The 1936 Loren Helmbrecht Farmall F-12 (Part II)

The Farmall F-12: The 1936 Loren Helmbrecht Tractor (Part II)

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the July/August 2003 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

A newly restored 1936 Farmall F-12 with red wheels much like the original configuration of No. 65999.

As we have noted on a previous occasion, the 1936 F-12 bearing the Serial No. 65999 could well have been sold from Dingman Hardware, the International Harvester dealership in the town of Clear Lake, Minnesota (1930 pop. 242).  (See the May/June 2003 issue of Belt Pulley magazine for the article called “The Farmall F-12: The 1935 Minnesota State Fair.”)  No. 65999 had been sold to a dairy farmer living in Sherburne County, Minnesota, and in Palmer Township of that county.  Our Palmer Township farmer had put the tractor to use in the spring of 1936.  It had been a very cold, record breaking winter, especially January and February of 1936.  Indeed, Cedric Adams on WCCO radio out of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) had reported that the temperature had never risen above 0° for a total of 36 straight days during that period of time.  However the cold weather broke in late February and except for another cold snap in early April, the temperature had evened off into a very nice planting season.  (Downtown Minneapolis Daily Maximum and Minimum Temperatures for 1936 from the Internet.)

An interested farmer looks at a Farmall F-12 at a local IHC dealership with the salesman close at hand to answer any questions about the tractor.

 

That spring our Palmer Township farmer was putting No. 65999 to use in a number of different tasks around his farm.  He had shortened the hitches on much of the horse-drawn machinery on his farm that spring.  It always seemed to be handier to start the little F-12 than to get the Belgian horses all harnessed up just to complete even small tasks on the farm.  His records were also reflecting that use of the tractor was actually proving more economical in the long run than using the horses for the same tasks.  He wished to see just how much of the work on the farm could be accomplished by the little dark gray tractor.  Now he used the horses only during the days when his second daughter was able to help out with the field work.  She was becoming quite an expert at driving the tractor.  As always, she wanted to be involved with whatever her father was doing.  Thus, while she was preparing the seed bed with the tractor, her father was using the horses to plant the corn.

A newly restored McCormick-Deering 2-row horse-drawn corn planter which has had its tongue shortened to allow easier use with a farm tractor.

 

While she was in School during May of that year, he used the tractor to plant the rest of the corn.  He wanted to see if the tractor was truly the “farm all” that it was advertised to be. It was not because No. 65999 performed the farm tasks at a faster rate of speed than horses that made the tractor more profitable.  Even at top speed (3-3/4 mph) the little tractor was no faster than a horse.  Rather it was the stamina of the tractor as opposed to the horses that made the F-12 profitable and 1936 was the year that our Palmer Township farmer was to prove the economy of tractor power as opposed to horse power in this regard.

The small hand pump on the bottom of this J.J. Groetken advertisement is the hand pump used by our Palmer Township farmer.

 

Shortly after he had planted his corn in the spring of 1936, he finished up his morning milking.  After letting the cows out of the barn, he went to the machine shed to get the tractor and manure spreader.  He always tried to park the tractor close to the two 55 gallon barrels that he now had in the machine shed.  These barrels, sitting upright, were filled with kerosene for the tractor.  One barrel had the bung plug removed.  Screwed into the bung hole was the J.J. Groetken Pump Co. barrel hand pump which he had purchased at an auction at a neighbors farm.   (Jack Sim, An Illustrated Guide to GasPumps [Krause Pub.: Iola, Wisc., 2002] p. 190.)  The Groetken Pump Co. had ceased advertising in 1927.  Clearly, he would not be able to replace the pump or finds parts for the hand pump once it wore out.  However, the hand pump seemed to be working so far and the price he had paid was very reasonable.  He would worry about the demise of the hand pump when it happened.  The Groetken hand pump had a hose attached to the outlet nozzle of the pump.  He put unscrewed the cap to the opening on top of the fuel tank of the tractor.  Inserting the hose and observing the level of the fuel in the tractor tank he began turning the crank on the hand pump with his other hand.

