Battlefield Bounty

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SP-40 Allis-Chalmers

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'LaVaughne and I have been collecting things ever since we were married,' Stanley Wolf of rural Gettysburg, Pa., explains about their collection of rare and unusual tractors, implements and primitive agricultural tools. The fourth generation entrepreneur and farmer amassed the collection of more than 50 tractors and 500 additional agricultural pieces over a span of over 45 years.

'When I was a kid, I hunted for bullets and other battlefield artifacts on our farm,' Stan says, explaining that the collecting bug really bit him as a youngster. 'The original farm that my great-grandfather homesteaded was sold to the government for the monument in 1924; I was raised a short distance away, and I found lead everywhere.' Stan's fascination with the battle of Gettysburg eventually led him to create a battlefield tour and souvenir business. 'The history of the area is really important to our country, and to me, because my family was here during the battle,' Stan says.

Just as the battlefield artifacts provided a physical link to Stan's ancestral ground, he started collecting primitive farm tools as a remembrance of relatives, neighbors and friends. 'When one family or another would sell out, I always tried to find an old tool or something to buy at their sale to remember them with,' Stan says, opening the door to his private museum. 'Eventually, we just started looking for really unusual pieces, and those with local interest.' In time, the collection grew large enough to warrant some kind of permanent display on the Wolfs' farm.

Making a museum

Stan and LaVaughne never imagined that they would have so many primitive farm tools that it would be difficult to keep track of them, much less display them in any organized way. 'We collected these things one at a time, and one day realized there were several hundred pieces,' Stan explains. 'We had the building, so we decided to try to organize things a bit.'

On one wall of the museum, Stan has organized old carpenter's tools that belonged to a local man who built covered bridges, barns and churches in theĀ  early 1900s. A small single-goat treadmill is prominently displayed near a salesman's sample Clipper seed cleaner. The treadmill was used to power a butter churn, and the fully functional little seed cleaner convinced many local farmers to purchase the real thing. Primitive walking plows with wooden beams, planters and other farm implements line another wall. Rope twisting devices are displayed alongside root cutters. Pulleys, harnesses, manure forks, straw forks and countless other items decorate the enclosure. At the far end of the building, the Wolfs display a collection of milk bottles from every known Adams County, Pa., dairy.

One of the oldest pieces in the collection is a screw-type wagon jack that dates to about 1820. 'We had some history experts out to help date some of these things,' Stan explains. The jack is unusual because it is very coarsely threaded, and the cast iron screw and nut are mounted on a base made from a tree trunk.

A second wagon jack is among Stan's favorite pieces. A local blacksmith fabricated this ratchet-type jack for Stan's great-grandfather, George Wolf, in 1854. The piece is in stunning original condition, a fine testament to the care it received over the years. 'We take things like this for granted today, but back then you had to take care because you couldn't just go to the farm store and buy another,' Stan reflects.

Perhaps the most unusual piece in the Wolfs' museum is a human-powered, two-cow milking machine that dates to the early 1900s. William Mehring patented the ingenious device in 1899 as a treadle-powered vacuum milker, which he manufactured and sold out of Keymar, Md. The two-cow milker's $100 price tag may help to explain why it never reached widespread distribution, although modern milking equipment continues to rely on the same general principles.

Stan has not limited his collecting to muscle-powered tools and implements, however. The Wolfs also have put together a diverse collection of tractors and other self-propelled agricultural implements, including some historically important and rare pieces.

Motorized machinery

'We have around 50 tractors now,' Stan explains about the couple's collection of motorized farm machines. One of the first collectable tractors Stan bought was built by Long Manufacturing Company, Inc. of Tarboro, N.C. 'I liked the Long because there were so few made,' Stan says, explaining that the North Carolina company had created a tractor that looked very much like the Raymond Loewy-styled letter series International Harvester Farmall tractors. 'IH sued after they (Long) had made very few tractors and shut them down.' The Long company continued to buy and sell used farm equipment, and eventually became very successful agricultural equipment importers. Stan has two very rare 1948 Model A Long tractors.

The Wolfs' collection of tractors also includes machines with names like Leader, Silver King, Rumely OilPull, Pace, Graham-Bradley, Huber, Economy, Wards and Sheppard, in addition to better-known brands such as John Deere, Allis-Chalmers, Ford and International. Most of Stan's tractors are beautifully restored, but not always to precise original condition. 'I like to convert my tractors to electric start whenever possible,' Stan says. 'I don't want anyone to get hurt if a crank kicks.' These days, Stan does most of the work himself, but occasionally he relies on friends for the final coats of paint and some fabrication from time to time.

One particularly striking implement in Stan's collection is a 1955 Model SP-166 New Holland baler, which is unusual because it is self-propelled. This machine uses one Continental air-cooled engine to power the running gear, and one to power the pickup and baling components. The small-square baler is particularly unusual in that it employs a narrow front end in front of the flywheel for steering, and a truck axle and transmission to power the rear wheels. New Holland continued to offer self-propelled balers into the '80s, but they never had the widespread acceptance with smaller, more diversified farmers that the company's self-propelled windrowers achieved.

