Gathering of the Hubers

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Jim BirkSteam and Gas Engine Show

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The Huber Machinery Museum, at the Marion County Fairgrounds in Marion, Ohio, bills itself as the 'Home of the Huber.' Anyone visiting there in June would have understood that claim perfectly: 92 vintage Huber tractors converged on the site for the Marion County Steam and Gas Engine Association's Silver Anniversary Show.

Fifty exhibitors brought the tractors, along with a number of implements, to display, and a single Huber steam traction engine showed up too. Among the tractors were original, unrestored machines, as well as old and new restorations. Exhibitors came from across the United States, and the museum, normally open on a limited basis, kept its doors open for the duration of the event.

Gary Bader, president of the association, said the oldest and biggest Huber production gas tractor on display this year was George Schaaf's 35-70 from Franklin, Ill. The 'youngest' Huber production gas tractors on display were three Huber HKs, including the very last Huber 'production' tractor to roll off the assembly line in 1943.

Don and Marty Huber (no relation to the founder of Huber Manufacturing Co.) of Moline, Ill., displayed Marty's HK. It is one of the red ones made during World War II for Pan American Airways. Don says the three HK. at Marion this year were among the last dozen built.

George says his 35-70 was originally purchased from Huber Manufacturing on July 12, 1916, by John Bergham of Plains, Kan. The tractor stayed in Kansas for many years but eventually was bought by the late Oscar Cooke of Oscar's Dreamland Yesterday Museum in Billings, Mont. Cooke amassed a major collection of antique farm equipment that was displayed at his Dreamland and that eventually went up for auction in 1998.

George says he bought the 35-70 from Cooke before the 1998 auction, but didn't get it restored until the day before this year's Marion show opened. The tractor, which George says was extremely worn out, has only been run for about 10 minutes since its restoration was finished and was not started at the show. It is one of two 35-70s known to still exist (the other is near Goessell, Kan., and there's a similar 30-60 at Rollag, Minn.), George says. About 200 of this model were originally built; the 35-70 was the largest gas tractor Huber ever made. Its water tank holds 95 gallons.

George had two other tractors at the show. One is the earliest-known Huber Light Four; the other was a 25-50 drop-hood, which George says he has learned-was one of only seven ever made. The 25-50 was sold at his late September auction, but he says he plans to keep the Light Four and the 35-70.

Bader notes one of the Huber steam traction engines also was on display this year, although it also was not fired. It belongs to a Marion collector, Stan Winck, who also is president of the Huber Machinery Museum Association; it is a 1914 18-hp steam engine.

There also were Huber tractors on display at this year's Marion show that had been 'in the family' of the owners for many years; Bob Shagana's 1938 Huber model LC was one of those. Bob lives in Beaverton, Mich., and says he and his dad bought his LC in 1958 to power a sawmill in Clarkston, Mich., which it did for four years. After that, his dad bought a bigger sawmill and a Huber HK to power it. In time, Bob ended up with the LC and his late brother, Pete, kept the HK, which is now owned by Pete's son, John Shagana.

Bob says the LC always had good care, and he repainted it in 1995 after learning the proper colors to use at that year's Marion show. He's also built a special storage place for it; the tractor has 'its own spot in an addition at the back of the garage.'

The museum also had a number of pieces on special display for the show. According to Anna May Schwaderer, curator of the museum, the Huber Manufacturing Co. opened its doors in 1865, incorporated in 1875 and produced its first gasoline tractor in 1898. The firm ceased operation in 1984, however, Don Braden, a former Huber employee, purchased the rights to all of Huber's drawings and now produces a Huber road maintenance grader called a Maintainer at his plant in Iberia, Ohio.

The founder of the original Huber company was Edward Huber, known early on as a man who enjoyed 'chasing rainbows.' He received more than 100 patents in his lifetime, including one for a traction engine and another for a self-feeding separator. Huber started by inventing a revolving wood hay rake, 200,000 of which were made and sold, according to Schwaderer. The rake was 14 to 16 feet long, and it established Huber's firm as a serious contender in the emerging U.S. farm implement field.

Schwaderer says Huber also invented a very early tractor for fieldwork, 'but he didn't call it a 'tractor.' He called it a traction engine, but it used gasoline.' That machine came along in the 1890s, but earlier, Huber was building steam engines and threshers.

Along with the traction engines and threshing machines, gasoline tractors began to be built by the late 1890s, when the company expanded from its original Marion site to a 20-acre facility at North Greenwood and East George streets.

The first Huber gas tractors were one-cylinder machines: Their Van Duzen vertical engines had hot-tube ignitions, which were not very reliable. According to C.H. Wendel in the Standard Catalog of Farm Tractors, Huber combined the Van Duzen engine with gearing from the Huber traction engine, but the experiment met with poor success and the project was abandoned. However, because Huber built 30 of these, he gets credit for marketing the first mass-produced tractor for commercial use.

