Winter? Who remembers winter?!? It’s show season! And that means a happy jumble of collectors and collections, relics restored and unrestored, new discoveries and warm reunions.
While the general idea of an old iron show is the same from coast to coast, clubs naturally put their own spin on the events, often showcasing local flavor of one kind or another. From the choice of feature tractor or engine to the menu at the concessions stands, regional differences give shows unique flair.
Shows often afford the opportunity to get acquainted with a splinter group of collectors. The Spark Plug Collectors of America, for instance, have an enthusiastic, permanent presence at the Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Assn. show in Portland, Indiana, every summer. The Fuller & Johnson Museum at the Badger Steam & Gas Engine Club in Baraboo, Wisconsin, serves as a clubhouse for F&J fans. Then there’s the Antique Caterpillar Machinery Museum at Antique Powerland, Brooks, Oregon … the Connecticut Antique Machinery Assn. is adjacent to the Sloane-Stanley Museum, home of an incredible display of Stanley tools … antique cars, trucks and scooters (and antique construction equipment) are a big sideline at the Florida Flywheelers show. The list goes on and on and on.
If there’s any common denominator among old iron enthusiasts (beyond an abiding affection for ice cream!), it’s their inability to say “no.” Engine collectors get interested in antique spark plugs and then make the leap to paper collectibles and suddenly they’re eyeing century-old advertising lithographs and watch fobs.
But you can’t beat that kind of cross-pollination. There’s a real satisfaction that comes in fitting together all the pieces of this hobby’s puzzle. We are drawn like bees to a diverse garden. Before you know it, you’ve learned about a specialized niche, and that can help you connect the dots representing advancements in time, evolving technology and changing needs.
And that’s important, because this hobby is about more than merely preserving machinery. All of the collections, all of the shows, the restorations, the museums, displays and demonstrations – they’re keeping a way of life alive. This country’s agricultural traditions are an essential part of our American heritage. Celebrate that heritage this summer. Check out a new show, a new display, a new museum. Keep the tradition alive! FC