General Manager PION-ERA, Inc., Box 1303, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Like the press and radio people who are always after the unusual story the Western Development Museum is also interested in the unusual exhibit. In the Hovland swather-thresher the Museum Board and staff feel they have acquired an exhibit that can be classed as the 'Only one of its kind'.
The Story really goes back almost sixty years when two brothers, August and Ole Hovland of Ortley, South Dakota, came through with an invention or idea that has revolutionized the harvesting of grain the world over. With enquiring minds the brothers had noticed that when a sheaf of wheat was tossed off a binder with a broken band, the loose sheaf lay on top of the stubble and in two or three days was dry and ready to thresh. In this simple little observation lay the germ of the idea of the swathing of grain for harvesting and threshing.
Once started on this line of thought the brothers went down a field of sheaves cut by the binder, breaking hands and spreading the loose wheat on the stubble. A few days later the wheat was picked up with forks and threshed with a conventional grain separator.
For a year or so the brothers pondered the idea of a new method of harvesting grain by spreading loose grain on stubble fields and using some kind of a machine to pick it up for threshing. Of an inventive turn of mind the Hovland's decided to try out an entirely different approach to grain harvesting. On February 25th, 1907 they applied for a patent on a Central Delivery Reaper and, at the same time they also applied for patent on a travelling thresher.
A small company was formed, blue prints were drawn up and work started on this somewhat amazing project. These men were years ahead of their time. It was before the day of the arc welder and the acetyline torch. With no previous experiences to guide them these men went ahead as true trail blazers. One Centre Delivery Swather was built and one travelling thresher.
The field swathing with the centre delivery swather was used in the harvest of 1910 and was followed by the travelling harvester that was towed behind the enormous tractor. The Museum has photographs of this terrific advance in harvesting taken at Ortley in 1910. It was claimed by the Hovlands that the pick up attachment they invented would handle both loose grain and sheaves.
A few years ago the Western Development Museum was notified by the grape vine about. these machines which had not caught the farmers or manufacturers eye at that time and as a result this type of harvesting was not pursued. The Hovland Harvesting Company was disbanded and this first step in modernizing harvesting was lost for twenty years.
Through the generosity of Iver and Mary Hovland of Ortley, a nephew of the Hovlands, and the kindness of Helmer H. Hanson of Lajord, Saskatchewan and through the efforts of many other interested people, the Museum secured these machines as exhibits. It was not easy. The transportation of these huge machines from South Dakota to Saskatoon cost close to one thousand dollars and the restoration of these machines abandoned for fifty years has cost close to $6,500.00.
The reconditioning of these machines presented major problem to the mechanics in the Museum workshop. The two engines that had made up the power plant were restored to running order and a couple of sacks of good South Dakota soil that had drifted into the separator were cleaned out. Most of the wooden parts had to be replaced, new belts were acquired and a complete renovation of the three machines was necessary. The shop foreman, Bill Phipps, says the machines are now ready to go to the harvest field on an hours notice.
This is what the Board of Directors and staff of the Western Development Museum are trying to accomplish. To preserve and re-create the past for the future. The Hovland thresher is a good example of such efforts.
In the space of one short article it is out of the question to give all the information on these machines that revolutionized the harvesting of grain and can be seen at no other place in the world that at the Saskatoon Museum. Here is real vital agricultural history that is exciting tremendous interest in the ranks of the farm historians and scientists from all corners of the globe. Come and see for yourselves.