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Sales literature from a 1920s Madison Plow Co. catalog

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New-old stock parts are precious to old-machinery collectors, but complete NOS implements are just plain rare ... and historically important. That's exactly what Mike Schmudlach of Brooklyn, Wis., thought as he read the flyer for the Roeseler's Hardware auction in Hustisford, Wis., in June 2001. While the list noted one 'brand-new' plow, three were actually very old models, including a Moline Plow Co. No. 3, a Madison Plow Co. Turf and Stubble model and a McCormick-Deering Model WE-1 plow.,

Mike, a building contractor and part-time farmer, also collects International Harvester tractors and usually doesn't pay much attention to horse-drawn implements. In this case, however, he made an exception because the plows were in the same condition as when they were shipped to the store about a century ago. The plows probably belong in a museum because of their immaculate condition and age, Mike admits, but for now he enjoys having the old implements and sharing them with interested folks at farm shows.

Roeseler's Hardware was established in Hustisford in 1869 by August E. Roeseler Sr. who sold hardware and threshing machines to small-crop farmers in the Dodge County area. His son, August E. Roeseler Jr., took control of the business in 1889, while his sons Edward, Oscar and Henry subsequently ran the store starting in 1952. Henry's son, Duane, eventually became the sole proprietor, although his uncle, Oscar Roeseler, lent a hand until he was more than 90 years old.

Throughout the 20th century, Roeseler's Hardware sold farm implements made by manufacturers including McCormick-Deering Co., New Idea Co., Moline Plow Co., Madison Plow Co., gas engines made by Fuller & Johnson, Overland and even Ford Motor Co. Model T automobiles. Other products stocked and sold were household appliances, milking and milk-handling equipment. The family business also offered services such as well drilling and silo construction.

As older lines of goods were replaced with new products, any leftover inventory either remained on the shelf or was stored on the second and third floors of the hardware building. The family's method of storing unsold stock helped preserve the plows that Mike bought at auction, because those three immaculate implements spent the better half of the last century on the third floor. To his delight, Mike found the old plows stored along with an International Harvester Co. cream separator still wrapped in packing paper, new buggy sills, wooden plow beams and a wooden washing tub, in addition to a large number of used items once taken in trade. Liquidated in 2001, Roeseler's Hardware was the oldest family-owned hardware in Wisconsin.

Mike's oldest plow is likely the Moline No. 3. The non-adjustable plow was forged from a single piece of steel. The painted logo on the plow's wooden beam isn't the Flying Dutchman, while the beam is solid oak rather than forged steel. These combined characteristics suggest a pre-1900 manufacture date, and the plow was certainly manufactured before the Moline Plow Co. name was changed to the Moline Implement Co. in the 1920s. The finish on the oak handles and beam, in addition to the paint, is excellent, shows no wear and leaves no doubt about the model and manufacturer.

About the time Mike's Madison Plow Co. Turf and Stubble plow was delivered to Roeseler's, the Moline Plow Co. purchased the Universal Tractor Co. in Ohio, and became known as the Moline Implement Co. While the Madison Plow Co. produced and sold plows through its owner, Fuller and Johnson (of gasoline engine fame), as early as 1882, the Turf and Stubble plow wasn't likely marketed until the 1920s after Fuller and Johnson sold the plow making enterprise. Although cracked and dry, the original paint striping and decal is still visible on Mike's Turf and Stubble plow. Two shipping tags attached to the plow indicate that Yellow Freight Lines shipped it to August E. Roeseler Jr. but dates are unfortunately missing from the tags.

By the time Mike's McCormick-Deering WE-1 plow was shipped to Roeseler's hardware - most likely in the 1930s - the Moline Implement Co. had merged with the Minneapolis Threshing Machine Co. and Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Co. to form Minneapolis-Moline Power Implement Co. With its heritage steeped in the legendary quality of Parlin and Orendorff, whose implement plant in Canton, Ill., later became International Harvester's Canton Works, the McCormick-Deering WE-1 plow - which debuted in 1929 - was among the last walking plows introduced by IH. Mike's WE-1 plow, like the others, was in excellent shape, and it still had its wrench attached, which made the fully adjustable plow truly complete.

Unlike Mike's three plows, and Roeseler's Hardware where they were sold, the companies that manufactured the plows didn't survive the 20th century intact. These three examples of wonderfully preserved plows are windows which give a glimpse of those days when agricultural implement manufacturers were booming ... right down to the color of the paint and the finish of the wood. FC

The Moline Plow Co.

1865 Partnership between Henry W. Candee and Robert Kerr Swan, known as Candee, Swan and Co., forms to manufacture rakes and fanning mills in Moline, III.

1868 Initial facility expansion allows about 1,000 plow units to be produced annually.

1870 Moline Plow Co. forms and incorporates on April 6.

1883 The Flying Dutchman three-wheeled sulky plow is released.

1915 The Moline Plow Co. purchases the Universal Tractor Co. of Columbus, Ohio.

1917 The Flying Dutchman name is temporarily removed to support the war effort. Company officials apparently believed customers would mistake the Dutchman logo with the Germans.

1925 Corporate restructuring results in the formation of the Moline Implement Co.

1929 Merger of Moline Implement Co., Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Co., and Minneapolis Threshing Machine Co. forms the Minneapolis-Moline Power Implement Co.

- Mike Schmudlach is interested in learning more about his plows. Contact Mike by phone at (608) 4SS-2700; or by e-mail: msschmudlach@msn.com; or by mail at 538 Windmill Road, Brooklyn, WI 53521.

Oscar 'Hank' Will III is an old-iron collector and restorer who retired from farming in 1999 and from academia in 1996. He splits his time between his home in Whittier, Calif., and his farm in East Andover, N.H. As a result, he travels coast to coast with his Welsh Corgi Charlie, a.k.a. Road Dawg, and writes about the machines and people he meets in between. Write him at 13952 Summit Drive, Whittier, CA 90602; or call (562) 696-4024; or e-mail: owill@mail.whittier.edu

The Madison Plow Co.

1873 John A. Johnson joins Fuller-Williams & Co., a Madison, Wis., farm implement business, which then becomes Johnson, Fuller and Co.

1880 Johnson, Fuller and Co. purchases the plow manufacturer Firmin, Billings & Co., and names the expanded business the Madison Plow Co.

1882  The Madison Plow Co. is renamed Fuller and Johnson Manufacturing.

1883  Fuller and Johnson develops the Starks Combined Force-Drop Planter and Check-Rower for planting corn.

1884  Fuller and Johnson sells more than 1,700 Red White and Blue mowers with its newly patented mower shoe, a significant improvement to the sickle bar mower, which helped it ride level and slide easily across the ground.

1890 Fuller and Johnson manufactures the Bemis Tobacco Transplanter.

1911 Fuller and Johnson sells its implement manufacturing business as the Madison Plow Co.

1948 Madison Plow Co. ceases operation.