In 1924, a revolution occurred in the design of farm tractors. This revolution had started with the introduction by the International Harvester Company of the Farmall tractor in 1924. The Farmall was a “row crop” tractor advertised specifically as the tractor that could “do everything on the farm except the family budget” (a quote from the movie “Practical Magic” on Tape/DVD #3 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies). Soon every tractor manufacturer was introducing their own version of the row crop tractor. The J.I. Case Company’s first entry into the row crop tractor market was the Model CC tractor, introduced in 1929. The Model CC contained an engine with a 3 7/8 inch bore and a 5 ½ inch stroke. Tests of the 4,240 lbs. Model CC at the University of Nebraska, conducted on September 10, 1929, found that the tractor produced 28.79 hp. at the belt pulley and 17.88 hp. at the drawbar. The Case Model CC tractor was a tricycle-style of tractor. Although the Model CC had two wheels in front, the two wheels were positioned close together. This configuration became a standard for row crop tractors and was called the “narrow front end” or “tricycle” design of farm tractors. The front wheels of the typical tricycle tractor, like the Case Model CC tractor, could fit in the pathway between two rows of corn or other row crops planted 30 or 40 inches apart.
It was this very ability of the Model CC to cultivate corn that attracted a particular farmer living in Stockholm Township in Wright County, Minnesota. He and his wife operated a 160-acre farm on which they raised oats and hay for his horses, some summer wheat, which they sold, and corn, part of which was used feed and part of which was sold as a cash crop. Our Stockholm Township farmer had eight or nine sows on their farm which, each winter, gave birth or farrowed to about 80 baby pigs. He raised the baby pigs until they reached their ideal market weight of 260 pounds. Given the losses from early death and disease among the baby pigs he would generally end up with 65 to 70 pigs ready for market in the late summer. In the final weeks before market the feeder pigs ate voraciously through the corn. Nonetheless, our Stockholm Township farmer could make a pretty good estimate of the amount of corn that he would need to “finish out” the feeder pigs. In a normal year, he would be able to hire his neighbor who had a large corn sheller to come to his farm and shell out all the ear corn in his corn cribs. He would do this in about February or March each year. He would have that part of the shelled corn that he would not need for the pigs, hauled straight to the Cooperative elevator in Cokato immediately after shelling to be sold. In a normal year, the price of corn would reach the peak of its annual cycle in these winter months.
(As published in the January/February 2006 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine)
Food, clothing and shelter are well known as the three basic requirements of human beings. Agricultural is generally concerned with the production of the raw materials i.e. plants and animals, that become the food for mankind. To a lesser degree, agriculture also is concerned with the production of raw materials for clothing for mankind e.g. cotton and wool. To a still lesser degree, agriculture may be said to be involved in one of the most basic building materials used in providing shelter for mankind i.e. wood. This is especially true in recent days when forests are replanted after harvest in preparation for another harvest of trees in the future.
Just as the development of the mechanical thresher/separator revolutionized the threshing small grains, so too did the sawmill revolutionize the lumber industry. In the early days of the settlement of the upper Midwest of the United States and Canada, homes were made from logs. However, a log house had a tremendous tendency to shrink or “settle” over the years. This settling was especially pronounced in the first couple years after the construction. Settling meant that windows and doors would not remain square and, thus, tight fitting doors and windows were impossible in traditional log homes. Only frame-built houses would allow for tight fitting windows and doors. As civilization came to the Midwest with more people settling in the towns and on the farms of the Midwest, the frame house became the rule in home construction.
This tremendous growth of frame house got under way in the period following the War Between the States—the golden age of American agriculture. This boom in frame built housing created a vigorous demand for sawn lumber. Thus saw mills sprung up all over the Midwest. Usually, these sawmills were located at the falls of a particular river. This would allow the sawmill to use the power generated by the falling water and a water wheel to power the saw. Additionally, the river would be used as a transportation medium for the logs as lumber camps cut the native timber of the watershed up river from the sawmill and floated the logs down the river to the sawmill. The water might be captured by a dam on the river just above the sawmill to provide a reservoir of water to power the sawmill through any dry spells. This “mill pond” above the sawmill also served as a storage place for all the logs that came floating down the river.
The wood most in demand for building construction was pine. Pine is a straight grained, light but strong wood. It is easily worked with a handsaw and/or a plane. Furthermore, it tends to maintain its proper dimensions and shape,once it had been properly seasoned. (Robert C. Nesbit and William F. Thompson, Wisconsin: A History [University of Wisconsin: Madison, 1989] p. 297.) However, pine was not available in all areas of the United States.
