The Farmall F-12 (Part I): The 1935 Minnesota State Fair
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the May/June 2003 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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)→
As published in the November/December 1997 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
From the time of its introduction by International Harvester in August of 1939, the McCormick-DeeringFarmall M was a very popular tractor. For a tractor design which pre-dated World War II, the Farmall M had some surprisingly modern features, such as the integral Lift-All hydraulic power lift system, electric lights, electric starting and the comfortable hydraulic, or Monroe, coil spring operator’s seat. All of these features were optional, but they were so commonly added to the M that they came to be regarded almost as regular equipment. Partly because of its popularity, the International Harvester Company (IHC) changed the design of the Farmall M very little over the years and consequently, by 1945, the M was beginning to show its age. In 1945, the Second World War came to an end and with the end of the war many young veterans of that war returned home with the intent of starting a farming operation of their own. These returning veterans threatened to change the buying habits of the farming public in the United States. They were a whole new element in the farm tractor buying public.
Wars have a way of changing the consumer’s tastes in a variety of unforeseen ways. IHC officials well-remembered how, at the end of the First World War, a small little tractor by the name of Fordson knocked IHC out of its position as the biggest seller of tractors in the United States domestic market. In 1918, veterans returning from the First World War wanted small tractors to start their farming operations on a small scale. The Fordson answered the market demand perfectly, and consequently Ford led the way in sales throughout most of the 1920s. IHC spent most of that decade trying to catch Ford with the introduction of International 10-20 tractors.
Following the end of the Second World War in 1945, IHC executives vowed not to be caught off base again. They anticipated that the veterans returning from this war would once again create a market for small tractors. Therefore, the company introduced the Farmall Cub and spent a great deal of corporate effort on the design, manufacture and advertising of the Cub and its line of equipment.
Additionally, the company also anticipated that the end of the war would release the pent-up consumer demand for large, durable consumer goods such as refrigerators and freezers. Wishing to cash in on this consumer demand, IHC opened, in 1946, a plant, test kitchen and experimental laboratory facilities in Evansville, Indiana, for the production of a full line of refrigeration equipment including dehumidifiers and air conditioners. Soon the Evanston facility was producing 200 chest-type freezers per day. (Barbara Marsh, A Corporate Tragedy, The Agony of International Harvester [Doubleday: Garden City, N.Y., 1985], pp. 74 and 102. Although out of print for a number of years, a second edition of this book is now being sold for $29.95 from Binder Books, Scott and Cyndi Satterlund, P.O. Box 230269, Tigard, OR 97281-0269, Tel: (503) 684-2024, FAX: (503) 684-3990, Email: email@example.com, Home page: www.binderbooks.com.)
The diversion of capital and research money into the new Cub tractor and into the refrigeration component meant that less money was available for improvement in the design of large tractors in the International Harvester line, like the Farmall M. Company officials did not worry about this because the M was selling quite well and they did not see the market for large tractors growing after the war. This assumption proved to be a mistake. Some writers (like Barbara Marsh, cited above) now feel that this miscalculation was an important one that eventually led to the dramatic downfall of IHC in 1985.
International Harvester, along with many other companies, had misread the minds of the World War II vets who were returning to the farm. Unlike World War I veterans, the returning veteran of the Second World War found that the whole world had changed. Back at home on the farm there had developed a race for horsepower in the tractor market. Economic conditions in the United States would no longer allow a young farmer to start farming with small tractors and equipment. Instead, he must start with big equipment to survive in the new post-war economy.
Even IHC’s 2-plow Farmall H, which had sold well during the war (See “The Wartime Farmall H” contained in the July/August 1994 issue of Belt Pulley), was now regarded as a small tractor. Sales of the H fell off dramatically as the returning veterans looked to bigger 3-plow tractors, like the Farmall M, to do farming. Indeed, the market demand for large tractors did not stop with the 3-plow-size tractors; farmers were demanding even larger tractors. Furthermore, they were demanding a variety of different options to make their farming operations easier and more efficient (i.e., live power take-off’s [PTO], live hydraulics, a wider range of tractor speeds, etc.).
The need for improvements to correct some of the shortcomings of the Farmall M created a niche in the market for production of third-party, add-on attachments for the Farmall M. This opportunity was not lost on some people. One person who saw the glaring need was Art Warsaw. Continue reading M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 1)→
The Rockwood Pulley Company of Indianapolis, Indiana: Manufacturer of Paper Pulleys
As published in the March/April 1997 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
They are everywhere at threshing shows, just as they used to be everywhere on farms: on threshing machines, corn shredders, hammer mills, ensilage cutters, and tractors. Seldom are they really noticed, but they make everything work smoothly. They are, as the advertisements used to say, the “pulleys that grip while others slip.” (See the 1938 Rockwood advertisement on page 113 of Threshers, by Robert Pripps and Andrew Moreland [Motorbooks International Publishers: Osceola, Wis. 1992]). They are Rockwood paper pulleys.
They were commonly called “paper pulleys” because of the heavy fibrous material that was wrapped around the metal core of the pulley. This fibrous material was made by a process identical to that of manufacturing paper, except that the raw material being used was straw. Because of their ability to grip, paper pulleys were a technological leap over the wooden and steel pulleys that were first used in flat belt applications like threshing machines.
