When we look at innovations of the past, some seem primitive. Others have a certain quaint factor. And then there are those that, for a variety of reasons, fall into the incredible! category. Clay Brown’s collection of Blitz Fogger devices is solidly in the latter camp. “Driving through pesticide,” he says, “is just not a safe thing.”
Manufactured for about a decade, from the late 1950s to the late 1960s, Blitz Fogger products were offered as an aftermarket attachment for garden tractors and push mowers. A canister of pesticide (including DDT, chlordane and lindane) was attached to the mower and the contents were fed into the exhaust port. Exposed to heat, the solution became a fog, which was expelled through the exhaust system as a dense cloud.
“I’ve thought about what it would be like to use one of these,” says Clay, who lives in Georgetown, Ohio. “I get a kick out of the ad showing a picture of the woman who looks like Jackie Kennedy, all dressed up in nice clothes, running her garden tractor and blowing fog. That just wouldn’t work out.”
Never say never
Clay’s interest in Blitz Fogger products is an outgrowth of a collection inspired by his daughter, Madison. As she watched her dad show full-size tractors, Madison (then age 9) wanted in on the action. The two settled on garden tractors. After setting her up with her first Case garden tractor (a 1966 Case 150), Clay started looking for related memorabilia. One of his first finds was a 1966 dealer poster offering a Blitz Fogger with purchase of a new Case garden tractor.
Clay was hooked, but other collectors offered little encouragement. “They told me I’d never find a fogger,” he recalls. “They said they were dangerous, they rusted out and people threw them out.”
For some collectors, though, the word never is a green light. In no time, Clay tracked down a Blitz Fog Rover kit. But the handheld, propane-fueled unit had little initial appeal for him. “I didn’t really think I needed that,” he says, “but the more I looked at it, the more I liked it.” Soon he found a Blitz Fogger device for a push mower. Then there was a long dry spell.
“It took me two years to find the one for the garden tractor,” he says. “I had put the word out everywhere.” Then he got a lead from a friend of a friend who’d bought a new place. Tucked away in the rafters of his new garage was a Blitz Fogger.
Since then Clay’s scooped up Blitz Foggers and related memorabilia on eBay. As collectors often find, once their specialty area becomes known, pieces start coming to them. “I got one fogger new-in-the-box at a swap meet,” he recalls. “A guy came up to me and asked if I wanted it.”
Vintage lawn equipment
Clay’s 1966 Case 150 is unique in its own right. Case bought Colt Mfg. Co, Winneconne, Wisconsin, in 1964. The subsidiary produced garden tractors for Case beginning in 1965. The early units had no brakes and were notoriously hard to drive. “They’re another thing from the 1960s that was dangerous to use,” he says with a chuckle.
Equipped with a 10 hp Kohler engine, the 150 was in unusually good condition when Clay bought it. “We replaced all the sheet metal, but mechanically it was really in good shape,” he says. “The engine had probably already been overhauled.” The father and daughter collection now includes five Case garden tractors.
The push mower sporting a Blitz Fogger attachment is a Davis, built by G.W. Davis Co., Richmond, Indiana, in the mid-1960s. “I was looking for one with an aluminum deck,” Clay says, “and I found this one at a swap meet.” He’s been unable to find much information on the manufacturer.
Clay’s collection also includes a 1928 McCormick-Deering 10-20. “I had been showing a 1966 International 656,” he says, “and that’s a really nice tractor, but I decided I wanted something on steel wheels.” The 10-20 is a long-term restoration project, but when complete, it will be a showpiece. “It has about every option there was,” Clay says.
“A different time back then”
Little is known about Northern Industries, Inc., manufacturer of the Blitz Fogger line. The company held a copyright on the Blitz Fogger, but that expired in 1993, decades after the Milwaukee-based company ceased operations in 1970.
The display of Blitz Fogger products is not something you see at every antique tractor show. “That Case is a nice little garden tractor,” Clay says, “but people come up and see the fogger and they’re so amazed by it that they don’t pay any attention to the tractor.”
And though he knows of a few other collectors of Blitz Foggers, he has yet to meet anyone who ever actually used a Blitz unit. “But people used to spray like that all the time,” he says. “When I was a kid, we showed cattle at the state fair. They’d come every night and spray a fog, right where we were sleeping in the barns. We’d just pull the blankets over our heads.”
Use of the Blitz Fogger tended to cause rust in exhaust systems. “That’s why I think a lot of foggers were abandoned,” Clay says. “Someday, I might try to use one in a demonstration. I’ve been trying to figure out what I could use that isn’t a pesticide. And I don’t want to rust out the exhaust.”
Clay’s collection also includes Blitz pesticide cans. Neither the cans nor the foggers carry much in the way of warnings beyond, “keep out of the reach of children.” Indeed, most of the warnings pertain more to mechanical operation than to the pesticide. “The packaging says it was safe,” he says. “It was the 1960s. It was just a different time back then.” FC