First Things


The Impact of American Industry

First ThingsFor many old iron enthusiasts, the history of early farm equipment manufacturers is as intriguing as the pieces they produced. In this issue of Farm Collector, we consider the industry behind the inventions and the toil behind the profits.

The Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum – housing what was long known as the Soulé Steam Feed Works – gives a rare glimpse into what is believed to be America’s last intact steam engine factory. Opened in 1892, the Soulé works was a leading local employer in Meridian, Mississippi, for more than a century.

Today, the factory lives on as a museum, one that puts a high priority on education. “A lot of kids today are not exposed to work or manufacturing,” founder Jim McRae says. “We’re presenting something here to spark their interest, to help them decide what it is they want to do.”

Indeed, when the Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum completed an extensive historical documentation and research project in 2005, the report noted that Soulé Steam Feed Works was one of only five remaining late-19th/early-20th-century foundry/machine shop/factories with original workings in the U.S. Before World War II, there were more than 1,000 such businesses in this country.

Today, the Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum keeps that legacy alive, and you can read all about it in this issue. This issue also tells the story of restoration of a mammoth 1917 Vilter Corliss, one of three 150-ton workhorses in a meatpacking plant until its closure in 1979. Earlier industrial workers – draftsmen, iron molders, machinists, woodworkers, blacksmiths and painters – are the focus of this issue’s Iron Age Ads.

In his column, Sam Moore delves into the history of the Hart-Parr organization, down to and including an early labor conflict. And Don McKinley takes us back to the era when bluegrass seed was a cash crop in the Midwest. For a time, local manufacturers produced ground-driven machinery for local producers, a far cry from the 1880s, when women and young boys harvested the crop by hand.

The Industrial Revolution put an end to that kind of labor, provided employment for millions and made this country a global leader in technology and industrial processes. The proud legacy of early American industry endures today, and provides a firm foundation for this country as it faces the challenges of the future.

Leslie C. McManus
LMcManus@ogdenpubs.com

Lots of Miscellaneous Business

Leslie C. McManus

Random thoughts while tracking responses identifying a chimney cleaner in this issue’s What Is It section: Of the roughly 237,423 readers identifying the piece, all appear to reside north of the Mason-Dixon Line – which may explain the interesting notions of the piece’s use ventured by some of our southern readers. Responses came from most northern states (and Canada), with the most coming from Minnesota.

Fond memories while reading Bill Vossler’s article on restoration of a 1908 fire engine in North Dakota: Kraig Tracy, who was involved in preserving the piece, remembers it from his childhood. “It and an old truck were stored in an old building,” Kraig says. “We used to go in there and mess around with that old stuff.”

I was instantly transported to my own childhood, a time when I believed it was my birthright to snoop around any old thing that had been more or less abandoned in the small town where I grew up.

A nearby vacant lot held what I now know was a corn sheller, surrounded by aging piles of cobs. Just over a block away was what I now know to be an old corn planter, complete with seed corn in the hopper. For a townie, who knew nothing of farm implements, that machinery was mysterious and fascinating – and old, a condition that only enhanced its appeal to a nosy little kid.

It was a different era, one in which children were turned loose and expected to spend limitless hours playing outside, largely unsupervised. Every now and then you’d get tangled up with somebody who had strong feelings about the distinction between private property and playground, but things in general were just so simple back then.

And all kinds of good vibrations while reading of the chance friendship resulting from publication of a letter published in Farm Collector last summer. No spoiler here – read all about it in this issue’s letters section – but suffice to say it is an example of the best part of this hobby. Cheers to Eugene and Norman, and to all of you who’ve forged new connections through old iron! FC

Making Connections in the Hobby

Leslie C. McManus

This issue of Farm Collector is full of unexpected connections. In an article by J.O. Parker, reporting on the enthusiastic dedication of two Nebraskans, we learn about the way farmers once used rock crushers to create an extra revenue stream. Both for agricultural use as a soil additive and for use in road construction, rock crushers on the farm earned their keep – although the claim made in a 1921 ad for a manufacturer of rock crushers (“Make Big Money Crushing Limestone”) seems perhaps a bit optimistic.

That thread of entrepreneurship finds its way to an article by Jon Fieker. Writing about a business partnership established by his grandfather and great-uncle, Jon shows what two enterprising young men could accomplish a century ago with a traction steam engine. Roadwork (including rock crushing), sawing, threshing and more kept the engine busy and two young families afloat. The engines used in that partnership are long gone, but the brothers’ passion for steam endures two generations later.