Although over the years (since the first appearance of paper pulleys on the North American farm scene) other companies would enter the field of manufacturing paper pulleys, it was nonetheless Rockwood Manufacturing Company that developed the first paper pulley. Rockwood so dominated the paper pulley market, that the terms “Rockwood pulley” and “paper pulley” were often used interchangeably.
Like so many companies, the Rockwood Manufacturing Company began as the dream of a single person. William O. Rockwood was born to Rev. Elisha and Susannah Rockwood of Westboro (Westborough), Massachusetts. Elisha was a doctorate of divinity graduate of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Upon graduation, he became the minister for the parish of Westborough, a post he would hold for 27 years. His wife, Susannah Brigham (Parkman) Rockwood, was the daughter of Rev. Ebenezer Parkman, who had been the first minister of the same Westborough parish. Together, they saw to it that their young son, William O. Rockwood, obtained a good education, enrolling him in Leicester and Amherst Academies, and then entering him at Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut. William O., however, rebelled against the ministry, the path laid out for him by his parents. He had a love of the sea. Accordingly, after two years at Yale, he signed on to a sailing vessel bound for Savannah, Georgia, at which port the ship would be loaded with cotton and would sail for Liverpool, England. Upon his return to Massachusetts, he stayed for a while with his parents. On June 4, 1836, William’s mother died. This was a shock to the young man and set him on a different course in life. Continue reading Rockwood Pulley Company of Indianapolis Indiana→
Recently, LeSueur Pioneer Power member, Loren Lindsay, arranged for the donation of a late-model McCormick-Deering 10-foot binder to the Pioneer Power Association. This binder was purchased new by the late John Depuydt and his wife Mary (Seys) Depuydt in the 1940s, and was employed on the Depuydt farm in rural Mankato, Minnesota, for its entire life. The binder is being donated to the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association in memory of John by Mary and their son, Greg Depuydt.
The binder is complete and does operate, but the binding mechanism has been temporarily disabled to convert the binder into a windrower. This was a popular modification made to old binders when farming operations were changed from threshing to combining.
McComick-Deering binders were the result of a blending of all of the best features of four different binders, e.g., Plano, Champion, Deering and McCormick binders, as the result of the merger of these four companies to form International Harvester Company in 1902. Following the merger, Deering and McCormick binders continued as separate product lines until 1937 when these two lines were discontinued in favor of a single line of McCormick-Deering binders. (C.H. Wendel, 150 Years of International Harvester, [Crestline Publishing: Sarasota, Florida, 1981], p. 163.) Even during the period of time from 1902 until 1937, while Deering and McCormick binders continued to be manufactured as separate lines within the same company, the binders gradually became more and more similar as time passed. By 1923, the two binder lines had adopted enough of the best features of one another that the Deering and McCormick binders were already basically the same binder. (Ibid., p. 160.)
The Depuydt binder will no doubt remind many people of binders owned by their families in the past. one such binder, an 8-foot McCormick binder, was owned by John T. Goff of Mapleton, Minnesota in the 1920s. By the time that the Hanks family moved to the Goff farm south of Mapleton in 1935, the binder had been converted for use behind the Goff 1931 John Deere D. The Hanks family rented the Goff farm from 1935 until 1945. During that period of time they purchased much of the John Goff machinery, including the 1931 John Deere D and the McCormick binder. The grain binder was used every year during threshing season until 1944 when the Hanks family purchased a 1938 John Deere No. 7 combine for harvesting their small grains.
As related earlier, the Hanks family transported the McCormick binder, the No. 7 combine and all their other machinery and moved to the newly purchased 400-acre Bagan farm five miles east of LeRoy, Minnesota, on March 1, 1945. (Belt Pulley, “The Wartime Farmall H,” July/August 1994, Vol. 7, No. 4, p. 13.) By the summer of 1948, Howard and Ethel (Buck) Hanks were starting to develop confidence in their economic position. This was quite different from the extreme uncertainty which they had felt the previous year. (For the story of the year 1947, see Belt Pulley, January/February 1995, Vol. 8, No. 1, p. 31.) They were now into their fourth growing season on their farm.
Many changes had also occurred in the family since the previous year. The family was smaller now. Daughter Lorraine had married Robert Westfall, and together they rented a farm near Stewartville, Minnesota. Son Bruce and his new bride Mary (Keller) had been living on the Tony Machovec farm 1/2 mile to the south of the Hanks farm. During the summer and fall of 1947, he had been working on the Hanks farm every day to earn money to enter seminary school; however, on January 1, 1948, he and Mary had moved to Chicago to attend Moody Bible Institute. Also, daughter Marilyn had married Wayne Wells. Although she lived only two miles away on the Wells farm, and although Wayne Wells did cooperate with the Hanks family during corn planting and haying seasons, she too was not around the Hanks farm on a daily basis anymore. Only eldest son Fred, 18-year-old daughter Hildreth, and 12-year-old John remained on the farm.
In a large family, each child comes to cherish those occasions when they have the undistracted attention of one of their parents. With sudden reduction in the size of the Hanks family, Hildreth and Johnny noticed that they now enjoyed this opportunity on a more frequent basis. Hildreth had just graduated from LeRoy High School in June of 1948. She intended to spend the summer on the farm and then go to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago to further her education. During her senior year in high school she had been active on the school newspaper. Hildreth’s boyfriend recognized that the Hanks family enjoyed photography, and so he gave Hildreth a camera as a graduation present.
