Allis-Chalmers Farming (Part IV): A 1938 A-C Model WC Tractor No. 63306 at Work

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A 1938 Allis-Chalmers Model WC Tractor Bearing the Serial No. 63306 at Work

by Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the July/August 2007 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

            Ever since it’s introduction in 1933, the row-crop, tricycle design-style Model WC tractor had been a very successful sales item for the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company.  As noted, previously, the sales of the Model WC tractor created a real opportunity for various businesses, like the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership of St. Peter, Minnesota.  (See the article called the “Allis-Chalmers Two-Row Corn Picker at Work” for the story of the H.B. Seitzer and company dealership, contained in the May/June 2007 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)   An even more dramatic example of the Model WC tractor creating business opportunities for local franchise owners, is the story of Albert E. Anderson.  It is a story of an immigrant to the United States from Sweden.

Prior to 1880, Sweden had been the leading exporter of oats to the England.  Oats were important, primarily, as feed for horses.  Secondarily, were oats were rolled as oat meal for human consumption.  As England industrialized, the country needed more oats to feed the growing non-agricultural, urban sector of the population and to feed the increasing number of horses employed off the farm.  For decades, Sweden had filled England’s growing demand for oats.  Growing oats for this market had kept money flowing into the provinces of southeastern Sweden best-known for agricultural products.  Indeed, oats were in such demand that even the marginal lands of the southwestern provinces of Sweden—like the province of Smalund—were  plowed and planted to oats.

The province of Smalund is located in the southeastern part of Sweden. In the nineteenth century Smalund became impoverished and a great number of residents of Smalund emigrated out of Sweden and settled in great numbers in Minnesota in the 1880s.

 

However, by 1880 England had begun importing cheaper oats from the United States.  The opening of the upper midwest of the United States after the War Between the States greatly expanded the capacity of the United States to become an inexpensive supplier of oats.  The price of oats from the United States severely undercut the cost of production of oats in Sweden.  Thus, by 1880, Sweden had lost a huge part of its foreign export market in oats to the United States.  This created a long term economic recession in rural Sweden.  Predictably, the young people of rural Sweden began to look for new economic opportunities outside of Sweden.  Emmigration from Sweden, during this time, came largely from southern Sweden and, largely, from those southwestern provinces with more marginal agricultural land.  Large numbers of the immigrants from Smalund in Sweden in the 1880s, settled in the State of Minnesota in the United States.  Certain parts of southern Minnesota  bear a strong resemblance to Smalund in Sweden in terms of climate and soil conditions.

The young Albert E. Anderson.

 

One of those young persons was Albert E. Anderson.  Albert had been born in Sweden on November 15, 1884.  One of the most consistent and pervasive facts of his early life in Sweden had been the steady flow of friends, neighbors and relatives out of Sweden.  Most of these young people left their native land to seek their fortune in the United States of America.  If the letters and messages from relatives already living in the United States could be believed, life was bliss in the New World.

A blacksmith shop located in Smalund Sweden which has been restored back to the 1880s.

 

Albert had training as a blacksmith.  However, the income that he could derive from this vocation in Sweden was so insignificant that he finally decided to leave Sweden for good.  Accordingly, Albert sailed to Copenhagen, Denmark to catch the S.S. Oscar II sailing from Copenhagen to the United States.  The S.S. Oscar II arrived in New York on April 8, 1909.  Sailing past the Statue of Liberty the ship landed at Ellis Island in New York harbor.  From the time that he descended the gang plank of the S.S. Oscar and stepped onto the dock on Ellis Island, Al Anderson found everything was strange and new.

Loaded with emigrants from all over Scandinavia, the S. S. Oscar II leaves one of its regularly stops in Christiana (Oslo), Norway on its way from Copenhagen, Denmark to New York.

 

As he made his way up the large stone staircase in the central hallway of the Ellis Island facility, Albert was considerably anxious about the medical examinations and other processes he would have to undergo on the island.  If he did not pass the physical examination on Ellis Island, he could be sent back to Sweden.  Little did he know that by the time that he reached the top of the staircase, his medical examination was largely completed.  The meager medical staff on the Island was swamped with the large number of immigrants that landed each day.  Consequently, the “medical examinations” of the incoming immigrants were considerably abbreviated and consisted, largely, of the medical staff on Island merely observing the immigrants as they made their way up the long flight of stairs in large central hallway of the main building.

Immigrants on the staircase in the Grand Hall of Ellis Island were unaware that they were being carefully watched as they climbed the stairs. The speed and ease with which they climbed the stairs became the main “medical examination” for most immigrants that passed through Ellis Island.

 

Any individual immigrant that appeared to have trouble climbing the flight of stairs would be pulled aside for further medical tests.  Clearly, Albert Anderson passed his “medical examination” and was leaving Ellis Island much sooner than he expected.  As previously arranged, he started out of New York and headed straight westward toward Verona Township in Faribault County in Minnesota where he expected to meet some of his family members and old neighbors from his old community in Sweden.  Albert hoped to put his experience as a blacksmith to work in the small growing settlement of Huntley, Minnesota located in Verona Township.  Shortly after arriving in Huntley, Albert established a hardware business in a building in the small un-incorporated settlement that was Huntley.

