Court decision, Case Threshing Company began pursuing a course of negotiations with Massey Harris to purchase the Case Plow Company for itself.

However, Massey Harris had been trying to enter the tractor market without real success, since 1912.  The purchase of the Case Plow Company represented the company’s third attempt to add a tractor to the line of Massey-Harris farm equipment.  (Michael Williams, Massey-Ferguson Tractors [Farming Press: Ipswich, U.K., 1987] pp. 15 through 44.)  Once having obtained ownership rights to the manufacture of the popular Wallis tractor and the large Racine, Wisconsin tractor factory, Massey-Harris was not inclined to sell this valuable property.  What they were willing to sell, and what the Case Threshing Company really wanted, was the limited right to the use of the name “Case” currently held by Massey Harris as the owner of the Case Plow Company.  Thus, shortly after spending $1.3 million in cash and guaranteeing another $1.1 million in bonds in order to purchase the Case Plow Company, Massey Harris was able to recoup a great deal of the purchase price by selling their rights to the limited use of the name “Case” for $700.000.00.

At 4,020 pounds, Herman’s new 1923 Wallis Model OK tractor was much lighter than the 5,708 pound Titan.  (C. H. Wendel, Nebraska Farm Tractor Tests [Crestline Pub.: Osceola, Wisc., 1993] pp. 19 and 42.)  Furthermore, the Wallis Model OK tractor was a four-cylinder tractor delivering smooth power to the belt and to the rear wheels.  Testing of the tractor at the University of Nebraska had shown that the tractor delivered 18.15 hp. to the drawbar and 27.13 hp. to the belt pulley.  (Ibid., p. 42.)  The Wallis tractor introduced many innovations to the tractor industry.

In 1913, the Wallis Tractor Company introduced the revolutionary Wallis Model “Cub” tractor.  Two years later in 1915, the Model J, “Cub Jr.” was designed with a complete enclosure of the entire power drive train including the final drives at the rear wheels.  (C.H. Wendel, Encyclopedia of Farm Tractors [Crestline Pub.: Sarasota, Fla., 1979] pp. 57 and 58.)  Despite claims by Henry Ford that his Fordson tractor, which went into production 1918, was the first unit frame designed tractor, the Wallis tractor was, actually, the first tractor designed with a totally enclosed power train running in oil.  (Ibid.)  Every succeeding model of Wallis tractor was patterned after this design.  Thus, by merely obtaining the production rights to the Wallis tractor in 1928, Massey-Harris was instantly set on a course to become one of the world’s five largest tractor manufacting companies within ten years.  (Michael Williams, Massey-Ferguson Tractors [Farming Press: Ipswich, U.K., 1987] pp. 39 through 41.)

Furthermore, by its acquisition of the J.I. Case Plow Company, the Canada-based Massey-Harris Company instantly obtained a retail tractor sales network throughout the United States.  In northeastern Iowa, this meant that Massey-Harris obtained the excellent services of the Coddington and Laird dealership of Waverly, Iowa, with branch dealerships in Plainfield, Readlyn, Tripoli and Janesville, Iowa.

Founded in Waverly, the Coddington and Laird dealership was the brainchild of Alva Bush Coddington.  Alva (nicknamed Al) Coddington had been born in 1870 in Janesville, Iowa, located in southern Bremer County (pop. 445).  After having attended business school in Burlington, Iowa, Al was employed for a while as a bookkeeper at the firm of J.C. Garner in Waverly, Iowa.  Garner’s was a local business which owned a meat marketing business and farm equipment dealership holding retail sales franchises from many different farm equipment manufacturing companies, including Emerson Manufacturing Co., John Deere and Oliver plows, Ohio Cultivator Company discs and cultivators, Hayes Pump and Planter Company planters, Dain Manufacturing Company hay rakes and hay loaders, Sandwich Manufacturing Company “Clean Sweep” hay loaders, DeLaval cream separatorsand Great Western Company manure spreaders.  Garner’s also had franchises to sell horse-drawn buggies made by the Staver Carriage Company of Chicago, Illinois; the Northwestern Furniture Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the Velie Carriage Company of Moline, Illinois.

Al Coddington was a recognized success at bookkeeping during his employment at Garner’s.  In 1891, he married Olive Wetherell, a girl from his own hometown of Janesville, Iowa.  Their first child, Harry Coddington, was born in 1895, but tragically died in infancy that same year.  However, they eventually had a family that was to include three additional children—Herbert Wetherell Coddington born in 1896, Olive Harriet Coddington born in 1902 and Margaret A. Coddington born in 1908.  After some years at Garner’s Al sought to advance his career by accepting a position in Des Moines, Iowa.  However, when he heard in 1902, that his old employer—the Garner dealership firm—was up for sale, it did not take him long to makeup his mind to move back to Bremer County and to purchase the Garner dealership.  However, Al felt himself unable to make the purchase of all the stock in Garner’s by himself.  So he formed a partnership with Ralph Eldon Laird to make the purchase.  Thus, the October 30, 1902 issue of the Bremer County Independent was able to report to its readers the first news of the consummated sale of Garner’s to the partnership of Al Coddington and Eldon Laird, which would take effect on January 1, 1903.  For a place of business, the new partnership of Coddington and Laird, purchased a local icehouse and the five (5) acre lot on which it sat, located at 20 and 22 West Bremer Street in Waverly from the s of land from the firm of Miller and Babcock.

A combination of good business sense on the part of Al Coddington and his partner and the beginnings of the mass demand for automobiles on the part of the public, made the new partnership a success from the very start.  In 1902, the Northwestern Furniture Company, one of the companies that supplied horse-drawn buggies to Coddington and Laird, began offering a motorized “high wheeler” horseless carriage to the public.  In 1907, the Staver Carriage Company did the same and in 1909, the Velie Company followed suit.  Holding franchises to all three of these companies, Coddington and Laird, was perfectly placed to take full advantage of the coming boom in demand for automobiles.

In the meantime, Coddington and Laird sought to broaden their line of products they could offer to the public.  The partnership purchased a windmill retailer, the John Voorman retail business on February 18, 1904.  At the same time, Coddington and Laird leased the old skating rink from O. Wheeler, that had been used as a place of business by John Voorman.  In this building the partnership established a buggy and farm machinery warehouse.

By March of 1904, Coddington and Laird was doing so well that they established a branch dealership in the small village of Readlyn, Iowa (pop. 468) located 15 miles to the east of Waverly and about six miles east of the Oltrogge farm.  Al Coddington also had the privilege of opening a branch of his expanding business in his own hometown of Janesville, Iowa.  By 1913, he would have additional branches in the Bremer County towns of Plainfield and Tripoli.  In this way, the partnership covered every major sales market in Bremer County.

