Letters: Remembering the Massey Harris Harvest Brigade

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The late Joe Tucker was an important figure in organizing the Massey-Harris Harvest Brigade.
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A trainload of Massey Harris self-propelled combines provides a pictorial representation of the Harvest Brigade 'on their way to the Farm Front.' This picture was first published in the April 1944 issue of "Farm Machinery and Equipment" magazine.

Sam Moore’s story about the World War II-era Massey Harris Harvest Brigade (September 2002) brought responses from readers with personal connections to the event — one who worked with its chief organizer, the other whose father purchased used one of the first self-propelled combines.

Remembering Joe Tucker

What a pleasure it was to read about Joe Tucker and his Harvest Brigade (Farm Collector, September 2002). It told of a fine effort on the part of a major machinery company and a dynamic man to solve a harvest problem, and the reason this was of special interest to me is that I had the pleasure of working with Joe some years later at New Holland.

After he retired from Massey-Ferguson, he was hired by George Delp, president of New Holland, as an advisor to help in evaluating new market opportunities in product development and acquisitions. At that time, I was product manager, which involved, in part, researching new products.

Prior to his employment with Massey-Ferguson, Joe had been with the Oliver Co. in west Texas. While there, he became familiar with the cotton harvesting practices. At New Holland, he learned of a new device, which appeared to offer a new opportunity, and recommended the company buy it. They did, and the project was assigned to me. As a result, I spent considerable time in west Texas, and Joe often accompanied me on those trips. This gave us lots of time to talk about the industry. Joe had wide experiences and was well known.

After a couple of years, we felt our concept was not viable, and the project was abandoned. At that time, I was about 37 or 38 years old and Joe was in his early 70s. I still remember him, ramrod straight, trotting down those cotton rows.

After Joe retired from New Holland and moved to Florida, I still corresponded with him. By this time, I was branch manager in Memphis.

When I would learn of some interesting news in the industry, I would bring him up to date on it. Joe always answered me, and usually filled me in on details of the people and companies involved.

Now I am in my 70s and Joe is gone, but the world is a better place because of him. Thanks for remembering him.

John Boone
Arlington, TX

Kansas Combine ‘First’

A photo from the April 1944 issue of Farm Machinery and Equipment magazine shows a trainload of Massey-Harris self-propelled combines ‘On Their Way to the Farm Front.’

I read the article about the Harvest Brigade by Sam Moore with great interest. My father, Wilbert Janzen of Lorraine, Kan., purchased the first self-propelled combine that was sold in Ellsworth, Kan., in 1943. The Massey-Harris dealer in Ellsworth was Ray Clark Implements. The machine was powered by a six-cylinder Chrysler Industrial engine, which was a very good, powerful engine, and cost $2,850. It had four speeds forward, and we had extra sprockets for a road gear. The No. 21, which we had, was a canvas machine; the 21A used an auger.

We had three clean grain sieves for wheat, milo and clover. In later years, we put bomber tires on the combine and also a Thomas Drive, which provided variable speed.

The first self-propelled combine that came into the Lorraine area, also in the early 1940s, was a galvanized Massey-Harris, owned by the Wilkens brothers, but they bought their machine at Pollard, Kan., in Rice County.

I’m 74 years old and still plant about 600 acres of wheat every year.

Leon Janzen
Lorraine, KS

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