The most historically significant pieces in the Wolf collection include a 1955 Cockshutt Black Hawk 40 tractor and a 1940 Allis-Chalmers SP-40 self-propelled combine. The Black Hawk 40 tractor was originally presented as a gift to President Dwight David Eisenhower and was used by him for many years on his Gettysburg farm. The combine was built as a joint effort between the United States Army Corps of Engineers and Allis-Chalmers to facilitate the War Department's strategic crop development program during World War II.

Ford tractors are a favorite of Stan's. He keeps several of the 'N' series tractors in his collection, and even has a Ford on tracks. 'In 1948, Ford decided that they needed a crawler, so they produced 10 using 8N tractors grafted to Cletrac undercarriages,' Stan explains, while quickly adding that he built his own Ford crawler by grafting a Ford tractor's skin onto a Cletrac tractor. 'I get a lot of comments on my crawler, but I don't want people to confuse it with the real thing.'

The Wolfs' collection also includes a 1947 Allis-Chalmers WC-powered Adams road grader, several antique cars and trucks, and even President Eisenhower's three-wheeled Cushman golf cart. 'The golf cart is unremarkable really, except it has a panic button that the secret service guys could push if there was ever a problem,' Stan says.

Annual open house

The Wolfs once attended many tractor shows each year, but admit that they have slowed a bit in recent years. Instead, however, they organize their machinery outdoors, and open up their farm museum to all comers on Memorial Day weekend. In recent years they have hosted nearly 700 people a day during the two-day event. 'I can't say for sure that we will do it again next year,' Stan says with a smile. 'But we have been doing it for 15 years and it keeps getting larger each year.'

For more information: Stan and LaVaughne Wolf, 714 Black Horse Tavern Road, Gettysburg, PA 17325; (717)334-2444.

Oscar 'Hank' Will III is an old-iron collector and freelance writer who retired from farming in 1999 and from academia in 1996. He splits his time between his home in Gettysburg, Pa., and his farm in East Andover, N.H. Write him at 243 W. Broadway, Gettysburg, PA 17325; or call (717) 337-6068; or e-mail: willo@gettysburg.edu

A Cockshutt Fit for a President

On Nov. 30, 1955, President Dwight David Eisenhower was presented with a new and one-of-a-kind Cockshutt Black Hawk 40 tractor along with a Cockshutt chisel plow, field cultivator and moldboard plow. Stan Wolf, one of Eisenhower's neighbors, was there to see it delivered. 'It was probably the highest horsepower tractor in all of Adams County, Pa., at that time,' Stan explains, saying the 46 PTO-hp tractor raised considerable interest among the local farmers.

'The presentation was a joint effort of the Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania Farm Bureaus and Cockshutt,' says Phil Heisey of Harleysville, Pa. According to London, Ontario, resident Bill Cockshutt, great-nephew of the founder of the Cockshutt company, the Black Hawk 40 was presented to President Eisenhower to help establish the Cockshutt name (separate from Co-op) in American agriculture.

'Cockshutt bought the U.S.-based National Farmers Machinery Co-op in '53, and the Black Hawk line of implements came with the deal,' Phil explains. 'Black Hawk planters in particular were highly regarded by American farmers, and when Cockshutt wanted to market their Deluxe line of tractors in the U.S., Black Hawk was chosen to take advantage of the name's reputation.'

President Eisenhower farmed with that Black Hawk 40 for many years, and it was still on the farm when he died in 1969. The tractor eventually became part of a private collection that was liquidated at public auction in 1998. In the meantime, the National Park Service had obtained the Eisenhower farm, making it a cornerstone of the Gettysburg Battlefield National Military Park. 'I really wanted to bring that tractor back to its home, and get it looking close to how it looked the day it was delivered,' Stan, an admitted Eisenhower enthusiast, says. 'I had to bid pretty hard against the Park Service to get it.'

Stan has since restored Ike's Cockshutt Black Hawk 40 tractor to its former glory, and he loans it to the Park Service for special events at the Eisenhower Farm. 'I won't let them (the Park Service) have it yet, but I don't mind letting them display it now and then,' Stan adds with a wink.

Strategic Combine

Stan Wolf's Allis-Chalmers SP-40 self-propelled combine was born in 1940 of a perceived wartime necessity to decrease the country's reliance on foreign markets for strategic grains. In this particular case, the War Department was interested in developing varieties of Rape (Brassica napus), an annual plant in the cabbage family, for its seed oil, which is a key ingredient in synthetic rubber.

As part of that effort, the Army Corps of Engineers was handed the task of developing a self-propelled test-plot combine, and they chose to work with Allis-Chalmers on the project. Essentially, the Model SP-40 consists of a Model 40 pull-type combine mounted on a small truck chassis. The wheels and tires are standard military issue, complete with brake drums (but no brake shoes). An Allis-Chalmers Model G rear-engine tractor is mounted above the combine and powers the drive wheels and hydraulic system. A separate, air-cooled Wisconsin engine was mounted low and on the side of the unit to power the harvesting and threshing components. The operator's station was high above the cutter, which offered excellent crop visibility, but with its narrow 40-inch width, the machine can be easily upset.

Stan's Model SP-40 is one of five built, and one of three known to survive. This particular unit was assembled at the Letterkenny Army Base near Chambersburg, Pa. 'I obtained it about 20 years ago after it had been stored at the base for over 40 years,' Stan says. 'It was painted army khaki, but I chose Allis orange when I restored it.' One of the other two SP-40s is in a museum in Oxford, U.K. The other is in the hands of a private collector.