Planet Jr. was a Big Player on Small Farms
Planet Jr. line designed for the small farmer, home gardener
Chris Moomaw with his show display. Among other pieces, the Planet Jr. product line included a fertilizer distributor, onion hoe, onion puller, celery hiller, harrow, pulverizer, drill marker and grass edger.
When Chris Moomaw fell for a decades-old line of farm and garden implements, he was drawn in by the technology of one century and the business strategy of another.
Riding herd over what he describes as “an unfocused collection” of small, crank-driven machines, Chris stumbled onto the Planet Jr. line of seeders, drills, and wheel hoes, and was fascinated by their mechanisms. He immediately shifted gears into building a collection of Planet Jr. pieces. “I’ve been interested in intricate linkages like what you see on these pieces for a long time,” he says.
But he hadn’t counted on discovery of a progressive business strategy literally decades ahead of its time. “(Company founder) S.L. Allen was very progressive,” he says. “In the late 1800s and early 1900s, he actively sought feedback from customers and used that to improve the product. The Planet Jr. line was constantly evolving. They really took pride in making products that were considered the best in the industry. If you look at the products manufactured by their competitors, they are primitive and awkward compared to Planet Jr. All that research paid off.”
Catalogs provide clues
Now a resident of Ridgefield, Ct., Chris grew up in rural southeast Pennsylvania. “The first powered vehicle I ever drove was a John Deere A,” he recalls, “helping bring in hay for a neighboring farmer.” The son of antique hounds, he was a regular tag-along on trips to country auctions. “I was familiar with the Planet Jr. name,” he says. “When I was a kid, my dad looked at several walk-behind garden tractors including Planet Jr., but he ended up buying a Gravely.”
While attending the gigantic flea market in Brimfield, Mass., some years ago, Chris happened on to a very nice original Planet Jr. No. 6 seeder built in 1915. “I had a rule about this stuff: Never pay more than $25,” he says. “I broke that rule in about five pieces.” Soon after he found another Planet Jr. in an antique shop. “That really got me into it,” he says. “These seeders were mysterious. They started finding me. Then I bought some online. I was building a collection, but I really didn’t know much about them. Then I started seeing catalogs for sale.”
Catalogs and other literature — including a book Allen’s daughter wrote about her father and his company — have given his collection true depth. “That kind of information has helped me learn when various models were introduced and when features were modified,” he says. “Once I started gathering up catalogs I was able to begin piecing it all together.” “Piece it together” is a bit of an understatement: Chris has developed a lengthy timeline detailing major developments in the company’s history — down to and including descriptions of company-issued wrenches — and happily shares that knowledge.
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