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.
A two-bottom McCormick-Deering Little Genius Plow with 14-inch Bottoms
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the September/October 1994 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
Antique tractor collecting is a fast growing sport. Indeed Hemmings Motor News, who promotes antique car collecting, has called tractor collecting the fastest growing sport in the nation. Old Abe’s News Summer of 1993, Vol. 8, No. 3, p. 3. As our sport grows we also notice that restoration of tractors has recently been accompanied by restoration of farm machinery.
It seems that when tractor restorers get their tractor finished they are often ready to find something to do with the tractor. Witness all the events at the various shows around the nation; i.e., beer barrel roll with a tractor, the slow tractor races, the egg breaking contest and musical chairs with tractors. The Belt Pulley, May/June 1993, Vol. 6, No. 3, p. 26; Green Magazine, October, 1993, Vol. 9, No. 10. Hence it should not surprise anyone that the restoration of farm implements should be now gaining popularity. What better way to put the restored tractor to use than to engage in field work with a restored farm implement.
The most popular starting place for implement restoration is the grain thresher. There are many “threshing” shows around the nation. Nonetheless, there is usually a surplus of tractors for the number of threshers at many shows. Where there is threshing at shows, there will be straw stacks. This has created an opening for restored balers to be operated at the show. Furthermore, shows that own their own land and grow their own grain to be threshed at the show, will offer an opportunity for exhibiters to employ their tractors in the plowing of the fields where the grain has been harvested. Therefore, plows too have become a popular restoration project.
Additionally, tractor advertising has been responsible for some of the popularity of plows as restoration projects. Down through the history of tractor advertising, the power of a tractor has been more often described in terms of the number of plow bottoms that it could pull rather than in terms of the horsepower developed by the engine. As a result, tractor advertising often shows the tractor plowing in typical farm fields. Generally, these pictures are taken from the front of the tractor about 45 degrees to the furrow side of the tractor.
Having seen many of our favorite tractors in such advertising photos, my brother and I were enthusiastically looking for a plow in the winter of 1992-1993. We dreamed of the pictures that we could take of each other on any of the Farmall tractors owned by our family. These tractors were a 1937 Farmall F-20 (Serial No. 71355), a 1944 Farmall H (Serial No. 173093), a 1945 Farmall B (Serial No. 130161), a 1951 Farmall Super C (Serial No. 116462) and a 1953 Farmall Super M ( Serial No. 31534).
At the April, 1993 LeSueur Pioneer Power Swap Meet we found and purchased a 2-bottom McCormick-Deering Little Genius plow with 14 inch bottoms. This plow had a broken clutch lift mechanism on the land wheel side and was missing both coulters. Nonetheless, the plow was restorable. We saw the plow as a possible match for either the 1937 F-20 or the 1944 H. Originally, the plow had steel wheels, but these had been cut down to be fitted with rubber tires. The furrow wheel was a 6.00 by 16 tire. However, the land wheel was fitted with 4.75 X 19″ rim.
Through the Case\International database and the purchase of another Little Genius “parts” plow from Jim Schultz of LeSueur, Minnesota we were able to replace all the broken or missing parts on the plow.
Originally, I thought that the 4.75 X 19″ land side wheel was an abnormality and had contemplated having the wheel re-cut to fit a 7.00 by 16 tire rim which is pictured in one of the newer (late 1940’s) Owners Manuals for the No. 8, Little Genius plow. Then I saw the 1941 picture of the showroom of Johnson Bros. Implement in Taylorsville, Illinois contained in the November/December 1994 issue of Red Power. (Red Power, November/December 1993, Volume 8, Number 4, p. 18.) In the foreground of that picture is a Little Genius on rubber tires and the land wheel is considerably narrower and taller than the furrow wheel. Both front wheel rims on that plow were spoke type rims. It looked almost exactly like our plow!
Although, our plow wheels were, originally, steel and were cut down to be fitted with rubber tires only after market, the person who cut the wheels down, purposely fitted land side wheel with a 4.75 X 19″ rim. He apparently tried to keep the plow looking like a rubber-tired version of the same plow as it was being sold by International Harvester. We realized the plow as it was now configured was very close to the configuration of rubber-tired plows sold in 1941. We decided to leave the land side wheel just as it existed.
