Firsthand Account from a McCormick Harvester Co. Salesman

McCormick Harvester Co. salesman’s letters home paint picture of international agriculture in the early 1900s

Daniel B. Klopfenstein, farm equipment salesman at the turn of the century for McCormick Harvester Co. in international sales

Daniel B. Klopfenstein, farm equipment salesman at the turn of the century for McCormick Harvester Co. in international sales.

Courtesy Richard Stout

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Grateful acknowledgement is given to Richard Stout and Ashley Stout, Washington, Iowa, who compiled and provided this material to Farm Collector. The complete 16-page transcript follows; read more about Daniel B. Klopfenstein in the version from the March 2010 issue of Farm Collector, “It’s a Small World.” – Ed.

Daniel B. Klopfenstein was born in 1857, in Henry County, Iowa. In the 1890s, he began selling farm equipment for the IHC line.

In the early 1900s, he was recognized as a top salesman and machinist and the McCormick Harvester Co. offered him the chance to travel overseas in their interests. Seeing the many opportunities, he accepted their offer. The following are newspaper excerpts and letters he wrote during his trips, telling of his work and the countries he visited. – Richard Stout

Note: The lines of dashes (----) in the articles below represent unreadable sections from the microfilm copy of the Washington Democrat and the Evening Journal, both newspapers based in Washington, Iowa.

Feb. 18, 1903, Washington Democrat
Down Near the Equator / Carhue, Argentine, S.A. / December 25, 1902

Mr. A.R. Miller, Washington, Iowa

Dear Friend: Well, today is Christmas, but it does not seem so, as the day is just like a July day, nice and bright. I just came in from the harvest fields. They go right ahead today, the same as any other day. We have been cutting wheat for over a week now, and it will take another week and then they will be through here and we will go farther south, I was on one ranch a few days where there was 30 square miles of wheat and oats and they have 250 binders and six steam threshing outfits and have 14,000 men working on the ranch and they kill 25,000 sheep every year for food alone, and sometimes more. But the superintendent said it was more than average that amount. 

That is one of the largest wheat farms in Argentine. I was on a larger astancho for sheep and cattle. I was where they shear 165,000 head of sheep all by clippers, the same as clippers to shear hair, only larger and run by steam. They shear a sheep every two minutes. On this same place were 65,000 black cattle and 15,000 branded mares, mostly Clydes and Normans and English Coach and they are good ones. It makes one think he is in Iowa when he sees all these good horses. They are fat as hogs. I saw them pump water all day long with a horse by a water elevator. This is with buckets on an endless chain and it would run the size of a man’s left right along. This is a great country for water. They get an endless supply at 40 feet. Where I am now, they need not wall wells only 3 feet down. The rest of the way is rock. They are limestone, but not hard. They can pick through them anywhere. One can get a solid bottom for their buildings. No sinking sand, but the solid rock below, and this is the way over a great deal of Argentine.

One would not think so to look at the country. So nice and level, not a hill until you strike the Carnnaland Mountains.

The country is full of Italians and most every kind of people at present, for the harvest. They come from Buenos Aires and Puerto Blanco every train is full and one isn’t safe now to be out on the road at night. One might get killed any minute.

They all have large knives on them. If you have any missionaries there, you tell them to come down. They need not go to China. They are worse than the Chinese. They don’t believe anything. The Chinaman believes one idea, anyway, if nothing else. The people are half Indian through this part, and the other half Spanish, and you can tell what kind of people they are. I will be glad when I can go away from here and get to more civilized parts. I will leave here on the 27th for some other place, and in three weeks we will be going to Soudan.

We sold lots of 12-foot binders all through this part and they do fine work. Every machine company is sold out. Not a machine anywhere to be had. We have been out for nearly three weeks.

When I get back to the States I won’t dare look a sheep in the face, as on the astanchos all any one gets to eat is sheep, boiled and roasted, and soup and hard biscuits that you would have to take a hammer to break. No lettuce, no potatoes, no garden stuff of any kind. It would grow here if they would plant it, but they are too lazy. When anyone gets to town then he can get anything he wants. They only charge you $4 per cup of coffee and a piece of bread, and that is all you get. I have had lots of experience in this country. I have eaten mutton roasted on an iron stuck through a piece of sheep and held over the first till it was roasted. It tasted good, for I was hungry. And then they have a tea they call “mate.” The drink lots of it. That is all the peons want in the morning and then they go to work. Each man has like his own bed, and that consists of a blanket. They call it a “poncho.” It is very heavy and has a hole in the center large enough to let a man’s head through, and they have two of their smoky sheep skins and that is their bed. And they lay down anywhere and no difference how hot the day is, the night be cool. I have seen fellows go horse back, and you will find lots of them, and they take their saddle off their horse and make a bed along side of the road and turn the horse loose and let him pasture. And a funny thing is their riding horses are so well broken that they will not go very far from the rider. They will wait until he gets up and saddles them to go farther. I had a man drive me 27 miles in three hours. He used four horses and charged me $20. I am on a road that only runs trains every other day. The kind of houses people live in on the farms you would not believe it if anyone would tell you.

