Last summer, I attended the annual show of the Crawford County Antique Farm Machinery Association at the county fairgrounds in Bucyrus, Ohio, which included the annual state gathering of the Massey-Harris Ferguson Club of Ohio. Lots of Massey-Harris, Massey Ferguson and Ferguson equipment was there, including my 1944 Massey-Harris 101 Jr. Standard tractor (which I’ve since sold). I want to mention one of the most unusual things I saw at the show.I’ve long been a fan of old trucks. One of the most attractive of the trucks built during the 1930s and 1940s was the Diamond T. The company started in Chicago in 1907, when Charles A. Tilt began custom building passenger cars before switching to heavy trucks in 1911. In 1933, Diamond T brought out the first of their stylish and streamlined models, which featured lots of chrome trim, V-type windshields and chrome hub caps. The Diamond T was a fairly popular truck from 1911 until 1958, when it was bought by White Motors, which merged the firm with Reo in 1967 to create Diamond Reo.
It was exciting to find a 1940 Diamond T truck with a Fords grinding mill and molasses impregnator mounted on the back at the Bucyrus show. Owned and nicely restored by Charlie Zolman from near Lexington, Ohio, the truck and grinder once belonged to his uncle, who owned Zolman’s Feed Store in Fredericktown, Ohio. The elder Mr. Zolman bought the truck and grinder new and then traveled around Knox County for the next 25 years grinding feed for farmers.
Sweetening the deal
Molasses was mixed with ground feed to make it sweet and better tasting to animals so they would eat more of the stuff, or to make barely palatable feed more appetizing. However, everyone has heard the old expression, “slow as molasses in January,” and that created problems for the mixer: keeping the stuff liquid enough for good mixing.
In 1933, Elias G. Myers of Toledo, Ohio, applied for a patent on a truck-mounted hammer mill with a “means of mixing molasses or other liquid with subdivided edible materials such as ground grain, hay, alfalfa, beans and other vegetable matter such as may be used as ingredients in mixed feeds.” The patent was issued in 1935 and assigned to the Myers-Sherman Co., Streator, Ill.
The idea behind Mr. Myers’ invention was to use heat from the truck engine’s cooling system to warm the molasses to “a desired state of fluidity for mixing purposes,” and then to atomize that fluid and inject it, under pressure, directly into the stream of ground feed as it was blown from the hammer mill.
The patent drawing shows a heavy truck with a molasses tank mounted right behind the cab. Behind that is the hammer mill and molasses injecting apparatus, with the cyclone-type feed collector and bagger at the very rear. The necessary pipes, valves, pumps and fans are shown as well.
Myers also made provision for mounting an auxiliary corn sheller at one side, so ear corn could be shelled and ground in one operation. Other bins and conveyors could be added so that supplemental ingredients, such as dry buttermilk, alfalfa or bone meal could be added to the grain before it was ground and mixed with molasses.
Myers-Sherman sales literature stated, “Everyone knows that feed will absorb hot molasses better than cold (and) if the feed itself is warm, it will absorb molasses better than if the feed is cold. The Fords Impregnator applies hot molasses (80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit) under high pressure through small nozzles that atomize the molasses into a fine mist which falls on the warm feed as it leaves the mill.” The feed was warmed by the friction of the hammers during the grinding process.
Diamond T trucks were more expensive than some other makes, but Myers-Sherman used them exclusively for their Fords portable mills, and the sales literature tells us why: “We learned through experience that normal trucks are not designed to withstand the torque action of a hammer mill mounted within its frame. Neither will a standard Diamond T truck. The Diamond T Mfg. Co. has designed a special chassis for us using standard Diamond T parts but with a special frame and essential parts to absorb the torque action of the mill without structural failure of the truck.”
At the rear of the truck were the operating controls; an engine clutch, throttle and the valves necessary to control the amount and pressure of the molasses applied. In addition, pressure and temperature gauges helped monitor the condition of the molasses.
Shift to municipal line
The Meyers-Sherman Co. began making milking machines in 1911. Later the company added hammer mills and, during the mid-1930s, the molasses impregnating equipment. It’s unclear why the company used the Fords name for its products, although they undoubtedly had a reason. After World War II, the firm began to develop pneumatic grain handling equipment and this led to a truck-mounted loose debris collector for municipal use. The firm then invented a truck-mounted machine that could both flush clogged sewers and vacuum out the loosened debris. The municipal products soon became the main focus of Myers-Sherman and the agricultural business was discontinued.
Today, the old Myers-Sherman Co. is still in Streator, although it’s now called Guzzler and is a subsidiary of the Federal Signal Corp. The firm makes industrial vacuum machines; its Guzzler 3,000-gallon vacuum trucks helped clean up the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill.
It was a treat to see the beautiful old Diamond T truck and have the opportunity to learn about a method of grinding feed with which I was unfamiliar. When I was a kid, we had a McCormick-Deering hammer mill. Every week it was my job to belt the mill up to the Ford-Ferguson tractor and grind a batch of feed for our extensive flock of chickens – but we never used any molasses. FC
Sam Moore grew up on a farm in western Pennsylvania. He now lives in Salem, Ohio, and collects antique tractors, implements and related items. Contact Sam by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.