I operated a dairy farm here in the Finger Lakes region of New York for 35 years. After selling in 1979, I had more time for my lifetime hobby of woodworking. I now have more than 300 models of farm machinery, trucks and trains. When I received the November 2013 issue of Farm Collector with a Minneapolis-Moline tractor on the front cover, I saw that I didn’t have one of that model in my collection. This photo shows what I ended up with. It took about 14 hours to complete. Wayne Gunsolus must have had a great time rebuilding that machine; he sure did a great job.
Norm Riley, Auburn, N.Y.
When I opened the December 2013 issue of Farm Collector (see John Deere at Kalamazoo Valley Antique Engine and Machinery Show), I couldn’t believe my eyes. In the front row of a photo on the table of contents I saw a John Deere 530 and an early styled John Deere Model G. The 530 belongs to Levi and Noah Wenger, two of 11 grandsons. The tractor belonged to Levi and Noah’s granddad on the other side of the house.
When I was 13, near the end of World War II, my dad and uncle bought a new John Deere Model GM. After Dad and Uncle Joe did the paperwork with the John Deere dealer, Dad turned to me and said, “I guess you had better drive it home.” I was the biggest 13-year-old in Kent County. I waved at everyone I could see on that 10-mile drive.
Over the years my dad and uncle farmed with a 1932 GP, the GM and a John Deere 730 Diesel. My brother has Dad’s 730; I have the other two tractors. I didn’t get interested in old iron until I was in my 60s and I saw a 1928 John Deere GP for sale. My wife said maybe I should buy it for our anniversary. I bought it before she changed her mind.
Then I found a 1947 John Deere Model G for sale 2 miles from home. I looked at it and told the owner that it looked like the GM that my dad used to have. About the same time Two-Cylinder magazine had a story on John Deere G and GM tractors. From January to May of 1947, John Deere apparently used up GM parts. The tractors in that time period were called early styled Model G’s. My Model G falls into that time frame.
So I have a Model G that is the same as Dad’s Model GM. My brother and I each have a picture on our sheds of the three tractors with us standing in front, and wording that reads, “We’ve been farming too long.” Thanks for the picture in your great magazine.
Bob Wenger, Middleville, Mich.
The McCormick-Deering binder (a 1930s model) and Farmall F-12 tractor on steel wheels shown in this photo were used by Harold Lee Williams (on the binder) and Eugene Joe Williams (on the tractor). Thomas Dale Williams is shown standing on the back of the binder to cut the oat crop on great-aunt Nora’s farm. The photograph was taken by a traveling photographer and was mounted on a large paper frame. No name or identification of the photographer or studio was included. Three people are visible in the background behind the binder, shocking oat bundles. Ed Wilcox’s house is visible in the upper right corner in the distance. The corner of the field is visible in front of the tractor, placing the scene at the east end of Nora’s 40-acre tract. My dad, Herbert Williams, traded the Farmall F-12 to Frank Hammond as a down payment on stock in the County Line Store, which he operated as Williams Produce until 1946. The County Line Store was 1 mile east of the junction of Missouri State Hwy. 39 and County Line Road.
Nora’s 40-acre tract was part of the Nathaniel Greene LeMaster estate (located on County Line Road and Carnation Road in Lawrence County, Mo.), which was purchased from the railroad in 1872. We lived on the south 80 (in Barry County) on the original 160-acre tract. Harold Lee rented Nora’s 40 from about 1930 to 1960. I plowed this field many times for oat and wheat crops. We purchased a John Deere 12A combine in 1949 so the binder was retired and sold. This photo was recently discovered by the new owner of Harold’s farm in an upper cabinet in the garage.
— Charles H. Williams, 100 Winterset Ct., Sunrise Beach, MO 65079; phone: (573) 374-8830.
Editor's note: This information was shared by Rick Shriver. To read more about the feed mill and see scans of documents in Rick's collection, visit his website at this link.
For as long as I can remember, there have been various machines and antiquities in the barn on our family farm. There were many that I could identify and many that I could not. One such contrivance had a wooden hopper and a metal flywheel, and it sat on four wooden legs. I just never really knew what it was.
One day I was rummaging through some papers that my mother had found in an old desk and stuffed into a manila envelope. Among the papers was an envelope containing a hand-written letter on a piece of letterhead that had an engraving of that mysterious machine. The letterhead identified the machine as a "cob and feed mill." The letter was from the manufacturer, and acknowledged an order that had been placed by my great-grandfather, Ulysses Parmiter.