Family ties also surface in an article by Bill Vossler, who reports on the Minnesota man who cherishes his daughter’s involvement in his old engine hobby. The two attend shows together, working side by side as they run engines from his collection. Having grown up around engines, Emily Knish tends to the hobby in both a hands-on way and with an eye to the future, telling her friends about old engines and encouraging them to attend shows.

And that’s the thread that leads us to Mutti Ketola, who collects chainsaws, and loves to share that page from the past with others. As writer Jerry Mattson explains, chainsaws are just part of Mutti’s collection. He’s filled seven restored barns with antique hand tools, hit-and-miss engines, chainsaws and more. Mutti enjoys nothing more than giving tours. Indeed, visitors from all over the world have had a look at his treasures.

All of these folks have at least one thing in common: They love their hobby, and they’re pretty sure others will too, if they can just reel ’em in and tell them all about it. They love the history, they love the early technology and they love bringing it all back to life. Enthusiasm like that helps build connections – and connections are what keep this hobby strong. Show season is fast approaching: What new connections can you make this year? FC

Leslie C. McManus
LMcManus@ogdenpubs.com

A Place for You in the Community

Leslie C. McManus

Years ago, when I knew everything and routinely felt the need to demonstrate that fact, a wise woman fixed her gaze on me and pronounced words that stuck: “Each day,” she said, “has its own surprises.”

Each year, too. We don’t know everything that’s coming in 2019, but we do know there are some great changes underway at Ogden Publications, publisher of Farm Collector.

As we move into 2019, Ogden will sharpen its focus on the community surrounding Farm Collector, looking for ways to better serve you — and make this business sustainable for the long haul.

Technically, we exist in a relationship of magazine and subscribers. But I’ve long considered Farm Collector more of a community of like-minded folks than a business model. In my mind’s eye, you – all of you! – are always together at a big show, surrounded by others who share a deep interest in old iron, traditional farming methods and early American ingenuity.

When one of you poses a question in a letter to the editor or on our website, you hear from the community. When you’re at a show and your tractor or engine or truck or trailer has a hiccup, others drop what they’re doing to help. When somebody has the good fortune to happen onto a great find, the story cascades from collector to collector.

None of that is going to change – but it will grow stronger. In the future, you won’t simply subscribe to Farm Collector. Instead, you’ll have the opportunity to choose membership in any of the Ogden communities, including communities for vintage farm engine collectors, classic motorcycle enthusiasts, and people interested in self-sufficiency, homesteading and heirloom plants.

Nothing will change with Farm Collector: It’ll still show up in your mailbox every month like it always has. But your ability to access the community will expand. For the same price as your subscription, your membership in this community will give you Farm Collector every month as well as full access to all of our soon-to-be-gated websites, member-only resources and fixed discounts on books and products.

I don’t know what this new year will bring, but my crystal ball shows good things ahead for everyone in the Farm Collector community. When I learn more, I’ll be sure to share details with you. As we strengthen our connections and expand resources, the future for this hobby looks bright indeed!

A Trip for an Armchair Tourist

Leslie C. McManusI love to travel, but I also enjoy the occasional “armchair tourist” experience. When the weather is foul, it’s nice to hunker down in the house and be transported by a book or an article. And that’s what I love about our show photo issue every year.

In the first place, those photos cover events held over much of the continental U.S. You’d be on the go for four months straight if you attempted to take in all those shows in person.

But even if you could just click your heels and be there, you’d likely see different things than these photographers did, and in different ways. You might visit a show on a sunny day and have an entirely different view of it than the photographer did.

Or you might not know anyone at the show you drop in on – so you might miss the 100-year-old steam engines that have been passed down through four generations … or the 80 Allis-Chalmers D-21 tractors in one place at one time… or the sight of a grandson and gramps, scampering around the show grounds happily unsupervised.

I hope you enjoy this year’s selection. The photographers did a terrific job of catching the action, of framing the scene, of telling a story. It’s easy to look at a photo and say, “Well I could have taken that picture” – but when the pedal hits the metal, photography is a multi-faceted challenge of subject, composition, lighting and motion (and better throw in some patience for good measure). Thanks to all who shared their photos!

