Sugar Beet Harvesting in the 1920s

It's All Trew: This photograph provides more questions than answers about sugar beet harvesting crews in the early 20th century.

| January 2008

This photo of a sugar beet harvesting team came from family near Sterling, Colo. No information about the photo was included, so explanations are purely guesswork made from observation.

Editor's note: This time, we're asking readers to do the work. Columnist Delbert Trew seeks any information available on the scene in this photo. Take a close look! 

It is wintertime with snow on the ground. All the men wear heavy clothing except the younger "fork men" who probably work harder than the others. Each of the younger men sits on his fork in an unusual way.

The boss (we assume) is at the conveyor with pick in hand to break up any clumps of frozen beets that come along. The ribbed conveyor chain allows any dirt shaken loose to fall to the ground, providing a clean load of produce. There is an awful lot of drive chain in view.

The presence of wagons and teams indicates the photo was taken in the 1920s. However, a tractor hidden beneath all the conveyors might indicate a later date. The secondary conveyor to the right appears to move in a 180-degree arc, picking up sugar beets as the pile decreases. The gearing at the pivot point is absolutely fascinating.

Is this beet loader hand-made or factory manufactured? What model is the tractor power source? Does anyone know anything about this machine?