Will close by wishing you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Yours truly,
D.B. Klopfenstein

March 20, 1903, Evening Journal
EUROPE AND SOUTH AMERICA. Mr. Dan’l Klopfenstein Tells about His Last Year’s Work in the above Countries. AMERICAN GOODS FOREMOST. Immense Undeveloped Fields in Russia, Roumania, and Argentine Republic / Goes to Europe This Summer

Mr. Daniel Klopfenstein, whose recent return form Europe and South America has been formerly announced in the Journal, has had an experience during the past year that has been ideal in the facilities it offered for a study of the countries through which Mr. Klopfenstein traveled and in each of which he was for a time in engaged in business pursuits in his capacity as expert machinist and salesman for the McCormick ----.

Mr. Klopfenstein has been engaged with the McCormick people for a number of years and in the time they have learned that he is a person thoroughly conversant with their machines. About a year ago he was surprised at being called in their general office in Iowa and was still further surprised when the manager asked him if he would go to Germany. It didn’t take Mr. Klopfenstein long to return a favorable answer for he was ready and willing to go where they chose to send him. He was not aware however when he started for the Far East that his journey was to offer him the variety of work and entertainment that fell to his lot before his return.

Mr. Klopfenstein sailed from New York on the Furst Bismarck April 10th, 1902, for Hamburg, Germany, where the European repository and general distributing point of the McCormick people is situated. Here he spent 20 days arranging the $90,000 stock of repairs kept there. This department of the business is in charge of W— V— Coachman, formerly of Marshalltown, Iowa, whose permanent residence is now in Hamburg.

Leaving Germany Mr. Klopfenstein went down into Roumania to go through the harvest season in a country which he had never before seen and with a people who were as ---- handily be. Roumania is an independent kingdom whose independence dates from the 20th of May in the late 70s at the close of the Russian-Turkish war. They have their Fourth of July on the 20th of May. Though a very old country and an exceptionally fertile one the population is sparse. This is the result of the exclusive form of government. Roumania is for the Roumanians and Roumanian is a person whose father was a Roumanian, he must also be a member of the Roumanian church. None but the Roumanians have a voice in the government and with such bonds to citizenship foreigners are practically shut out. The people are burdened by enormous taxes from both the church, which is first, and the state which is second. The royal family absorbs an immense revenue and as a result, once poor in Roumania, you are always poor. The present king, Carl 1st, is related to the English royal family. Geography ---- to all of us. The men wear long white coats, pantaloons tied at the ankles, wear burlap socks and moccasins. The women dress very poorly among the poor class which predominate to a great majority. Seven out of 100 can read and write. The church tries to keep them ignorant. Morality is a strange thing there.

Long legged, long horned and rather ragged looking cattle are used exclusively for field work. Horses are a luxury. The lands are owned by companies and much of it by the government. It sell at about $35 to $40 an acre, our money. No foreigner can own farm property. Foreigners can be in business and are well respected there. Corn, wheat and rape are grown there. The corn is 6-inch, yellow ear and is sown broadcast and cultivated with the hoe. The wheat is fine. Much of the harvesting is done with the hand sickle, the laborers being imported from Turkey, Bulgaria and other adjoining countries.

Into this old country with the old, old ways and odd people the American Harvester Companies have crept with their product to the exclusion of all other ---- down ---- harvest which began about June the 1st. The McCormick people sold 3,500 harvesters there this year. The Deering, Plano, Osborne and a Canandian company are also represented in the field. The exclusive business for Roumania of the McCormick people is handled by a Jew firm of which W. Staadaker is at the head. He is worth about $2,000,000 and handed Mr. Klopfenstein $100 in English gold as a present just before Mr. K. left that country.

From Roumania: Mr. Klopfenstein went into western Russia where the conditions are much the same as they are in Roumania. The main agency in Russia is at Odessa, on the Black Sea. The sale in Russia is greater than in all the rest of Europe combined. Thousands of acres of the harvest are cut with the hand ---- those of American make are used where the machine cutting has been introduced. The self binders sell in Roumania and Russia at $175 and in Germany at $225, the advance price in Germany being occasioned by the heavy duty. This class of goods is held in high repute in these countries. The Rusten, Proster thresher, made in Lincoln, England, is used to the exclusion of almost all others. This thresher is a slower machine than those made in this country but is a finely built, heavily constructed, and more simple than our threshers. It is fed from the top, and has no straw stacker. The wheat yield in Roumania and western Russia last year was about 35 bushels to the acre.

From western Russia Mr. Klopfenstein went to Bulgaria where he found thousands of men and women harvesting with the hand sickles, ---- he went ---- here the same conditions prevail. The ---- there and the people are slow to take up the modern methods. In Germany much of the harvesting is still done by hand. Mr. Klopfenstein spent several days in Berlin and vicinity looking after the interests of his house. Four thousand of his harvesters were sold in Germany last year. Berlin he pronounces the most beautiful city he has ever seen and he is inclined to think it is leaving Paris in the rear. From Berlin Mr. Klopfenstein went back to Hamburg where he stayed until the 20th of August at which date he left for London, went on to Liverpool and sailed the 2nd of September for the Argentine Republic, S.A., stopping at two French ports, a Spanish port or two, a the Cape Verde Islands to coal, at Pernambugo, Bahia, Rio Janiero, Santos and finally at Montevideo, Uruguay.

