The Maytag Company: From Farm Equipment to Washing Machines
(Page 2 of 3)
A changing landscape
There was one other player in this drama. David C. Ruth, Halstead, Kan., patented a self-feeder in 1894 and established the Ruth Self-Feeder Co. in Halstead. Ruth’s feeder must have been a good one, as the Parsons company bought him out and began to produce what they called the Ruth self-feeder, which became one of the company’s most popular products.
Parsons apparently became restive and resigned as superintendent in 1897, selling his interest in the firm six months later. He then organized Parsons, Rich & Co., to make a new self-feeder he’d invented (the Hawkeye). The company later built trenchers under the name of Parsons Trencher Co. until some time in the 1960s, when Koehring acquired the firm. The last Parsons trencher was built in 1984.
By 1902, Parsons Band Cutter & Self-Feeder Co. was the largest self-feeder manufacturer in the world, with the Ruth (which used a logo of the Biblical Ruth gleaning a grain field) as its most popular model. Parsons also made the Success husker-shredder (which wasn’t a complete success), a clover huller, the Buffalo hay press, and a grain grader and cleaner, as well as a special ratchet wrench to replace thresher cylinder teeth.
Washers fill void
In 1907 Maytag changed the name of the firm to the Maytag Co., and, in order to fill seasonal slack times in the farm equipment business, began to make clothes washers.
The first Maytag washer, called the “Pastime,” had a cypress tub that was corrugated on the inside. A hand-crank turned a wooden spinner inside, forcing the clothes along the corrugated tub sides. It seems pretty primitive when compared to today’s automatic washers, but it was much better than rubbing clothes by hand against a washboard or a rock. In 1911, Maytag rigged an electric motor to the washer and, since most rural homes had no electricity, a gasoline engine-driven version was made available in 1915.
Meanwhile, in 1909, F.L. Maytag bought three-fifths of the Mason (Iowa) Automobile Co., renamed the firm Maytag-Mason Motor Car Co., and moved it to Waterloo, Iowa. Maytag cars and light trucks were built for a couple of years, but Maytag abandoned the automobile business in 1912. A 12-25 Maytag tractor (with a 4-cylinder Waukesha engine) was built in about 1916, but it didn’t last long.