Because of these desirable characteristics, pine could be transported a considerable distance and compete economically with any lumber found locally in any hardwood community. (Ibid.) Any person that has tried to hammer a nail into a “native” hardwood board will recognize why this is true. Pine tree forests were discovered to be most abundant in two belts of land in the United States. First was the wide belt of land that reached from New England through the Great Lakes area, with Lake Erie representing the southern most fringe of this belt, and extending on to present-day northern Minnesota. (Ibid.) Secondly, there was the Southern pine wood belt which started in eastern North Carolina (Hugh Talmage Lefler & Albert Ray Newsome, North Carolina: The History of a Southern State [University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, 1973] pp. 100-101.) and arched to the south and including nearly all of South Carolina (David Duncan Wallace, South Carolina: A Short History [University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, 1951] pp. 3-4.)southern Georgia ( Kenneth Coleman & et al. A History of Georgia), northern Florida (Charlton W. Tebeau, A History of Florida [University of Miami Press: Coral Gables, Florida, 1971] pp. 42 & 52.), southern Alabama and southern Mississippi (Nollie Hickman, Mississippi Harvest: Lumbering in the Longleaf Pine Belt 1840-1915 [Paragon Press: Montgomery, Alabama 1962] pp. 3-11].
Lumbering of the northern pine woods began in Maine and followed the virgin forests of this band of land westward. The market for all this lumber was south of this belt where civilization in the form of towns and farms arose along the upper Ohio River valley during the early nineteenth. The cities of Pittsburg, Cincinnati, Louisville and Evansville were all build with pine wood harvested from the northern pine woods.
As published in the November/December 2003 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
The small hamlet of Concord, Massachusetts is famous in American history. In 1775, a British arsenal was located there. On April 19 of that year, British troops seeking to secure the arsenal from the increasingly rebellious Massachusetts colony, were marching from Boston harbor toward Concord, when they were met in Lexington, Massachusetts by a collection of militia, called Minutemen. The Minutemen had been roused from their beds early in the morning of April 19 by Paul Revere. At Lexington, on the road to Concord, a shot rang out which became known as the “shot heard around the world.” The battle that ensued at Lexington was the start of the American Revolutionary War.
In 1775, Concord was one of many small communities that dotted the Massachusetts colony. Farm families, living in or around the settlement of Concord and the other small villages of this part of Massachusetts raised food and products largely for their own use only—subsistence farming. Boston had little economic connection with Concord or any of the other villages of the area except in its role as a sea port. However, as time passed, Boston became more urban and was unable to produce the food required for its citizens. Thus, the farms of the Concord moved into the “market economy” and began producing goods for sale in Boston.
In its role as one of the major international ports of the United States, Boston grew rapidly into a major metropolitan area. One of the major food stuffs required by Boston was fresh milk—a great deal of fresh milk. Because of this demand for milk and because of the rocky and hilly, timbered lands of eastern Massachusetts, it was natural that farmers there specialized in dairying.
Although there was a settlement which was referred to as the village of Concord, the term “Concord Town” referred to the geographical unit, which included the rural area around the village of Concord. By 1938, Concord (1930 pop. 7,477) was beginning to lose its rural feel and was becoming a suburb of Boston.
One of the dairy farms that still operated in Concord Town in 1938 was operated by a particular farmer. He lived on the 80-acre farm that had been in his father’s family dating back to the early 1800s. He was married with four children. Dairying had been a major part of his family farming operation since the beginning. This job meant not only milking his herd of Guernsey cattle twice a day, but it also meant pasteurizing the milk in a large vat and then bottling the milk and delivering to the door of their customers along the milk route which was largely contained in the village of Lexington.
Chores began at 5 a.m. when our Concord Town farmer would leave the house to check on the fire in the boiler in the milk house prior to heading for the barn. As he walked to the milk house one January morning in 1938, he noted that this January was having its share of unusually cold mornings. Arriving at the milk house, he could hardly wait to get inside and close the door behind him. Once inside, he found that there continued to be some warmth still emanating from the firebox of the boiler. Good! The fire wasn’t entirely out. He carefully removed the ash from the stove, revealing the red embers from yesterday’s fire. After adding a handful of cedar single kindling and loading up the firebox with an arm load of wood, our Concord Town farmer, adjusted the air vents on the door of the ash compartment. Both vents controlled the size of the fire in the firebox and, thus, controlled the heat in the boiler. Early in the morning on a cold winter’s day like this our Concord Town Farmer would open the air vents slightly more than usual to bring the fire quickly up to normal heat.
