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Looking Back

Revisiting the Tongue Truck

Sam MooreI wonder how many of today’s farmers, if asked whether they knew what a tongue truck was, would answer yes. In the days of real horse power these farm implement accessories were common on most farms.

Tongue trucks were often used, not only with horse-drawn mowers and grain binders, but with disc harrows, corn planters, corn binders, potato diggers and even dump rakes. Most two-wheeled, horse-drawn machines are designed with the seat sticking out behind the axle, thus allowing the operator’s weight and the law of leverage to help offset the weight of the implement on the horse’s shoulders. Tongue trucks are also used to lessen this weight on the horses, but they have other important benefits as well.

Many of these implements require a specific and constant position in relation to the ground in order to do their best work. Once the machine is adjusted properly, a tongue truck that supports the front of the machine, maintains this critical operating position without regard to the natural movement of the team. A tongue truck also eliminates the variations in implement operating position caused by different sized teams, while the length of the traces, as well as the adjustment of the breast straps, can best be made to suit the load, without worrying about any effect on the implement’s optimum operating position.

On some implements with stiff poles, particularly those with considerable side draft, such as corn and grain binders and mowing machines, the use of a tongue truck eliminates the sore shoulders caused by the whipping of the tongue against the horses.

A tongue on a disc harrow makes discing very hard on the horses, due to the twisting and bucking of the implement which whips the pole against the team almost constantly. For this reason, disc harrows can be equipped with a tongue truck, thus relieving the team of neck weight and any side draft, as well as eliminating the necessity for the team to pry the machine around when turning. On a disc harrow, a front truck is often used without a tongue and the evener is attached to a clevis that steers the truck wheels. However, a tongue attached to the truck gives the team much more leverage for turning the disc at the corners.

Deering grain binder

A Deering grain binder with a tongue truck.

As can be seen from the attached illustrations, the tongue truck is bolted to the front end of a stub tongue so it supports the front of the implement. The pole is then attached to the truck in such a manner that it steers the wheels and guides the implement as the team turns. The eveners usually are attached directly to the truck itself, and the pole is used only to steer the device.

The tongue truck ordinarily consists of two 15 to 20-inch, steel wheels set fairly close together on a flexible frame that allows the wheels and axle to pivot horizontally as well as to swivel to the right or left. The horizontal pivot feature allows the wheels to follow the ground and keeps the truck steady and the implement tracking properly.

An important benefit of a tongue truck on a hay or grain cutting machine, such as a mower or a grain binder, is that the steerable truck allows easier square turns and full swaths at the corners.

Some seed planting implements where planting depth is critical, such as the John Deere No. 999 corn planter could be furnished with a single wheeled front truck. In this arrangement, the front wheel supports the front of the planter and the tongue is free to pivot up and down while the team negotiates uneven ground. This not only assures that the planter stays level for uniform planting depth and check pattern, but relieves the horses of neck weight as well The front planter wheel is mounted as a caster, allowing it to follow the machine as it is steered by the team.

This reminds me of a story, I think I may have told before.

An acquaintance named Melvin once told me of an experience he had as a young boy on his father’s farm. The father had been an active farmer until being badly enough injured in an accident that he gave up farming and went into a business where he needed a truck. He bought a used, early 1940s Ford 1-ton pickup that the family always referred to as “the ton truck.”

The father then advertised the no-longer-needed farm machinery, which included a grain binder, for sale. One day a farmer came to look at the grain binder, which led to Melvin’s embarrassing interlude. Melvin’s father wasn’t home but the boy, feeling quite important, undertook to show the machine to the prospective buyer. After a careful examination of the binder and a lot of questions, which Melvin endeavored to answer, the farmer, who intended to use the machine with horses, asked, “Do you have a tongue truck?”

Melvin had never heard of a tongue truck and heard the question as, “Do you have a ton truck?” “Yes!” He answered, and proudly led the way to a shed where he pointed to the Ford. After a bit of confusion on both sides, it turned out there was no tongue truck for the binder and the disappointed buyer left empty handed.

– Sam Moore

John Deere corn planter

A Deere 999 corn planter with a tongue truck.

Last of the Lazy Farmer: Air Conditioning and Fishing

I’ve plumbed the depths of my stash of old “Lazy Farmer” rhymes and these are the last two I can find.

The first is from May 15, 1954.