Uruguay, Mr. Klopfenstein states, is pre-eminently a woman’s country. The reason is a tragic one. The ruler of the country went to war with the Argentine Republic and fought until there were practically no men left before he gave up. The result is there are very few men there and the work falls to the women. They get ----. From Montevideo Mr. K. went up the river to Buenos Aryes, Argentine Republic. Buenos Aryes means pure air and the town is not misnamed. In the Argentine Republic Mr. Klopfenstein found many things to interest him. The country is about half as large as the United States with about 1/14th the population. It ranks away up at the head of the column in the cattle, horse, sheep and wheat business of the world. The natives are half breeds, Spanish and Indians. The business is largely controlled by English and Germans. They own most of the lands and look after the farming and stock the business. The markets are London and Liverpool.

Mr. Klopfenstein was on one ranch which is 100 leagues long and comprising about 900 square miles of land. There were 165,000 head of ---- this ranch. The lands are sown in wheat three years in succession and then grazed for five years. The ground is ploughed to get rid of a bunch grass which takes possession of the lands in five years, otherwise the people would not cultivate the wheat so extensively, as the stock business is more popular and profitable. As a result of this system of farming three years and grazing five years the farmers who are generally renters move every three years. There is the three-year limit to their habitation of one place so they build houses that will last for about three years then move. The houses are built of mud and straw bricks, plastered inside and out with mud and roofed with corrugated iron. They have no floors excepting the floor provided by nature of the accommodation of all comers.

In Argentine the harvest begins about the 15th of December and lasts ----. The country is in about the same latitude south that we are north. It is warmer on account of a warm ocean current that washing the eastern coast. Here as in Europe the machine harvesting is done with American harvesters. The harvester companies that invade those regions are as follows: Massey-Harris, Toronto, Canada; Deering, McCormick, Plano, Walter A. Wood, Johnson, Osborne and Acme companies of the United States. They all sold out last year. Mr. Klopfenstein’s company sold 3,500 harvesters in Argentine for 1902, 300 of them being 12-foot header binders. Buenos Aryes is a beautiful city, clean and up to date in its equipments. Clothing, etc., is high, beef and mutton cheap, pork high and scarce. The hogs are poor, have not been bred up.

After going through the harvest in the Argentine Republic, Mr. Klopfenstein sailed for Europe again on the “Magdelena,” of the Royal Mail line. The cargo carried by this vessel on this voyage will give an idea of the exports from South America to Europe. There were 3,500 dressed steers in refrigerators, the vessel carrying two ice making machines. The meat went to London. There were also 10,000 sacks of wheat, 150 pounds to the sack, 5,500 sacks of coffee loaded at Santos, one of the greatest coffee marts in the world, 3,000 sacks of coca loaded at Rio Janiero, 5,080 bales of tobacco loaded a Bahia and by that time the vessel was filled to the port holes. There were 352 passengers. It took 21 days to make this trip. Mr. K. reported at Hamburg again and then sailed for the United States the 20th of February on the “Patricia,” a German vessel carrying 2,550 passengers. He arrived in this country the 9th of this month and will leave again for Europe about the middle of April next.

Mr. Klopfenstein says the last year’s experience has shown him the enormity of the world outside of our own country. The world is not yet crowded with people. Europe and South America have millions of acres of land from which 1/10 the possible income is not being derived. The government, and the character of the people who inhabit the countries are responsible for ---- religions and the “closed door” policies help to do the work. Also, he has learned of the enormous wealth of parts of South America, of the beauty of the country, the fertility of the soil and the delights of the climate. At Rio Janiero he was especially impressed by the beauties of the city and the luxury of the vegetation. Bananas, coconuts, and the most beautiful flowers grow in gardens and upon ---- drawback is the yellow fever, whose ravages are something terrible. The high repute in genous and to our enterprise. This country practically controls the harvesting business and in fact the implement business of the world and that is perhaps the business which I nearest to “Nature’s Heart.”

December 2, 1903, Washington Democrat
South of the Equator / Caronel Pringles, Argentine, S.A. / October 12, 1903

Mr. A.R. Miller, Washington, Iowa

Dear Friend: I got through in Germany August 25th, the weather being very bad. It rained nearly every other day while I was there. The grain was very good, but there was too much rain and they could not save it. It was growing while in the schock. It was the same in France and in England: well, in fact, in all the British islands. Lots of the wheat was never cut on account of the rain.

I left Berlin for London the 25th of August, and stayed in London three days. I visited different parts of the city: went to see the House of Parliament – went through the halls, but they did not ask us in. It is an immensely large building and very good, but old looking. From there we went to the largest cathedral in London. The walls in this building are very think and you will find the most prominent and women of the past buried in the walls, outside and inside, and the whole floor is the same way, just as close as they can be. Such men as Wolfe, and Cornwallis – one of the famous generals in the war when we gained our independence – and Shakespeare, and thousands of others are buried there. From here we went to the King’s palace. The palace is not such a very grand building but good and a very fine park is in front of it. From here we went to see the monument that was brought from Egypt, and is more ancient than the coming of Christ. There are all kinds of images cut on the sides. It is square, and tapers toward the top. I should judge it is 90 100 feet tall. It is on the river Thames, not farm from the London bridge and the London tower. Both of the last named places are very fine structures of mechanical art. From here we went to St. Paul’s cathedral, which is not so large as the one mentioned before but the same manner of burial is observed. I liked London better this time than last year, but the weather was nice and ---- for South Hampton, England, and too the Royal Mail steamer for Buenos Aryes, South America, the land of beef and mutton. We called at the same ports as last year, nine in all. The trip was wonderful, not a ripple of wind. It could not have been any finer, and we had a good time. There were 10 of us on this steamer and there will be 10 more on the next one, 20 in all. The new ones that were on our boat were all baptized when we went across the equator. They had to pay their respects to King Neptune. The way this was done, the sailors made a canvas tank, 8 feet wide by 16 feet long and 4 feet deep, and this was filled with water from the sea, and all the new ones that never were across the line were thrown into this tank, and after one or two were in, they help put in the balance. We had 14 of them and it made lots of fun for all: the water was warm, so it did not hurt anyone.

