The Sharples Power-Equipped Cream Separator

Iron Age Ads: Cream separator company tries to get farmers to upgrade their equipment during the Great Depression.

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The new improved tubular separator (above) was the focus of the promotional letter. Unusually hefty discounts were promised in exchange for an order. In 1934, at the end of the Great Depression, Sharples may have been cash-strapped or overloaded with inventory, or both. Meanwhile, improved technology – the new improved power-equipped tubular separator, for instance – was coming on strong. The customer was advised to move quickly. “We do not think it possible to hold this offer open much longer!”

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The writing was on the wall when the Sharples Sales & Service Co. of West Chester, Pa., sent this letter to an Oregon farmer in 1934, encouraging him to trade up to the new improved tubular separator (see the Image Gallery to view the letter). The company offered a 30 percent discount for an order placed quickly. Why? Perhaps because the nifty new power-equipped cream separator was coming on strong.

The discount was for a manual cream separator. But mailed along with that offer was a promotion for a power-equipped unit. "Are you turning a cream separator by hand for 2 cents an hour? That's all it costs to run it with power - theoretically," Sharples promotional materials read. "Actually, it costs less than nothing at all - because the saving in cream due to the perfectly regular operation by motor is much greater than that." And if the power went out, the unit could still be operated by hand.

In 1934, though, even a 30 percent discount may not have been enough to sweeten the deal for an upgrade. The worst days of the Great Depression were still fresh in mind, and chances are the old separator would work indefinitely so long as it was well-maintained. But it must have been a tantalizing offer, one attractive enough that this Sharples letter and brochure never made it to the trash can.

Thanks to Farm Collector reader R.L. Harris, Pendleton, Ore., who provided these materials. "I married the farmer's daughter in 1946," he notes. "I am still living on the wheat ranch he started farming in 1900. I don't do much of the work anymore, at 87 years. I came to the ranch on March 13, 1950." If you have materials to share in Iron Age Ads, send a copy to Iron Age Ads, Farm Collector, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609. High-resolution digital images may be submitted by email: editor@FarmCollector.com