Sam MooreMirandy says she will not rest until I bow to her request
that I rush out and buy for her a fancy air conditioner.
She says she cannot stand to meet another stretch of summer heat,
and since there’s modern gadgets now to keep the sweat from off your brow,
she threatens if we don’t get one, that there’ll be no more housework done.
Those things, she says, will cool us down just like a restaurant in town;
and though one might cost a bit, she claims I’ll gain a lot from it
because she’ll feel more vigorous and also less cantankerous.

Those arguments sound mighty good, but still I can’t see why I should
spend money for a man-made breeze that might cause chills and make me sneeze.
I’ve never seen a summer yet when it wasn’t possible to set
beside a window where the air would gently ruffle through my hair
and cool me off much better than an artificial gadget can.
Besides, if we should get a thing like boughten air conditioning,
Mirandy might be tempted to stay in the house and never do
the outside work she must get done cause I’m allergic to the sun.

The last is from fifteen years earlier on May 30, 1939.

When corn is planted I can’t wait to dig me up some jucy bait
and hie me off down to the crick, where bass are hidin’, fat and thick,
a-waitin’ to be tempted by an angleworm a-floatin’ by.
I like to match wits with them fish, a-thinkin’ of the tasty dish
they’ll make when smokin’ on a plate when they meet their rendezvous with fate.
There ain’t a thing a feller lacks in life if he can just watch the cork a-floatin’ free,
a-waitin’ till some hungry fish will make a dive at it, and swish!
you land him on the bank beside, with water sparklin’ on his hide.

My neighbor works from sun to sun and never has no time for fun;
he thinks that fishin’s a waste of time, he doesn’t have no taste
for sittin’ with his soul at peace, he’s thinkin’ of more land he’ll lease
next year to grow a bigger crop, he ain’t got sense enough to stop,
that feller makes a lot of noise, but misses most of lifetime’s joys.
I don’t mind work if I can unload it onto the hired man,
but what’s the use of livin’ if you just grow old and sour and stiff
without no days to look back to when you did just what you like to do?
The neighbor thinks that I’m a fool for wastin’ time beside the pool,
a day of fishin; brings my youth right back to me, and that’s the truth!

I’ve tried to discover the identity of the real person behind the “Lazy Farmer,” but have never been successful. Whoever the author his skirmishes with “Mirandy,” while trying to avoid a lick of work, are always entertaining as is the drawing that accompanies each rhyme.

– Sam Moore

The Lazy Farmer fishing

The Lazy Farmer illustration from May 30, 1939, Michigan Farmer.

The John Deere Model Y Tractor

Sam MooreBy 1920 most tractor builders had gotten away from the big, heavy and awkward tractors that were the norm during the first two decades of the 20th century. Still, except for the Fordson and a handful of others, most tractors sold were in the three to four plow classes. Tractors were expensive, and there were tens of thousands of farmers with 100 acres or less who felt that the purchase of these larger machines couldn’t be justified for their small acreage.

By 1930, tractor dealers east of the Mississippi River, where the bulk of these smaller farms were concentrated, were besieging their home offices with requests for a small, inexpensive tractor to replace the one team of horses on these farms. One of the earliest was the 14 HP Farmall F-12, introduced in 1933, followed by the little Plymouth (soon renamed Silver King) in 1934.

Deere and Co. brought out the 14 hp Model “B”, an extremely popular tractor that replaced many a team of horses on small farms (as did the Farmall F-12). Still, there was a clamor from the field for an even smaller and lower-priced machine, so the engineers at the Waterloo Tractor Works, and the John Deere Wagon Works in Dubuque began work.

The Dubuque group, under Max Slovsky won the race, and in 1936 more than 20 Model “Y” tractors were built and tested. Looking nothing at all like the Waterloo built tractors, the Model “Y” used mostly off-the-shelf components to hold down costs. Management had specified that the engine of the new tractor must be 2-cylinder, so a Novo C-66 engine was used. The Novo was indeed 2-cylinder, although it was (gasp) upright instead of following the Waterloo tradition of horizontal engines! The transmission and steering gear on the Y were the same as that of the Model A Ford car, while the frame consisted of two heavy steel tubes. The Model Y weighed 1340 pounds, had a cushioned seat with a canvas back on a wire frame, and the rear fenders had curved, flat tops over the tires.