The granary in Huntley, Minnesota is one of the few active buildings existing in the small unincorporated town of Huntley.

 

Within the first few years in Huntley, Albert Anderson met a young lady, named Phoebe G. Skabrud.  They fell in love and were married in 1914.  In August of 1915, Phoebe gave birth to a son, Paul C. Anderson.  Their family was completed by the birth of a daughter, Florence Phoebe, born on November 10, 1917; and finally a son, Albert Elden, born in 1921.

The Albert Anderson family during the Second World War. (left to right) daughter Florence on left, son Paul C., Albert’s wife Phoebe, Albert himself looking down at the dog and then their youngest son Albert Eldon on the right side of the picture. .

 

When the 1920 United States Census taker showed up in Huntley, Minnesota, on January 22, 1920, he listed Al Anderson’s primary language as “Swedish.”  However, in Huntley, Al Anderson was not alone.  The Census report listed a number of heads of household within the settlement of Huntley that also spoke Swedish.  Additionally, the Census report indicated that, in 1920, Al Anderson was already occupied as a “merchant” in the “farm machinery” business.  One would have to surmise that Al Anderson knew enough English to not only make himself understood in English, but could actually make a successful sales pitch to English-speaking customers.  By the time of the 1930 United States Census, Albert Anderson’s occupation was listed as a “proprietor” of a business described as a “hardware/farm implement” business.

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The Allis-Chalmers “Tractor Works” in West Allis, Wisconsin. The rapid increase in the popularity of the row crop style Model WC tractor, put pressure on the Tractor Works for increased production and also on the sales network for expansion of the local dealerships.

 

As shown previously, the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company, in the mid-to-late 1930s, engaged in a campaign to build up and extend its nationwide sales network.  (See the history of the Distel Oil Company dealership described in the article called “The Rinehardt/Christian/Boehne Allis-Chalmers Model E Threshermans Special Tractor” in March/April 2007 issue of Belt Pulley magazine and the history of the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership described in the article called “The Allis-Chalmers Two-Row Corn Picker at Work” contained in the May/June 2007 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  This campaign was carried on by Allis-Chalmers sales representatives scouring the countryside of the Midwest looking for local businesses that would be willing to become Allis-Chalmers franchise dealers.  When the sales representatives arrived in Faribault County sometime in the mid-1930s, they must have found the Al Anderson hardware store, which already had a long history of serving as a local farm machinery sales outlet, an attractive prospect.  For his part, Al Anderson knew that by becoming an authorized Allis Chalmers dealer, he would be able to sell farm tractors along with all the other farm machinery he already was offering to the farming public of his community.  Al Anderson realized that, by accepting the offer of an Allis Chalmers dealership, he would suddenly become “full line” farm equipment dealership.  Furthermore, Al knew that the Model WC row-crop tractor was a very popular sales item.  As noted in a previous article, sales of the Model WC tractor had been explosive since the tractor had been introduced in 1933.  (See the article called “An Allis-Chalmers Two-Row Mounted Corn Picker at Work” contained in the May/June 2007 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  Nation-wide, sales of the Model WC had reached 17,914 tractors in 1936.

Last year in 1937, nation-wide sales nearly doubled and rose to 29,006 despite the recession of 1937.  This was a record year for the production of the Model WC by the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company. This was an average of 2,417 model WC tractors per month throughout 1937.  So far in 1938, sales of the Model WC were starting to pick up again as the effects of the 1937 recession started to wear off. However, production of the Model WC tractor was suspended while the Allis-Chalmers Tractor Works in West Allis, Wisconsin was being re-tooled for introduction of the 1938  Model WC tractor.

Because of the spectacular sales of the Model WC tractor, Al Anderson agreed to become the local Allis-Chalmers franchise dealership for Huntley, Minnesota.  He would sell the Allis-Chalmers line of farm equipment out of his hardware store in Huntley, Minnesota.  The sales area covered by his new franchise would include, not only Verona Township where Huntley was located, but included the much larger area of western Faribault County and eastern Martin Counties in southern Minnesota.

The bottom two counties on this map are Faribault and Martin Counties locat3d on the Minnesota and Iowa border. These counties encompassed the marketing territory encompassed by the Allis-Chalmers franchise sold to Albert Anderson of Huntley, Minnesota.

 

Continue reading Allis-Chalmers Farming (Part IV): A 1938 A-C Model WC Tractor No. 63306 at Work

Allis-Chalmers (Part III): The Two-Row Mounted Corn Picker

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An Allis-Chalmers Two-Row Mounted Corn Picker at Work

by Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the May/June 2007 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

            Throughout the 1930’s in southern Minnesota, wheat production was on the decline as a cash crop on the average family farm.  (This declining trend in wheat production is alluded to in the article called “The Rinehardt/Christian/Boehne Model E Thresherman Special” contained in the March/April 2007 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)   Taking the place of wheat as the primary cash crop on the average farm was corn.  Corn was preferred as a cash crop to replace wheat because corn had a dual use on the average family farm.  Corn could serve as a cash crop, but could also serves as a feed crop for live stock which could then be sold by the farmer.  On the “diversified” farms which were common in southern Minnesota, pigs and/or beef cattle were raised on the farm together with corn and other crops.  The perfect ideal of the diversified farm was that when pork prices rose higher than corn prices, the number of pigs could be increased and the corn raised on the farm could shifted quickly to feed for the pigs.  Likewise, when pork prices fell in comparison to corn, the pigs might be sold off to save the corn for direct sale on the market.