The partnership attempted to find the enterprises that would best position the partnership for the future.  Accordingly, Coddington and Laird sold off the meat market part of their business on May 14, 1904 to O.O. McCaffree.  In November of 1904, the dealership leased the Smalley Grain Elevator located on the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad (“the Rock Island Line”) tracks which led out of Waverly in a southwesterly direction.

By 1905, Coddington and Laird was already being referred to as Waverly’s “leading farm implement house” (the October 5, 1905 issue of the Waverly Democrat).  Furthermore, the October 5, 1905 issue of the Waverly Democrat, reported that in addition to managing both the implement dealership and the grain elevator, the Coddington and Laird partnership occupied four warehouses with a wide range of goods for sale including lime, coal, ice and farm implements.  In March of 1910, Coddington and Laird took over the building next door to them at 16 and 18 West Bremer Street.  This building was remodeled to function as a garage where the dealership would begin to offer mechanical servicing to the owners of the new automobiles, motorized trucks and farm tractors that were beginning to make there appearance in Bremer County.  Two years later, Coddington and Laird was already looking for new and larger premises for their business.  The May 30 and June 27, 1912 issues of the Bremer County Independent the description of the new building at the corner of West Bremer and 2nd Street North West that the J.M. Miller Construction Company had been contracted to build for the Coddington and Laird dealership.  By October, the building structure was complete up to the second story.  By January of 1913, Coddington and Laird was moving into their new building located two blocks down West Bremer Street from their former location.

The dealership recognized that the trend of the future lie with modern farm equipment.  Accordingly, Coddington and Laird sold off the ice business part of their combined enterprise to C. R. Farnham in November of 1914.  Next spring, in May of 1915, they sold off the grain elevator and the coal business to the Colburn Bros.  Concentrating on their core business as a farm equipment, tractor and automobile dealership, Coddington and Laird had found their niche.

However, within the emerging automobile industry vast changes were afoot.  In 1904, the Northwestern Furniture Company had ceased making automobiles.  (Beverly Rae Kimes, Standard Catalogue of American Cars 1805-1942 [Krause Pub.: Iola, Wisc., 1996] pp. 666 and 1047.)  To replace this franchise, Coddington and Laird signed a contract with the Clark Motor Company of Shelbyville, Indiana, to sell Clark automobiles.  However, the Clark Co. had only a short life-span from 1910 until 1912.  (Ibid. p. 337.)  In 1914, the Staver Motor Company found itself unable to keep up with the competition and went out of business.  (Ibid. p. 1386.)  Even the Velie Company began a decline that would eventually end in the total demise of the company in 1928.  (Ibid. p. 1495.)  Luckily, the dealership signed a franchise contract with a the REO Motor Car Company of Lansing, Michigan, the nation’s twenty-second largest automobile maker.  (James H. Moloney, Encyclopedia of American Cars1930-1942 [Crestline Pub.: Sarasota, Fla., 1977] p. 319.)  REO had the large scale capacity necessary to produce their cars in sufficient numbers to meet the increasing demands of the public.  Furthermore, in 1909, the REO Company began the line trucks for which they would become renowned.  (Albert Mroz, Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Trucks and Commercial Vehicles [Krause Pub.: Iola, Wisc., 1996] p 327.)

However, the most important franchise that Coddington and Laird obtained was the franchise to sell Chevrolet cars.  In the period just after the First World War, Chevrolet was on its way toward overtaking Ford Motor Company in production and sale of automobiles—an event which would occur in 1927.  (Robert Lacy, Ford: The Men and the Machine [Little Brown &Co. Pub.: Boston, 1986] p. 298.)  Coddington and Laird were doing their part to help Chevrolet in this endeavor.  Sales of Chevrolet cars in the twelve-month fiscal year from 1923-1924 resulted in Coddington and Laird becoming a member of the Chevrolet Division’s “Winners Class” of dealers for the year 1924.

            Coddington and Laird served as the local retail sales agent for many different farm equipment manufacturers.  Generally, these manufacturers did not have tractors in the line of farm equipment and they often specialized in the farm machinery they did manufacture rather than offering an entire line of farm implements.  Thus, these manufacturers were called “short line” companies.  Only by obtaining multiple franchises from many specialized short line manufactures, could Coddington and Laird offer to the public a “complete” line of farm equipment.  The Wallis tractor formed the capstone of that complete line of farm equipment offered by Coddington and Laird.  In June of 1926, the dealership partitioned off the front part of their new building to form a showroom which allowed the Coddington and Laird dealership to exhibit the Wallis tractor and other farm implements, inside, out of the weather and elements, even during the coldest of Iowa winters.  Although somewhat more expensive than other tractors which were on the market in the post World War I period, the Wallis tractor nonetheless, proved to be a popular sales item in Bremer County.  Thus, when Massey-Harris purchased the exclusive rights to build Wallis tractors, it only made common business sense for Coddington and Laird to become a Massey-Harris franchisee, which they did in 1928.

Herman Oltrogge was well satisfied with the Wallis tractor.  Not only did he use the Wallis Model OK on all the heavy duty field work, but he also immediately started using the tractor on all sorts of lighter duty work around the farm.  For example, he shortened the hitch on his John Deere grain binder and fixed the tractor with a long steering wheel extension that allowed him to steer the Wallis from the seat of the binder.  This allowed the grain binding operations on the farm to remain a “one-man” operation just as it had been with the horses.

The Wallis four-cylinder valve-in-head engine provided smooth power to the belt when Herman belted the Wallis to the Sprout Waldron burr mill.  Only one problem arose on the farm because of the new tractor.  The new Wallis Model OK tractor had a rated engine speed of 1000 rpm.  (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests [Motorbooks Intl. Pub., 1993] p. 42.)  This speed compared with an engine speed of 575 rpm. for the Titan.  (Ibid. p. 19.)  As noted above, when he purchased the burr mill, Herman had, of course, intended to use the Titan tractor to power the burr mill.  Thus, the burr mill was fitted with a 6” belt pulley with a 6” face.  This small pulley had the effect of speeding up the implement.  Thus, the burr mill had been customized to the slower belt speed of the Titan tractor.  Herman found that the Wallis tractor powered the burr mill at too fast a rate for efficient operation.  Thus, it is not surprising that on February 5, 1923, Herman wrote to the Sprout Waldron Company in Muncy, Pennsylvania to determine how to adjust his burr mill to fit the new higher speed Wallis tractor.  Charles Waldron, Vice president of the company responded three days later with a suggestion that the burr mill should be fitted with a larger 8” pulley.  Sprout and Waldron had an 8” pulley with a 6” leather face available for sale at a price of $5.25.  Acquisition of this new pulley allowed the Wallis Model OK tractor to efficiently power the burr mill and the smooth four cylinder engine did not cause the tractor to lope and send waves down the belt.

