Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4
A McCormick-Deering Little Genius Plow at Work in
Dryden Township, Sibley County, Minnesota
(Part 1 of 2 Parts)
Brian Wayne Wells
(This is a new article that was never published in
Belt Pulley Magazine)
The more a person works at restoration of an old farm tractor or a farm implement the more one begins to ponder the history of that farm implement. One wonders, who originally purchased the farm implement. What kind farming operation was the implement used for? If curiosity is sufficiently aroused the person restoring the tractor or implement may start making telephone calls back to the person who sold the tractor and may start attempting to establish a chain of ownership of the tractor or implement back to the original owner. However, the process of establishing the chain of ownership can be extremely difficult as time passes and memories fade. Furthermore, when purchases of tractors and farm implements are made, as many are, at swap meets and/or auctions and when such purchases are made for cash from individuals unknown, the chain of ownership can be extremely difficult to reconstruct. (Just how difficult it is to start reconstructing the history of a tractor when time passes is described in the two-part series of articles contained in the July/August 2008 and November/December 2008 issues of Belt Pulley magazine which deal with a 1937 Farmall Model F-20 tractor.) Thus, it is often important to collect history of a particular tractor or implement at the point of sale or at least collect telephone numbers to call back at a later date.
Such pondering over the history of the history of a particular implement was particularly true during the restoration of one particular McCormick-Deering Little Genius 2-bottom plow with 14″ bottoms. (The actual restoration of this plow is described in the article carried on page 11 of the September/October 1994 issue of Belt Pulley magazine [Vol. 7, No. 5. This article is called “The McCormick-Deering Little Genius Plow” and has also been posted on this website.) This particular plow was purchased by Mark Wells at the 1993 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet. Luckily, Mark Wells had written down the name and address of the seller of the plow–Larry Hiles of rural Arlington, Minnesota.
Contact was established with Larry Hiles in 1995. Larry Hiles was living in Arlington Township in Sibley County. The homestead was located just south of the village of Arlington. This particular Little Genius plow had been discovered by Larry Hiles parked in the grove of trees that formed the wind break for this homestead. The farm on which the homestead was located had been originally owned by Earl Nagel. While living on the farm, Earl Nagel was actively engaged in farming the land. In about 1956, the homestead on the farm was sold to Raymond Kraels, who was a rural mail carrier. Raymond Kraels was not actively engaged in farming the land. On July 12, 1974, Delmar and Bonnie Mae (Kopishke) Trebesch rented and moved onto the homestead on the Nagel/Krael farm. During the years that the Trebesch family lived on the farm, they had a large garden. The garden was so big that they needed a tractor plow to turn the soil of the garden at the conclusion of each growing season. Accordingly, sometime after moving onto the farm, Delmar Trebesch purchased a McCormick-Deering Little Genius 2-bottom plow at a local farm auction. This was the same McCormick-Deering Little Genius plow that was later sold by Larry Hiles to Mark Wells at the 1993 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet and became known as the “Trebesch plow.”
As described in the article in the September/October 1994 issue of Belt Pulley, cited above, this particular Little Genius plow was fitted with 14 inch bottoms and originally had been a steel wheeled plow fitted with McCormick-Deering’s own “round-spoke” steel wheels. However, the front wheels on this particular plow had been cut down and rims for rubber tires had been welded onto the round spokes of the front wheels. As noted in the above-cited article, although the “furrow wheel” on the right side of the plow had been fitted with a rim for a 6.00 x 16 inch rubber tire, the land wheel on the left side of the plow was fitted with a rim for a 4.75 x 19 inch tire. This seemed a rather odd pairing of tires sizes for the front of the plow. If a farmer were having the steel wheels of the plow cut down to mount rubber tires on his plow, why would he not make the tires on both sides of the plow the same size?
Before the Second World War very few farm implements were sold from the factory with rubber tires. Nonetheless, as noted in the 1994 article, the International Harvester Company (IHC) had been offering the Little Genius plow to the farming public with the option of rubber tires as early as the 1930s. Rubber tires were not a common option on the Little Genius plow in the pre-world War II era. However, during the “pre-war” era, IHC had a contract with the French and Hecht Company (F.& H.) of Davenport, Iowa, to supply rims for all the rubber-tired equipment sold under the McCormick-Deering name. Pursuant to this contract, F.& H. supplied their familiar “round spoke” wheel rims to IHC. When the option of rubber tires were requested on the Little Genius plow, IHC fitted the plow with a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel.
This followed the design pattern of the original steel-wheeled Little Genius plow, in which the land side wheel was bigger in diameter that the furrow wheel. The reason for this wheel configuration was that the land wheel was the wheel connected to the clutch of the plow. The clutch on the land wheel was the mechanism that lifted the entire plow out of the ground when the trip rope was pulled at the end of the field. Consequently, it was thought that a larger diameter wheel was needed to provide the traction and leverage necessary to pull the plow out of the ground in some heavy soil conditions where the surface of the ground was slippery. This was the situation when plowing succulent green vegetation (green fertilizer) into the soil. The land wheel rolling along on the vegetation could become slippery from the succulent plant life crushed under the land wheel. Then when the trip rope in pulled the land wheel might slide along the surface of the ground rather than continuing to turn and lifting the plow out of the ground. Accordingly, it was decided that the land wheel should be larger in diameter so as to provide more leverage when the clutch was engaged to pull the plow out of the ground. As a result, the steel-wheeled version of the Little Genius plow was fitted with a 30 inch steel wheel on the land wheel side of the plow and a 24 inch steel wheel on the furrow wheel side of the plow.
Thus, when the optional rubber tires were installed on the Little Genius plow at the factory in Canton, Illinois, the plow was fitted with a land wheel and tire of a larger diameter than the furrow wheel of the plow. During the immediate pre-war era, the 6.00 x 16 inch tire was becoming the most commonly used tire on automobiles. However, the 4.75 x 19 inch tire was also a well-known and popular size tire, it was the size of tire that was used on the very popular Ford Model A car. Thus, the configuration of a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel became the standard configuration for Little Genius plows sold with rubber tires before the Second World War. A 1941 picture of the showroom of the Johnson Bros IHC Dealership of Taylorsville, Illinois bears this out. In the foreground of the picture is a new rubber-tired version of the Little Genius plow with a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel side of the plow.
During the Second World War hardly any rubber was available for civilian use. Consequently, IHC reverted to steel wheels on its new farm equipment. Some time during the Second World War, the contract with F.& H. was terminated and IHC signed another supply contract for rims with the Electric Wheel Company of Quincy, Illinois. The wheels provided by the Electric Wheel Company were “disc-type” wheels. Thus, the “post-war” McCormick-Deering Little Genius plow becomes distinguishable from the “pre-war” Little Genius plow fitted with rubber tires, in that disc-type wheels characterized post-war Little Genius plows and F.& H. round-spoke wheel rims characterized pre-war Little Genius plows fitted with rubber tires. Thus, when cutting down the steel wheels of the Trebesch plow, someone had done a lot of work to make the plow appear as though it came from the factory as a rubber tired plow during the pre-war era.
By 1974, when Delmar Trebesch ended up being the highest bidder on this particular “Little Genius” plow, the increased size of the average farming operation and the larger equipment used on the average farm had definitely made this two-bottom tractor trailing plow into an “antique” from a bygone era. However, there was a time when this particular Little Genius plow had been a new object of attention for a particular farmer looking to modernize his farming operation. Continue reading Egg Raising in Dryden Township, Sibley County Minnesota (Part 1)