John Deere Model Y replica

A replica of the Deere Model Y that was put together by the late Jack Kreeger, who showed it at Tipton, Indiana, in 1993 where I photographed it. (Photo by Sam Moore)

During field trials, the Model Y performed well and it generated a lot of interest among farmers when demonstrated at fairs that summer. The only problem was with the Novo engine, which was designed for stationary use and didn’t have enough oil sump capacity to keep the bearings lubricated while working on hillsides. Apparently, at least some of the Novo engines were replaced by a Hercules 2-cylinder, L-head engine that was basically one half of their 4-cylinder engine with a bore and stroke of 3 x 4 inches, 56 cubic inches, and put out about 8 horsepower. Hercules records show that 20 of these engines were sold to Deere in 1936.

It seems the Model Y was advertised briefly at a cost of $532.50, but most accounts say that none were actually sold and that all 20-some tractors were recalled to the factory and scrapped. Deere was convinced the little Dubuque tractor was a keeper, however, and Slovsky and his crew set out to improve the design. The result was the Model 62, which made its debut in 1937.

The Model 62 was powered by the same 2-cylinder Hercules engine that was successful in the Model Y, although there were many differences from the earlier effort. The cast front and rear wheels are different and the fenders are more rounded, while the transmission is mounted to the front of the rear axle instead of the rear of the engine. Another feature that appears only on the Model 62 is the large, combined JD logo that’s cast into the rear axle housing and the cast shield below the radiator in front. The few lucky collectors who own Model 62 tractors (probably fewer than 80 were built) delight in painting these logos yellow to make them stand out, although they were green on the originals.

Made for less than a year, the Model 62 was replaced in late 1937 by the un-styled Model L, again similar to its predecessor, only different. But that’s a story for another day.

– Sam Moore

The History of the Harrow

Sam MooreBack in the day when every farmer worth his salt believed that a well-tilled field was essential to growing a good crop, a harrow was an essential implement. First the ground would be plowed, and then the turned furrows were worked down with a couple of passes with a disc harrow that sliced up clods and did the initial smoothing. Lastly a harrow, an open frame with several rows of either spike or spring teeth and sometimes called a smoothing, or drag harrow, was run over the field until the soil was in good tilth for planting.

When seeds were commonly sowed by broadcasting, or scattering them evenly on the field, rather than by drilling them into the soil, a harrow was used to cover the seeds. After the planted seeds and the weeds were just peeking through the ground, a spike tooth harrow was commonly run over the field. The tender young weeds would be uprooted, while the deeper rooted crop plants would survive.

Harrows are mentioned in the Bible and are as ancient as the plow. The first such implements were nothing more than a carefully selected tree trunk or limb with protruding branches, that scratched the soil when pulled along by hand or behind an animal. England's Parliament felt it necessary, in 1664, to abolish “as being cruel and injurious to the animals,” the practice of tying, with a rawhide cord, the brushy limb of a tree to a horse's tail for use as a harrow.

Early American farmers made an A-harrow that consisted of timbers (or a forked log), through which wooden or iron pegs were driven. Especially useful on just cleared fields that often were full of stumps and rocks, the A-harrow was strong and would slide around obstructions rather than get caught on them. By the 1850s, square harrows, made of wood with wrought or cast iron teeth were popular. However, the iron teeth often snapped off when a rock or other obstruction was struck. Finally, after the War Between the States, manufacturers began to use steel teeth and iron frames, and added levers to change the angle of the teeth. These spike tooth harrows changed very little from then on.

Of course, the way a harrow is usually used requires the operator to walk either behind, or to one side of the machine. These many miles of walking in soft, mellow soil is very tiresome. Not only that, but harrows don’t do much good in heavy, wet soil, so the ground is usually dry. An old Zane Grey book, titled The Desert of Wheat, gives an account of a man harrowing with four horses in a Washington wheat field. “Driving west, he faced a wind laden with dust as dry as powder. At every sheeted cloud, whipping back from the hoofs of the horses and the steel spikes of the harrow, he had to bat his eyes to keep from being blinded. The smell of dust clogged his nostrils. As soon as he began to sweat under the hot sun the dust caked his face, itching, stinging, burning. There was dust between his teeth.”

To make things a little easier on the harrow operator, ingenious inventors began to patent wheeled, or sulky harrows, where the harrow itself was suspended under a frame that was supported by two wheels. None of these devices seems to have caught on, probably because they were heavy, awkward and, undoubtedly expensive. However, lightweight riding attachments were developed that had some success. Some of these have survived and occasionally one is seen in a suburban lawn as an ornament.