The firebox heated the boiler reservoir water tank located directly above the firebox. Pipes leading from the reservoir water tank, wrapped themselves around a stainless steel tank in the milk house. This tank contained the fresh milk from the previous evening’s milking. Our Concord Town farmer now opened the valve on the water pipe to allow the water to start flowing through the pipes again. The water from the boiler would flow through the pipes wrapped around the stainless steel tank would slowly begin to raise the temperature of the milk. Raising the temperature of the milk to 72ºF would “pasteurize” the milk. Pasteurizing the milk greatly reduces the microbial growth within the milk and prevents diseases that might be caused by drinking “raw” (unpasteurized) milk. The temperature of the milk must be maintained at 72ºF for 12-15 seconds to be effective. However, the temperature must not get above 72ºF, or the milk would “cook.” Ever mindful that he did not want the temperature of the milk in the stainless steel tank to rise above 72º F, our Concord Town farmer positioned the air vents on the boiler to allow for a carefully controlled fire. Checking the temperature of the milk in the stainless steel tank, he found that it was below 40º F. On a morning like this there was no trouble keeping the milk cold enough.
Then he was off to the barn where his son had already begun feeding the cows silage and their ration of feed grain in the bunks in front of their stanchions. Our Concord Town farmer took the mechanical milkers from their drying racks, where they had been placed after dismantling and washing following the previous evening’s milking chores. The mechanical milkers were now re-assembled by placing the rubber inserts into each of the teat cups on the mechanical milker. Then he started the little “hit and miss” engine that ran the vacuum pump. The vacuum pump was connected to a pipeline that ran down each row of stanchions on either side of the alleyway in the barn. These pipelines contained valves and nozzles located at each stanchion. With a hose connected to the nozzle, the mechanical milker was placed on the first cow to be milked. Vacuum held the mechanical milker on the teats of the cow being milked. A “pulsator” converted the vacuum into an action of vacuum and release. This pulsator action when applied to the rubber inserts inside the four teat holders, milked the cow better than if the cow had been milked by hand. It took only a couple of minutes for the mechanical milker to empty all four “quarters” of the udder on the first cow. Our Concord Town farmer then turned off the vacuum valve near the nozzle of the vacuum line and then removed the milker from the cow. He then opened the lid of the milker and dumped the milk into a pail setting in the center of the alleyway of the barn. Then, he attached the milker to the next cow to be milked. While the milker was milking the next cow, our Concord Town Farmer took the pail out to the milk room in the barn and dumped the contents of the pail into the milk strainer which sat on top of a 10-gallon milk can. The strainer would remove any large impurities, like a stems of straw, that may have made its way into the milk during the milking process.
Following the milking of the entire Guernsey herd, our Concord Town farmer would take the mechanical milkers up to the milk house. There he would bleed off some of the hot water in the boiler reservoir tank and begin the process of disassembling, washing and disinfecting the various parts of the milkers. The milking machines would then be hung up on the racks to allow the water to drain off and completely dry all parts of the mechanical milkers.
Meanwhile, his son harnessed up the horses and brought them around to the front of the barn and hitched them to the sled that contained all the milk cans that had been filled during the morning milking. The sled would then be driven up to the milk house where the contents of each milk can would be dumped into the stainless steel tank with the milk from the previous evenings milking.
Our Concord Town farmer’s son would open the vents on the firebox of the boiler a little more to increase the heat of the fire. He then added some more wood to the fire and then checked the thermometer in the stainless steel tank. The temperature of the milk in the stainless steel tank must reach 72º F, but must not rise any higher. The hot water circulating in the pipes leading from the boiler to the stainless steel tank and returning to the boiler, would gradually raise the temperature of the milk to 72º F. It would take about three hours. Time enough for the empty milk cans to be thoroughly, washed, disinfected and placed in a rack upside down to completely dry.
While he washed the milk cans, his son unhitched the sled and took the horses down to the barn, hitch up the Case No. 3 manure spreader, he then let all the cows out of their stanchions and allowed them to walk out of the barn to stretch the legs and to get a drink of water at the stock tank outside the barn. Then he pulled the manure spreader into alley way of the barn.
On such a cold morning, his first task after crawling down from the manure spreader was to immediately close the barn doors behind the manure spreader in order to keep the warmth of the barn inside. While the horses waited patiently harnessed to the front end of the manure spreader, he would clean out the gutters on either side of the alleyway. Before loading the manure from the gutters into the manure spreader, our Concord Town farmer’s son slid his fork under each of the steel slats of the apron on the floor of the manure spreader. He needed to make sure that none of the steel slats was still frozen to the wooden floor of the manure spreader. He knew from experience that a broken apron chain would mean that the manure would have to be unloaded by hand, and that was something that he did not want to experience again.