After filling the 13-gallon tank sufficiently, he unscrewed cap on what appeared to be another opening to the same tank.  Actually, this was an opening into a second smaller compartment within the fuel tank.  This one-gallon compartment held the gasoline that was used to get the tractor started.  From a partially filled five-gallon gas can, he had in the machine shed he filled this little tank with the more expensive gasoline.  Then he took an 8” Crescent wrench from the work bench located nearby and opened the plug on the fuel line vent which protruded through the hood of the little tractor just above the engine.  By opening the valve at the bottom of the fuel bowl, he let all the kerosene out of the carburetor and the fuel line.  Then he reached back under the fuel tank and turned off the fuel coming from the kerosene tank and turned on the valve leading from the gasoline tank.

 

A close-up detail of the fuel line vent, which protrudes through the hood of No. 65999 over the engine just ahead of the fuel tank. Our Palmer Township farmer would remove the small cap on top of the vent and pour a small quantity of gasoline into the into the vent which would wash the fuel line and carburetor free of kerosene and allow the engine to start easier and faster on pure gasoline.

 

With a bit of gasoline from the five-gallon can, he now poured gasoline down the gasoline vent and replaced the plug.  The engine was now all primed to start and start it did after one pull upwards on the crank with the choke on and another upwards pull with the choke off the tractor came to life.  This certainly was faster than harnessing up the horses.  He would allow the engine to warm up entirely backed the tractor out shed and turned it around and hitched it to the New Idea Model 8 manure spreader and headed to the barn.  (For a discussion before he would switch the engine over to kerosene.  During the warmup the throttle would not work, but still the tractor could be backed out of the shed and hitched up to the  New Idea No. 8 manure spreader while allowing the engine to warm up sufficiently to run on kerosene.  (For a history of the New Idea Company, see the article “The New Idea Spreader Company of Coldwater , Ohio” contained in the September/October 1998 issue of Belt Pulley magazine, p. 14.)

In the coming winter, our Palmer Township farmer would find that even after the tractor was driven to barn he needed to let the tractor run a while before  switching to kerosene.  However, this morning it was quite warm suggesting that today would be warm summer’s day.  Accordingly, he would not be able to drive the little tractor across the yard to the barn before the engine was able to start burning the cheaper kerosene fuel.

Continue reading The 1936 Loren Helmbrecht Farmall F-12 (Part II)

The 1936 Loren Helmbrecht Farmall F-12 Tractor (Part I)

             The Farmall F-12 (Part I): The 1935 Minnesota State Fair

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the May/June 2003 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

A purebred Jersey milking cow with the characteristic fawn colored body with a black face.

When looking at a map, Minnesota appears as a tall state with a narrow “waist” in the middle.  In actual fact, this “waist” is important in the geography of the state, as it separates the rich agricultural area of the southern part of the state from the acid, sandy, more marginal agricultural soils of the north.  Whereas the land south of the waist is divided between the hardwood forests of southeastern Minnesota and the flat prairies of the southwestern part of the state, the land north of the waist is dominated by soft woods – pine and fir trees.  Minnesota is known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” but in actuality, that figure may be closer to 100,000 lakes, with most of the lakes located in the northern part of the state.  With the exception of the Red River valley which forms the border between Minnesota and North Dakota, farming tends to become more marginal as one travels north of the waist.

