The Corn Shock Tier
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The crank was then turned (or the lever operated) to tighten the rope around the stalks, compressing the bundle. A ratchet or hook was used to hold the tension while the twine was tied tightly and cut off. The tension was released, the tier pulled from the shock and a new one started.
Some later shock tiers had a movable dog that would grip the rope and hold it in place while the twine was tied. Although I never found the exact patent for Jerry Kelly’s tier I believe that’s how it worked. The sketch shows how the rope was probably attached, and it most likely was operated as follows:
The pointed stick is pushed into the shock to hold the tier while the free ends of both the rope and the twine are carried around the shock. The stick is removed from the shock and used to hold the tier while the rope is placed between the pulley and the movable dog, and the twine is hung on the hook at the end of the knife blade. The tier handle is held with one hand, and with the other the rope is pulled tight around the shock, compressing it. When the rope is dropped, the dog should hold it firmly in place, while the twine is tied and then cut off using the knife blade. The rope eyelet on the movable dog is pushed toward the pulley, releasing the rope, which may then be removed through the side opening. If this isn’t how the tier is used I’m sure a reader will let me know.
I have a rather elaborate lever-type shock tier patented in 1918 by John M. Schebler, Hamburg, Ind. It consists of a ladder-like wooden frame with a holder for a ball of twine between the uprights near the bottom, two pulleys suspended at each side of the top, and a lever with a hook and a rope-clamping device partway down its length. The frame is leaned against the shock, the lever raised, and the rope (one end of which is tied to the movable jaw of the clamp) is passed over one pulley, around the shock and through the other pulley and the hook to the clamp. When the lever is pulled down the rope is tightened, compressing the shock so it can be tied with the twine.
Mechanical corn harvesters of various designs were developed as early as the 1820s, but most only cut the stalks, which still had to be compressed and tied into shocks by hand. In 1892, Albert S. Peck, Geneva, Ill., patented a machine that cut corn stalks and carried them vertically to a binding mechanism where they were tied into bundles and ejected from the machine. Even with a corn binder to tie the bundles, if the corn was left in the field to dry, the bundles had to be gathered and tied into shocks.
Finally, during the late 1920s, successful corn pickers came onto the market. Over the next decade most farmers switched to them, which eliminated the need to shock the stalks.