After the gutters had been cleaned, he untied the reins of the harness from the left side of the manure spreader and drove the horses and the manure spreader out the doors at the opposite end of the barn into the cow yard. Then, he returned to barn and put out fresh hay for the cows. Meanwhile the lactating cows were starting to make their way back into the barn. They moved by habit to their appropriate stanchion in the barn and began to eat the fresh hay that was being laid out for them. On a usual morning, the lactating cows would have been in no hurry to get back into the barn. And he might have to allow them to be outside for a while longer. However, on this cold morning, the cows were gathered around the barn yard door, anxious to return to the warmth inside the barn. Their coat of hair was rather thin and compared with the non-lactating cows and the yearlings who were used to the weather outside the barn. After all the cows were back inside and fastened in their stanchions again, he would head to the fields with the load of manure.
He remembered to swing by the milk house on his way to the fields, just to pick up the pan of wood ashes from the boiler, which his father had places outside the milk house earlier in the morning. The breath of the horses created visible steam as the horses walked out to the fields. It was a cold morning, however, the sun was finally beginning to rise in the east. He looked at the neighbors house on the next farm and saw that the smoke from the chimney was rising up into the clear sky in a tall straight ribbon.
While, our Concord Town farmer’s son was taking the manure to the field, his father was cleaning up around the milk house and kept watching the temperature of the milk in the stainless steel tank. After about three hours, with the temperature at 72º F, the heating of the milk was stopped and then he began the bottling process. Now, the newly pasteurized milk was bottled in one-quart bottles. Our Concord Town farmer had ordered his bottles from the Warren Glasswork Company in New York City. These glass bottles had been made with our Concord Township farmer’s name embossed on the side of the bottle.
As the individual bottles were filled with milk and capped, they were each placed in a bottle crate. In summer these crates full of warm milk would have been moved immediately to the ice house on the farm to cool. The “ice house” on the farm of our Concord Town farmer’s farm was really a cavern excavated out of a nearby hill. On a winter’s day like this one, however, the bottled milk could merely be placed outside the milk house to be chilled. On cold mornings like this one, the problem was to avoid having the bottled milk get too cold and to freeze inside the bottle. Following the bottling process our Concord Town farmer went into the family’s house to get cleaned up and to change clothes.
After changing clothes, he went out to the shed and slid into the seat of his Divco Model S3 delivery truck. The cream colored truck had his name emblazoned on both sides in bright red letters.
with the assistance of
Del Gendner of Grand Prairie, Texas
Joe Thome of Racine, Wisconsin
Bob S. McFarland of Sauk City, Wisconsin
Ed Mortensen of Racine, Wisconsin
Gary Oechsner of Fon-du-Lac, Wisconsin
As published in the July/August 1999 issue of Belt Pulley Magazine
This article remains under construction. Periodically, blocks of new text and media (pictures) may appear and/or the current blocks of text will appear modified or corrected with new information.
(NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Brian Wells relates to us that he was able to write the history of the Belle City Company only with the help of the reading public of the Belt Pulley magazine. Thus, this is the first truly “interactive article” Brian has written. We hope this trend will continue and grow. As you know, Brian has been attempting to write an article on the Wood Brothers Threshing Company of Des Moines, Iowa. He is also doing some research on the Rosenthal Cornhusker Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the Electric Wheel Company of Quincy, Illinois. He would appreciate any material on the corporate history of any of these companies.)
At two stages during its history as a farm machine manufacturer, the Belle City Manufacturing Company of Racine, Wisconsin enjoyed a network of sales outlets. From 1909 until 1926, Belle City licensed the International Harvester Company to sell Belle City and New Racine threshers, which were made by the Belle City Company. This opened up the entire IHC sales network to Belle City. However, in 1926, IHC termiinated the contract with Belle City and started making their own line of McCormick-Deering threshers. The termination of the contract left Belle City without an effective outlet for its threshers. To be sure, Belle City had been selling some threshers to the tractor division of the Ford Motor Company during the 1920s. However, now with the termination of the IHC contract, Belle City sought to double down on their efforts to get into a closer relationship with Ford. This effort proved successful and, thus, Belle entered into a period of there history which historians have labelled the “Golden Age of the Belle City Manufacturing Company.”
All through the 1930s, the Belle City Company enjoyed access to the farm equipment market through the distribution and dealership network of the tractor division of the Ford Motor Company. However, with the introduction of the new Ford/Ferguson 9N in 1939, Ford gravitated toward the Woods Brothers Threshing Company of Des Moines, Iowa. Woods Bros., of course, manufactured the famous “Humming Bird” thresher which was offered in the 21″ x 36″, 26″ x 46″, 28 x 46″ and 30″ by 50″ sizes. (Robert N. Pripps and Andrew Moreland, Threshers [Motorbooks International: Osceola, Wisc. 1992] p. 122.) These threshers covered the entire gambit of the small thresher market, and Ford had no further need of the joint venture with Belle City. Thus, after 1938, Belle City was on its own, and had to start advertising independent of Ford.
