The Wood Bros.’ Masterpiece

Wood Bros. banked on quality and innovation.

An intricate Wood Bros. logo

An elegant logo for Wood Bros. Thresher Co., Des Moines, Iowa, is a focal point on Mel’s engine.

Photo by Bill Vossler

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Franz John Wood and his brother, R.L., began making harvesting machinery in 1893 in Rushford, Minn. They moved to Des Moines, Iowa, in 1899, building threshers like the Humming Bird and the Individual.

While on a trip, R.L. Wood saw steam engines breaking the prairie and heard about them also breaking gears. So on the train, according to Jack Norbeck in Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines, “he conceived the idea to build a double-geared traction engine for plowing and breaking the prairie. Realizing the great strain that would be constantly on the gears, bearings and shafting, he made these all extra heavy and encased the gears in order that they might run in oil. Several years later he built this engine, and it proved to be what he called ‘my masterpiece.’”

In about 1911, the brothers began building their steam traction engine. A year after Mel Kerr’s 1912 Wood Bros. steam traction engine was produced, the company adopted a new trademark. According to an April 1913 account in the American Thresherman’s Review and Power Farming magazine: “The enlarged business of the Wood Bros. Thresher Co., following the success of this firm’s entry into the manufacture of engines and separators, has led to the adoption of a new trademark emblematic of the high standard of the products of the company.

“The design selected is in the form of a shield. Portraits of the two Wood brothers worked into the design signify the personal and active interest these two threshermen take in the manufacture of their machinery and in seeing that those who purchase their products obtain satisfactory results from them in service.

“Hereafter the new trademark will appear on all Wood Bros. products and will be featured in the company’s advertising.”

R.L. Wood said the trademark would represent high ideals. “We are going to make this new trademark give a new meaning to ‘Quality’ and ‘Reliability.’”

The company also built the Wood Bros. combine. FC

Read more about Wood Bros. in 1912 Wood Bros. Steam Engine Stays in Family.