“Build a better mousetrap and the world will
beat a path to your door.” What captivates Americans if not the
possibility of a better idea? And where is that passion for
progress more evident than on the farm? In this issue of Farm
Collector, Ralph Hughes traces the development of corn
combining, a practice hailed as one of the most significant
developments in agricultural technology of all time.
Farmers as a group tend to regard new ideas with some
skepticism. And so, despite the fact the corn combines were
demonstrated to reduce harvesting costs, reduce field losses,
increase the number of acres harvested in a day, cut the need for
storage space and eliminate the need for a commercial corn sheller,
a fair amount of salesmanship was required to seal the deal in farm
But if anyone is entitled to feel skeptical about a new idea or
new piece of technology, it’s the farmer. No other category of
small businessmen in the history of this country has encountered as
many scams. For decades, con artists have preyed on farmers
desperate for something to help lighten the load. In fact, it was
inflated product claims that lead to the birth of the Nebraska
Tractor Tests, ensuring that when farmers forked over their
hard-earned cash for a tractor, the equipment at least performed to
the level of advertised claims.
Advertising and promotion, of course, have played a major role
in ag technology for well over 100 years. In this issue, Sam Moore
writes of the new agricultural technology unveiled to breathless
onlookers at the Paris Exhibition of 1900. While few American
farmers attended that event, farmers all over Europe did, and that
helped fledgling manufacturers in the U.S. become international
powerhouses, growing both their fortunes and those of this country.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., farmers routinely flocked to major
exhibitions in Chicago and New York, and lesser events closer to
home. For many, seeing was believing.
And for those who couldn’t afford the newest bells and whistles,
there remained yet another cherished farm tradition: baling wire
and duct tape. Resourcefulness is another hallmark of the American
farmer. Tales of farm-based modifications, retrofits and salvage
operations are legendary. But I’ve run out of space … those are
stories for another issue!
Leslie McManus, Editor