At first, Belle City suffered from the lack of the dealership network which it had enjoyed under its contract with IHC during the 1920s and with Ford during the 1930s. Fortunately, however, Belle City had insisted that the slogan “Belle City Built” appear on all its threshers sold by Ford and International Harvester Company. Thus, farmers had become so familiar with seeing that slogan on its threshers that, both during the contract with IHC prior to 1926 and during the joint venture with Ford, farmers began to insist that their threshers be stamped “Belle City Built” if their new thresher had slipped through manufacture without that slogan stenciled on the sides. Consequently, by 1939, when the company had to go it alone as far as advertising, sales, and distribution, Belle City had already succeeded in becoming somewhat of a household name with farmers in the upper midwest.
Note that the advertising literature above indicates that the Belle
City Company was building an entire line of farm machines which the Company was offering to the farming public. Among the advertising possibilities for Belle City was the Wisconsin State Fair held on a 200-acre site in West Allis, Wisconsin. In the years just prior to the Second World War, the Wisconsin State Fair consisted largely of tents. There were very few permanent structures. However, it was a very popular event with Continue reading The Belle City Manufacturing Company (Part II)→
As published in the November/December 1998 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
Brian Wayne Wells
Immediately after the Second World War in September of 1945, a tremendous pent-up demand for power farm machinery was released. After four years of deprivation, the farming public was starved for new farm machinery and buying soon outstripped the supply. This demand presented a good opportunity for all farm equipment manufacturers, pro0vided they were correctly positioned, to take advantage of that market. During the Second World War, the New Idea Company like all United States farm machinery companies found that raw materials for the production of farm machines were in the extremely short supply. As aresult, they experienced reduced sales, which meant reduced profits and consequently reduced capital. Finding itself short of cash at the end of the war, the New Idea Company struggled to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the new post-war world. To raise the necessary capital, the company management determined to sell out to the Avco Manufacturing Company in October of 1945. New Idea became a major sub-division of that new company. This strategy proved successful and New Idea exploded into another period of growth after the war. With a new infusion of capital New Idea introduced their famous trailing mower that same year in 1945. Additionally, Avco/New Idea initiated a $5,000,000 expansion and modernization of its factory facilities.
Just as in the 1920s, following the First World War, when the company experienced tremendous growth based in large part on the sales of one product—the revolutionary Model * manure Spreader—so now, following the Second World War, another period of growth was begun once again based in large part on another single farm implement—the Model 6A two-row, pull-type cornpicker. Continue reading The New Idea Company (Part II): The Model 6A Cornpicker→
History of the Algoma Foundary and Machine Company of Algoma, Wisconsin
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the March/April 1995 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
The ensilage process of chopping green corn or hay and storing it in a silo was first developed by August Goffart, a French experimenter, in 1877. (Robert C. Nesbit, Wisconsin: A History [University of Wisconsin Press; Madison, Wisconsin, 1973], p. 291.) In 1880, Dr. H.S. Weeks, of Ononomowoc, Wisconsin, also conducted experiments with ensilage stored in silos. The success of Dr. Weeks’ experiments led some pioneering farmers to construct silos for storage of this new type of cattle feed. Later experiments found that three cows could be fed for seven months on one acre of silage crops while it would take two acres of hay to feed just one cow for the same seven months.
At first, there was a major resistance to this new method of chopping and storing ensilage based on the belief that the fodder would eat away at the stomachs of cows or cause them to lose their teeth. As of 1904, there were only 716 silos in the entire state of Wisconsin. However, in the early 1900s, William Dempster Hoard, editor of Hoard’s Dairyman, began promoting silage for dairy herds in his magazine. Thus, following the First World War, silos started to spring up across the nation as farmers began to see the advantages of silage.
Most commonly, silage was cut into pieces about an inch in length. Machines were developed to facilitate this procedure, and the ensilage cutter–or stationary forage harvester–was born, with the dairy state of Wisconsin becoming the center for manufacturing and sales of silage equipment. One of the companies that realized the potential market for ensilage cutters in Wisconsin was the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company of Algoma, Wisconsin.