And finally, yes, the same hands are on the steering wheel here at Farm Collector. When travelling with subscribers, as I did in August during the Farm Collector tour of England, Wales and Ireland, it became immediately apparent — thank you for your gentle suggestion, Cletus! — that the photo of the editor appearing on this page in each issue had aged at a different pace than that of the physical specimen, which is to say, not at all.

Shall we just say the editor has acquired a certain distinctive patina – one that many of our loyal readers have personal experience with – and leave it at that? After all, you never want to pick a fight with the person who buys ink by the barrel!

Cheers to age and experience! FC

Doing the Right Thing for Charity

Leslie C. McManus

This fall, a man decided to sell a couple old tractors and donate the proceeds, with a best-guess value of $5,000, to charity. But when the auction crew gave the tractors a close look, they turned up something out of the ordinary. One of the tractors – a 1928 John Deere GP – was, in fact, the very first cultivating tractor produced by Deere & Co.

Deere manufactured the GP series from 1928 to 1935. The serial number on this one (200211) confirmed that it was Deere’s first regular production row-crop tractor. Suddenly we are talking about what my father would have referred to as “a horse of a different color.”

A tractor of considerable historic significance, this one belonged to a man who probably figured he’d clear out his shed and make a modest donation to a good cause. When one of the tractors turned out to be incredibly rare, nobody would have faulted him for reconsidering that donation and pocketing a windfall.

In the end, nobody had to, because the tractor’s owner (who prefers to remain anonymous) didn’t give it a second thought. The GP remained on the auction, and the church remained the beneficiary. On Oct. 28, the rare tractor would be sold at Aumann Auctions’ Fall Harvest Antique Tractor Auction in Nokomis, Illinois.

After an opening bid of $30,500, the GP sold less than five minutes later for $78,750 (the buyer also chooses to remain anonymous). In an article that appeared in The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Illinois, Rev. James Jones of the Taylorville Christian Church said that the proceeds would go toward an $850,000 building program designed to create a space for large gatherings and house the church’s youth ministry. “It’s just a real blessing to the church,” he said.

The tractor’s discovery hit the John Deere collector world like a brick in the face, auctioneer Kurt Aumann told the Journal-Register. “Tractor collecting has been around for 50 years, and you hear often that all the good stuff has been found,” he said. “Well, this just kind of keeps the dream alive.”

And not just collectors’ dreams. If you’re looking for evidence that integrity and decency and generosity still exist, you’ve found it. As we slip into this special time of year, this story shines like a light in the darkness. From all of us at Farm Collector, our very best wishes to you and yours this holiday season! FC

Driven by a Dream for a Case Road Locomotive

Leslie C. McManusWhatever you do, do not get in Kory Anderson's way.

It's not that Kory is a malicious sort. But words like reverse, retreat, stop and surrender are not part of his vocabulary. Instead, his passion is fueled by a high-octane formula of plain, old-fashioned determination.

For much of his life, Kory has been consumed by the thought of a Case 150hp Road Locomotive. "The 150hp Case steam engine was built as the largest steam traction engine of its time, but all we have left are the stories and a few pictures," he says. "Ever since I was a little boy, I've been fascinated by it."

Few people know much about the largest steam engine Case constructed. Only nine were built from 1904-07 and not a single one is known to survive. Even in the small group of people who've actually heard of the Case Road Locomotive, there were skeptics. Over time, the massive engine began to look suspiciously like a myth to some — but not to Kory.

For most folks, childhood dreams fade quickly. Only rarely do they take root and grow, and even more rarely do those dreams become reality. So when you read in this issue of Farm Collector the story of Kory Anderson's creation of a correct, authentic, working replica of a 150 Case Road Locomotive, you will know you've got hold of something special.

I'm not going to rain on writer Loretta Sorensen's parade. She did a terrific job with this article, and you'll enjoy settling in with it. Nor am I going to ramble on about time and money spent in pursuit of a dream, or the mechanical genius it took to bring this marvelous thing into being.

But I will say a thing or two about dreams. They are as fragile as gossamer and as strong as steel. They are nonsensical to many but set a steady course for others. They cast some onto the shoals; they lift some to unimaginable heights. And it is not all that often you see one realized. With this issue of Farm Collector, I hope you'll enjoy a close look at one man's dream brought to life! FC







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Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

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