Massey-Harris continued manufacturing the Wallis Model OK tractor for about three years following the purchase of the J .I. Case Plow Company.  Indeed in 1929, Massey-Harris introduced a newer smaller version of the Model OK.  This was the Wallis Model 12-20.  (C. H. Wendel, Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors, p. 185.)  In 1931, the Massey Harris Model 25 was introduced as a replacement for the Wallis Model OK tractor.  (Michael Williams, Massey-Ferguson Tractors [Blandford Press: London, 1987] p. 32.)  Still, the Massey Harris 25 tractor bore many of the identical design features of the Wallis tractor.  The Massey-Harris Model 25 was offered to the public for the retail price of $1,275.00.  (C.H. Wendel, Massey Tractors [Motorbooks Intl. Pub.: Osceola, Wisc., 1992] p. 39.)

As was noted in an earlier article, during the years 1931 through 1933, the Oltrogge farm served as the test ground for the prototype of the Rosenthal corn picker.  (See the article “The Rosenthal Corn Husker Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Part V” contained in January/February 2002 issue of Belt Pulley magazine p. 12.)  Also as related in that article, Herman traded the Wallis Model OK tractor to the Coddington and Laird dealership in 1932 on the purchase of a new Massey-Harris Model 25.  Herman Oltrogge surely did not realize that his purchase of this tractor was to start a connection between the Oltrogge family and Massey-Harris tractors which extends down to the present day.  The Massey Harris 25 continued to serve on the Oltrogge farm until after the Second World War.

The purchase of the Massey Harris Model 25 tractor did not, however, provide the family with a tractor that would perform all farm operations.  The Massey-Harris was not a “row crop” tractor that would allow for the mechanical cultivation of corn and other row crops.  The Oltrogge family raised a lot of corn but even after the purchase of the Massey-Harris Model 25, they still used horses for the cultivation of row crops—one row at a time.  Not until early 1942, when they purchased one of the first Case Model VAC that came out in production, did they have a row-crop tractor which would allow for the mechanical cultivation of corn and other rows crops—two rows at a time.  However, after only one year with the VAC, the Oltrogges traded the little Case in on the purchase of another row crop tractor.  Once again they chose a Massey-Harris tractor.  They purchased a Model 101 Super from their local dealership—Coddington and Laird.  The 101 Super was an important part of the Massey-Harris Company’s attempt to develop a row crop tractor.  However, development of Massey-Harris row-crop tractors would come to full fruition only in the post-World War II sales boom.  This story remains as a subject for the next installment on Massey-Harris farming.

The connection between the Oltrogge family and Massey-Harris tractors continued.  Herman’s son, Orville Oltrogge took over the farming operations from his father in the late 1940’s.  The family farmed with a Model 44, a Model    and a Model Massey-Harris tractors.  Currently, Orville’s son, Keith Oltrogge, lives in the same house and on the same farm that was occupied by four prior generations of Oltrogges.  Although, Keith works in nearby Denver, Iowa, as a Tax consultant and accountant, Keith is known to Massey-Harris collectors and restorers, nationwide, as the editor of Wild Harvest, the official newsletter for Massey-Harris collectors.  In this way, Keith continues his family’s connection with Massey-Harris and actually makes the Oltrogge name as household term among Massey-Harris collectors.  Massey-Harris farming will be celebrated at the 2004 LeSueur Pioneer Power Show held on August 27, 28 and 29, 2004 as the national Massey Harris collectors “Wild Harvest” summer convention will be hosted at the Show.  Show attendees can be certain that Keith Oltrogge will be there to maintain his family’s continuing connection with the Massey-Harris name.

The 1938 Rasmus Thronson Farmall F-12 Tractor

The Farmall F-12 (Part III):

The 1938 Rasmus Thronson Farmall F-12 Tractor

by

Brian Wayne Wells

with the assistance of

Elvin Papenhausen of Princeton, Minnesota

 As published in the September/October 2003 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

The restored 1938 Rufus Thronson Farmall F-12 bearing the Serial No. 121778 at the 2016 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show.

 

As noted earlier the “waist” of Minnesota is the narrow part of the state, as it appears on a map.  (See the article called “The Possible Story of One”  Part I of the Loren Helmbrecht Tractor contained in the May/June 2003 issue of Belt Pulley magazine at page 28.)  The waist is located roughly half way between the northern and southern parts of the state.  Located in the waist, bordering Sherburne County on the north side is Mille Lacs County.  (See the above-cited article for a description of Sherburne County.)

A map of Minnesota showing the location of Mille Lacs County in the “waist” of the state.

 

This area of the State of Minnesota is where the deciduous hardwood forests of the southeastern portion of the State end and the northern coniferous forests begin.  (Theodore C. Blegen, Minnesota: A History of the State [University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 1963] p. 11.)  The pine and fir trees of the northern coniferous forests spring from the same sandy soil that covers Mille Lacs County.

The pine tree forests of the Chippewa National Forest typify the soft wood forests that are spread all across northern Minnesota.

 

As described in an earlier article, the sandy soil of the area had made the area of Sherburne and Mille Lacs County a good place to raise potatoes.  Potato farming had thrived in the area of Mille Lacs and Sherburne Counties since 1890.  (See “The Possible Story of One F-12” cited above.)  In 1908, potato marketing cooperative associations began making their appearance in the State of Minnesota.  (Blegen at p. 399.)  In 1920, the Minnesota Potato Exchange was formed.

The potato washer located in the O.J. Odegard Inc. warehouse located 2nd South Street in Princeton, Minnesota.

 

Princeton Minnesota (1920 pop. 1,685) served as a marketing outlet for the area potato crop.  Indeed, in 1901 and 1902 Princeton became the largest primary potato market in the Northwest.  One of the major potato buyers in Princeton was  O.J. Odegard Farms Inc.  Although, the Odegard family operated their own potato and onion growing operations on their own farm called “the bog,” Odegard’s served as a major buyer of potatoes for the entire Princeton area.

The O. J. Odegard peat bog, shown here is representative of the agricultural land of the southern part of Mille Lacs County including Greenbush township.

 

During the potato harvest in the fall of the year, the Odegard warehouse, located on 2nd South Street became a major employer in town.  Potatoes were received washed and packed into 100 lbs. sacks and loaded onto freight cars of the Great Northern Railroad.  The Great Northern tracks ran through town, north towards the county seat of Milaca and south to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  The loading of the freight cars took place at the Great Northern Railroad Depot which is located at 10th Avenue and 1st Street in Princeton.  (This depot is now the home of the exhibits and library materials of the Mille Lacs County Historical Society.)  The potatoes were sold to wholesalers in Minneapolis.