Algoma is a small city of 3,600 people located on the shore of Lake Michigan at the base of Door Peninsula. The entity that was to become the Algoma Company was first established there in 1883 as A. Hamacek and Company by Adolf and Anton Hamacek. A. Hamacek and Company made horse-drawn farm machinery and operated an electric light plant for those Algoma residents who had electric lighting in their homes and businesses. On August 28, 1891, Adolph Hamacek left the partnership and moved to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Anton, however, continued to operate the business alone until the spring of 1893 when he formed another partnership with Joseph Wodsedalek and August Ziemer from Kewaunee, Wisconsin. On August 6, 1895, a fire totally destroyed the business’s two-story building located in the 600 block of Fremont Street in Algoma. Following the fire, the partnership purchased a new property, just east of the new Fourth Street Bridge in Algoma, owned by John Ihlenfeld. This was an excellent location which was served by a spur of the Green Bay and Western Railroad. The partnership then moved their operations to the single-story building located on that property.
During World War I, one of the partnership’s employees, Joseph Sticka, a machinist, conceived of his own design for a stationary forage harvester and left the employ of the partnership to establish his own business. However, the business he established was not sufficiently capitalized and he soon sought the backing of his old employer. Thus, in 1920, the partnership began mass producing the forage harvester developed by Joseph Sticka.
In March of 1920, the partnership was transformed into a company and incorporated as the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company. Joseph Wodsedalek became president and Joseph F. Sticka became a director. E.W. Anderogg, general manager of the Algoma Net Company, also became a director. While continuing his work at the Net Company, Mr Anderogg sat on the board of the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company as representative of the interests of his boss, M.W. Perry, president of the Algoma Net Company. M.W. Perry, although a minority shareholder, had loaned the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company a great deal of money. Therefore, M.L. Perry had much influence over the company.
Shortly after they became incorporated, the Algoma Company introduced a new line of modern farm equipment bearing the trade name OK. This line included forage harvesters–or ensilage cutters–forage blowers, feed grinders and hammermills. This expansion, however, was ill-timed.
Although it is commonly accepted that the Great Depression began with the stock market crash in 1929 following a period of prosperity throughout the 1920s, the facts are that in the rural areas of the nation the depression actually began in 1921 with the fall in the price of farm products following the end of World War I. Farmers were feeling the effects of the depression as early as 1921. This meant that there was little demand for new farm machinery from that time until the nation began to recover in the 1930s. As a result, the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company suffered deficits for the first nine years of its existence.
A financial statement, dated Feb. 1, 1929, noted that the corporation had a $38,807.20 deficit in its annual budget at that time. The board required action and the corporation underwent a financial reorganization whereby the persons who had loaned the company money were made preferred stockholders in the corporation. Suddenly, all the creditors of the company became the owners of the company. In short, this meant that M.W. Perry became the majority shareholder of the company with 51% of the shares. He also bought out all of the remaining inrterests of the Joseph Wodsedalek family.
On March 2, 1929, a new management team was installed. M.W. Perry became the new president and E.W. Anderogg became the new general manager of the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company. Following the reorganization, the compamy underwent a corporate down-sizing and under the new leadership managed to finish the year in good order and even showed a profit. Consequently, in 1929, the corporation made its first profit in the face of the financial dislocations which occurred on Wall Street in October of 1929 and continued profitably for the next three years.
In the Spring of 1932, E.W. Anderogg was made treasurer. The Company then began to cast about to find the right person to fill the position of general manager and were fortunate in obtaining the services of E.J. Albro for this position. He had served as manager of the farm equipment division of the Montgomery Ward Company for 15 years, from 1917 to 1932. In his position at Montgomery Ward, E.J. Albro had supervised the purchasing of thousands of dollars of fly nets from the Algoma Net Company. Now he used his influence to arrange for Montgomery Ward to purchase all of their hammermills from the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company. Montgomery Ward would sell these farm implements under their own name and eventually would become the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company’s largest single customer, absorbing 35% of all of the farm equipment they produced.
The silo fillers produced by the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company continued to follow the original design conceived by Joseph F. Sticka; however, with some small improvements made to the original design. Two sizes of silo fillers were offered, e.g., a 13″ throat model and a 15″ throat model. These two models came out of the factory, along with the hammermills and all of the other farm equipment offered by the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company, cloaked in the green paint that in the early years symbolized the OK line of farm machinery. A bright yellow “OK” insignia would appear on both sides of the hinged casing covering the knife wheel. Another insignia declaring “Mfd. by Algoma Foundry and Machine Company, Algoma, Wisconsin” was stenciled on both sides of the transport frame underneath the feeding table. Although no paint numbers now exist which could allow a restorer to recreate the exact shade of this green paint, according to John Beitling, long-term employee of the paint department, the shade was very close to the green color which was habitually used on 1948-1950 Chevrolet pickups.