One county in south-central Minnesota where this dynamic was at work was Nicollet, County.  In 1921, Nicollet County farmers had planted and harvested 31,065 acres of wheat.  By 1931, this figure had fallen to only 13,800 acres.  During the same period of time, total corn acreage in the county had risen from 46,716 acres in 1921 to 62,600 acres in 1931.  As one might expect, this increase in corn acreage was also accompanied by a parallel increase in the hogs raised in Nicollet County.  In 1929, there were already 51,000 head of hogs in Nicollet County.  Over the following decade this number increased by 45.1% to 74,000 head in 1939.

However, whether used as a cash crop or as a feed crop, growing corn plants needed special treatment, not required for small grains like wheat and oats.  As a row crop, corn needed much cultivation during the summer months to control weeds that might grow up in the corn field and steal the moisture and soil ingredients that were needed for the corn crop.  Long after the development of the internal combustion tractor, cultivation of row crops was still a task that had to be done with horses.  The reason was that the first tractors were of a “four-wheel” or a “standard” configuration or design.  As such these tractors were unable to straddle the row crops in the field in order to be fitted with any kind of cultivating device.  However, in 1924 the “Farmall” tractor was introduced by the International Harvester Company.  The Farmall tractor had a “tricycle” design and was specifically designed for cultivation of row crops.  The Farmall was able to provide all the power needs of the farm; thus, its name—Farmall.  The Farmall was a great sales success from the very beginning.  Soon all the other major tractor manufacturers were scrambling to come out with their own renditions of the tricycle style Farmall.

The Allis Chalmers Manufacturing Company was no different.  Their first foray into the field of row crop tractors was in 1930 with the introduction of the Model UC tractor.  However, production of the Model UC was soon overshadowed following the introduction of the improved Model WC row-crop tractor in 1933.  In 1934, the first full year of production, the WC outsold all other Allis Chalmers tractors.  The Model WC tractor went on to become a very popular sales item for the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company. There was a huge demand among North American farmers for the Model WC tractor.  By 1935, one business located in St. Peter, Minnesota (1930 pop. 4,811), the county seat of Nicollet County, was already trying to position itself to take full advantage of this growing demand within Nicollet County. This business was the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership in St. Peter.

The dealership was born in about 1914, when Henry Bernard Seitzer left his parent’s (William and Mary [Borsch] Seitzer) farm in Oshawa Township, Nicollet County, to seek his future in the county seat.  He started a automobile repair garage in St. Peter called the H.B. Seitzer garage.  Soon Henry was selling automobiles from his garage.  It was an opportune time for him for three major reasons.  Firstly, the automobile was just starting to become a popular item with the American public.  Henry was getting into the automobile business on the bottom floor at just the right time.  Secondly, although, at first, Henry Seitzer was selling cars of all makes and models, he soon signed an exclusive dealership franchise agreement with the Ford Motor Company.  In the decade of the 1920s, sales of Ford’s Model T skyrocketed.  The Model T was a very inexpensive car to purchase, and everybody wanted one.  By signing this agreement in 1915, to sell only to Ford cars and, in exchange, becoming the only Ford dealership in the area, Henry Seitzer was able to ride the immense popularity of the Ford Model T to success in business.

The third major advantage that Henry Seitzer had going for him was that St. Peter was going through a period of strong growth just as the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership was hitting its stride.  In particular, in the 1930s, while neighboring LeSueur County had grown by only 6.9% in population between 1930 and 1940 and while neighboring Sibley County had experienced growth of only 4.8% in the same period, Nicollet County had underwent a population growth of 10.5% during the 1930’s.  Furthermore, St. Peter, itself, experienced a 22.0% growth in municipal population during this period of time.  This rapid growth of population brought even more buyers to the doors of the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership.

Under these favorable conditions, Henry Seitzer’s business began to flourish.  In the eleven years from 1916 to 1927, Seitzer’s sold an incredible 1,550 Model T automobiles.  With introduction of the Model A Ford in 1928, sales at the H.B. Seitzer continued to be brisk.  Just two years into the production run of the Model A, the dealership had already sold 280 Model A cars.  (Robert Wettergren, A Little Bit of Heaven in St. Peter [St. Peter, Minnesota 2001] p. 13-14.)

In 1917, Henry felt secure enough in his new business that he could start a family.  That year, he married an Oshawa Township girl, Kathryn Austa Boys, daughter of Frank and Mary (Kennedy) Boys.  Together they rented a house in St. Peter located at 429 W. Nashua Street.