The 1939 International Harvester catalog lists a harrow cart with the following comment: “No man who has tramped all day back and forth across a plowed field behind a peg-tooth harrow can fail to appreciate the value of a harrow cart.” The 1928 John Deere catalog describes their No. 4 harrow cart as “A popular drudgery-saver,” and goes on to list the advantages. The two “drawbars are crossed, making cart trail harrow in turning.” An automatic lock “Prevents the cart from swaying and holds it straight in hillside work. Automatically unlocks in turning.” There was “no danger of tipping over on hillsides,” and the 36-inch wheels gave a light draft. The final selling point was the high seat described thus: “Because of large wheels and long seat spring, operator sits high, away from the dust.” While I doubt the operator escaped much dust, there’s no question that riding beat the stuffing out of walking in loose dirt.

As can be seen from the illustrations, the two drawbar arms bolted directly to the wooden harrow drawbar. The carts themselves were lightweight, with the IH model weighing 121 pounds, while the John Deere No. 4  was a little heavier at 135 pounds. The light weight of the cart, plus the weight of the operator that balanced any additional weight on the drawbar, along with the large diameter wheels added very little to the draft of the harrow.

– Sam Moore

John Deere No. 4 harrow cart

The John Deere No. 4 harrow cart. (Illustration from a 1928 John Deere catalog in the author’s collection)

Deere and the Dain Tractor

Sam MooreBig, heavy gas tractors began appearing on a few farms early in the 20th century. At the time of the 1910 census, there were 10,000 tractors counted on U.S. farms, along with more than 21 million horses, mules and oxen. Some of the major farm implement companies, such as IH and Case, as well as dozens of smaller companies were eagerly diving into the beckoning but unknown waters of the promising tractor market. The conservative management of Deere & Co., however, was reluctant to dip even a tentative toe into the water, which looked very dark and forbidding to them. Deere president, William Butterworth, was especially opposed to the tractor, although vice-president and chairman of the executive committee, Willard L. Velie, was strongly in favor.

During 1912, a couple of Deere branch houses listed the Gas Traction Big Four tractor in their catalogs, and Deere even made an offer to buy the company, which Gas Traction turned down. In addition, the John Deere Export Co. sold Minneapolis Twin City tractors in South America. At the March 5th, 1912, directors’ meeting, Velie got a resolution passed that read in part: “... a movement to produce a tractor plow (meaning a tractor) should be started at once ...” even though Butterworth was still opposed. In July, C.H. Melvin was told to design and build a tractor. Melvin came up with a prototype that had two large drive wheels and a smaller, single steering wheel. A 3-bottom integral plow was hung beneath the frame of the tractor, which was then run with the drive wheels forward. When pulling other implements from the drawbar, the machine was run with the small wheel forward. One of these so-called “Melvin” tractors was built, tested, found unsatisfactory and discarded and, by 1914, William Butterworth’s resistance to the new-fangled machines seemed to be justified.

However, a few of the Deere directors, including Velie, and new convert to the cause, C.C. Webber, hadn’t given up and commissioned fellow board member, Joseph Dain the hay machinery expert, to explore the possibilities of a tractor. Webber specified that any such machine must be small, 2 to 3 plow, and should be priced at about $700 and, by early 1915, Dain had a prototype ready. The board looked at Dain’s new tractor, but weren’t really enthusiastic. Butterworth said “we have repeatedly told our bankers that we were not in the tractor business and we’re not going into it.” The Moline branch manager, R.B. Lourie, worried that tractors and tractor plows would hurt Deere’s booming wheeled horse plow business. In the end, the board took the easy way out and voted to wait and see, and to have Dain perform further field tests on his tractor.

Dain’s tractor was a 3-wheeled design, with two wheels in front and one behind, and with all three wheels driving through a heavy chain drive. The first half-dozen or so machines had 4-cylinder Waukesha engines, which proved to be under powered and were soon replaced with a McVicker power plant that was found to be entirely satisfactory. The prototype Dain tractors weighed 3,800 pounds, with a transmission that gave two speeds forward and two in reverse, and had a drawbar pull of more than 3,000 pounds. Rated to pull three plow bottoms in stubble, and two in sod, the machine would cost $1,200, which was considerably more than C.C. Webber’s target price of $700.

During the spring and summer of 1916, Dain tractors were tested in Texas, Minnesota and the Dakotas, and were found to be the “best on the market.” Users especially liked the all-wheel, chain drive, along with the transmission which could be shifted “on-the-go.”