It was not very hot at the equator this time, very nice and no rain. It generally rains in the tropical regions. We saw lots of whales on the way down, and the first shark I have ever saw. The sailors caught one with a large hook baited with a piece of pork. It was ---- large enough to swallow a ---- and it also had sharp teeth. But one peculiar feature I, they can’t catch anything without turning over on the side, and that is due to their long upper jaw. It is nearly 2 feet longer that the lower one. When they are out of water they don’t live long. Their color is of a yellow, no a bright yellow but old looking yellow. They say they are not good for anything.

We stopped at Rio Janiero a day, unloading and loading. They had several cases of the bubonic plague there and lots of yellow fever. Every boat will be held in quarantine after the one we came on to Rio Janiero. All passengers will be in quarantine five days, that stop at Rio Janiero. We got there just in time. The steamer we were on came clear up to Buenos Aryes. They have all the docks finished there, and they are fine ones, the very latest kind. They dredged the La Platte river for a long ways, and are still working. We landed on the morning of the 22nd of September. We were 24 days on the way down, that includes the time in port. We were all off the ship by 9 a.m. and by 10 were all through the custom house.

We found the city all green, much more so that one year ago. I stayed 10 days in Buenos Aryes and I had a good chance to see more of the city than before. I spent one day and a half at the fair held at Argentine, the same as our state fair. But I will say for cattle of all breeds, I never saw them beat in any country. And sheep, they surely have the finest herds of all breeds in the world. This is a pretty broad statement, but I think it is true, just the same. And the show of heavy draft horses of all was very fine. We think Iowa has good ones, but they show just as good horses here as we can. They have some driving horses, but they are not as good as ours. But I think the time will come when this country will excel us in horses of all kinds, for they can raise them so much cheaper than we can. I saw all kinds of creamery machinery. This will be a great dairy country, and all the manufacturers are coming here to introduce their machines. I saw milking machines and saw them work, and they did all right. All kinds of machines were on the ground, mostly North American goods. Some threshing engines were from England, but plows and harrows, binders were all USA. I saw the representative of the John Deere plows there, a man I knew. His name is Charles V. Wotz from Davenport, Iowa. Maybe you think it wasn’t a treat to meet someone you knew at home. I saw the amount of wheat they raised in Argentine last year was 16,500,000 and corn 8,550,000 tons. That is the way it is measured here on account of the steamers taking all the freight by the ton.

I was out one Sunday to the finest cemetery in the world. There is only one anyway near like it, and that is in Egypt. I will try to describe ---- built in rows and small streets between them, not to exceed 10 feet and all paved. These vaults are built of marble; some are 15 to 25 feed high, and the vault part is 15 to 18 feet below the ground, and there are shelves on which the coffins are put, long enough for a coffin on the sides and ends, and they are all water proof. This is the way the whole cemetery is made. I had the chance to see a funeral, and the way they stored the coffin away and the number of bodies in there already. Then I went through in different directions and found some of the doors made of glass and others unlocked when friends are there. And the peculiar part is, you have to pay every year after the first three years, and if you don’t pay, they dump the bodies in a large cement hold and they’re burned every few years. Buenos Aryes has the most beautiful parks of any city I was ever in, on account of the tropical plants. They never take them, as it never freezes hard enough to hurt them.

Well, I am about 450 miles south of Buenos Aryes at present. This country is like Kansas. It is level as a floor ot the north clear up to Buenos Aryes and south 80 miles to the Pringles mountains, and the wind blows about four ---- and it makes the dust fly. I wear a pair of automobile glasses and the dust doesn’t bother me but it blows in under doors and windows, that is, where they have any windows. But, nevertheless, the wheat looks very fine. It is about 10 inches high and lots of it. The wheat looks better by half than last year, and if they don’t have anything to come in the way, this will be the largest wheat crop this country ever had. There won’t be enough machines to supply the demand. The grass is good and the sheep are fat. There will be lots of good mutton. I tell you, it tastes good, and those hard biscuits and Spanish noodles. I will say again, I never saw any race of people that could live in as small a hut and a sign of a stove and no place for the smoke to get out, only the door before. That is the reason they look so black. They get smoked like our Indians. I did not notice one thing so much last year season and that is this, the best class of the people will sit down at the table in the best hotel, and after he gets through with his meal, he takes out his stinker cigarette and goes to smoking; and they all do the same.

I will close by wishing you all a merry Christamas and a happy New Year, and as I will see no snow to shovel, I will think of you.

Yours truly,
D.B. Klopfenstein

May 18, 1904, Washington Democrat
Our Foreign Correspondent / Bucarest, Hungary / April 18, 1904

Mr. A.R. Miller

Dear Friend: At least, I think you are a friend. I don’t think newspapermen are all bad. At least, I do not find it so.