A map of the State of Minnesota showing the location of Sherburne County in the “waist” of Minnesota

 

Consequently, the waist of Minnesota forms an important watershed in the state in terms of geography, agriculture and fishing.  One of the counties of the waist is Sherburne County.  The east border of Sherburne County runs directly north from the Minnesota River at a point just 50 miles northwest of the Twin Cities.  From another point on the Minnesota River directly across from the City of St. Cloud (1930 pop. 21,000), the north border of the county extends straight east until it meets the eastern border of the county forming a 90# angle.  Thus, with the Minnesota River forming the hypotenuse of the triangular shaped county, Sherburne County appears on the map as a near perfect right triangle, lying along the northern bank of the Minnesota River as it flows southward from St. Cloud to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis (1930 pop. 464,356) and St. Paul (1930 pop. 271,606).  Located between these two population centers of the state, Sherburne County was, in the mid-1930s, one of the least populated counties in the entire state.  (1930 pop. 9,709).  Much of the land of the county was hilly and remained covered with trees–not well suited to agricultural crop growing.  Indeed a great portion of Sherburne County would later be set aside by the national and state governments through the establishment of the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge and the Sand Dune State Forrest.

 

A road map of Sherburne County showing both the new Interstate 90 and the older U.S. No. 10 trunk highway extending from the City of St. Cloud, Minnesota, just off the northwest corner of the county, to Hennepin County Minnesota, just off the southeast corner of the triangular-shaped Sherburne County.  Minneapolis,  Minnesota’s largest city, lies in Hennepin County just off this map.

 

Outside of these two recreational areas, farming in Sherburne County was confined to either the area located along the northern bank of the Minnesota River or the townships in the western part of the county near St. Cloud.  The sandy soil of the area of the county along the Minnesota River and U.S. Highway No. 10, which runs roughly parallel to the Minnesota River, was found to be perfect for farming potatoes.  Indeed, from about 1890 to the late 1920s, this area was second only to the famous Red River Valley of the North in the production of potatoes in the State of Minnesota.  However, the Great Depression which began in 1929 caused many people in the towns of the United States to start growing their own potatoes in their back yards in order to save money during the hard economic times.  Thus, the commercial market for potatoes collapsed and potato production in Sherburne County came to a near complete halt.  Farmers of the area suffered from the effects of their lack of diversification in their farming operations.  They struggled to get into raising corn or other crops in an attempt to save their farms.  Specialization in potato production would return to this part of Sherburne County in the 1950s, but in the interim, potatoes in Sherburne County would be grown only on a much reduced scale.

In the other major faming area of the county, near St. Cloud, farmers were also hard hit by the economic effects of the Great Depression.  However, this was a dairy producing area.  It was a land of rolling hills.  The farms were small with irregular shaped fields.  Generally, the fields were used for pasturage of dairy cattle.  Whatever flat land existed was planted in corn.  While this might appear from the surface to be a diversification of the farming operations of the county, it really was not.  The small amounts of corn that were raised in this area of the county would generally be used by the farmer on his dairy farm each year to feed his cattle.  Thus, during the Great Depression, farmers of this area also suffered from a lack of diversification.  The one advantage dairy farmers had over potato farmers of the area was that, while town families may have been able to save money by growing their own potatoes, they could not save money by milking their own cows.  Thus, even though butter prices hit a new low of 184 per pound in the summer of 1932 (John D. Hicks, Republican Ascendancy, [Harper Bros.: New York 1960], p. 267) and milk prices did not do well throughout the next year, established farmers were able to hang on until dairy prices returned to acceptable levels again.

A dairy farm very much like our Palmer Township farmer’s farm.

 

One of the townships of the western, dairy area end of Sherburne County was Palmer Township.  Farming an 80-acre farm in the northwestern part of Palmer Township was one particular farmer.  He had been operating this farm since taking over the operations from his wife’s family.  His farm was far enough removed from the Minnesota River and U.S. 10 that it had never been a potato farm.  This farm was a dairy farm and had been a dairy farm since his father-in-law had begun farming.

A township map of Sherburne County, Minnesota, showing the locations of Palmer Township where our Palmer township farmer lived and of Santiago Township where the creamery was located where the family sold the cream from their Jersey milking herd.  .

