Dairy Collectibles on Display

Dairy collectibles, horse-drawn equipment and more at Tulare, California, antique farm equipment show.

| August 2014

  • Bill Irving’s 1961 Porsche has a decidedly European profile.
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • Bill with his 2-cylinder 1961 Porsche Standard T.
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • When Clinton bought his 1913 Sheffield 25 hp engine (no. C419), it came with a badly rusted 15-gallon barrel used as a coolant reservoir. “A guy told me he had a furnace radiator he’d sell for $150,” he says, “and I told him, ‘you just sold it.’”
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • Cedric and Dolly Kleinhans’ 1930 John Deere No. 201 double-cylinder loose hay loader.
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • Cedric and Dolly still have the 1939 John Deere Model A her father bought new. “The salesman came out to the farm six months later to tell her dad that they had an upgrade and the tractor could be converted to electric-start,” Cedric says. “Granddad said, ‘No, just leave it be: It starts good enough the way it is.”
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • Clinton Pigg’s 1913 Sheffield 25 hp engine.
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • This Boggs potato and onion grader was built in Atlanta, N.Y.; it is part of Cedric and Dolly’s collection.
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • A sharp trio of restored garden tractors. Left to right: A 1967 12 hp Massey Ferguson owned by Chuck Heffington, a 1967 12 hp International Cub Cadet 128 owned by John Romagnoli and a 1970 8 hp John Deere Model 110 owned by Robert Freddi. The three men, all of Fresno, work together with friends Leroy Sabatini and Bill Scheideman on the restorations, all sharing in the work on each garden tractor.
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • Richard Borgaro with his 1918 Cleveland Model H.
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • Mike Tyler and his 7 hp Schmidt. “I’ve heard of a couple of 5 hp Schmidts in Illinois,” he says, “and another guy said he’d heard of a 7 hp Schmidt, but those are the only ones I know about other than mine.”
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • Richard’s Oliver No. 2 subsoiler.
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • Porcelain signs are highly desirable in the dairy collectibles hobby.
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • Mike’s Schmidt was complete when he got it but was in need of a ring job and a cosmetic restoration.
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • A hay bucking demonstration.
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • Jeff Fenske, Fresno, with a 1929 Caterpillar Fifteen and grader.
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • This 1942 Ford 2N is a relic of the World War II years. Reflecting material shortages of that era, the tractor was sold on steel with a crank starter. After the war, most were upgraded with rubber tires and battery start.
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • A rare California tractor – a Fageol – in original condition.
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • A 1921 Ford Model TT owned by Frank Hilarides, Chino, Calif. Until the advent of bulk tanks in the 1940s, milk was transported from farm to processing plant and from plant to plant in trucks like this one. “Each dairy farm would have the truck come twice a day for pickup unless the dairy had refrigerated storage, in which case it would be picked up once a day. The truck arrived with empty washed cans and picked up full ones,” Frank says. “Each full 10-gallon can weighed about 100 pounds; it took a strong man to load them from the dairy’s loading platform.”
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • Displayed on a table, milk coolers from Joe Pedro’s collection. “These were what they used before they had freon,” he says. “They only cooled milk to water temperature.” Double walls held cool water; milk cooled as it flowed across the wall.
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • Farm workers who milked in Central Valley dairies often built their own milking stools. This well-used model features a clever tightening device, leather patches and a belt. “You couldn’t make the belt tight or you couldn’t sit down,” collector Joe Pedro says. “You had to keep it loose.”
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • A Sterilac pail from Joe Pedro’s collection. “Sanitary” buckets were designed to keep bugs and foreign materials out of the milk. “When we were milking as kids,” Joe Pedro recalls with an ornery grin, “if flies came into the bucket, we’d try to drown them with a stream of milk.”
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • Milkers and a churn from Joe Gomes’ collection.
    Photo by Leslie McManus
  • Joe Gomes.
    Photo by Leslie McManus

In the antique farm equipment hobby, dairy collectibles occupy a quiet backwater. Even in California’s dairy country, even when polished stainless, nickel and brass finishes shine like mirrors, old cream separators and milking machines garner little interest. And yet even these relics have their champions, collectors who work overtime to share their hobby and help people understand the history of dairying.

Joe Gomes, Hilmar, California, and Joe Pedro, Tulare, California, staged elaborate displays of dairy collectibles gathered over decades at this spring’s 22nd annual California Antique Farm Equipment Show in Tulare. Located in California’s Central Valley in the middle of farm country, the event is a useful reminder of the impact of technology on agriculture.

The dairy displays showed churns and separators, milk buckets and cans, stools and pails spanning a period from about 1880 to 1930. As in nearly every collectible niche, porcelain signs are popular; restored commercial vehicles rounded out the displays. With the possible exception of the delivery van and milk truck, none of these relics have the curb appeal of an antique tractor or stationary engine — but each speaks eloquently to the evolution of technology.

“I was born and raised on a dairy,” Joe Gomes says. “But my dad sold the cows when I was 12.” A graduate of the National School of Meat Cutting, Toledo, Ohio, Joe eventually became owner of Dairyland Market in Hilmar, and that’s where he launched his collection. “My mother-in-law gave me my introduction to the collection,” he says, “when she gave me my father-in-law’s two DeLaval milkers.” Creating his first display, Joe installed the milkers over the store’s produce case.



At one time, the dairy industry touched nearly every household in the valley. “Dairy was everything here,” Joe says. “I remember the days when you’d go to town at 7 or 8 in the morning and there’d be 100 pickups loaded with milk cans lined up at four creameries. Now there’s just one creamery left and no more milk cans.”

Today, “all of the good stuff” is in collections, Joe says, though great finds remain possible on online auction sites. Individual dairy collections are often large, but the number of collectors is shrinking. Joe’s had the opportunity to buy four collections to bolster his own, which includes 160 butter churns, more than 400 unique cream separators and milking machines made by 22 manufacturers.