Between the Bookends: Delving into Hand Held Corn Shellers

Author Jim Moffet looks at corn items in his new book, The Hand Held Corn Sheller &

The Hand Held Corn Sheller &

A page from The Hand Held Corn Sheller & ... showing a rare T-handle sheller.

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If you have any interest at all in the big picture of antique farm equipment, you will want to add a new book by Jim Moffet to your library. The Hand Held Corn Sheller & … tells just about everything you’d ever want to know about the device. But Moffet does not limit his scope to the hand held sheller. In fact, at the end of that part of the book he is just getting up to cruising speed. 

As he notes in the book’s introduction, “My heroes were the men who husked the corn in the fields in the great cornbelt of America.” This strong affection is no doubt partly rooted in a singular event in the author’s childhood. In 1938, the Illinois cornhusking competition was held at his family’s farm near Modesto, Ill. … and 85,000 people came to watch. It was inevitable that the Illinois farm boy would have an enormous interest in all things related to the event.

The Hand Held Corn Sheller & ... catalogs and describes all the tools of the husker’s trade, and many others that were used to plant and process the crop. Every known type of corn sheller – scrubber style, T-style, T-handle, multi-hole, clam style, tong style, skillet style, sleeve style, aluminum sleeve and nubbers – is included, as are shellers defying categorization and pieces used to strip kernels from seed corn.

 At that point, you’re just two-thirds of the way through the book. The back third is a gem of a section covering soup to nuts: very interesting and rare free-standing shellers, box shellers, World War II-era scrap metal drives, check wire and rope, corn planters, leg-mounted stalk cutters, shock binders, husking pegs, seed corn dryers, fence post signs, sacks and other memorabilia. Throughout the book are very fine examples of period advertising, including fabulous early color lithographs.

Other bonus material includes dozens of U.S. patents giving background and explanations of sheller use, newspaper clips detailing the 1938 contest at the Moffet farm and a great section explaining the true identity of pieces commonly misidentified as shellers.

The book is packed with excellent photos of shellers showing close-up detail; many so good that you’ll be tempted to run your finger over the castings. Great photography and reproduction are augmented by multiple shots of various pieces from different angles. Ears of corn are put to work to give context and clarity. The photos even show wooden patterns used to create shellers in the foundry.

An active, long time member of the Corn Items Collectors Assn., Moffet is part of a strong network of collectors who freely exchange information about their hobby. His book continues in that vein, as he shares insights on patent searches, origins of the sheller and the history of the category. Anyone interested in old iron will find The Hand Held Corn Sheller & ... an invaluable, solidly researched resource – and one well deserving of a close read. FC 

The Hand Held Corn Sheller & …, by Jim Moffet, 2010, 300 pages, color photos, $40 postpaid, available directly from the author: Jim Moffet, 8900 Moffet Lane, Modesto, IL 62667; (217) 439-7358; e-mail: workshop2@frontiernet.net. 

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