Did you know that there are more than 3,000 kinds of barbed wire? Stanley and Twila Mackey do. They have 180 different types as part of their farm tool collection. Over the years, the Mackeys and their son and daughter-in-law, John and Marilyn, have collected an amazing array of old tools, barbed wire, planting items and everything else imaginable.
"We started collecting when we were working on the farm," Twila said. "It just kept increasing. We would go to sales and pick stuff up. Soon, we mounted them and decided to show them at farm festivals."
The Mackeys enjoy sharing their tool collection, and helping people learn about old tools and the use of what were once everyday items. Their collectibles run the gamut from common to unique, but all represent the best of what was available at a given time.
"People just don't realize that, at the time, this was the best we had to do with," Stanley said.
The Mackey's tool collection was part of the 6th annual John Deere Two Cylinder Tractor Show at Effingham, Ill., this spring. Sponsored by the Old National Trail Two Cylinder Club and the East Central Illinois Two Cylinder Club, the show was held in an unusual venue: A shopping mall.
Treasures gathered by the Mackeys over a 55-year farming career nearly filled the space once occupied by a commercial property. Stanley is attracted to oddball collectibles.
"I like anything that is unusual, if it is related to the farm or kitchen," he said, "even household items, such as meat grinders."
His favorite tool, for instance, is a duck bill clipper, so named for obvious reasons. The clippers were used in the wheat harvest.
"When they bound wheat, they used wire," he said. "It was cheaper than twine."
The Mackeys also enjoy collecting seed sacks. They have 52, including a rare David Bradley piece.
"David Bradley sold houses, plows, and barns through Sears & Roebuck," Stanley said. "I went on a barn tour where they had a David Bradley barn. I found the seed sack in Anita, Iowa."
Also in their collection: Kitchen items. The Mackeys have an all-wood apple peeler, in which the apple was placed on pins; a sauerkraut cutter; a 1905 cake mixer, and unusual can openers. Another of their favorites: An 1876 butter kneader. They also have a 1930s vintage Sears & Roebuck bread kneader that originally sold for about $3.
The collection includes larger pieces, as well: Washing machines and kerosene lamps. One related item that drew a lot of attention was a kerosene lamp filler made by the Daisy company, dating to April 6, 1881. Another crowd pleaser was the Sugar Devil, used to break up lumps in sugar.
The Mackeys' tool collection ranges from pieces as small as the duck bill clippers to those as large as a loose hay fork patented in 1863. Restoration work is generally limited to cleaning with a wire brush. The vast collection shows what can be done when a family makes a commitment to salvaging rusty old things from the barn. FC
Cindy Ladage is a freelance writer based in Virden, Ill.