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John either wrote down the line or listed its reference or, in the case of longer articles, copied them using the old wet process to make photocopies to slip into their proper folders. 'The hand written notes were originally just for me. After going through thousands of pages of stuff, my handwriting, which usually isn't great, was sometimes pretty illegible,' he laughs.
John discovered that Farm Implements was originally the official journal of early hard ware dealers. 'It was often hard ware dealers who sold farm implements, and took on different lines,' he says. 'Eventually that changed to what we have now, where each company had its own complete line with their own name on it.'
Early Gets Earlier
At first, John started researching from 1910, a time many tractor companies were forming and other companies were making tractors for the first time, but dropped back to 1900 when he discovered that many companies started before 1910 or had emanated from companies that had preceded the tractor companies, 'like iron works businesses, or something like that.'
In addition to Farm Implements, other sources were used, including incorporation records, city directories, implement and gas engine trade journals, collectors' magazines, books and similar sources. The end result, as listed in the computerized references of the Minnesota Historical Society: 'Title: Minnesota tractors research files, |ca. 1860s-1970sJ. Description: 1.5 cu. ft. (4 boxes).'
One of the problems John faced with the project was handling the large volume of materials. 'I just continued to find so much more material than I thought I would. I'd doggedly go through it, writing down the information. The hardest thing was to decide 'what is a Minnesota company, and what isn't?' I'd see an ad, and just because it said Minneapolis, Minn., you didn't know for sure until you started collecting information whether it was an actual local manufacturing company or the local sales place for Rock Island or Heider tractors. So I had to be careful, like the one in Stillwater. The Advance-Rumely Thresher Company bought out Northwest Thresher Company of Stillwater, Minn., and started building the Rumely GasPull (to go along with their Rumely OilPull) tractor. So it wasn't simple to separate companies, even when you did know the names of them. But pretty soon I got to know that kind of stuff.'
Big Tractors, Big Doings
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