In 1919, Kathyrn’s parents, Fred and Mary Boys, retired from farming, sold their farm in Oshawa Township and bought a house at 311 W. Pine Street in St. Peter.  Their 21-year-old son, Russel Boys moved into the Pine Street house.  Later they rented part of the large house to Henry and Kathryn Seitzer and their new infant daughter Marjorie.  In 1921, Henry Seitzer took his brother-in-law, Russel, into the car dealership as a partner.  Signing the agreement with the Ford Motor Company in 1915, the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership located at 311 South Front Street in St. Peter was to become one of the oldest Ford dealerships in the state of Minnesota.

The Model T brought the automobile within the economic reach of the common man.  This was a revolution in transportation that drastically changed the face of North America.  The Ford Motor Company created another such revolution in the agricultural industry with the introduction of the Fordson farm tractor.  Throughout the 1920s, explosive sales of the small 2,710-pound Fordson tractor sent a panic through all the larger more established farm tractor manufacturers and caused them to scramble to introduce newer, smaller, less expensive farm tractors.  As the exclusive dealership for the St. Peter area, the H.B. Seitzer dealership was also benefiting from this revolution in agriculture.  Prior to 1930 the dealership had also sold 85 Fordsons to the farmers in the St. Peter community.  As the corporate ties between the Ford Motor Company and the Wood Brothers Threshing Machine Company grew, the H. B. Seitzer dealership started selling Wood Bros. threshers also.  (The history of the Wood Bros. Threshing Machine Company is described in the two part series of articles contained in the November/December 2000 and January/February 2001 issues of the Belt Pulley magazine.)

From the very beginning, however, the rural farming public was demanding a wider range of farm machinery than was available than the Ford Motor Company could offer.  To meet this demand, the H. B. Seitzer dealership, obtained a franchise from the Oliver Farm Equipment Company to sell the entire line of Oliver farm implements.  Oliver had only recently become a full-line farm equipment company as a result of the merger in 1929 of the Hart-Parr Gasoline Engine Company, the Nichols and Shepard Company, the American Seeding Machine Company and the Oliver Chilled Plow Works Company; into the new corporate entity called Oliver Farm Equipment Company.  In the early 1930s, the franchise looked like a good fit for the H. B. Seitzer and Company dealership.  The dealership vigorously advertised the Oliver farm equipment and tractors in the St. Peter Herald semi-weekly newspaper which appeared in St. Peter on Wednesday and Friday each week.

With corn raising on the increase in southern Minnesota, H.B. Seitzer and Company placed high hopes in the new Oliver Row Crop tractors which had been introduced in 1930.  The dealership strongly emphasized the Oliver Row Crop tractor in their newspaper advertisements.  Still, nationwide sales of the Oliver row crop tractors remained disappointing.  In 1932, only 298 Oliver row crop tractors were sold.  This was followed by only 420 Row Crops nationwide in 1933, only 811 Row Crops in 1934 and 2,460 in 1935.  The H. B. Seitzer and Company dealership could not help but notice that the Allis-Chalmers Company was enjoying far greater success with its new row crop tractor—the Model WC tractor.  In 1934, in its first full year of production, 3,098 Model WC tractors were sold, nationwide.  The next year, 1935, production of WCs reached 10,743, nationwide.

The success of the Allis-Chalmers Model WC tractor, as opposed to the Oliver Row Crop tractor may have been related to price.  The suggested retail price of the Oliver Row Crop tractor was $1,005.00.  This was the bare tractor with steel wheels.  The power take-off was an option that cost an additional $8.00.  The suggested retail price of the Allis-Chalmers Model WC tractor, on the other hand, was $747.50.  Even when the buyer added rubber tires on the front and on the rear, the price rose only to $925.00.  Another reason for the low sales of the Oliver Row Crop tractor may have been the Oliver Company’s insistence on promoting their “Tip-Toe” design of steel wheels in the face of the growing demand for rubber tires on tractors.  An H. B. Seitzer advertisement contained in the April 6, 1934 issue of the St. Peter Herald shows that the dealership was continuing to valiantly struggle to point out the advantages of the Tip-Toe rear wheels of the Row Crop tractor.

Eventually, however, the dealership came to the realization that rubber tires was definitely the trend of the future.  With that realization, the attention of the dealership turned to the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  As early as 1929, Allis-Chalmers had been the pioneer in mounting rubber tires on farm equipment—introducing both the Model U (standard) tractor and the original All-Crop Harvester combine on rubber tires in 1929.  Like the Oliver Farm Equipment Company, the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company had also just finished a series of corporate mergers.  By purchasing companies like the Monarch Tractor Company of Springfield, Illinois, which was bought in 1928; the LaCrosse Plow Company of LaCrosse, Wisconsin purchased in 1929; the Advance-Rumley Thresher Company of LaPorte, Indiana bought in 1931 and the Birdsell Company of South Bend, Indiana also purchased in 1931, the Allis-Chalmers Company was able to offer a full-line of farm equipment for the buying public.  This series of corporate purchases, plus the purchase of the Brenneis Manufacturing Company of Oxnard, California in 1938, provided the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company immediately with additional tractor technology and factory works, a full line of sulky and tractor plows, a full line of threshers and other tillage and planting farm equipment.  Thus, when the Allis-Chalmers sales representative showed up in St. Peter in the spring of 1935, to sell a franchise to the H. B. Seitzer and Company dealership; little actual persuasion was needed.  Recognizing the advantages offered by the Allis-Chalmers full line of farm equipment, the H. B. Seitzer dealership signed a dealership franchise agreement to sell Allis Chalmers farm equipment.  An advertisement in the July 24, 1935 issue of the St. Peter Herald proudly announced that H. B. Seitzer & Company was the new “distributor” of Allis-Chalmers farm equipment for the St. Peter area.

