One-Year Reign of the Curtis: Curtis Baldwin’s Limited-Production Combine
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Having completed the design and testing of a 10-foot pull-type combine at about the same time, Curtis naturally expected the new corporation to build his machine. When the board refused, Curtis packed his bags a second time and formed his own company, which he named Baldwin Harvester Co.
“The Gleaner Corp., however, filed suit to protect its trademark ‘Gleaner-Baldwin’ name,” says Norm Swinford, a 30-year Allis-Chalmers employee and author of Allis-Chalmers Farm Equipment 1914-1985. “The suit was settled and the name of Curtis’ company was changed to Curtis Harvesters Inc. and his pull-type combine was marketed as the Curtis Model 30, since it was introduced in 1930.”
Building the Curtis
According to Swinford, the Curtis harvester was built by Ottawa (Kan.) Mfg. Co., under Curtis Baldwin’s supervision. The combine was also sold directly to the customer, rather than through a dealer network, since Curtis believed that the dealer “did little or nothing to merit his commission.”
Unlike other pull-type combines, the header on the Curtis design was positioned to the right side of the tractor instead of the left. Baldwin’s idea was that the header would be on the side of the road closest to the ditch during transport. Curtis also felt that a combine with a 10-foot cutting width needed a bigger engine than most companies were using. He added a Waukesha Model V engine, which offered a significant power increase over the Ford Model A engine used on the 10-foot Gleaner machine. Finally, Curtis added a feed regulator (or cylinder feeder) ahead of the beater to increase capacity.
Curtis had barely gotten its feet on the ground when the Great Depression hit; the company was one of the early fatalities. Shortly after the Model 31 was introduced in 1931, the company went out of business. At that point, Curtis Baldwin went on to work on threshing and separation using rotary principles – drifting forever away from Gleaner and the Baldwin company. A few years later, Curtis Baldwin sold all his patents to Massey-Harris, and then in 1960, he died in California at the age of 58.
Gleaner Harvester Corp., as it came to be known, was purchased by Allis-Chalmers in 1955. Thirty years later, Allis-Chalmers Corp. (which included Gleaner) was purchased by Kloeckner-Humboldt-Deutz A.G. (KHD) of West Germany and renamed Deutz-Allis. Finally, in 1990, a group of U.S.-based KHD senior managers and investors acquired the Deutz-Allis Corp. from KHD to form AGCO Corp. Today, AGCO continues to build and market Gleaner combines throughout North America.