During the summer of 1948, Hildreth was haunted by the feeling that after she left the farm in the fall to go to college her life would never be the same. All that summer she used her new camera to take pictures of everyday activities around the farm. She wanted the pictures as remembrances of her farm life while she was away at school. She especially wanted to remember the times that she had spent with her father working in the fields.
It was July and the oats were ripe. Howard was busy preparing the old McCormick binder for the field. Since the Hanks family purchased the big John Deere No. 7 combine in 1944, the McCormick binder had been modified by disconnecting the bundling mechanism so that the cut grain would flow out in a continuous stream. The McCormick binder had thereby been converted into a windrower.
The day before windrowing the oats in July of 1948, Howard Hanks pulled the binder out of the machine shed. He then took the rolled up canvases for the binder down from the wire hooks hanging from the rafters in the machine shed. The canvases had been suspended from these hooks all winter to be safe from the mice. He installed the canvases on the rollers on the bed, and also on the upper and lower force feeder of the binder. He could perform this operation without switching the binder out of its length-wise transport position. Thanks to a square fitting on the drive shaft of the binder, he could use the crank that came with the binder to slowly turn the drive shaft and check the operation of the binder. Next he greased the binder with the grease gun at all of the Zerk locations.
The next morning, with his eldest son Fred already in the fields with the new 1948 Ford 8N cultivating with the Ford rear-mounted two-row cultivator, Howard finished the milking and other chores. Then he backed the 1942 Farmall H out of the alleyway of the corn crib, drove down to the machine shed and hitched the tractor to the 8-foot McCormick grain binder.
Before heading to the field, Howard stopped by the house to get his youngest daughter Hildreth, since she had expressed interest in helping her father today. As she ran out of the house, Hildreth grabbed her new camera. She jumped up onto the seat of the binder for the ride to the field. The H and the binder, riding on its steel transport wheels, then headed down the driveway and out onto the dusty little township road for the short drive to the field of ripened oats. Over the winter the Hanks family’s dog Ginger had had a litter of puppies. Two of these partially grown pups now followed the tractor and binder to the field.
The sweet smell of new mown hay is familiar to many people. Less familiar is the smell of ripened oats. It has a much fainter fragrance than hay. During hay season, the smell of hay becomes so common that it passes unnoticed after a day or so to the workers who are working with the hay. The fainter smell of ripened oats is noticeable for only a few hours after the start of the oat harvest. This smell is at times captured in a straw bale. This fresh smell of summer sunlight and warmth will sometimes be noticeable in the winter as the straw bale is opened up and the straw is spread around a calf pen. It stands out as a very faint reminder of summer in the middle of winter. Calves must smell it, too. Sometimes they will bury their noses in the straw bale, butt their heads on the bale, and then run and jump around as the straw is being shaken out in their pen.
This fragrance has been approximated in a new cologne called “Fahrenheit” by Christian Dior. The advertisement alleges that the fragrance is the smell of sunshine. It smells like ripening oats or like fresh oat straw. Actually, sunshine is a pretty good definition of the fragrance–oat straw really is sunshine in a bale! A little bit of summer preserved in a bale to be enjoyed in the middle of winter. No wonder the calves would spirit around the pen when they smelled fresh straw. This smell was in the air as the H and the binder reached the field.
Once across the road/field access and through the narrow gate and into the field, Howard used the binder crank to lower the bull wheel and raise the binder off of the transport wheels. The transport wheels and their stub axles were removed from the square holes in the axle supports on each side of the binder. The wheels were then stored next to the field gate, and the binder crank was used to lower the binder into the proper operating height. Then Hildreth helped her father turn the binder 90 degrees to its operating position.
Although there was no need for an extra person to ride the binder, Hildreth enjoyed coming along to the field. It was simply a good time for a father and daughter to be together while they accomplished some work on the farm. Hildreth jumped up into the seat on the binder and reached down with her right hand to twist the clutch lever to put the binder in gear. Then Howard started the Farmall H on the first counter-clockwise revolution around the oat field.
Because the binder had been converted to a windrower, Hildreth had only to watch the oats flow by on the upper and lower force-feed elevator and then to watch it fall on the ground in one continuous swath as her father drove the H around the oat field. As she sat there she realized that this was the last summer of her childhood. In the fall she would be headed off to college in Chicago. The occasion was not lost on Hildreth. This was an opportunity to enjoy all of the sights and sounds of the farm and even the smell of ripened oats being harvested. This opportunity might not be repeated again in the near future.
After a few rounds, they stopped, and Hildreth took a few pictures with her new camera. Howard was impressed by the height of the oats, and so Hildreth took some pictures of the binder against the oats to show the height of the crop. She also took pictures of the two puppies that had been frolicking along behind the binder.
Hildreth took these pictures to college with her. However, chances are good that while in college Hildreth did not admire and analyze the pictures as closely as they are scrutinized today by other family members who are interested in the restoration of old farm machinery.
