The Farm Museum at P.T. Rathbone's R - Lucky Star Ranch in Marsing, Idaho, displays more than 3,400 farm implement wrenches from all over the world. They're hung in alphabetical order by company name all around the walls, with buggy, silo, cream separator and windmill wrenches displayed separately. Rathbone bills his museum as 'the largest organized farm implement wrench collection in the world.'
In writing his encyclopedic book, The History of Old Time Farm Implement Companies and the Wrenches They Issued, including Buggy, Silo, Cream Separator, Windmill and Gas Engine Companies, Rathbone applied the same careful organization and precision.
The book and separate supplement took three years to research and compile.
Rathbone began his book research by writing letters to 250 city clerks in U.S. cities where implement companies once operated.
'Some of the clerks would give my letter to the town historians and bits of information would dribble in,' Rathbone recalled. 'I finally cracked the historical society and library 'code' on the Internet, which was a great help. Some would make you come in person or hire a researcher. I had researchers hired in seven states.'
Rathbone and his wife, Mary, also sought information from Deere & Company in Moline, Ill., and from the Special Collections Library at the University of California at Davis, which houses the Higgins Collection of Agricultural Literature.
In the end, he amassed the histories of more than 500 companies along with vintage advertising pictures used in their marketing efforts, and contemporary sale prices realized at auctions and other sales.
Stan Schulz, secretary of the Missouri Valley Wrench Club, Inc., uses Rathbone's wrench book regularly. He said it had rapidly become a common reference point for both buyers and sellers in the collecting field.
'I can't imagine anyone trying to deal in implement wrenches without a copy,' Schulz said. 'The information about the history of obscure companies also should make P.T.'s book useful to people interested in implements themselves.'
- 'The History of Old Time Farm Implement Companies and the Wrenches They Issued,' written and published by Pembroke Thorn Rathbone, 1999; ISBN: 0-9673001-0-X, 513 pages, hard cover, with soft-cover price supplement; 555 from the author; also sold in larger bookstores and at Amazon.com. For more information, contact P.T. Rathbone, R-Lucky Star Ranch, Route 1, Box 734, Marsing, ID 83639.