A Salesman's Thrill

Swinging engine

A 1823 picture taken near Oil City, Pennsylvania doing contract work for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. It is a Marion 60. Half circle swing. It took three men to operate it. Fireman, Cab Operator (Mr. King was the Cab Operator and is standing near th

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Tacoma, Ohio

REVERTING BACK TO the year 1895 my mind did instinctively teach me that machinery was to be my life work. Especially the operating and selling of the steam engine and threshers it  powered, which I loved so well, together with other auxiliaries the steamers drove.

Somehow when we think of thresher salesmen we think of Marcus Leonard and E C. Foreman. Both have grown in years with a kindly spirit. One in the east and the other in the west. One in the mountains and the other on the plains. Both are very good writers and an inspiration to our Hobby. May the Good Lord Bless and give them health and happiness for many years yet for them and us to enjoy ELMER

Just recently, after sixty-three years, while pondering over old time letters and inquiries asking for prices and terms of threshing machinery from prospective buyers. Many of the inquiries were interesting but hard to determine their actual worth of spending time and money to run them down or to see the parties. One old and half forgotten inquiry of June 1908, fifty years ago, deserves a write-up owning to having sold a 10 hp. traction engine and a 24 inch plain thresher. Following is a copy of the original inquiry

June 1-1908. Please. Gentlemen, send by early mail one of your picture books of steam turned thresh boxes and self run steam engines that will draw the thresh box on road from stooks and barnes to others. And make good low price spot cash set in our lot.

Jane Ann and Jake ---, West Virginia

The inquiry from this German family did seem like a puzzle. And a question if a trip of quite a long distance would warrant time and cost. A cash deal decided the matter. A worthless trip would not be anything new. We took a main line train to a point, then a narrow gauge for some twenty miles more. Went to a livery stable for a rig. Everything was out for the day. I made known to the German liveryman who I wanted to see. He said, 'Jake the up-country Dutchman who runs a thresh box. Shust a mile up the railroad or creek.' I walked up and found Jake, Sr., and Jake, Jr., together with the wife and mother in construction in case they had to run their old outfit, which today would be an antique of real value.

The thresher they called a thresh box had at one time been powered by a tread power. The upright engine had a beam and weight for a relief valve. They were very anxious for a price on a 10 hp. traction and a plain 24 in. thresher. With Jane Ann, who evidently did have control of the money matters, doing most of the talking. The price for the outfit was agreed on, but they insisted on the engine and thresher being delivered in their yard where spot cash would be made. I told them this could not be done. The rig would have to be sent to their nearest standard rail-road station some 20 miles away where they pay freight and settle at a bank in cash before unloading.

They finally agreed to these terms if someone came to run it off the car and run it to their place with them helping the 20 mile trip. The order was signed by Jake, Sr., Jane Ann, and Jake, Jr.

The last of June the outfit was set in ready to be unloaded. Jake and wife were on hand. I found Jane Ann carried the pocketbook as she paid the freight then to the bank to pay for the rig.

We got the unloading done by late evening ready for an early start next morning. Before we got the outfit off Jake got somewhat charged up on something stronger than river water that flowed close by. I told him that if he were in that shape in the morning the rig would not be moved. He said he could get as drunk as a mountain owl and still go better than sober people.

The next morning Jake was right there before daylight and sober, saying he was shust as fresh as a new potato dug from the old German soil.

We got started just as the sun was showing over the distant mountains. We made good time as water and coal was plentiful. The only thing we could not agree on was he wanted to have the water in the boiler to top of glass. I said no. He said, 'well if you blow my enshine up you pay me every tarn cent, if alive.' Some few miles out we met Jake Jr., with a good team of horses and tank wagon. I insisted that they put the team to the thresher, the water tank to the engine and a chain from tank to thresher tongue and Jake, Sr., drive the team and Jake, Jr., fire the engine. The team of horses soon got wise and let the engine do the pulling of the thresher.

Everything went fine until we came to a bad bridge. I would not risk taking the engine over. They took the thresher over while I hunted some way to get the engine around. I found a fording by going through a German farmer's land and using his fording over the river. By the time we got the engine to the German farmer's place it was nearly dark. Jake insisted on his German friend, Henry, keeping me overnight so as to have the engine ready to go next morning. Henry said he was glad to do so.

The surroundings did not look any too promising and I wondered if any live stock would meet me half way. There came to mind a verse written at a hotel once which read

The June bug has a wing of gold,
The lightning bug a wing of flame,
The bed bug has no wings,
But he got there just the same.

The next morning we got over the river in fine shape but out of coal. We had to use wood to fire. Hard to keep up steam. Jake said, 'Is the en-shine worn out already?' I found a piece of tin to put on the grate bars next the flues. How that little ten fired and made steam. Jake said, 'Dam good enshine when you know.' We landed in fine shape.

Now after 50 years it is not likely any of these people are living to tell their experiences of the 20 mile trip half a century ago. Jake, Sr., was nearing 65 and Jake, Jr., was 44. To me when writing this it just seems but yesterday when we started on that 20 mile trip that beautiful June morning. I can yet see the sun just peeping up as I pulled the throttle on that little ten. Then steam was at the peak of its glory.


From the DeKalb Chronicle DeKalb, Illinois, August 4, 1958

An estimated 8,000 spectators visited the Lannert farm near Davis Junction, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to see the demonstration of threshing by the Northern Illinois Steam Power Club.

The peak crowd came Sunday when old time threshing weather, hot with a brilliant sun, made even the spectators feel like they were participating in the mid-summer work. It was estimated that over 5,000 attended the demonstration on Sunday alone.

The program, the second annual event for the club, was staged with three engines providing power for 3 separators. Owners and operators of the three engines were Newton Gould, of Elburn, with his Illinois, the last one made by the Illinois Thresher Works of Sycamore; George Hedtke, of Davis Junction with a Case; and Ed Smith of Cortland with a Minneapolis engine. The separators were an Avery Yellow-Fellow and two made by Case.

Seventy acres of oats had been cut and shocked in preparation for the event and although it required some late operations, up until 8 p. m., last night, the last of the bundles had been fed through the machines when the demonstration was completed.

The Lannert farm provided excellent accomodations for the huge crowd with plenty of parking space available, and a spacious grove providing room for the lunch tent, operated by the women of the Davis Junction Church, and their headquarters tent. A half hour out in the threshing area watching the engines and the separators was usually followed by a rest period in the shade of the grove where soft drinks were available.

Two classes of spectators appeared to predominate. One was the old timers, who remembered when they were active on the farm and worked in a ring and had a rig 'just like that one.'

The other group was the younger farmer, who recalled the excitement of the threshing ring on the home farm but was too young to participate. He was there with his son, explaining how the separator worked, and comparing it with the operations of the present day combine. Some of these men pitched a few bundles, just to see how it felt.

Rupert Jordan, president of the Steam Power Club, said the high interest shown in the demonstration this year indicated that the club should seriously consider even a better display for 1959.


If your engines were not listed in the 1956 Directory or 1957 Supplement, or if there were changes in ownership, send your name, address, make, hp., Serial No. of your engines to Mrs. LeRoy Blaker, Secretary, National Threshers Assn., Inc., Alvord-ton, Ohio, before January 30, 1959. f59