The last letter I wrote you was from Argentine. I got through all right there, and never spent four and a half months in a better climate than there. I never had a cold and could eat the mutton three times a day. The summer was not warm and the crops were good. The machines were all sold and the field is open for next year. There were 78 Americans down there for the binder company. Fourteen were there for the Case, Avery and Advance threshers. The Avery sold the most. These are the only machines represented there so the people of Washington can see that Argentine is right up in machine that are good. John Deere plows you find in every country.

I left Buenos Aryes January 23rd and got to Liverpool February 17th. We had a nice trip, except the last day it got cold. It did not freeze, but I thought it was pretty cold, as we had 15 days of storm from the time we left Pernambuco, Brazil. The storm came head on; not bad; but just bad enough so we could not make good headway. We were loaded with copper and silver ore from Chili, rubber from Brazil; also coffee.

The boat was a fine one and we had good board and we got good treatment. We met a sailboat that came from Seattle, Washington, loaded with redwood lumber. We met them in mid-ocean, and they signaled us for provisions, as they were nearly out. We stopped and gave them meat, potatoes, beans, and whatever they needed. They had been six months on the way and it would take them three months more. It was a Norwegian boat.

I stayed in Liverpool two days and took in the city. I admire this place very much. We went from there to London. I spent three days in the British Museum and saw about one third of it. I saw many articles, among them guns with barrels long enough to almost reach the enemy. They are very heavy. They were big revolvers, swords, knives and everything of that kind you can imagine. It is worth one’s while to go through. I expect to see the rest when I go back.

I came to Hamburg on February 23rd and stayed there till April 5th. I saw more of Hamburg than ever before. The weather was good. It generally rains there every other day and it got cold enough to freeze the ground two or three mornings. They had a mild, rainy winter. England was the same. I was in Germany for Easter, and they spend more for presents on Easter than we do for Christmas. They also keep Good Friday and Easter Monday for holidays. No business is done on those days and nothing is open but the churches and the saloons. No theaters are open on those days. I saw one good play, “Willhelm Tell,” written by Schiller. From here I went to Berlin and spent a day there; thence to Bucarest, Roumania, and got here just in time to experience a pretty bad earthquake. The first one was April 10th, and the people were so scared, they ran into the streets. The second one was a 2 p.m., the first being at 11:30a.m. I want no more. No property was damaged that I have heard of.

Well, I had the pleasure of two Easters this year. The Roumanian Easter is just a week later than others. You will see by the calendar I send you that they are thirteen days behind us. When we are in April, they are still in March. Easter began Saturday night and lasted till Tuesday night, and every kind of business was closed and the saloons as well. On Sunday, at midnight, the king came to one of the largest churches in the city and they gave a representation of the resurrection of Christ, of the crucifixion, and all. It was good and I would not have missed it for a good deal. It was theatrical, and I may never see the like again. I will never get the chance to see the king dressed as he was that night.

The trees are green, the grass is green and the wheat looks well. From the prospect now, this will be a good season for machines.

There is some excitement about the war between the Japs and the Russians. There was a telegram a few days ago that the largest vessel the Russians have was blown to pieces and all went down. The Jews here are glad when the Russians get licked. There are lots of Jews in Bucarest. Just a year ago April 14th a lot of Jews were murdered in Russia, and the Jews say they are not getting it ---- will close by sending my kindest regards to all my friends.

Yours truly,
D.B. Klopfenstein

March 22, 1905, Evening Journal

Daniel Klopfenstein talks interestingly of his experiences in South America and Europe. He states that the American implements are the whole thing now in Argentine Republic, S.A., with the exception the threshers. The English make of thresher is still more largely used than the American make. The American makes are too complicated for the average man who runs a thresher in Argentine. The English machine is much simpler in construction, not having the various complicated attachments that are common in the American threshers. An American who resides in that country has recently patented a thresher which Mr. Klopfenstein thinks will be a world beater, however. It combines the simple features with absolute perfection in work. The wheat of that country is as a general thing much harder to thresh than the same product in this country.

July 12, 1905, Evening Journal
LETTER FROM ROUMANIA, D.B. Klopfenstein Writes About That Interesting Country ---- Crops Prospects Good. People Need Good Crops. Last Year’s Crop Almost a Failure, and the People Suffered Some Big Reaper Sales. / Bariot, Roumania / June 25, 1905

This is the first time I had any time to do much writing.

I left New York April the 20th, for Hamburg, Germany. There were 40 of us and our trip was one of the finest of any I have made, no storm, no bad weather of any kind and only a few that were seasick. We had some small showers of rain, but the trip was pleasant for all. We landed the first day of May. I found everything in Germany all right, the grass nice and green and some of the flowers in bloom and the weather fine and the crops looking weel, a good prospect for a good harvest. I was at Hamburg a day and a half and then went to Berlin and was there one ---- well around there and the general agent had sold lots of machines at that time. From there I went to Bucharest by the way of Vienna, Austria, and through Budapest, Hungary. Crops were looking fine. I never saw them better as far back as the old farmers can recollect. There was never such wheat. It stands as thick as it can be and all other grain is the same way. The corn is looking pretty good.

There is plenty of rain this season. Last year there was no rain for four months, and the wheat was too short to cut, and there was no corn and but little grass. There was a very hard winter in Roumania. They had 6 feed of snow on a level. They may seem unreasonable to some of you, but that is what they say and that is the reason why they have such a fine crop of everything. Up to the present everything looks fine. Some of the wheat will be cut next week if the weather stays the same as it is now. God knows there is no country that needs a good crop any worse than Roumania. The government had to buy $5000,000 worth of corn from Argentine. They have the same kind of corn. This corn was given to the poor people with a note to pay a certain amount each year until it is paid. This had to be done to keep them and their stock from starving. There were thousands of oxen starved for the want of food.

