Hog oiler patents can be found as early as 1902, but a decade passed before the device really took off. By 1915, oilers were in wide use throughout the Midwest. Promotional claims (“Prevents Disease!”) were likely exaggerated, but farmers desperate to protect herds against hog cholera saw oilers as cheap insurance.
Rowe’s New Idea oiler, manufactured in Galesburg, Illinois, dispensed oil on contact. “It surely does the work, not only on hogs, but say, you ought to see the sheep rub their backs on it. My little flock of 300 sheep never did look prettier, or hogs either,” reads an accompanying testimonial from Anton Machacek, Buhl, Idaho. Hog oiler memorabilia like this ad are exceptionally hard to find; vintage postcards, for instance, have sold in online auctions for more than $100 each.
The connection between lice and hog cholera was underscored in the ad for a Rowe oiler. “With a Rowe hog oiler on your place, every hog becomes a walking disinfecting agent,” the ad proclaims. “It is the best and cheapest disease preventive and profit maker you can find.”
Although many farmers simply used spent motor oil in their hog oilers, some sprung for “medicated oil.” The 70-pound Busby watermelon hog oiler and 10 gallons of medicated oil could be delivered to the customer’s railroad station for $16.25.
Grateful acknowledgement is given to Wade Opperman, Baraboo, Wisconsin, who contributed these images from his collection. FC
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