Early 1870s Champion Mowing Machine Chromolithograph

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Contributed by David Schnakenberg

This early 1870s chromolithograph of the Champion mowing machine, printed by Strobridge & Co., Cincinnati, is one of the very best examples of farm machinery advertising art. The artist used many different styles of letters and colors to illustrate the name and location of the company and its factory (or “Works,” as it was referred to in that era).
Another unusual feature was the use of text on a ribbon to highlight the machines’ desirable features. Especially noteworthy are details seen in the background, including a steam locomotive passing over a stone bridge, a steam side-wheeler river boat, and the scene of a farmstead with a young family, their dog and a mowing machine passing over a wooden bridge.
The central image is also very striking: an elegant team of horses pulling a farmer seated on a large cast iron seat of the rear-cut mowing machine with four spoke wheels and six wooden fingers at the end of the cutting bar. Notice that the mower is a left-hand cut. Champion may have been the only manufacturer of left-hand cut mowers.
At age 18, William N. Whiteley attended an exhibition of reaping and mowing machines in 1852 on the farm of J.T. Warder near Springfield, Ohio. Immediately thereafter, Whiteley began a series of experiments and field trials until he produced his first successful Champion machine in 1856. He then associated himself with Jerome Fassler under the firm name of Whiteley & Fassler. In 1857, Oliver S. Kelly, a skilled mechanic, joined the firm and it became known as Whiteley, Fassler and Kelly.
Eventually, in the 1870s, a Champion Interest group of agricultural harvesting machines companies was formed in Springfield, Ohio. Whiteley created the Champion Machine Co., which in the 1880s boasted the largest farm equipment factory in the U.S. to operate under one roof. Whiteley sold the Champion line in 1887 to the firm of Warder, Bushnell & Glessner and it joined with four other firms to create International Harvester Co. in 1902.
The history of Whiteley and the many firms he was involved with up to the time IHC was formed is very confusing. Most previous accounts contain errors, including misspelling his last name as Whitely. FC

Grateful acknowledgement is given to David Schnakenberg, who contributed this image from his collection of pre-1910 chromolithographs of farm machinery advertising. For more information, contact him at 10108 Tamarack Dr., Vienna, VA 22182; (703) 938-8606;dschnakenberg@verizon.net; view the Schnakenberg Collection athttp://stores.ebay.com/Farm-Machinery-Advertising-Art.

To submit a vintage advertisement for publication, send it to: Iron Age Ads, Farm Collector, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609; or submit high-quality digital images by e-mail:editor@farmcollector.com.

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