The Depuydt McCormick-Deering 10-foot binder brings back memories of the Hanks 8-foot McCormick binder. Similarity, the current restoration of a 5-foot Deering binder by Donald Wells of Mercer Island, Washington is reviving memories of the 7-foot Deering binder that he used on his parent’s (George and Louise Wells) 160-acre farm near LeRoy, Minnesota, was about two miles west of the Hanks farm. The 5-foot Deering binder currently being restored by Donald Wells was originally purchased by George Lawson of San Juan Island, Washington in about 1917. It was used on the island to harvest wheat. When Donald Wells found the Deering binder on San Juan Island, it was owned by Etta Egeland, grand-daughter of George Lawson. The binder, which had been sitting in the field exactly where it was last used, was in need of extensive restoration. Therefore, this project continues to be on-going.
As both the Depuydt McCormick-Deering binder and the Lawson/Egeland Deering binder are brought back to operating condition, it is hoped that more memories of old binders of the past will be stirred. These restoration projects serve as a memorial to all those people who manufactured and used these farm machines of a by-gone era.
The 1936 International Harvester “Quickest On-Quickest Off” Contest
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the November/December 1994 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
Ever since the invention of farm machinery, all farm equipment manufacturers have sought new and more effective ways to sell their product. Jere Wissler of Mountville, Pennsylvania has a piece of International Harvester literature which dates from about 1940 and recounts that the company began making silent movies to promote their farm equipment in 1912. In 1934 they changed to sound movies exclusively. Many of these movies were intended to be shown at the annual Power Farming Shows and Entertainment to be held in February of each year at their dealerships as a way of advertising the new farm equipment the company had introduced that year. International Harvester encouraged their local dealerships to hold these family-oriented events with a free meal and free entertainment as a means of attracting potential buyers in the middle of the Great Depression.
The dealerships usually offered free beans and hot dogs to the families in attendance and the entertainment usually consisted of farm equipment movies. Of course, the salesmen of the dealership were always on hand to show off the new machinery in hopes of making a sale during the show. Early February was recognized as the best time to hold these events because it was well in advance of March 1, traditionally the day on which all rental agreements for farms invariably ended and a new agreement would begin. Additionally, purchase contracts for farms invariably were made effective on March 1.
John Deere also began having similar annual February events in 1936. They called their events John Deere Days. The John Deere Company began making movies for their shows in 1936. Copies of these movies on VHS videotape are available from Two Cylinder Club, Post Office Box 10, Grundy Center, Iowa 50638-0010, Telephone: 1-800-831-5176.
At first all movies made by International Harvester were of the hard-sell variety. Hard-sell movies dealt exclusively with machinery; there was no attempt to make a story out of the movie. Precisely because they provide direct information about the machinery, these movies stimulate great interest among collectors today. In 1936, however, International Harvester produced a different type of movie for the February dealership shows. This 11-minute movie was called My Model Farm. The movie contained no scenes of machinery at all; it was strictly an entertainment movie. However, My Model Farm created a sensation when it was shown for the first time in 1936. It was (and still is) a very funny and popular film with audiences. International Harvester had created a movie hit! The movie was re-shown in succeeding years because of popular demand. The movie was intended to be included in the middle of a series of hard-sell movies to provide comic relief.
One of the hard-sell movies shown together with My Model Farm in 1936 was Quickest On, Quickest Off. This movie relates yet another promotional campaign which International Harvester launched to promote the Quick-Attachable line of farm equipment for the Farmall F-12. This movie showed the International Harvester exhibition tents at the 1935 Illinois and Indiana State Fairs. One of the main events in the International Harvester tent at both state fairs that year was the “Quickest On, Quickest Off” contest. This was a contest of 13- and 14-year-old boys from various communities of each state competing to see who was the fastest at attaching and detaching the various “Quick-Attachable” implements available for the Farmall F-12.
The contest was part of the International Harvester effort to demonstrate to farmers just how easy it was for anybody to attach and detach the Quick-Attachable equipment. There is mention in the movie of a one-armed man attaching and detaching equipment each day of the Illinois State Fair. The 13- and 14-year-old contestants were drawn from the local communities in the respective states.
Although there is no detailed explanation in the movie of how the contestants were selected at the local level, a person with whom many Belt Pulley readers are familiar was a participant in the 1935 Quickest On, Quickest Off contest at the local level. Although circumstances prevented him from participating in the contest at the Illinois State Fair, he is familiar with the contest as it was carried out at the local level.
Many readers will remember Bill Rees who was the son of Milford Rees, founder of Rees Plowing Match in 1923. A story of the Rees plowing contests held from 1923 through 1941 was carried in the May/June 1991 issue of The Belt Pulley magazine. (“A Time Gone By: The Rees Plow Match”). In that article, readers will note that young Bill Rees won a trophy at one of the plowing matches in 1933. There is a picture of 10-year-old Bill Rees standing behind an Allis-Chalmers No. 2 plow (with very shiny mirror-like bottoms) holding his newly won plowing trophy.
The Milford Rees family was located at Rees Station in Morgan County, Illinois, about three miles northwest of Franklin, Illinois. Like most farm families, the Rees family looked forward to the Power Farm Shows held each spring. Indeed, Bill remembers attending the show at Wilson Implement, the International Harvester dealership in Waverly, Illinois. A few days after the show at Wilson Implement, the family would drive to Jacksonville, Illinois, the county seat of Morgan County, to attend the Power Farming Show at the Wise and Dowland dealership.