This country is not as large as Iowa. Iowa had 55,697 square mile, Roumania 50,727 square miles. So when the country is already poor and then have no crops, it is pretty hard on them. The poor have hard times this season. Wages are very small, 1 franc a day, or 19 cents of our money, and he gets his board and that is poor and no place to sleep only out of doors or under some shed. But what will he do? Either work for such wages and starve, which would he rather do. I have seen women and girls in the streets of Bucharest without shoes and whole clothing on them. It is awful the way some of the poor have to slave around for some of the rich.

Well, I have been awful busy here so far looking after the machines this year. I have all I can do, and won’t get out of Roumania until I go to Germany. We have sold every machine we had and got some from Odessa, Russia, and now they are all gone and we could sell lots more. We sold to the richest man in Roumania. His name is G.G. Cantacuzeno, the prime minister of Roumania. He bought 125 reapers and 100 binders. That is the largest sale we ever made to one man in Roumania. He has lots of old machines on every farm and all those went to one or two farms. This same man has eight steam plows and 16 engines. It takes two engines to every plowing outfit for they use cable across the field and there are 12 plows in one gang. Six work at a time. They pull them back and forth and the engine that stands still is moved ahead. Their engines are tractions. They move themselves and the drum is under the boiler and the plows moved faster than a team walks. Their engines are made in England.

I saw something on this same farm and that is a man came to the overseer and said that one of the men that was working for him had stolen 60 francs a little more than $10 of our money. They went and got the man and four others held him on the ground while the overseer took a heavy whip and whipped the poor man until the blood ran through his shirt, and shill he said he did not steal the money. I could not stay and see the way they pummeled him, and they tell me the police court does the same thing.

Well, the weather is rainy and cold. It has not been so warn for it generally gets pretty hot this time of year. Will close. My kind regards to all.

Yours truly,
D.B. Klopfenstein

July 31, 1906, Evening Journal
FROM DANIEL KLOPFENSTEIN. Writes Interestingly of His Visit to Roumania. Harvest Season All Over in that Country. WAS DISTRUBED IN RUSSIA. Was Glad to Get Away From the Unhappy Country—Visits the Austrian Oil Fields.

The Journal has received the following letter from Daniel Klopfenstein in Europe. It will be of interest to our readers:

Brailia, Roumania
July 10, 1906

To the Evening Journal, Washington, Iowa

Dear Friends: As I promised to write you a letter while away from Washington, I will proceed to do that now. Roumania had a very good harvest this year, the best for many years. The wheat is very good quality, as is the rye, oats, barley, and corn too. They have had plenty of rain, and that has made the hay crop. There will be fruit of all kinds in abundance this year, and it looks as if it is going to be very fine. Take it all and all, Roumania will have the best crop this season that it has had for many years. In our business we sold all of our machines and brought in some from Russia. The harvest is all over now and I am glad of it. I am going to Bucharest at present. It is something like our state fair, only it lasts longer. It will last until October 25th. I will tell you all about it later.

I was in Russia during the summer and I can tell you I was glad to get out of that country. I was in Odessa when the docks were burned. I was there on business for the company. Millions of damage was done to the docks and steamers by the fires. I was there for two weeks, and had a pretty good chance to observe the conditions. The poorer the classes are slaves to the aristocracy and the priests and preachers. They have a different conception of Christianity there evidently than we have in our country. The so-called Christianity in Russia has certainly failed in the work which it is supposed to do. What they need most in Russia is education. I think an awakening to their real condition. The poorer people are too much like animals, evidently unaware of their real strength, crushed in the slavery which has been their condition for so many years.

I was in Turkey for a while, and that country is somewhat the same as Russia. The people are more honest in the Turkish ports than they are in any other of the ports down here. But the Turkish women are slaves to the men. I don’t think women were created to be slaves to the men, but down in this country they have been for thousands of years, or for all time to come if some radical changes are not made. Turkey is a pretty nice country. The soil is very rich, especially in that portion near the Black Sea, and the climate there is especially agreeable. Their method of burial is different from our custom. They just put the bodies in the grave and in some instances put stones at the head and foot and again pile stones all over the grave, and then the burying ground is left open and cattle pasture over it. Some do not mark the graves at all. I like the people of Turkey very much. They treat you nice. The on particular thing that I have against them is that they make their women keep their faces covered and their dresses are buttoned at the bottom around their legs just above their shoe tops, when they have shoes on. Many of them have no shoes and no money with which to buy them.

Bucharest: July 12, 1906—I got up here all OK and found everybody feeling good over the fine business they have had, and yesterday it rained all over Roumania and almost assured a good corn crop. I went out to the exposition and found everything magnificent. The display of vegetables is especially fine as is the showing of cattle, hogs, horses, etc. The American machinery is well represented. Our various companies have one display of reapers, threshers, etc. They charge an admission fee of 10 cents to get into the exposition, and it is certainly very cheap at that price. I don’t see how they will be able to make expenses at that price. Tonight, I leave Roumania and got to Austria in the district where the oil wells are. I want to spend some time there if possible, as it is an interesting locality. The Standard Oil Co. controls wells there.