When Montgomery Ward began placing large orders for hammermills and other equipment, the purchasing contract required that such equipment be painted Montgomery Ward red and that the equipment bear no insignias. Marvin Zirbel, another former employee of the Algoma Company, remembers that to save cost the Company made the decision to change the color of its entire line of OK equipment to Montgomery Ward red, Martin-Senour 99L-1637. (Later, in 1964, when Massey-Ferguson bought the corporate entity which included the Algoma Company, Massey-Ferguson personnel found that the red paint used by the Algoma Company was indistinguishable from their own Massey-Ferguson red.) The bright yellow insignias and lettering, however, would still appear in the same locations on the silo fillers and on all of those machines which were not sold to Montgomery Ward but were offered to the public through jobbers and wholesalers under the Company’s own name.
In 1943, one of these OK silo fillers rolled out of the plant cloaked in its red paint job and insignias. It was one of the smaller models with a 13″ throat. It traveled by railroad flatbed out of Algoma, across Wisconsin and into Minnesota, where it was sold to its first owner. After only one season, the silo filler was resold in 1944 to Roy Johnson (a beef farmer), Harold Nelsen and Harris Quist (who milked Holstein herds on their farms), and Leonard Johnson (who milked Jersey cows). They bought the silo filler together, along with a McCormick-Deering corn binder which had a wagon loading attachment. (A two-row version of this binder with the wagon loading attachment can be seen in the 1934 International Harvester movie, Farming the Farmall Way.) The four Lindstrom-area farmers used the silo filler to fill their own silos on all four farms and for some custom work in their neighborhood as well. Harold Nelsen remembers that the OK silo filler was a “light runner”–a smooth and easy operating machine–powered most often by a Farmall H. Each summer the silo filler was towed from farm to farm in the Lindstrom neighborhood by the Farmall H and performed admirably.
Following World War II, a flood of new and more efficient farm machinery came onto the market. In 1944, International Harvester had introduced the No. 55-T baler, their first successful cotton stripper, and the new No. 2 field forage harvester. All of these machines were advertised as “one-man harvesting machines.” (See the 1944 IH movies called “One-Man Harvesting” and “One-Man Cotton Harvesting.”)
Like other farmers across the nation, these four farmers saw the advantages of single-stage processing of ensilage in the field, rather than carrying bundles of corn to the silo for processing. Thus, in about 1949, Roy Johnson bought one of the new McCormick-Deering field choppers. The other three farmers then hired him to fill the silos on their farms and the OK silo filler was sold to Maynard Mohn of Center City, Minnesota. After a few years, the Mohn family also upgraded their silo filling operations; however, the OK silo filler remained stored under cover on the Mohn farm until it was put up for sale several years later at an auction.
John Bjonstad, grandnephew of Maynard Mohn, having observed the OK silo filler several times on the Mohn farm, expressed an interest in seeing the silo filler saved from the cutting torch. At the auction, therefore, John’s grandfather, Paul Holm, of Almelund, Minnesota, purchased the silo filler for his grandson. John and his grandfather then transported the silo filler to the site of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Show near LeCenter, Minnesota. There, in 1990, the silo filler was set up and operated by John and his grandfather as an exhibit at the Show.
Following that Show, the silo filler was wintered at the Pioneer Power site; however, due to the shortage of storage buildings, the OK silo filler was stored outside for one of the first winters since it had been manufactured. Unfortunately, it has not been operated as an exhibit in any of the Shows since 1990.
In August of 1994, the OK silo filler was found by the author and his brother, Mark Wells, of Billerica, Massachusetts, in about the same location where it had been stored following the 1990 Show. Even in 1994, after four years of sitting outside in the elements, the knives and shear bar seemed to be in very good condition. The pressed-paper pulley showed evidence of having recently been treated with fuel oil. It appeared, however, that the growing layer of rust threatened to obliterate the “OK” decal hinged blower cover and the “Algoma Foundry and Machine Co.” stencilling on the frame under the feeding table. It was at this point that the author and his brother began to think about restoration of the OK silo filler. Research into the proper paint scheme, the correct shade of paint, and remaking of the proper decals is currently being conducted and plans are being made for a 1995 restoration.
The Algoma Foundry and Machine Company continued to function independently until September 14, 1962, when the company was sold to Badger Northland Company, Inc. The Algoma Company became a division of the Badger Company, with Karl Kuehn of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, serving as head of the Algoma farm equipment division. Badger was manufacturing a short line of farm equipment, which included silo unloaders and barn cleaners, when they bought out the Algoma Company. They hoped, through the acquisition of the Algoma Company, to broaden their line of Badger products to include forage equipment, particularly their field chopper.