Next we undertook to paint the plow. Like most McCormick-Deering equipment, the Little Genius is painted three different colors. The Farmall red, IH-2150, Martin-Senour 99-4115 or PP&G-Ditzler 71310, was no trouble to find. The blue paint, IH-1150, Martin-Senour 90R-3736, we found easily by using C.H. Wendel’s Notebook. However, the white or cream color presented more of a problem. There has been much discussion of this cream color. The most recent study done by Ken Updike in a recent issue of Red Power. (Red Power, January/February 1994, Volume 8, Number 5, p. 5). In that article he accurately states that there were many names used for the various off-whites or cream colors from 1927 down through 1985. Also none of these paints are available under the names or numbers used today. Additionally, there exist no paint chips of those paints which can be compared with paints available today.
However, we did find strong evidence that the cream color used on the plow and other McCormick-Deering implements is none other than the Cub Cadet white (IH-759-3264) which is currently available from Case/International. We found this by a rather circuitous route.
Although our plow had rubber tires on the front wheels, the trailing wheel was still a steel wheel. I have always enjoyed rubber tires more than steel wheels. (Indeed, a quote from the International Harvester movie, Keep It Moving (1940) represents my feelings. “This is where the fun begins! Up into the driver’s seat and away we go, rolling on rubber!”). Consequently, I wanted to replace the trailing wheel with a rubber-tired wheel. I worked through Matejcek Implement in Faribault and Barneveld Implement in Barneveld, Wisconsin to find a rim for the trailing wheel. There were only five of these rims left at International Harvester dealerships over the entire nation.
We obtained the one from Barneveld, Wisconsin. It had been lying around in a warehouse in Barneveld for 20 years. This is a rim that serves no other purpose in the International Harvester line of equipment, other that as a rim for the trailing wheel of the Little Genius plow. We purchased it and when it arrived we found it was painted cream colored. We found this color to be indistinguishable from the white on the hood of our Cub Cadet. We could find no place in the Cub Cadet line of equipment where this rim could be used. The rim was used only as a trailing wheel on the Little Genius. Since the rim had been indoors for all its life we concluded that it was an accurate sample of the cream color for plow wheels.
Incidentally, the Cub Cadet white was also indistinguishable from the cream color of the wheels on the toy plow offered by Ertl in its Precision Series. Apparently, the Ertl Company engineers had reached the same conclusion regarding the correct shade of cream/white for McCormick-Deering equipment.
Furthermore, it is the opinion of Clarence Griep, long time employee of the Parts Department of the H & W Dealership of New Prague, Minnesota and Larson Implement in Northfield, Minnesota that the Cub Cadet white is the same color as the cream color of the past.
Furthermore, there was a letter to the editor from Dave Brink in the March/April 1994 issue of Red Power. Red Power, March/April 1994, Volume 8, Number 6, p. 6. This letter contained a response to the Ken Updike article noted above. Dave Brink pointed out that VanSickle Paint Manufacturing Company of Lincoln, Nebraska is still offering an “International White” to be used on the impliment wheels of McCormick-Deering equipment. VanSickle is a company that dates from 1907. They are a long time supplier of paint to Tractor Supply Company and other retail farm stores. They may evev have been one of the original suppliers of paint to the Internaional Harvester Company for the painting of original equipment. When the author contacted Dave Van Eck at VanSickle, the author learned that the present shade of cream/white offered by VanSickle as its International White has not changed in history of the company. Moreover, the present International White is also sold for the Cub Cadet white to be used in restoring Cub Cadets. VanSickle also sent the author a paint chip card. The chip of the VanSickleInterntional White matches not only the Cub Cadet White we have purchased from Case/International but also matches the color of the rim of the trailing wheel on our Little Genius plow.
