Content Tools

The genius of pioneer inventors can confound us. Countless contraptions that revolutionized farming in the 19th and early 20th centuries have become contemporary curiosities, or even mysteries. Here are four sent in by readers. Do you know what they are?


A. Measures 24 inches by 9 inches; weighs about 2 pounds. Winding ratchet: 3-1/2 inches in diameter. Holding ratchet: 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Oak spools: 2 inches by 2 inches. Hemp string original length, about 2 feet. Original color gold, ratchets blue. Top end pointed with hammered head showing it was hammered into wood to hold apparatus when ratchet was wound to tighten strings. No markings. Made not to come apart. Original strings tied tight to spools with a staple on each side of spool so as to remain fastened to the apparatus.

B. Cast in: Brown & Sharp Mfg. Co., Providence, RI USA.

C. Measures 15 inches long, has a 7/8-inch ring and a 13/16-inch ball. Shaped like a pair of pliers with spoon-shape handles. Spring-loaded, no markings; cast construction.

D. Approximately 8 inches long, all wood. The center portion spins on a wood rod with a small wood cap on the end.

Answers to this month's items will appear in the August issue.


A. Handle from a Maimin cloth cutter, as identified by Wayne Reinhardt, Catawba, N.C. "These cloth cutters are used in the furniture, bedding and apparel industries to cut fabric, padding, etc., in single or multiple layers," he says. Photo submitted by Donald Ahrens, Hartsburg, Ill.

B. Cartridge loading implement, as identified by Jim Moyer, Ulysses, Kan.; Donald Walker, Buchanan, Va.; Bill Raymor; Lyndel Biby Enid, Okla.; Doug Schmid, Carrington, N.D.; Kenny Gearhart Sr., Bellevue, Neb.; Howard Ettleman, Percival, Iowa; James B. Utgard, Amery, Wis.; Maurice Davis, Binghamton, N.Y.; Keith Ryder, Wheaton, Ill; Jerry Boyer, Ireton, Iowa; Dale Schleichardt, Phillips, Neb.; Emil Vahrenberg, Chamois, Mo.; Ken Kozak, Phillips, Wis.; Gary Yeutter, Cozad, Neb.; James R. Tuning, Soldotna, Alaska; Terry V. Brown, Independence, Kan.; Tom Maslowsky; George A. Kruse, Redfield, Kan.; Lawrence Thurston, Leslie, Ark.; Donald Saevre, Janesville, Wis.; Bernard Geisel, Sturgeon Bay, Wis.; Paul A. Fossler, Polo, Ill.; Quentin Hoffman, Wilmont, Minn.; Louis Harnish, Wayland, Mich.; Carl A. Black, Sullivan, Mo.; James Blankenship, Tellico Plains, Tenn.; Jim Potee, Valparaiso, Ind.; Robert Christians, Valley Center, Kan.; Tom Mariska, Montgomery, Minn.; and Donald Mitchell, Duncannon, Pa.

"This is part of a set of tools to reload shotgun shells," says Donald Walker. "This particular tool is used to seat the primer in the empty shell." As noted by Lyndel Biby, "In the old days, out on the prairie, they reloaded their shells since there was no store close by." Keith Ryder adds this: "The number 8 means it's for an 8-gauge shell (a big size that was becoming obsolete and even illegal in the U.S. by 1900). The ring accepts the rim of the shell and the little nib presses a primer into place; it is used for reloading brass or paper shot shells. In antique malls and on eBay I've seen numerous 12-gauge priming tools and a few 10-gauge, but I think the 8-gauge tools may be uncommon. That tool could have been used by a market hunter." Photo submitted by Ernest Nikodim, Nevada, Mo.

Patent 188,872: Cartridge-loading implement, patented by James H. Dudley, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., March 27, 1877.

C. Combination tool for blacksmiths, as identified by Philip Sponem, Jefferson, Wis.; Robert R. Wilson, Evansville, Ind.; Virgil Cassill, Drakesville, Iowa; Leon Rick, Stone Lake, Wis.; Terry V. Brown; Mark Yoder, Goshen, Ind.; John Olson, Parsons, Kan.; and Marlin O. Herbst, Merrill, Iowa. The piece included a rotary blower and forge, drill and grindstone, anvil, vise, and pipe vise. Photo submitted by Indian Creek Historical Museum, Hastings, Iowa.

D. A nutcracker made between 1880 and 1930, identified by Ann S. Rogers, Leesburg, Fla. The "crossover type" could be used for small or large nuts. Photo submitted by Lloyd Whitworth, Hillsboro, Ill.

To submit photos:

Send prints to Farm Collector, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609. Send digital images to: editor@farmcollector.com.

• Photos should be taken in a well-lit area against a plain background. Include dimensions and any markings on the piece. We cannot guarantee every photo will be published, nor can we respond to inquiries regarding when photos will be published. No photos will be returned.

• Digital photos should be sent as .jpgs at a minimum of 300 dpi.

To identify an item:

Send answers (accompanied by your name and address) to Farm Collector, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609. E-mail responses may be sent to editor@farmcollector.com.