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The slide shows eventually expanded from slide shows about just tractors and gas engines: 'The slide shows still had a lot of stuff on tractors, but would lead up to it with doing things by hand, horse-drawn implements and so on. One of the threads that always wound through the slide show was the man with the pitchfork. T'd show this manual machinery, but the man with the pitchfork had to be there to do some of the farm work. Then I'd show some automation, with farm implements, and you'd have the man with the pitchfork. Show the most modern stuff, and still you'd have that man with the pitch fork. There's still a lot of hard manual labor in farming.'
One of attractions of the slide shows was the beautiful color slides made from old-time tractor company catalogs. 'Before 1920 there were some big beautiful catalogs that had everything a company made in them, wonderful color drawings and photos. Minneapolis-Moline had a lot, Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company had some really great ones and there were others.'
John also noticed that just before 1920, tractor companies stopped making these all-encompassing catalogs. 'They realized farmers don't buy everything at once, so they started bringing out leaflets, which farmers could pick up one at a time.'
Minnesota's state prison also made farm implements, which was another oddity John discovered in his research. 'There are whole articles in the archives on that. They made twine, and there was a twine controversy, because the manufacturers and dealers didn't like the state coming in and undercutting prices. They got into the farm machinery business -they never did any tractors - and made implements from about the 19-teens until the 1970s. They also had some nice catalogs.'
John says he found the advertising in the old magazines especially delightful.
'The ads were interesting, the way they talked about the gas engine tractor as 'so simple even a woman can drive it.''
Compiler's Work Is Never Done
When John came to the last line of the Farm Implements magazine (and its various successors), he says he felt, 'As usual, a combination of sadness and relief. In a way I never considered the project finished. There is a lot of stuff I would keep adding to it, but I was finished with the intense work.'
He'd like to do two more things with the collection: 'First, transcribe my scrawled, handwritten notes into electronic form so they can be printed out. And secondly, recopy the old wet-process photocopies of ads, many of them from Farm Implements magazine.'
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