The old Great Northern train depot in Princeton as it appears today.

 

Not only did Odegards hire on employees to work the harvest and processing of potatoes in the fall of the year, but they also hired on teenagers all summer to work on their hands and knees weeding the fields of their own farm in the bog.  This made Odegards the largest employer in the Princeton area.  (Taken from the manuscript called Memories of Princeton, Minnesota by Elvin Papenhausen.)

Princeton even developed into a market for the “culls” or unsatisfactory potatoes that potato growers could not sell on the edible potato market.  These cull potatoes were used in the manufacture of commercial starch.  On March 26, 1890 the Princeton Potato Starch Company was incorporated and a factory was built.  The factory was so busy processing cull potatoes that the factory operated both day and night.  Later a second starch factory was built in Princeton.   (From an internet document called “History of Princeton, Minnesota.”)

The Parlin & Orenburg factory located in Canton, Illinois, as seen in 1905.

 

In 1919, following, the First World War, the International Harvester Company made their first major corporate acquisition since 1904, when they purchased the Parlin & Orendorff  (P. & O.)  Company of Canton, Illinois.  (C.H. Wendel, 150 Years of International Harvester [Crestline Pub.: Sarasota, Fla., 1981], p. 31.)  Along with their famous line of plow, the P. & O. Company also had introduced a mechanical potato digger several years prior to the merger with International Harvester.  The International Harvester Company inherited this horse-drawn mechanical potato digger.  (Ibid. p. 237.)  In 1920, International Harvester continued production of this potato digger, with some substantial improvements.  The potato digger was called the McCormick-Deering Model No. 6 potato digger.  (Ibid.)  One of the improvements of the Model No. 6 over the prior P.&O. Company potato digger was the rod-link chain apron.  The potatoes would travel over the moving apron which would shake off all the dirt.  The potatoes would then be deposited on top of the ground in plain view for the field hands to collect.  (Ibid.) 

A McCormick-Deering one-row potato digger

 

In 1920 the local International Harvester dealership franchise in Princeton, Minnesota may have been held by the owner and operator of the local hardware store.  Starting in 1920, the International Harvester dealership in Princeton was able to compete in the potato growing market by supplying the area potato farms with mechanical potato diggers.  In 1921, International Harvester introduced the new McCormick-Deering potato planter.  Together the Model No. 6 potato digger and the new McCormick-Deering potato planter allowed the dealership in Princeton to prosper all through the early part of the 1920s.  Sales of farm equipment allowed the hardware store to advertise employment for a position of farm equipment sales person.

The City of Princeton, Minnesota is located in Princeton Township on the southern border of Mille Lacs County. Indeed a small part of the city of Princeton spills over into neighboring Sherburne County to the south. In this 1914, map of Mille Lacs County Princeton Township can be seen as the pink-colored township at the very bottom of the map. Additionally, Greenbush Township, where the Rasmus Thronson farm was located is shown here as a green-colored township at the bottom of the map to the left of Princeton Township also on Mille Lacs County.

 

In answer to the newspaper advertisement of the position of sales person at the hardware store an ambitious 24-year-old man by the name of Floyd Hall arrived in Princeton.  Born in Henry, South Dakota, on January 30, 1896 to W. K. and Grace (Henry) Hall, Floyd had married Eva Leathers on October 11, 1916.  Eva was also from the town of Henry.  In 1918, while still living in Henry, Eva had given birth to their son, Willard F. Hall.  Now in 1920, she was pregnant again with a daughter.  Marjorie Hall was born to the couple in December of 1920.

Floyd Hall in middle age.

Continue reading The 1938 Rasmus Thronson Farmall F-12 Tractor

The Behlen Manufacturing Company (Part II)

            The Behlen Manufacturing Company: (Part II)

The Hi-Speed Gear Box 

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the November/December 2002 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

As noted previously in Part I of this series of articles, the Behlen Manufacturing Company was the brainchild of Walter Behlen.  (“The Behlen Manufacturing Company, Part I” in the September/October 2002 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  Along with his brothers Gilbert and Herbert (called Mike) and their father Fred, Walter had built a small company (which began in his own garage) into a nationwide supplier of grain storage and drying systems.  Emerging from the Second World War, the company was manufacturing many products besides its mainline product of grain systems.  One of its lesser-known products was the Hi-Speed Gear Box meant for installation on older, pre-war, steel-wheeled tractors.

Following the war, farmers across North America began to demand devices which would upgrade their old, pre-war farm tractors.  One way farmers upgraded their old tractors was by cutting off the steel bands on the rear wheels and welding on a rim for mounting of rubber tires on the rear.  Once the rubber tires were mounted in the rear, farmers began to notice how really slow these old, pre-war tractors were.  Thus, a market was established for some sort of supplemental transmission to provide a faster road gear for these tractors.  The Behlen Hi-Speed Gear Box was just such a supplemental transmission.  Behlen made its Hi-Speed Gear Box in three different styles:  one for installation on the John Deere Model A and/or Model B tractor; another for installation on McCormick-Deering’s Farmall F-30 tractor; and, the most popular of all, the Hi-Speed Gear Box made for installation on the Farmall “Regular” and/or the Farmall F-20.  The Farmall Regular and its successor, the F-20, had been pioneers in the tricycle style design of tractors.  The Hi-Speed Gear Box was intended to give these old pioneering tractors, a new lease on life in the post-World War II era.

Development of the “Farmall” had actually begun in the midst of an earlier war.  By 1915, the war in Europe was settling down to the stalemate in the trenches, with no end in sight and the Wilson administration seeking to keep the United States out of the war.  Meanwhile, on the average family farm in North America, the horse was already being displaced by the tractor.  Most of the heavier tasks on the farm, such as plowing and seedbed preparation, were already the domain of tractors, with “standard tread” model tractors of all companies taking over many of the heavier jobs.  Belt power, provided by these standard tread tractors was also being used to run grain threshers, silo fillers, corn huskers and feed grinders.  However, one task remained that was definitely for the horse – the cultivation of row crops.  Standard, or “four-wheeled,” tractors were simply not designed or suited for that task.

In 1915, it became the goal of the International Harvester Company to design a machine specifically for use in cultivation of row crops on the farm.  Research and experimentation was intensive, and by 1919, two engineers at IHC – Edward Johnston and C.W. Mott – had obtained a patent on a specialized machine know as the “motor cultivator.”  (Barbara Marsh, A Corporate Tragedy: The Agony of International Harvester, [Doubleday and Co.: Garden City, N.Y. 1985], p. 53.)  (Photographs of the development of the various prototypes of the “motor cultivator” can be seen in International Harvester Farm Equipment, by Ralph Baumheckel and Kent Borghoff [American Society of Engineers Pub.: St. Joseph, Mich. 1997], pp. 125-126).  However, the trouble with the motor cultivator was that it was another expensive piece of self-propelled machinery designed to perform only one task and would have to be stored by the farmer for a whole year until it could be used again.