 

Just as his father-in-law had done before him, he took pride in the small herd of registered, purebred Jersey milking cows that he raised on the farm.  The fawn-colored, black-faced Jersey cow is the smallest in stature of all the traditional breeds of dairy cattle—with cows weighing only about 1000 pounds at full maturity.  (Sara Rath, About Cows [Voyageur Press: Stillwater, Minn., 1987] p. 23.)  (By way of comparison a Holstein cow can weigh around 1,500 pounds at maturity. Ibid. p. 21.)

A line of purebred Jersey cows in stanchions in a barn ready for milking.

 

As a result, Jersey cattle did not produce as great a quantity of milk with each milking as did the popular Holstein cow, but Jersey milk was the richest milk in terms of butterfat content of any of the traditional breeds of cattle.  It was a point of pride with our Palmer Township farmer, as it was with other Jersey dairymen, that the golden or yellow colored Jersey milk traditionally contained on average about 5.2% butterfat, whereas Holstein cows traditionally yielded milk with only about 3.23% butterfat.  (Encyclopedia Britannica, [Chicago 1976], Vol. 5, p. 425.)  Holstein milk was sometimes derogatorily referred to as “blue milk” because it was so low in butterfat content.  This fact led to a common joke among dairymen which goes: There was a Jersey dairy farmer talking with a Holstein farmer.  The Jersey farmer said that Holstein blue milk was so “thin” that he could drop a dime in a pail of milk from a Holstein and still see the dime through the blue milk.  The Holstein farmer replied that he could also see a dime dropped into a pail of Jersey milk–because there was so little milk from an individual Jersey cow that the milk would not cover the thickness of a dime!  (an interview with Marilyn [Hanks] Wells in November of 2002.)  Continue reading The 1936 Loren Helmbrecht Farmall F-12 Tractor (Part I)

Behlen Manufacturing Company (Part IV): The Rest of the Story

       The Behlen Manufacturing Company Part IV:

The Rest of the Story

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the March/April 2003 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

Following World War II, the Behlen Manufacturing Company of Columbus, Nebrfaska, marketed its own supplemental transmission called the “Hi-Speed gear box.”  (See the article called “The Behlen Company—Part II: The Hi-Speed Gear Box” posted on this website and published in the November/December 2002 issue of Belt Pulley, Vol 15, No. 6, p. 8.)  The Hi-Speed gear box modernized and updated many pre-war Farmall Model F-20 tractors and allowed then to be used profitably in the post-war era.  One example was the Farmall F-20 bearing the serial number 127631.  (See the article called “The Behlen Company—Part III: 1974—the Soybean Year” also posted on this website and published in the January/February 2003 issue of Belt Pulley, Vol 16, No. 1.)

Sales of the Hi-Speed gear box had been so successful that the Behlen Manufacturing Company soon found that it was ordering gears from wholesalers in Chicago by the truck load.  The management of the company concluded that it would be less expensive for the Company to start cutting, hardening and grinding, their own gears.  Hobbing, grinding and heat treating equipment were all obtained and installed at the factory facilities in Columbus, Nebraska.  (Walter D. Behlen, The Story of the Behlen Manufacturing Company [a speech given at the Cornhusker Hotel in Lincoln, Nebraska on October 11, 1968] p. 3.)  However, production of the Hi-Speed gear box was destined to be limited.  It could not have been otherwise.  Sooner or later, continued upgrading of the pre-war tractors would become unnecessary because older tractors would be replaced on the average family farm by new improved tractors that were already fitted with modern transmissions that would not need upgrading.  However as the Hi-Speed gear box faded as a product for the Company, another new product for farm tractors and road graders arose—the hydraulic power steering unit.