In the early spring of 1935, following the Power Farming Show, the Wise and Dowland dealership contacted young Bill Rees about becoming one of the local boys involved in the Quickest On and Quickest Off contest. He relates that the contest really had no connection with the county fairs; indeed, there was no contest at the local level at all. Actually, the International Harvester Company encouraged local dealerships to sponsor boys from their sales areas to come to the various state fairs to compete in the Quickest On, Quickest Off contest. The local dealerships were asked to help the boys with practice sessions using the new equipment at each dealership.
The Wise and Dowland dealership occupied a two-story building in the center of Jacksonville, Illinois, about 35 miles west of Springfield, Illinois. When Bill began going to the practice sessions held on Saturdays in the early spring of 1935, he found that Wise and Dowland had made contact with two or three other boys from the area around Jacksonville and Morgan County to participate in the “Quickest On, Quickest Off” contest. All through the spring of 1935, the boys would gather on the second floor of the Wise and Dowland dealership. The second floor of the building was the warehouse area of the dealership, where shipping boxes of farm implements were being unpacked and the implements assembled by the staff at Wise and Dowland. In this area, the boys practiced attaching and detaching the drawbars of the Farmall F-12’s. They also practiced attaching and detaching the rear section of a cultivator, the mower, and some of the other Quick-Attachable equipment using the long speed-wrench which was standard equipment with all the Quick-Attachable equipment.
While learning the advantages of the Quick-Attachable equipment, they also learned some of the disadvantages. For instance, the boys learned that the support stand for the Quick-Attachable No. 12 mower was badly designed. It was more of a hinderance than a help.
All through the spring of 1935, the boys practiced and aimed their sights on the Illinois State Fair to be held in August. As the summer progressed, however, Bill learned that he would be unable to attend the State Fair due to his family’s schedule. Reluctantly, he had to withdraw from the contest. Today, it is not known exactly what family event conflicted with the State Fair, but Bill stopped going to the practice sessions at Wise and Dowland in early summer. If he had participated at the State Fair, he may have been captured on film by the camera crew who was filming the event for the movie Quickest On, Quickest Off that would be shown at the dealership shows in February of 1936.
Although Bill did not have a chance to attend the Illinois State Fair, viewers of the film Quickest On, Quickest Off do get a chance to look around at the young boys who were participating in the contest at the Fair as well as the people in the audience. It offers the viewer a chance to sit in the stands of the International Harvester tent at the 1935 Fair. Talking with Bill Rees and the people involved in the preparation for the contest is like sitting next to an IH employee and having the employee tell you about the work that went into preparing for the contest. It increases our enjoyment and understanding of the promotional activities of the past.
If the experience of our family is any clue, the Farmall H seems to occupy a unique position in the history of tractor-powered farming. There seems to have been a great number of H’s built and sold during the Second World War. However, following the war, and especially into the 1950s, they seem to have been very quickly replaced by tractors which could handle three-bottom plows and four-row cultivators. Production figures seem to support this conclusion, indicating that production of the H fell off after 1950. Red Power March/April, Vol. 7, No. 6.
The Farmall H was introduced in 1939 and, although the tractor continued in production through 1952 and into 1953, it seems to have served as the primary tractor on a lot of farms for only the very short period of time from 1940 to 1946. After this time the H was relegated to a secondary role on the farm. The primary role was taken by three-plow tractors, like the Farmall M. As has been pointed out in prior articles, Antique Power, November/December, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 15-16, farmers in 1939 were at first reluctant to buy the Farmall M because of the reputation of the F-30. The F-30 had a reputation for bulkiness, awkwardness and being hard to handle. Because the M was thought to be the successor to the F-30, sales of the M were not all that they could have been in the early years of production. This may have inflated the sales of the H which was the successor to the very popular F-20.
At any rate, there were a great number of H’s purchased during the Second World War. Indeed a great number of these wartime H’s are still around today. The wartime H’s usually stand out because they are fitted with rear wheels which have been cut down from old steel wheels. As many readers will know, although the H was sold with rear rubber tires prior to the war (notice the reprint of a picture of the showroom of Johnson Brothers Implement in Taylorsville, Illinois, taken in 1941, which is included in the November/December 1993 issue of Red Power, Vol. 8, No. 4, p. 18), during the war the rubber shortages meant that many tractors were once again commonly manufactured with steel rear wheels.
Both sides of the author’s family owned a Farmall H during the war and continued to use the H as the primary row-crop tractor on their respective farms in the same LeRoy, Minnesota neighborhood for a short period of time following the war. As noted in prior articles, The Belt Pulley January/February 1994, Vol. 7, No. 1, p. 14, the Howard Hanks family moved to the LeRoy, Minnesota area in March of 1945 to purchase a 400-acre farm in Beaver Township of Fillmore County. This farm was known in the area as the Bagan farm; however, in 1945 the farm was owned by A.E. Rehwaldt. He sold the “Bagan” farm to the Howard Hanks family. Though the farm would be legally transferred on March 1, 1945, the agreement was actually reached in the late summer of 1944. The family moved down to the farm and stayed about 10 days in August of 1944 to do some fall plowing.
Albert E. Rehwaldt also owned a 1942 Farmall H which he wanted to sell. He had purchased this tractor in 1942 under the regulations of the wartime Office of Price Administration (O.P.A.). He had paid $800.00 for the H. Under O.P.A. regulations he was prohibited from re-selling the tractor for more than the original cost of the tractor. Therefore, because the original cost of the tractor was $800.00 in 1942, he was prohibited from selling the H at more than $800.00. Even as a used tractor, the H was worth more than $800.00 in 1944.