However, since neither the Allis-Chalmers franchise, nor the Oliver Company franchise were “exclusive” franchises, the H.B. Seitzer dealership held onto the Oliver franchise and became a dealer for both companies.  This was a fortuitous combination of franchises for the H. B. Seitzer dealership.  The dealership had found that the Oliver plow was superior to the Allis-Chalmers plow.  Thus, the company started making package deals to farmer/customers which included the Allis-Chalmers Model WC tractor and the Oliver Plowmaster two-bottom plow.

The economic depression of the early 1930s created havoc with the whole economy of the United States.  Many farmers lost their farms altogether.  Recovery from the depression was agonizingly slow, but the mid-1930s, farmers throughout the St. Peter community had were starting to feel more secure in their economic situations and were even thinking of modernizing and improving their farming operations.  One such farmer was Henry Juberien of Belgrade Township in Nicollet County which was adjacent to the southern border of Oshawa Township.  Henry and Emma (Meyer) Juberien operated a 290 acre farm, eleven (11) miles to the west of St. Peter.  They lived on the farm with their nine children—Marvin Peter born on September 29, 1915; Anna M. born on December 30, 1916; Louise S. born in December of 1918; Lorna E. born in 1919; Ruth M. born in June 17, 1920; Celia Agnes born in 1923; Henry Albert (nicknamed “Sam”) born on July 22, 1924; Elnor (nicknamed “Babe”) born on November 29, 1925; and Wallace born on December 30, 1929. Continue reading Allis-Chalmers (Part III): The Two-Row Mounted Corn Picker

Allis-Chalmers Farming (Part II): The A-C Model E Bearing the Serial #25606

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The  Rinehardt/Christian/Boehne Allis Chalmers Model E Tractor

by Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the March/April 2007 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

This Model E is fitted with the “short fenders” revealing that the tractor is one of the post-1926 model tractor. Additionally, this Model E has been painted the new “Persian orange” color which the Allis-Chalmers Company used for their farm machinery after 1930. If painted correctly, this particular tractor is one of the post-1930 Model E’s.

            Minnesota’s Henderson Township is located in the southeast corner of Sibley County, of the state of Minnesota.  The Minnesota River flows along the eastern edge of the township.  The River’s meandering course forms the political boundary between Henderson Township and Tyrone Township, which is located in neighboring LeSueur County.  To the south of Henderson Township is Lake Prairie Township in Nicollet, County which is also adjacent to the Minnesota River.  Across the Minnesota River from Lake Prairie Township was Sharon Township another LeSueur County township that lay south of Tyrone Township.   Much of land area of these four townships is included in the southern hardwood forest on the state of Minnesota.  As such this area became the home of a considerable, if small scale, hardwood industry.  For decades settlers and farmers have felled the hardwood trees and sawn the logs into lumber to build their homes and barns.  Many local farmers obtained a small circular saw mill rig with the intent of supplementing their farm incomes with wintertime income sawing lumber for their neighbors.

A township map of Sibley County. Henderson  Township  is shown yellow  on this extreme right side of this map, which is the eastern  boundary of Sibley County along the Minnesota River. 

 

In the early 1930s, during what became known as the Great Depression, farmers in the Minnesota River Valley were merely trying to hang onto their farms and were not really worried about constructing buildings on their farm site.  However, as the economy recovered and things started to get back to normal in the mid and late 1930s, farmers began again to think of improving their farming operations by adding additional structures and renovating the structures they already had.  Six (6) miles southwest of the village of Henderson, Minnesota (1930 pop. 672), lived Rudolph and Ernestine (Doerr) Adams.  Rudolph (nicknamed Rudy) and Ernestine lived in the house in the country with their newborn (May 23, 1936) son, Donald Rudolph.  However, they did not farm the land directly.  Instead Rudy and his older brother, George H. Adams worked together to make their living from threshing the small grain in the neighborhood during the summer months and sawing logs and making lumber for their neighbors in the wintertime.  For threshing in the summer Rudy and George owned a Woods Brothers thresher with a 36 inch cylinder and a 58 inch separating table.  Like most threshers of the time, the thresher had a “self-feeder” with a band cutter and with a “double wing” extension fitted onto the self-feeder.  The self feeding mechanism had the capability of cutting the twine string around each bundle of grain and feeding the bundles automatically to the cylinder.  Previously, a crew member had been required to stand on a platform at the front of the thresher and cut the twine on each bundle of grain and “hand feed” the bundle into the thresher by hand.  The “double wing” extension of the self-feeder allowed two elevators attached to the self-feeder to be swung around and extended out at a 90º angle to the thresher on each side of the thresher.  The double-wing self feeder was designed for “stack threshing.”  As opposed to “shocking” their bundles of small grain in the grain field in “shocks” made up of seven to nine bundles each, some farmers of the neighborhood preferred to store their grain bundles in specially designed stacks built from the bundles.  Carefully, constructed, a stack of bundles could be designed to shed rain water and keep the bundles perfectly dry until threshing day.  These stacks were cylindrical and slightly conical in shape and were about 30 feet in diameter.  On threshing day, the thresher would be pulled up to a location between two stacks on a farm.  Then the wings of the self-feeder would be swung out and positioned to located over the center of the stacks of bundles on either side of the thresher.  Crew members then needed only to stand on top of the stack and load the bundles of the stack onto the elevator wing with pitch forks.