In March 1911, 13 years later, Huber re-entered the tractor-manufacturing field. By then, the dry-cell battery and the magneto had been invented increasing the dependability of ignition systems. Schwaderer says the museum's records show that this time, the tractors were called 'Farmer's Tractors,' and the first one made was labeled with serial number 100. This tractor was chain driven and had a distinctive front-mounted seat. Next, in 1912, came a 15-30 opposed, two-cylinder, chain-driven and chain-steered tractor with an evaporative tower-type cooling system rather than a conventional radiator. Schwaderer notes that one, a 1916 model, of two known, is on loan to the museum from Dan Ehlerding of Jamestown, Ohio. 'It's really odd looking,' Schwaderer notes. At the same time, beginning in 1911-1917, Huber produced a huge 'Prairie' tractor rated at 30-60 hp: later this was re-rated as the 35-70 hp. That means 30 hp on the drawbar and 60 hp on the belt. A chain-driven 20-40 also was made from 1911 to 1917.

In 1916, Huber began producing 12-25 cross-motor tractors called the Huber Light Four. Next came the 15-30 Super Four and the 20-40 Master Four. All were cross-motor tractors. A 1924 Super Four, with one of the honeycomb radiators is in the museum's collection, donated by Schwaderer and her late husband, Bob. By 1927, Huber updated his design, producing the 18-36, 20-40 and 25-50 tractors, which were re-rated after Nebraska tractor tests to 21-39, 32-45 and 40-62.

In 1930, Huber began to make more farmer-friendly tractors. First was the two- to three-plow tractor named the Modern Farmer, produced in standard tread and row-crop versions. At the same time, the 20-36 standard tread tractor was introduced. Later models became known as the HS and HK tractors. All these tractors used Waukesha engines. In 1930-1931, Huber sold 266 HS tractors to B.F. Avery of Louisville, Ky., which were marketed under the B.F. Avery label. The only one of these known today is in the museum, Schwaderer says.

By 1935, Huber upgraded the Modern Farmer with a larger Waukesha engine. This tractor was labeled the L for standard tread and LC for the row crop version. At this time, a smaller tractor was built, labeled the S and LS. Farm Bureau bought a number of these and sold them as Co-Ops.

Huber produced a two- to three-plow stylized tractor, marketed in 1937 as the model B, and an orchard tractor. Just 13 of these machines were made from 1938 through 1940, and one of two known is also owned by Stan and displayed in the museum. These tractors, along with the models L, LC, HS and 40-62 were made until 1942, and the last HK was sold in 1943 to Pan Am.

Huber tractor production was suspended by the War Department during World War II, however, in the late 1930s and early 1940s, a pull-type combine was made. In 1950, Huber tried once again to enter the agricultural market through a post-war Marshall Plan contract. One hundred tractors were to be built for the international market (Argentina alone ordered 125 tractors). The company built 10 tractors, five with Continental gasoline engines and five with Continental diesel engines. These were called the 'Global' B and were painted a burnt orange - the color Huber first used for his prairie tractors built in 1911. But the deal fell through, and production halted. The 10 tractors produced were sold locally. One of the four known to exist is displayed in the museum.

-Assistance with this article was provided by curator Anna May Schwaderer of the Huber Museum; Jim Boblenz, museum board member and newsletter editor; Gary Bader of the Marion County Steam and Gas Engine Club and Huber tractor collector Don Huber. The Huber Museum is open Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m., or by appointment. For more information, contact the curator at the museum, P.O. Box 6010, Marion, OH 43301; (740) 496-4108.

-Jan Shellhouse is a freelance writer and vintage tractor enthusiast who lives in Shelby, Ohio.

'Carpooling' to Marion'

Jim Birk's journey in June to the Marion County Steam and Gas Engine 25th Anniversary Show, at Marion, Ohio, actually began in August 2001. A resident of Hutchinson, Minn., Jim was showing his 1936 Huber model L at a neighborhood threshing bee in Elwood, Minn., when he met George and Mary Huber of Elwood. George and Mary, along with George's brother, Bob, and Bob's wife, Betty, own a 1928 Huber 40-62 tractor.

Jim, George and Mary got to talking, and a couple of weeks later they decided to 'car pool' to the Marion show - 800 miles away. 'I was already planning a trip to the Huber show in Marion, and it just seemed like that big 40-62 should go too,' Jim says. 'I think that Mary was ready to go when I brought it up, but George needed to think it over.'

The day finally arrived, and the Huber tractors were loaded onto a flatbed trailer and tied down.

'Together, they looked like a cow and a calf because of the variation in sizes,' Jim says. Once the tractors were all loaded up, Jim packed his bags, printed travel directions from the Internet and took off.

On June 12 the two Huber tractors arrived back at their Ohio birthplace. It was quite a feeling, Jim says, imagining what people who lived in Marion 65 to 100 years ago might think if they saw old Huber tractors being fixed up and returned to Marion for a special show. 'I think nobody would have believed it, and that's putting it mildly.'

This year's gathering did not disappoint, Jim adds, noting the people were friendly, the mayor gave a special presentation and dinner was served by the museum. 'It was one of the best meals ever,' Jim says. 'I compare it to a hot dog at a ball game: the atmosphere enhanced the entire dining experience; it was like a celebration.' George Huber also says he had a great time and thinks the people were exceptionally friendly, but it was George Schaaf's huge 1916 Huber 35-70 that impressed him most: 'It was exciting to see a big one like the 35-70 because it was made in the style of the old Aultman-Taylors, with the big back wheels.'

By the end of the show, more than 90 Huber tractors had appeared, which inspired George to stop at Oswego, Ind., on the way home to buy a 1936 Huber model L - just like Jim's. It was the perfect ending to a grand trip.