One way for a seller to get a better price for his tractor under the regulations of the O.P.A. was to offer the tractor as part of a contract price for a farm. The price of the tractor would be submerged in the total price of the package deal for the farm.
In this way the 1942 Farmall H was purchased by the Howard Hanks family in the fall of 1944 together with the Bagan farm. It was the family’s first row-crop tractor. With the McCormick-Deering 238 cultivator that came with the H, the family would now be able to cultivate two rows at a time. The H had an electric starter, electric lights, and the Lift-All hydraulic which was common to Farmalls introduced in 1939. This 1942 H had steel wheels on the front as well as in the rear. However, in the fall of 1944, while still living on the Goff farm in Mapleton, Minnesota, the family went shopping in Mankato, Minnesota. There in Mankato the Hanks boys happened to find a couple of drop center wheels and matching rims for rubber tires for the front end of the Farmall H. These wheels and rims were purchased and installed on the 1942 H during the spring of 1945.
One of the pictures included with this article shows this 1942 Farmall H in the fall of 1945 with its new wheels and rubber tires on front. The H is hitched to the John Deere No. 7 combine. The picture shows Howard Hanks’ second son (now Reverend) Bruce Hanks preparing to attach the header to the No. 7 combine in preparation for the 1945 soybean harvest.
In 1946, both the rear wheels of the Farmall H and the wheels of the No. 7 combine were cut down and fitted with rubber tires. This was necessary because the Hanks family had used the John Deere No. 7 combine to do custom combining in their old neighborhood around the Goff farm in Mapleton in the fall of 1944. Now they looked forward to supplementing the family income with the same type of custom work in the neighborhood around the Bagan farm. The combine and H would be on the road between farms; therefore, rubber tires were a much needed improvement. The task of cutting the steel wheels down to be fitted with rims for rubber tires was performed by Joe and Earl Lamon, blacksmiths in the town of LeRoy, Minnesota.
Many of the wartime H’s were cut down and fitted with rubber tires in this manner to extend the usable life of the tractor in modern farming operations. Anyone who has driven one of these H’s will remember that the process was never perfect and usually resulted in the wheels having a slight wobble which became noticeable at high speeds. The drop center rims for rubber tires on the rear as well as the front was a preferred solution because they were perfectly round and did not wobble at high speeds; however, cutting down of steel wheels was a cheaper alternative.
Although the H had always been a five-speed tractor, when the steel-wheeled version was ordered, International Harvester installed a cap screw on the operator’s platform near the gearshift lever, which would prevent the tractor from accidentally being shifted into 5th gear. This resulted in the steel-wheeled H being a four-speed tractor with a top speed of 5-1/8 mph. C.H. Wendel Nebraska Tractor Tests, p. 122. Custom farming required that tractors and machinery be moved from farm to farm in a hurry. Transport time was wasted time. To be sure, the 5-1/8 mph speed was an improvement over the only other tractor owned by the family when they moved to the Bagan farm, a 1931 John Deere D. (This John Deere D is pictured elsewhere. Antique Power, May/June 1994, Vol. 6, No. 4, p. 22.) The two-speed 1931 D had a top speed of 3-1/4 mph, (C.H. Wendel Nebraska Tractor Tests, p. 60). Still, the H was painfully slow on the road, so it was a noteworthy day when the rubber tires were finally mounted on the back in the spring of 1946 and the cap screw on the platform could safely be removed! Suddenly the top speed of the tractor was increased by more than three times to 16-1/8 mph!
At times, the Hank’s Farmall H performed tasks which were not strictly related to farming operations. In April of 1947, Bruce Hanks was getting married and leaving the farm. It had been a wet spring and the roads were in bad shape. The wedding took place on April 2, 1947 at the Little Brown Church in Nashua, Iowa. (This is the church that inspired the hymn “Little Church in the Wild Wood” where so many weddings have been held.) After the wedding was over and the bridal party was ready to head out on the honeymoon, it was discovered that some of the luggage had been left back at the house on the Bagan farm in LeRoy. Howard Hanks headed out after the ceremony in his 1936 Plymouth. The last mile over the township road (called the “rabbit road south” so as not to be confused with the “rabbit road north!”) leading to the house from the U.S. 56 was so muddy that he did not think he would make it. However, he did pull up into the yard and did retrieve the luggage. Rather than set out again in the car he started up the 1942 H which was now outfitted with rubber tires and the fifth gear, and while driving with one hand and holding the luggage with the other, Howard brought the luggage to the corner of U.S. 56 and the rabbit road south where the bridal party awaited their luggage and the start of their honeymoon. Admittedly, this is an unusual task for a farm tractor, but the Farmall H had saved this most important day!
As the Farmall H headed back toward the farm on the afternoon of April 2, 1947, Howard Hanks must have been looking out over the fields of the farm with some foreboding. The economic difficulty caused by the general decline of farm prices following the war would, in 1947, be further intensified by the wet spring which would continue on into the summer. 1947 was beginning to look like a year of crisis for the Hanks family. Just at they had contracted to make payments on the 400 acre farm (large by comparison for the times) prices and now the weather seemed to be conspiring against their success on the new farm. The story of the year of 1947 is, however, another story for another time.
