Farm Collector

Holden’s Ideal Corn Tester


Some time back, my brother Ted was at an auction in Trent, South Dakota, a small town just east of us. After the sale, he came out, unloaded this little wood creation, and said, “This is your combination Christmas and birthday present!”

So, I did a little digging in Farmer and Breeder, a bound volume of a weekly farm magazine out of Sioux City for 1911, given to me in 1957 by a dear old lady who knew I had an interest in all things old.

As an aside, this publication mentioned very little about power farming or tractors, compared to a 1917 issue of Canadian Thresherman, a similar publication of the day, which has tractor ads on almost every third page. Farmer and Breeder was published by H.G. McMillan, who owned Lakewood Farm, a premier horse-breeding establishment near Doon, Iowa – hence the lack of interest in tractors.

Spring issues touted corn germination testers, National Seed Tester Co.’s ads being the most numerous. Simply put, the unit had four trays with 100 cells each. The trays were stacked inside. You put kernels from individual ears in each cell, put water in trays and a small tank underneath, put a kerosene lamp underneath and waited. The lamp made it possible to use the tester either in a cold room in the house or out in the barn.

I have no idea who Professor Holden was, but he promoted the corn tester as well as the Hero corn grader built by Twin City Separator Co. as an adjunct to the germination tester. He also worked for Farm Journal, offering his booklet, Corn Secrets, free, if you sent $1 and subscribed to the above mentioned publication.

Once you determined which ears were worth planting, the next step was to run ears through the tipper and butter, “removing large and small kernels from each ear, winding up with kernels of a consistent size, then sorting those further through your Hero corn grader and figuring out which planter plate to use in order to drop just one kernel at a time.”

Thinking through this, initially, one put kernels from 400 ears in individual cells, keeping track of ears, sorting those with good germination from those with not-so-good germination, then carefully shelling them so as not to damage the kernels, then off to the field, expecting a better success rate due to the extra work.
One must remember: Many farmers were check planting, dropping either two or three kernels every 42 inches. The theory being you could then cross-cultivate, and also that hopefully, two or three stalks, close together, could take more dirt without being covered up! So it goes. FC

Jim and Joan Lacey operate Little Village Farm, a museum of farm collectibles housed in 10 buildings at their home near Dell Rapids, South Dakota. Contact them at (605) 428-5979.

  • Published on Jul 9, 2019
© Copyright 2022. All Rights Reserved - Ogden Publications, Inc.