A double-wing style of feeder attached to a 36 inch Case thresher working on two stacks of grain bundles. 

 

To power and transport the thresher around the neighborhood, Rudy and George owned a 60 hp. (horsepower) J.I. Case Company traction steam engine.  Helping the Adams Brothers with his threshing and saw mill business was a neighbor– Henry W. (Hank) Reinhardt.  Hank and Irene (Delzer) Reinhardt rented 160 acre farm in Henderson Township.  There they lived and worked with their son, Victor.  Hank worked the land during the summer on his diversified farming operation.  During July and August each year he would travel around the neighborhood following Rudy Adams and the thresher to help with the neighborhood threshing.  Since the time when his son, Victor, became old enough to drive a team of horses, Hank would take Victor along as part of the threshing crew.  Victor had the job of driving a team pulling a water wagon.  He would hand-pump the 500-gallon tank on the water wagon full of water from whatever water source happened to exist on the particular farm where they were threshing.  Then he would drive the team pulling the full tank of water to the grain field where the steam engine was at work.   Then he would, again, hand-pump the water out of the tank on the water wagon into the 260 gallon “on board” water tanks located on the steam engine itself.  Once that tank was full, the water intake hoses from the steam engine would be dropped into the  opening in the top of the tank on the water wagon.  For a while, Victor would have be able to take a rest while the steam engine drew all the water it needed directly from the water wagon.  Once the water in the water wagon was all gone, the intake hoses were withdrawn from the water wagon and the steam engine went back to drawing its water from the on-board water tank.  It was up to Victor to hurry off to fill the water wagon again and return before all the 260 gallons of water in the on-board water tank was used up.  Victor was kept busy all day working on the water wagon just to assure that the steam engine always had water available for the boiler.

Case 60 hp. steam engine like the one owned by brothers Rudy and George Adams.

Continue reading Allis-Chalmers Farming (Part II): The A-C Model E Bearing the Serial #25606

Allis-Chalmers (Part I): Dry-Land Farming in Wyoming

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Allis Chalmers Farming (Part I): Dry-Land Farming

by Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the January/February 2007 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

            Wyoming is divided between the rocky Mountains in the west and the plains of the eastern part of the state.  Ever since the earliest settlers, cattle raising has been a part of the state’s eastern plains.  In the 1870s and ‘80s the cattle industry in Wyoming boomed, as the number of cattle grew from 8,143 head in 1870 to a maximum of 2 million head in 1885. Two counties over which these cattle grazed in the eastern plains of Wyoming were Sheridan and Jonson Counties.

The cattle ranchers were not the only people that were attracted to the Wyoming plains.  In the 1880’s the eastern plains of Wyoming began to attract settlers intent on making a living tilling the soil of the plains to raise marketable crops—especially wheat.  The competition for land and water in the arid environment of the plains of eastern Wyoming, created tension between large cattle ranchers and the farmers who fenced in the open range.  In 1889, this tension exploded into open warfare in what became known as the “Johnson County War.”  While the cattle barons won battles in this conflict, they lost the war.  Wave after wave of settlers coming into eastern Wyoming doomed the large scale cattle ranchers.  Helping the setters was a new federal law passed in the United States congress in 1862—the Homestead Act.

The Homestead Act had

Continue reading Allis-Chalmers (Part I): Dry-Land Farming in Wyoming

Raising Sheep in Wyoming

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Sheep Raising in Wyoming

       by Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the November/December 2006 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

            The 100° longitude meridian line runs north and south over the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.  This longitude line is more than a man-made global positioning line.  The 100º meridian coincides to a remarkable degree with the climatological boundary between the Midwestern area of the United States and the Great Plains.  East of the 100º meridian is the Midwest with its plentiful annual rainfall amounts.  To the west, in the much drier land of the Great Plains.  Whereas farming in the Midwest is diversified and includes row crops like corn and soybeans, farming in the Great Plains is specialized—limited to the growing of small grains, predominately wheat.  Wheat is grown in abundance in the Great Plains.  Thus, the Great Plains has been called the “bread basket” of the United States.