Continuing to look through the papers, I found another piece of correspondence from the manufacturer confirming the shipment of the cob and feed mill. There was also a receipt for $20, and a bill of lading from the Pennsylvania Railroad indicating that the machine was shipped from New Holland, Pennsylvania to Malta, Ohio on November 23, 1901. And finally, there was an instruction sheet explaining how to operate and maintain the mill.
Recently I decided to assemble all these items in one place in hopes of preserving them. It was then that I finally connected the dots. All the correspondence was from Abram M. Zimmerman, and the letterhead was from the "New Holland Machine Works." New Holland Machine Works would later become "New Holland," which was purchased by the Sperry Corporation in the 1940s, and would continue to manufacture agricultural and construction equipment into the 21st century as "Sperry New Holland."
The New Holland Machine Works was founded and operated by Abram Zimmerman. Zimmerman, the son of a conservative Mennonite family, was described as a mechanical genius who began his career by making improvements in the blacksmith shop where he worked. The cob and feed mill is engraved on the envelopes, the letterhead and the receipts that were issued by the New Holland Machine Works, suggesting that it was the primary product being sold in 1901.
So it appears that in November, 1901, my great-grandfather Ulysses ordered a "Cob and Feed Mill" from the New Holland Machine Works. On November 18, Abram Zimmerman wrote to Ulysses acknowledging the order. On November 23rd, Zimmerman again wrote to Ulysses saying the mill had been shipped. The bill of lading from the Pennsylvania Railroad confirmed that the cob and feed mill had been shipped to Malta.
A receipt for $19 signed by Zimmerman was also in the correspondence. The cost of the mill was $19, with $1 for an extra set of plates, which Ulysses had pre-paid. The mill could be operated by power supplied by a stationary hit-and-miss engine or some other means of rotary propulsion.
At least one mystery in our old barn is solved. Now if I could just figure out the rest of them.
On May 18, 1900, representatives of the Motsinger Device Manufacturing Company broke ground for their new 40-by-100-foot brick factory located just north of the Pendleton Falls on land acquired from the Pendleton Window Glass Company. This was the fruition of Homer N. Motsinger’s dream to manufacture his newly patented Auto Sparker. The factory was to initially employ 30 skilled tradesmen and 16 laborers working in two shifts. The town of Pendleton agreed to finance the building and supply the natural gas on the fear of Motsinger moving his factory to another city.
Homer Motsinger was born in Shoals, Indiana, attended Purdue University and moved to Pendleton around 1895 where he married Inez Cole, the daughter of a prominent Pendleton businessman. The couple lived on North Main Street before moving to their newly built home at 204 West Street in 1900.
Their new residence was designed by New York’s leading architect, Stanford White, who also had designed Fifth Avenue mansions for the Vanderbilts and the Astors. (An interesting side note is that 53 year-old Stanford White was murdered by Harry Thaw six years after designing the Motsinger home. Thaw was the jealous husband of his much younger wife and noted actress. The incident occurred at the Madison Square Roof Garden, a building that, coincidentally, White had also designed. Harry Thaw went to trial for the murder of White, but was found not guilty by reason of insanity and rode to the asylum on a private train. Thaw’s wife, Evelyn Thaw, became the subject of the movie, The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, with her life portrayed by a young Joan Collins.)
Homer Motsinger continued to develop and receive patents for gasoline engine-related accessories. His two-story lab was located on his property immediately to the west of his house. (This lab building was later relocated across High Street to the north and reduced to a single story.) In addition to the patent for the Auto Sparker, Homer Motsinger received twenty other patents for ancillary engine devices including a carburetor, magneto, electric igniter, thermostat, and muffler.
Patent no. 907,628 for a gas engine spark timer, granted to Homer Motsinger in 1908
The Motsinger Device Company established additional offices in New York and Chicago. Motsinger was prolific in advertising his products through trade magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, and was even featured in an article in Scientific American. It should be noted that Motsinger had many quality competitors, including Anderson’s Remy Electric for the business of manufacturing friction magnetos for gasoline engines. Homer Motosinger also pursued potential customers by establishing displays at the 1903 Chicago Auto Show and the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.
Homer and the Motsinger Device Company relocated to West Lafayette, Indiana, in 1910, with his house being sold to Ben Phipps, a local hardware dealer. The Pendleton factory buildings were later acquired by the Lee Canning Company and subsequently by the Fall Creek Canning Company. Now it is the sanctuary and offices for the Family Life Church. The new two-story brick building in West Lafayette was considerably larger than the Pendleton facility and was built with hopes of increasing production and expanding markets.
From serial numbers, it can be determined that the Pendleton factory produced approximately 53,000 Auto Sparkers at $20 each and 5000 magnetos at $10 each (about $500 and $250 each, respectively, in 2012 dollars). Even though the West Lafayette factory much was much larger and in operation longer, they only produced 20,000 of the complex Auto Sparkers. However, they did produce about 17,000 magnetos.