In 1964, Badger Northland was in turn acquired by the Massey-Ferguson Company. By this time, however, no silo fillers or forage equipment were being made at the Algoma site. It was a sign of the times that only garden tractors (the Massey-Ferguson model 10) and snowmobiles were being made in the old foundry building. In the summer of 1970, operations at the Algoma plant were entirely discontinued by Massey-Ferguson.
Before the merger with Massey-Ferguson in 1964, the president of Badger Northland was Wisconsin native Vincent Rolf. He had been one of the founders of the Badger Farm Equipment Company in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, in 1949. In 1965, he along with almost all of the original founders of Badger formed a new company called Calumet Corporation of Kaukauna, Wisconsin. Calumet manufactured liquid pumps, liquid manure spreaders, and a line of trailers for transporting boats, snowmobiles, and garden tractors at its plant in Dundas, Wisconsin. Upon learning that the old foundry building in Algoma was available, Calumet moved its manufacturing operations from Dundas to the foundry building in December of 1970, operating there until 1973.
Over the years, many people of the Algoma area were employed at the foundry: Lester Zimmerman was a machinist at the foundry; George Bietling, Marvin Zirbel amd Doug Silmer worked there at different times; as noted previously, John Beitling worked for many years in the paint department; and Emil Bostick, now of Luxembourg, Wisconsin, worked in the stenciling department.
It is a different world now than when the foundry was first opened in 1895, reflecting the changes in farming methods which have occurred in the interim and reflecting the transition of the United States from an agricultural nation into an industrial nation. Restoration of old farm machinery is one way in which the agricultural history of the nation can be preserved for future generations. It is hoped that restoration of the 1943 OK silo filler will compose one more chapter of that history, a chapter which will recognize not only the farmers that used the silo filler but also the men and women who made the silo filler.
Second Tractor on the Farm, But First in the Heart
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the November/December 1993 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
Volume 6, Number 6
Farm tractors brought much improvement to farming; however, farming with a single tractor was beginning to have its shortcomings by the mid-1950’s. As witness of this, I have a picture that I took in the summer of 1958. Although this picture seems to be a nondescript picture of our 1950 Farmall M powering the John Deere grain elevator during the oat harvest of July, 1958, it takes on more significance with a little explanation. The picture embodies many of the experiences of single-tractor farming.
The 1950 Farmall M bearing the Serial No. 218137 was our only tractor. My Dad had purchased it new in 1950. He traded a 1942 Farmall H to get the M. Later, he would begin to speculate that he should have kept the H as a second tractor; however, the need for a second tractor did not appear as crucial in 1950 as it would in later years as this picture shows. In this picture, the M had just returned from the field where it had spent the morning pulling the Massey-Harris Clipper combine. From about mid-morning (when the dew was gone and the windrows dry) until noon the combine could fill our two wagons. The M was then unhitched from the combine and hitched to the wagons which were brought to the building site for unloading. This was planned so that the family could then have dinner and not waste time. Nonetheless, after unloading the wagons, it would be well into the afternoon before the combine would be started in the field again.
The M had to be unhitched from the wagon and connected to the elevator, unconnected from the elevator and re-hitched to the empty wagon to pull it out of the way, and then hitched to the next wagon. That wagon was then pulled up to the elevator and blocked so that the wagon would not roll when unhitched. Then the tractor was once again connected to the elevator. Additionally, all of our wagons were equipped either with hydraulic lifts under the box or fitted to use a home-made “A-frame” jack which would be placed at the front of the wagon. This A-frame jack, which Dad welded himself, would be fitted with a hydraulic cylinder borrowed from M’s four-row cultivator. The leg of this A-frame jack can be seen in the foreground of the picture with the John Deere elevator. It is on the extreme left, leaning up against the granary which is to the left of the picture.
While running the elevator, the M would also be connected by long hydraulic hoses to the wagon or to the A-frame jack. Indeed, the wagon in this picture is connected in this manner to the M, but the hoses cannot be seen. Because we lived close to my mother’s family, Howard Hanks, we could occasionally borrow their Massey-Harris 22 or Massey-Harris 44. (This is the same 44 that is described in the July/August 1993 issue of The Belt Pulley Vol. 6, No. 4. The 22 is the same tractor that was pictured on the cover of the February issue of the Minnesota Edition of Fastline parts magazine, Vol. 6, No. 7, and is also pictured in the May/June issue of Wild Harvest: Massey Collectors News Vol. 10, No. 3.) Both of these tractors had the Massey-Harris Depth-O-Matic hydraulic system and had the hydraulic bulkhead quick couplers which were compatible with the connections on our wagons. However, these tractors were busy on the Hanks farm and were not always available to us. Continue reading The 1941 Farmall Model B→
Belt Pulley Magazine Articles by Brian Wayne Wells