The entire state of Wyoming is located in the Great Plains.  Situated along the eastern escarpment of the Rocky Mountains, the climate of Wyoming tends to be very dry, even by the standards of the Great Plains.  Because of the extremely dry conditions of the state, Wyoming was, at first, considered unsuitable for crop raising.  Wyoming seemed fit only for grazing cattle—and Wyoming had grazing land available.  Over 80% of the land of the state of Wyoming was publicly owned (federal and state) land.  This public owned land was called “open range.”  The open range had long been freely available for grazing by the cattle by ranchers that settled in Wyoming.

An individual cow requires forty acres of grazing land to sustain itself.  Thus, even a small herd of cattle requires a great deal of land for grazing through out the year.  Thanks to this free grazing policy on federal and state owned lands, individual ranchers did not need to “own” (and pay taxes on) the large amount of land required to support there cattle.  They needed only own a small site for their house, barn and other buildings.  The cattle could be grazed on the open range for most of the year.  Even though the winter snows presented a feeding problem for the cattle rancher in Wyoming, this problem could be overcome by the rancher putting up hay in the summer to feed in the winter when the grazing became too scarce.  The ranchers could even cut hay on the publicly-owned open range and store the hay in their barns to supplement the grazing during the winter months.

Wyoming has proudly nicknamed itself as the “Cowboy State” in recognition of the vast cattle herds (and the men on horseback that handled those herds) that still graze the land of Wyoming.  At first, cattle raising had a monopoly on the open range of Wyoming.  However, in the mid-1880s, sheep were introduced into Wyoming and began to compete with cattle for the grass on the open range.  A struggle between sheep ranchers and cattle ranchers, over grazing rights on the open range, resulted.  This struggle or “range war” between the sheep men and the cattle men has been a popular subject for Hollywood movies.  However, the overwhelming reality of the introduction of sheep into the Great Plains is a bit more prosaic.  Sheep gradually replaced cattle on the open range of Wyoming, because sheep simply offered a more profitable means of making a living than did beef cattle following the mid 1880s.

Since the end of the American Civil War, beef prices had ranged from a normal high of about $6.30 per hundred pounds to a normal low of about $4.00.  However, in February of 1886, the price of beef fell to $3.85 per hundred pounds and from that time down through 1896, beef prices began to fluctuate within a range from a normal high of about $4.00 per hundred pounds and a normal low of $3.30 per hundred pounds.  Raising cattle had become less profitable as time went on.  On the other hand, the price of wool presented a different story.

Traditionally, United States wool growers had benefited from the protective tariff duties which were imposed on the importation of foreign wool into the United States.  High duties on imported wool, assured domestic growers of wool within the United States of a high price for their product without foreign competition.  Protective tariffs had been a highly charged and much debated political issue throughout much of United States history.  The tariff issue had, traditionally, divided the two major political parties of the United States.  Since the time of President Andrew Jackson, the Democratic Party had stood in opposition to the policy of high protective tariffs.  The Republican Party, and before them, the Whig Party, had traditionally supported high tariffs to protect United States industries.  Predictably, when the Republicans were in control of the presidency and the Congress, high tariffs were the enacted.  Conversely, when the Democrats were in power tariff reductions were enacted.  Recently, this dynamic had resulted in the passage of the McKinley Tariff Act in the autumn of 1890 by the Republican-controlled during the administration of Republican President Benjamin Harrison.   Then in the summer of 1894, during the second administration of Democratic President Grover Cleveland, the Democrat-controlled Congress passed the Wilson-Gorman Tariff.  The Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act had removed all duties on imported wool.   Consequently, wool prices sagged to a new low of 34.8 cents per pound in June of 1895.

The Panic of 1893 which began in the east hit Wyoming hard when the Union Pacific Railroad became bankrupt in October of 1893.  Sheep ranchers struggled under the double effects of the lack of any protection from cheap imported wool and the further  restriction of markets for their wool imposed by the economic recession which followed the Panic of 1893.  Still, despite the economic hardships faced by the sheep ranchers, the beef industry was harder hit economically.  In Wyoming, the number of sheep had long since surpassed the number of cattle in the state.  However, the Panic if 1893 and the depression that followed the Panic widened this gap between the number of sheep and the number of cattle in the State.  By 1898, there were 1,940,021 head of sheep in Wyoming as opposed to only 706,000 head of cattle.

As the economic depression which followed the Panic stretched into it third year the public became disenchanted with the incumbent Democratic (Grover Cleveland) Administration.  As the presidential campaign started in 1896, it seemed clear that the public was in a mood to turn the Democrats out of office.  All indications pointed to a Republican victory in November of 1896.  In anticipation of the return of the Republican party, and the expected return of the high protective tariff, the price of wool began to climb.  If any further indication were needed, the Republican National Convention held in June 1896, voted in support of a platform that strongly favored a high tariff.  Senator William McKinley, author of the 1890 high tariff Act which bore his name, was nominated by the same convention as the Republican nominee for president of the United States.  In October, 1896, the price of wool rose to 39.1 cents per pound as a monthly average for the entire month.  On election day in November of 1896, McKinley won the presidential race.  Wool climbed to 41.3 cents per pound as a monthly average for November 1896.