Throughout the 1950’s the International Harvester Company had been locked in a struggle to remain in first place in the sales of farm equipment.  Although between 1945 and 1960, sales of farm tractors in the United States had doubled and sales of combines had tripled, International Harvester had been loosing market share in the farm equipment business.  (Barbara Marsh A Corporate Tragedy: The Agony of International Harvester Company [Doubleday and Co.: Garden City, New York, 1985] p. 101.)  By 1958, International Harvester would be in second place behind its chief rival Deere and Company.  (Ibid. p. 94.)  One of the main reasons for this was that while International Harvester was dissipating its energies and resources on forays into the refrigerator and freezer market and by investing heavily in the very small tractor market—the Farmall Cub, John Deere was continually improving its large tractors—its core product.  In 1954, John Deere introduced power steering on its large tractors.  Caught behind on this advance in technology, International Harvester sought to quickly add power steering to large tractors.  International Harvester turned to the Behlen Company to supply the power steering units that they required for installation on their new tractors—the Model 350, Model 450 and Model 650 introduced in 1956.  Development of the power steering unit had cost the Behlen Company $50,000.00 Sales of the power steering unit to the upgrade market only had resulted in a loss of $20,000.00 to the Behlen Company.  However, International Harvester’s first order for power steering units turned things around for the Behlen Company  and brought $268,000.00 to the Behlen Company.  Two years later the net profit derived from the power steering units along was $750,000.00.  (Walter D. Behlen, The Story of the Behlen Manufacturing Company, p. 4.)

Still grain systems remained the flagship product of the Behlen Company.  The Company had come a long way with its production of grain systems.  As noted previously, in the period of time immediately following the Second World War, galvanized wire mesh for the building of round corn cribs had been so difficult to obtain that the Behlen Company had launched off into its own welding and galvanizing of the wire mesh.  (See the article called “The Behlen Company: Part I” in the September/October 2002 issue of Belt Pulley, Vol. 15, No. 5, p. 10.)  The wire rod, itself, for making the wire mesh panels, had also been difficult for the Behlen Company to obtain domestically in the immediate post war era.  Thus, the Behlen Company had to import its first wire rod from Europe rather than buying from United States sources.  The making of Behlen corn cribs continued to be the Company’s best sales product until 1960 when grain bins for shelled corn began taking over the crib market.  (Ibid. p. 3.)  Construction of the corn cribs and later grain bins along with the grain dryers and entire grain systems required a great deal of steel, stainless steel and aluminum bolts.  Once again to lower costs of production, in 1956, the Behlen Company expanded its own production and manufacture of bolts to include stainless steel and aluminum bolts.  (Ibid. p. 4.) Continue reading Behlen Manufacturing Company (Part IV): The Rest of the Story

Behlen Manufacturing Company (Part III): 1975–The Soybean Year

The Behlen Manufacturing Company (Part III):

1975 – The Soybean Year

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the January/February 2003 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

As noted previously, the 1938 McCormick-Deering Farmall F-20, bearing Serial No. 127631, had been modernized with the mounting of 10” x 38” rubber tires on the rear of the tractor and by installation of a supplemental transmission called the High Speed Gear Box manufactured by the Behlen Manufacturing Company of Columbus, Nebraska.  (See “The Behlen Company Part II” in the November/December 2002 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.  Vol. 15, No. 6.)  It is unclear as to who may have originally purchased No. 127631; however, it may well have been Lloyd Rhoton, owner and operator of a large 240-acre farm north of Stewartville, Minnesota.

What is known with certainty about the history of No. 127631 begins with a story about a young couple, Wendel and Vandy Newman, living on a farm about 120 miles to the west/southwest of Stewartville Minnesota in Clay County,Iowa.  Wendel Newman had been born and raised in Dixon County, located in northeast Nebraska, before moving to Clay County, Iowa.  On January 26, 1947, he married Vandy Blatchford.  Wendel had accepted a job as a hired hand on the farm of Carl Madson near the small town of Webb, Iowa (pop. 167), located in Clay County.  Carl Madson raised Palamino horses.  His farm was the home of the Grand Champion stallion called Golden Dude.  While living in a house provided for them on the Madson farm, Wendel and Vandy gave birth to their son Bob Newman on January 6, 1949.  Continue reading Behlen Manufacturing Company (Part III): 1975–The Soybean Year