Kind regards to all,
D.V. Klopfenstein

March 20, 1907, Washington Democrat

Dan Klopfenstein did not stay at home. He has the wandering foot for sure. He has gone to Spain to work for the McCormick people. He can talk Spanish but he will not walk Spanish. He is the most traveled man in Washington county.

May 22, 1907, Washington Democrat

Dan Klopfenstein is in Roumania and crops are bad and business is on the bum.

November 6, 1907, Washington Democrat
Dan Klopfenstein’s Travel Letter / Perganaino / September 22, 1907

Well I got through in Roumania harvest. But the harvest was very poor there this season, especially in the southern parts. The wheat was not more than a third of a crop this season, the corn did not come up at all as there was no rain in that part. The north part will have a good corn crop and had a pretty fair wheat crop. But where the Revolution was the granaries and corn cribs were all burned and millions of bushels of corn and wheat and all the barns and houses and the contents and lots of cattle were burned and a great many of the land owners were murdered and some cut in pieces and then burned. I was all over that part before the burning and then after. It looks bad and ---- engines and harvester broken and burned.

The King had to send out soldiers to stop the Revolution. There was a great many killed, some villagers were entirely shot to pieces, before they would give in. A few of the soldiers were ordered to shoot on their own fathers and some refused to do so and were taken out of the ranks and shot right there in front of the armies. They claim there was over 5,000 people killed in the Revolution and the reason was they wanted the rich land owners to divide their land with them and this was the start, and they are worse off now than before, because they can’t go to the land owners and get corn and wheat till they raise it. But now they can’t go and get any grain as they burned it all and there won’t be any corn this season and the wheat will all have to go to the R.R. station and be sold, as there is no place to store it, they will suffer this winter enough for what they have done.

I left there the first of August and came to Berlin and found everything good, the crops were fine, never better, and the machines were all sold. I was in Germany only 13 days and then I started for Paris and was there 3 days. I took in all the principal things of Paris, it is a fine place and the fine parks are full of the most beautiful flowers I had seen anywhere. Berlin is just as nice as Paris, I like it better for my part. I saw one thing I was surprised at seeing and that was that the French don’t smoke one third as much as the Germans do, you can go along the streets and scarcely see anyone smoking and they don’t drink as ---- they drink more wine and whisky than the Germans do.

I left Paris in the day time and went to upper France, the finest country that I never saw for farming: rich land and fine improved farms and great barns and fine houses. The wheat that they had growing was a sight, the harvest I saw in any other country. A part of it was harvested and  apart was not cut yet. They use more binders than in any other part of Europe. There is no trouble to find people that speak English, in Paris nearly every store has some one that speaks English and everything is very high here. You can get shoes that are made in the States and they cost nearly one third more than in the States.

The crops in Germany were good this year. They had fine crops all over Germans this season. Some parts of Russia, especially southern Russia, the harvest was only half what it was in other parts, on account of the drought.

Well I took the Pacific line from La Pallice, this is a port in France. We left there the 18th of August and the next landing was Coranna, Spain, and from there it Vigo, Spain, and then to Lisbon, Portugal, and from there to Cape Verde Isles, that takes in 4-1/2 days and then we went to the southern coast of Brazil and then to Bahia and Rio De Janerio, this is the largest place you take on the trip, and the city has a great many improvements in the last five years and the next city was Santos, the greatest coffee port in the world, from there to Montevideo, this is the next city and the beautiful tropical plants they have in the parks are fine. We got there in the morning and was there all day, in the evening we went to Buenos Ayres, up the river La Platte. Well the trip was fine: no storms and no rains, very calm, we saw lots of whales all along the line.

We landed at Buenos Ayres the 9th of September and found the city fine and lots of improvements, since I was here last. The weather was very cool but not cold enough to freeze and lots of rain. The trees are just budding, but the grass is nice, it is always green, never freezes the ground here. The stock show was one of the finest for fine cattle. They had the Old Durham, the best of all yet and the good sheep were the best I have seen anywhere.

I am now north of Buenos Ayres, at Pergimina, which is a city of 28,000 inhabitants. They have paved streets and electric lights and a fine country for all kinds of farming. There is a lot of fine cattle raised here. They also raise all kinds of peaches and the trees are in full bloom now. It has rained here for the last three days, today the sun is bright. They have just planted the corn here and it will seem strange to you to think of planting corn this time of year; the garden stuff is about all the same as anywhere else, such as peas and lettuce, etc. This country is just level enough to have a nice drainage and the soil is good and deep. The price for land here is $50 per acre, this is 3 to 4 miles from town. I will think of you this winter when you are freezing. Will close for this time.

Yours truly,
D.B. Klopfenstein

March 5, 1908, Evening Journal
Dan Klopfenstein Home

Dan Klopfenstein arrived home yesterday from a tour through European and South American countries in the interests of the International Harvester company. Dan is a traveling man, in every sense of the word. Since he left Washington a year ago, he has traveled some 20,800 miles by water and over 30,000 miles on land, figures which strongly indicate that he was traveling most of the time. During the trip he visited England, German, Roumania, Turkey, Spain, thence across the water to South America, where he remained for a time in Buenos Aryes, and finally back to England and home to America. He reports a very successful tour from a business standpoint, and an enjoyable trip from start to finish.

May 7, 1908, Evening Journal
FROM ACROSS THE SEA. D.B. Klopfenstein Writes an Interesting Account of His Travels. Business Prospects Good. Good Crops in the Provinces of Germany in Bright—Foreign Country Feel Our Financial Trouble.