Friction magnetos of the early 1900s had a leather pulley which rotated the armature when the pulley was placed in contact with the engine’s flywheel. The unique quality of the Auto Sparker was described as being a dynamo designed to initially provide enough spark for gasoline engines to start without the normally required battery assist. Thus, the “Auto” in Auto Sparker did not refer to “automobile” but meant the unit could provide enough electricity to start the engine automatically by merely rotating the flywheel by hand. Homer’s later Motsinger D.C. Magneto was designed to perform the same task at a cheaper cost. Unfortunately, these low-tension electric generators failed to provide sufficiently high enough voltage to meet demands. Newer designed high-tension magnetos produced higher voltage and had a more efficient direct gear drive rather than a friction pulley. Unfortunately, the Motsinger Company never successfully developed a high-tension magneto.
Homer Motsinger adjusted his manufacturing output in West Lafayette to produce artillery shells for World War I. Sadly, he was not able to recoup the money invested for the required tooling changes, and his company suffered severe financial losses. Having aged beyond his years, Motsinger divested his ownership in his beloved company and was later employed by the U.S. Ball Bearing Mfg. Company in Chicago for a short period of time.
The manufacturing industry lost a prolific inventor and entrepreneur when 45-year-old Homer Motsinger died in August, 1920, in Chicago. Even though his family had lived in several different cities, Homer always considered Pendleton, Indiana, to be his home. Homer N. Motsinger, his wife, Inez, and their four children are all buried in Grove Lawn Cemetery and lie together 150 yards north of his “Factory by the Falls.”
Bob Eley is a collector of Motsinger items and other Indiana-made magnetos. Contact him at 131 N. Main St., Pendleton, IN 46064. This article also appeared in The Herald Bulletin and is printed here with the permission of the author.
- Red sky at night is the shepherd’s delight;
- red sky in the morning is the shepherd’s warning.
Variations of this weather lore abound, involving both shepherds and sailors or a combination of the two, and even appear in the Bible and Shakespeare:
- [Jesus] answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say,
- It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.
- And in the morning, It will be foul weather: for the sky is red.
—Matthew 16:2-3 (authorized 1903 translation)
- Like a red morn that ever yet betoken’d,
- Wreck to the seaman, tempest to the field,
- Sorrow to shepherds, woe unto the birds,
- Gusts and foul flaws to herdmen and to herds.
—William Shakespeare’s “Venus and Adonis,” lines 453-456 (1593)
Yet all heed the same – a red sky at night foretells calm weather the following day, whereas a red sky in the morning warns of storms.
Originating most likely in England sometime before the 14th century, the phrase incorporates the path of weather systems and the sun.
Weather fronts typically travel west to east across England (and the U.S., for that matter), in opposition to the rise and fall of the sun.
As the sun sets in a clear westerly sky, its light reflects off the clouds to the east – clouds that have already passed over the region. When the sun rises in a clear easterly sky, its light reflects off the clouds to the west – clouds that have yet to affect the region.
The “red sky” comes from the sunlight’s refraction through the atmosphere before reaching the clouds on the opposing horizon. The shorter wavelengths of the visible light spectrum (the blues and violets) are diverted, leaving the longer wavelengths (the reds and oranges) to reflect off the clouds.
Wavelengths aside, the phrase merely suggests you’ll experience clear weather when clouds have already passed and none appear to be incoming, and the opposite when clouds are fresh on the horizon.
In the mid-1920s, a curious conversion kit became available.
From what I could find, Snow-Motors Inc., based out of Detroit, Mich., offered a kit that replaced the wheels and axles to a number of conveyances with “two revolving cylinders instead of wheels — something on the order of a steam roller,” as Time reported in January 1926.
The snow motor conversion enabled someone to travel from 6 to 8 mph across snow and ice with ease. “The machine has already proved its usefulness in deep snow previously unnavigable,” Time continued. “One such machine has done the work which formerly required three teams.”
In the promotional film below, courtesy of YouTuber LETHLSS, the Snow-Motors kit is demonstrated with a Fordson tractor and a Chevrolet automobile. Thanks to Bob Kuhns, of Arlington, Kan., who brought this intriguing contraption to our attention. He came across the video posted on the TreasureNet forum; that version of the film suggests it resides in the “Archives of Michigan.”
Watch the film on TreasureNet.com: “Fordson snow-motor.”
Read Time’s 1926 account of Snow-Motors Inc.: “Business & Finance: Snow Motors.”