LETTING OFF STEAM

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With this issue we present the final chapter in the comprehensive history of the Aultman & Taylor Company as recorded by the late Dr. Lorin E. Bixler. This last installment, Chapter 16, documents the once-great company's final slide into the history books.

If you've been following this series since its first installment almost three years ago in the November/December 2000 issue of Iron-Men Album, you no doubt appreciate the completeness of Bixler's research on the company. Hardly a newcomer to research and writing, Bixler spent his life in education, and his interests in steaming and history (he once owned a 16 HP Russell) first combined in the book Cornelius Aultman, C. Aultman & Co., and the Aultman Co., which was published by Stemgas Publishing Co. in 1967.

Bixler finished his second manuscript in 1977, but it remained unpublished (with the exception of a few chapters) until its discovery by steam enthusiast Robert T. Rhodes, a man well-known to readers of these pages.

Rhodes, an english professor at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Hights, Ky., heard rumors of Bixler's second manuscript, which prompted his search for Bixler's final work. After discovering Bixler's manuscript in the collection of the Mansfield (Ohio) Public Libray, Rhodes turned his attention to getting it published. Rhodes carefully condensed and edited Bixler's manuscript, and the resulting story, published over 16 issues, is a thorough and engaging history. Much more than simply the history of a company, it is also the compelling story of an era in American history and the forces of change at work in American society, culture and technology.

It's thanks to Bob Rhodes and his dogged determination that Bixler's manuscript came to light in the first place. Bob's interest in the history of American agriculture, and particularly the age of steam, is a boon to us all. If any of you have yet to read Bob's wonderful book The Harvest Story, Recollections of Old-Time Threshermen, you simply don't know what you're missing.

Bixler's work is now complete, and it's gratifying to know the history of Aultman & Taylor has been preserved and that the steam community played an integral role in that preservation.