By this time, most of the Deere directors, except for William Butterworth, had been convinced that the firm needed a tractor. As a result of the favorable field tests, Deere decided, in 1917, to build 100 Dain tractors. Joe Dain died unexpectedly in late 1917, but W.L. Velie stepped in and pushed the new tractor along. The 100 machines were built during 1917 and 1918 at the Harvester Works in East Moline. Powered by a 4-cylinder engine of 4 1/2 x 6-inch bore and stroke, they were rated at 12 hp on the drawbar and 24 on the belt. Features, such as worm and sector steering and the shift-on-the-go 2-speed transmission were far ahead of most other tractors of the day. According to Don McMillan’s book, John Deere Tractors and Equipment, Volume One 1837-1959, all 100 Dain tractors were sold in the Huron, South Dakota, vicinity, but in March of 1918, Deere bought the Waterloo Gasoline Tractor Company. However good it may have been, that was the end of the Dain designed machine; it cost $1,700, twice as much as a Waterloo Boy.

In later years, Deere and Company virtually denied that the firm had ever built any tractor other than the two-cylinder Waterloo Boy and its successors. However, the Melvin and the Dain, along with a couple of others, are the rightful ancestors to “the long green line,” which is still going strong today.

– Sam Moore

Dain tractor

The Dain tractor that was found derelict in 1948 by the late Frank Hansen of Rolling Stone, Minnesota, and finally bought by him in 1960. Frank had it restored, and exhibited it at many shows such as this one at Tipton, Indiana, in 1991 where I saw it. Photo by Sam Moore.

Military Equipment Maintenance During World War II

Sam MooreSeventy-five years ago, when the United States became embroiled in World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. armed forces found themselves seriously unprepared. It was apparent from the German “blitzkriegs,” both on land and in the air, that the war would be one in which machines played a huge part. Industry quickly was mobilized to build these machines and troops were trained to operate them, but every piece of machinery requires maintenance, and training competent mechanics takes time and experience.

The War Department solved the problem in part, by in 1942 turning to the established machine manufacturing firms and asking them to recruit skilled personnel from their employees. Although most all these factories were heavily engaged in making war material, nearly all civilian production had stopped and the government apparently felt that it could draw trained technicians from these sources without causing disruptions in production.

The first farm implement company selected by the Army was the International Harvester Company – a firm that was making half-tracks, artillery tractors, trucks of all sizes, wheeled and crawler tractors, scout cars, ambulances, tank transmissions, cannon, gun carriages, ammunition, torpedoes and even blood bank refrigerators.

IH got the request on June 24, 1942, began enrollment in the unit on the 29th, and had surpassed the enlistment quota by July 6. Volunteers came from the main office, the various factories and sales branch houses and dealers. The 900 plus men who were chosen from more than 1,000 volunteers were to report to Camp Perry, Ohio, on July 15 and were to be commanded by Lt. Col. D.L. Van Syclye of the Army Ordinance Corps. Organized as the 134th Ordinance Maintenance Battalion and assigned to the 12th Armored Division, the unit later joined General Alexander Patch’s 7th U.S. Army in November of 1944, and ended up in Austria at war’s end.

Next up was Deere & Company, who received the same request in September. The firm was making tank transmissions, aircraft parts, ammunition and mobile laundry units, as well as assembling Cletrac MG-1 military tractors. Recruiting posters were put up in all the Deere factories, branch houses and dealerships across the country and by November some 600 former Deere employees were assigned as a battalion of the 303rd Ordinance Regiment and were undergoing basic training at Camp Sutton, a temporary facility near Monroe, North Carolina. The unit later trained in the California desert and then went to England in late October of 1943. Re-designated the 608th Ordinance Base Armored Maintenance Battalion and assigned to Patton’s Third Army, where the Deere unit served in France and Belgium, helping to relieve the 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.

A veteran of the Deere unit, a Texan named Bill Pekar, said in a 2009 interview by Nicole W. Little in the Gonzales Inquirer: “We didn't stay in one place; we were with the Army and moving with the front lines, repairing tanks, trucks and all the equipment with them. We fixed what we could on the road, but if we couldn't fix it we’d bring back to the shop.”

The J.I. Case Company was asked at about the same time for a heavy maintenance company, a request that, as at IH and Deere, was met with enthusiasm by employees of the factories, branch houses and dealers. In a short time the 200 man company was recruited, organized, and mustered into the Army as the 518th Heavy Maintenance Company. Case was making artillery shells, military tractors, and bomber wings, among other military products.

The 518th was stationed at Knockmore, in County Mayo, Ireland, from Nov. 20, 1943 until May 8, 1944, and then was part of the First U.S. Army, initially under General Omar Bradley in the June 1944 invasion of France known as Operation Overlord, and then later under General Courtney Hodges as the 1st Army fought its way across Europe.