If Cub Cadet white has always been the color of the wheels of McCormick-Deering equipment, why then does the Cub Cadet white seem so bright in comparison to the memories that people have of this color. Indeed the author, himself has recollections of this cream color being much darker and more yellow. The reason for this discrepancy may lie in the differences between the formulas of the paints used in the past as opposed to today’s paints.
The Nitrocellulose lacquer paints used in the 1930’s, 1940’s and early 1950’s did not stand up to the weather as well as the enamel paints used today and, therefore, the darker cream or yellowish color of the wheels on the plows may have resulted from the rapid aging of the paint. Furthermore, cream is the worst offender because it shows age much faster that the other colors. This aging could have occurred even on new machinery prior to the sale at the dealership. Therefore, the new implement would appear to have a darker shade of cream color even as the new implement appeared at the dealership! There is a good discussion of tractor paints in the book How to Restore Your Farm Tractor, by Robert Pripps. Robert N. Pripps, How to Restore Your Farm Tractor, (Oseola, Wisconsin: Motorbooks International 1992) pp. 147-149.
If the cream color used by International Harvester all down through the years were the same color why were there so many different names for this paint? We don’t have an answer to this but, we know that International Harvester did engage in multiple names in at least one other occasion.
The Farmall F-12 has a power lift system which fit under the seat of the tractor. In the 1936 International Harvester promotional movie, Quickest On, Quickest Off, (1936) this lift system is shown in operation and the system is called the “power lift system.” However, just one year later in the movie, Practical Magic (1937) the system is called “the hydraulic lift system. These two systems are indistinguishable from each other in all the literature that the author has been able to locate. To add to the confusion this same single system is called the hydraulic/power lift system in the Parts manual for the F-12 and F-14.
Because International Harvester used these two names interchangeably to describe the same lift system for the F-12, we think it entirely reasonable, in the absence of contradictory evidence, to suppose that the various names used by International Harvester for the cream white color were different names for the same shade of white. Therefore, we conclude, despite even our own reservations that the Cub Cadet White, IH-759-3264, or Ditzler 8665 is the proper color for a wheels of a Little Genius plow, as that plow would have looked when it came out of the factory. The only difference will be that modern acrylic paints will mean that once the plow is repainted, will retain this like-new look for many years and not yellow with age.
We are able to put the plow to use in the fields at the LeSueur Pioneer Power site, preparing the grounds for planting of the next year’s winter wheat. When we do so using the 1937 F-20 we see, hear and smell the same experiences that our grandfather, George C. Wells might have experienced with his 1931 Regular in years 1939 through 1942. When we use the 1944 H we envision Wayne Wells plowing on the Wells farm with the Wells family 1942 H, (mentioned in The Belt Pulley, November/December 1993, Vol. 6, No. 6, p. 30) which replaced the 1931 Regular or we envision our other grandfather, Howard Hanks or our uncles Fred or Bruce Hanks “busting sod” for the first time on the Bagan farm at Le Roy, Minnesota in the early fall of 1944 with the Hanks family 1942 H. (The Belt Pulley, January/February 1994, Vol. 7, No. 1, p. 14.) For a while we can walk in the shoes of those people at those times in 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.
History of a 22-inch by 38-inch McCormick-Deering Thresher
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the May/June 1994 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
In January of 1994 the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association was given the gift of a 1944 22″ by 38″ McCormick-Deering thresher owned by the recently deceased Paul Meyer and his wife, Palma (Herald) Meyer, who also recently passed away. The children of Paul and Palma (Herald) Meyer, Ann Atwood (Mrs. Charles), of Mankato, Minnesota and Port Charlotte, Florida, and Jim Meyer of Burnsville, Minnesota, felt that their donation of this thresher to the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association would be particularly appropriate because of Paul Meyer’s long career as the owner and operator of the Paul Meyer International Harvester dealership in the town of LeSueur, Minnesota and because this particular McCormick-Deering 22 X 38 thresher has a long historical connection with the neighborhood around the Pioneer Power site. (This thresher is referred to as a “22 X 38 inch thresher” because of the 22-inch wide cylinder near the front of the thresher and the larger 38-inch wide separating tables located behind the cylinder.)