In 1897, Congressman Dingley of Maine became the new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.  Additionally, Chairman Dingley introduced a a tariff bill that would bear his name.  The Dingley Tariff bill proposed to raise duties on imported wool higher than the duties had ever been under the McKinley Tariff of 1890.   Ordinarily, wool prices operated in an annual cycle, dropping in June or July as the sheep flocks across the nation are shorn of their wool and all the shorn wool makes its way into the market and rising again in the fall and winter.  However, as the spring of 1897 yielded to the months of summer, the price of wool did not drop.  Rather, the price of wool continued to rise to 42.4 cents per pound as an average for March and to 45.6 cents a pound in April, 1897.

Bands of sheep herders had always moved across the landscape of Wyoming. Wandering along in pursuit of the next patch of good grazing for the sheep, these flocks of sheep, accompanied by sheepherders, dogs and camp wagons, averaged in size about 2,500-3,000 head.  Thus, the average band needed to cover a great amount of land area to find adequate grazing.  Many of the bands crossing the State of Wyoming did not originate within the borders of Wyoming.  Many flocks of sheep actually originated from Colorado, Utah or other neighboring states.  In 1897, the high price of wool and the anticipation of still higher prices supported by a new Republican protective tariff, brought even more flocks of sheep into the state.

In the spring of 1897, one particular sheepherder and his brother were tending a flock of 2500 head of Rambouillet sheep on the plains adjacent to the western escarpment of the Wasatch Mountain range in the State of Utah.  This was their home.  They lived here with their families.  However, every spring our Wasatch Range sheep herder and his brother rounded up the sheep in their flock and started to drive them north across these plains known as the Wasatch Plateau.  Leaving their families behind, our Wasatch Range sheep herder bid his family goodbye and told his young son to obey his mother and “be the head of the family” while he was gone.  Our Wasatch Range sheep herder would be gone all summer grazing the sheep in the Wyoming Rocky Mountains. He and his brother would not see their respective families again until the coming September.  He and his brother spent nearly as much time in Wyoming as they did in their “homes” in the Wasatch Range.      Continue reading Raising Sheep in Wyoming

Case Farming Part V: Decline of the LeRoy Equipment Company

J.I. Case Company Part V:

The Decline of the LeRoy Equipment Company

by

Brian Wayne Wells

 (As Published in the September/October 2006 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)

During the post-World War II period, the Case Model DC tractor remained the most popular selling tractor of the entire Case line of tractors. However with the labor strike which happened at the Main Works factor in Racine Wisconsin, the LeRoy Equipment Company was unable to obtain any tractors for the inventory of their dealership
During the post-World War II period, the Case Model DC tractor remained the most popular selling tractor of the entire Case line of tractors.

As noted previously (see the article called J.I. Case Company Part IV: the Rise of the Le Roy Equipment Company contained in the July/August 2006 issue of Belt Pulley Magazine), two newly discharged veterans of the Second World War formed a partnership to accept the business opportunity of starting a new Case Company dealership in the small town of LeRoy, Minnesota (1940 pop. 752).  Before the war, LeRoy, Minnesota had been the home of a Case dealership called the “LeRoy Equipment Company.”  However, during the Second World War, the dealership had disbanded.  Now the J. I. Case Company wanted to re-establish the “LeRoy Equipment Company” in order to take advantage of the expected boom in post-war demand for modern farm machinery.  Two veterans, Merle Krinke and Duane Wetter, both originally from the small town of Lamberton located in western Minnesota, had expressed interest in this business venture.

Duane and Merle had known each other at Lamberton High School.  Furthermore, ever since April 8, 1944 when Merle Krinke married Duane’s sister, Zona Wetter, Duane and Merle had been brother-in laws.

Merle had been discharged from the Army Air Corp at the end of the war in the Pacific in September of 1945.  Since that time, Merle had been employed at the Myhere and Nelson Implement dealership, a local  Case franchise dealership in Montevideo, Minnesota.  Montevideo was a small town located on the South Dakota border with Minnesota, northwest of Lamberton.  It was at Myhere and Nelson that Merle had first heard about the opportunity of starting the dealership in Le Roy.

During the war, Duane Wetter had served as a decorated fighter pilot in U.S. Army Air Corp and had flown 75 combat missions in the European theater.  Since the end of the war in Europe in May of 1945, he had been stationed in Stuttgart Germany as part of the U.S. occupation forces.  He was discharged in November of 1945.  Scarcely had he returned to his wife and young son in Minnesota, than he was asked to make the decision to join in a partnership with Merle and move off to LeRoy with his whole family.  Le Roy was located in the southeastern corner of Mower County, just ½ mile from the Iowa border.  This was a long way from Lamberton, Minnesota.  Nonetheless, a decision about the starting the dealership in LeRoy, Minnesota needed to be made as soon as possible by the two veterans.  They would re-establish the dealership under the name “LeRoy Equipment Company” to take advantage of the good will that had been formed by the pre-war dealership of the same name.  Continue reading Case Farming Part V: Decline of the LeRoy Equipment Company