Finally, in 1921, IHC determined that a new type of tractor design was needed – a design which would allow the tractor to cultivate corn as well as perform all the rest of the chores around the farm.  Consequently, the “tricycle” design of farm tractor was conceived and the “Farmall System” of farming was born.  In 1924, the Farmall Regular was introduced.  The goal of the Farmall System was aimed at total mechanization of all farm tasks and the elimination of all horses from the farm.  The tricycle design would prove successful from the very start.  Eventually, all tractor manufacturers copied the tricycle design for their row-crop tractors – leading International Harvester to counter with the advertising campaign slogan, “If it isn’t a McCormick-Deering, it isn’t a Farmall.”  (Ibid. p. 144)

In 1932, the Farmall (now called the “Regular”) was replaced by a new and improved version called the Farmall F-20.  The F-20 had 10% more horsepower than the Regular (23.11 hp as opposed to 20.05 hp) and had a new 4-speed transmission (2-1/4 mph, 2-3/4 mph, 3-1/4 mph and 3-3/4 mph) as opposed to the 3-speed transmission (2 mph, 3 mph and 4 mph) of the Regular.  (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests, [Crestline Pub.: Osceola, Wisc. 1993], pp. 51 and 85.)  Additionally, the two-plow F-20 was joined in the Farmall line by the three-plow F-30, introduced in 1931, and the single-plow F-12, introduced in 1932.

Because of the sudden popularity of the Farmall Regular, its production was moved, in 1927, out of the Tractor Works at 2600 West 31st Boulevard in Chicago and into the Company’s new factory, The Farmall Works, located at 4201 Fifth Avenue in Rock Island, Illinois.  Production of all F-20s and F-30s was carried on at the Farmall Works.  Only production of the F-12 remained at the Tractor Works in Chicago.  By the time No. 127613 rolled off the assembly line in the morning of May 13, 1938, the Farmall Works was only eleven years old.

The price of a new F-20 with rubber tires front and rear in 1939 was $1,190.00.  (Ralph Baumhecckel and Kent Borghoff, International Harvester Farm Equipment, p. 146.)  This was a great deal of money for a farmer emerging from the experience of the Great Depression.  Still, as they learned that rubber tires would grip the ground just as well as steel wheels, farmers dreamed of having rubber tires on the front and rear of their tractors for the smoother ride the rubber tires could provide.  One particular farmer who dreamed of having and then purchased an F-20 with rubber tires front and rear is portrayed in the 1938 International Harvester promotional movie called Writing Your Own Ticket.  This movie advertises the new Income Purchase Plan which was being introduced by the International Harvester Company (IHC) as a way to help potential farm customers individualize an installment plan for loan repayment.  This plan would allow them to pay installments as their income came to the farm, rather than on a rigid monthly installment plan.  In this way, farmers could “write their own ticket.”  (“Writing Your Own Ticket” is available on VHS video Tape #3 from International Promotional Movies)

While rubber tires on the rear were nice, they would add nearly $150.00 to the price of a tractor.  (Donald R. Darst, F-30 Farmall Restoration Guide and Story: From Field to Hot Rod to Show [1993], p. 3B.)  Thus, many farmers dropped this option when purchasing their tractors.  Farmers felt they could live with the “bouncy” ride of the tractor, thereby reducing the initial outlay of money they would need for the tractor.  A cheaper option was to have rubber tires in the front in order to improve the steering of the tractor.  Thus, it was a typical configuration for most tractors of that era to have rubber tires in the front and steel wheels in the rear.  No. 127613 was no exception.  On the front, No. 127613 had two 6.00 x 16” rubber tires mounted on IHC-made, cast iron, drop-center wheels with 4.50 x 16” rims.  These cast iron front wheels had replaced the 4.50 x 16” French and Hecht (F. & H.) round spoke rims.  International Harvester had made this switch at the F-20 tractor bearing the serial number 109124, which came off the assembly line in late 1937.  (McCormick Deering Model F-20 Farmall Tractor Parts Catalogue, p. 175)  (Kurt Aumann, Ed., Antique Tractor Serial Number Index [Belt Pulley Publishing: Nokomis, Ill. 1993], p. 16.)  Accordingly, when No 127613 was manufactured a year later, it was fitted with cast iron wheels with rubber tires in front and IHC-made steel wheels on the rear. Continue reading The Behlen Manufacturing Company (Part II)

Pioneer Implement House and the Great Binder Wars

       The Pioneer Implement House Farm Equipment Dealership of

Winnebago, Minnesota, and the Great Binder Wars of the 1890

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the July/Augsut 2002 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

In the 1880s, farming was in its golden age.  As old painful memories of the Panic of 1873 were fading, a new generation came with a whole new set of advantages to make farming easier.  To be sure, mechanical cutting of wheat and oats had been developed well prior to the Civil War, with most credit going to Cyrus McCormick for the invention of the successful reaper in 1831.  However, harvesting small grains still required a tremendous amount of manpower, because reapers basically only cut grain.  Even raking cut grain from the cutting table was done by hand until self-raking reapers were developed – like McCormick’s own “Daisy.”  (A picture of the Daisy can be seen in C. H. Wendel’s book 150 Years of International Harvester [Crestline Publishers: Sarasota, Fla., 1981], p. 20.  Additionally, there is a Daisy self-raking reaper among the permanent collection at the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show which can be seen in the parade at the 1992 show on the second hour portion of Tape #1 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies.)

While the Daisy self-raking reaper was a big advance in technology, grain harvesting still required a great deal of hand labor.  The first real advance in the area of small grain harvesting came only in 1873 with development of the wire-tied grain binder by the Walter A. Wood Mowing and Reaping Machine Company of Hoosick Falls, New York.  (C.H. Wendel, Encyclopedia of American Farm Implements and Antiques [Krause Publications: Iola, Iowa, 1997], p. 160.)