Evening Journal:—I promised to write you a few lines in regard to my trip and will now do so. I left Washington the 23rd March, and went as far as Moline, Illinois, where I visited the John Deere Plow Company and was treated royally. They paid my hotel expenses, and everything. I went to them to tell them some changes that Ayercross & Company of Buenos Ayres, Argentine, wanted on some of their plows, and I had the pleasure of being introduced to the superintendent and Mr. Butterworth, president of the Deere Plow works since the death of Charles Deere. They took me all through the factory, and I saw the plows go from the raw material to the finished goods. The plows, harrows and sulkies and all the heavy goods are handled by compressed air, and on overhead tracks taken to the paint room, where they are dipped in the paint and then taken to the drying room. After they are dried, they are striped and dipped in varnish, and then taken to the cars for shipment.

From here I went to the Moline Plow company, where I went to suggest some changes in their plows, under instructions from Drysdale & Company, Buenos Ayres. While there I met Jack Everew, an old time friend of mine. He is now superintendent of the Moline Plow works. He used to come to Washington for the Plano binder, and was an expert. He treated me fine. I never was treated better. From there I went to visit C.H. Arding, the general agent of the International Harvester Company of America, and I had a nice visit with him and some of the boys I knew. They have the largest stock of reapers in Iowa, and they told me that they have over $75,000 of repairs for the different machines.

I left Davenport in the evening at 10 o’clock on March 24th for Chicago, and arrived there in the morning. I went to the factory that day, and that night at 9 o’clock I left for New York on the Nickel Plate railway, arriving in New York on the 27th. We had a day and a half there. The ship sailed the 28th of March at 3:30 p.m. They name of the ship was Pennsylvania, on the Hamburg American line. The weather was fine for the first day out, but the next four days were awful stormy, the worst I have ever experienced. It was cold and rainy the first ten days, with no sunshine whatsoever, but the last two days the sun shone nice and bright. We lost two days on account of the storm, it taking us twelve days to make the trip instead of the usual ten. There was a man from Davenport by the name of Rodier on board, and I happened to know him well. He runs a button factory there. I also met two young ladies from Tacoma, Washington. They saw my name on the passenger list, and they knew my brother in Tacoma and some of my cousins out there. They asked me if I was any relation to Henry Klopfenstein, of their city, and of course I told them that I was. It was like meeting some one from home. They were en route to Europe to finish their courses in piano.

We landed the 10th of April in Hamburg, and there is where we all separated, I stayed one day in Hamburg and left on the 11th for Wien, where I stayed over Sunday and saw some of the finest horses, carriages and harness I ever saw.

It was Sunday and a fine warm day. They have a beautiful drive in Wein, and the parks are beautiful, with the trees just putting forth their leaves and in full bloom. From here I went to Budapest. This city is in Hungary, and is built on somewhat the same principle as the cities in the States, the buildings being tree and four stories in height, with straight, well paved streets, which are somewhat narrowed than those at home. They are a great deal cleaner, however, than those of the States. I like the city very much, as they have some nice parks, good drives, and the Danube River cuts the city in two. Large river steamers come up to Budapest, and a great deal of grain is shipped from there to Brailia, Roumania, from where it is sent to England and France. The wheat in Germany and the oats look well, and in Austria and Hungary the same good prospects for the wheat and oats crop prevail, in fact I have never saw a better prospect, and if nothing happens the crops will be very large.

From Budapest I went to Bucarest, Roumania, where I arrived the 15th of April and found the city the same as I had left it. Only a few new buildings are started and my old boss had died since I left. His sons are running the business the same as before, but it seems strange to me not to see him. The oats and corn there are more than half planted. The peasants went to work and planted corn this year, for last year they were out on strike and wouldn’t work, with the result that they had a very hard time to live during the winter. Luckily the winter was unusually mild, for the peasants nearly starved as it was.

W. Staadecker has sold 850 binders up to date, and is selling more of them every day, in case we have plenty of rain, there will be a heavy crop of wheat and our stock of machines will run low.

Well, I have been pretty lucky this Easter. Last Friday, the 17th, the Jews had their Easter, and Sunday, the 19th, the Christians had theirs, and next Sunday Easter will be celebrated by the Greeks. One week later, the Greek Catholics over the whole southern part of this country will observe their Easter. There are not very many that have had the chances to celebrate Easter this year as I have. Most people generally have but one.

Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and Roumania all feel our financial trouble and some feel it more than others. But the business people tell me that they felt it much more two months ago and even lots of commodities which they buy for sale they have no buyers for. The leather dealers have lost all kinds of money on account of the high prices paid for hides and when the leathers is finished they have to sell it for less than the green hides cost so you can see what it does to them. Roumania, Bulgaria, Siberia and all the wool growing countries of the world are feeling our financial trouble.

Will close with kind regards to my friends.

Yours truly,
D.B. Klopfenstein

“During his career as an implement dealer in foreign countries,” Richard Stout wrote at the end of the transcript, “Mr. Klopfenstein would travel from six months to a year each trip, sometimes only spending a month at home before heading out again.

“A line in his 1938 obituary best summed up this part of his life: ‘Mr. Klopfenstein had an interesting career as a salesman for farm machinery and in the course of his work as one of the ace salesmen in this line, made trips to Europe and other parts of the world to sell reapers and threshing machines abroad.’” FC