A news blurb about the Harvester unit tells us that not only mechanics were enlisted, but machinists, blacksmiths, welders, carpenters, painters, chauffeurs, electricians, warehousemen, clerks, engineers, supervisors, radio experts, toolmakers, and leather and canvas workers.

One source says that Allis-Chalmers also organized a maintenance unit, but I’ve been unable to verify that, although I’m sure that employees of every farm equipment manufacturer either enlisted or were drafted into the armed services throughout the war.

So many trained repairmen were in the service that during 1943 the farm dealer’s magazines were full of complaints about the lack of technicians to keep existing farm machines running. There were many calls to bring back some of the repairmen and to exempt from service any who were still on the job.

In the end, of course, everyone made do with what they had and the war, thankfully, was successfully concluded.

– Sam Moore

Burton F. Peek and recruit

A photo showing Deere president Burton Peek shaking hands with one of the company’s first recruits. (From the September 1942 issue of Farm Machinery and Equipment magazine in the author’s collection.)

Riding in a New-Fangled Flying Machine

Sam MooreJust 100 and a few years ago, a ride in one of the new-fangled flying machines was a rare experience. Lanark is a town in south central Scotland and was the site of the first “Aviation Meeting” in Scotland in August, 1910. At the meet the planes were accurately timed over a straight, 1.6 km (about 1 mile) course, the first time such measurements had been attempted.

Attending the meet was a reporter from the London Times who “was invited by Mr. Grace (Cecil Stanley Grace, 1880–1910, who disappeared on a flight from Calais across the English Channel to Dover), to share his ascent in a Farman biplane.” The un-named reporter wrote the following account of such a ride that was published in the December 1910 issue of Gas Power magazine:

“The first wind register showed the velocity to be from 25 to 30 MPH, but toward 1:30 it dropped to 18 to 22. The competition for this period was weight-carrying, each machine to carry 350 pounds. By virtue of my weight of 14 stone (196 pounds) I was invited by Mr. Grace to share his adventure in a wind that warned off all other competitors.

“The worst part of such a journey for the novice is the waiting to start. But once the propeller starts to whirl behind you all other thoughts beyond exhilaration of rapid motion vanish. You have gripped the struts thinking that you will have to hold on like grim death, but you soon find this is not necessary.  The machine moves along the ground at as extraordinary pace, and I only knew that it was actually flying when I saw the elevating plane change from the horizontal.

“Of the motion of flight it is difficult to speak clearly. Even in the high wind that Mr. Grace was now climbing, it was not more than the sensation of a beautifully balanced motor-car. The earth seemed to be racing away from under us, and in a flash we were level with the first pylon and the judge’s box.

“The machine was now up to 150 feet and I became engrossed in Mr. Grace’s method in flying. His attention was glued to his elevating plane, with just momentary glances out of his eye to judge the distance by which he had to shun each pylon in its turn. We were crossing fields and water. I could observe the gates, the wire fences, and a man bathing in the water. Then we went round into the wind and our pace immediately slackened, while Mr. Grace was working to keep his machine in the air. As we crossed a road we were going so slowly that I could observe the direction of the hoof marks of a horse that had recently passed. Here all observation ceased as Mr. Grace was now battling with the wind. We had only 500 yards to traverse to cross the winning line, but the dead weight against the wind was bringing the machine down. Then here came a gust heavier than them all that lifted the machine just up the amount required to cross the line and we came gently to earth.

“It had been only a four minutes’ ride, but it was certainly the most delightful ride that I had ever experienced. The only way that I can describe the general sensation is that of exquisite motion.”

I had not heard of a Farman airplane so I did some research. Henry Farman was born in 1874 in Paris to an English father and French mother. His family had money and he was able to indulge his fascination with bicycle and auto racing, and then airplanes. Farman bought his first plane, a Voison, in 1907 and modified it extensively. Soon, Voison was building aircraft to Farman’s specifications, but they had a disagreement in 1909 and Farman, with two of his brothers, started their own aircraft factory.

Farman built both civilian and military aircraft until 1944, when the firm was absorbed by another French plane maker. The Farman Brothers also began building luxury automobiles after World War I and their cars were praised by the motoring press, although the high cost put them out of the reach of all but very wealthy buyers. The Great Depression put an end to the car venture in 1931, after only about 120 Farman vehicles had been built from 1919 until then.

– Sam Moore

Farman III aircraft

French aviator, Louis Paulhan, in 1910 in a Farman III aircraft. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)