The advantages of self-binding reapers were very quickly recognized by the farming public and demand for these binders skyrocketed.  In 1876, 5,000 binders were purchased by Minnesota farmers alone.  (Theodore C. Blegen, Minnesota: A History of the State [University of Minnesota Press: St. Paul, 1963], p. 342)  By 1880, the knotter-bill design for twine-tying of grain bundles was perfected.  That same year, the Deering Harvester Company made 3,000 of these twine-tying grain binders for the 1880 harvest season.  (C.H. Wendel, 150 Years of International Harvester [Crestline Publishing: Sarasota, Florida, 1981], p. 23)  Twine was a great improvement over wire because farmers would not have to worry about pieces of wire breaking off and getting into the grain where it might be accidentally swallowed by cows.  Small bits of metal swallowed by cows tended to get stuck in the lining of the cows’ stomachs and would cause “hardware disease,” a disease which causes cows to become sickly and eat less.  Thus, beef cattle will gain less weight and milk cows will produce less milk.  Twine, on the other hand, if accidentally swallowed, was harmless to the intestinal tracts of cattle.

Demand for the new twine-tying grain binders caused many companies to be formed solely for the purpose of making binders and caused other, older companies to focus more directly on the booming binder market.  Not only did the grain binder create opportunities for the manufacturers of farm equipment, but opportunities were also created at the retail end of the farm machinery business.  Many young men became aware of these opportunities for selling farm machinery, especially grain binders, to the farming public.  One such young man was John Azro Hanks.

Born on December 16, 1860, on a farm near Warren, Vermont, John Azro Hanks was the second child and first son of John Marshall and Charlotte (Bruce) Hanks.  A lifelong lover of books and an avid reader, John Azro completed his schooling in Warren, and went on to graduate from Randolph Normal School in Randolph Center, Vermont.  He had taught one year of school (1879-1880) in Vermont, when, in August of 1880, his parents and younger brother Fred Marshall moved to Minnesota and settled on a farm in Verona Township, Faribault County, near the town of Winnebago.  They intended to get settled on a farm before spring field work would begin.  John Azro, who was 20 years old at this time, remained in Vermont to teach school for another year before he too would immigrate to Minnesota in the spring of 1881.  (John Azro also had an older sister – Ellen Ione Hanks – who was 26 years of age in 1880 and had been married to George Provonche since February 11, 1874.)  Continue reading Pioneer Implement House and the Great Binder Wars

The Willmar Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor (Part II)

The Mankato Implement Dealership (Part 2 of 2 Parts):

     Wilmar Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the May/June 2002 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

In the spring of 1937, a farmer living in Rapidan Township in Blue Earth County, Minnesota, started working in the fields of his 80-acre farm with his newly purchased John Deere Model B tractor bearing the serial number 34081.  Just the previous February he and his family had attended the annual open house at the Mankato Implement Company the local John Deere dealership located in Mankato, Minnesota.  (See the March/April 2002 issue of Belt Pulley Vol. 15, No. 2, p. 16 for the history of the Mankato Implement Company dealership and story of the 1937 open house.)  At the open house, our Rapidan Township farmer had acted on a dream that had occupied his thoughts for some time.  He had purchased his first farm tractor.

Being a tractor that was manufactured prior to Serial No. 42200, No. 34081 was one of the “short frame” John Deere Model B tractors.  Our Raidan Township farmer found that No. 34081 was a vast improvement for his farm in all seasons.  However as time passed he found that some improvements were needed to the tractor.  As noted in the earlier article in this series, our Rapidan Township farmer replaced the seat on No. 34081 with an after-market Easy-Ride seat.  The Easy Ride seat was made by the Monroe Automobile Equipment Manufacturing Company of Monroe, Michigan and was composed of a large coil spring and a Monroe shock absorber.  The Easy Ride seat was much more comfortable than the original John Deere seat—especially on a tractor with steel wheels and 3” high lugs.  As noted in the earlier article in this series, International Harvester had begun installing the Easy Ride seat on its Farmall tractors in 1939.  The seat was a factory-installed option and became such a commonly requested option on the Farmall “letter-series” tractors—the Model M and Model H etc.—that the Easy Ride seat might just as well been standard equipment.

Although no evidence exists that the Monroe Easy Ride seat was ever a factory-installed option for John Deere tractors.  However as noted previously, a surprising number of un-styled and early styled Model B tractors were fitted with the Monroe seat.  Accordingly, it is not surprising that our Rapidan Township farmer had No. 34081 fitted with the Easy Ride seat which he purchased from a third-party short-line farm tractor parts business in Mankato.  When he purchased the Monroe seat, he found that the seat had already been painted green in color for John Deere buyers.  The Monroe Easy Ride certainly made No. 34081 much smoother to ride.

When the United States became involved in the Second World War, our Rapidan Township farmer found that prices for his farm products rose higher than he had ever remembered.  No. 34081 sped up his ability to complete the field work on his farm.  Because of this increase in efficiency, he was able to take full advantage of all the arrable land on his farm planting from “hedgerow to hedgerow” for the war effort.  He even was able to add a couple of cows to his milking herd of Holsteins.  With a modern tractor-powered and, by now, electrified farm our Rapidan Township farmer was well positioned to take full advantage of the of the rise in prices which accompanied the nation’s attempt to feed the armies around the world.  The John Deere Model B, now with rubber tires on the front wheels worked very well for him all through the Second World War.  During this period, he found that the tractor allowed him to complete much more field work each day than in the past and he was still able to get the milking done at a decent hour in the evening.

By his figuring, in the new environment of higher farm prices, our Rapidan Township farmer figured that the tractor had paid for itself many times over by the time that the war ended.  Now, with the return of peace in 1945, he, like the rest of his neighbors, now thought of trying to upgrade the tractor further by putting rubber tires on the rear of the tractor.

The most popular way of converting the rear wheels to rubber tires was to have a local blacksmith shop cutting the flat spokes of the steel wheels and removing the steel band on the outside of the wheel and then welding on a new rim designed for rubber tires.  Local blacksmith shops all across the Midwest were doing a brisk business in the post-war era in cutting down steel wheels and welding on tire rims.  Indeed, just seven miles south in Good Thunder, Minnesota, the welding shop owned by Dick Scheur was doing a good deal of this work.  To our Rapidan Township farmer having the steel wheels cut down seemed the most prudent way to mount rubber tires on the rear of his tractor.  Consequently, in the early spring of 1946, just as the last traces of snow left in the ditches and shady areas, our Rapidan Township farmer placed No. 34081 securely up on blocks and removed both rear wheels.  He loaded the steel wheels into the back of his new 1946 Chevrolet pickup and headed out his driveway and down the township road toward County Road No. 9.  It certainly wasn’t cold enough for the heater to be turned on.  Indeed he reached up and turned the little crank o the center of the dash board that opened the bottom of the windshield.  He opened the bottom of the windshield just a crack to let in some fresh air.  His new pickup was one of the “Art Deco” Chevrolet pickups which had a great deal of chrome running up and down the front grill.  It was a design that had appealed to him ever since these Art Deco trucks had been introduced in 1941.  Continue reading The Willmar Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor (Part II)

The Willmar Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor (Part I): The Mankato Implement Company