The 1942 Farmall H played the leading role on the Hanks farm for the critical year of 1947 and continued to serve in this role until 1951 when it was traded off for a new 1951 Massey-Harris 44 and a four-row cultivator. This Massey-Harris 44 is described and pictured elsewhere. The Belt Pulley, July/August 1993, Vol. 6, No. 4. The Hanks farming operation had moved to three-bottom plow and four-row capacity farming. At this level of capacity the H was outmoded.
As mentioned above, the author’s father Wayne Wells farmed in the same LeRoy neighborhood. Wayne Wells’ father George Cleveland Wells had purchased a 160-acre farm only two miles to the west of the Bagan farm in 1936. George and Louise Schwark Wells and their three sons Floyd, Donald and Wayne, and one daughter Winnefred, moved from a rented farm in Chester, Iowa in the spring of 1936. George Cleveland Wells was farming 160 acres with a 1931 Farmall Regular which had been purchased in the late fall of 1939. It had been retrofitted with rubber tires in the front to aid in steering; however, it still had steel wheels in the rear. George’s No. 2 son Donald Wells (later a fighter pilot in the Navy, now from Seattle and currently restoring a Farmall C and a McCormick grain binder) had been assigned the cold and day-long task in the late fall of 1939 of driving the Regular from the purchase site southwest of LeRoy to the Wells farm northeast of LeRoy. This was a distance of some 15 to 20 miles. Although the Regular had rubber tires on the front, the steel lug wheels on the rear meant that Donald had to take all the back roads and stay off the cement and asphalt highways. This further lengthened the trip. At the same time, the Wells family had purchased a new John Deere Model 82 two-bottom plow for use with the Regular.
In 1942, a new Farmall H had been ordered by a neighbor, Mel Anderson, under the regulations of the O.P.A. However, when it arrived he had decided not to buy the tractor. Mel then offered to let George Wells buy the H in his place. (The only picture that exists of the George Wells 1942 Farmall H is the picture at the top of this article.) Because it was known that obtaining a tractor was becoming an arduous task, even in that first year of the Second World War, George Wells knew that he had better act while the opportunity was open. Therefore, three years after purchasing the Regular the Wells family decided to trade off the 1931 Regular and the McCormick Deering Model 229 cultivator (C.H. Wendel 150 Years of Intenational Harvester, p. 101) on the purchase price of this new Farmall H while the opportunity presented itself.
The George Wells 1942 H was a very good tractor. It had lights, an electric starter, and the Lift-All hydraulic system. Furthermore it had factory-mounted drop center rims for rubber tires on the front as well as the rear. The tractor was accompanied by a two-row model 238 International Harvester cultivator. This tractor was a big improvement over the Regular in that it had the worm gear type of steering on top of the steering column. Driving the H was a much safer proposition than the Regular with its bevel gear type of steering which frequently caused the steering wheel to break loose from the operator’s grasp upon hitting a rock with the front tires. When driving the Regular, you always made sure your thumb was on the outside of the steering wheel! Also, the Regular was not the tractor for installing a steering knob on the steering wheel!
The Wells family found that the H was a good match for the newly acquired Model 82 John Deere two-bottom plow. Following George and Louise Wells’ retirement and move in the town of LeRoy, Minnesota in 1947, their third and youngest son, Wayne A. Wells, took over operation of the home farm from his parents. The 1942 Farmall Model H continued to serve as the only tractor in the Wells farming operation until 1950 when it was traded for a new Farmall M, a new three-bottom Little Genius plow (Wendel p. 229), a new six-foot McCormick-Deering Model 25 mower and a new 438 four-row cultivator. Together with a used Model 112 four-row corn planter, also purchased in 1950, the Wells family moved to four-row and three bottom capacity farming. Consequently, the day of the Farmall H had passed for both the Wells and Hanks family farming operations.
However, fond memories remain of farming with the Farmall H in the years during and immediately following the Second World War. The Wells family is currently restoring a 1944 Farmall H (Serial No. 173,093). It helps us capture some of the sights and sound of farming as conducted by both sides of our family during the period of time from 1942 until 1951 when the Farmall H was the leading row-crop tractor on both farms.
No. 173093 was purchased from Fred and Jan (Miner) Netz of Traverse Township in Nicollet County, Minnesota. Fred and Jan Netz were teachers in the Nicollet Public School system, in Nicollet, Minnesota. However they also worked a small farm in traverse Township where they raised cattle and had a large garden. They used No. 173093 on their farm to till the garden and to put up hay for the winter to feed their cattle.
The 1944 H (serial No. 173,093) purchased by the Wells family in the summer of 1993, however, differs from the 1942 H’s owned by the Wells and Hanks families in the late 1940s in that the current 1944 H has the optional disc brakes which International Harvester offered. This option is rare enough that some observers have thought that this 1944 tractor was actually a Super H. The disc brakes on the 1944 H are quite different in outward appearance than the disc brakes which were offered standard on the Super series of Farmalls. The pictures included with this article show this difference.
However, working mechanism of both the optional disc brakes offered before 1953 and the standard equipment disc brakes offered after that date operate by the same means. As the brake pedal is applied, the balls inside the actuating disc are forced up a little incline, following a path. As this occurs, the balls cause the two halves of the actuating disc to spread apart and rub against the asbestos-lined discs which are attached to the counter shaft of the transmission. This slows the tractor.
