Rumely Pulls Again
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'This is really an American story,' Paul Rumely, an avid Rumely memorabilia collector who lives in New York City, explains about the importance of his great-grandfather's company. Meinrad Rumely, a German immigrant, lived a classic rags-to-riches life and left a memorable mark on his community and farming.
'Rumely's innovations were like the Pentium chip for the agricultural industry,' Paul says.
The company was once the fourth-largest farm equipment maker in the world, which is one reason for its continued popularity among collectors, Paul adds.
Paul, John and Fran were raised in LaPorte and are the grandchildren of A.J. Rumely Sr., the company's last president and Meinrad's youngest son -who also witnessed the venerable firm's ultimate demise.
John Rumely, a marketing director for a New York law firm, fondly recalls attending early steam shows with his grandfather, who was hesitant to discuss the company's downfall.
'It took him 40 years to get over that,' John says.
Both Fran and John are Rumely collectors as well, but the sheer number of collectors at the show and the fact that most were relatively young was 'mind boggling' to Fran, who still lives in LaPorte where the company was founded.
'It's nice to see the legacy continue,' Paul says of the unprecedented event.
The big plow pull
The reunion made history with the number of Rumely products on display, but it also re-enacted history for thousands to witness.
Rumely was one of the first companies to promote kerosene-powered tractors. In 1911, the company devised a publicity stunt to prove the 'new' machines could perform in the field, using three Model E OilPull tractors to successfully pull a 50-bottom plow at Indiana's Purdue University.
To prove the company's products could still perform, Dennis and other volunteers hitched a 50-bottom John Deere plow to three Rumely-built steam engines.
The engines included a 1912 Rumely 36-hp steam engine owned by the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Association; a 1912 Rumely 30-hp steam engine owned by Norm Stevens, Bellevue, Mich.; and Dennis Rupert's 1912 Rumely 25-hp steam engine.
After some effort getting the steam engines lined up, chains affixed (and re-affixed after they broke during the first try) and plows in place, the engines puffed and pulled then left a wide swath of freshly broken ground in their wake.
'This is history in the making,' Vic Lucio, a spectator who traveled from Ridgetown, Ontario, Canada, declared at the sight of the big steamers blowing black smoke while dozens of men rode the plow to lower the blades. 'There's more Rumelys here than I've ever seen.'