The Mankato Implement Company (Part 1 of 2 Parts):

                    Wilmer Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the March/April 2002 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

            As has been noted on previous occasions most farm equipment dealorships grew out of the traditional small-town general store or hardware store.  (See the article “The Grams & Krautkremer Hardware: John Deere Dealor in Jordan Minnesota” in the July/August issue of Belt Pulley Vo. 13, No. 4, p. 16 and the article “Ray Christian/Easterlund Impliment of LeSueur, Minnesotaand the Wagner/Wacker 1947 John Deere A” in the September/October 2000 issue of the Belt Pulley Vol. 13, No. 5, p. 18.)  These early “dealorships” sometimes held the franchises to multiple competing farm equipment companies.  (Regular readers will remember the fact that the Miles Supply in the small settlement in Clear Creek Township in Eau Claire, Wisconsin had both a John Deere franchise and an International Harvester franchise.  (See the article “The Rosenthal Cornhusker Company of Millwaukee, Wisconsin [Part IV]: the Cornbine” in the November/December 2001 issue of is Belt Pulley Vol 14, No. 6.)  Indeed, some small towns would have two franchises from the same company.  Two John Deere dealors in the same town would create as much competition between John Deere and  John Deere as it would between John Deere and International Harvester within that town.  Barbara Marsh, A Corporate Tragedy: The Agony of International Harvester (Doubleday: Garden City, New York, 1985) p. 99.)  This situation was not conducive to the efficient sales network that the farm equipment companies wished to establish.

Both International Harvester and the John Deere Company began to change this situation.  John Deere initiated a plan for “key dealorships” program.  Realizing that farmers in the 1920s were willing to drive further (over the increasing number of newly paved roads) to find large dealerships which would serve their entire farm machinery needs, John Deere sought to establish larger dealorships in larger towns–especially county seats of the various counties across rural America.  Ibid.

One such county seat was Mankato, Minnesota (1920 pop. 12,469), located on the Minnesota River on the northern edge of Blue Earth County.  Because John Deere had no franchise holder in Mankato, the Company decided to establish a Company-owned dealership in Mankato–Mankato Implement Company.  (This was not Mankato’s first experience with a company-owned dealership.  International Harvester had established a company-owned dealership at 301 So. Second Street in Mankato in 1905.  Later this company-owned dealership was moved to 426 No. Front Street where it stayed for nearly 60 years.  Long-time readers of the Belt Pulley will remember that in the article “Deering and McCormick Grain Binders” in the May/June 1995 issue of Belt Pulley Vol. 8, No. 3, p. 21, was accompanied by a small reproduction of a poster from the International Harvester Company dealership located at 426 No. Front Street in Mankato, Minnesota.  It was implied in that article the John and Mary Depuydt 10 foot McCormick-Deering grain binder had been purchased from that dealership in the 1940s.  Additionally, readers may remember that in the article “The Wartime Farmall H” contained in the July/August 1994 issue of Belt Pulley Vo. 7, No. 4 p. 14, it was noted that Fred and Bruce Hanks had made their way to Mankato for some shopping in the winter of 1944-1945.  There they purchased a pair of new drop center cast iron wheels and matching rims for the 1942 Farmall H they had just purchased.  Although the name of the dealership was not mentioned in that article, the wheels and rims for the Farmall H were purchased at the International Harvester company-owned dealership in Mankato.)

In 1930, John Deere also decided to establish a company-owned dealership in Mankato, Minnesota, originally it was planned that the dealership would also serve as a “branch house” or a distribution center for the other smaller John Deere dealerships around southern Minnesota.  For the purposes of establishing this dealorship/block house, John Deere sent Joseph Rolstad to Mankato in the spring of 1930.  He took a room at a boarding house located at 328 Center Street and served as the first general manager or “branch manager” of the new company owned dealership which became known as the Mankato Implement Comany.  A building was purchased at 212 North Front Street and the new dealership was initiated.  Later the premises next door, at 210 North Front Street were also acquired and merged with the dealership and the address of the Mankato Implement Company dealership was officially changes to 210 No. Front Street.  Later it was decided that the branch house for the entire state of Minnesota would be the Deere and Webber Company distributorship located at 800-828 Washington Avenue North in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Thus, the Mankato Implement Company lost its destination as a branch house and became a straight dealership.

The building at 800-828 Washington Avenue North which housed the Deere and Webber Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota the branch warehouse for John Deere dealerships all over the State of Minnesota.

 

It had never been the intent of Joseph Rolstad to serve as the permanent manager of the new dealership.  He was merely assigned the duty of coming to Mankato to get the dealership up and running and then move on to another assignment as soon as a permanent manager had been hired.  A couple of permanent managers were tried but eventually, in the spring of 1934, Lore E. Smith was hired as permanent manager of the Mankato Implement Company.  Lore and his wife, Marie, moved into a house at 918 No. Second Street in Mankato. In addition to the new dealership at 210 North Front Street, John Deere had purchased a building at 1101 North Broad Street in Mankato to serve as their warehouse.  Continue reading The Willmar Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor (Part I): The Mankato Implement Company

Rosenthal Cornhusker Company (Part V)

The Rosenthal Cornhusker Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

The Self-Feeder and the Last Years (Part V)

by

Brian Wayne Wells

with the assistance of

Jim McFarlane of Waunakee, Wisconsin

Lyle Sundry of Byron, Minnesota

Gary J. Jones of Owatonna, Minnesota

Jim Esbenshade of Colbert, Oklahoma

John McNamara of Eagle Rock, Missouri

and

Keith Oltrogge of Denver, Iowa

As published in the January/February 2002 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

            As noted in Part IV of this series on the Rosenthal Company, one could foresee that the future of ripe corn harvesting would not bode well for the Company if it remained solely as a producer of stationary corn shredders.  (See “The Rosenthal Corn Husker Company Part IV: The Cornbine” in the November/December 2001, issue of Belt Pulley Vol 14, No. 6.) Also, noted in Part IV they were unable introduce their own corn picker into the already overcrowded corn picker market.  What was not noted in Part IV was that they knew from experience that they could not do so.