The Farmall disc brakes have had a bad reputation with farmers and tractor restorers dating from the time they first came out as standard equipment on the Super series of the Farmalls in 1953. The problems with disc brakes seem to fall into two categories. One problem seems to involve the glazing over of the surfaces of the asbestos-lined discs. Mel Duerst, who was a mechanic at the Thompson (later Phillipson) International Harvester Implement dealership in New Glarus Wisconsin in the 1950s, reports that many of the first disc brake models had problems due to operator’s riding the brakes and glazing over the asbestos surfaces. Mr. Duerst, who now lives in Sheridan, Wyoming, remembers that it became official International Harvester policy to warn operators against riding the brakes on the new Super series tractors. He feels that the disc brakes should be as effective as the old band brakes were under normal circumstances.
Charles (Dick) Smith used the new Super M’s in the early 1950s for plowing on his farms located in western Iowa near Red Oak. On one hillside portion of his land plowing created problems for the tractor operator. To keep the tractor plowing straight around the slope required the operator to ride the brake of the Super M’s until the brake housings became discolored and smoked from the excess heat. Mr. Smith dismantled the disc brakes on his Super M’s each night after this hard usage to clean up the actuator, roller balls and the paths followed by the balls when the brakes were engaged. He humorously injects that he became pretty familiar with the disc brakes during this period of time! He acknowledges that plowing on the hillside areas was abnormally rough on the braking system of his Super M’s. He also concurs that under normal conditions the disc brakes should be as effective as the older band brakes. For the restorer, the problem of glazed asbestos surfaces of the discs is solved by various methods of roughing up the surface of the asbestos pads on the discs.
The other problem common to disc brakes is that they have a tendency to lock up. This problem appears to be caused by dirt and rust building up inside the actuating discs of the brake. The dirt and rust interfere with the balls in the actuating discs rolling back to the released position when the brake pedal is released. Rust is created inside the actuating discs when the tractor is left exposed to the elements for a good portion of its life. This problem should not create difficulty for restorers, however, as most restored tractors tend to be stored inside out of the elements.
One other cause of the disc brakes locking up is that the balls inside the actuating discs will create a slight depression in the path the ball is supposed to follow when the brake pedal is released. The ball gets stuck in the depression and the brake is locked. The process of creating the depression is called brinelling and is described in an article by Lester Larson in a recent issue of Antique Power. Antique Power, January/February 1994, Vol. 6, No. 2, p. 16.
It also seems that the lack of adjustment of brakes will lead to problems with disc brakes. The Owner’s Manual for the Farmall H instructs the owner to adjust brakes so that free movement of the pedal is limited to only 1-1/2″. Farmall H Owners Manual, p. 59. As a boy growing up on the Wells farm in the 1950s, the author remembers few tractors which were adjusted to this standard. With band brakes, proper adjustment was not so crucial. If the operator kept pressing down on the pedal, sooner or later the brakes would engage. However, as noted above, the disc brakes are operated by balls following a path inside the actuating discs. If the brakes were not fully engaged by the time that the balls reached the end of the path, further pressing on the brake pedal would be meaningless. The message to restorers is that proper adjustment of brakes is much more important for disc brakes than for band brakes.
In about 2003 the Wells family agreed to let the 1944 H become a working tractor as a part of the Melounek-Deutsch Saw Mill on the grounds of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association. As such the 1944 Farmall bearing the serial No, 173093 was fitted with a buck saw which is used for cross cutting “slab” wood (a by product of sawing logs into lumber) into useable pieces for burning in the numerous steam engines located around the grounds during the August show.
In the years since this article was originally written, No. 173093 with its “buzz” saw, or “buck saw,” mounted on the front continues to be employed by the “Sawmill gang” on the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association to reduce the slab wood by-product of the sawmill. Indeed just prior to the 2016 August Show on the Pioneer Power grounds, the current author and Mark Wells, brother of the current author had a chance to work with the sawmill gang cutting up slab wood with No. 173093 and its buzz saw and putting the resulting fire wood into the Anthony wagon box mounted on the Ralph Nash homemade wagon gear which was another restoration project of the Wells family. (The story of the Anthony wagon is told in the article on the Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois which is also contained on this website.)
In the absence of No. 173093, the Wells family purchased another 1946 Farmall H which had been part of a fleet of tractors owned by the Campbell Soup Company of Napoleon, Ohio. This tractor bears the serial No. 219955. It is intended that this tractor will be changed to make it look like the George Wells 1942 Farmall H shown at the top of this article. Toward this end, a pair of non-adjustable front wheels were purchased in the town of Charm, Ohio in the Amish Colonies in October of 2013. Over that winter of 2013-2014, the older standard equipment seat of No. 219955 was renovated and in the summer of 2014 No. 219955 was transported to Minnesota to be stored in the new Wells family workshop located at 764 Elmwood Street in LeSueur.
During the summer of 2015 a new wiring harness, battery box and a new muffler were added to No. 219955 and the tractor began to look a lot more like the George Wells 1942 Farmall H. This is the role that this tractor this tractor is currently playing. However, the does have its own interesting history as a member of a fleet of tractors owned and operated by the Campbell Soup Company of Napoleon, Ohio. Accordingly, an additional article is being planned for the actual history of No. 219955.
Belt Pulley Magazine Articles by Brian Wayne Wells