International Harvester got into the thresher business only in 1909 when they offered the Belle City line of threshers. In 1913 they offered Buffalo-Pitts, Sterling and New Racine threshers. C.H. Wendel, 150 Years of International Harvester, p. 253. Advertising from the year 1923 reflects that International Harvester was offering a 22″ X 38″ and a 28″ X 46″ thresher under the McCormick-Deering name. All of the threshers sold by International Harvester were of wood construction. McCormick Deering Line, (Chicago, 1923) pp.327-333.
All of these wooden threshers were phased out in 1925 in favor of the two models of all-steel threshers which were introduced that year under the name of McCormick-Deering. These two threshers were the 22″ X 38″ model and the 28″ X 46″ model. (Actually, a smaller model, a 20″ by 32″ model, was offered for a short period of time from 1926 thru 1932.) Production of the two models of threshers was to continue until 1956.
Paul Meyer came to have direct and intimate knowledge of these two models of threshers. Prior to 1941 Paul Meyer had worked in sales and parts for the Jack Clifford International Harvester dealership in LeSueur, Minnesota. During this period of time Paul and his brother Clem Meyer, now from Mesa, Arizona, bought a 1939 Farmall MD and a 28″ X 46″ thresher and did some custom threshing in the LeSueur, Minnesota area.
Paul Meyer purchased the dealership from Jack Clifford in 1941. He remained the owner and operator of the International Harvester Dealership in LeSueur, Minnesota until 1974. Paul’s other brother, Clair (Bunny) Meyer, joined the dealership in 1950 to work in sales. During the years up to the mid-1940’s the dealership sold many of the McCormick-Deering threshers. In the mid 1940’s the dealership sold what would be the last new thresher the dealership would ever sell. This 22″ X 38″ thresher was sold to the late Wallace Bauleke of rural LeSueur for a sale price was $400.00.
Wallace Bauleke and his sons Elwood and Sheldon Bauleke used the thresher for threshing their own small grains and also used the thresher in custom threshing around Sharon Township in LeSueur County. They threshed small grains in the Sharon Township neighborhood on the Joe Felrath farm and the farm of Joe’s uncle, Charles Felrath, the Foley farm and also for Wilbur Katzenmeyer, Emil Wiese, George Hale, Harold Straub and for a relative of the Bauleke’s, Mrs. Schupper. All of these farms provided horses and workers during threshing season as the thresher made the rounds of the farms. Charles Felrath, Joe Felrath and Joe’s son, Donny, became part of the threshing crew along with many others during the threshing seasons from the mid-1940’s until about 1963 when the last of the farms on the route changed over to combining of small grains. Mark Katzenmeyer, son of Wilbur, though too young to form part of the crew, does, nonetheless, remember seeing the thresher operating. For the first couple of seasons, Wilbur Katzenmeyer’s 1941 Farmall H was used to power and transport the thresher. This H was equiped with factory rubber tires and had electric lights for easier rransportation of the thresher from farm to farm. In 1947, Wallace Bauleke purchased a McCorick-Deering WD-6 from the Paul Meyer dealership. From that time on the WD-6 was used with the thresher.
As the farming operations in the neighborhood converted to combining, the thresher would stored away for good on the Wallace Bauleke farm. The thresher was bought by two young members of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association, Bill Theleman and Brian Schultz in 1981. Bill and Brian repainted the thresher and the thresher was stored at the Pioneer Power site and operated during the show in August of each year. Paul Meyer re-purchased the thresher from Bill and Brian in 1983. Paul often told the story of repurchasing the thresher for $800.00, twice the price that he had sold the machine for in the 1940’s.
Thanks to the gift of the Paul Meyer family, this thresher will continue to be available at the LeSueur Pioneer Power site and to be operated during August threshing show each year. The thresher will continue to stand as a fitting tribute not only to Paul Meyer, but to all operators of local International Harvester dealerships and to Wallace Bauleke and all the threshing crews who labored with this thresher and other threshers harvest the nation’s small grains.
Belt Pulley Magazine Articles by Brian Wayne Wells