The history of American makes of engines and threshers

Burning portable

N & S straw burning portable with a power feeding apparatus of 1880.

E. R. Potter

Content Tools

6701 Tenth Avenue South Minneapolis, Minnesota

We are happy to present here the first article on the history of American makes of engines and threshers. Mr. Hans J. Andersen of 6701 10th Ave., So., Minneapolis, Minn., is the author.

Many of you have requested such articles and we know you will greatly enjoy them. Mr. Andersen says that most of the pictures that appear with the article are from the collection of E. R. Potter of Canada.

Walking west from Detroit in search of a new location to practice his trade as blacksmith and millwright, John Nichols found Battle Creek to his liking. Setting up shop, he sent back for his family and settled down to what he thought would be a comfortable future.

This was not to be, for the following year, 1849, the gold rush fever struck the country and the westward dash was begun. The wagon trains which undertook the hazardous journey required the presence of skilled blacksmiths and wheelwrights to keep their rolling stock in condition for the trip. For this purpose Nichols was persuaded to accompany a local party. The lust for gold was not for him so he fulfilled his agreement and returned to his shop at Battle Creek.

The earnings from his trip enabled him to increase his shop facilities, which brought his customers from far around. Many of them were farmers come to have their crude implements repaired or new ones made to replace those worn out.

The business resulting from his larger shop and knowledge gained by contact with farmers and their mechanical problems gave John Nichols reason to believe a small foundry would prove profitable. In the early fifties, with the aid of David Shepard to share the additional financial and business duties, a small foundry was added. Some of their early products were agricultural implements, mill irons, and small stationary steam engines.

Their business prospered and the number of employees grew, so when Edwin C, son of John Nichols, was old enough he took his place in the shop to learn the trade and later become a partner.

During the late fifties there was a growing demand for threshing machinery which drew the interest of the partners. An investigation of the field disclosed that a new type of threshing machine, known as the vibrating type, was rapidly gaining favor over the then tried and true apron machine.

After a survey of the situation, Nichols and Shepard developed a vibrating type threshing machine based on Stuarts lifting finger patent and the first was built in 1858.

Their early efforts were not very successful, but proved educational, for in 1862 Nichols & Shepard patented a counterbalanced straw rack and grain pan device which proved successful and made their machines popular.

During 1865, Henry H. Taylor, a general agent for C . Aultman & Co., at Chicago, was selling their apron threshing machines at such a rate the factory could not keep him supplied. He did notice the trend toward the vibrating type machine, which led him to the young firm of Nichols & Shepard. In fact his interest was so great he bought a third share in the firm.

Taylor's investment in the firm helped them to enlarge their facilities in an effort to supply the demand for these new vibrating threshing machines. But it seemed that the more they built the more were wanted.