The New Idea Spreader Company of Coldwater, Ohio:
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the September/October 1998 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
The golden age of American agriculture, from 1865 until 1921, saw a revolution in the development of labor-saving mechanical devices. Part of that revolution was the development of the manure spreader, a great improvement over spreading manure by fork from the rear of a wagon. Yet, manure spreaders of the 1890s were heavy, cumbersome farm implements. Tim Littleton, of Grayson, Kentucky, has restored an old John Deere manure spreader which was typical of the early design of manure spreaders and has exhibited it at the West Virginia Pumpkin Festival in Milton, West Virginia.
Early model manure spreaders, like the Littleton manure spreader, contained a single beater which was attached directly to the axle of the rear wheels. Therefore, the manure tended to be forked out into a swath directly behind the manure spreader with very little spreading to the sides. As a result, the manure was spread in the fields in narrow bands which tended to be too thick for good incorporation into the soil. If left in these thick bands, the manure would causing burning of the grass or crop. Consequently, following the spreading of manure, farmers would head into fields with peg-tooth drags or similar implements to smear the swaths of manure across the field. This was an extra, time consuming step to be undertaken by the farmer who was already over-worked.
In the 1890s, Joseph Oppenheim, a schoolmaster in a one-room country school in the small town of Maria Stein, Ohio, through circumstances not currently know to us today, pondered this problem, and one day during recess at the school, he was struck by an idea. Every day during recess the students would form teams and play a variation of baseball, called “tom ball.” For a bat, the students used a flat paddle with a handle. The ball would be pitched to the batter who could use the paddle to hit the ball in any direction by simply striking the ball with the paddle held at the desired angle. This well-known effect of paddle and ball struck Joseph as the solution to the problem of manure spreading. He felt that a series of paddles could be attached to the rear of a manure spreader to spread manure in a wide pattern several times the width of the spreader.
To test his theory, Joseph, with the help of his son B.C. Oppenheim, knocked the end out of a cigar box and built a small rotary paddle Continue reading The New Idea Spreader Company of Coldwater, Ohio