            As part V of this series was nearing completion, information was received from Keith Oltrogge,  editor of the Massey-Harris collector’s newsletter called Wild Harvest, that indicated the Rosenthal Company experimented with a two-row pull-type corn picker.  Experimentation with this prototype of the Rosenthal cornpicker was conducted on the farm of Herman and Millie (Kohagen) Oltrogge in Bremer County, Iowa, from 1931 until 1933.  Herman and Millie were the grandparents of Keith Oltrogge.  Together Herman and Millie owned and operated a 300 to 400-acre farm located which is ed seven miles east of  Waverly, Iowa (pop. 8,539) on State Road No. 3 straight across the intersection with U.S. #63 number and another ½ a mile on the north side of S.R. #3.   They had a dairy operation, with about 30 head of Holstein cattle being milked at any one time throughout the year.  They also raised about 200 to 300 pigs and 500 chickens.  Approximately half of their arable land was planted in corn.  Since they did not have a silo on their farm, they built a bunker for storing corn silage.  A portion of their corn was harvested as green corn silage; the remainder of the corn was harvested when ripe.  Much of the ripe corn was stored on the farm and fed to the pigs, chickens and dairy cattle.  (Although Keith is a Certified Public Accountant, who practices in the nearby town of Denver, Iowa, he still owns and lives on his father’s and grandfather’s farm.)

            Herman Oltrogge processed much of his ripe corn into dry feed by means of a Sprout-Waldron feed grinder, or burr mill.  (Keith still has this old burr mill on the farm.)  To power the burr mill and to provide mechanical power for some of the other tasks on the his farm, Herman had purchased a new Wallis model “OK” tractor in 1926.  The Wallis tractor was manufactured by the J.I. Case Plow Company, which was a separate entity from the more familiar J.I. Case Company which manufactured threshers and tractors under the Case name.  The J.I. Case Plow Company had originally been spun off from the J.I. Case Company in 1890 as a separate entity under the presidency of Jackson I. Case, son of the original founder, Jerome Increase Case.  However, Jackson Case was succeeded in the presidency of the J.I. Case Plow Company by Henry M. Wallis in 1892.  (C.H. Wendel, 150 Years of J.I. Case [Crestline Pub. Co.: Sarasota, Fla., 1991], p. 14.)  This was the beginning of production of the Wallis tractor.  In 1893, Jacob Price and the T.M. Company purchased the J.I. Case Plow Company; however, production of the Wallis tractor continued under the new ownership.  By 1922, the model OK Wallis tractor had been introduced to replace the Wallis Model K tractor.  (C.H. Wendel, Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors [Crestline Pub. : Sarasota, Fla., 1979] p. 59.)  At its tests in Lincoln, Nebraska, in April and May of 1923, the  Model OK tractor had developed a maximum horsepower of 18.15 on the drawbar and 27.13 hp at the belt pulley.  It was this model of tractor that Herman Oltrogge purchased in 1926 at a dealership in Waverly, Iowa, and put to work on his farm.

            At the same time, Herman’s brother, Louis Oltrogge, also traded in his old Lauson tractor in to the same dealorship on a new Wallis Model OK tractor.  In nearly all farming operations throughout the year, Herman cooperated with his brother.  Louis and his wife, Hilda Kohagen) Oltrogge, lived on a 240-acre farm adjacent to Herman and Millie’s farm.  Hilda was a sister of Millie; thus, brothers had married sisters.  Louis and Hilda’s farm was on U.S. 63 about a ½ a mile north of the intersection of U.S. 63 and S.R. No. 3.  When traveling between the two farms, however, the families preferred to use the field lane that connected the two farms, rather than take farm machinery out on the road.   Louis and Hilda also had a large Holstein dairy operation and raised chickens and pigs.  However, not having a silo or a bunker on his farm, all of the corn on their farm was harvested as ripe corn.

            Bremer County, where the Oltrogge farms were located, had its own Rosenthal dealership in the form of Shumacher’s Blacksmith Shop which had expanded into a short-line machinery dealership.  William (Bill) Schumacher was the owner and operator of this blacksmith shop and shortline dealership located in Denver, Iowa (approximate 1930 population 500-600).  As noted previously, the Rosenthal Company did very little advertising itself, relying largely on “word of mouth” and the reputation of the company for building quality machines.  Thus, it was left to the individual shortline dealers carrying the Rosenthal line to do their own advertising.  Schumacher’s did just that by means of promotional ink pens with their name and the “Rosenthal” name emblazoned on the barrel of the pens.  (Keith Oltrogge still has examples of these promotional pens.)

            Because of his location in Bremer County, it seems likely that Bill Schumacher had something to do with arranging the tests of the Rosenthal corn picker prototype on the Oltrogge farm.  However, because Bremer County is adjacent to Chickasaw County and the Oltrogge farm is only 27 miles south of New Hampton, Iowa (the county seat of Chickasaw County), it is tempting to believe that the Mielke Manufacturing and Sales Co. of New Hampton, Iowa, was also involved in making the arrangements for the testing of the prototype corn picker in conjunction with Schumachers.  (As we know from Part IV of this series, it was William J. Mielke, who would later, in 1943, arrange for the testing of the prototype of the Cornbine on the John and Catherine Landreck farm in neighboring Fayette County.)

            Nevertheless, in the fall of 1931, a prototype of the Rosenthal corn picker was brought to Herman and Millie’s farm by Rosenthal engineers.  They wished to see how the picker would operate under actual field conditions.  Just as with the testing of the prototype of the Cornbine some 12 years later on the Landreck farm, the company also wished to have the corn picker powered by the tractor of the hosting farmer.  Consequently, Herman’s Wallis Model  OK tractor was used to pull the prototype of the corn picker in the corn field on his farm.  Accompanying the engineers and the prototype to Herman and Millie’s farm in the fall of 1931 was Henry Rosenthal himself.  (As noted in Part II of this series of articles, Henry was the son of August Rosenthal.  August was the oldest of the four Rosenthal brothers who had founded the Rosenthal Corn Husker Company.  Also as previously noted, Henry Rosenthal would succeed his father into the presidency of the Rosenthal Company in 1936.)  Henry was not pretentious, nor afraid to get his hands dirty in pursuit of the job at hand.  Herman’s camera caught Henry Rosenthal taking a turn at the controls of the Wallis tractor while it was pulling the prototype corn picker around the corn field.  From the tractor seat, Henry was able to see for himself the operation of the picker as the corn passed through the snapping rollers.

            At the end of the harvest, Henry and the Rosenthal engineers had learned a great deal about their prototype.  They packaged up the prototype corn picker and shipped it back to the Rosenthal factory at West Allis, Wisconsin for further modifications based on improvements suggested by Henry and the engineers.  Due to all the modifications on the prototype, however, the Company felt that more testing of the new modified two-row corn picker prototype was needed before the company went into production with the two-row corn picker.  Indeed, when the prototype reappeared on the Oltrogge farm in fall of 1932, it had changed a great deal in appearance.  The most apparent change was the addition of more streamlined sheet metal and more sheet metal covering the elevator carrying the ears of corn from the snapping rollers up to the husking roller bed.  Once again, Henry Rosenthal accompanied the Rosenthal engineers to the Oltrogge farm.  Continue reading Rosenthal Cornhusker Company (Part V)