Bushels of Fun with Antique Corn Shellers

Bob Overmohle's collection started with seed-corn sacks, a reminder of long summers spent detasseling corn for local seed companies, but he soon began picking up other corn equipment, including several antique corn shellers.


| August 2004



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View of corn falling from the unnamed sheller into the wagon from the rear.

Photo by Hank Will

Without fail, the golden cascade of kernels flowing from one of Bob Overmohle's engine-powered antique corn shellers captivates crowds at small tractor and engine shows throughout west-central Iowa.

"I really enjoy demonstrating the corn shellers because so many people have never seen the kernels removed from the cob that way," Bob Overmohle explains as he loads ear corn into the top of his Sandwich sheller. The Carroll, Iowa, sheller collector has a passion for just about any thing related to corn processing — the old-fashioned way, that is.

Straight from the farm

As a kid growing up in the 1950s, Bob got plenty of experience growing and harvesting corn, and even hired out to neighbors where he received more specialized training. "I worked for a neighbor who had a big Minneapolis-Moline corn sheller with an IH 350 Farmall to run it, and I detasseled corn for the Renze Brothers' seed company," Bob explains.

Much more labor was involved with both the growing and harvesting of corn and its hybridization for seed back then, he adds, which is why he now knows so much about the 'hands-on' nature of corn equipment.

Bob's youthful experiences with corn eventually grew into a collecting passion that now includes hundreds of cloth seed-corn sacks from the 1940s and 1950s, husking tools, shelling tools, seed-corn drying racks, hand and engine-powered shellers, a two row picker and plenty of International Harvester Co. horsepower.

Along the way, however, the Overmohle family built a seasonal business detasseling corn for hybridization, and it was just plain, hard work. Bob, his wife, Judy, and their children contract-detasseled more than 20 acres of seed corn each year for many years. Their customers were several Carroll County seed-corn producers, including Renze Brothers. The Overmohles and their crew were well known for doing thorough work, which ensured high purity of the resultant hybrid seed crop. The contracts provided summer jobs for the kids and some extra income at home.